MacBook Options in Early 2017

I realized at some point recently that when I teach and when I present at conferences, I am using my personal laptop, putting it at risk when my university should be providing me the proper equipment to do those things. Fortunately, I have a bit of money left over from my professorship, and so I looked into what my portability options are:

One consideration would be the 11-inch MacBook Air, now discontinued (and never given the love it deserved):

Amazon has one for $700: Apple MacBook Air MD711LL/B 11.6-Inch Laptop (1.4GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core up to 2.7GHz, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0) (Certified Refurbished).

Apple has one for $849. MacBook Air 11.6/1.6GHZ/4GB/128GB Flash. March 2015.

Or one for $929: Refurbished 11.6-inch MacBook Air 1.6GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5. Originally released March 2015. 11.6-inch. 4GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory. 256GB PCIe-based flash storage. 720p FaceTime HD Camera. Intel HD Graphics 6000.

With that price, I thought I should look into something more readily affordable: the 9.7-inch iPad Pro Wi-Fi 32GB – Space Gray released in March 2016 lists for $579.

That’s not bad, but I a colleague of mine recently ordered one and I took one look at the size of the keyboard and thought: no. So that leaves the more expensive option, especially since my university won’t buy refurbished gear of the MacBook: 12.0/1.1GHz Dual-Core Intel Core m3/8GB/256GB Flash. April 2016. $1,249. (There was a refurbished version on the website for not a lot less, $1189, but it did have a 512GB SSD. Win some, lose some.)

Sticky MBP Keys

The **enter** key on my MBP occasionally acts like it’s either sticky or mushy (what a word). There’s a good walk-through of cleaning the keys on [Youtube](


Ugh. I think I was having some of [these problems]( before upgrading to Mac OS 10.8, but they are definitely happening quite a bit since upgrading. Both Mail and Spotlight seem to be the culprits: two of Apple’s very own applications. softwater on the Apple Discussion boards suggests turning Spotlight off:

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

And then, later, when there is a fix for the problem, turning Spotlight back on:

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

I hope Apple straightens this out fairly soon. I’m tired of the regular stuttering in my Mac’s responses to inputs.

I need to upgrade the hard drive in the Mac Mini. It looks more difficult than I would like. Maybe an external drive?

[Jon Kulp]( turned me onto [a really nice case mod of an old G4](

An Easy Rails Server on Your Mac

The good folks at 37 Signals have done it again: produced not only a nice piece of software but also open sourced it for everyone else to try, use, and modify:

Pow is a clean, self-contained server that runs as your user without root privileges. There are no Apache extensions to compile, no gems to install. A single command installs and upgrades Pow automatically. And your system files are left pristine and untouched.

Pow is available here. (Here’s a direct link to the GitHub repository.)

Moving Billings to DropBox

I don’t know why application developers continue to make it hard for their users to put their data where they, the user, want to put it and not some semi-arbitrary place of the developer’s choosing. In the Mac world, it’s particularly annoying when developers do not allow you to make that decision and place the data in their application’s directory within the Application Support directory.

Why is this important or urgent? I use DropBox and I have recently decided to start doing a better job of tracking my time and both the front contenders for the job, Igg Software’s iBiz and MarketCircle’s Billings, assume that they know better than I do where my data goes. Bad app, bad!

There is a workaround, however, and it involves, sigh, symbolic links. This is one standard move in unix that I have just never gotten comfortable with. Some part of me thinks that something should be where it says it is. (This is weird, no?)

  1. Make sure the app isn’t running and that you have a backup of your data! I usually duplicate the folder in Application Support and call it “Billings Copy” just to be extra safe.
  2. Move your Billings folder from /Application Support/ into your Dropbox folder.
  3. Open and type: cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/ (If you aren’t familiar with Terminal commands, this will navigate you to the Application Support folder.)
  4. At the next Terminal prompt, type: ln -s ~/Dropbox/Billings/ ./Billings