A Week+ on Monterey

For over a week, I’ve been using a newly purchased MacBook Air (2020) as my daily driver for work. I bought a new laptop after giving my previous one, an ASUS Zenbook, to my sister since her current/old one was dying.

When I was shopping for a new laptop, I had a few requirements in mind. It had to be powerful enough for my work (because laggy computers are bad), lightweight (I intended to bring it everywhere), have good battery life (nobody likes lugging around chargers or being limited when deciding where to sit), and be something I could, of course, afford.

The MacBook Air ticked all the boxes. And this was before I had any first-hand experience using the machine. Reading up the specs and watching tons of videos about the laptop gave me all the information I needed to make my decision – it wasn’t something I took lightly. I spent a long time ruminating about the purchase because I had the time to do so (I had no opportunity to work outside due to the lockdown).

So what were my qualms about the MacBook Air? Initially, it was the new Apple Silicon. I had been exclusively using Intel processors when it came to laptops and desktops (minus the one time I had a prebuilt desktop with an AMD processor), so I was skeptical about how well an ARM-based processor could run a fully-featured desktop operating system.

Speaking of the operating system, how would I handle the transition? I had been using Windows for the better part of my life and the idea of having to switch to something else seemed daunting. Would I have access to all apps and programs that I needed?

Battery life for laptops is one of my biggest gripes. I’ve been let down way too many times by how poorly Windows laptops perform in this area. Many high-end devices I’ve tried out in the past have let me down. Even when I was still using the Zenbook, which had great battery life in the beginning, I didn’t feel safe leaving home without bringing my charger along.

Google and YouTube were my best friends during this period, and I looked up everything I wanted to know. Nothing swayed my opinion when it came to the laptop’s hardware – all the reviews said that the machine was a beast with killer battery life. As for the software, I wasn’t too concerned – if I could do my work on Linux/Android, I could survive on Mac OS.

With all that in mind, I chose the base model MacBook Air and upgraded the RAM and storage (16GB/512GB). I could have gotten by without the extra storage since I don’t plan to store large files on my laptop and always have thumb drives with me but I felt I could afford the additional peace of mind. As for the RAM upgrade, I’m glad I got it since Activity Monitor tells me I’m constantly using over 12GB (Photoshop, Chrome, and MS Teams are real resource hogs). If you use similar apps often, you’ll probably want the RAM upgrade if you don’t want your SSD being used constantly for memory swaps.

My Thoughts

I’m still getting used to Mac shortcuts. It’s annoying when programs like Chrome have different hotkeys for Windows/Mac, so I spent a lot of time learning new ones to get back up to speed. I’m still clicking a bunch of stuff, but I’ll memorize it all eventually. Also, I’ve been absentmindedly using Mac shortcuts on my Windows desktop.

Mac OS felt familiar to me – it reminded me a lot of Ubuntu which I’ve used in the past. The main difference is me not having to use the terminal (at all, except when trying to get some apps running).

Transitioning to working on Mac OS wasn’t difficult since most of my work is done within Chrome (what can’t be done through your browser these days?). I did download a few additional apps, and even though they weren’t working natively on Apple Silicon, they ran without a hitch (besides the fact they consumed a lot of memory). Hopefully, those issues will be addressed in the future.

There were some things I had to get used to on MacOS – I couldn’t use hotkeys to quickly arrange/tile my windows nor could I launch pinned programs on my dock like you can on Windows. Fortunately, this was rectified by downloading Rectangle and Snap but I was surprised that the operating system didn’t have this built-in, in my opinion, they’re pretty rudimentary features.

Despite my MacBook Air having a 2560 x 1600 display, I couldn’t make full use of that resolution without the use of a third-party app (EasyRes). That felt odd to me. A lot of programs aren’t on the App Store (even popular ones like Discord/Spotify), I had to download them from their websites instead. Not a big deal since I don’t use the Windows App Store either but I had the impression the Mac App Store would be the main way to get popular apps.

Gestures are awesome, I enjoy using Mission Control for working on multiple desktops and switching between apps. The trackpad is intuitive, and I’ll never understand the complaints about Macs not having touchscreens. Having used touchscreen laptops and tablets in the past, I have never yearned for their inclusion in any laptop. External pointing devices get the job done better (and you don’t have to worry about finger stains).

Battery life is amazing – I can get a full day’s use and still have plenty left at the end of the day, so there’s no need for me to carry a charger around. One thing to note, this selling point goes away when you increase the laptop’s brightness. I experienced it the other day – 77% of battery life gone in 4 hours because I set it to the maximum. Since learning that, I’ve kept my MacBook Air at 50% brightness and lasts as long as advertised. At the time of writing, my MacBook Air has a screen on time of 11 hours and I still have 32% of juice left. If you’ve been waiting for tablet-like battery life on a laptop, the wait is over.

Performance is great. I know my workflow doesn’t push the machine to its limits, but you can check out the tests done by other folks to see what it’s capable of. The M1 processor is no slouch when it comes to running heavy-duty applications and multitasking. The fact that the MacBook Air can do everything it does without slowing down or heating up (it doesn’t even have fans!) is a bold statement by Apple. It no longer has to rely on Intel for its high-performance machines, and I’m happy to come along for the ride.

Touch ID is very useful. I like how fast and responsive it is, no complaints there. I wish it was on the iPhone too.

Conclusion

I’m very happy with my MacBook Air purchase. Would I have been satisfied with yet another Windows laptop? Perhaps, since I wouldn’t know what I missed out on. But I’m glad I made the purchase. It would suck having to lug around a power brick in my bag again. The quirks I’ve experienced with Mac OS have been solvable with some extra apps and everything else not mentioned is something I can live with. Will I switch to Mac desktops in the future? Probably not, since gaming on Windows is still king but I’m definitely open to staying on the Mac train when it comes to laptops for productivity.

MacBook Air – the best laptop I’ve ever spent my money on, would totally recommend 10/10.

Not Quite a Black Mirror

I was browsing through a local Facebook Group earlier today to see what was going on and I noticed a strange phenomenon. There were a lot of people who didn’t use their own profile pictures in the group. And I don’t mind if it’s some anime picture, cartoon, or landscape and so on. But a bunch of accounts used profile pictures of celebrities/models – people who they clearly weren’t. I know gravure models don’t live in Malaysia and share the same interests as me. Also, they don’t even pretend to be the model by using the same name, they have their own names attached to the profile.

What does using a cute Japanese girl or K-pop star in your profile picture accomplish? I’m befuddled. Does it give other people a better impression of you? Do you get better prices or responses to your items or comments? Does it make you feel good when you’re on Facebook? Does it make you feel closer to that person? Does it make you smile whenever you launch Facebook and you see that profile picture looking at you? Why in the world would you do that? What do you gain from it?

I’m not saying it’s wrong to do so, I’m really curious why people would do that. I understand being shy or wanting to remain anonymous – there are literally billions of other images you could substitute your profile picture with to not come out looking like a creep (or a weirdo…what the hell are you doing here? you don’t belong here).

Which brings to mind another topic I wanted to discuss in the past but forgot about: why do people use their own portraits as wallpapers for their phones? I get it when it’s a photo of a family member or your children, but when it’s a solo photograph of yourself? How narcissistic does one have to be to put themselves on their phone screens? Maybe I’m insecure about my own looks and don’t feel confident enough to put my own face as my wallpaper, and I’m the odd one out here, but never in my life have I ever felt compelled to do such a thing. It boggles my mind. Again, it’s not wrong to do so – put whatever the hell you want on your phone, it’s your phone and not mine.

Apparently, it can be helpful for some people to cope with their own lives. TIL.

Song Requests Over The Air

While I was driving today, I switched to my car’s music player radio mode by accident, and kept it on after I realized my mistake. I thought I would see if I had been missing out on anything after all these years. After a minute or two, I concluded, “nope” and switched back to Bluetooth mode. But before I switched away, the station played an ad about itself, and one of the voice clips used was a lady requesting for a song.

I then wondered to myself, “why?”. Why would anyone make a song request in this day and age? It’s 2020, for crying out loud. There’s no reason to make song requests over the air anymore. Do you know how long it takes to: call up a station, wait for your call to get through, hope that your call gets chosen, speak to a DJ to ask for your song, and then wait for your song to come on?

A very long time. You could probably drive home, slip into something comfortable, lay down on your bed and put on that song in a shorter amount of time. Maybe pour a nice glass of wine too. It’s also very easy to go on YouTube or Spotify to search for a song that you want to hear. You can even rewind or replay the track as many times as you like. 

If you’re requesting a popular song, why? It’s going to be played within the next hour regardless. Something obscure? The DJs don’t have it, and nobody wants to listen to your shitty taste in music anyway. If you want to share a song with a loved one – send them a link on WhatsApp, and say “thinking of you”. Heck, you could even record your own voice message to accompany it. Or share a link on Facebook and tag that special person. It’s kinda like the same thing. Except that they won’t miss it if they happen to not be listening to the radio at that specific moment. I mean, that is the beauty of music on demand.

Radio song requests are dead, use that airtime to play shitty prank calls instead. Or run another ad.

Flaw(ed) Academy

It’s been a while since I signed myself for an online course – the last one being many years ago when I had plenty of free time in one of my jobs. But a couple of weeks ago, an Instagram ad caught my eye – it was a free Creative Writing course from Shaw Academy. Since I’m always looking for help to improve my writing, I decided to give it a shot. I clicked on the ad, followed the instructions, and signed up.

First hiccup – there was no Creative Writing course for me to choose from. It had automatically signed me up for some Social Media course which I had no interest in. Puzzled, I tried digging around the website to no avail. Seemed like I was stuck. I decided to ignore it and move on with my life.

Last week the ad popped up on my feed again, and in the comments someone left their email address to get in touch with for support. I decided I would give it another shot, so I reached out to them and wrote about my issue. Support was quick to respond, to my surprise, and they added the Creative Writing course to my account. Sweet. I logged in and scheduled my first set of classes.

The next day, it was time for my lesson, I was late by a few minutes when I logged in, so the video was already playing. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there was no rewind or pause button. Strange, I thought. Regardless, I continued watching the video until the end, where the instructor mentioned that these lessons would be rewatchable from the Course Toolkit.

So, off I went in search of the Toolkit – turns out it was something I had to pay to access. The only other way for me to watch the portion of the lesson I missed is to reschedule the lesson to another day. The assignments for the course are also part of this toolkit, looks like I won’t be submitting anything for this course.

I understand that having this strict schedule might be an attempt to discipline students into following deadlines/schedules – I get it, but this is not a real school. It’s not even a live stream broadcast where a student coming in late could disrupt the session. Just give us playback controls! Isn’t that the point of technology? Isn’t it the point of online courses? They’re meant to be flexible so people with busy days can learn whenever they have the time.

And why call it a free course when students can’t complete it without paying any money? I might sound like some spoilt brat but I’m comparing this to edX – an online school that is actually free (with the option to spend money for a physical certificate if that matters to you).

I’ve completed eight courses on edX over the past few years, and I can tell you it does everything right that Shaw Academy doesn’t. Videos can be controlled, and you can watch them at any time. No need to spend any money to access lesson materials, or bother trying to squeeze it into your schedule – it’s all available when you have the time. There’s human interaction if you’re interested (most courses will have a forum for discussion and to comment on each other’s work).

Shaw Academy, thanks for the free trial, but I won’t be continuing with my course even though the lesson videos were informative. Unless some drastic changes are made to the whole learning experience, I can’t imagine anybody paying for this. Especially when there are much better and free alternatives out there.

Attention Seeker

Why do people stream? For money? Sure.

What about people who don’t make any money from it? I have no idea. I asked myself that question, and don’t have an answer for you.

I guess it would be nice to have an audience? But why?

Usually, I’m averse to attention, but also I’m someone who enjoys playing live music to a crowd.

Maybe I only think I don’t enjoy the attention.

Because there’s no other benefit for me to do such things. I’m not getting paid to play shows (most of the time) and I definitely don’t make any money streaming.

I moved my stream from Twitch to Facebook because it’s supposedly easier to grow an audience there – after all, my few hundred friends can see when I go online. I literally made it easier for people to find my streams.

But who wants to watch me play games? Especially when I don’t offer high-skilled or very entertaining gameplay? No idea.

Why do I stream then?

I guess it doesn’t make a difference if I do or not. On the off chance, someone tunes in, I have somebody to interact with. If not, it’s just a way for me to make full use of my sick rig and fast connection.

Tune in and follow my Facebook Page to catch me playing video games. I could be your next favorite streamer. It’s unlikely, but if you don’t watch, you’ll never know.

PC Build 2020

You learn something new every day. That’s what I believe, and I think it’s held true so far.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve done a lot of learning. You see, it’s been a while since I had to assemble a PC from scratch – the last one I did was a year ago. Over the past few weeks, it was my turn. To be honest, I didn’t need an upgrade, my PC was running fine, but since my nephews needed one to do school work from home (lockdown problems), I decided that it was time for me to get a new machine.

I said goodbye to my 10-year-old case (which had relatively new parts – the last upgrade was over 2 years ago) and scoured the internet for my next build. Jokes, I built my new PC first before giving away the old one. Since the experience is still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d write about it – maybe I’ll come back in five years’ time to see if anything has changed.

Cable management is a skill

In the past, I’ve never cared about properly managing the cables in my PC – I had a metal case with no windows, the only person who would know what it looked like was me. This time around, my case has a clear side panel which people can peek into. I decided to give it a shot. Initially, I tried doing it without any help, but I realized I needed some guidance. A few YouTube videos later, I got the hang of it.

It’s not the best job, but I’m proud of my first successful attempt. Cable management requires patience and some trial and error. One of my biggest mistakes was making cable bundles too thick – this prevented the side door from closing properly, so I had to unbundle the wires and try again. Also, there’s no reason to use zip ties if you have twist ties – they can look just as neat and be as functional.

Old cases have terrible airflow

Nothing much to say here except that I can game at around 40 degrees. On my old PC, it was around 70 degrees. I think all the space inside the case makes a big difference. Also, Cooler Master is pretty good when it comes to bang for the buck. I can recommend their cases if you need something budget-friendly.

Cooler Master CPU Coolers are a bitch to install

A year ago, I had problems installing my friend’s CPU cooler (Cooler Master). Turns out, you had to remove the fans before installing it. This time around, I faced the same issue, but I didn’t know I had to remove the fans because they weren’t in the instructions. I watched a YouTube tutorial to find out. I wish they’d follow Noctua’s footsteps – those mounting brackets are ingenious – I managed to install their coolers successfully on my first attempt by following a tiny two-page manual.

On a side note, isn’t it incredible how people are willing to take the time to upload helpful videos onto YouTube? I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the first person that video has helped out.

RGBs have standards

If you’re interested in having RGB components hooked up to your motherboard, you have to take note of the kind of connector they use. It wasn’t a big deal for me since I don’t care too much about RGBs, but my motherboard (which uses JRGB) didn’t support the connection on my Cooler Master CPU cooler RGB (JRAINBOW). While the lights work, I can’t use software to change the light settings. Fortunately, Cooler Master provided a little controller that you can fiddle around with to switch light modes.

RAM and motherboards

There is a reason the RAM slots on your motherboard are colored. You’re not supposed to simply stick the RAM in willy-nilly. Also, if the motherboard supports dual channel memory, get a dual-channel kit, or buy two RAM sticks. 8GB x 2 will perform better than a single 16GB stick. Also, don’t forget to enable XMP on your motherboard if you have high-performance RAM. If you don’t it won’t function at advertised speeds (nothing wrong with running at default speeds, but you could have paid for cheaper RAM instead).

Not all HDMI cables are equal

Because I gave away one of my monitors, I had to replace it with another (once you use two monitors, you never want to go back to one – you feel so handicapped). When I got the monitor, I kept using my old HDMI cable since it would be one less cable for me to unplug. Turns out, that was a bad idea. My monitor wouldn’t go to sleep when I had shut my PC down. Initially, I thought it was some monitor or software setting. I even tried exploring my BIOS to figure it out. I did some Googling and it turns out not all cables are equal. Long story short, I replaced the HDMI cable with the one the monitor came with and it now goes to sleep after the PC has turned off. I don’t know why, but that’s how I fixed the issue.

Speaking of new monitors, 144Hz displays are amazing. Even using Windows feels great! I had been using 60Hz screens forever since I never experienced fast refresh rate monitors before. Now that I have, it’s going to be difficult to switch back. Hopefully, 60Hz screens become a relic of the past in the future. Simply dragging windows or moving the cursor around is enjoyable. I would equate it to how responsive iOS is compared to Android – when it comes to scrolling up and down webpages, or just dragging icons around – people who have used both devices would know what I mean.

Mistakes:

I probably should’ve gotten a Ryzen processor – to be fair, I had bad experiences with an AMD machine in the past, which has led me to stick with Intel ever since then. But after reading and watching a lot more videos since I built the machine, AMD Ryzen is supposed to be the way to go – I could have saved myself quite a bit or upgraded my GPU (not that I needed to, my 980 Ti (thanks, Ken Jae) is more than adequate for me.

I removed one more rear PCI slot cover than I had intended to, and I can’t put it back without using glue.

Uninstalling your copy of Microsoft Office doesn’t give you an additional install (lol).


In conclusion, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge throughout the whole process and I look forward to the next time I put another computer together – I hope it’s not too soon (in my case, at least).

Learning never stops, until your heart (or brain) does.

Uncontrollable Lights; a First World Problem

Been a while since I wrote about a first world problem – I guess it’s time for a new one! Last night, for the first time in a long time, I had an internet outage (which was scheduled by Time Internet – just regular maintenance (on a side note, that’s one word I haven’t learned to spell. I get it wrong 50% of the time)). I had forgotten about it and was still awake when it happened.

Since I could no longer use the internet, I decided to go to bed. However, I tried turning off my lights with my Google Home Mini and was told that it couldn’t work because it had no access to the internet. And because of that, I had to turn my lights off by flicking the switches – something I hadn’t done in months.

Smart light bulbs are cool. In addition to letting you choose what color and brightness to flood your room with, they can power on and off automatically or at scheduled times. Honestly, they’re amazing and I doubt I would ever go back to regular light bulbs, but if they have one drawback, it’s their reliance on the internet.

When they’re offline, your only options are to turn them on or off – not too bad if you’re okay with their default state and color. Because once you turn off the main power (i.e. the wall switches), they reset to their default state when powered on again (note – this is just my experience with the Yeelight, maybe other smart bulbs can store settings).

Writing this post made me realize this isn’t a common problem at all. I did mention it was a first world problem. Also, it sounds like a really dumb rant. But I missed out a post last week and needed something to write about, so here we are. Smart lights are still cool, I’d recommend them if you enjoy controlling things with your voice. Or phone.

Speaking of phones, that iOS 14 announcement was something eh? iPhone users, welcome to Android!

Instagram ads are alright

I dislike ads. I’m sure most of you know that. I recommend uBlock Origin to everyone I know, I purposely purchased a domain name and rented server space so I could have an ad-free blog, and use a third-party YouTube app on my mobile devices so I don’t have to deal with them interrupting my videos.

Sometimes, ads can’t be avoided – like in the Instagram app. These advertisements show up in your feed after scrolling through a few posts, and other times they insert themselves in between stories of people you’re browsing. Most of the time I’ve received bullshit ads that I swipe away immediately, but recently I think the algorithm has me figured out (yay).

These days I don’t get any more adverts for strange sex toys, rubbish manga or cash-grabbing mobile games. Instead, I get music video ads that I watch and swipe up to. I like the fact that I can instantly load their YouTube video or Spotify page to continue listening to the whole song. While I haven’t found my next favorite band yet, I have discovered quite a lot of songs that I would have missed if it wasn’t for the intrusion.

Thank you for the encroaching commercials, Instagram (Facebook). For once, I can wholly support them, and I hope this trend keeps up.

In the meantime, do check out some of the bands I’ve discovered through the power of advertising:

Properties of Nature – You Didn’t Start a Fire in My Heart, You Started it in My House!

East of June – Rebel

PNKR – Olivia

LØE – People Have The Power (Official)

Evading the Commute, Falling Behind

If there’s one thing I never thought I’d say, it’s I kinda miss being behind the wheel. No, hear me out – I don’t miss traffic jams but I do miss listening to podcasts while driving. But wait, George, don’t you listen to podcasts because you’re trying to pass time in the car?

Yes, it’s true. However, during the past few months spent at home, I realized that I’ve fallen behind on my podcast queue. It’s starting to look like my Steam library. Because I don’t drive, I don’t listen to podcasts. So, why don’t I listen to podcasts when I’m not driving?

When I’m not driving, I’m usually doing something which requires my attention (not that I don’t pay attention while driving). In this case, it’s working from home, or watching a show, or playing a game. When I’m doing those things, I can’t have a podcast running in the background – I’ll either get distracted by what I’m listening to, or I’ll miss whatever the hosts are saying. There’s no in-between – or at least, I haven’t trained myself to be capable of doing such things.

I have limited time and attention span. I’m not sure if it’s a flaw, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one. Which is why I only listen to music while working. If I hear someone else talking at the same time, I end up losing my train of thought while writing. I definitely can’t watch a show at the same time. And with games, I end up not paying attention at all, which beats the whole point of listening.

What about listening before bed then? I used to do that but I end up falling asleep before finishing an episode and when I wake up the following day, I have to relisten to it to catch what I missed. Not a great use of time if I use it to consume the same content twice.

Is there a solution to this? Of course, but that would mean deprioritizing other things I enjoy so that I could squeeze podcast listening into my day. However, that’s something I’m not willing to do at the moment. I guess podcasts aren’t that important to me. If I was desperate to listen to them, I wouldn’t have this problem. Why the rant then?

Good point. Maybe I just wanted to write about working from home.

Working from home means you get to be more productive right out of bed. Just wash up, make your breakfast and sit yourself down in front of your computer, start working. I’m not complaining about working from home though. I think it is a good thing.

I also believe that this lockdown has a lot of companies rethinking their positions on letting employees work from anywhere (at least I hope so). As long as they get the work done, right? People save petrol and commute time. Nobody has to get stressed over traffic or risk getting into a vehicle-related accident. After all, the internet was invented for a reason.

Online Profile Privacy; Evening Drama Rebooted Plug

Back in the day, sharing your online contact details was a simple process.
You had your IM username (in ICQ’s case, it was your UIN) for people you want to chat with, and your email address for everything else. Most people would share either one without a second thought (assuming you were interested in speaking to the person requesting that information).

Now, with the number of different social networks available, it’s a bit more complex. Different online profiles have different amounts of information that you would like people to have access to, they all have different weights.

This thought crossed my mind earlier today when I was asked to request to join a Facebook group and to inform the person in charge of that group over Whatsapp instead of Facebook. In my mind, I was thinking, why? Why not keep everything on Facebook, since the platform facilitates both groups and messaging. Then I thought, maybe that person didn’t want to share their personal Facebook profile.

But that person gave me their phone number (which was on the signature of the email) – something I have always rated as more personal than a Facebook profile. On the other hand, this person might have given me a business number to reach out via Whatsapp instead. Then I thought some more – why didn’t that person just make a business Facebook profile for such situations in the first place?

And then I concluded that maybe I’m just overthinking things.

For reference, this is what my social media privacy levels are:
Phone number, email: for friends, family, and work.
Facebook: for my friends and acquaintances.
Instagram, Twitter, Twitch, Soundcloud, YouTube, this blog: for the public.
LinkedIn: for future employers and friends? I’m not sure yet. I only created an account (earlier this year) to apply for jobs, and I have less than 10 people in my network. I don’t even log on to it unless I get an email alert.

Pretty much everything is available to the public, and the only reason my phone number and email address aren’t is to avoid spam. If I could put it all up there without such problems, I’d probably do it. After all, the internet is around to make you easily contactable.

I don’t have multiple accounts and only use my various accounts for different purposes – but if anyone from the other circles find their way to my other accounts, I’m not bothered by it. I believe that anything online is pretty much public, so I don’t post anything online that I don’t want people to see.

While writing this piece, I got carried away with work and when I returned, I lost my original train of thought. I think it was about how different people treat their details differently, and most people are probably a lot more concerned about their online privacy than I am. Maybe I’ll return to this topic in the future. Possible Evening Drama Rebooted topic?

Also, if you haven’t been following, I’ve been hosting a weekly live show called Evening Drama Rebooted on Twitch for the past few weeks. We’ve managed to keep the show going for eight episodes despite not having consistent times – quite an achievement, in my opinion. It’s about me, Seng Yip, and Christin shooting the shit over random topics. The show was born at the start of the MCO and should go on at least until it ends. No idea about our future plans yet. And yes, the name is a throwback to a group blog we used to write for. Check out our past episodes on YouTube.