Wednesday, Nov. 13th 2019
Jason Snell at sixcolors.com / Key upgrade: A first look at the 16-inch MacBook Pro
On Wednesday Apple announced a new 16-inch MacBook Pro, with a completely redesigned keyboard, bigger display, increased battery life, ninth-generation Intel processors, upgraded graphics processors, expanded storage, and improved audio input and output. And despite the rumors that Apple’s newest laptop would be a super-premium product at the top of the price list, in fact that 16-inch MacBook Pro is replacing the 15-inch model at the same base prices of $2399 and $2799.
The 16-inch display can also alter its refresh rate, which is especially helpful for video editors. You can choose from 47.95, 48, 50, 59.94, and 60 Hertz refresh rates. (The MacBook Pro can also drive up to two of Apple’s high-end Pro XDR displays, once they arrive—presumably alongside the Mac Pro, which is officially shipping in December.)
A big part of the story of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is offering even more to people who need as much of anything as Apple can give them. So these laptops can be loaded with up to 64GB of 2666Mhz DDR4 memory. And you can configure them with up to 8TB of storage, which Apple says is the largest solid-state drive ever in a laptop.
I can always use more memory. But I think 64GB will satiate my memory hunger for a few years.
The heat sink’s surface area increased by 35 percent, and the fans have larger impellers and more blades so they can move 28 percent more air.
Because this laptop comes with the same processors in the outgoing 15.4-inch MacBook Pro, I think this is the first time a new mac product has come out with the same processors as the product it replaces. However, because of the improved cooling, it sounds like it is benchmarking and compiling faster than the predecessor.
Marco Arment / The 16-inch MacBook Pro
The new MacBook Pro has no massive asterisks or qualifications. It’s a great computer, period, and it feels so good to be able to say that again.
This is the first time, in a long time, that I am excited again for mac laptops.
Daring Fireball / 16-Inch MacBook Pro First Impressions: Great Keyboard, Outstanding Speakers
The new 16-inch display has a native resolution of 3072 × 1920 pixels, with a density of 226 pixels per inch. The old 15-inch retina display was 2880 × 1800 pixels, with a density of 220 pixels per inch.
I would have loved if the resolution density could have been high enough for the default resolution on the laptop to be true 2x.
512px / Apple Unveils 16-inch MacBook Pro
That’s not to say these won’t sell; contrary to the rumors, this is not a new high-end MacBook Pro. It replaces the 15.4-inch machine entirely. If you want a MacBook Pro, they come in two sizes: 13 and 16 inches.
I am really hoping that a similar 14-inch follows.
Starting at the top of the keyboard, the Touch Bar and Touch ID sensor are still present, joined this time by a physical Escape key.
The ESC key is used pretty often in design and programming tools. The software ESC key really scared me away from getting a laptop with a TouchBar because of this. I’ve heard that some people are so frustrated with the software ESC they use 3rd party tools to disable the standard TouchBar and replace it with a bunch of software ESC buttons.
Kaya Thomas on Twitter
The 16" MacBook Pro is much faster for fresh builds and incremental builds in Xcode. Some stats below for the @Calm app:
216 seconds for a fresh build
7 seconds for an incremental build
135 seconds for a fresh build
2 seconds for an incremental build
c|net.com / Apple’s Phil Schiller on reinventing the new MacBook Pro keyboard
But a few years back, we decided that while we were advancing the butterfly keyboard, we would also—specifically for our pro customer—go back and really talk to many pro customers about what they most want in a keyboard and did a bunch of research. That’s been a really impressive project, the way the engineering team has gotten into the physiology of typing and the psychology of typing—what people love.
I hope this doesn’t mean that the butterfly keyboard is going to continue to ship with new products. I could possibly see an argument made for it to remain on the MacBook Air. However, if this new keyboard is as good as it sounds, I don’t see any great reason to keep the butterfly keyboard around.
Apple Insider / MD details the 16-inch MacBook Pro's Radeon Pro 5000M-series GPUs
AMD has revealed the specifications of the new Radeon Pro 5000M-series GPU options available in the just-launched 16-inch MacBook Pro, with the Radeon Pro 5300M and 5500M offering better graphics performance and an option for up to 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM.
The Radeon Pro 5500M GPU is equipped with 24 compute units, 1,536 stream processors, a peak engine clock of 1,300MHz, and can provide up to 4 teraflops of single-precision floating-point performance. The Radeon Pro 5300M GPU has 20 compute units and 1,280 stream processors, along with a peak engine clock of 1,250MHz, giving it up to 3.2 teraflops of performance.
In a comparison of the highest-performing GPUs for each, consisting of the Vega 20 with 4GB of VRAM against the 8GB Radeon Pro 5500M, Apple claims there is an 80-percent increase of graphical performance for the 16-inch MacBook Pro's GPU.
That is impressive. I’m glad we’re starting to get better GPUs in mac laptops. Although, I think there could always be more in this area!
Upgrade, Accidental Tech Podcast, Under The Radar
MKBHD, The Verge, Jonathan Morrison
With the 2016 MacBook Pro redesign, while initially exciting, it became pretty clear that there were large design compromises made. I hope this is an indication that there has been a notable re-balancing of those compromises. It would be even better if they could figure out something useful to do with the TouchBar. But at least now the fundamentals seem to be solid again.
I am happy to be excited about mac laptops again. Even if this is a seemingly small step in the right direction.
Tuesday, Oct. 8th 2019
Jason Snell at Six Colors / macOS Catalina review: New era ahead, proceed with caution
Sometimes software upgrades just fuzz together, all part of a continuum of changes over time. Others are more momentous, when there’s a clean break from what has come before. After a few years of fuzzy updates, macOS Catalina is one of those clean breaks.
If you need to upgrade but have one key app you just can’t live without, consider making a disk image of your existing Mac (even better, make it a fresh install with just your important apps) and using it in an emulator such as VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop.
This is the promise of Mac Catalyst: That iOS developers who have been more or less locked out of the Mac for the past decade (unless they learn an entirely different set of development skills and build alternate versions of their apps) will now finally have access to that platform.
I've tried dabbling with Cocoa/AppKit, but it has never really clicked in the same way that UIKit has. I'm excited for Catalyst. Plus, being independent as a single designer and developer (and tech support and book keeper and well, everything) it doesn't make sense for me to work on and update a separate mac and iOS app.
Despite this initial rush of interest, it feels like it’s going to take months, if not years, for us to see just how Mac Catalyst might change the Mac and the software that we use on them every day.
It's a helluva lot more difficult than just "checking a box in Xcode" as Apple is advertising.
Then there’s the interesting problem that Mac Catalyst apps are entirely separate from their iOS equivalents when it comes to the App Store. For a lot of developers with existing iOS apps, that’s a dealbreaker, since they want the option of letting their existing iOS customers use the Mac version without re-buying. A shared store may be coming, but it’s going to be a while.
This is a huge hurdle and complication for me. This has to be addressed.
Some developers will probably be tempted to stop at this point, but to make an iPad app really feel native on macOS, additional time will be needed to polish them for an environment without a touchscreen present.
I can't emphasize enough how different a touch vs cursor based interface is.
John Voorhees at Mac Stories / macOS Catalina: The MacStories Review
The Mac isn’t in crisis, but it isn’t healthy either. Waiting until the Mac is on life support isn’t viable. Instead, Apple has opted to reimagine the Mac in the context of today’s computing landscape before its survival is threatened. The solution is to tie macOS more closely to iOS and iPadOS, making it an integrated point on the continuum of Apple’s devices that respects the hardware differences of the platform but isn’t different simply for the sake of difference.
Anyone who has browsed through the Mac App Store in the last few years would agree that the mac is probably in need of something to change. But there's also a lot of great things about the Mac that make it amazing. I have a lot more thoughts as well about the expectations of bespoke software on iOS (probably mostly driven by design orgs…) and the exact opposite expectations of consistency and similarity on macOS.
Catalina is a cold splash of water in the face of users accustomed to small incremental changes to macOS in recent years. What makes Catalina different from updates in years past is Apple’s renewed commitment to the Mac.
I really hope so. I love the mac. The richness and robustness of Mac OS 10.3 and 10.4 is what really piqued my interest in being a software designer.
Catalina is a careful balancing act between the old and new. One of the most successful advances by Catalina is the breakup of iTunes. I expected far more of the legacy features to be shed from the app than actually were.
I think it's going to be a relatively slow transition, but I think when we look back in five to ten years it will be shocking how different apps on 10.14 Mojave looked and felt (hopefully for the better…).
These reviews are pretty meaty and I highly suggest you give them a read. There's a lot of great information about new features and theory about the future of the mac.
In the near future I'd like to do a quick roundup and design review of Catalyst apps. I don't think anyone has really solved the transition from touch to cursor based interface (re: Windows Metro). I'll be watching for any successful Catalyst apps.
Monday, Aug. 12th 2019
The US Navy will replace the touchscreen throttle and helm controls currently installed in its destroyers with mechanical ones starting in 2020
The move comes after the National Transportation Safety Board released an accident report from a 2017 collision, which cites the design of the ship’s controls as a factor in the accident.
The NTSB report calls out the configuration of the bridge’s systems, pointing out that the decision to transfer controls while in the strait helped lead to the accident, and that the procedures for transferring the controls from one station to another were complicated, further contributing to the confusion. Specifically, the board points to the touchscreens on the bridge, noting that mechanical throttles are generally preferred because “they provide both immediate and tactile feedback to the operator.” The report notes that had mechanical controls been present, the helmsmen would have likely been alerted that there was an issue early on, and recommends that the Navy better adhere to better design standards.
This makes sense. But also, bad UI, whether physical or software is just bad UI.
Following the incident, the Navy conducted fleet-wide surveys, and according to Rear Admiral Bill Galinis, the Program Executive Officer for Ships, personnel indicated that they would prefer mechanical controls.
This user research would have been helpful before the accident.
Touchscreens weren’t the only issue in the collision: the report calls out that several crew members on the bridge at the time weren’t familiar with the systems that they were overseeing and were inexperienced in their roles, and that many were fatigued, with an average of 4.9 hours of sleep between the 14 crew members present. The report recommended that the Navy conduct better training for the bridge systems, update the controls and associated documentation, and ensure that Navy personnel aren’t tired when they’re on the job.
There's also that…
See also: Wikipedia: Boeing 737 Max worldwide grounding