Three months in with the new MacBook Pro

A few months ago our house got burgled. Luckily it was just "stuff" that was taken and the insurance companies sorted everything out with remarkably little fuss and bother.

One bit of "stuff" that went was my work laptop, so I immediately got a new MacBook Pro 15", restored my backup and was able to carry on working.

mbp15touch-gray-select-201610.jpg

The problem is that I'm still not feeling like I'm able to work as well as I was on the old machine. Now, admittedly that old machine had had the same design for several years, but everything about it was just good, the keyboard, the ports, everything really.

Not so much with the new design. The first, and still most notably annoying thing to me is the keyboard. I simply cannot type with the same speed and reliability as I can on other keyboards, I don't know what it is about it; maybe the lack of travel on the keys, or that they're bigger than before, or that aesthetically they show every bit of human contact in the form of fingerprints, or that it seems to be incredibly noisy when I'm bashing out long form text. I'm getting to the point where I'm considering getting an external keyboard and carrying that around with me, which would be insane.

The trackpad is also too big. Until using this laptop, I had never encountered the situation where, by resting my hands below the keyboard I'd mistakenly move the mouse while typing, but now it happens regularly.

Likewise with the silly gimmick that is the touchbar where there should be function keys. It's very much a case of "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone". Apparently I used the F keys more often than I realised and swapping them out for typeahead suggestions that would take me longer to touch than simply typing the word feels like a step back to me.

It's not all bad, the screen is lovely and larger than before, but still no touch? Seems like a missed opportunity to me when compared to Windows 10. And the battery life is pretty amazing, I actually have travel days where I don't plug into the mains the whole day and still have 20% battery left, and that's without dialling down any settings or using it any less hard than I normally would.

All in all, if I were to buy a new laptop today I would end up buying a Windows machine; a Lenovo or a Surface over a MacBook Pro. I've not really been able to say that for well over ten years and it makes me sad.

Browser tracking and digital advertising in the modern era

In the day job, I deal with a lot of interactions between members of the public and ourselves, and our partners. If you're in any way involved in working with user data, then you'll have heard about GDPR.

To be honest, this is quite a new world for me. Even though I've been working in web development for many many years, it's generally been in the business or corporate space where we're less concerned about these issues. What I've learned has really opened my eyes to exactly how you see those adverts tracking you around the internet and the huge amount of data that various providers know about you to be able to do it.

The video below is only 30 seconds long, and, to be honest, slightly underplays the number of companies that get to see your profile data as you browse around the internet. But it's a good grounding.

GDPR is going to shake up a lot of how this all works and I don't think there is really a plan for how internet advertising is going to work after May 2018, but, in the meantime it's worth visiting YourOnlineChoices.eu in the short term to see what's being tracked in your browser.

The service there is a voluntary one which the main players in digital media have signed up to. It allows you to opt out of being offered adverts by different providers. So, if you opt out of everything there, then, often you'll see far less advertising as you browse.

If you want a good grounding in the GDPR space, then Rene linked to an excellent set of pages offered by his employer, Salesforce.

XControls 1.7.0 Released

I've been most remiss in not talking more about the XControls project which lets you quickly build an application that will run on desktop, iOS and Android with as little coding required as possible.

It's the little open source project that just keeps rolling along. As and when I get the chance, I'll have a blast through the Github issues list and put out a new version. Today has been one of those days where I've fixed a few bugs, added a few changes and released it to the website, and OpenNTF.

If you'd like any assistance in getting started with XControls or, indeed, if you'd like an application created, then please do drop me a line.

Jade / Bootstrap pagination mixin

I've been working on a new node.js application for the last few weeks. It uses LDC Via as a back end, but that is by the by. On the front end I am rendering HTML using Jade and Bootstrap

As I have the need to display quite a lot of data, I'm using Bootstrap pagination and had need to make a re-usable "mixin" that I can insert into many different pages. There are a few examples out there on t'internet that do this, but none that did exactly what I needed, so I've created by own.

To use it you just enter something like this in your Jade template:

- var pages = 10
- var currentpage = 3
+pagination(1, pages, currentpage, '/index/')

And you end up with a pagination control that looks like this: