About two weeks ago I started to notice the issue that the keys on my Macbook Pro (2017 model with the butterfly keys) started to become “slightly unresponsive” (See the article “Death of the butterflies”). After dragging the Mac back to the store and explaining the issue to the tech it apparently got fixed. I’m very happy to report my Macbook is still under warranty, otherwise this little escapade might have cost met over 300 euro’s.
Where on a “normal” machine they just swap out a keyboard (I remember doing this almost blindfolded when working on IBM Thinkpads back in the day) the replacement of the Apple keyboard is close to brain surgery. Along with a new set of keys, I also got a new battery and a new lower half of my body. Basically I got my screen, my logic board and my harddrive back. The rest is new.
After spending more then 10 days constantly on my Dell Xps13, I have to admit that oging “back” to my Mac is something of a mixed blessing. Sure, here is my allround powermachine that does just about anything, from video editing to presentations, from running work-citrix to giving me the Unix command line. But the keyboard? I think the chance of the butterfly keys and me ever going into a long lasting loving relationship are slim. They keys might be slim, cool, thin, made out of fairy farts, but aside from lacking basic symbols ( Backslash, Pipe key, Tilde Key) the lack of travel does not feel right.
Having had “clogged butterflies” where my keytravel was messed up due to microscopuc elements of dust, I will never quite “trust” this keyboard again. Whatever happens I will always have this nagging feeling that somehow it just doesn’t “feel” right. “Was that tap OK ?” “Did that character get registered ?” “Oh ow, is it clogging up again ? “ I don’t know, maybe I’m focused too much on it or maybe there is something fundamentally wrong with Apple’s approach to the design. It’s a little bit of a moot point since i’m stuck with this machine for a while anyways.
That being said, I enjoyed having my XPS13 as a daily driver (YES, Running Windows !) The machine is light, fast, has mat screen and I still love it like the day I got it. It will always be a hard choice packing up in the morning and choosing “What laptop am I going to take with me”. I think that’s the curse of being a cross platform slider.
Tap.. tap .. taptaptap.. Grunt, blowing sound, tap tap TAP.. yeah, it sounds like somebody is frustrated behind their keyboard write ? Some Shmo pounding out an angry flame mail to a bunch of co-workers with half the org-chart splattered across to to and bcc field. But .. thats not the case. It”s just me trying to write up a little blogpost on a computer that suffers from dying butterflies.
Downside ? It makes EVERYTHING you type sound like an angry hate-mail to POTUS, even if you are doing a love letter.
‘Chokin the butterfies’
The butterflies I refer to are the keys on my keyboard. In Apple’s grand opus of “Thinking Different”, somebody in the giant glass donut thought it would be a good idea to radically change the way they keyboard worked on their new Macbook Pro’s. So they decided the butterfly key would be a great idea. Superslim keys that have virtually no “keytravel” (How ‘deep’ your key goes when you tap it) and that make the keyboard look like a giant touchpad. Upside ?: Cool and pretty thin (allowing them to thin-down the laptop a few millimeters). Downside ? It makes EVERYTHING you type sound like an angry hate-mail to POTUS, even if you are doing a love letter.
DD I press ‘i’ ?
But the biggest downside is that these keys are NOT dirt resistant. Tiny mote of sand or dust gets underneath your key ? Boom. no more room for travel. If you are lucky the keystrike is still recorded and you get your character on the screen, but it “feels” like you just didn’t strike that key. And that totally throws you out of the zone. If it is worse , the just doesn’t work at all and you end up POUNDING the letter out of the laptop by jamming your finger on it with too much force required.
‘Cupertino is gonna fix it’
Its a known issue with Apple and they promised to fix it in the NEXT generation. But for the current owners ? Well, there is a replacement program. Only you need to bring us your Macbook Pro so we can fix it. Well, Fix it is a big word, they are going to replace my keyboard (AND my Touch bar AND my battery, because the glued it all together) with similar hardware. So the chance that THOSE butterflies are going to “clog up” is still very real.
Well, the only thing I can do is wait for my Mac to be back. In the meantime I’ve ‘Fallen back’ to my Dell XPS 13 laptop (Running Windows 10 Pro) and that is NOT a bad place to be. The machine is slim, light and fast and the keys are .. well, better. Rattling out blogposts like this kinda feels like being a coder pounding out the next killer app. No dead butterflies here 🙂 Keep you posted.
Fear of the dinosaur
I am really scared of a T-Rex. And when I say that i’m not talking about the 30 foot giant dino that scared the living crap out of those poor kids in the original Jurassic park film, but the little grey one that pops up in Chrome, when you don’t have an internet connection. Because that means that I am “Offline”. And these days “Offline” equals being lost at sea, or stuck in a cave, or stranded on one of the moons of Uranus. Or worse: Being stuck in a cave at the bottom of the sea on one of the moons of Uranus. You catch my drift: Being offline is bad.
Beyond the Blackberry: Offline is bad
Why is this? I vividly remember a time where 95% of my day was spent “offline”. Only when I would need to get “on the internet” would I use a little box that made screechy noises to temporarily connect my wonky PC to the world wide web. These days a computer without an internet connection is about as useful as can of window defroster in the Sahara.
It all changed when we got the first smartphones with a permanent connection. Those “Blackberry’s” in the hands of avidly tapping CEO’s would give them the infinite power to be connected all the time, everywhere. It was cool! That meant you could spam them 24/7 with useless questions like “When do I get a raise” knowing that would help to get a rise of of them (Hah).
But somewhere along the line this all changed and we needed to be connected all the time, first so we could be pinged and dinged 24/7, then because we had a massive case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and next because all of our data and our applications were in the could. No pipe? No Party.
The cloud is a blessing in disguise. Sure: our data was safe from failing hard drives and homework devouring K9’s, but we need a permanent pipe to get to them. That’s ok, bandwidth is cheap and connections are ubiquitous, but not omnipresent. Commuting by Train from Brussels does mean that at times the 4g connectivity on my phone is spotty and at some points cuts out altogether. Very annoying when you are in the middle of a cloud based session and not reliable at all. But instead of fearing those moments I’ve begun to embrace them.
I’ve found out “Offline” is great time to blog, to tinker with video’s. To edit down Audio file or to meticulously murder and decimate any mails that are hanging around in my inbox.
The luxury of begin without a connection
There is an incredible luxury about being offline because all the distractions you might encounter go away. No more pings, dings and doodah’s from Facebook or Whatsapp. No more side-quests to hunt down a life-sized My little pony on amazon. No silly youtube cat video’s that eat hours of your time. No more emails that drop into your inbox right when you are in the middle writing up a killer reply to the previous mails. Just … you, your keyboard and your computer. The virtual doors to your man (or woman) cave a closed, the doorbell is unplugged and you get to soak in the digital bubblebath of your own creativity (or focus) without being disturbed.
I’ve found out “Offline” is great time to blog, to tinker with video’s. To edit down Audio file or to meticulously murder and decimate any mails that are hanging around in my inbox. The sweet 90 minutes of Downtime I get as I zoom through the Belgian spotty cellphone-covered countryside are actually the most productive ones of my day.
Make the tech work
Sure I have to make sure the tech works. That means most of my services and clients need to able to ‘handle’ offline. Syncing to your local drive is a great option. Apps like Onedrive, Onenote, Outlook, Dropbox all have the ability to ‘work offline’ and push/pull incremental changes once the packets from the inter-webs return. Not every app or service support that. But think about it. If you NEED constant connectivity to do that one key thing you need to do, you are very vulnerable should the handy workmen decide to accidentally rip up your internet connection while doing some digging.
Are you a constantly connected cloud-crackwhore that cannot live without a public IP or a 4bar wireless signal ?
Enjoy the silence
So here is my question: How much CAN you still DO offline? Are you a constantly connected cloud-crackwhore that cannot live without a public IP or a 4bar wireless signal ? Are your workflows so tied into the cloud that without them the only think you are good at is grunting like a gorilla as you wave your useless smartphone around ? I’m dying to know. You can tell me all about it, when I get back online.
What apps do you prefer on your platform ? Third party apps or Native apps ? We go through the pro’s and cons of both in today’s video-rant.
Driving in the car, I ponder what new smartphone I could get and the bizarre differences in prices and specs that you can find on the android phone market. I pose the important question: Flagship or Midrange ? What is the perfect phone for a geek.