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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Retina MacBook Pro

Chris Campbell

Getting a new laptop is pretty exciting as it allows you to take stock of the hardware and software that you use. When you work in a larger organization you don't usually have a lot of choice in what you get. Luckily in my situation we are Mac-based in the Screen Arts program I teach in, so I knew that I'd be getting MacBook Pro. The standard machine for this year seems to be be a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a 256 GB SSD and 16 GB of RAM.

Typing on the new laptop it makes me notice a few differences. The biggest change is that it is a lot lighter. Apparently something like 20% lighter or so. That makes it feel a bit strange on my lap, kind of like something is missing. It's one of the best laptops that I have ever had. The keyboard is a bit softer than the previous one, and it's become my favourite thing to type on. Not too big and not too small – just right. The other thing I absolutely love is the trackpad. At my desk at work I have a mouse which I don't really like that much. Swiping makes so much more sense to me now.

So much of what we do now depends on connecting to services and sites outside of our personal computers, so the first thing to get installed before starting the reconnection process was AgileBits essential 1Password. It syncs through iCloud, so it took less than a minute to get it up and running and it has all the info I need for getting back into all my accounts. That saves a lot of time and provides peace of mind too.

There are some applications that become such a big part of your workflow that you forget you use them and that's exactly what happens with Alfred, which lets me quickly launch, look up, and find things. On other computers or a new one I will instinctively try to activate it and then wonder what is wrong when it doesn't instantly appear. For mail my accounts are split up between personal and work, so Apple's Mail is what is used for work and the other accounts are all in PostBox. That makes it a bit easier to keep work and my personal life separated a bit and the checking of work email usually will stop when I go home. The other essential thing on the laptop is being able to check my calendars, so for that the best option is Fantastical (also on my iPhone) which is great for adding things and quickly checking my schedule too.

For notes on the laptop everything is synced through Simplenote with nvALT providing a quick and easy way to search and edit notes. Quick and subtle and clear, it is a frictionless way to quickly take notes and get things down. To enhance all entering of text, the next essential piece would be TextExpander which provides a way to have all sorts of frequently-used snippets ready to expand into whatever you are typing. The ones I use the most are the date, class names, and contact information and I really should add some more. The next thing in my workflow after writing something is to work with it more in Byword where I do writing and editing on the MacBook Pro when there is more typing and proofreading and editing on my iPad.

The new MacBook Pro is fast and it's the first computer that I've used that has an SSD, which is good and bad. The speed is amazing, but it has half the storage capacity of my previous MacBook Pro, so that means I've needed to rethink the use of space on the drive. Already my iTunes library and iPhoto library are on an external drive, but the larger documents that I use will now need to be stored externally. It's a good practice to follow and while it is a bit of a pain to be forced into its, having independence of data from the laptop helps keeps things organized a bit better too.

For backup Time Machine backs up to an external drive at the office which provides security in addition to more conscious backups to another external drive (so many drives). Recently I've also signed up with Backblaze to provide another, off-site backup. In addition to that there is the cloud storage from Dropbox and Sync where files are kept. To save and retrieve files my favourite for years has been Panic's Transmit. It's the way that I use FTP. It's powerful and simple and is how I get larger student assignments and share larger files as well.

To keep my Omni apps in sync between devices I use the OmniGroup's OmniPresence which is where my documents from OmniOutliner and Acorn are kept. OmniOutliner is where planning happens for me and it has also worked well as a place for me to keep track of my marking. With summaries I can actually add up marks and keep comments and other information about learners all in one place. Sometimes it will be a spreadsheet in Numbers, but other times I will all be set up in OmniOutliner. OmniFocus is at the centre of my productivity world and that also uses OmniPresence to keep all of the things that I need to do safe.

After the basics are set up and everything is working, the bigger and more specialized applications start to get tried out. The biggest one is Final Cut Pro X, which is Apple's video editing program. The latest version is quite divisive with many dismissing it as a glorified version of iMovie, but it's really a lot more than that. It's frustrating to shift to it from Final Cut Pro 7, but it works in a whole different way with many things hidden. I've grown to like it a lot and on the new laptop it's stunningly fast and with the Retina screen it is gorgeous. The SSD seems to make a big difference in the speed as well, but upgrading from a 4 year-old computer and doubling the RAM is probably a factor in the speed as well.

While Adobe Creative Suite 6 is installed, I rarely use the Adobe stuff as I find that it is a bit jarring with the idiosyncratic interface and the never-ending updates. Uninstalling Flash is one of the first things that I did (the battery-hogging activity is something I want to avoid). For image processing I have both Acorn and Pixelmator, but I find that I love and use Acorn for all my image manipulation needs. It's fast and simple and clear and powerful. Kind of like an idealized Photoshop.

As time goes by the need for a laptop seems to lessen. My iPhone and iPad are used a lot and when I don't have the laptop it isn't that big of an issue. For video editing it's still important to have the laptop, and for writing you need a nice keyboard. But for editing the iPad is great and while I used to watch DVDs on my previous MacBook Pro, the lack of an optical drive means that there will be fewer films watched on this one. My iPad is the way that I watch films on my own now, and for DVDs now it seems that the TV and DVD player will be the way that gets consumed. But now most of the films that I am watching are all digital and that's going to accellerate now.

The devices that we use and the lines between them are all blurring. It's amazing how quickly the shift has happened. I just do things with the screen that is closest to me. Whether it is taking a note, a picture, listening to music, or making something, it doesn't matter which particular device I have. That being said, it's pretty great to have a fast and quiet laptop to create and share stuff with, so I'm very grateful for that.