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

Topics: Autism Development

The massive iPad and the little MacBook.

At the end of 2016 i wrote about my setup. The very short version is that i wasn’t very impressed with the new MacBook Pro’s and had decided to stick with my iMac and older MacBook Pro setup.

This is broadly still the case, however it has been tweaked a little.

A little MacBook.

The first change is that i swapped from a MacBook Pro to a MacBook. My partner is taking my 13” MacBook Pro to university with him. It makes more sense for him to have it than for me to have it and barely use it. I brought myself a little 12” MacBook to use in the mean time.

I will write about the MacBook again in the future, but in brief It’s brilliant as a satellite device, but unworkable as a primary computer. I do push its limits often, but because i brought it with a 60% discount i am happier to live within those limits and go to the iMac when needed.

A massive iPad.

The second change is that i swapped from a borrowed 9.7” iPad Air to a work issued 12.9” iPad Pro.

It didn’t make sense for the BBC to buy me another Mac. I wouldn’t use it as i already have better Macs at home, however, i needed a way to get onto the BBC VPN and an iPad does the job nicely.

We went with the bigger iPad as a bit of an experiment. A friend of the team has one and i wondered if i could follow his approach.

Perhaps ironically, the iPad is now bigger than my MacBook.

Till 2018.

With those two swaps made I don’t expect to see any other hardware changes now till 2018 when i may retire the iMac in favour of a MacBook Pro and 5K display. We will have to see what happens.

I am excited to be able to have both the MacBook and the iPad Pro. They overlap in interesting ways an i look forward to exploring them more in the future.

Published: 14 February 2017 | Categories: Permalink

Games i played in 2016

I’m not really much of a gamer, i tend to play a single game intensely for a while then not play anything for months. Gaming is something which takes a lot of focus and energy so after a long work week i’m more likely to pick up the the TV remote than an xbox controller.

When i do game, i tend to do it with freinds or play puzzle & driving games. Here’s a quick run through the games i played in 2016.

 Forza Horizon 2 & 3.

Forza horizon is an open world driving game. You drive around a large map and take part in different events and races. The maps are huge with the drive between races often being 10-20km. There are other activities too, like looking for special boards and hunting down lost cars.

I like this style of game because its a mix of sometimes i can repetitive thing (the circut racing) and exploring a large world. It’s really satisfying to explore something like a large forest and eventually find an old overgrown shed with a ferrari in it.

Forza horizon does not try to be a simulation, the driving benifits from practice but its not accurate or very realistic. It’s challenging enough to be interesting but not challenging enough to be too difficult. I tend to come in the top 3 of most races i enter on the first go.

 Forza 6.

Forza 6 is the similation version of the horizon game. It aims to be as realistic as possible and on the harder settings is very very difficult to play. You play through a series of “Chapters” each defining the type of car. Starting with releltively slow street cars and ending with forumla one cars and other motorsport toys.

I really enjoy the challenge of understanding how to drive fast. It requires a super delicate touch and lots of practice. The game is also vast, with every race having 6 different groups of similar cars avaliable. Completing all of chapter one took me months.

I don’t think either game is definitively more fun; it really depends on my mood. Adverture and exploring versus repetition and refinement.

Dirt Rally.

Dirt Rally is the most recent edition of the classic Colin Mcrea Rally series i played as kid. After going a bit odd for a while (becoming more of a driving variety show game) the series refocused on just the stage based rally driving dialing up the realism in the process.

It’s like an off road version of Forza and that is really appealing. In many ways it sits between Forza 6 and Forza horizons. Runnig through stages and touring the world (with some stunning landscapes!) but while also still working towards a specific goal etc.

It’s really fun and very challenging to delicately slide a mini around an icy corner hald way up a mountain!

Unlike the other two games which have a “instant reply” system allowing you to retry a corner after a crash Dirt Rally is a single run everytime. If you make a mistake you have to live with it or restart the whole stage.

For the long stages it can be hard to keep the focus to be quick, smooth and not end up over wrapped around a tree.

Gears of Wars 4.

Gears of war is a shooting game. I dont enjoy the single player mode much. I find it repetitive, loud and annoying. However, i love playing the miltiplayer mode with my freinds.

Five of us can get together to build and defend a base from wave after wave of enermy attackers. It gets steadily harder as waves go one and you complete the mode when you hit wave 50.

I don’t tend to do well in intense firefights so i have taken to playing as a sniper (where i can pick off enimies from a distance) or as an engineer (where i fight very little and spend my time bulding traps and keeping sentry guns etc maintained).

Surviving on the higher waves requires intense team work and specilisation. As a sniper, my role is to pick off the big monster before they get close enough to kill a a member of my group.

Lego Star Wars Force Awakens.

Unlike all the other games which i have played on the Xbox, the final game i have been playing this year is for the Mac. It’s the Lego Star Wars game where you get to play through the story of The Force Awakens. It’s well designed, pretty and simple to play.

What games did you play in 2016? Did you play any of the games above? Feel free to leave a comment to let me know.

Published: 8 December 2016 Permalink

2016 MacBook Pro Thoughts

Last week Apple had an event to introduce new MacBook Pros to the world. Its had the most negative response i’ve seen from a Mac announcement in a while. With everyone else writing their thoughts and as someone who’s in the market for a new laptop here are my thoughts.

The good…

Let’s start with the positives. The new MacBooks are amazing feats of engineering. They are smaller, lighter, more powerful (sometimes) and they have can drive dual 4k or 5k displays (woohoo!).

On the higher end models the Touch Bar seems a pretty amazing bit of technology too. It adds a new input method which i cant wait to play with.

These MacBooks are amazing computers and apple needs to be recognised for producing something which is both high quality and sticking to a bold visions.

The bad…

That bold vision is where it gets complicated. The Apple MacBooks embrace three trends and not all of those trends benefit the user much today.

Lets dig into that.

The lightness and size is impressive and as portable computers being lighter and smaller is useful. However, there is a cost. To achieve the 25% reduction in volume Apple have also compromised the performance. These MacBooks are not as fast as they could be, they don’t have the Memory they could have had and they don’t have the battery life they could have had.

The port situation is better than on the MacBook but it shares many of the same issues. The thunderbolt 3 ports are amazingly flexible, but loosing the magnetic charging cable and having no other ports to use is a big compromise Apple didn’t need to make. In day to day life with a MacBook Pro today i will need half a dozen adaptors.

Finally, the touch bar is neat, but its adding a huge amount to the price. The entry level has gone up hugely in the UK. In the past a new entry level MacBook worth having was around £999-1099, now with the combined effect of Brexit and the new technology an entry level MacBook Pro worth having is £1750. Thats a HUGE increase and it wipes out all of the gains from the other decisions.

Is it worth updating?

In simple terms it’s not worth me updating my MacBook Pro this year unless there is a compelling business reason to do so. To upgrade like for like with my Current MacBook would be a £1250 investment assuming i get £750 from the sale of my current MacBook. Thats a whole lot of money for very little real world benefit. In three years the MacBook Pros have only got 15% faster and the battery life has not improved much either.

Back in March i decided to stop waiting for the MacBook Pro of my dreams and just go for an iMac 5k. I’m really glad i did. The iMac is a brilliant fit for my needs and by making the decision then i saved over £1000 compared to making the same decision today.

All in, while the new MacBook Pro are feats of engineering, today they don’t make much sense and i cannot see me buying one or recommending them to people.

Published: 2 November 2016 | Categories: Permalink

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