Loose ends

I know no one is waiting with bated breath for me to follow up on these two posts, but here are the updates anyway.

In June, I wrote about trouble with my old (2010) MacBook Air. Any time I closed the lid with the computer still on—whether it was asleep or not—it would go into a weird state. The screen backlight would turn on, the fans would start to spin up, and the speaker would repeat a three-beep pattern over and over again. The Genius at the local Apple Store prescribed a new logic board for $280 (even though none of the diagnostic tests showed a hardware fault). When I posted my tale of woe, I still hadn’t decided whether it was worth putting that much money into a five-year-old machine, and I was shutting down the computer every day to avoid the lid-closing problem.

Maybe some of you shut down your Macs every day, but I almost never do. For over a decade, my habit has been to just shut the lid when I’m done with it, trusting the OS to put it into the proper sleep state. So it took a conscious effort to shut it down every night. Unsurprisingly, after about a month of this, one night I slipped back into my old habit and just closed the lid when I was done.

And the Air just went to sleep peacefully, as it always had before the troubles began. Even better, the switch back to its old behavior seems to be permanent. The beep-beep-beep hasn’t come back, and it’s been over four months. Now I won’t be forced into either spending money on an old computer or buying a new one when the Mac notebook lineup is at a crossroads.

Before this year’s introduction of the MacBook, I thought the MacBook Air would go Retina with the next generation. Now I don’t know what to expect, but I can wait until 2016 before making a buying decision.

By the way, if you think it’s crazy for me to still be using a five-year-old computer, you’ll be in good company, I’m sure. But I get a lot of work done on this old Air, and apart from its small SSD (128 GB), its limitations barely affect me. In general, software trumps hardware, and OS X’s Unix underpinnings are far more important to me than the number of cores in the Air’s processor. And the power of a computer is always more dependent on the carbon-based unit outside the case than on the silicon inside.

A few months ago, I made a big switch in my TextExpander snippet system, changing my universal snippet prefix from a semicolon, which I’d been using for years, to jj. As I said in the post,

The motivation for this, of course, is that I wanted to sync my snippets between OS X and iOS. Using a semicolon prefix on iOS is dumb because the main iOS keyboard doesn’t have a semicolon, and switching keyboards to get to the semicolon defeats the purpose of using TextExpander.

How has this change worked out for me? Well, I haven’t changed back, even though I still occasionally start snippets with a semicolon and have to back up and redo them. Seven years of habit can’t be broken in three months, but I’m getting better—I probably make the semicolon mistake only a few times a week now. The jj prefix isn’t truly part of my muscle memory yet, but it’s getting there.

The weird thing I keep struggling with is the sense that the jj snippets take significantly longer to type. Intellectually, I know that I can type jj with my index finger about as fast as I can type ; with my pinky, but when I see the snippet on the screen (before it expands as I type the last character), it looks much longer than it used to. I assume this has something to do with the amount of “ink” the characters use and possibly because my brain assigns less weight to a semicolon than to a letter. Whatever the reason, I’ve had a hard time convincing myself that a common snippet like jjssds takes no longer to type than ;ssds.1

It’ll come eventually, I’m sure, but it’s frustrating to fight with yourself and lose.

  1. “Short short date stamp,” e.g. 20151128.