Monday, February 06, 2017

Super Bowl LI party recipes

For anyone who saw my various posts on my party and wanted to know what I made:

This salsa is delicious and ridiculously easy to make and I can't believe I don't make it more often. It's smoky from the roasted tomatoes and the chipotle peppers give it a kick.

Guacamole (4 avocados, 1 red onion, 2 Roma tomatoes, 2 seeded jalapeƱos, 3 cloves minced garlic, 2-3 tablespoons cilantro, juice of 3 limes, salt to taste)
I doubled my usual recipe since we had 6 people. We ate all of it.

Chipotle bacon pimento cheese (from Sarah Sprague)
This pimento cheese is another recipe that I should make more often. It's also simple and delicious and great for a party or a picnic. I'll use the leftovers to make grilled cheese sandwiches.

BBQ Beef sandwiches from a Betty Crocker recipe
I wanted to do BBQ beef sandwiches. My father found this recipe online and I liked it because it had peach preserves for that Georgia touch. I browned the beef before I braised it, so it would have a little texture. I think mine had a little too much onion, and if I made it again I'd cook it in a Dutch oven in the oven rather than in the crock pot. 

Baja potato salad from The Border Cookbook
I've had The Border Cookbook for many years and it's always a great source of Southwest Tex-Mex recipes. I wanted to make a potato salad that would complement the sandwiches but with a little kick. The rice vinegar in this potato salad was just what I was looking for. I went for about two tablespoons of mild, minced pickled jalapeƱos so my version probably had less heat than the authors intended. But the tang of the vinegar worked really well. I'll make this one again. 

S’mores cookies from Betty Crocker
This recipe is one difficulty level higher than Rice Krispie squares but no less of a crowd pleaser.

Friday, February 03, 2017

A review of my new MacBook Pro

I saw David Pogue’s review of his new MacBook Pro and had a couple of thoughts about my own recent purchase. Also, I had at least one person ask me for a review of the Touch Bar after I’d had a chance to use the laptop for a while. So here we go.

This is my third MacBook Pro. I had a late-2007 15” model and a mid-2012 13”. I loved both of them and I’ve become a big fan of macOS so I had no desire to get a Windows 10 laptop. I was willing to trade off the lack of compatible USB ports and the loss of a MagSafe power adapter in order to have a computer that didn’t show me the macOS “pinwheel” anytime I launched another application or opened a tab in Safari. So I bought a 13” version with the Touch Bar, 8 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of SSD space. Since I use iTunes Match to store all of my music in the cloud, I moved my 140 GB of music to a portable drive at home and just copied my Photos database from my old laptop.

Things I love:

The TouchID power button that logs you in with a fingerprint is so convenient that I wish I could do it on every computer I use. Also, I don’t have to type my master password in 1Password anymore, so I’m using it more on my laptop now than I used to. It can also be used to pay for purchases with Apple Pay, but I haven’t done that yet on the computer.

The Touch Bar is still a little gimmicky for me, but I’m starting to appreciate it more and more. I added a Lock button to the standard row of keys (accessible when you tap the < next to the omnipresent brightness, volume, and Siri controls), so I can lock the laptop with two taps. I like the ability to tap and drag to change the volume or the screen brightness. Other things, like having tap access to your Safari browser tabs, are less useful features. You can’t see enough detail on the tabs in the TouchBar to be able to switch between them. I haven’t used the auto-complete feature that much yet. I do like having access to emoji on the Mac now. I’m sure there was a way to type them on my previous laptop but the Touch Bar suggests emoji replacements the same way as on iOS, so it’s much easier now.

The speakers aren’t quite positioned where the holes in the top case would make you believe they are, but the sound is loud anyway. I almost always listen to music with headphones or external speakers anyway, but the audio is excellent. 

It’s ridiculously light and thin. My previous MBP weighed about 4.5 lbs. This one is supposed to weigh 3.5 lbs but it feels much lighter, and it’s half the thickness of my previous laptop. I hardly notice it’s in my backpack.

The Retina screen is gorgeous. When I have to connect to my office network and use a Citrix remote session, it’s noticeably less sharp than the native macOS apps. My photos have never looked better.

I like the larger touch pad and I don’t have the accidental cursor problems Pogue describes, even with “Tap to Click” turned on. I do have some issues with click and drag, so I need to tweak the settings. But the touchpad is fine and I don’t know why anyone would deface their laptop by taping a piece of paper over part of the top case.

Things I don’t love:

The keyboard is a little too lightweight and click-y for me. I loved the keyboard on the 2007-era MBP, and moving to the “chicklet” keys on the 2012 MBP took a little getting used to. I’m adapting to this keyboard, though. If I can type on an iPhone or iPad, I can get used to typing on this. It is a fast keyboard, and find myself making fewer mistakes with it. This review is the most I’ve typed on this laptop to date, though.

Things that are fine:

The USB-C ports are great as long as you have compatible cables or adapters. The day I ordered the MacBook I ordered three short USB-A to USB-C cable adapters and two USB-A to USB-C adapter plugs. I also ordered a spare Apple 61W charger and a USB-C to HDMI adapter for my 21” monitor on my desk at home. I had factored the expense of these adapters into my purchase price, and I spent about $130, the bulk of which was the spare AC adapter ($70). Thanks to the flexibility of USB-C, I could have bought an off-brand backup charger for the office, but I didn’t want to take my chances connecting my brand-new laptop to a knock-off charger, even at a lower voltage. But it’s a possibility if you want to do that. 

I don’t miss the SD card slot from my old laptop, as I hardly use my standalone digital camera any more. I might need to get a USB-C to Ethernet adapter at some point, considering that my main job is computer networking. But most of my work is with Wi-Fi, and I can’t remember the last time I had to connect my old laptop to my router at home, let alone a switch at my office.

I also didn’t buy a USB-C to Lightning cable. I connect my phone to my MacBook about once a year. With iCloud and Apple Music and iTunes Match, I only need to connect my phone if I need to back it up through iTunes or recover from a fatal problem. I can use one of my adapters in that case.

 I haven’t had a chance to test the overall battery life. Most of the time, my laptop is connected to AC power, either at home or at the office. I ran it down to 40% or so the other day over a couple of hours. It charges faster than any Mac I’ve ever owned, so I don’t see how the battery life is going to be an issue for me. I also don’t live off this laptop the way I do my phone, where I obsess over battery life. 

Overall, I’m extremely happy with my new MacBook Pro. It’s lighter and faster than my previous one, with an improved display and a Touch Bar that I think will be a great addition as more third-party applications support it. I’m going on a short trip for work at the end of the month and I look forward to seeing how I get along with it on the road.