Monthly Archives: November 2016

Mac hardware after Steve – a sad story

A few weeks ago Apple announced their new MacBook Pro, the one without SD card reader, magsafe power cable, regular USB ports, ESC-button or ethernet port. They also did not announce any updates to any other models, in particular the MacMini and the MacPro.

Over the years I have bought several Apple Mac computers for running Mac OS X, the first one being a PowerMac G4 @ 400MHz that I bought Mac OS X 10.0 for. Apart from having several Macs myself over the years, I have also advised and helped people around me to get Mac computers.

It was long since Apple hardware was such a disappointment and options were so limited.

For years my PC-friends told me Apple hardware was expensive and outdated. That was partly true. Apple, relying on PowerPC and its own ecosystem charged a premium. And when it came to MHz per buck it was not good. But Apple sold computers that got your job done while never being in your way and they lasted long.

Apple have always had reasons for making expensive hardware with non-impressive performance specs.

  • Intel most of the time outperformed the PowerPC manufacturers (at the same MHz PowerPC rarely beat Intel, and Intel was most of the time ahead in MHz)
  • Apple prioritized ergonomics and battery life rather than raw spec (you paid for a really nice display, good keyboard, noiseless experience (well well), rather than pure computing power)
  • With Mac OS X, Apple utilized the GPU for the 2D desktop in a way Windows didn’t, so the user experience was very nice despite a slower CPU and less RAM
  • Apple have been very careful not to make their consumer line cannibalize on their Pro line (look at the MacMini, which is kept simple enough to not challenge a MacPro)
  • Apple have been very careful to make even their cheapest pieces of hardware amazing pieces of technology from a manufacturing and material quality point of view

This has always been annoying for anyone on a budget. But in the end of the day an Apple Mac has had long good life and it got the job done. Also:

  • Hardware was regularly upgraded 1-2 per year with relevant improvements.
  • The hardware lineup was easy to understand and it made sense. All models had their place.

It has been quite like this:

MacBook Pro: 13/15/17 inch. Bigger is more powerful and more expensive.
MacBook: Fewer options, cheaper materials.
MacBook Air: Ultra-portable, few options.
MacPro: Outrageously expensive and very cool, for pro users and external display.
iMac: Standard desktop, display included, options for both value and performance.
MacMini: The budget option for people who want their own display.

The strategically missing models have been:
Desktop Tower: Reasonable price/performance, desktop parts (CPU/GPU/RAM/Storage), external display, flexibility. This would have cannibalized on the MacPro line and possibly broken the “just works” idea (with too many user-replacable parts and so on).
Budget Computers: Steve Jobs simply refused to make cheap hardware that he was not proud of.

What Apple provided was good products for most purposes, but you ended up paying a bit extra for the quality. Where the desktop tower was missing, poeple got MacPros even though is was a much nicer computer than they really needed. And the MacMini was a nice work horse for not too much money after all (and who wants, or needs, a big tower anyway).

So, buying Apple Mac hardware has always been annoying and expensive. But mostly because Apple have been teaching us: don’t just focus on numbers, we sell you a truly good product and you do get value for money!

Since Steve Jobs died something has changed (perhaps not because of his death, but from that time).

First, Apple don’t upgrade their hardware regularly anymore. When Apple sold 10% as many computers and hardly made any money, they pushed out new revisions twice per year (at the same time working with PPC->Intel transition). Right now (November 2016) the entire product line (except maybe the MacBook) is in desperate need for an upgrade, and Apple release a truly disappointing MacBook Pro (its not my opinion, just read the reviews). You can’t sell computers that haven’t been revised since 18 months at the same price as when it was announced! Not even the car industry do that! They used to fix this by revisions like: “slightly bigger harddrive, +200MHz, cheaper RAM upgrade, same price”. That was fair! Then you knew you could get a new computer without getting screwed.

Second, Apple don’t even improve their computers when they release a new revision. The current (2 year old) MacMini is technically worse in most ways than the 4 year old model! The just outdated 2012 MacBook Pro was easily upgraded to 16GB RAM – that is today a ridiculously expensive built-to-order-upgrade only. What the f**k was the decision to get rid of the magsafe charger? That connection was a unique selling point that on its own merit could make people pick an Apple over any other brand.

Third, Apple got obsessed with (small) size. It is really nice to have a maximum portability option (the MacBook Air is my favourite). But the entire line, including the MacPro, MacMini, MacBook and MacBook Pro, dont need to be built for minimum weight! If I can choose between smaller and lighter or larger and heavier, I pick small and light. But if it comes at a cost of features it is a different story! I literally was in the store, considering the MacBook Air 11 (that I knew I wanted) and the MacBook Air 13 (which had an SD slot). I was very close to getting the 13′ just becuase of the SD card slot, and I would never have considered it, if the 11 inch had an SD slot.

Why remove magsafe, ethernet, SD-card and USB-A from ALL MacBook Pro computers, and also discontinuing MacBook Air? Would it be unreasonable to give the users (the pros) those choices? Would it be unreasonable to have one laptop model built for features rather than low weight? Or would it compete with the never-ever-being-upgraded-MacPro then? Apple could have kept and upgraded only the MacBook Air (never released the MacBook and discontinued MacBook Pro), it would have been the same thing.

The options have rarely been so few.

I am fine. I personally don’t need much performance of my computers and I can use Windows or Linux instead. As it is now my only Apple computer is a MacBook Air. I would have had an Apple Desktop for playing (Steam) games, if Apple just sold one. It’s a shame, for many years lack of games (and software in general) was the weakest spot of Apple. Now when there are so many good games on Steam there are no Apple computers to play them on. I tried to play on my MacBook Air: it performs fine, but it gets too warm. Computers used for some purposes need proper cooling, and that requires size and weight.

Apple: with all the money on your pocket… can’t you just make a hi-quality product line, with products for people with different needs? Make a pro laptop with real performance and all the features. I still think my Titanium PowerBook is an incredibly nice piece of hardware (the display is still great compared to what is in the market today) – make a laptop that size. Make a desktop computer with a real GPU. And keep making the nicest ultrabooks too! It would make your product line easier to understand too! Right now it is just confusing – it is like you don’t want to sell computers at all.

Simple Drinks

You want to mix a simple nice drink for yourself, or your parter or a few friends. And you are thinking, maybe I can use that bottle of something, so you start searching for drinks with it. Good luck. You will find plenty of drinks with six-seven ingredients, some of those you never heard of…

I am not a bartender, but there are a few reasons I think this post is relevant after all:

  1. I am not so impressed with many drinks I order, despite they are made by professionals and contain fancy ingredients – I can often do better myself
  2. A lot of those extra ingredients are suger-syrup-artifical-flavour-stuff, that is not very nice
  3. I think, putting many ingredients in a drink just camouflages everything – if I put bourbon in it I want bourbon flavour

I use the established names of drinks when I know them. I do not invent names. You can often find multiple recipies for the same drink – if in doubt, trust the other source.

Basic ingredients
I have made a short list of simple base ingredients that are often used.

  1. Water
  2. Ice
  3. Orange
  4. Lemon (they are a bit bigger, and yellow)
  5. Lime (they are a bit smaller, and green)
  6. Sugar (Simple Syrup, see below)
  7. Coca Cola
  8. 7-Up
  9. Vodka
  10. Dark Rum
  11. Bourbon whiskey
  12. Cointreau
  13. Gin

The sugar can be turned into Simple Syrup. Mix 1 part water and 1 part sugar, heat in microwave oven, stir/heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, cool (quickly with plenty of ice or slowly in fridge).

drinks-basic

Glases and preparation
Cocktails are usually nice to serve in a Martini glass (to the far right above). For long drinks a Highballglas (middle) works fine, and a not too small whisky glass is also good for mixed drinks.

Most drinks should be served ice cold. Often it is enought to just add enough ice to the glas and pour the ingredients on top. If you are going to make many drinks, put the bottles in the freezer or fridge in advance.

A drink shaker is nice if you want to serve ice cold drinks without serving them with ice. But you need much ice and little drink content if you do not want your drink diluted by water. Most of the time, if you keep fruits and soda in the fridge and allow yourself to serve with ice, you will be fine. A real bartender would probably disagree here.

Drinks with just the Basics
Even with just the basics you can produce some very nice drinks.

  • Gimlet: 4 parts Gin, 1 part lime juice, 1 part simple syrup, martini glass
  • Vodka Lime: 4 parts Vodka, 1 part lime juice, 1 part simple syrup, martini glass
  • Whisky Sour: 6cl Bourbon, 3 cl fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp sugar, the white of one egg (egg optional: shake well with plenty of ice in shaker), you might want to sweeten this drink with a little simply syrup if you added too little sugar
  • White Lady: 1 part Cointreau, 1 part Gin, 1 part lemon juice, martini glas
  • 4 cl Bourbon, juice from 1/2 lemon, juice from 1/2 orange, fill up with 7-up in a highball glass
drink-gimlet whiskey-sour

Blue Curacao
Blue Curacao can produce drinks that look amazing (it is extremely blue, and if you mix it with something yellow, it turns very green), but it is trickier to make them taste good too.

drink-bluecuracao-bourbon

  • 1 part Blue Curacao, 1 part Bourbon, 1 part lemon juice, martini glas
  • 1 part Blue Curacao, 1 part Dark rum, 1 part lemon juice, martini glas

Calvados

  • Arch de Triumph: 4cl Calvads, 2cl lemon juice, 2tsp sugar, (stir well with ice) serve in martini glass
  • Apple Car: 4cl Calvados, 2cl Cointreau, 2cl lemon juice

Southern Comfort

  • 4 cl Southern Comfort, squeeze 1/2 lime and leave pieces in highballglass, fill up with Coke.
  • 6 cl Southern Comfort, 3 cl lemon juice, the white of one egg, shake well (like whisky sour, but using (already sweet) Southern Comfort instead of Bourbon and sugar.

Tequila

  • Margarita: 4 cl Tequila, 2 cl Cointreau, 2 cl fresh lime juice. Serve in martini glass. Remember to add salt to the edge of the glass (make wet with lime, dip in salt)

Vermouth / Martini

  • Dry Martini: 6 parts Gin, 1 part Vermouth, martini glass, garnish with an olive (a piece of lemon or lime is also nice)
  • Comfort Dry Manhattan: 4 parts Southern Comfort, 1 part Vermouth, martini glass

Long Island Iced Tea
Take a big glass, fill with ice. Then add 1cl Gin, 1cl Tequila, 1cl Vodka, 1cl White Rum, 1cl Triple Sec (or Cointreau), 2cl Lemon Juice and fill up with Coke (5cl, taste and try). I like to replace the Tequila with Laphroig (to make a Lapsang-iced-tea).

Ginger Ale
Ginger Ale is nice to mix. Fill a glass with ice. Squeeze and add a few lime wedges. Then add your choice of Vodka (Moscow Mule), Jack Daniels (Jack & Ginger) or Jameson (very nice). Finally fill up with Ginger Ale.

Grenadine
New Yorker: 4cl Bourbon, 1 lime wedge, 2-3 dashes (half teaspoon) grenadine. Stir well in glass with ice.

Experimental
2cl white Rum + 2cl Cointeau + 2cl Lemon + a little Raspberry vodka + a smashed raspberry, in a cocktail glass with plenty of ice, was quite good!