Starting on a New Mac

I have been rocking my 15″ MacBook Pro since 2010 and after nearly 7 years of use, it’s finally time for it to retire*. Unfortunately it’s been plagued with near-constant GPU panics for the last year or so, which makes it almost unbearable to use since it would just crash and restart every so often. I have been extending its liftspan for as long as I could. I upgraded its storage twice, first to a 1TB hard drive and later to an SSD. The RAM was also upgraded to 8GB and both of the fans were replaced.

I moved 9 times to 5 different cities in 3 different countries, and this laptop was always along for the ride. I got this machine when I was back in high school, then I took it to college and graduated with it. This machine has been with me longer than anything else I currently own. If I were to carry just my belongings that I’ve had since 2010, I would be standing with only this laptop in my hands, naked.

But a laptop upgrade was long overdue and I couldn’t be more excited.

In setting up my new MacBook Pro, I made a checklist of all the applications and settings I need to be able to use it normally:

Saturn V LEGO Build

48 years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed at the Tranquility Base on the surface of the moon, marking the first time in history for the human species to set foot on another celestial body. Here is the time-lapse of myself building the majestic Saturn V LEGO set to commemorate this historic day which took me over 5 hours to complete. Consisting of 1969 pieces, the rocket stands at exactly 1 meter in height making it approximately 1:110 scale to the actual Saturn V rocket.

The time-lapse was taken with my DSLR camera at 5-second intervals. The entire video is made up of over 3,400 images totaling over 30GB of data. Check it out below:

WWDC 2017 Wish List

It’s that time of the year again! Among all of Apple annual events, WWDC is probably my favorite. This year is already looking to be quite different since they are moving back to where they began in San Jose, instead of Moscone West in San Francisco which had been there go-to location since 2003.

This week is all about developers, and as a developer myself, I cannot wait to find out what Apple has in store for us in new software capabilities, APIs as well as potential exciting new hardware. So without further ado, here is my wish list for the WWDC 2017 keynote:

iOS 11

Last year, the Photos app was made smarter by machine learning, letting it search for specific objects, detecting faces, and automatically creating photo albums and slideshows with the Memories tab, all without sacrificing user privacy. This year with iOS 11, I expect the app to gain new features to better compete with Google Photos which is getting even better with recent announcements during Google I/O.

There’s no doubt that iOS 10’s headlining feature was the Messages app, thus I don’t think there’s going to be much on this for iOS 11. Though, the ability to reply to specific messages and rich text formatting are the top two features I wish Apple would add to iMessage. Telegram has a really good example on the former.

iOS 11 should also bring about more productivity and automation features to allow for more professional tasks on the iPad Pro, as shown in their ads. Since a popular iOS app Workflow was just acquired by Apple in March, I hope this means that they are indeed improving productivity and automation abilities on iOS. If I could only pick one feature in this category, the ability to manage clipboard history would be it. I suggest you check out Federico Viticci’s recently published concept video of the direction he thinks Apple should take its iOS platform on the iPad.

Just this past week, there was a report that Apple is working on an AI-specific chip and might unveil it during WWDC. I think it’s quite likely given the timeliness of this report. Knowing their philosophy, they would definitely highlight the security and privacy aspects they’ve achieved that Google or Amazon haven’t with their AIs, and hopefully announce an API alongside it. This would also tie in very well with their existing AI efforts for the Photos app and their smart assistant Siri.

SiriKit, in my opinion, is still very limited and missing some really obvious features. An integration with audio library that would enable third-party apps such as Spotify and Overcast to be voice-controlled is on the top of that list. I’m pretty sure that they would add some new domains to allow more developers to integrate their apps with Siri.

Conveniently, this is a perfect segue to the next item on my list…

Siri In A Can

In my WWDC 2016 Predictions, I expected them to announce the Siri Speaker. Let’s just call it Apple Home as Mr. Jason Snell cleverly suggested. It has been well over a year since this rumor first surfaced, and so far we still have nothing. I believe they will really do it this year. With Amazon announcing two new Echo devices within two weeks of each other, Google Home gaining some new capabilities, and even Microsoft getting in on this with the Cortana-powered Harman Kardon speaker, Apple really has to be working on something to bring itself into this market. It is definitely not too late.

Though, Siri still needs a lot of improvements if it were to compete with what’s currently out there, and I’m sure that Apple certainly has the technical and marketing prowess to blow those out of the water with this Apple Home. Their vision on HomeKit as shown in this video indicates that they are invested in the smart home space, and a device that brings it all together makes a perfect sense. Though knowing Apple, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if this device starts at $299.

Refreshed MacBook Pro

Another recent report says that Apple will refresh the MacBook Pro as well as MacBook Air at WWDC to compete with the recently-announced Microsoft Surface Laptop, and to “win back disappointed loyalists”. I doubt that will happen. And even if it does, the reason is definitely not because Apple needs to compete with Microsoft in the laptop market. MacBook Pro’s sales number dwarfs that of Microsoft Surface’s (or any other company’s for that matter). I really don’t think Apple cares very much at all about them.

However, this doesn’t mean that they should just forget about their MacBook Pro for the next foreseeable future (like the Mac Pro). Quite the contrary, in my opinion. An updated MacBook Pro would certainly make a lot of people very happy, especially myself since I’m writing this very sentence on my mid-2010 15-inch MacBook Pro (that is plagued with occasional GPU panics). I have been holding off on getting a new MacBook Pro due to the current generation having received a mixed response, and I hope that this hypothetical refreshed MacBook Pro would address some of the main criticisms such as the outdated Intel Skylake chip, lack of 32GB RAM option, inconsistent battery life, and the flawed keyboard. All they need to do is to have Phil Schiller say something along the line of “While the new MacBook Pro with the revolutionary Touch Bar was a great hit among our users, we also listen to those of you who say that there are still rooms for improvements. Today we are making our best laptop even better.”

New Mac Pro Sneak Peak

In a stunning turn of events, Apple invited a selected group of journalists over to its campus to discuss the future of the Mac Pro back in April. They admitted that their current “trash can” Mac Pro has critical design flaws that have been preventing them from sufficiently updating it, and revealed that they are hard at work on designing the new Mac Pro which will not be ready this year. There is a lot of speculation as to when Apple came to this decision, but all signs seem to point to that this decision was made no longer than 3-6 months prior to the announcement (and quite possibly mere weeks). This means that it’s likely that we won’t see the new and “completely rethought” Mac Pro until the end of 2018, or even 2019.

This doesn’t mean that they have nothing to show during WWDC. I really hope that they have at least the design of this new Mac Pro to show off to developers. It would definitely soften the “Apple doesn’t care about professional Mac users anymore” narrative it’s been getting lately.

They also revealed that an updated iMac aimed at professionals is coming this year, so I guess this is when they would show off the hardware and announce the release date.

New iPad Pro

This rumor has been around for quite a while, but it seems like they might announce a 10.5-inch iPad Pro at WWDC, which would then ship later in the fall. I’m indifferent to it but like I have said above regarding iPad productivity, and iOS in general, this product would be a perfect device to showcase iOS 11 as well as an indication to what the updated 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro might look like.

macOS 10.13

I honestly cannot think of features that are really needed in the next version of macOS. The current generation of Mac operating system has been around since the turn of the millennium and it is already a feature-complete, fully matured platform. Of course there are small things they can improve here and there such as a system-wide dark mode (please?), but gone are the days of frequent major updates to the OS.

One thing I definitely would count on them to talk about — if not during the keynote then one of the sessions — is the new Apple File System (APFS). It was only last year when they announced that they were developing an entire new file system to replace its now ancient HFS+, and promised to roll this out for all of their platforms in 2017. With the recent iOS 10.3 update, hundreds of millions of iOS users worldwide are already using APFS. macOS Sierra, however, has only gotten a beta version of that. I think the release of macOS 10.13 later this fall is a perfect opportunity for this.

Oh and can we get rid of that antiquated iTunes and come up with something better?

Apple Park

I know this is not an Apple product per se. But, in a way, this is a product by Apple. Its most expensive one in fact. I highly encourage you, dear reader, to check out this excellent article by Steven Levy on Apple Park and what an incredibly ambitious project it is. This will either be at the very beginning or the end of the keynote where Tim Cook tells us more about the campus and how beautiful, innovative, and environmentally-friendly this building is. There’s no doubt that this has been distracting a lot of important design talents within the company, including its design chief Jony Ive himself. It makes you wonder if this is what has been causing Apple to release some arguably lackluster products in recent years, doesn’t it? Still, this is one hell of a building and I cannot wait to pay a visit one day.

So would all these really fit within the two-hour window? Probably not. I suspect they would spend most of their time going through new features in iOS, watchOS, and macOS and leave little time to announce new products. But all this is just a speculation, we will find out for sure comes June 5th.

An Animal of No Significance

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari attempts to tell the entire history of humans in a length of a book. He started off around the time when modern humans first appeared, two million or so years ago when we were not that different from apes. In the first chapter, he writes, “The most important thing to know about prehistoric humans is that they were insignificant animals with no more impact on their environment than gorillas, fireflies or jellyfish.”

Of course Homo sapiens, or “The Wise Man”, was not the only human species roaming the earth at the time. There were Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and western Asia, Homo erectus in Asia, Homo soloensis in Java, a dwarf species Homo floresiensis on another Indonesian island, Homo deniosova in Siberia, Homo rudolfensis, and Homo ergaster in East Africa. They were all human beings. Imagine if one or a few of those species survived until today, what would religions, human rights, nations, or laws be like?

Interestingly, all other human species vanished and Sapiens is the only one left. Harari proposed several theories as to why that is the case with one being the competition of resources which turned into violence and genocide. “Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark”, Harari writes, “In modern times, a small difference in skin colour, dialect or religion has been enough to prompt one group of Sapiens to set about exterminating another group.” So it is safe to assume that our ancient ancestors would not be so friendly towards an entirely different human species. The meeting between Sapiens and Neanderthals and the resulting extiction of the latter could very well be the first and most significant genocide in human history.

Just how then did Sapiens manage to push a stronger species with bigger brains like Neanderthals to extinction? It was just another human species with nothing more special than others. Harari believes that this has to do with its unique language. Around 70,000 years ago, Sapiens experienced a Cognitive Revolution which scientists commonly believe happened due to some accidental genetic mutations that changed certain wirings in the brains. This caused Sapiens to be able to think in an unprecedented level and develop its unique type of language found in no other human species. This did not only enable them to gossip about tribe members or warn them about predators in the area with details beyond a mere ape can, it also allows them to transmit information about things that do not exist at all. Things such as gods, heavens, or nations.

These fictions maybe seem useless for surviving in the wild, but they enabled Sapiens to collaborate and work towards common goals unlike any other species. Sure, wolves, bees or killer whales do cooperate and have their own languages, but they only do so with a small number of closely related members. Believing in the ‘common myths’ such as the biblical creation story, the divine rights of kings or popular soverignty gave Sapiens the ability to cooperate with a large number of people which led to our affluent society today.

Modern Sapiens walking the earth now may see certain rituals such as dancing around a campfire during a full moon or praying to a lion god as ‘primitive’, but our society today functions on the exact same basis. These ideas such as business corporations, financial institutions, nations, democracy, human rights, freedom, gods, and laws only exist in our collective imagination and yet we act as if those things really exist. Lawyers today are just modern sorcerers who tell far more complex and stranger tales.

Without imagined realities or social constructs, the society as we know it would certainly cease to function. If everyone stopped believing in financial institutions, limited liability companies, laws, or governments, the economy would collapse and nations across the globe would fall into chaos. The world we live in today is the result of a successful storytelling effort to convince millions of people across millennia to belive in these common myths. It would be impossible to build great mosques or empires spanning half a continent if we could only talk about things that really exist in the world such as trees, mountains or tigers.

We are all living in dual reality. One is the objective reality of things that we can see, touch, and smell and the other is an imagined one of things that only exist in our minds. As Harari puts it, “As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.”

An Investigation Into Google Photos Compression

Recently, I’ve been hearing lot of praises about Google Photos, especially from Casey Liss of ATP, about how wonderfully accurate its algorithm is at finding images of places, objects or people you want from your photo library. With my iPhone almost running out of storage, mainly because of my photo library, I decided to give Google Photos a shot.

But upon setting up the backup, I was faced with a very hard decision: whether to upload the images in high quality or original quality. With high quality, it offers an unlimited free storage with a reduced file size as long as the photos have the resolution of 16 megapixels or less. This should be enough for everyday images taken with smartphones. With the original option, the photos will be uploaded in full size with no compression. However, it will be limited to how much storage space is avaialble on the Google Drive.

The “reduced file size” part is what I wanted to know more about since I was definitely going to take advantage of that free unlimited storage. However, I was worried that the compression algorithm would be too aggressive at reducing the file size, and thus lowering the image quality below the acceptable level. In order to figure this out, I decided to do a little investigation on how much quality, if at all, was lost by the compression, and if we can see any visual differences between the original and the compressed one.

To do that, I selected two images: one with the resolution of 20MP taken with my DSLR and the other at 8MP with my iPhone 6.

First, let’s look at the image taken by the DSLR. Since this image has the resolution of 20MP, Google Photos downsized the image to 16MP, so it definitely lost the actual pixel count in the process.

Original at 20MP

20MP

Compressed to 16MP

Compressed by Google Photos

Now lets take a look at them with a 100% crop and compare them side-by-side.

Original (left) and compressed (right) side-by-side
Original (left) and compressed (right) at 100% crop

Apart from the obvious difference in the resolution, the image quality seems to not have been affected at all.Singapore Info

If we take a look at the information of the two images, we see that the resolution has been reduced to 16MP and the file takes up only 3.6 megabytes. That’s over 75% reduction in file size! I’m really impressed at how high-quality the image still looks after having gone through this aggressive compression.

Now let’s compare the images taken by the iPhone 6’s back camera. Unlike earlier, the image here did not get downsized because the resolution is way below the 16MP limit.

Original at 8MP

IMG_0822-Original

Compressed at 8MP

IMG_0822-GP

They look virtually the same to me. Now let’s look at them side-by-side at 100% crop:

Original (left) and Google Photos Compressed (right) at 100% zoom side-by-side
Original (left) and compressed (right) at 100% crop

Can you notice any differences in the details at all? Because I can’t.

Here is a look at the properties of the two images:iPhone Info
Notice that the resolutions are exactly the same and all the metadata is still intact after being compressed by Google Photos. So the only difference here seems to be the 30% reduction in file size.

This visual inspection reveals that there seems to be no loss in image quality at all. So we have to go a bit deeper to find out what’s going on.

Given that the original and compressed image have the same resolution, the reduction in file size has to result in some quality loss or else it would be impossible to make it smaller. So to look for that, I brought the images into Photoshop in order to drill down to the very smallest of details that our mere monkey eyes can’t see.

What I did was to open them in Photoshop on two different layers, one on top of the other.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 12.20.36 PM

Now the trick here is to change the blending mode to “Difference” which will show any differences between the two images. If they are exactly the same, this will result in a completely black image. Here is the resulting image after applying the blending mode:

IMG_0822-Diff-1

If you don’t look closely (or if your screen is not at the brightest setting), you won’t see anything other than the complete blackness. But if you really look for it, you will start to see faint outlines of the image. But here is when the histogram becomes handy.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 12.21.37 PM

Let’s take a quick detour and talk about histogram. A histogram is a graph representing pixels of different color range/tones in an image. Now the histogram we see here is a simplified version that only shows the greyscale range from black (left) to white (right). The higher the graph at a given point along the x-axis, the more pixels there are at that specific color/tone.

If the two images are exactly the same, we would only see a single vertical line at the very left of the histogram. That would mean the image is entirely composed of black pixels. Here we can clearly see that there are pixels of other colors as well. This reveals that the two images are in fact different.

To make this clearer to see. I adjusted the histogram level to show only those pixels that are present in the image. Here is the result:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 5.25.10 PM

And there it is! The evidence of quality loss I’ve been looking for. What we see here is called compression artifacts, and to simply put, they are junk that got added to the image from the lossy nature of the JPEG compression. The brighter the pixel, the more different they are.

If we zoom in closer, we can see how nasty these compression artifacts are.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 12.26.32 PM

So with all these in mind, I decided that the high quality option will suffice with photos taken by my iPhone camera. Even though we found out that there are quite a lot of compression done to the image, in reality those quality loss just cannot be seen with naked eyes. I figured that I don’t need the highest of quality for these day-to-day photos since I won’t be post-processing them anyway, unlike those taken with a DSLR. The 16MP limit won’t be a problem either since it’s more than large enough for photo album printing or even framing. I would, however, keep images with a resolution higher than 16MP away from it if you want to take the advantage of free unlimited storage. Even if the image quality is visually the same, I don’t think it’s worth getting your images downsized to only 16MP.

My WWDC 2016 Predictions

With WWDC 2016 just right around the corner, here are products I think (and hope) we will see during the keynote on Monday:

Change from OS X to macOS

There have been a lot of rumors (and evidence) regarding the name change of OS X since all of Apple operating systems use the uncapitalized-name-followed-by-‘OS’ convention (i.e. iOS, tvOS, watchOS). So it only makes sense that they would change OS X to macOS (or MacOS) to make their OS lineup’s branding style more consistent. We hear people mispronounce OS X as “oh-es-EX” all the times when it is supposed to be “oh-es-TEN.” But we really can’t blame them because who uses Roman numerals on a regular basis anymore?

Now there is a debate going on between macOS and MacOS. Personally, I prefer macOS because it’s just more consistent and MacOS looks like it’s a typo of Mac OS, because that is what they called it before rebranding it to OS X. I understand that they might want to capitalize the word “Mac” for trademark reasons and what not but I’m hoping that they would just go with macOS. It just looks better, in my opinion.

As far as the name for the next version goes, I believe they will continue with the same naming convention after California natural landmarks. So… macOS Half Dome? macOS Red Wood? Or maybe just drop it and go with macOS 11?

New iTunes

iTunes is in a dire need for an overhaul. It has become so dreadful for me to have to use it from time to time. It is too clunky. It tries to do too much in one app. And it doesn’t even work that well. Perhaps, breaking it down into different apps for Apple Music, iOS devices syncing and backing up, and iTunes Store could solve this problem.

Dark Mode

A more universal dark mode that is not only for the menu bar and the dock, but also for apps like Finder or Safari, would be nice. I really wouldn’t complain if that’s all they add for 10.12.

Siri for Mac

Siri is heavily rumored to be coming to the next version of OS X, which I personally would never use. I really can’t see myself talking to my Mac asking for stuff or launching apps when using Spotlight already lets me launch apps, search for files, do maths or unit conversions very quickly. But who knows, maybe they came up with a really interesting implementation that will make me want to use it.

Siri API

I do hope that Apple would release the Siri API to developers as a part of iOS 10 SDK. I think this would really drive the usage of the feature. For me, the reason why I rarely use Siri is because its lack of support for third-party apps. If they choose to give developers to tools to integrate Siri into their apps, this year’s WWDC would be a perfect stage to do so. It’s been a long time coming. Apple usually loves releasing APIs to developers such as CloudKit, HomeKit or HealthKit, I don’t know what is stopping them from doing the same thing with Siri.

Siri Speaker

By this I mean a speaker with a microphone that sits in your living room and always listens to you. This would be a direct competitor to Amazon Echo and the upcoming Google Home. Honestly, I am a bit skeptical on how well they can improve Siri given the competition. Apple is not a company that is known for their expertise in machine learning unlike Google. I mean, look at how bad the search feature on the App Store is (but then there are also rumors that improvements are coming). Also, their firm stance on customers’ privacy and data collection only makes it more difficult for them to improve on such feature that heavily relies on user data. With all that said, I trust that they will find a way to do so without compromising their views on privacy, and hopefully surprise us all.

watchOS 3

I think the watchOS will see quite a significant update since they did not announce a new Apple Watch during their spring event. One single most important thing they need to address with the new watchOS is the load time for the watch apps. These apps take forever to fetch the data, even those not required network connection. With watchOS 3 (or perhaps, Apple Watch 2), I hope that they somehow find a way to let the watch directly fetch data without having to rely on the iPhone to download it first and pass it along to the watch.

Another thing I think they should add is to allow developers to create custom watch faces. We have this smart watch technology, I don’t want to be stuck with the mimicking of a circular mechanical watch face or simple digital time-telling. Since it was shown off to the public almost two years ago, the Apple Watch has not received a new watch face and now it really needs some fresh ones. Of course, these third-party watch faces will have to be approved by Apple just like any other thing but the possibility of some developers coming up with new and clever ways of telling time is a very intriguing prospect.

And one more thing: Maybe it’s time to get rid of that clunky, honeycomb home screen design that makes it an impossible task to look for apps. I just hope that they are not too proud of it to change that.

2014-09-09-13-30-08-1433863440-kKho-column-width-inline

A New MacBook Pro Retina

The last time the MacBook Pro lineup received a significant upgrade was more than two years ago. So it is safe to say that a big upgrade is definitely coming. Though I hope that they would announce it during WWDC, I am not holding my breath for it since WWDC tends to be more about software. On the other hand, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible since they have announced a lot of hardware during WWDC in the past including the retina MacBook Pro itself as well as the Mac Pro. Considering that all of Apple’s third-party developers have to use Macs, it would make perfect sense if they plan to announce one during the keynote.

The new retina MacBook Pro is rumored to feature Intel’s new microarchitecture, Skylake, which improves the performance and reduces power consumption. Now this might be the reason why we will see a change in the form factor with this new model since they can make it thinner while not sacrificing battery life. And we all know how much Apple loves making their products even thinner and lighter. Personally, I would not mind them keeping the same form factor and just increase the battery life instead.

AMD’s upcoming Polaris GPU is also expected to be featured in the high-end 15” retina MacBook Pro. However, the company said the GPU would not be ready until Q4 of this year, so that might be a reason why we won’t see a new MacBook Pro next week.

Another big rumor floating around is the OLED display panel that will be replacing the row of function keys. At first, I was not so sure how this will work since we rarely look down to our keyboards anyway when we type, and to have a touch surface instead of physical keys might not work as well either. However, this recent concept rendering by Martin Hajek made me think that this might actually be a really cool feature. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

Credit: Martin Hajek
Credit: Martin Hajek

Swift 3.0

According to Swift.org, Swift 3.0 is expected to be released “sometime in late 2016” so I believe it’s possible that we would see some sort of a preview for that. This is a developer conference after all. But since Swift become open-source last year, the announcement would not be that exciting given that we already know what new features of the language are. However, if they choose to have maybe a slide or two for Swift, they would probably only highlight a few important features and changes such as the Swift Package Manager that will also be available for Linux and Darwin, Swift Core Libraries, more imported Objective-C APIs, and some refinements to the language including the removal of ++ and — operators, and C-style for-loops.

A Cleaner Home

A few months ago, after listening to a conversation between Myke Hurley and CGPGrey, I was inspired to start taking control of what is on my home screen, a screen that I literally see everyday. So I decided to give it a major overhaul.

Here is what I had before:

Cringing at the badge on the Mail app
Cringing at the badge on the Mail app

And here is what I have now:

A much better sight to see

Of course I did not suddenly go from that original one to this within a day. This is the result of a few iterations spanning across several weeks involving tough decisions whether or not to keep an app on the home screen.

The process went something like this: First, I wanted to reduce the number of pages to only one page so it is easier to find apps I want. Second, I got rid of all the apps I never used but somehow just left it there because I could not bother to do anything about them. The first ones to go were Clock, Camera and Calculator apps, because I can quickly access them in the control center. Then I realized that I never (or rarely) touched iTunes Store, Game Center, Contacts, Phone, Wallet and iBooks. So they are gone too. After awhile, all the built-in apps were put into one folder. And long story short, it became what I have now.

The Dock

I put three most important ones in the dock. Now the reason why it has only three has to do with the Launch Center Pro app. Since it is an app that contains all the actions I frequently perform on my phone (such as starting a timer, Google search, FaceTime or launching apps), similar to a folder, putting it in the middle of the dock right above the home button gives an impression of it expanding up into a secondary home screen. And it just looks nicer. The 2Do app is quite new to me, I have been searching for a decent to-do apps for a while. I tried the built-in Reminders, Things, Trello, Todoist and many others, but 2Do did it for me. Though I have been wanting to try OmniFocus, the price tag kind of scared me away. Then I have Telegram which is a free messaging app I found to be much faster and overall a more pleasant experience than WhatsApp.

The Folders

This top row is purely influenced by CGPGrey’s. What he did is genius and I really love the aesthetic of it; everything is just looks nice and clean. It is pleasure to look at. Only having one app in the first page of each folder indicating what the folder is about made the title irrelevant, so they became just periods for simplicity (though I wish I can leave them blank). From left to right they are social, games, development and others.

The Rest

Here are a few notable ones:

  • Quartz has just became my favorite news reading app recently, the iMessage-like interface really streamlined the news reading experience. I never found myself going back and check a news app like this one before.
  • Instapaper is where I store all the articles I found from various places to read later. It is really nice to have a hub for everything you find online here to sit through and read them. And you get a dark mode too.
  • Spark is an email client which has just demoted my previous email app, Email. I like this over the others due to its New, Pins and Newsletters sections and its support for all the email providers.
  • Sleep Cycle tracks my sleep at night. It display really cool and insightful data and trends, which I love to see. It also integrates with Life Cycle, an app that shows my daily activities, places I visit and how much time I spent there.
  • Overcast is my podcast listening app of choice. It blew the built-in podcast app out of the water. The killer feature has to be Smart Speed which so far has saved me an extra 18 hours on top of my speed adjustments alone.
  • Level Money helps me track my spending and shows how much spendable money I have left for each month. My favorite feature of this app is ability to add trackers to each merchant based its category. It will then aggregate all the puchases and show me how much I spend on each category each month. Again, I love seeing data and trends.

This has been a really nice change for the better. I can do frequent tasks faster especially with the help of Launch Center Pro. For those of you who are thinking of cleaning up your home screen but could not find time or the motivation to, I encourage you to take no more than an hour to do this. Trust me, it is worth it.

 

The Solid State

Yesterday, I finally got myself a Solid State Drive (SSD) for my 2010 MacBook Pro. It has been using traditional hard drives for more than 3 years and now it is really slow. The price of an SSD now is relatively cheap compared to how much it would cost 2 years ago.

I was surprised to find out that a 120GB SSD now only cost $90 on Amazon. That was also one of the reasons why I decided to upgrade from a traditional hard drive to a much faster and less energy-consuming SSD.

I got a 250GB SSD from Samsung, which is the best-selling SSD on Amazon.com, for only $145. At the beginning, I was contemplating between the Crucial m500 and Samsung 840 EVO. Despite the fact the Crucial is one of the first companies that entered the SSD market since around four years ago, I still prefer the Samsung over it because it received more positive reviews and has much faster transfer speed.

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I already had some experiences changing the RAM and hard drives on my MacBook, so upgrading it to an SSD was rather an easy task for me to do.

There are 10 screws on the back of a unibody MacBook which need a 0 size screwdriver to unscrew them.

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The back cover can get really dusty. So this was a good chance for me to clean it up.

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The drive is located on the bottom left corner. There are 4 more screws to be screwed off before I could lift the hard drive up and disconnect the SATA cable. The SATA cable is really fragile so I had to be extra careful disconnecting it from the hard drive because if I ripped it I would need to look up the tutorial on how to replace one. Once the hard drive came off, there are 4 more mounting screws on each corner of the drive which I must use them on my SSD for it to be able to be installed. These are not normal screws, I needed a Torx screwdriver to work with them.

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After the mounting screws are in place, I just carefully connected the SATA cable to the SSD, put it down and secured it in place. Then I put the back cover back on and ta-da! That was it! Pretty easy right?

Next part was the nerve-wrecking part. I booted up the computer and hoped that it would recognize a new SSD in its system because if not I would need to open the back cover up again and re-install the drive or worse, return the drive and get a different one. But luckily, it recognized the new drive! So now the very last part was to install the operating system. I already created a bootable USB drive to use as an installer for OS X Mavericks.

The USB flash drive with OS X Mavericks on it.
The USB flash drive with OS X Mavericks on it.
The installation took a reasonable amount of time but still really fast compared to installing one on a hard drive.
The installation took a reasonable amount of time but still really fast compared to installing one on a hard drive.

After about half an hour of installation process, my MacBook booted up the a new SSD and freshly installed OS X Mavericks! Its boot-up time was less than 15 seconds! I tested the read/write speed it clocked in around 250MB/s for writing and 270MB/s for reading.

Not the fastest but still impressive nonetheless.
Not the fastest but still impressive nonetheless.

And that was it! My journey through upgrading my laptop to a SSD. If any of you guys are thinking of upgrading your computers to a SSD, I strongly recommend it.  Though I haven’t gotten a lot of experiences with it but so far it has been great (I’ll post some updates later). My applications launch in matter of seconds rather than minutes. The boot-up and shutdown time are also insanely fast. I can easily say that this is one single best upgrade for my laptop so far.