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Tech

Adventures in MacOS Land

As warned, some posts on this blog may not be about triathlon or bike racing. This is one of them 🙂

Many (many!) years ago, I started my IT career as a Mac guy. This was back in the System 6 and System 7 days. My workstation was a Mac IIci and my database server was a beastly (for the era) Mac IIfx running Oracle 6 and I loved it so much. If I remember correctly, that IIfx had a massive one gigabyte external SCSCI drive. Heady stuff for that era. I also had a fantastic mentor back then and learned a lot about programming and database tasks while working with the Macs. Even started to learn about object oriented programming with HyperCard, of all things. (OK, go ahead and web search some of those terms to get a feel for how long ago we’re talking about. I’ll wait. It was a long time ago.)

After a few years I changed roles at that company, joined the Systems Development team, and became a Unix guy. Then, a few years later, I changed companies and became a Windows guy and have been one ever since (although I did run Linux full time at home for quite a few years about 15’ish years ago).

Earlier this year, we got my wife a little MacBook Air to use at home and I started playing around with it and really enjoyed the modern MacOS experience. Definitely brought back memories of those early years, and the operating system has certainly evolved.

As a result, two months ago I acquired a nice beefy ( and used) 2019 16″ MacBook Pro for work and was totally on board with joining Team Apple. Fast, powerful, sleek, lovely to behold — what’s not to like? The next two months were quite an adventure and this post will be about some of the challenges and observations.

tl:dr

I love my Macbook Pro as a laptop. Fast, long battery life, fantastic screen. Truly a joy to use and I very much enjoy it.

Using it as a desktop machine has not been so great. Runs hot when external displays (or a dock) are plugged in. Lots of fan noise and seems to get “sluggish” (which is super hard to quantify). Fan noise is, for me, a deal breaker. I already have plenty of issues with tinnitus, I don’t need any other annoying noises in my quiet office.

Oh yeah, that Top Menu Bar

The first challenge was just getting reacquainted with the Apple way of doing things. Menu bar is always at the top. Hitting the “x” or close button on a window doesn’t quite the app, it just closes the window and the application is still running. I frequently end up with a lot of tabs in my browser and rely on knowing those tabs will be there when I next launch the browser.

This was not the case if I was just closing windows. I had to develop the habit of quitting the browser instead of closing the browser window to ensure my tabs would be properly saved. Not the end of the world, but definitely an adjustment.

Teams and Sound

We use Microsoft Teams at work for meetings. As a Windows user I often will just turn on my Bluetooth headset before joining a meeting and all the meetings sounds go through the headset. Simple, right?

I had a helluva time accomplishing that with Teams on the Mac. No idea if this is a teams thing or a Mac thing, but I had to start every meeting by first checking all of the Teams device settings — and rarely were those were I expected them to be. Found lots of utilities to make things better (so that’s nice — and shows I am not alone in the struggle) but I kept trying to solve it for free instead of throwing money at it.

In hindsight, I should have just thrown money at it.

More Noise

Touched on fan noise earlier in the tl;dr section. So here’s the thing though: Running as a laptop (no monitors or dock stuff) it ran fast, cool, and quiet. But as soon as I would start plugging things in, the temps would start to climb and pretty soon I’m listening to the fans. Again.

As an example, I have a nice Lenovo USB-C dock that adds some USB, display, and network ports. Just plugging in that dock raises temps 10 degrees (Celsius) or more, and that’s with nothing connected yet! Add displays into the mix and it could easily be another 10+ degrees C.

I worked with Apple support a bunch and they assured me everything was fine and normal. “Fast computers are going to run hot,” was the usual response. I would mention that other folks I know (and co-workers) with the same model don’t have all that fan noise and my techs would just shrug.

What else?

This is getting long. Stay tuned for part 2 soon(‘ish)! It ain’t all bad though…

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