Exchanged MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for One without Touch Bar

It didn’t take me long before I started to miss function keys. Yesterday, I exchanged my laptop for MacBook Pro with Function keys. So far this is my favorite laptop.

The main problems with Touch Bar are:
  1. No tactile feedback. While Escape key is always visible and easy to press but without tactile feedback, you are never certain if you pressed it or not. I am so used to certain key combos in vim that without physical Escape key, my fingers could not even find regular keys without me looking down at keyboard.
  2. Cannot adjust brightness of Touch Bar. When working in dark at night, Touch Bar is too bright and distracting.
  3. Drain on battery. Finally, online reviews show that MacBook Pro with Touch Bar have shorter battery life than the one with Function Keys.
  4. Cost – after dealing with above issues, I didn’t think it was worth spending extra $300 for Touch Bar and small performance improvements.

Here is blog post of another programmer who did same exact thing as me because lack of function keys on Touch Bar model.

Pros of Touch Bar

However, I was really impressed with some of the functionalities of Touch Bar. I just wish Apple had included functions keys along with Touch Bar.

  1. In Photos app, you can see and scroll through your photos. I think it was easier and more natural to use Touch Bar for this.
  2. It shows slider when watching YouTube videos. Again it was more natural to use slider on Touch Bar than use slider with mouse. You can also perform various actions like liking a video there.
  3. While typing it shows possible word choices, I can see it increasing typing speed, at least for me.
  4. And of course, login with Touch ID is awesome.
MacBook Pro with Function Keys

Now I have slightly slower MacBook Pro without Touch Bar. I got the base model with i5 2.0GHz processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD.

However, in my usage so far I haven’t noticed performance difference. During initial setup, beach ball appeared more often on the current MacBook without Touch Bar than the previous one. However, I was able to render 5 minute 1080P GoPro video in less than five minutes. About same speed as my i5 2.9GHz MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. This is no scientific measurement but good enough for me.

My big concern now is SSD space. With only 256GB, it will require me to think about what to store on this laptop. However, I have rethought how I store data. Most of my data is in the form of photos and videos. Perhaps I should start storing these in external harddrives. This might be useful in long-term as then I can upgrade my laptop without thinking much about how to transfer my data.

UPDATE 3/27/2017:

Last Friday, I dropped my Macbook Pro damaging on corner a bit. As you can see it below. Luckily, it still works. But I guess now I am officially stuck with this computer as the resale value of is shot. And while Apple’s Return Policy is only 2 weeks but I still had option to sell it if it was not working out.

Laptop Trial #3: MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

In last two months, I have tried 2 different laptops, and now I am on my third laptop, 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

The first laptop was Surface Pro 4. I really loved it. It was perfect balance of power, size, and cost. I loved writing on it with stylus. But its biggest flaw for me was flimsy keyboard and its lack of “lap-bility”. (My Surface Pro 4 Review).

Next I decided that maybe mobility was not that important to me. I decided to go for max performance and ordered Dell Inspiron i7559 (Affiliate link). It is a gaming laptop with i7 and powerful GPU. Rendering movies on it was a pleasure, small 5 minute clips rendered in less than a minute. But it was too big. It also felt cheap and uninspiring. I ended up returning it too.

Finally, I decided to give 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar a try. I spent a lot of time comparing Touch Bar version with Non-Touch Bar version. The performance difference between two versions is less than 5% according to Geekbench scores (reference: the Wirecutter). But the price difference between two versions is $300. That seems like too much money for Touch Bar and two extra USB-C ports.

But I played with Touch Bar in Apple store.  While gimmicky, it seemed useful in many applications. As a user of Lightroom and Photoshop, I can see how this can be very helpful. In Photos app, it shows photos, you can scroll and select photos from there. I just wanted to try it.

Then MacBook Pro with Touch bar uses faster RAM and slightly better GPU. I believe Geekbench tests memory but not GPU. So actual performance might be even better.

——

UPDATE: However, I missed functions keys more than I though I would. So I exchange this MBP for one without Touch Bar.  New blog post: https://chaosplay.com/exchanged-macbook-pro-touch-bar-one-without-touch-bar/

Honolulu Trip December 2016

Aloha, Welcome to Hawaii

We went to Honolulu, Hawaii in December for our 5 years anniversary.

Ocean view from our hotel balcony

We stayed on Waikiki Beach. It was very touristy area but it was not too crowded.

Manoa Falls Trail

We went for hiking at Manoa Falls.

Waiting for T-Rex at Manoa Falls Trail Danger at Manoa Falls Another view from our hotel Sandy Beach Park Waves at Sandy Beach Park

I really enjoyed waves at Sandy Beach Park.

Rabbit Island and Bird Sabctury from Kaupo Bay

NYC 2016

Here are some of my old photos from New York trip in summer of 2016. All of these photos were taken with Sony NEX-3N camera.

View from our Hotel. Freedom Tower in the background.
View from our Hotel. Freedom Tower in the background.
View from our Hotel. Empire State Building in the background.
View from our Hotel. Empire State Building in the background.
Times Square
Times Square
The world’s largest and original Macy’s
The world’s largest and original Macy’s
Empire State Building
Empire State Building
Empire State Building
Empire State Building
Flatiron Building
Flatiron Building
Church at the end of Wall Street
Church at the end of Wall Street
Freedom Tower
Freedom Tower
9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial
Freedom Tower
Freedom Tower

More photos at my flickr.

Returned Surface Pro 4 & Bought Wacom Intuos Draw

After about a month of use, I decided to return Surface Pro 4. I had i5, 8GB RAM, 256 GB SSD version. It was plenty fast but not significantly faster than my 5 years old laptop. But performance was not my main concern. It was lack of lap-ability, the reason for returning it.

I wanted to make it my main laptop but it was not always comfortable in lap. Cannot use it easily with one leg on knee. It was not easy to use in bed. It needs a keyboard like Surface Book for it to be a full laptop replacement. For now, I will wait and see what happens with Surface Pro 5. Perhaps, I will get Dell XPS 13.

After returning Surface Pro, I missed drawing on it a lot. I was bumped until I discovered Wacom Intous tablets (Affiliate Link). These tablets let you draw on computer and cost less than a $100. I will be using it for my T-Shirt design ideas.

drawing on surface pro 4

Amazon Selling Report

My first shipment to FBA was pretty small, 6 books and 1 video game.

Video game was Tomb Raider. It was sold within a few hours of going live. Previously, I have sold popular video games on Amazon but shipped games myself to buyer. That would normally take a few days to sell.

Then 3 out of six books were sold within first week. One of these books was listed for less money as Merchant Fulfilled previously for many months.

amazon sales report

Well so far I am in red. But I sent my second shipment this week. This contained 19 books and 1 kitchen item. Looking forward to seeing how fast the new books sell.

 

Learning 2017

In past few days, I have spent incredible amount of time learning about various business ideas I am working on this year. In fact, I didn’t get to write any blog, public or private, since January 9th.

Selling Private Label on Amazon

This seemed like an easy way to make semi-passive money. However, it requires a lot of upfront effort and cost. My brother is helping me with this but I think this should not be our first step. Selecting products for private label is easy. We are using JungleScout webapp. It helped us narrow down several promising niches. The next steps would be:

  1. Find manufacturers on AliBaba.com. Filter by Gold and Trade Assurance.
  2. Order samples.
  3. Order UPC codes ($250 for only 10 UPCs with $50 annual renewal fee. There are also 3rd party resellers that offer UPC). Also we can bypass UPC requirement if we can get Brand Registry. But Brand Registry approval process requires your product with the brand logo on it.
  4. Create the product listing on Amazon and get FNSKU.
  5. Design packaging with FNSKU and send final order to manufacturer. Use Air for shipping. It would cost more but it would be faster and avoid dealing with Customs.
  6. Once order arrive use inspect and send to Amazon.
  7. Start marketing on Amazon using PPC.

We might be moving on this slower than our initial plans. The other option is to order product first with our branding. Then apply for Brand Registry. This would save us at least $250. If we do this then we will not have FNSKU until after product is designed and shipped to us. So we will have to attach labels for the first batch of products. Then we can update our packaging design and incorporate FNSKU in it.

Retail Arbitrage

So while searching on how Private Label works on Amazon, we came across Retail Arbitrage.

I have been selling my old games and books on Amazon for a while but never used FBA before. So first we created a test FBA shipment, the process is a little confusing but in end everything went smoothly.  One video game sold within couple of hours of going live.

Pro account give you access to Amazon Seller App. The app lets you scan items and tell you how much you can sell it for on Amazon and if you are allowed to sell it. So we will try Retail Arbitrage though we don’t want to invest too much time in this as this is not passive at all.

Some readings:

  • http://www.sidehustlenation.com/amazon-fba-clearance-arbitrage-shopping/
  • http://www.sidehustlenation.com/amazon-fba-retail-arbitrage-six-figures-in-year-one/

T-Shirt Design

I am still learning to design and use Photoshop.

But I am thinking instead of selling my T-Shirts just on RedBubble and Private Label just on Amazon, why not create a real brand that we can grow.

So I am thinking about setting up a Shopify store. Shopify let you push products to Amazon so you can easily manage your products from one place. I can still use FBA to fulfill orders for Private Label.

Then for T-Shirts, I can use Teelaunch or Printful and integrate that with Shopify. These service will automatically fill orders. This should be better in long run. And once my brand is registered with Amazon, then I can push products directly to Amazon too.

To avoid $30 per month fee of Shopify, I could use WooCommerce. That is another area I need explore.

 

 

 

 

Android App Idea

My app idea is pretty simple. Basically, I want to create a voice based chat bot. There are already many APIs from IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon that you can use for text conversations. You add voice to text and then text to speech and you got yourself “Her.”

But there is more to this app. It should help one become a better speaker. By converting speech to text, then we can run various analysis. It can show crutch words or sounds. It could calculate rate of speech or high pitch.

Finally, it could offer suggestions to users on improving their speech.