As mentioned, several times, I finally resolved my job woes and finally moved to a new place earlier this year. As expected, things have changed a bit since I shared my last behind the scenes post. With that, it’s time to share an updated version including my overall setup since mostly everyone is stuck at home. This should give some insights to new inspiring bloggers.
Note that I won’t go too much in detail with the hosting aspect, since everything is the same. If you are curious about that, read my first behind the scenes post.
The Tools of the Trade
Unlike the setup I was using when I was living with my parents temporarily, I have two different setups. My bedroom is where I spend most of my time after work during weekend. This is where my 2012 and 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro resides (Takanashi Rikka and Kafuu Chino respectively) connected to Thunderbolt docks. I use a Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock, which I used to use with a 27-inch LG Primecolor Thunderbolt 2 display and the 24-inch LED Apple Cinema Display. I bought these when I worked in my previous job in Pennsylvania. Of course, I don’t really do much with my 2012 MacBook Pro since it’s showing its age and Apple dropped operating system support for it. Of course, it’s still running macOS Mojave.
Now, the LG monitor is hooked to my 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro along with a Dell Ultrasharp U2412M monitor through an AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 external GPU. I tend to prefer 16:10 monitors mostly because it provides more vertical space. I just hate 16:9 displays despite having one 2K display because of the reduction of vertical resolution. Not only that, MacBooks still use 16:10 screens, except for the iMacs and the Pro XDR display. Sadly, there are no 4k 16:10 displays, so the best I can do is a 2K 30” display, which I will eventually get as an upgrade.
As for keyboards, I am using an old Apple keyboard and mouse on the 2012 MacBook Pro while the 2018 MacBook Pro uses the Magic Keyboard and Trackpad. The 2018 MacBook Pro is my primary machine, which I bought back in 2018 from money I saved up. It’s a fast laptop, although it’s very polarizing due to only having 4 Thunderbolt ports and the infamous Butterfly Keyboard. I don’t mind it, but I don’t really use the internal keyboard that much. I also tend to buy laptops with Japanese layout keyboards because I can. Also, the Kana and Romaji switch keys are useful when I want to type Japanese. Sadly, it’s no longer the fastest computer I own since the M1 Mac mini beats it. More on that later.
Lastly, the OWC Dock was replaced with a Caldigit Thunderbolt 3 Plus dock. I decided to go with this dock since it has more ports. Moreover, it has better power delivery to charge my 15 Inch MacBook Pro. Also, the ethernet is reliable unlike the OWC dock, which I must unplug and plug in the ethernet connection. Of course, all my devices besides my mobile devices are connected through ethernet. Additionally, I use Bose Companion 20 speakers (used as auxiliary speakers, not for music) and Bowers and Wilkins P5 Series 2 as my headphones.
When I bought a new house after selling my old one in Pennsylvania, I wanted a dedicated home office. After a year of working at my new job, I can telework. I decided to have my home office on the first-floor bedroom since the room is a perfect size for one. Of course, I didn’t set everything up until the lockdowns started back in March. I spent the whole weekend that time setting up the desk, monitors and unpacking everything and putting stuff back on my bookshelf.
As for the computer setup, it has changed. I used to use a prebuilt desktop as a Hackintosh consisting of an Intel Core i7 5820k. However, I got tired by the instability with the system locking up, something I couldn’t figure it out. I eventually converted it into a VMWare ESXi server and turn my Windows gaming drive into a virtual machine. With this setup, I can access my gaming setup through VMWare Horizon 8, which allows me to use game controllers or Jump Desktop. I took out the RX Vega 56 from the desktop and replaced it with the GTX 980 Ti, which I had laying around. The performance works good locally, but I don’t know remotely.
I originally planned to replace my Hackintosh with an entry level Mac Pro since I had a lot of money saved up and kind of wanted an upgradable Mac. The idea is I can remote into if I need the extra power or do software development. I like the ability to probably add a lot of storage and upgrading the GPU without relying on expensive external devices while having the ability to have a lot of RAM, which adds to the longevity. But of course, the Mac Pro is an expensive system since Apple overengineered it.
Of course, Apple in June decided to ditch Intel processors for their own processors. Leading up to the event, I was in denial thinking that it’s a bad idea. Yes, the inability of running virtual machines and breaking software compatibility got me really concerned.
This makes me wonder, is Apple really going to take a huge risk and destroy the Mac as we know it? After all, I am a Mac use since I was 4 years old during the System 7 days. Not only that, but I also don’t want to go back to using only Windows 10 since I hate using it and desktop Linux is never going to be viable. In other words, I feared that desktop computing will be ruined forever. I must admit that my worries are overblown. This is especially the case when I bought my first Mac with Apple Silicon. Of course, to make this work, I built VMWare hypervisor servers so I can continue to use virtual machines and any Windows software.
The Birth of Chiyoda Momo (2020 Mac mini M1)
When I saw the latest Apple Keynote announcing their new Macs with Apple Silicon, I never knew they would release a Mac mini. With that, since I have the money saved from not buying a Mac Pro, I decided to buy a Mac mini. I decided on the high-end Mac mini with 512 GB SSD and 16 GB of memory. Sure, most people will get by with 8 GB, but I need 16 GB not for longevity, but for software development.
Believe it or not, I am impressed by the new Mac mini. Not only it’s fast as you seen with various benchmarks outperforming all the Intel MacBook Pros, in some benchmarks, it gives Intel and AMD desktop CPUs a run for its money. Yes, the Apple M1 is fast, even with Rosetta 2. Believe it or not, I used the second-generation MacBook Pro when it came out in 2006. I had to deal with using PowerPC versions of Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop and it was slow. Eventually, Apple dropped support for Rosetta in OS X Lion in 2010.
In comparison, even with Rosetta 2, when I merge pictures with Photoshop, it outperformed my 2018 MacBook Pro. Not only that, a good number of high-profile apps like Office 365 and Final Cut Pro already have Universal released. Still, it’s quite amazing running desktop apps on ARM processors. Even OBS with my Elgato Cam Link capture card along with my Katsukity 3DS and Vita capture cards work too.
I think the killer feature is the ability to run iOS and iPad apps without any modifications. After all, the Mac mini M1 uses the same processor architecture as the iPhones and iPads. From this, you gain access to various eBook readers if you read manga or even Japanese dictionaries. One of the useful dictionary apps, Yomiwa works on the Mac mini, which I had to sideload. This means I can look up words by taking a screenshot of my video game without manually looking up Kanji.
Also, believe it or not, you can play your Gacha games without having to use something like Bluestacks. Sure, not all of them are installable through the App Store, but if you can obtain the IPA file though an old version of iTunes or third-party app like iMazing, it will most likely work. I managed to install and play the Japanese version of Magia Record and Revue Starlight.
While the Mac mini m1 has some limitations, the Mac mini m1 exceeds expectations. Surely, it will get better as time goes on when developers release Universal versions of their apps, it brings a bright future for Macs as a whole. Not only these Apple Silicon Macs are fast, but they are also very power efficient and very capable. Hopefully now that Apple showed everyone that they can make a capable desktop and laptops with ARM processors, maybe we will see the end of the Intel and AMD duopoly.
With that, my Mac mini setup consists of two Dell Ultrasharp U2415 monitors, a OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock, Bose Companion 3 Series II speakers, a Corsair Strife Keyboard and a Logitech mouse. I plan to possibly get an OWC Thunderbay 3 so I can use my hard drives I took out from my former Hackintosh system.
January 2021 Update
I finally made some incremental improvements thanks to additional money I will receive from tax refund. In early December, I placed the hard drives I took out of my Hackintosh system into CalDigit AV Pro 2 hard drive enclosures. They contain 3 TB Western Digital Red drives. In addition, I replaced the Bose Companion 3 Series II speakers with a NAD D3020 v2 Integrated Amplifier powering two Bowers and Wilkins M-1 loudspeakers.
As expected, when I started to work, I finally stopped using pirated versions of Photoshop and Acrobat. I must admit that I used pirated versions because I can’t afford it, especially during my teenage and college years. Also, I didn’t know about the cheaper Photography plan that came out in 2016. Aside from that, I subscribe to the Photography plan, which gives me Photoshop and Lightroom along with Adobe Acrobat, which allow me to edit scanned documents.
Believe it or not, the free alternatives just suck, especially The GIMP which is complete garbage. I also transitioned to Office 365 Business Premium since Office 2016 support is about to end. Since I use Office regularly along with their business email and storage, it’s worth it. Aside from that, I am relying less on pirated software now that I can afford it. Also, I am willing to pay for software that I use on a daily basis. Not only that, it’s also good for security as you can’t really trust what people do with pirated apps. Here are some of the software I use on a daily basis that I paid for.
- 1Password – My go to password manager to create and save passwords for new and existing accounts.
- Adobe Photoshop CC – For photo and picture manipulation
- Adobe Acrobat DC – Viewing, Creating, and Modifying PDFs
- Bartender – To hide a bunch of menu items I don’t normally use, especially since they now take up more space under macOS Big Sur.
- DropDMG – Creates disk images for my macOS software I develop on my free time.
- iStat Menus – Allows me to monitor network, disk, memory, and CPU activity.
- Jump Desktop – Allows me to access my desktops remotely. I also use VMWare Horizon from my VMUG Advantage subscription, but it’s only for my virtual Windows gaming machine and VDI server.
- Little Snitch – Acts as a firewall to block traffic that can leak data. It also acts like a kill switch when my Mac is not connected to a VPN server.
- Microsoft Office 365 – Self explanatory.
- Nova – My primary text editor when I need to modify text and CSS files, view JSON files, and PHP/Python/Shell scripts. It can do FTP and SSH terminal as well.
- Path Finder – Since Finder suck, Path Finder can do a bit more in terms of file management.
- Snagit – I use this to take screenshots and record screen captures. The built in screenshot and desktop recording tools aren’t powerful enough. I used to use Skitch back in the old days, but Evernote kind of ruined it.
- Swinsian – Since iTunes and Music.app suck, this is pretty much my go to music player since it resembles the old iTunes interface.
- Transmit – I use this as a SFTP client to upload and download files.
As for WordPress, I am still using the Classic Editor since Gutenberg is still garbage. Sure, there are some that swear by it or even defend it, but I don’t think it’s that good, at least for blogging. The thing is that Gutenberg is a really polarizing editor that you either love it or hate it. Since my workflow will never work in Gutenberg and it makes creating posts cumbersome. I’m just too used to WYSIWG editors to the likes of Adobe Dreamweaver or the now defunct Microsoft FrontPage or coding in HTML.
However, I must admit that there are some areas that Gutenberg excels at. Yes, it’s creating a website. I have transitioned a few of my pages for my open-sourced app in Gutenberg and it looks better than the old pages using the Classic Editor.
It’s obvious that WordPress built Gutenberg to compete with drag and drop page builders like Squarespace or Wix. It shows since you can create complex pages, which you can’t really do in the Classic Editor. That is not without using a lot of plugins and doing some HTML coding. But for blogging, it’s not good at all. Of course, people have their own preferences. After all, some newer bloggers might not mind at all or might even love it. That is okay, I don’t judge you if you use Gutenberg. It’s good for page building, but not for blogging, at least for me.
With that, this pretty much covers everything I use since the last post. I’m curious, what do you use to create content? Also, feel free to share your thoughts about Gutenberg.
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