November 30, 2016

The Retina MacBook Experiment: Day 3

Death to Dropbox

Now I understand why people complain about Dropbox’s performance penalty.

If you’ve been on a desktop machine like I have, it’s easy to miss Dropbox’s presence. You have no battery to worry about, and the machine will typically have enough horsepower to mask the initial sync activity.

Well, this MacBook offers a peek behind the curtain. I don’t like what I see.

Dropbox, Energy Hog

I was going to write about how disappointing this MacBook’s battery life has been, but then I realized that I can’t blame the hardware: it’s entirely Dropbox’s fault.

As I perform the initial sync (not even a full one, just a selective sync of key folders), I’ve experienced a battery drain of about 40% per hour, give or take. This is beyond unacceptable, and the culprit is clear:

I will continue to monitor its impact after it finishes the initial sync later today, but in the meantime it’s obvious that Dropbox has to go. I’ve been a supporter for a long time—ubiquity is a powerful thing—but it doesn’t excuse everything.

Mobility & Ergonomics

My couch is my office this morning.

It’s my office most mornings, with the iPad, but since I don’t have a desktop to return to, I’m experiencing the supposed joy of an untethered work environment. The laptop is better on a lap than the iPad, without a doubt, but I’ve never had an issue using the iPad in that context so it’s more of a bonus than a solved problem.

There’s also the problem of comfort. Yes, I can work from my couch, or from the kitchen table, but that’s actually a bad ergonomic environment for hours of work. The ability to constantly move around is appealing, granted, but I suspect that a sit/stand desk would be a better solution overall since it maintains the benefits of a normal work setup.

Speaking of ergonomics, my hands are surprisingly happy to be away from a mouse. I have a Magic Trackpad for my Mac Pro, but I think the presence of a mouse makes it tempting to just use that instead of resorting to a trackpad when you don’t strictly need to. For me, the trackpad is mostly relegated to large document navigation duties; panning around Sketch art boards or zipping around in a Logic session.

I think Apple has a big missing link in its desktop accessories in the form of a more comfortable mouse. I love the functionality of the Magic Mouse, which is why I’ve gone back to using one recently, but for those of us with larger hands it’s monstrously uncomfortable. All I want is a bigger piece of sushi, Apple. Something that actually fits my hand and doesn’t feel like I’m playing the world’s least fun air hockey game all day.

Real Estate

Somehow, despite being significantly larger, this Retina MacBook’s screen feels more claustrophobic than my iPhone. It’s amazing how the design of the operating system contributes to the interpretation of information density in an interface.

I’ve made a few interesting changes to my typical computer setup to try and make the most of it. For one thing, I’ve turned auto-hide on for my Dock, which is something I never do. I tried to do the same for the menu bar but with neither menu bar nor Dock visible I lose track of when notifications are waiting for me.

That’s not the worst problem to have when I’m trying to focus on writing, but while I’m working and need to be answering Basecamp messages and emails, I don’t want to be quite so absorbed in what I’m doing that I neglect the little alerts and then forget to act on them.


I love that it makes the same sound as my iOS device when I plug it in. Which I’ve been doing lot of, thanks to Dropbox…

It’s also been very satisfying to finally have the computer that I always wished the MacBook Air had been. I know people have been saying that for years, but since this is my first time using this machine I’m having that same epiphany a couple of years late.

Then there’s the silence.

Man, I love silent computers. Going from the 2008 Mac Pro to the 2013 was an almost comical transition in terms of sound. The external RAID array that it’s connected to is now louder than the computer itself, so between the Mac Pro, this temporary MacBook, and my iOS devices I’m now living a very peaceful computing existence.

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