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At home and at work I have a MacBook Pro (2015) which is the last one before the following hardware changes :

  • Butterfly keyboard.
  • Overly large trackpad that causes palm-clicks.
  • Touchbar.

Each of those alone is a significant issue for me:

  • The existing MacBook is already not a good keyboard for me: I do need the tactile aspect of keys with 'travel'. My typos on a MBPro keyboard are already much higher than on an external keyboard
  • I do work on the move so an external keyboard only is an option a fraction of the time.
  • I rest my palms on the laptop so the large trackpad will induce yet more typos
  • My fingers look for the specific function keys: the Touchbar does not work
  • I do not use smart phones more than just for typing (precariously) because of the lack of physical keyboard . This is after years of trying; it is not working for me. That carries over to the mac and its Touchbar.

If I could buy a non-Apple / non-Mac there would be no issue. But I must use a Mac: all teams that I have worked on for five years only use Macs: and we must use IT supported configurations. Pure linux would work fine (for home) but in the (larger) companies it is not supported (security apps, wifi, productivity apps etc)

I am also constantly in trouble with memory usage due to running heavy and large application codebases along with VMs, browsers, and productivity apps. The maximum 16GB on the older Macs will eventually simply not be sufficient.

The IT folks do not use new Macs and use the old ones. All co-workers that have been around long enough use the old Macs and also refuse to upgrade. So I have not run into anyone with solutions for this yet.

Does anyone have a plan for how to handle this?

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    Thanks for the edits. I would love nothing more to have a real substantive, reasoned discussion that’s “good subjective” and not seen as just a rant. Please ping me if the discussion gets off the rails (or another mod in the chat room). There are going to be strong opinions on this. Here is the specific guidance on “what not to ask” apple.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask – bmike Mar 2 '19 at 20:18
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    Thanks bmike I know this is treading the line and welcome the advice on either how to keep it "in bounds" or have to remove it if not possible. I work on a mac 10 to 14 hours a day 350 days a year. Macos is the most productive platform and often enough the only supported choice. – javadba Mar 2 '19 at 20:20
  • Have you actually tried a new Mac? The only issue you'll have is with the keyboard. Even on your current Mac you can comfortably rest your palm on the trackpad itself and not have any issues (Apple fixed this a long time ago sometime around 2005) the same is true with the new Macs. I'm typing now with BOTH my palms not only resting on the trackpad but actively pressing on it yet no misunderstood mouse movement or clicks – slebetman Mar 3 '19 at 4:09
  • Also, the butterfly keyboard is not as annoying to type on but do get damaged easily. I've repaired mine several times now and the B key still have issues sometimes – slebetman Mar 3 '19 at 4:11
  • @slebetman I have tried it briefly: enough to know the keyboard and Touchpad are real issues. I did not rest palms on the trackpad. Multiple co-workers have them have said they have to be careful with their palms to avoid the accidental gestures. Sounds like you are having better luck than them. – javadba Mar 3 '19 at 4:33
12

Start a conversation with your IT department about using Linux (possibly alongside Macs, it doesn't have to be a replacement). Don't just assume they can't/won't support it: go and actually put your case to them. It sounds like you're not the only person in your company with these concerns.

(I know, this isn't likely to get a lot of votes on an Apple-centric site. And I used to like my iMac a lot, but haven't tried the new machines that are bothering you. But, given your constraints, I think this is the right answer to your question.)

...pure Linux would work fine (for home) but in the (larger) companies it is not supported (security apps, wifi, productivity apps etc)

Where do you get this idea from? It simply isn't true: plenty of large companies have been using Linux for many years.

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    IT only supports Mac and Windows: this is not negotiable in many (/most?) companies. They are constantly upgrading /changing the security apps and in house self service apps. There is a wide array of apps they have to manage and even handling two platforms is a stretch on their support costs. – javadba Mar 2 '19 at 23:05
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    At small companies / startups I used to do be the only linux guy. Honestly it was a significant time sink due to needing to try to replicate the internal apps setups from the macos to linux. The cisco firewall, wifi, and virus scanner software were either poorly supported or not at all so I ended up hobbled. – javadba Mar 2 '19 at 23:08
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    But the hardware limitation is not trivial. It is probably affecting many people, hence why nobody in the entire company has upgraded. It's one thing for the IT department to support 1 guy out of the entire group. It's a completely different story if it is the entire company. – Nelson Mar 3 '19 at 14:45
8

This should probably be a comment, so I'll apologize in advance for posting it as an answer - I lack the required reputation. I'll try to make up for it by elaborating on the topic.

Using a desktop Mac through a remote desktop connection

It's a relatively difficult solution in practice (see below), but I'd like to suggest buying a newer Mac mini or the like, and connecting to it from any laptop of your choice, if at all possible. The benefits are relatively obvious.

There are several drawbacks, however - just to name a few:

  • You will likely need to get permission from your employer to work in this way.
  • There are security risks involved in creating a "door" to the computer from the outside, especially when connecting from untrusted locations.
  • If the computer will be at your employer's buildings as opposed to your home, and no other employee is working in this way, your employer will need to set up their equipment to allow the incoming connections, which will take time and possibly bring in further technical issues.
  • Your performance may suffer due to delays in the connection despite the processing power improvement from the new device.
  • You will be subject to internet availability wherever you work, if that's not the case already.

Other than that, I think your best first course of action is negotiating with the IT department(s) you're involved with.

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    This is a reasonable answer - no need to worry about it being a comment. This approach is one that i have contemplated for home usage. In fact a highly regarded coworker does this. For work it would not be possible and for traveling it would be difficult. – javadba Mar 2 '19 at 23:36
  • This is my home setup. I use realvnc on both my macmini and my thinkpad. I like the thinkpad keyboard for some reason. It's a little slower, but not that much. – historystamp Mar 3 '19 at 4:08
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It's really imperative to observe a few things:

You want new hardware, and prefer Apple building it for you. That means choosing the right one for you, or influence Apple to cater to your needs, or make a compromise in needs, or look for workarounds and alternatives.

  1. Voice your wants and demands. Not necessarily just here (if this community even tolerates something like this and doesn't qualify it as "just a rant").

    But do two other things:
    write it directly to Apple (Feedback), and write to news outlets, magazines, blogs, your own pages. It is absolutely superfluous to cry and whine in private only to go out and pay good money for things you do not really want or need or like. Chances that this succeeds are small, but then at least you have tried and if others chime in in significant enough numbers, then maybe…

    Apple can see the numbers of sales, but not the non-sales. It can count complaints written to them or analysing reviews and net trends. Writing to them and the public increases the likelihood to have that opinion registered and properly weighted. If buyers rip the boxes off the shelves, you are indeed in an insignificant demographic. If sales slow and negative press increases, any intelligent business will have to adapt, somehow.

    If you buy from an online retailer, write a review that list your likes and dislikes fairly. Only praising a product is common, but absolutely uselesss, unlesss you're interested primarily in stock-market shares.

    Well written and constructive criticism is the most helpful thing to do. It helps others form an opinion and make a decision. And that includes Apple.

    But you have to be patient and wait, for a thing that may never materialise.

  2. Do not buy Apple products you are not and will not be satisfied with. New MacBook Pro is expensive and has a hated Touchbar? New MacBook Air will do performance wise or old MacBook Pro 2015? Then do not buy a 2016 MBP, but the one that does suite you, and write about your decision on a forum, blog etc.

  3. Analyse really carefully your 'musts', mustn'ts' and needs.

    In the question it states: "I must use a Mac". And then it lists a few 'reasons' to which I would still ask further: "Why, really?" The specifics are missing, really. Because you might opt for a Hackintosh or a virtualisation solution for almost everything Mac-only in terms of software.

    If it's just about the software to be run, then the two alternatives are worth looking into. If there are other reasons like policy or support within a team or company, then you might ask for exceptions.

  4. Try to look into workarounds. Hate the keyboard: try an external bluetooth. Hate the glossy screen… in general, try any hack you find.

  5. Join groups that have a shared goal for this kind of action.

    To&From Apple: Want a "greener laptop": work with Greenpeace to exert pressure. Want a "right to repair": support proposals for such legislation. Want a usable keyboard as your last butterfly one failed for the third time: join law suits and write about it.

    To&From your work groups: join a union or smaller group that fights for your right to choose the hardware you want, as long as it doesn't hamper the workflow or other policies.

  • Thanks but in the question I did mention the must: the (larger) companies it [linux] is not supported (security apps, wifi, productivity apps etc) The OP was updated to emphasize that more. – javadba Mar 2 '19 at 21:39
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    @javadba For one, the above is for the generalised case (you are not alone in this, trust me). Second, unless specified, things like "SecurityApps" sound strange, are they in-house Mac-only (and asking for support/exceptions would still be on the table then, imho)? How can "WiFi" be mac-specific? So, is it really mac-only: like a security app that somehow leverages some T2 functionality already (fictional example) or 'only mac-supported' (but doable with alternatives). If it's killer app (for me it's only one really) that could go VirtualBox? Point 3 and the situation specifics are kickers – LаngLаngС Mar 2 '19 at 21:46
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    OK well I upvoted this answer too - it's well thought out. Will wait for more ideas before awarding. – javadba Mar 2 '19 at 21:57
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    "The [old] IT folks do not use new Macs." - that means to me that Apple has taken giving people what they didn't know they wanted, too far, and now they're just pushing some agenda... Take it straight to the top and call bs, +1 – Mazura Mar 3 '19 at 1:51
5

If you're using the Macbook for work, I don't understand why the keyboard and touch pad are a concern, if you're working on a Mac for 8 hours a day, you should use an external monitor, external mouse and external keyboard for ergonomic purposes.

There's no seating position where using the laptop keyboard and laptop screen won't cause permanent damage to your neck.

The external Apple keyboards are really good, specially the full length one with a numeric keypad. And if you prefer touch, Apple have a external touchpad as well, although I would highly recommend getting a proper mouse that suits your hands ergonomically (The Apple mouse is very small, so for many people's hands it won't be suited for full day usage)

As for the touch bar, it can be turned into a standard set of function keys (F1-F12) if you so desire (I did)

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    I take the laptop to a half dozen different locations (meetings etc) to work on a typical day . I also use a variety of positions including a standing podium . The laptop itself needs to be self contained for my work environment. – javadba Mar 3 '19 at 0:10
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    afa the touchbar: maybe you did not get the sense of my comment there: it is a more extreme version of the reduced tactile feedback of the butterfly keyboard: if I do not feel that feedback then I have to look at the keyboard to see whether in the correct position. I also do not know how many times it got pressed. This is not something that improves with time given my poor experience with keyboardless mobile devices. – javadba Mar 3 '19 at 0:12
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    If the argument is you go to a lot of meetings, then what do you need the Macbook for? Your work environment sound super unoptimised if all you do is moving around between meeting rooms. Even more so, it sounds like what you really should have is a small laptop and then remote into a terminal to do your actual work from. – Claus Jørgensen Mar 3 '19 at 0:17
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    "move around" No i do have an optimized work structure: not going into it now but it includes having a decent 15" screen at all times. – javadba Mar 3 '19 at 0:19
  • Incidentally, I use a Code Keyboard with cherry MX green switches for all my typing, and I loooooove it. Works great with a Mac; even has a hardware switch to swap the command and alt keys. – Wildcard Mar 3 '19 at 5:50
2

Basically you're saying that you do not like any of the computers in the current Mac lineup, and also that you do not like any non-Mac.

If you look at that logically, then you have three options:

  1. Use only old Mac models, and live with slow performance.
  2. Hope that Apple introduces a model you like
  3. Build your own laptop that you actually like

As you state that (1) is "not sufficient", it's not an acceptable option for you. Option (3) is usually not viable, unless you happen to have very specific skills or a lot of money to spend.

That leaves you with (2) - hope that Apple comes up with new models that you actually like.

Or you could do something radical and change your own opinions over time.

  • I would add - Macs have huge resale value. If you buy a new Mac and get AppleCare - you can almost always sell it for list price or consider the depreciation for 3-4 months as “rent”. The new Air is awesome, and people that don’t like touchbar are loving it to death in my experience. Just buy a tool and sell it when it stops making you money or happy or you have a new tool. – bmike Mar 2 '19 at 20:15
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    I am already doing (a) as described in the post. At some point IT might stop supporting 4+ year old macs. Your comment about change opinion does not address the objective issues raised. – javadba Mar 2 '19 at 20:17
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    @javadba Actually it does. It is a very practical approach. You either have to hope that Apple makes something you like, use something you do not like - or change your likes. It is very simple. Unless ofcourse you think that you could yourself have a say in deciding which products Apple introduces to the market. – jksoegaard Mar 2 '19 at 20:28
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    The items listed in the question are not about items similar to which color schemes ("likes") but usability. There are specific hardware issues listed and their impact on productivity is mentioned. Unless by "like" it means: "preferring to type at a faster pace with many fewer mistakes". And given the large trackpad "avoid tiring of wrists due to needing to hold in an awkward position.". – javadba Mar 2 '19 at 20:33
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    OK that's an accurate evaluation of the situation. I am unaware of an option of build your own (hackintosh is v complicated , seems to require a complete rebuild on any macos point update and does not seem to not really be legal anyways) . The hackintosh woudl not fly at all in corporate /IT – javadba Mar 2 '19 at 20:40
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The maximum 16GB on the older Macs will eventually simply not be sufficient... Does anyone have a plan for how to handle this?

In one word: servers.

Do you have a solid internet connection at work? If so, you should consider offloading all that RAM intensive stuff to a server that you connect to via SSH or VNC or NoMachineX or something. Keep your browser, email client and connection tools on bare metal, and everything else is run via connection to a server.

Keep your old MacBook and never worry abot hitting RAM limits again.

  • I run scalability testing on aws and internal hardware clusters on a near daily basis. That is a different animal. Try debugging code on a server vs in your local intellij installation. What is the difference in convenience speed and reliability. Also I do plenty of offline/disconnected work. – javadba Mar 3 '19 at 4:43
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    I could have made the answer more clear that I do do this, regularly, for work. It wasn't a hypothetical answer, it is how I handle the issue you asked about. However, I have pretty reliable wireless access everywhere I work. If you need to do work offline, this solution isn't for you. – user1717828 Mar 3 '19 at 4:46
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    Even without the disconnected part my workflow demands local work. Some cluster jobs run for hours and we size them to the tee: no extra room for additional jobs. – javadba Mar 3 '19 at 4:47
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    Ahhh. If your response is We don't have any more servers left, then the answer is to have your IT get them. As we so often hear: machines are cheap. If that's not possible for whatever financial reasons at your company... sorry? In any event, it doesn't matter; you need offline work so this can't do it for you. – user1717828 Mar 3 '19 at 4:52

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