Apple Silicon Mac Will Have Touch Screens

Quinn Nelson put out a video yesterday about "Big Sur's Big Secret"

I should have shared this thought earlier, but from the moment this year's WWDC keynote ended, I was convinced every Mac made with Apple Silicon is going to have a touch screen. The UI changes in this fall's macOS release indicate this, the "larger" option for all UI elements implies UI will be boosted a bit more when a touch screen is active, and Apple very cleary talked about new form factors they would be able to make with control over the processing power in their upcoming Macs.

We're all expecting the first consumer Macs using Apple Silicon will be MacBooks. I have 3 predictions, ranked from most likely to least likely:

  1. These laptops will have touch screens
  2. The product name will not be "MacBook Air/Pro" It will either be "Mac", "MacBook X", or something totally different.
  3. The screen will be detatchable, offering a 100% touch-based input mode for the first time on a Mac. Look out for data miners to find references to some sort of digital keeyboard if this one is going to come to pass.

macOS will always work with a mouse and keyboard, so Mac Mini and Mac Pro will still work that way, but if you buy yourself a touch display, you can bet it will work with macOS very nicely as well.

Oh, and while I'm on it, how much do you want to be Apple's oft-rumored return to the display market will be a touch-based Cinema Display released just in time for those new Apple Silicon desktops?

Catalyst Problems

Catalyst Problems

Catastrophe | waffle

Podcasts should be the optimal poster child for Catalyst because it exists on many platforms, and I think it could be made to work so much better by being responsive to ways in which a Mac is not an iOS device. But what upsets me is not a lack of polish as such, it’s that this was deemed anywhere near good enough to ship. It’s not a good podcasting app, it’s not a good Catalyst example, it’s not a good macOS citizen and it’s not even a good reincarnation of the Podcasts app. It’s just a mess.

I haven’t used Apple’s desktop Podcasts service in many years, so I can’t speak to the problems expressed in this article first hand, but everything is consistent with my experience across all other Catalyst apps.

I love native apps and prefer them in almost every case to using services in a browser. It’s just a better experience for me in most cases, and has the added benefit of integrating more seamlessly into macOS systems like notifications, keyboard shortcuts, and automation. However, my experience with Catalyst apps from third parties has been so bad that I have uninstalled every one of them and gone back to using the web.

Surely this will draw a raised eyebrow from some Mac purists, but this has never been my experience with Electron apps. I use these every day (VS Code, Slack, Postman, Monday.com, etc.) and while they would all be a little nicer if they were built natively for the Mac, they’re totally fine apps from which I get immense value.

One would hope that Catalyst gets tons of attention and improves over the coming years, but as it stands today, the crop of apps available using it are some of the worst Mac apps I’ve used in my 25 years of using a Mac.

Small macOS Feature Request

I’m sure most of us are familiar with the folder view in the macOS dock. It’s been there for years, and it’s one of the most useful little things I use everyday on my Mac. I love how you can see large previews of these files, and I really love that you can hover over over them and hit spacebar to open them in Quick Look, but there is one more feature I’d like Apple to add.

Right now you can drag things out of this view to the desktop, other folders, apps in the dock, or to the trash. The limit is that you can only do this one file at a time. I’d love to be able to hold Command or something and select several of these files at a time and drag them around just like I can single files today.

This wouldn’t move another 10 million Macs or anything, but it would make my life slightly easier, and that’s gotta count for something! 😉

Logitech MX Master 3 Review

People speak highly Logitech’s MX Master line of mice, and I’ve joined the chorus over the past few years since I got one for myself. I loved it, but it was basically the last device is my life using micro-USB and I lamented literally days ago that all I wanted was a new MX Master with USB-C. Thankfully, Logitech has come through with the MX Master 3 which adds USB-C and a whole lot more.

What’s New?

  • New colors, graphite and “mid gray”
  • Metal scroll wheels instead of plastic
  • App-specific button setups for some Apple, Adobe, and Microsoft apps
  • USB-C quick charging (3 hours from one minute of charging)
  • Linux drivers for “most popular Linux distributions”

What’s the Same?

Most things on this mouse are the same as the last model.

  • Same 500 mAh battery that lasts 70 days
  • Same 7 buttons as before
  • Same 4,000 DPI tracking accuracy
  • Same 3 device pairing that can be toggled from buttons on the bottom
  • Same Bluetooth or Logitech unifying USB receiver
  • Same Logitech Options software
  • Same Flow feature for copy/pasting between computers
  • Same price of $99.99
  • Still only works as a wireless mouse, even if it’s plugged in with the USB cable

Feel (and a Disclaimer)

The MX Master 2S is the best feeling mouse I’ve ever used. It fits perfectly in my hand and has removed all instances of hand strain when using a computer for many hours in a day. The new version feels very similar, but was immediately distinct from the last model. I’ve used it for 2 days now and the difference is already pretty much gone, so I’ve gotten used to it quickly, but I’d say this mouse feels little narrower in the hand than the last one. I don’t know if that’s technically true, but that’s how it feels to me.

The disclaimer on this is that I have of course only used this mouse for a few days and i may feel differently in a few months, but my initial impressions are “slightly different, but not in a bad way.”

The New Scroll Wheel

This is the real star of the show for me. The Master 3 uses a magnet system of some sort to hold the wheel in place and it spins and spins and spins… Seriously, the old model was great here, but the new one puts it to shame.

And even more important to me, as someone who works in an open office, the wheel is effectively silent when it’s spinning. The old one was quiet, but if the room was quiet, everyone could hear me crank on the wheel as I scrolled down a super long document. Not anymore, as the new wheel is inaudible even to me, sitting 2 feet from it.

If you prefer to use your mouse wheel the traditional way in the “ratchet” style, it can of course do that too, but the mechanism is totally changed, and I think uses the same magnet system to stagger your scrolling and provide haptic feedback. This is also quieter than I’m used to from a mouse and it did feel a little different from other mice I’ve used, but I never use this mode so I mostly went “huh, that’s interesting, but whatever.”

Finally, it’s not a big deal, but the wheel is now made from metal instead of plastic and it makes it just feel really, really good.

The Other Buttons and Wheels

There are an assortment of other buttons on the mouse, and while this is not a gaming mouse by any means, it has plenty of options for being a “professional mouse user.”

Button on top. This button can either toggle the scroll wheel between modes, or you can assign it to specific functions on your computer. I have this set up to simulate a keypress that Keyboard Maestro uses to open the main kanaban board in Jira. Thrilling, I know, but it’s a page I have to go to a ton and many of my conversations start “hey, could you check out task…” so being able to pull up my board at a moment’s notice is a huge feature.

Back and forward buttons. These are markedly different from the last version of the mouse and I think they look wore, but are easier to use. The old style had these kind of stacked together and the back button was pretty easy to hit, but the forward one was a bit out of the way. They were so close together I also sometimes accidentally hit one when I meant to hit the other. No more as these are completely broken apart and rise out more from the side of the mouse than before. They’re easier to find, and hit the right one, although they are exactly the same shape, so there still could be an issue with mixing them up from time to time, but it has not been a problem for me yet.

Side wheel. This wheel on the side of the mouse is a little nicer than the last model’s. It too is made of metal this time and feels nice, with sharp ridges that make it easy to turn with a light touch. I do wish that this also had the free scrolling option that the main scroll wheel has, since I find scrolling things like Final Cut timelines or large documents in Sketch takes longer than I’d like.

Gesture button. This was on the last version as well and works basically the same as before. The only difference is there is a little nubbin that reminds you the button is there, but I still don’t use this for much. I know some people get value from it, but it’s still placed too far down and back on the mouse to make it easy to access with my thumb and I generally end up just ignoring it.

Wireless Only

The Master 3 is a wireless-only mouse. This means that even if you plug it into a computer with the included USB-C cable, it will only charge over that cable, not actually become a wired mouse. This isn’t a big deal most of the time, but sometimes your computer might not have Bluetooth active or you’ll want to use it with something like a Raspberry Pi which has not been set up yet to turn on and sync over Bluetooth. In these situations you are basically SOL unless you have a wired mouse around.

In theory the bundled Unifying dongle might work, but I think you need to “sync: your mouse with that specific dongle before it’ll work with any old computer. I never use this dongle, so I’m not 100% sure, but make sure you hold onto it juuuuuust in case.

Worth an Upgrade?

I think the changes to this mouse don’t make it a must buy for anyone using an MX Master 2S but there are a few things that made me find this a totally worthwhile buy.

  1. USB-C is enough of an upgrade for me to get basically anything. Unifying my cables to one plug has been revelatory over the past couple years and this removes the one micro-USB cable I had to keep around for semi-regular use.
  2. The ultra-premium feeling scroll wheels are excellent and make the mouse a joy to use. I know this is technically unnecessary, but I like nice tech and this feels like a killer upgrade.

If neither of those speak to you, then feel free to stick with the 2S and not feel any FOMO.

But if you are looking for a new mouse and have literally anything else, then I think the MX Master 3 is a great option and one that should definitely be on your radar. The price definitely keeps it in premium territory, but for something you likely use for 8+ hours a day, you should really do everything you can to get the best option you can budget for.

It’s worth noting that Logitech is still selling the MX Master 2S for $79, but I’d say that the $20 price difference is worth paying to get the newer model, if only so you don’t bring another micro-USB device into your home or work in 2019.

Apple Computer Sales Since 2015

Apple separates out Mac and iPad sales in their earnings reports, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that the iPad is a computer, so I decided to combine the company’s Mac and iPad unit sales numbers together to see how their actual “computer” sales have done over the past few years.

The result is relatively flat, and actually displays a slight downward trend. I’m not a financial analyst, so I’m not going to suggest I know what this means, but it’s interesting data. One would hope that number was increasing, but it’s does not seem to be the case right now.

Summer 2018 Browser Speed Test (Mac and iOS Edition)

The most important feature in a web browser for me is performance. Extensions are nice and UI is relatively important to me as well, but at the end of the day it’s speed that I want more than anything else. I never want to feel like I’m being slowed down by anything besides my internet connection.

In the past, this has meant Safari was the best choice. Both in terms of battery usage as well as overall web rendering speed, Safari smoked what else was on the market. But it’s been a while since I tested these browsers in any sort of scientific way, so here we go!

Testing methods

While this was not a totally scientific process, I took my Mac, closed all open apps, and opened each of these browsers one at a time, and ran through the benchmarking sites one at a time and in the same order. To make sure the CPU didn’t get throttled due to overheating, I took about 3 minutes between every test to give the computer time to cool down. All tests were run 2x per browser.

All web browsers were the most up to date stable build.

Testing devices

  • 2015 13” MacBook Pro (2.7 GHz i5, 8GB RAM)
  • 2017 10” iPad Pro

Results

Interesting Takeaways

My overall takeaway is that Safari still appears to be the fastest browser on the Mac, but not by nearly as much as it used to be. Overall, Safari was 6% faster than Chrome across all tests, winning 3 of the 5 tests.

Vivaldi, despite being built on Chromium was overall 15% slower than Chrome.

Firefox is still a dog on macOS. Safari was 177% faster and Chrome was 163% faster than Mozilla’s browser. Firefox may be fast on Windows these days, but it’s slooooow on macOS.

The iPad is the real winner here, as it turned in average scores 26% faster than Safari for the Mac, 32% faster than Chrome, and 274% faster than FireFox. Yes, the iPad I’m using is 2 years newer than the MacBook Pro, but the iPad is running a mobile processor and cost less than half as much as the MBP.

All this said, these are synthetic benchmarks and are not a perfect representation of how these browsers work in day-to-day use, but these actually line up pretty well with my general feeling for how these feel to use. Safari feels the most zippy, Chrome is good but spins up the fans a little more, and Firefox is slow. And again, all of this is playing for second because my iPad is far and away the most pleasant to use.

Apple Trying to Get MacBook Down to $999. Maybe They Should also Try One with iOS.

Apple Said to Release New Entry-Level 13-inch MacBook This Year, Likely Replacing MacBook Air - Mac Rumors

Apple's next entry-level MacBook will likely replace the 13-inch MacBook Air, Apple's lowest-cost notebook starting at $999. Apple's long-term aim was for the 12-inch MacBook to replace the MacBook Air, which was introduced in 2008, but sales of the Air have remained strong mainly thanks to its affordability.

It’s really all about price points here, and Apple should do whatever they need to do to make a MacBook that starts at $999 so they can kill the Air lineup. The MacBook is everything most people need in a computer, but the $1,299 entry price makes it tougher to swallow for many people. And that MacBook Air screen needs to go away…like right now!

As I said last night, Apple should also make a version of this new MacBook at runs iOS and see what the separation is in sales. I’d be incredibly curious to see is a MacBook with a 13 inch screen and keyboard would sell better running iOS or macOS. My guess is the Mac one would sell better, but not by much. If they made the Mac version $999 and the iOS version $899 (with touch screen and no trackpad) I think that genuinely could change the narrative and get a lot of iOS devices into the market.

The Apps Keeping me on macOS (2018 update)

Just under a year ago, I wrote this piece about the apps that were keeping me on a Mac over a Windows or Linux PC. Now that’s a year later and I’m more than a little smitten with the iPad Pro, I thought it would be interesting to see how these apps stand up to iOS 11 on an iPad Pro and if these apps are even a reason to keep using a Mac at all.

Here’s the list:

Alfred: I still use this daily on my Mac, and it provides functionality that is simply not possible on iOS. That said, a year later this feels less essential to my workflow than before. If Spotlight would let me run Workflows, I’d actually be most of the way to replacing what Alfred offers. Thank you to Ryan Daigle for letting me know this is actually possible!

Audio Hijack: I honestly don’t find myself using this app all that much anymore. I use it for the rare occasion I am on someone else’s podcast and want to do some complicated audio recording/routing.

Automator: Workflow has completely replaced this for me.

BetterTouchTool: I have not even installed this on my Mac after formatting the disk earlier in the year. It provides some useful functionality, but I don’t miss it on iOS.

Deliveries: This is on iOS as well.

Due: Also on iOS.

Fantastical: Also on iOS.

Final Cut Pro X: There are some options for video editing on iOS, but none of them even come close to the ease of use and power that FCPX provides on the Mac. With the latest 10.4 update, Final Cut is ever further ahead of the pack.

iStatMenus: I don’t worry about my CPU, network traffic, or RAM usage on iOS, so I don’t need this.

Logic Pro X: Ferite has completely replaced Logic for my podcasting workflow. Logic does far more, but I no longer fee like I need it.

Pastebot: I do miss this on iOS. Not having access to my clipboard history is a major limitation of iOS and I hope Apple either builds out a solution for this, or they enable third parties to do this.

Pixelmator: I’m using Affinity Photo for the iPad, and it’s pretty good, but I don’t love the interface. Pixelmator’s own app is decent on iOS, but I’d really love them to put out Pixelmator Pro for the iPad.

Reeder: Also on iOS.

Rocket: Ah, system-wide Slack-style emoji entry, how I wish this worked on iOS. Apple’s autocorrect keyboard often guesses what emoji I want, but it’s not 100%, and Rocket on the Mac is perfect.

Transmit: Well, sadly Panic discontinued Transmit for iOS in the last few weeks, but I still use it for all my FTP needs and it works great. Here’s hoping this keeps working for a few iOS updates into the future.

Tweetbot: Also on iOS.

Ulysses: Also on iOS.

1Password: Also on iOS.


Listing it out like that really make it stand out to me how well iOS is doing at replicating my Mac workflows. There was tons I didn’t mention on here (like email, web browsing, photo management, etc.) but that’s because their solutions are totally cross-platform, and I find most of them better on iOS.

Also for what it’s worth, nothing has come out on Windows or Linux in the past year that competes with any of these apps, so yeah, don’t expect my PC needs to be replaced by anything without an Apple logo on it anytime soon.

Setting Up (and Quickly Reverting) a Hackintosh

The screenshot at the top of this post doesn’t make a lot of sense. Look as hard as you like, but you will not find an iMac with those specs. The reason for this is that I tried to “Hackintosh” a PC yesterday to see how that whole process works. I successfully created a Hackintosh boot media, installed macOS High Sierra on an HP machine, and had many things working, but ultimately reverted back to Linux. Let’s explore what happened.

Getting a PC

Many people in the Hackintosh community will build their own PC from scratch. They do this so that they maximize hardware compatibility. Drivers are not something we ever really have to think about in the Mac community, but they certainly are when you’re installing macOS on something not made by Apple. Things like CPUs and graphics cards may not work if macOS doesn;t know how to talk to them.

I did not build my own PC for this, and am instead using a 2 year old HP desktop that I got for free1. The machine has an Intel Core i5 3.2GHz (4 core, Haswell) as well as 12GB RAM on board. There is space for a graphics card, but I don’t have one installed at the moment. It also has a 1TB spinning disk, which is not ideal for 2018, but cost me $50 and seemed right for a “maybe I’ll keep this, maybe I won’t” computer.

Why macOS?

It was stupid easy to install Linux on this machine, and everything works as you would expect, so why do the extra work to use macOS? Well, outside of me liking macOS a hell of a lot more than any flavor of Linux, I was tempted by the quad core processor, which has more bandwidth than my dual core 2015 MacBook Pro. Geekbench showed 18% better single core and 80% faster multi-core performance and I thought this might be useful as an Xcode/Final Cut rig. The MacBook Pro is good at both of those, but I’ll take anything that gets my compile times down in Xcode or my render times down in Final Cut Pro X.

Installing macOS

This went surprisingly smoothly. I used Lifehacker’s Always Up-to-Date Guide to Building a Hackintosh guide to create a bootable USB drive in about 20 minutes. You should read their guide, but essentially I had to download macOS High Sierra from the Mac App Store on my Mac and then run the UniBeast app on that Mac to flash the macOS installer onto the flash drive.

The guide says you need a 16GB or larger drive to use as the install media, but I was able to do it with an 8GB one.

After that, the process will be shockingly similar to anyone who has installed macOS on a Mac from a USB drive. You essentially boot the computer with the drive plugged in, select the macOS installer, use Disk Utility to wipe the internal hard drive, and then walk through the installer like normal. It was incredibly easy!

Once the installer was done, I walked through the macOS setup process, and there it was, the macOS desktop running on this HP workstation.

Using macOS

This is truly a mixed bag, and thus was the reason I had to revert my machine back to Ubuntu.

First, the good. I was able to install the current version of macOS on my computer. Not an old version, and not some hacky version I had to torrent from somewhere, but the real deal.

Also, things mostly worked on first boot. Apps seemed to launch fine, my iCloud account knew what was going on and started syncing my files, and even iMessage worked just fine. As far as I could tell, this was the full Masc experience just as it should be.

Sadly, there were some quirks. First, there were noticeable graphical errors in numerous places in the OS. Transparencies seemed to be an issue, as many icons and images on the web displayed with black, flickering backgrounds. This was clearly a GPU driver issue, but none of the provided drivers (or ones I could find online) fixed this. For a computer to be used for video editing, this was not good. Additionally, when I tried rebooting, it booted successfully, but I lost internet and my settings said the ethernet cable was unplugged when it certainly was not. Numerous reboots, reinstalling drivers, and re-p[lugging in the cable did not fix the issue. No internet is a deal-breaker.

I could have spent more time looking for solutions to these problems, and maybe I will one day, but it really hit me that what I want from this computer is not something that's hanging on by a thread. A faster editing/coding rig would be nice, but I'd rather have a reliable computer that's a little slower than one that's faster, but can't be trusted.

And thus, here I am, back on Linux (Ubuntu 17.10). And while I don't like using Linux for anything full time, it seems like the best option for a computer like this. I've moved my Plex library onto it and plan to do some more server-style things with it in the near future. I'm glad I tried this, and I may try it again one day, but for now it's not the right thing for me.


  1. DM me on Twitter if you want details, but it’s not very exciting.