Ode to a 2017 MacBook Pro

So I was in a meeting yesterday, looking over at my Mac, and the lid didn’t seem to be closed all the way. My only thought was the usual “Apple doesn’t make them like they used to” and I ignored it. A few hours later, at the end of my work day, I went to unplug the laptop and go sit on the couch and write, and I noticed the side of the laptop was popped open, and the battery was swollen.

God damn it.

I got this machine at the very end of 2017. At the time, it was the top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook pro you could buy from the Apple Store inventory without a custom order. It was great and slim and bigger than my last one, and way too expensive. I moved everything over, went on a trip for Christmas, and when I got home, it was completely 100% dead. No battery, no lights, no plugging in a different power cord, no magic reset NVRAM bullshit, it was flat out DEAD. I went to the store and after much bitching, a manager gave me a brand new one, and a “sorry, that happens.”

I’ve never been 100% on this machine. It had the magic touchbar thing, which is completely useless, except there were no function keys or escape key anymore, so I had to use it. I shut off the other shit, because I constantly hit it while typing. And the typing is bad, too. In the quest to make it thinner and cooler, they put in this dud keyboard that felt like typing on an Atari 400, and even a piece of dust would break a key. There was also the lack of any ports other than TB3, which required a new set of dongles. The machine always felt creaky and weird, like I’d accidentally bend it at some point. I also had some random weirdness with macOS High Sierra, and never dared move up another version.

So anyway, swollen battery. I looked up how to replace it, and it’s a 58-step procedure that involves a heat gun and re-epoxying parts and brain surgery-level disassembly. Nope. Normally, this is where I’d cart it off to the Apple Store, since it’s still under warranty. Not an option during SIP. I called Apple, and my only option is to mail it in and wait a week or ten.

I didn’t want to upgrade. I was hoping to get at least three years out of this machine. But I needed a computer immediately. I ended up going to Best Buy’s web site and buying a new machine, then driving out to Pleasant Hill and doing the weird touchless curbside pickup. You reply to a text to tell them where you’re parked, and a gloved and masked worker comes to your car, looks at your ID, then puts the box in the trunk. Very weird.

The migration went predictably bad. The old and new machines couldn’t see each other on WiFi. Using the Thunderbolt cable to connect the two computers doesn’t work, because there are 167 different types of cable with the same exact connectors, and the “power” version of the cable isn’t data-ready or something. I thought I should just use the backup drive, but before I could do that, the system said it needed to download ten gigs of updates, and it futzed with that for an hour. I plugged in my CarbonCopyCloner bootable clone of the old drive, and it sat for six hours, then crapped out in the middle of the night because it was trying to copy the entire backup, including every file I’ve changed or deleted in the last three years. I restarted it, and six hours later, the files were more or less there.

Then began the real problems. First, I jumped forward to macOS Catalina, which means every 32-bit app on my machine is now broken. Then the barrage of “xyz wants to use your address book” and “abc wants to write to the hard drive” and “123 wants to see your location.” Some damn thing kept asking for my keychain password. It took seven tries to get iCloud to log in. I couldn’t get it to “trust” my iPhone. Adobe’s app manager got stuck in a login loop until I completely uninstalled everything Adobe and started over. The IR remote receiver I have didn’t work anymore. Etc etc etc. I think I’m about halfway stable now, but expect at least a week of fuckery until this calms down.

I seriously think this might end up being the last Mac I buy. We’re entering a dark period like the mid-90s, when Macs were twice as expensive, twice as slow, didn’t use any standard peripherals, and crashed constantly from a bloated OS. The current macOS keeps getting more and more stupid, as they try to unify with the mobile OS and push services more. Rumor is strong that Apple will dump Intel in the near future and move to their own ARM processor, which will be just like the PowerPC days, making Windows emulation impossible.

The problem is, what do I buy instead? I’m too tightly coupled to my other mobile devices. And Windows is horrible – I use it every day on my work machine, and it’s not an option for me. Going back to Linux seems unspeakable at this point. I almost feel like buying a typewriter at this point.

The new machine seems okay so far, now that it is stabilizing. The keyboard is improved somewhat, and feels closer to my 2014. The screen is slightly bigger. The build quality feels a bit better. Same drive size, same memory. More CPU, more cores, and I think the battery is better, but I haven’t gotten that far into it yet. I’ve got to figure out what to do with the old one, when the world is normal, or I give up and mail it in.

And usual reminder: BACK UP YOUR MACHINE. It saved my ass this time, yet again. CarbonCopyCloner, external drive. Anyway, let’s see if I can get more stuff done on the new machine.

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