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The personal site of Jamie Knight, a slightly autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

Exciting iMac.

Last night i ordered myself a 27” Retina iMac complete with the fancy 4.0ghz i7 CPU, lots of RAM and large SSD. I’m extremely excited, so in thie post i am going to explain why i have brought it and why i am so excited.

Changing my mind.

This year has been really weird for computers. Barely three months ago at the start of the year i brought a little (and cheap) Mac mini to act as a sort of “cloud” of my own.

I wanted to use it as an xcode server and for managing my media etc, but i never expected to be using it often. When i got my Cinema Display back from my olf flat it amazed me by working. That was nice, it meant i had a nice screen for using with the Mac mini.

As i was using it more, i stuck an SSD in it. Felt like a sensible step. My plan was to wait till 2017 for the release of retina Cinema Displays and Macs to Drive them.

Well, that plan was poop. I changed my mind.

I love retina displays, not only because they look amazing, but because they allow me to screen zoom without getting pixelated text. This makes using a computer much easyier.

I changed my mind as i’m waiting for a product which may never come, when a product which is on sale right now will suit my needs perfectly. Plus my business would be very correct to buy it for me to support my freelance work.

I saw the iMac on the refurb store in just the configeration i wanted as my “dream computer” The price was high, but not anywhere near as high as it would have been “new” and certainly less than the cost of a Retina Displayer + new Mac mini for much much more performance.

Excited because…

I am excited for a few reasons. The biggest reason is the display. I love retina displays and i have longed for one at a desktop size for a very long time indeed. I stopped using large displays as retina trumped screen space, but with that i lost productivity. The days coding on the Cinema Display reminded me how awesome a large display was, and how terrible standard resolution now looks to me.

I’m also excited because this is the first “big thing” i have brought myself since i got ill almost 2 years ago. I have been so scared of spending money as my finances went crazy paying for care i have very careful with my spending.

However, i sold my home to pay for care, getting a small amount back to top up my business account for a new Mac isnt a bad way to spend it. Unlike a holiday etc, the iMac will hold its value extremely well and provide daily enjoyment and pleasure.

Finally, its simply nice to have nice things. My cinema display is being given to a friend on long term loan so it will still get used and make someone happy.

The Mac mini someone was extremely kind to buy for me earlier in the year when my finances were dire will have a new life too. I’m 100% decided yet, but its either being donated to the autism charity which runs the local hub, or im going to sell it and use the money to donate to a number of charities which i think do good work.

The key thing is, i changed my mind and thats okay. I am really excited about the new iMac and i cannot wait for it to arrive.

Published: 25 March 2016 | Categories: , Permalink

2015 12-inch retina MacBook Review

I wrote a first impressions article about this little MacBook a few days after it arrived. Now I have had longer to play with it and make some decisions this review goes into a bit more depth.

The one paragraph summery is that the MacBook definitely cannot replace my end of life employer provided work Mac and it’s not quite compelling enough to replace my personal 13-inch retina MacBook Pro.

What it’s great at.

This is a wonderful Mac for writing. In the time I had it I used it on many desks, sofas, in the back of taxis etc. The small size, lightness and great keyboard add up to awesome portability.

The screen is gorgeous. I tended to use the 1152 × 720 or a 1024 resolution more often than the 1280 × 800 resolution it ships with. 1152 gives the best sharpness and 1024 was more comfortable when I was tired and wanted the entire UI to be a bit bigger.

It’s competent for general computing but not amazing. It’s not the quickest for things like photos.app or mail.app but it works and it’s smooth enough.

It runs the accessibility features I use (voiceover, zoom etc) smoothly and without much stuttering. The retina screen makes screen zoom much more useful.

If my job didn’t include any development work or debugging I could see it being a good choice. However my job does requires more power.

Less good.

It will run my development tools and I can certainly do coding on it. However once pushed it gets laggy Several times I found myself waiting for autocomplete in coda to catch up. Additionally well before it gets laggy battery life dwindles. When coding I would often see the battery life drop to 2-3 hours.

This isn’t the end of the world. As Macs retain value so well and the MacBook can be found on the refurb store it could work for a 12-18 months or so and then sell for 75% of the retail price.

However as a work supplied computer on a 3 year lease it’s just not got the longevity it’s going to need.

Bad stuff.

One port is limiting. For example it’s currently impossible to easily connect this to my Cinema Display and power it at the same time.

It’s also frustrating to need so many adaptors. In the future when USB-C is more established it makes sense. But for today a single USB-C port is not enough.

Closing thoughts.

I am glad I tested one before I committed to one long term. It is an amazing piece of hardware and has lots to love. However it’s not going to last long enough to make it a worthwhile investment.

I am excited to see where it goes. While it’s a bad for for my work, it might work out better for my personal commuting burnt may take another generation or two before the hardware can match up to the promise.

Published: 23 March 2016 | Categories: , Permalink

2015 MacBook First Impressions.

I’m trying out a 12” MacBook to see if it can replace my dying work Mac. After using it for 3 days i am ready to share some first impressions.

Hardware Thoughts.

The MacBook is not like other Macs. The engineering approach and the design is borrowed heavily from the iPad line.

If an iPad and a MacBook Air had a baby, it would be the 12” MacBook. This is both good and bad.

On the good side:

And on the bad side:

In use.

Over the course of the last three days i have used the Macbook on 2 different desks, on the sofa, in bed and in the back of a taxi.

It worked well in all places. It worked really well in the back of a taxi. It fits on my lap with space to get a comfy typing position.

When on my lap, the low weight is also a problem. It will bounce of my lap when i am typing fast. I have to keep a little finger out to hold it in place!

I have used it for writing, coding, chatting, light photo editing and for generating speech.

It’s worked, but for tasks like coding and light image editing it’s is a bit slow. I would be skeptical of how long this laptop would last as a coding machine. For work it needs to last 3 years, I think that might be a bit ambitous. It may just work as a personal machine, but it’s hard to tell.

It’s not as capable as i am use too, so i have to think about how i am using it and make sure i close tabs etc.

Even with careful managing of resources it still feels a little bit laggy in places.

Is this the future?

I can’t write about the MacBook without addressing the question about it’s place in “the future of computing”.

Apple tends to set trends, the MacBook Air started the last wave of ultraportables and it possible the MacBook will start a new wave of “ultra ultra portables”.

That makes it interesting. The real achievement is not in the performance but in the power used. It does with 6 watts of power what took 15 watts a few years ago and 45 watts 4 years ago.

I think one day we will see an ARM Mac (the iPad Pro is very close!) but i dont think thats going to happen too soon. The MacBook is impressive, for its size, but from my first impressions you do have to be a light user to live within its limits.

I think apple is on to a winner with the basic concept for the MacBook. For some users this Mac would be an all day capable machine, like the Air, it might be another generation or two before thats true for most users.

Closing thoughts.

I am impressed with the MacBook but i think i can already rule it out as a work laptop. I can’t see it is lasting three years even for the lightest of coding tasks. A Retina MacBook Pro + iPod Touch is a better combination. Proper laptop when i need it and a super portable device for when i am on the move.

For personal use i can consider an upgrade earler in the cycle. To changes from my current MacBook would cost me about £150-200 and that’s not a huge price to pay for a laptop which may better fit my personal computing needs.

This is only a first impression, so i will see how it works out over the coming week before i make a decision.

Published: 19 March 2016 | Categories: , Permalink

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