Small Problems of All Kinds

12″ Macbook 2015 Review

Leave it to AnandTech’s wonderful reviews to bring some reason to Apple’s 12” Macbook. Thanks to today’s review, I have a better understanding of Apple’s reasoning for creating the Macbook the way they did but I still don’t agree with some of the decisions.

I’m okay with the fact that the worst case scenario for the Macbook’s performance is somewhere around 2011’s 11” MacBook Air. I have one and it’s plenty fast for the word processing and light image editing that I do. I’m pleased to see that the battery life is superior to my 2011 Macbook Air, the fact that Force Touch works well (I tried it in person on a rMBP and it’s amazing) and the new keyboard is effective.

I didn’t even clue into the fact that Magsafe would be gone with the move to USB-C. I am a big fan of it and I’m sad to see it go. I also didn’t realize there was a cheaper USB-C to USB Type-A adapter. It’s $25 compared to the ludicrously priced $99 breakout box but I still believe Apple should have included the full breakout box with the laptop. It’s silly having to decide between using your USB stick or charging your laptop.

With this review and their dedicated Core M article, I have a better understanding of what Core M is all about. Burst performance > sustained performance. Most light workloads do not require long stints of sustained high performance so a processor like Core M makes a lot of sense for everyday computing. And it is impressive how Intel managed to pull off this feat while consuming just 4.5W.

It all sounds reasonable until I was reminded of the $1549 price tag for the base model. That’s just too much for all those compromises. Maybe in a few year’s time when there are more USB-C devices and more powerful Core M processors can be crammed into that chassis.

Mortal Kombat X DLC & Microtransactions Kerfuffle

I’m not picking up Mortal Kombat X until the inevitable Komplete Edition hits the $20 – $30 price tag. Realistically? That could be some time in 2016.

I was postponing the pickup for a handful of reasons.

  1. I only care about the single player campaign.
  2. I wanted all the DLC characters without having to pay extra.
  3. I didn’t want to pay more than $40 for all the above.

I don’t buy DLC characters like I don’t buy additional maps for multiplayer games. I feel those extras hurt the base game and the community. It either divides the player base, creates an artificial competitive imbalance or sometimes it seems tacked on. Whatever the reason, I try not to support it.

Now I have more reasons not to give them $70+. I heard about the “easy Fatalities” microtransaction but that’s like the shortcuts and other “cheat codes” that EA have been offering for years. Yes, it’s scummy but it’s unlockable through normal means. (In Mortal Kombat X’s case, unlocking it through in-game Krypt coins)

Well what happens if those “normal means” were made more inconvenient? Then we have a problem. A very scummy problem.

Looking Good on the Surface

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Surface 3 Unveiled

Microsoft unveiled the Surface 3 today. It’s powered by Intel’s Atom line-up and features a $499 USD price tag which seems like a incredibly bad deal at first glance but I’m warming up to it.

  • Display: 10.8″ 3:2 ratio 1920 x 1280 touch screen
  • CPU: Intel’s quad-core Atom x7-Z8700
  • Memory/Storage: 2GB/64GB or 4GB/128GB
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours (video playback)
  • Camera: 3.5MP front facing, 8.0MP rear facing
  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Weight: 1.37lbs
  • MSRP: $499 USD for 64GB & $599 USD for 128GB

And all of this comes with Surface’s trademark kickstand. It’s also compatible with their pens and keyboard covers.

I paid $750 CAD or so for a 64GB iPad Air 2 and I love it for media consumption and the occasional iOS game. At $599 USD for the 128GB model, this could be a very compelling product for that exact use case. The Surface 3 also has the added of advantage of running a real operating system that can run full blown applications like Office. It’s not as light and I’ll likely miss out on great iOS only experiences but if I wasn’t into mobile gaming and was looking for a tablet for light work and media consumption, I’d consider the Surface 3.

Windows 10’s Technical Preview Impressions

I’ve been running the Windows 10 Technical Preview builds on a work laptop. Normally I’d try this kind of thing at home but I hardly use my home PC for anything other than PC games.

If you’re curious, the laptop is an old Dell Latitude from 2008. I wish I could install an SSD in it but that’s the least of this laptop’s worries.

General Look & Feel

At a very high level, Windows 10 is a revised version of Windows 8.1. Anyone who spent time using Windows 8 will feel right at home. Anyone who rejected Windows 8 will notice this OS is Windows 7 with a funkier Start Menu. Windows 10 isn’t trying to force new concepts down people’s throats. It’s not hiding the Shutdown menu, the Start Menu button or the Search bar anymore; everything is visible and easy to understand.

There was serious identity problem Windows 8’s visual make up. The Modern apps and old applications often clashed with each other visually and philosophically. Modern Apps loved to occupy the entire screen and hide menus in Charms whereas classic Windows applications behaved like normal applications would. Windows 8.1 rectified some of those issues and Windows 10 completely fixes it.

Now Modern Apps behave like classic Windows applications with visible menus and resizable Windows. They continue to look a little awkward beside older applications but at least they behave the same. With menus returning to the forefront, the Charms bar on are dead on desktop. Now I’m wondering to myself how long before I stop running my mouse along the edge of the screen to shutdown my PC. Silly habits are still habits.

Cortana

I like the idea of Cortana/Siri on the desktop. I don’t need to launch an app or have the weather constantly displayed. I like being able to ask digital assistants what the conversion is between USD and CAD and Fahrenheit and Celsius. It seems like a no brainer for Apple that I’m surprised Cortana may beat Siri to the desktop.

Since this is a work laptop, I haven’t been able to use Cortana beyond the rudimentary weather inquiries. I also don’t want to be that guy who’s talking to his laptop all day in cubicle city.

I wonder if Cortana will be more of a laptop or Surface centric feature because I don’t know many people who have a standalone mics on their desktops. This may change for Windows 10 desktop PCs though.

Spartan

The latest addition to the Windows 10 Technical Preview is Microsoft’s take on the modern web browser codenamed Project Spartan.

It’s a standalone web browser with annotation capabilities. It also comes with a Reading Mode. I haven’t used it enough to formulate a real opinion outside of this simple observation:

The default tab and menu bars consume the most space compared to Internet Explorer 11 and Google Chrome 41 in maximized mode.

I hope there’s a way to adjust the icon and menu sizes in the final version.

Project Spartan is more of a work in progress than Windows 10 itself. There’s currently no way to change your default search engine or browse with Private Mode. Google’s websites don’t even recognize it properly and will frequently tell me to download a modern browser.

Solid Start

Apparently Microsoft are aiming for a summer launch and I can could certainly see the operating system meeting that deadline. Cortana seems ready for prime time but Project Spartan needs more time in the oven. Will it all make it for the summer launch? I think so. Microsoft have been releasing builds at a rapid pace with each build shoring up the operating system in noticeable ways.

Windows 10 Preview Updated

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windows-8-logoThe Windows 10 march towards Release-to-Manufacturing begins with the first major update released earlier today. According to Microsoft, it includes over 7000 fixes and improvements.

I can’t wait to try it out at work.

I installed Windows 10 Technical Preview on one of our work laptops. We normally don’t get to do anything like this but under this new regime, situations like this have improved.

So far I think it resembles a refined version of Windows 8.1. I wasn’t a Windows 8 hater, so all of this is iterative to me. In fact, I prefer Windows 8.1 to Windows 7. Windows 7 (and 2008 R2) looks gaudy and functionally dated compared to Windows 8.1 and 2012 R2. It’s really tough to go back at times. That old Task Manager is such a useless P.O.S.

So I wish Microsoft all the best and hope my work laptop isn’t a smouldering husk after this latest update.

So it shall be called Windows 10

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The next version of Windows will be called Windows 10. It was announced at Microsoft’s enterprise centric event and will debut in early 2015 with a Technical Preview starting tomorrow. (General public need not apply)

Despite the target audience, there were a few noteworthy consumer oriented tidbits including virtual desktops, the return of the Start Menu and the evolution of the “One OS, all devices” vision.

Developers who write applications for Windows 10 can easily target multiple devices from phones to desktops and everything in between. But it’s easy to be skeptical with Microsoft’s claim because their current line up (Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox One) didn’t exactly pan out despite their best efforts. To validate the “One OS, all devices” nature of Windows 10, Microsoft announced Windows 10 will share a single app store across all devices. I really hope this pans out for them.

I’m also hoping Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for both Windows 7 and 8 users. It just makes sense to me.

These days, ecosystem loyalty is more important than nickel and diming consumers so it makes sense to give free OS upgrades. Get the OS — especially the new Windows Store — into people’s hands and they’ll be more likely to consider additional Windows devices in the future. If people knew their existing applications and services will work with a Windows device, they’ll be less likely to sever that bond for the sake of convenience and cost.

Everyone will ask why they skipped “9” but I want to know what they didn’t use X. I’m not as critical of Windows 8 as others but even I can see Windows 10 as the maturation of Windows 8’s vision. If Microsoft felt the need to distance themselves from Windows 8 by jumping a whole version number, so be it. They wouldn’t be the first one to do so.

At least they didn’t call it Windows One.

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