MacBook Pro 16"

I got a new MacBook Pro 16” laptop in mid-February, right before everything locked down for COVID. I wanted a better machine for work as the standard issue 13-inch was too cramped on the go for my tastes.

Well I’m not really much on the go anymore but I still really like this laptop. It’s great!

I upgraded from an old Retina 13-inch (2015?), pre USB-C with the MagSafe power.

This is my desk/WFH set up:

My Desk

Keyboard

Nothing to write about which is good. My home laptop is a MacBook that has the controversial butterfly keyboard and yea, it’s different but I can type on it just fine. I definitely prefer this keyboard though, my biggest complaint about the butterfly keyboard mechanism is that it’s loud. This one is nice and quiet, I can aggressively take notes on a conference call and no one will hear a thing.

TouchBar

This is my first time using a TouchBar. It’s ok, my main point of frustration is that I have accidentally triggered shit when resting my fingers up there. I recently found out that you can customize the buttons, I got rid of the Siri button and added a button for “Do Not Disturb” mode which is incredibly useful. I got BetterTouchTool to provide some buttons for Emacs (mostly org-mode related capture stuff). Overall I’m neutral on it. When I’m at my desk I still use the laptop keyboard and trackpad so at least I don’t have to transition back and forth between having and not having a TouchBar.

Docking

I’m living the one cord dream. I got an HP Thunderbolt 3 dock which works well. Got my monitor, nice webcam, Ethernet, microphone, and power all coming in through one cable.

I thought I would miss MagSafe but being able to plug in on either side of the laptop is pretty handy. In addition to my desk (where I plug in on the left), I have a USB-C power + HDMI dongle going to my 4K LG OLED TV which is a nice option for hanging out on the couch (where I plug in on the right).

Speakers / Mic

The speakers in this thing are awesome! This was a pleasant surprise. I don’t hook up external speakers, but then again I’m not blasting tunes that loud.

With working remotely I spend a lot of time on video calls and I use the built in microphone, it seems to work well as folks seem to be able to hear me fine.

Performance

It’s fast I guess. Go read some other review for more details.

Summary

I dig it and am glad I bought it. I look forward to sitting in a coffee shop with it someday.

The only thing I don’t like is the USB-C only thing, but I get it. I bought a bunch of cheap dongles off Amazon and have accepted this new reality. The screen real estate is a big improvement.

Favorite Tools

  1. Alfred for launching stuff and doing web searches. The ability to make custom web search targets is super useful for internal work sites.
  2. Magnet for moving around windows with the keyboard.
  3. Flow for Pomodoro timin’. I like it because it allows you to blacklist apps (OUTLOOK and CHATS) while on the clock.
  4. Doom Emacs for editing. I actually don’t write much code in Emacs, but I use org-mode for all my TODOs, notes, and journal. My config files are here.
  5. Bartender to keep my menu bar tidy.

Minimizing distractions

Not really related to getting a new machine but I thought I’d share this here. I get distracted really easily. When I start my day at work I run a script that does all the 2FA and stuff I need to SSH around and whatnot, and at the end of that script I blackhole the DNS for a bunch of distracting websites using entries in /etc/hosts.

I put entries in my /etc/hosts like this for sites I want to block:

# 0.0.0.0    www.thehardtimes.net #PDPFUN

When it’s time to work, I run worktime, which makes sure that my overrides are in effect:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

sudo sed -i.bak "s/^# \(.*\)#PDPFUN/\1#PDPWORK/g" /etc/hosts
cat /etc/hosts
sudo dscacheutil -flushcache
sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder

This enables those override entries in /etc/hosts:

0.0.0.0    www.thehardtimes.net #PDPWORK

When I want to take a break, I run funtime, which comments out my overrides so I can access all those fun sites:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

sudo sed -i.bak "s/^\(.*\)#PDPWORK/# \1#PDPFUN/g" /etc/hosts
cat /etc/hosts
sudo dscacheutil -flushcache
sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder

Perhaps there’s a better way to do this, but this has been pretty effective at keeping me from drifting off while compiling or whatever.