Saturday, April 14, 2018

New Personal MacBook Pro

Last weekend I broke down and finally did my income taxes. I used Turbo Tax on my old mid-2009 MacBook Pro. When I installed the software, it warned that unless I upgrade to macOS High Sierra, I won't be able to use it again next year. That Mac is too old to be upgraded beyond Sierra. I've been thinking of getting a new personal laptop and this pushed me to finally do so.

Therefore, on the way home from work last night I stopped in the Apple Store in King of Prussia and bought a 2017-model 15" MBP (MacBookPro14,3). The specs are impressive:

  • CPU: 2.9 GHz Intel Core i7 with 4 cores
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • SSD: 512 GB (I was running low on space on the old machine's 256 GB SSD.)
  • Graphics: Onboard Intel HD Graphics 630 1536 MB AND a 4G AMD Radeon Pro 560 GPU.

It has the Touch Bar (yawn) and 4 Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C 3.1 ports and a headphone jack.

I got it in silver to clearly differentiate it from the work-provided Space Grey 15" MBP.

Since I use Google Drive and Dropbox for documents, migrating them over was as simple as installing the clients and letting them sync. To move over my videos, pictures, and music, I went old school and sneaker-netted them using a 64 GB SanDisk USB stick with both USB-A and USB-C connectors.

This machine is very similar to my company-provided work laptop so I knew what I was getting. To partially reiterate from my post last Spring after I got that one:

  • Replacing the MagSafe 2 power connector with USB-C sucks.
  • On the other hand, with the right cable I should be able to charge the battery from something like a cell phone power bank or my Harbor Freight jump pack/12V power source.
  • I am underwhelmed with the Touch Bar. At work I rarely use it because 90% of the time the lid is closed while the machine is connected to an external keyboard, mouse, and dual displays. Since I use the machine at home as a laptop, I expect the Touch Bar will see more use.
  • It's fast as hell.
  • The screen is great.
  • Battery life is good.
  • The keyboard is OK.
  • For me, macOS 10.13 High Sierra has been very stable. I expect the new machine to be even more so, because it won't have corporate IT management crap like the Eracent agent installed.

Since last night I've installed the following software:

  • MS Office 2016.
  • TextWrangler (in which I'm writing this.)
  • Truecrypt 7.1a, which requires some tweaking to install.
  • ZOC 7 for telnet and SSH. I don't use it much at home but at work for managing Linux servers or network devices, it's awesome.
  • LibreOffice for some old OpenOffice files I have. Even on this machine, LibreOffice is a bloated, slow POS. Amazing.
  • 1Password.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird.
  • Google Chrome.

I still need to install a few ham radio apps, including Fldigi, CHIRP, and WSJT. Using them with my radios will require a Thunderbolt 3 to USB-A adapter, and maybe an external sound card.

One thing I need to pick up is a 1 TB Thunderbolt 3-compatible hard disk, to use for Time Machine backups. MicroCenter appears to have several suitable models in stock.

My employer has a purchase plan negotiated with Apple which saved me a couple hundred bucks on the laptop and AppleCare. It still came out to about $3,100 after tax. That's a ton of money but it's worth it to me to have a top-quality machine that I fully expect to be able to use for nearly a decade.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Levergun Weekend

Saturday afternoon I loaded up 150 rounds of .38-40 with a 180 bullet on top of about 8.5 grains of Unique. After dinner, I loaded 100 rounds of .44-40 with a 200 grain bullet on top of the same powder charge. Bullets for both calibers were soft cast from Desperado Cowboy bullets. I mostly shoot black powder in .44-40 but still had a bunch of the DCB 200 grainers, which don't carry enough lube for BP in a rifle, so smokeless it was.

Sunday morning was my club's lever action rifle match. Even though it was Easter Sunday, we had 9 shooters. We had a couple Rossi 92s, a Cimarron 1873, a Henry Big Boy, a Marlin 1894 CB, and even a Winchester 1894 in .44 Magnum loaded with .44 Specials. I shot my Cimarron 1860 Henry with .44 Henry-equivalent black powder loads, and got some ribbing from the other guys about second hand smoke.

We started out at 10 - 12 yards, then moved back to 50. The targets were ~8" square steel plates.

I shot well, coming in 4th. I missed only one target but of course I was slower than the guys shooting mouse-fart level .38s. Also, the Henry has more drop in the stock than my 1873, which slowed me down compared to last month.

I put 55 rounds through the 1860 Henry. The .44 rimfire-level loads foul noticeably less than full-power .44 WCFs. It took only about a half dozen patches wet with moose milk to clean the bore.

The rifle's developing a nice patina on the brass receiver now.

We were done pretty early so in the afternoon I decided to replenish my supply of bullets suitable for shooting on top of black powder. So, I topped off my Lyman lead pot with some 1:20 alloy that I got from Roto Metals, and ran off a few hundred bullets in my Accurate Molds 43-215C. Hopefully, I'll be able to lube and size them this week after work.