New Mac adventures

I recently bought one of the new Macbook Pros. This is the first time I’ve bought a new computer that I knew was way more computer than I needed. But I tend to hang onto computers for a while, and by the time I replace this, it will probably be showing its age. I realized when I bought this that Apple has now been through 4 processor families (Motorola 68K, PowerPC, Intel, and now Apple Silicon), and I’ve had two daily-driver computers in each of the previous families (plus a couple of laptops that were secondary computers), starting with the original 128 KB Mac.

I had been waiting on the announcement of the new series of Macbook Pros, and ordered one as soon as it was announced. There was a considerable delivery delay (it travelled from Shanghai to another city in China, waited there for about a week, then in rapid succession to Incheon, Anchorage, Louisville, Austin, San Antonio, and Austin again), so I had plenty of time to prepare for the transition, and had a document where I gathered notes.

Setup

I made the decision not to use Apple’s Migration Assistant. It’s excellent, but I had years of cruft on my old drive and wanted to be more deliberate about what ended up on my new drive. In the end, this worked pretty well, but did take some work.

This post on using a shell script with Homebrew was very useful and saved me a bunch of time with setup. I’d already been using Homebrew, mostly for command-line programs, but I am happy to use Homebrew to manage desktop apps too. I did need to go through the list of desktop apps that can be installed with Homebrew, and make my own list of apps that I wanted to install.

One thing that didn’t work for me is inheriting my old Time Machine backup. I followed these instructions, but the process failed. I’ve still got the old Time Machine database and can navigate it in the Finder, and I have a lot of room on that drive, so I’m using it for the new Time Machine database. This is less than ideal, but I’ve nuked old Time Machine backups before without losing sleep.

One thing I overlooked in the migration process was some of the fonts. I have most of my (non-system) fonts managed by Rightfont, but there were a few third-party fonts that were installed with my system fonts, and I still need to recover those.

Other than that, I manually copied over everything in my home folder, except that I intentionally did not copy of the Library folder. I did copy a few specific items inside it.

Problems

One weird problem I had was with my trackpad. I have been using one of Apple’s older freestanding trackpads for a long time, and I think there was an incompatibility between the old trackpad and the new trackpad software (which enables “force clicks”), possibly exacerbated by the excellent BetterTouchTool: I was seeing a lot of “ghost clicks,” which was not something I could live with. I replaced my old trackpad with a new one and the problem disappeared.

As a test, I tried plugging in the Mac to a third-party USB-C charger with a third-party cable while it was running. This charger nominally supplies slightly less wattage than the factory original (60 W vs 67 W), but the laptop seemed to be staying at 100% charge. I need to do more testing, but this seemed to trigger a weird and seemingly unrelated problem: files I downloaded after plugging into that charger could not be opened or deleted. Plugging in the stock charger and rebooting solved the problem.

The new Macbook Pro has a fingerprint sensor. In theory, this is great, but in practice, sometimes it doesn’t want to read. I haven’t figured out what causes this.

Notifications stopped unexpectedly. Apparently this is a fairly common problem. Killing the NotificationCenter process via Activity Monitor seems to fix it.

Update

Two days ago, the new machine had a major freakout, showing the same symptoms described in this article: the screen would flash pink, then it would reboot; it continued rebooting at roughly 1-minute intervals. I managed to boot it into the recovery partition and ran Disk First Aid. No problem there. Tried doing all the finger-gymnastics to zap PRAM and reset the SMC. Initially this didn’t seem to help, but after a few more reboots, it seemed normal. This happened around noon. The problem flared up again around 7 PM. I couldn’t fix it, called Apple support, and the tech on the line couldn’t either. One of the problems with the Mac in this state was that it couldn’t see any networks or Bluetooth, so Internet Recovery was not possible.

Went to the Apple store the next day; of course it booted up fine, but we did a nuke-and-pave on the spot (which took longer than expected). If this doesn’t fix it, it’s probably a hardware fault.

Other observations

This thing feels like a tank, at least as Apple products go. It weighs half a pound more than the “Touch Bar” Macbook Pros (3.5 lb vs 3 lb, which feels like a bigger difference than it sounds like), and is very slightly heavier than the 2013-vintage machine it is replacing.

I haven’t gotten used to the Globe key–which also acts as the Function key. An unexpected consequence of it is that the Function key on my external keyboard also acts as the Globe key. I do need to toggle between Japanese and English inputs sometimes, so I can see the benefit of it, but command-space is hardwired into my fingers, so I don’t imagine using it. In playing around, I discovered that I can make a quick tap on the Caps Lock key toggle keyboards–again, I probably wouldn’t prefer that, but it might be a handy option for some.

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