Full stack web developer, interested in all the things, but especially the web, code, design, Linux, OS X, PHP, WordPress, JavaScript & robots.

Tagged: osx

Why Your Next Mac Should Be a Hackintosh image/svg+xml

Needless to say that it would a very bad investment to throw a couple of thousands of dollars on a 3-year-old Mac Pro when you can get twice the performance with a custom-built computer.

I’ve been pretty happy with my Hackintosh, it’s proved itself to be a powerful system and it’s been running reliably for about 18 months.

That said, I’m now faced with updating it to macOS Sierra, and that could be problematic. If I remember correctly, the update from Yosemite to El Capitan was not too bad, but I did have to play around with the boot loader. I’m hoping the macOS Sierra upgrade will go smoothly, but not knowing how it will go is part and parcel of running a Hackintosh. If you can handle that, maybe your next Mac really should be a Hackintosh.

New MacBook

Yesterday, after many months of umming and ahhing, I finally purchased a replacement for my ageing ThinkPad X220. I opted for a MacBook, the 1.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core m5 model.

First impressions, I love it. It’s silent and super-lightweight, the display is amazing and the keyboard is surprisingly nice to type on.

My only concern, before I made the purchase, was that it might be somewhat underpowered, but I needn’t have worried; so far, it has handled everything I’ve thrown at it, including a couple of Linux virtual machines, which it runs just fine.

It’s still early days, but I’m thinking my new MacBook will definitely become my new go-to machine, replacing my beloved X220.

MenuMeters for OS X El Capitan 10.11 image/svg+xml

So, there I was, sat on the couch and merrily tapping away on my MacBook Pro. I was working in Atom, coding on a little project, whilst also taking a mild interest in The Great British Bake Off, which was playing on my desktop. It was only when the GBBO finished that I noticed the audible racket coming from my MacBook. It sounded like it was about to take off!

After a little bit of investigating, it turns out there was a runaway service (Atom related) consuming the CPU, which in turn, was causing the fans to spin at warp factor 9!

Worryingly, because of the ambient noise (and my crappy hearing), I was blissfully unaware of the problem. Not good. So, to help reduce the likelihood of this scenario happening again, I Googled for “OS X CPU monitor menubar” and found MenuMeters.

Problem solved. MenuMeters is a nifty little preference pane that allows for showing a number of live stats (CPU, memory, disk, and network monitoring etc) within the OS X menubar. So, all I need to do now is glance at it from time-to-time, and if I see the little CPU percentage bar turn red, I’ll know there’s a problem.

Oh, and MenuMeters is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Winning!

The #davegoeswindows Finale image/svg+xml

It’s been one year since I uprooted my dev environment and made the switch to Windows. I’m happy to share that after a year of ups and downs, I’ve made the decision… dramatic pause …to… more dramatic pausing …stick with Windows.

I have recent experience of switching operating systems (Linux to Windows to OS X and finally back to Linux), so I found Dave Rupert’s post pretty interesting. Unlike Dave, I decided not to stick with Windows, but I can certainly appreciate some of the reasons why he is.

Regardless of the outcome of Dave’s (or my own) experiment, I think more developers could benefit from long-term exposure to different environments — my experience of using Windows and OS X has definitely given me a greater appreciation of Linux and a better understanding of both its strengths and weaknesses.

Linux replacements for OS X specific applications

At the beginning of the year, I wrote, “What OS X specific applications am I using?” At the time of writing I was well into my Windows/OS X usage experiment, but now that I’ve reverted to using desktop Linux, I thought it might be interesting to list the Linux alternatives that I’m now using. Also, I did write:

I might take another look at this again in 6 months to a year as it’ll be interesting to see what changes.

So, here is the list:

  • Inkscape (was Sketch) — Sketch was lovely, but I honestly prefer using Inkscape. Having used Inkscape for longer than I used Sketch, it could just be that I’m more comfortable with it. There are definitely some really nice features to admire in Sketch, such as artboards and being able to easily export individual selections. Hopefully these features might make it into Inkscape at some point in the future. Meanwhile, Inkscape remains an excellent piece of software and it comes without any associated crap.
  • GIMP (was Pixelmator) — I said at the time that I don’t do a lot of work with raster images, this hasn’t changed, so GIMP should cover my needs.
  • Fever (was Reeder 3) — to begin with, I was really enjoying Reeder, but then it started slowing down and taking ages to sync, so I stopped using it. I’m currently using Fever, the self-hosted web app that I switched to when Google shutdown their Reader service. Note-to-self: I like Fever, but I’m sure there are better alternatives out there, I should probably investigate.
  • Corebird (was Tweetbot) — this one surprised me as I wasn’t expecting to find a good Twitter client for Linux. Corebird really is quite nice and I love that it supports multiple accounts, just like Tweetbot. Also, you have to love those brains!
  • Google Keep (was Notes) — I’m not super happy about this one as I seem to have swapped one proprietary system for another. I’m consoling myself with the fact that Google Keep is more accessible than Apple’s Notes and Google offer their Takout service. Note (haha), I did use Simplenote for a while, but I wasn’t happy with its lack of checkboxes — there are few things as satisfying as checking off TODO list items.
  • MySQL Workbench (was Sequel Pro) — it’s not pretty, but it’s just as powerful, if not more so. Also, I prefer the way Workbench automatically recalls queries from previous sessions on a per connection basis. Very nifty.
  • Nautilus (was Transmit) — the only reason for using Transmit on OS X was because Finder could not natively mount remove SSH/SFTP drives. Nautilus will happily do this all day long.
  • FocusWriter (was iA Writer) — FocusWriter stomps all over iA Writer, before setting it on fire and floating it down the river.
  • AutoKey (was TextExpander) — AutoKey is easily a match for TextExpander and I love that I can easily create and use my own Python scripts with it. Also, AutoKey comes without any associated crap.
  • XXXXXX (was Icon Slate) — I’ve not found a like-for-like replacement. However, it’s a small app and doesn’t feature in my work-flow very often. I think I only added it as an example of a OS X specific app that does one thing and does it well. If I get time, I may have an attempt at creating a similar tool for Linux.
  • Evolution & Thunderbird (was Mail) — I used Mail on OS X as my email client for both work and personal accounts. On Linux, Evolution is the only client that I have found to work well with Exchange, so I use it for my work account. I could also use it for my personal email account, but I’ve opted to use Thunderbird instead. I thought that having 2 email clients would be a proper PITA, but I actually prefer the degree of separation they provide.

On reflection, I’ve replaced all but one of the OS X specific applications, and the change was painless. As with the previous post, and if I remember, I’ll take another look at this list in another 6 months. I’m wondering if I’ll still be using desktop Linux? I’m thinking that I probably will.

Returning to Linux (Ubuntu 16.04)

This weekend, I removed OS X from my hackintosh machine and installed Windows 10 and Ubuntu 16.04 as a dual-boot system. I’ll mostly be booting Ubuntu, but I had a spare Windows 10 license and a spare drive, so I installed it too — I might get lucky and occasionally find some time to play the odd game.

Why did I do this? Well, I’ve been missing Linux a lot lately and OS X was beginning to lose its shine. Don’t get me wrong, I think OS X is really nice, but at the same time, it feels somewhat sterile. Ubuntu, on the other hand, feels raw, potent and hackable.

Feelings, they’re important, so I tend to follow them. Also, I have a back-up of my OS X installation, so I can always revert my decision, not that I have any plans to at the moment.

Anyhow, first impressions of Ubuntu 16.04, it’s ace!

Versioning, Licensing, and Sketch 4.0 image/svg+xml

Until now, it has been our custom to release a major version of Sketch (2.0, 3.0, etc) every couple of years as a paid upgrade, with minor updates (3.1, 3.2, etc) for free in between. While this is a very common model for software, we don’t think it is fair: customers who have purchased an app closer to the original release date get free updates for longer than someone who bought the same product halfway through its release cycle.

I don’t have a problem with developers who want to introduce a subscription fee for their software, but why dress it up as anything other than what it is? I’m pretty sure that fairness has no relevance in this decision.

My knee-jerk reaction: I’ve enjoyed using Sketch, but I’m thinking that I’ll probably move back to Inkscape, or look for a promising alternative.

Where have all the MacBooks gone at Linux conferences? image/svg+xml

I recently returned from LinuxFest Northwest. One of the most noteworthy things from that event? I saw only one Mac laptop in use by the attendees of the event. One. And, you know what? It wasn’t running Mac OS. It was running Linux.

Earlier this year, I attended Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE). Similar situation there. I saw a good handful of Apple logos glowing here and there, but only a handful. Most laptops seemed to be happily running Linux of one flavor or another.

An interesting post from Bryan Lunduke regarding the decline of MacBook devices at Linux conferences. Why did I find this interesting? Because it conflicts with my own usage. Having spent just short of a year using OS X, I think I’d find it very difficult to switch back to desktop Linux. It would feel like a backwards step.

Also, I wonder how many new MacBook devices were at these events? I’d imagine they are less noticeable as they don’t feature the “glowing” Apple logos.