Macbook Pro 2017 Thoughts

As a long time Apple user and Apple fanboy, this review may be very biased…

Ever since completing uni back in 2016 I have thought that it was time to upgrade my 13 inch 2014 retina macbook to the 15 inch model mostly because I thought the 13 inch screen was starting to be a bit too restricting and switching between a low resolution external monitor display and ¬† the retina display was very bothering. I was a bit disappointed when the new macbook design was released in 2016 mainly due to the unnecessarily large trackpad and the various issues that plagued it since its release. I was seriously considering the Dell XPS 15 but was concerned about the battery life with the 4k display but also didn’t feel like going back to a 1080p monitor since using retina displays for so long. Furthermore, I wasn’t a big fan on the dual modality of Windows since Windows 8. So after careful consideration I recently bought the 2017 15inch base model Macbook Pro for almost $1000 off rrp!

So I have used the Macbook Pro for about two weeks now and here are some of my thoughts in comparison to the last generation model in no particular order…

  • The chassis is very slim but I do feel it has a bit of compromise with build quality especially when I grip the macbook from the hinge when moving it so I also had to get a plastic case to increase its rigidity and protect the finish.
  • The keyboard is rather shallow but it took me about a day to get used to it and I can type as fast as I did on my old macbook so it doesn’t bother me.
  • I quite frankly can not tell the difference between the old retina monitor and the new one but they are equally nice to view.
  • The trackpad is ridiculously large but still a pleasure to use and has not affected my typing at all, although I do type with my right wrist lifted and my left palm does occasionally bump onto the trackpad but it does not move the mouse about.
  • I do find the the touchbar useful particularly the screen shot button and being able to scroll through video even when they are in picture in picture mode, but the touch id is not so useful because so far I can only use it to unlock from sleep but can not use it to buy apps from the mac store nor gain super user privileges in terminal.
  • Only having usb-c ports hasn’t been quite an issue as a matter of fact its been pretty nice because I can potentially use around 8 or more usb ports through various dongles.
  • There has been an issue with some dongles interrupting wifi when plugged in. This is a known issue which I have unfortunately encountered but thankfully its not a big issue as it seems to only be caused by third party dongles when connected to the left side ports as they are closer to the wifi card and have bad shielding. After a bit of research, it is known that this only affects the macbook when connected to a 2.4ghz network so switching over to a 5ghz network stops the problem. Using a dongle which has a cord in it and wrapping it in aluminium foil or connecting the dongles to the right side solves the problems I had completely.
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Connecting Microsoft Kinect To Mac

For the second part of my thesis, after messing around with various background subtraction algorithms in in openCV, I thought about what else I could do to add some value to this open ended research. I managed to get my hands on a Microsoft Kinect Camera which incorporated a normal camera and an infra-red camera.

The first issue I had, the Microsoft Kinect Camera I got wasn’t the developer version and it had a proprietary connector which doesn’t connect straight to a usb port. Good thing in this modern age is finding cheap adapters off ebay, but cheap sometimes also means waiting a while before I got the adapter and sometimes they don’t work… Fortunately, it wasn’t a complete waste as I needed part of the cable and following this guide I managed to make my own complete adapter.

The second issue was that I was trying to use the Kinect camera in MacOS with Python so it wasn’t natively supported as it would under Windows, but fortunately, the Libfreenect library¬†provided drivers and wrappers to use make the Kinect work. Simply downloading the directory and navigating to the python folder in the wrappers folder and installing the files with

python setup.py install

To ensure that it is installed,

pip list

If libfreenect is listed then it is installed.

Mounting NTFS Drives on Mac for Free

I had trouble writing to ntfs drives since upgrading to Sierra. In order to write to it:

  • get the name of the drive(replacing all spaces with “\040”)
  • open terminal and enter sudo nano /etc/fstab
  • copy LABEL=disk none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse (replace disk with name of hard drive)
  • ctrl+o to save,enter,ctrl+x to exit
  • unmount and mount drive and you should not be able to see it in your finder
  • but navigate to \Volumes via the finder options Go->Go to folder… will let you see the drive.

 

EDIT 10/09/2017: Sometimes the files I have placed into the hard drive become greyed out the next time I view them and I can not export them to another device properly.

Running this line of code in the folder containing the greyed out files fixes the problem.

for f in *.*; do xattr -d com.apple.FinderInfo "$f"; done;

MacOS Useful Tips

  • Remove the “All My Files” tab from the sidebar in finder to prevent accidentally manipulating all your files.
  • Turning on “Reduce Transparency” in Settings-> Accessibility saves a bit of cpu usage.
  • Using “Scaled Effect” instead of “Genie Effect” in Settings->Dock saves a bit of cpu usage.
  • Unticking “Correct spelling automatically” and “Capitalise words Automatically” in Settings->Keyboard->Text makes it easier to touch type.
  • Selecting “App Store and identified developers” in Settings->Security&Privacy->General allows you to install apps outside of app store
  • Turning off FileVault in Settings->Security&Privacy apparently causes less problems for your Mac in the future.
  • Adding your Mac startup disk to Settings->Spotlight->Privacy saves your Mac from overheating when trying to index all your newly added files.
  • Entering¬†defaults write com.apple.dock scroll-to-open -bool TRUE; killall Dock into terminal allows you to scroll on dock icons to see open windows

Resetting Up My Macbook

I accidentally installed wireshark-chmodbpf and can’t uninstall it. Also needed to clean up my macbook pro and what better way is there to do it then completely reinstalling MacOS. Here is my attempt to make it as easy as possible for myself.

Step 1: Make a backup of all my important files.

Step 2: Make a list of all my installed apps. Get script here!

Step 3: Press Command-R To delete current startup drive and then reinstall MacOS.

Step 4: Set up Mac and go through all settings.

Step 5: Reinstall apps from App Store.

Step 6: Install Homebrew with

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

and tap into brew cask with

brew cask tap

Step 7: Reinstall apps through brew cask.

 

Posted in Mac

Free Useful Mac Apps

From the App Store:

  • Duplicate Photo Finder: finds duplicate photos in the Photo App and moves them to a delete folder.
  • The Duplicate Finder: simple drag and drop folders or entire hard drive devices to find duplicate files to delete.
  • Taurine:lets you keep your macbook on for a set period without having to change energy saving settings.
  • Memory Cleaner:allows you to monitor RAM usage and free memory when desired.
  • Decompressor: simple app for extracting files from common archive files.
  • Battery Monitor:allows you to monitor Battery usage and wear and tear.

From Brew:

  • smcFanControl: allows you to control your macbook fanspeed and monitor cpu temperatures.
  • Spectacle:allows you to manipulate window size and location through customisable shortcuts.
  • DisableMonitor:allows you to completely turn off your macbook display and gives more resolution levels.
  • HyperDock:imitates Windows ability to display open windows when hovering mouse over docked app.
  • HyperSwitch:imitates Windows ability to switch between apps and windows.
  • VLC: very versatile video and audio player.

Setting up OpenCV3 with Python on MacOS

OpenCV is an open source library with many useful functions for manipulating images and arrays. For my thesis, I had to research of Background Subtraction techniques, a category within Computer vision which forms the basis for detecting objects in video streams. In order to complete my research, I had to test the performance and complexity of various Background Subtraction techniques. My initial attempts involved using MATLAB to complete my research, but after learning about this useful API, I decided to test it out but it would have been way too time consuming to set OpenCV with more traditional programming languages like C so I decided to test it out with python… Continue reading “Setting up OpenCV3 with Python on MacOS”