Painted into a Touch Bar corner?

Back in April 2017 Apple invited a few select members of the tech press to a special event to discuss the situation with the Mac Pro line of computers. At that time the Mac Pro had gone about 4 years without any updates causing a lot of speculation about Apple’s commitment to its pro-level Mac users.

At the event Craig Federighi was quoted as saying:

“I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will. We designed a system with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture. That that was the thermal limit we needed, or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn’t materialize to fit that as broadly as we hoped.”

“The Mac Pro Lives”, DaringFireball.net, 4th April 2017
The 2013 Mac Pro

So whilst they didn’t provide an immediate fix to the problem it was a clear admission that the limits of the Mac Pro design had been reached and that there was no way they could upgrade that design to use newer, faster components. The only way forward was to scrap that design and redesign it completely.

Recently I had a purchase decision to make about a new Mac, I really wanted a good jump in performance over the 2014 13” MacBook Pro I’ve been using and ultimately I opted for a 6-core Mac Mini. 

After looking at all the options within the current MacBook Pro line I knew I wanted at least a quad-core CPU so it was going to have to be at least the high end 13” MacBook Pro, I also wanted 16Gb of RAM and at least a 512Gb SSD, so £2129 for this and an additional £249 to get AppleCare+ cover on top of this, plus the cost of a few dongles to connect non-USB-C devices to it and also my Thunderbolt display. All in all it was going to cost close to £2600 to get something to suit my needs.

In the end however I decided I couldn’t justify purchasing that machine. The reason I decided not to go for the MacBook Pro was that despite spending that amount of money I was buying a machine that had no future upgrade path. It’s not possible to upgrade the RAM or SSD storage so it means having to buy the highest configuration you can afford hoping that this is good enough for your future needs, rather than buying what you can afford now and adding upgrades later if needed. 

Additionally all of the higher-end MacBook Pro laptops come with the Touch Bar whether you want it or not so this adds to the cost, given that I work most of the time using an external display and keyboard it means the Touch Bar has limited usage potential. 

Having not owned a Touch Bar MacBook Pro I’m perhaps not in a position to judge how successful or beneficial the Touch Bar is, but my impression from articles etc online and friends who own one is that it’s not a must-have or key selling feature for many people. I know I would certainly rather have the ability to upgrade RAM and SSD storage down the line than have the Touch Bar.

Combine the Touch Bar with the lack of upgradability and you have to pay a lot of money up front to try and future proof your purchase. Ultimately I realised this wasn’t going to spark joy* and I would resent spending that amount of money to get something I wasn’t completely happy with and didn’t represent good value for money to me. In the end I opted for a 6-core Mac Mini purchased through Apple’s refurb store, the balance of price / features was much better and additionally the current models were released last year so they’re using the latest CPUs and aren’t likely to be superseded anytime soon.

So the question I’m asking is: Has the hardware choices in the MacBook Pro line resulted in a similar situation to the Mac Pro, only this time Apple has painted themselves into a Touch Bar corner? 

Personally, I think it’s time for Apple to consider what changes they need to make in the MacBook Pro line to get out of this corner they’ve painted themselves into.

* Yes, this is a token Mari Kondo reference :)

Tip: Setting up a Minolta PagePro 9100 printer under Snow Leopard

Mac OSX 10.6 brought quite a few new but subtle features and changes, one of those subtle changes was the dropping of support for the AppleTalk protocol. Many people who upgraded to Snow Leopard (or newer versions of OSX) got caught out and suddenly found themselves with a non-functioning printer.

I was aware of this change but even so I found myself in the same position, and despite all the various articles and posts I read I couldn’t get my Konica Minolta PagePro 9100 printer working. I resorted to sharing my printer via an old iMac that was running OSX 10.4 and printing that way, it worked but would take a long time to print a single page and frequently had to be rebooted to keep it working.

After running like that for a few months I decided to try and figure out how to get the PagePro 9100 working directly again as I couldn’t handle using the same slow process any more. Amazingly I managed to find a Konica Minolta setup guide and it actually worked! So here’s the process:

Configuring a PagePro 9100 printer under Snow Leopard

I followed instructions in an old Konica Minolta support PDF document that you can download from the Konica Minolta site, unfortunately their site is rubbish and doesn’t let you link to files easily so here’s a link to download it:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/18567/Crown-MacOS10_3-installation.pdf

Note: Before you start you’ll need to know your printers IP address, the PagePro 9100 can be set to have a fixed IP address but this wasn’t needed when printing using AppleTalk so yours may not be set up with one. You’ll need to get that changed using the printer’s controls on the top. You really need to get this sorted out before you can proceed any further. Update: See end of article for help with IP address settings on your printer !

Ok, here’s the simple setup process:

  • You need to set the printer up using the IP printing method, you’ll see a blue circular globe icon in the Add Printer dialog so click that option.
  • Use the Line Printer Daemon option under the ‘Protocol’ drop down.
  • Enter the fixed IP address of your printer into the ‘Address’ field.
  • Enter a queue name in the ‘Queue’ field (I used PagePro 9100).
  • The ‘Name’ field will probably have taken the IP address automatically but this can be changed to PagePro 9100 too.
  • Select the ‘Select Printer Software’ in the ‘Print Using’ dropdown at the bottom. You should be able to find the Konica Minolta PagePro 9100 PPD file in the list. Choose that from the list.

Set the appropriate trays / bins etc for your printer etc and then that should be you set up hopefully!

Addendum: Configuring the IP address settings on the PagePro 9100

In response to a request for help in the comments below I’ve added some instructions on how to configure the IP address settings on the PagePro 9100. Configuring the settings is a bit of a pain due to the tiny little single-line display on the printer, but hopefully these instructions will help!

You need to make sure the printer is not getting a dynamic IP address via DHCP, so you need to disable DHCP on the printer. Once that is switched off you can then set the fixed IP Address that is required in order to set it as per the instruction in this article.

To get to the settings to do this press the green ‘Online’ button on the printer controls to put the printer into Offline mode, then use the ‘Select’ / ‘Next’ / ‘Previous’ buttons to move through and select options.

You need to drill down to the following settings:

Menu -> Administration -> Communications -> Optional NIC -> Crownnet -> TCP/IP

Now that you are in the TCP/IP options you need to disable DHCP, select ‘DHCP’ from the available options (there are quite a few to choose from, just keep clicking through using the Next/Previous buttons), set this to ‘#disabled’ and then click the ‘Menu’ button once to move back up one level.

You now need to set the fixed IP address, you should be back up one level with ‘DHCP’ showing in the screen. Click next a few times and select ‘Internet Address’, you should now be able to enter all the digits of your IP address. Please note that you need to include 3 digits for all four parts of the address, so rather than just ‘192.168.0.4’ you need to enter ‘192.168.000.004’.

Make sure to use whatever IP address range your network runs on, routers use various different ranges so you need to set an IP address that is appropriate for your network’s range.

Addendum #2: Get default page size on PagePro 9100 to be A4 instead of ‘Other’

If you’re using the PagePro in the UK or at least with UK region settings in order to print to A4 paper then you may find that whenever you print that the printer always uses a default page size of ‘Other’ instead of A4. Although this actually prints to A4 correctly it always bothered me that it showed this way, so I decided to figure out what the problem was.

After a bit of looking around in the PagePro 9100 OSX EN.PPD file I found all the entries relating to A4, in PPD files the dimensions of paper sizes are configured using a dimension called points, basically there are 72 points to an inch. In the case of A4 in this PPD the dimensions used are 596 by 842, however, A4 is a metric-based page size of 297mm by 210mm so I checked out what these convert to in points.

It turns out that the PPD rounds all of the page dimensions to the nearest point, so I then edited the PagePro’s PPD file to use the accurate point dimensions for A4 which are 595.28 by 841.89 (you need to replace it in a few locations in the file). I then re-setup the printer with the updated PPD and it now uses A4 as the default page size once more! It seems that OSX 10.6 is fussier about the specific page dimensions than OSX 10.5 was, but this tweak sorts it out. I’m sure you could modify the PPD for any other paper format that you wanted to use, just google the correct point dimensions for your page size and the update it in the file.

Here’s a link to an already modified PagePro 9100 PPD file with updated A4 dimensions to save you having to tweak it yourself.

Addendum #3: OSX 10.7, 10.8, 10.9, 10.10, 10.11, 10.12

These instructions will basically work for all version of OSX since Snow Leopard, so 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion, 10.9 Mavericks, 10.10 Yosemite, 10.11 El Capitan definitely all work and 10.12 Sierra should be fine too as the protocols used are the same.