Vicki Boykis Data, tech, and sometimes Nutella



One month with the 2017 MacBook Pro

drawing

After reading so many negative reviews of the new MacBook Pro, I’ve been avoiding upgrading my hardware. I held out for a long time, but recently, I finally upgraded to a 15-inch 2017 MacBook Pro. I’ve spent the past month using it as my primary development machine for work, and I thought I’d share my experiences.

Unboxing and first impressions

After I opened the MacBook box, I was surprised to find a small piece of paper resting on the laptop lid. This was a marked change in direction from Apple’s usual no-paper documentation policy.

On the front of the sheet was the iconic gray apple silhouette. On the back was a message:

Beware ye, questor, young or old
For be you meek, or be you bold
This laptop has what you may seek
`Tis mighty, lightweight, fine, and sleek
But in your quest for fast and small
You stand, forsooth, to lose it all. 
If ye despair, we tried to warn you. 
Designed by Apple in California.

As soon as I finished reading, the letters twinkled and disappeared from the page, leaving me with a blank sheet of paper. I examined both sides, but it didn’t look like an e-reader of any kind. It must have been some kind of experimental ultra-thin tablet that Apple was shipping with the new Mac. I’d read up on it later. I put the leaftlet aside and examined the laptop.

Exterior

On the outside, the Pro is noticeably lighter, which makes sense because it weighs 1.8 kg, versus a whopping 2.04 kg for my 2015 model. It’s a laptop that seems easy to pick up and take quickly into meetings, or to take to work in coffeeshops, which is a huge plus right off the bat.

However, the number of ports and the USB-C connections was an enormous disappointment. Immediately, all of my previous Mac iPhone chargers were rendered obsolete. I got that it was in favor of a better standard across all carriers, but this was a huge inconvenience. I couldn’t even use the mouse I had been using minutes ago. I was also sad to see the backlit Apple logo, an iconic part of the MacBook Pro line for as long as I’ve been using them, gone.

Touch Bar

I flipped open the lid. The Touch Bar, which I’d heard so much about, powered on. It generated a context menu that I immediately accidentally pressed as I tried to type in my login credentials. As the screen booted up, it gave off a small noise, like a sigh or a desperate breath of air. I scratched my head.

“Did you hear that,” I asked my coworkers, but the sound was so slight, that it was unnoticeable unless you were sitting right next to the speaker. And anyway, none of my coworkers seemed to be around. I leaned closer, thinking it was a start-up noise, but all I heard, again, was a deflated sigh, coming from somewhere near the Touch Bar. Something small and dark fluttered out from the space next to the Siri button that I had already pressed twice by accident. It landed onto my desk with a pop, and then the world seemed to turn upside down for a moment.

I held my hand to my desk to steady myself, but the small, dark thing, no larger than a floater in my eye at first, grew until it became as large as my own torso. It was repulsive, impossible to look at head-on, because whenever I did, I became nauseous, like something was simultaneously pulling me in and pushing me back at the same time. The pressure was immense, and yet I was continuously being drawn towards it.

I felt like I was struggling, floating and pushing in a void, until I remembered, weakly, that I had my phone in my hand. I dialed IT’s number with the last strength I had. The darkness came closer.

“Hello,” said a bored voice on the other end of the line asked. “H-Help,” I said weakly, hoarsely, my voice pounding at the base of my throat. “New MacBook user? Oh yeah, I hear the sluagh there in the background. Don’t move.”

I was almost into the blackness and the nothingness beyond. “Come with me,” said the sluagh, but it did not speak in a human voice. In the void, I saw its vicious teeth, its claws, and it reached for me. “Come with me, human. You do not deserve to live. I’ll throw you out the window gently,” it hissed. I was locked in a battle for my life with the sluagh, and yet everything was perfectly still.

“Not so fast,” the voice of the IT tech broke through the darkness. She stepped into the circle between me and the hideous form, and held open a device that looked like a Faraday cage. “In you go,” she said, and expertly chased the blackness into the device, where it lay, shrunken and growling. The colors came back to my face, and I could hear the office come to life around me again.

“Got you,” the tech said, closing the cage and frowning. “That’s just the sluagh, the restless dead. Usually they live in bogs and apprehend dying people, but lately they’ve been settling in keyboards because there’s so much negative energy in the bad code that’s going to be written on the computer from now and forever more. Every computer has them, but they’re content to live in the function keys, where they don’t get bothered. Unfortunately, ever since Apple took those out, people have been pressing a lot of keys by accident, and the sluaghs have been released into the wild and enslaving people to write loops without any escape blocks for all time, or until they actually understand recursion. Sorry about that.”

I sat at my desk, still seeing the misery of the darkness in my periphery, too shaken to come up with a response. I took a sip of water until my hands stopped shaking. “Ok, you’re all good now,” the tech said, and turned to walk away with the cage. “Oh, she said, “don’t forget to raise a Jira ticket for this incident and then close it out.”

I heard a low hissing until she turned the corner and went into the elevator.

Butterfly keyswitches

I looked, shaken, at the laptop, too scared to go on. But my phone pinged with an alert of another pull request that had been submitted to our team’s Git repo, and I knew I had to get my laptop set up and to get back to work. Fingers trembling, I typed in my password. I was in without any issues. I started downloading all the applications I needed to be productive.

My email was already connected, and it pinged with anticipation. I opened an email, and started responding, typing quickly to get all my thoughts down. The going was hard at first, because the butterfly keys are an enormous step down from the membrane keyboard on my previous Mac. I almost felt like I was typing on an iPad. They’re so “low” to the keyboard base itself that it takes a lot more effort to push them down, and especially to type. I knew there had been lawsuits around the keyboard, but I thought that maybe I could work around it.

I wrote quickly, pressing down hard on the keys to make sure the letters translated correctly, when, all of a sudden, I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my index finger. I thought I’d broken one of the keys and withdrew my hand, but the keyboard was intact. My hand, though, was freely bleeding.

A tiny, wizened man, his face wrinkled like a tree trunk, his eyes black and gleaming like a fathomless piece of coal, climbed out of the space between the “G” and the “H”, holding in his hand a small, cruel sword. “Fie on you, FIE FIE,” he screamed as I sucked my finger to stop the bleeding. “How DARE you disturb ME. How DARE you humans type so loudly.”

“I’m sorry,” I exclaimed, “But I couldn’t help it. The keys in this computer are so hard to press. But why did you stab me?”

“For decades, the DOMovoi lived under keyboards. We are a peaceful folk, the DOMovoi. The domovoi lives in the home, the DOMovoi lives in the CPU. We are content there, living in the warmth of the heat from the processor. All we ask is for crumbs that may fall our way as people eat lunch over their desks. But YOU - YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR, human. These new machines are simply untenable. There is almost no room for our homes under the keys. You humans are too loud with the way you type. No one will eat near them anymore in fear of getting a crumb stuck and having to replace the keyboard. We DOMovoi are now hungry and angry, and we’ve had enough. We shall stab you with our vorpal blades. I stabbed you once as a warning, but the next time, you will fall into a deep sleep and dream only about the “Developers” speech over and over.

I called IT again. “DOMovoi,” she said, and let out a heavy sigh. “I’ll get the rack.” She came with a small machine that looked like a digitized mousetrap and put a crumb of PB&J on the wire. The old man came out again, sword in hand, and fell right into the trap, which snapped shut. The tech carried him away in a plastic bag. “Don’t forget a Jira ticket for this incident,” she said as she walked down the hall. I could still hear him screaming indignities as she took him to the mainframe.

Trackpad

I was afraid to go any further, but the Jira tickets, pull requests, and emails kept piling up. I gingerly typed as slowly and carefully as I could, making sure to avoid the Touch Bar as well. I was barely productive, but better that than to anger any potential new spirits. Finally, I had set up my workflow in the terminal, when I realized I needed to look something up in StackOverflow on a browser.

Usually, I’d use a mouse to access browsers and other applications, but since my mouse didn’t have a USB-C adapter, I was stuck with using the enormous trackpad. As my thumb made its way over the vast surface that was the new trackpad, I saw it disappearing.

I pulled my thumb back. It couldn’t be. I hovered over the trackpad again, from left to right with my thumb, and again it shimmered and started vanishing. I hovered over one more time, just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, and felt something slimy and powerful grip my thumb. It started pulling. I reached for my phone to call IT again, but this time I wasn’t fast enough. Whatever had seized me, pulled me in through the trackpad, down, through a filmy layer of electrons, into an enormous ocean. Water filled my ears and the sunlight of my cubicle was far above the surface. A leviathan fish, the size and girth of a whale, with the body of a shark and the head of an octopus held my finger in its powerful tentacles.

In the ocean underneath the enormous new Apple trackpad, I was powerless and voiceless, and I couldn’t breathe. The fish opened its tentacles to reveal a gaping maw with rows of teeth and inhaled. In I went, in through its gullet and hideous esophagus. After what seemed like an eternity covered in slime, I emerged in a small, tight, dry space.

In the stomach, was my entire team. “Oh shit, did it get you too,” asked my development lead, looking as I emerged from the slime into the connective tissue of the digestive tract. She shook her head and came over to me to offer me a hand. “Yeah, I guess it did. Where are we?”

“As far as we can tell,” said our PM, “We’re in the space underneath the trackpad. In the previous iterations of the Mac, the trackpad was small. Here, it’s large enough to allow spells to form alternate dimensions underneath. We seem to be in something called the Objective Sea.

“How long have you been here,” I asked. “And where’s our manager? Did he not get sucked in?”

“He has a Windows machine,” said our lead sadly, shaking her head and brushing her hair away from her face. I noticed as she did so that she had a similar DOMovoi mark on her thumb.

I put my hands in my head. “We’re stuck here.” And then I remembered my phone. I grabbed it, but it was still soaking wet from the fall. “No signal,” I said. The team looked glum. “Think,” our team lead said. “What do we do whenever we’re stuck on something.” “StackOverflow?” I said. “No, we submit a Jira ticket,” she said. “But how are we going to submit a Jira ticket in a leviathan fish?” I said.

She took her car keys from her pocket.

“H-E-L-P-9-1-1:E-R-R-O-R S-T-U-C-K I-N G-I-A-N-T F-I-S-H S-T-A-T-U-S: O-P-E-N”

The fish roared with pain as our team lead cut into its muscle. The enormous, booming sound made us almost deaf, but it was enough. The IT tech appeared immediately inside the fish with four diving suits. “You guys should have marked the priority as P1, but you can change that after we get back,” and she pulled us out of the fish through the blowhole, and back out through our respective Trackpads.

“And make sure you mark the ticket resolved before you leave,” she said, and walked away.

We looked at each other, waterlogged, stunned, and decided to take an early lunch.

Memory and speed

Seems to be ok. Not a noticeable performance degradation. Firefox lags a bit, but I’m not sure if that’s me or the DOMovoi wound, which seems to be turning a bit black.

Overall impressions

Overall, not really impressed with Apple’s iteration on the beautiful 2015 line. I’ll be going back to my old laptop for development, as soon as the wound on my hand heals and I can breathe normally again. I might try out one of those Surface laptops everyone’s been talking about. Or even a Chromebook. If I decide to stay in software development as a career.