The world’s shortest review of the 15-inch 2018 MBP

I just upgraded from a 2015 Retina MacBook Pro to the new 6-core 2018 model.

I had a lot of trepidation about upgrading, considering all the reviews trashing the “butterfly” keyboard since its introduction (Marco Arment went so far as to say the my old 2015 MBP might never be surpassed), plus the recent FUD surrounding thermal throttling in the 6-core model. (Edit: Apparently throttling has been fixed.)

Here are my thoughts on the change, obviously taken from the perspective of using this for full-time software development:

  • Oh my God, the power. I will never buy another laptop with fewer than 6 cores. The only metric I care about: full recompile times on X-Plane’s large C++ project dropped by about 40% compared to the 2015 model. (!!!)
  • Complaints about thermal throttling are massively overblown (probably subject to specific CPU+GPU-intensive workloads). I benchmarked 10 recompiles in a row and didn’t see any throttling.
  • The level of hardware engineering here is still unparalleled. It’s thinner than the 2015 model, prettier, and may have better battery life. (An apples-to-apples comparison with my 2015 model is no longer possible, of course.)
    • Related: The screen is (unbelievably) both easier to open with one hand and more stable when open. (Nothing irritates me more than a laptop’s screen shaking as I use it.)
  • USB-C is both great and terrible. (Charge from any port? Fantastic! Need an adapter for “old” USB? Ugh.) Obviously this will alleviate itself over time as more stuff goes “natively” USB-C. I may end up buying a Lightning-to-USB-C cable so that my phone can use the same power adapter as the laptop, which would be nice. For now, this travel-sized hub helps a lot.
  • The über-polarizing keyboard takes some getting used to, but I like it. (Which surprised me, because based on reviews, I expected to either love it or hate it.)
  • The Touch Bar is a useless gimmick if you’re the kind of person who obsessively memorizes keyboard shortcuts (which I am!). I’d much rather have a physical Escape key, but remapping Caps Lock to Escape works fine.
  • Touch ID on the keyboard is “just” fine. I use it, but I wouldn’t miss it if it weren’t there.
  • The oversized trackpad is also “just” fine. It’s smart enough not to be activated by resting my palms on it when typing, but having to go alllllllll the way to the lower right to activate a right-click is a bit annoying.

Overall, it’s still the best laptop I’ve ever owned, hands down—just like my 2015 model was when I bought it.

YMMV.

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On guarding against your own mistakes

While everyone well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion, of which they feel very certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable.

—John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

The Worst Bug I Ever (Nearly) Shipped

The year was 2014. I was wrapping up about a year’s worth of work on the X-Plane 10 Mobile release, and we were all set for a Christmas release. Timing this was difficult—we were pressed for time, and the App Store approval process takes an indeterminate amount of time; you submit a binary, then wait (in those days, at least 7, sometimes more than 14 days) and hope they approve it. If they don’t—if they reject the app for any reason—you have to go fix the issues they identified, then submit a new binary (and go to the back of the line).

To make matters worse, the App Store approval process shuts down entirely for about a week around Christmas. So, if we missed the December 22 deadline, we wouldn’t get the app out at all until the first of the year.

So, on December 16th, Chris (the project manager for the mobile app) called me. “Congrats,” he said. “We made it! They’ve approved us, and I’m going to go do a little bit more testing and then mark the app for sale.”

“Awesome!” I said. “I’ll do a little more testing as well.”

You can tell where this is going.

All the aircraft in X-Plane Mobile are sold separately, somewhere between $0.99 and $4.99. But, we offered two ways to try the paid planes for free: a 60 second trial flight, or a free 24-hour “unlock” with one catch: you had to post something on Facebook or Twitter about X-Plane in order to get the 24 hours of playtime. This whole “pay-with-a-post” thing was my brainchild… I had read about other apps doing it, and I had been 100% responsible for the implementation.

In my testing, I discovered that sharing to Facebook worked fine… but the app wasn’t actually unlocking the planes after you did so!

I had inadvertently introduced the most infuriating bait-and-switch imaginable.

I was nearly ill as I called Chris. I explained what happened—how my screwup was going to force us to have to pull the app, resubmit it, and entirely miss the Christmas release window. To his credit, Chris was devastated, but he didn’t berate me about it. Bugs happen, he said, so let’s just get it fixed ASAP and move on.

I got the one-line fix committed as soon as we got off the phone. Chris was able to contact Apple and explain the situation. As luck would have it, they took pity on us and went ahead and reviewed the fixed version of the app (without sending us to the back of the line). We got the app out the door the next day, in time for Christmas break, and we both breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Conference Talk Playlists for C++ & Game Developers

I’ve put together a number of conference talk playlists for my own “professional development.” This is a list curated by going through hundreds of talks in the GDC and CppCon archives.

I’ve tried to keep overlap between lists to a minimum. I’ve not watched everything (erm… obviously!), but in cases where I have watched a talk, I’ve only left it on the list if I actually got something out of it.

If you have your own playlists to share, by all means, drop a comment below!

Git Cheat Sheet

These are a few of the Git commands I find myself looking up all the time. (Feel free to drop your own suggestions in the comments!)

  • Show the staged changes:
    $ git diff --cached

    Also aliased as:

    $ git diff --staged
  • Find the most recent common ancestor of two Git branches:
    $ git merge-base [branch1] [branch2]
  • Find which branch a commit was originally created on:
    $ git reflog show --all | grep [commit SHA]
  • Find all branches that a commit is on (or that a branch has been merged into):
    $ git branch -a --contains [commit SHA or branch name]
  • Get the diff between two branches:
    $ git diff [branch1]..[branch2]
  • Get the diff between two branches, excluding certain subdirectories:
    $ git diff [branch1]..[branch2] -- . ':!path/to/exclude' ':!other/path/to-exclude/'
    
  • Undo/remove a Git commit that has not been pushed (scary fine print):
    $ git reset --hard HEAD^

     

  • Extracting a Git subdirectory into its own submodule