Using the 12” MacBook in 2021

The 12″ MacBook is my main computing device now and I wanted to share my thoughts on using it as part of my daily work flow. You can pick them up pretty reasonably used now and I think they are worth considering if you’re after a more affordable Mac.

First off my MacBook is an early 2016 base model with 8GB ram and 256GB SSD. It was bought refurbished from Apple back then and from a hardware perspective I’ve had no issues. I did have a tab key that stuck down a couple of times years ago but it sorted itself out and I’ve had no issues with the keyboard at all. The trackpad is the same, no issues. After all this time the battery still lasts me a long time and I only have to charge every couple of days. The screen quality is great and the resolution is fantastic. Very occasionally the one port annoys me but it’s not something that would drive me to upgrade.

From a performance perspective on macOS Catalina I was starting to think about an upgrade as it was slowing down a lot but after an upgrade to Big Sur it became completely useable again and the responsiveness went up. Even with my base spec macOS runs great and aside from the occasional stutter in Safari I have no issues.

It’s important to understand your use case though as this will determine what you can do on it. Mine is

  • Zoom meetings
  • Job searching: heavy pages use and web searching
  • GarageBand recording: plugging in my guitar and recording some music
  • Mail, messages and productivity apps

I don’t do any video editing so that’s one thing to call out. If you’re going to do video and want a 12″ MacBook then make sure you get one with 16GB ram. 8GB can do it but it’s pretty slow on the export and don’t even think about anything higher than 1080p.

I do think though that this MacBook shows that whilst Mac’s are more expensive initially they outlast a PC of similar age, certainly in my experience anyway. You won’t game or do any mega video production but if you’re looking for a small and light laptop that does the job then you can’t go wrong with the MacBook.

On that butterfly keyboard: I know some will be wary of the keyboard but I’ve actually grown to love it. It’s flat but I actually quite like typing on it but I appreciate that there are well documented issues. I haven’t had any but if you’re worried then ask the seller if they have been through Apple service and also check if it’s still covered under warranty. I’m pretty sure Apple extended it for this particular keyboard but cover yourself off so you don’t have to spend a fortune on a new keyboard at some point.

My iPhone 11 Home Screen

I’ve paired things down a little lately and wanted to share my latest Home Screen, always enjoy these sorts of posts.

The main thing I’ve done is settle into Todoist and removed the calendar widget. I found that in these current times the calendar widget just wasn’t useful and a reminder of where things are. I decided just to have the Todoist one to show me what I had on my plate in a day.

I’m starting to play with Streaks and DayCount for habit (good and bad!) tracking again having fallen off the wagon.

Everything else is pretty standard for me. Reeder for RSS, no social media apps on my Home Screen, podcasts and music and I’m still using Apple Notes.

The wallpaper is great and can be found here.

The most important factor when I’m choosing a blogging platform

As I’m reviewing my creative projects versus what I can actually afford to keep going right now my blogging one stands out as a monthly outgoing I may need to divert elsewhere. I’m looking at free or cheaper alternatives to WordPress but one thing stands out to me – where do you write from the most?

For me that’s my iPhone, 90% of posts are written straight on my smartphone these days. I no longer really use an iPad for writing and my MacBook is mainly used for job seeking. My iPhone has become my most used device, which I wouldn’t have thought would be the case as we are at home so much but that’s where it’s landed for me.

So, my number one requirement when looking to make a move is how good is the mobile experience. This is everything from the editor to posting images.

I think you first have to look at which platform are you using the most and pick a system that offers as least resistance as possible.

Are Apple ruining user experience to promote their own services?

Every time I open my iPad settings app I’m presented with this

It takes up a good portion of the screen on my iPad Mini and it got me thinking about the trend that I see with Apple promoting their own services within a core app. Personally I don’t like it, I’d much rather see them send you an email or other one time notification. For this one in particular I can say ‘set up later’ and it goes away for a short time but will pop back every few days, all I can do is wait for the offer to expire then I assume I’ll be presented with another offer. It feels very Samsung to me having used one for work, I’m hoping it doesn’t get too much worse.

How do you feel about these messages in settings?

How’s Apple doing?

Source: Six Colors

I always read these reports with interest and generally tends to line up with how I’m feeling about Apple.

Generally for me

  • Software quality is up, regardless of your thoughts on Big Sur design it’s a lot more stable and more performant
  • Hardware is reliable
  • Wearables up, mainly because of AirPods I think
  • Apple TV is stagnant
  • Can’t comment on the TV+ content as I don’t have it
  • iPhone a slight uptick, can’t comment but doesn’t look like 12 is a big leap

What do you think?

The PS4 Pro’s biggest problem is the noise it makes

I picked up a PS4 Pro back in 2016 at launch because I’ve always been on the Sony console track and had upgraded to a 4K HDR TV (settling on an LG OLED). It’s in use daily either by myself or my daughter and serves us well – but there is a problem that’s not just mine, it sounds like a jet engine.

I love the games I’m playing on it currently (Red Dead Redemption II, GT Sport, Battlefront and Uncharted 4) but I’m struggling to hear the sound without turning it too much as it’s overwhelmed with the loud fan noise.

I’ve taken the top off of it and cleaned the fan but aside from stripping it down completely and replacing thermal paste (I shouldn’t have to do that) I’m accepting that if you buy a PS4 Pro accept it’ll be loud.

It’s one of the main reasons I’m keeping my eye on PS5 stock, to get a console I can play without the fan waking up the neighbourhood (slight exaggeration I know).

The PS4 Pro is a great console though, more positives than negatives generally and with Miles Morales available now and Resident Evil coming soon there’s really no need to rush out for a next generation console, well not that you could anyway with all of the scalpers. If the fan noise wasn’t as bad I wouldn’t even be contemplating a new console.

Anyone else with this issue?

The limits of Apple Reminders

I posted about how I thought I’d use Apple Reminders but a few days where I’m low energy and it’s overwhelming. I’ve missed items and they move to a red overdue area, it’s stressing me out seeing it that way. I’m chasing my tail a lot anyway but it’s making it worse.

So I’m seeing the limits of options to delay items and the way it’s being displayed I.e. shouting at me.

It’s got me thinking about app structure and there’s something about Todoist that I find fits with my brain. I’ve manually (via my iPhone) dumped from Reminders back to Todoist and I’ll continue on my journey with the app.

Even though I have a lot on (over 10 things today for example) I feel more in control with the way Todoist lays out the data.

How do you deal with overdue tasks in your app?

Why you should use Apple Reminders

I’m moving between task managers a lot more than usual with my new budgeting measures and after a week with Reminders I’m starting to understand the benefits of using the built in app over paying for a third party.

Sync

Data sync between my iPhone and MacBook has been rock solid. It’s even at the point that if I tick something off my iPhone I see the badge count on my macOS dock disappear without me doing anything. I did have issues in the past and I don’t know what’s changed but sync has been one of it’s strong points

Accessibility

My eyes are a lot older now and I’m bumping up the system font to Max. You’d be amazed how many top rated to do apps don’t adhere to the system setting and therefore aren’t accessible (Things 3 is particularly bad here). No matter what size system font I’m using Reminders adapts to it, therefore making it useable for me.

Privacy first

This has been an Apple mantra for a while but using Reminders lets me worry less about where and how my data is being used.

Tight integration

This is obvious really but if you’re in the Apple ecosystem then it’s tight integration with SIRI, all the devices and HomePod is a big plus.

It’s free

This means a lot to me right now, another monthly payment not to worry about.

It’s actually quite a decent app

I’m impressed with the updates from iOS 13, it’s a very usable app. There are a few more taps you need to go through to set a deadline etc but I like that you can add links and images to a Reminder. Projects and sub-projects are there and you can set items to be due with or without a time. It doesn’t have tags, but then I didn’t use them anyway. It’s well laid out and easy to understand. I’d say it’s also a better app on iOS than macOS.

It has iOS 14 widgets

A pretty basic one but does the job and sits on my home screen. Tells me the number of items and shows me the first 3.

In summary

I’m nit-picky about my apps but being made to accept their flaws based on how much I’m paying has helped me accept Reminders. It’s not perfect for me but no app is, it does the job and has been working for me over the last week. If you’re on iOS, macOS or both then I’d definitely use Reminders as your starting point.

Are Apple laptops good value for money?

I haven’t bought a new Mac since 2016 and it got me thinking about a point I’ve been saying to friends over the years that Apple laptops are good value for money. Yes, the initial outlay is a bit more but they’ll outlast a PC bought the same year.

I still use a 2016 MacBook and it’s on the latest macOS version and is handling all of my job searching and video calls fine. I can even do music recording in Logic Pro and video editing in iMovie.

It’s true it won’t game well, but not many a Mac will unless you go top end. If you’re after gaming get a gaming PC but for 90% of the work you’re doing a Mac is going to last you years. I think 7-9 years on a Mac is easily doable.

Make sure you hit your full budget to get 16GB Ram if you can at the beginning of your purchase but other than that you’re good.

What’s your oldest Mac in use? Mine is a 2015 5K iMac.

I’m still using the iPad Mini 5

And I’m still enjoying it. Bigger screen than my iPhone, TouchID, portable, great for reading, two handed typing and more. I genuinely think that if you’re in the market for a tablet or want an ebook reader that does other stuff the Mini is the way to go. I see no downsides to using one as my only iPad right now. I’d recommend the Logitech crayon too if you think you’ll want to write or draw with it. Just a small post to show my continued appreciation for this form factor.