Here we go again, right? It was not long ago that I was writing a blog post about switching from a windows laptop to my android phone. That switch I had a lot of hope for. For awhile it seemed as if it was a good fit for me, lasting for at least six months or more.
But, I really got to the point this fall and really felt it throughout the summer, that using Android came down to suffering through my productivity by two main limitations – really two apps: Logos and Scrivener. These two programs are the two I use the most in any environment I’m in, but, unfortunately, in Android the Logos app is way underdeveloped for my needs and the Scrivener app does not exist at all and may never.
So, after bemoaning my troubles on an online forum (which I’m thinking is an activity I really don’t want to participate in anymore, but that deserves its own post), it was suggested that I shell out over $1000 on a MacBook.
But, let’s just say I don’t really have that kind of cash just sitting around. Do you? I’ll pace myself here since this is a long, drawn out, and sorted affair. I’m going to cover all the gory details thought, have no fear. Also, remember you can read all of my reviews here.
So, let’s jump into the frey and see what it’s like for a lifelong windows user to switch to a MacBook machine.….
What Surprised Me
To start with, I will say, the MacBook does seem to be very well made. It also has some interesting engineering built into it that the lack of in windows machines has caused me a great deal of struggle over the years. And, I can unanimously state that a used Mac machine is better quality than a new windows laptop that you are stuck buying today. The last Acer I purchased for $400 on sale (new) fell apart within a few months of purchase, ending an otherwise long love affair I had for the brand and the OS.
I came away from that negative experience thinking my laptop life was pretty much over, which is why I switched to using just my Android phone. But, as I described above, it was software (or lack thereof) that did me in on my phone. Other than that, though, the Android phone solution was the perfect fit for me. Pair it with my external Crave battery brick, my external drives, and the phone stand + hammock phone stand, and a bluetooth headphone and keyboard, and I was set. I never wanted to look back.
Unfortunately, there were two issues that really cause me to ultimately make the move. Logos and Scrivener.
One other surprise, though, was the ease in which the internal battery could be replaced. A quick search online produced a bran new 8000 MaH internal battery replacement for less than $50. Now, I’m not a big tech guy from the start. Let’s make that clear. I want my machines to work until they die and then I can toss them and buy something new. But, the times in which we live I think are dire and will grow more so in the future. So, I ordered the replacement battery and when it arrived I watched the 10 minute video on how to make the swap. It was simple. It took less time to actually do it than it did to watch the video, and afterward the laptop fired right up and started charging immediately. No issues. More importantly, it doubled my output.
What I Do Not Like
I would have to say the biggest issue I have with the MacBook Air is the little things. It’s just difficult to adjust to a different environment when you’ve been using a windows machine all your life. I struggled with switching to Android for awhile, but most of it was easy to solve. There was always an app readily available and the split screen really came in handy at times.
With the Mac, though, things are definitely different. The Alt+Tab is gone, something I had even on my phone with my bluetooth keyboard. Mac tries to make it work but it just doesn’t. Adding Mission Control helps but only so far. I still have trouble sometimes getting around to where I want to get to, or have to take extra steps, extra taps to do what a windows machine can do in about half the time. This of course may have more to do with me being a Mac nubby, but still.
Along those same likes is the lack of a right context click. Yeah, I know it’s a double finger tap, but this is really annoying, especially since my work computer is a windows machine. The keyboard shortcuts are simply not the same and I’m finding a fight between the two worlds.
The other issue (which is a BIG issue) is the lack of software for Mac. Especially free software. This is a real deficit. As an example, I still have not found a functional app that will record podcasts or screencasts the way I want. OBS was glitchy to the point of unusable. So were the others. Luckily my android phone is already set up to handle these tasks so I just do it there. But this has been very disappointing.
Also in the realm of software disappointments, Elplayer is no windows Potplayer, I can tell you. It gets some things right, like the borderless windows and speed and synch controls. But its playlist is a horrible nightmare, does not dock, does not allow for deleting a file of the hard drive and functions bizarrely at times.
Other than these, though, I really struggle to find fault in the machine or how it operates. I can get around. I can get things done. I LOVE having the full LOGOS program and Scrivener back again. There are certainly OS related glitches, like not being able to use sleep mode since it breaks the bluetooth connection to my headphones, requiring I restart the machine to get them to work again. So what’s the point of sleep then?
My Specific Setup
When it was suggested online that I buy a MacBook Air for over $1000 I at first laughed. Then the person offering the advice commented that their used MacBooks were most often handed off to family members and then lasted for years after this. I thought about it and realized an opportunity: I don’t have MacBook users in my family, but I could buy a refurbished one and get the same utility. I found older machines were going for $300-$500 online, so I found one that fit perfect for what I wanted and figured it could be an experiment. Cost was $300 and I got a MacBook Air with 8gb of Ram, a 512gb SSD HD, and this was the older 2015 model, which meant it still had the 2 USB ports and the Mag charger (which I had never been exposed to before). This particular machine came with a very used battery (why they don’t replace these during refurbishment I don’t know) that only lasted about 3 hours. This was resolved (as described above) with an aftermarket battery replacement for $50 which doubled the usability and overall life.
This new battery is an 8000 MaH and lasts between 7-8 hours depending on my settings. I also have various external drives that I use with the machines, which work great, but the annoying requirement to “eject” each external drive after use is ridiculous. Windows is truly plug and play.
I also use a 50,000 MaH external battery brick (Crave) that I just got the special dongles for so it can plug into this laptop. This should add 2-3 charging cycles to a single 3 hour charge, extending the life of each charge to 2-3 days instead of just 1 day.
I also use a bluetooth headset and an android phone is my internet hotspot.
The Software I Use
Logos – This was the primary reason for the switch to a MacBook. I simply could no longer use the Logos Android App or the Logos Web App for study or research. It was more than just a lack of the personal book feature in the android app. The search feature did not work correctly. Simply scrolling with a keyboard was difficult and awkward. Copying text was a bear and the lack of reverse interlinear support is ridiculous. Someone online eventually suggested I try the web app, which I did out of pure desperation. It was a BIG improvement over the actual app, but despite the added features (reverse interlinears, search functionality, etc) it was still very difficult to get around in and the hacks I had to do to make the text readable was disappointing. Of course, the web app requires “the web,” so it was a non-starter for trips to the property where there his no dependable internet.
Scrivener – Though I was able to find a crude substitute for this program in SimpleNote, it certainly was not a full replacement. It also required that I have Word for Android for long documents I planned to publish, especially since SimpleNote started to bog down once the file got to any real length. I did end up doing my dissertation re-writes and defense using the android phone setup and it worked, though it was somewhat challenging still.
Thankfully, both of these programs in the MacBook are native now. The full Logos desktop version is installed and I’m able to take advantage of the search, the multiple tabs layout, prayer lists, reading lists, reverse interlinears, and personal books. The Scrivener app on MacBook was like coming home. Though there are surprisingly some strange things set up in the Mac version that are not a problem a the Windows version, both beat out SimpleNote on Android. Not needing Microsoft Word installed is also a benefit. I do think I will be publishing in docx in the future, now that mobi is no longer accepted at Amazon Kindle.
I do have a copy of OpenOffice instead, mostly for using spreadsheets, which Mac woefully does not have a solution for.
I use Apple Books for my ebook reader. It works actually kind of well for audiobooks, and does a good job for epubs, and does an okay job on pdfs.
I use out of necessity the build in text to speech reader provided by the MacBook OS. I could not get Balabolka working on Wine, nor could I find an adequate replacement. I know import ebooks into Scrivener and then use the text to speech or if possible do the same in Apple Books (sometimes it doesn’t work well here).
Recently I’ve started using Clockify to log time when writing or doing podcast work since both have been tentatively approved for volunteer hours at the Institute I’m currently doing post-grad work at.
My Hope Going Forward
My primary hope for this laptop going forward is stable and dependable usability for at least 2 years. If I can get even close to that then I will see it as a success. I will mostly be using it at home and at the property, as well as during work hours and lunches on work days.
I hope the addition of the new battery plus the extension from the Crave 50,000 MaH battery brick will extend usability to 2-3 charges or 2-3 days worth of use in between the need to do the 3+ hour charge on the battery brick + also topping everything else off. When at home or at work this doesn’t really matter. But when at the lake property I’m running only on battery power and recharging from a small generator. This last summer, while using the phone as my primary computer, I never had to recharge during the week. I could literally leave my phone on 24/7 for 5 days straight using the external battery brick. My hope is with this laptop that I could go 2-3 days in between battery brick recharging so I only have to run the generator 1 or 2 days per week.
At the end of the 2 year period (or whenever the laptop finally fails) I hope the LOGOS software and Scrivener program will have undergone enough development on the android platform that I can move again to my phone being my only computer. Unfortunately, I do not actually expect this to be the case, since development for either app seems to be either stalled entirely or extremely slow in progress. Why commercial programs are so slow in their advancements and development of improvements is beyond me.
What’s the Verdict?
Overall, I would give the MacBook Air from 2015 a 9 on a 10 point scale, with deductions for an all but dead battery and for the peculiarities in the OS dexterity. Other than this, I’m not certain I know what the hype is all about against Mac. Yes, they are WAY over priced when buying new. Yes, they have some very strange operations that really cannot be justified by logic. Yes, the Apple cult is alive and well. But, it’s that Apple cult-like mentality that affords me the ability to buy the cast offs form those cult members who are desperate to pay exorbitant prices for underwhelming products and get their older products for pennies on the dollar. So, in reality, I’m okay if the cult continues, as long as they don’t try to get me to drink the cool aid. I’m using a Mac because the price of windows machines has outpaced my purchasing power and the build quality of those machines is now questionable at best. As long as I can get a dependable, workable machine that will allow me to do the tasks I need to do, then I don’t care if it’s a windows, Mac, or Android. As long as it works and remains in my $300 price range.
Until my next review…
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Excerpt from Ashen Monk Mountain:
There was an old elm tree near the end of the lawn, with a circular picnic table and several short benches.
“This looks like a lovely spot,” Mr. Eckey said, taking a seat.
He set his briefcase on the picnic table and flipped the latches, opening the lid.
Christopher took a seat opposite him and removed his hood, folding his arms in front of him.
“I have a tablet and a pen here somewhere,” Mr. Eckey said. “I had it when I left, that is. Not sure if I can find it in this disorganized briefcase of mine…”
He chuckled at himself.
“So – ”
Christopher ran a hand over his short cropped scalp.
“I’m confused about all this. I’m not sure I understand why exactly you wanted to meet with me.”
Mr. Eckey nodded.
“How long have you been a novitiate here?”
“Going on seven months now.”
He glanced up at Christopher as he fetched his notebook and ink pen.
“How are you liking it at Saint Joseph’s?”
“It has been – ”
Christopher thought about the question for a moment.
“ – wonderful.”
“I would assume it much different than – ”
Mr. Eckey flipped the first page over, scanned handwritten notes he had on the second page.
“I received some background from the Precept’s office, as well as from Abbot Greenly. You grew up in – North Platte, Nebraska? Is that correct?”
“I’m native of the Boston area myself,” Mr. Eckey said. “Tell me a little about how you came to the decision.”
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“To become a monk. It must have been quite a journey from Nebraska.”
“Not really. I guess. I just – ”
Unwanted images flashed through his mind.
Mr. Eckey took a deep breath before speaking again.
“Mr. Ward, I don’t actually know a whole lot about this request, to be perfectly honest. As you know, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life – that’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it – we are entrusted with monitoring abnormal behavior among those called to the consecrated vocation.”
He tapped his pen on the tablet.
“Tell me, what do you like about Saint Joseph’s exactly?”
“It’s the – well – I feel at home here. Like I belong. I very much enjoy the silence.”
“Yes, I know the Trappists to be quite ardent in their devotion.”
Christopher nodded in agreement as Mr. Eckey took a few notes.
“I enjoy the early mornings, the worship, the offices. The undivided devotion.”
“To God?” Mr. Eckey asked.
“Yes,” Christopher said. “Exactly.”
The stranger focused on his notes for several seconds, silently mouthing the words he wrote.
“Tell me, how does your life now differ from your previous one?”
Mr. Eckey stopped writing.
“Your military career.”
“Oh,” Christopher said, looking down. “I guess – I – I don’t know. There are lots of differences. I’m not – sure I – what is this inquiry about exactly?”
Mr. Eckey put his pen down.
“Mr. Ward,” he said. “The Vatican apparently has interest in your particular gifts and abilities for a – call it – a special appointment. I guess that’s the best way to put it.”
He shifted his weight on the hard bench.
“Normally, the Congregation does not get involved in appointments or a particular monk’s vocational choices. But, sometimes, when the need arises, special arrangements can be made.”
“Are you talking about another monastery?”
“Actually – ”
Mr. Eckey picked his pen back up.
“It’s an entirely different Order.”
Christopher leaned forward as a gust of wind billowed the long sleeves of his tunic.
“I don’t really understand,” he said. “Are you saying the Vatican wants me to move to a different monastery – to a different Order? But…I…”
Mr. Eckey waited a moment.
“Tell me, Mr. Ward, about your military training.”
“What about it?”
“Your experiences. You were a special operator, is that correct?”
Christopher shot him a quizzical look.
“How do you know that?”
“You were part of the 7th SFG? Assigned to operations in Afghanistan for the majority of your enlistment, surrendering your commission as a Captain. Is that correct? What did you like or dislike about your military career? Why was it you left?”
Christopher looked out over the cornfields in the distance.
“Sir,” he said, wringing his hands together. “I don’t really understand why you’re asking these kinds of questions. To be honest, they’re making me a little uncomfortable. I think I – ”
“Please, Brother Christopher,” Mr. Eckey said, putting up a hand. “I don’t mean to pry. As I said, this is a peculiar and rather sensitive situation, not at all normal procedure. So, I do apologize for my rather tactless approach. Let me explain a little, if I can – ”
Christopher tried to relax.
He struggled to repress the memories rising in the back of his mind, the bloody and gruesome images of dead bodies, a horrible, yet all too familiar wave of fear and dread washing over him.
A wave of putrid death enveloped and permeated everything.
He took a deep breath, tried to ignore it.
Mr. Eckey put down his pen again.
“There is a remote monastery in British Colombia. It is of a separate Order, not Cistercian, but similar. It’s rather distinctive, as I am led to believe.”
“What is the Order?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey shook his head.
“You would not be familiar with it,” he said. “There is actually only one monastery in the Order. But it has had a long, and quite fascinating history, to say the least. And, somewhat of a fantastic service.”
“So, why me, then?” Christopher asked. “I’m a novitiate. I don’t have much to offer. I’m not sure what you are asking of me.”
“The Vatican is asking a favor of you, Brother Ward. They are requesting that you take a leave of absence from Saint Joseph’s and visit this other monastery for a time.”
“I’m – I don’t – ”
“I’m honored that the Vatican has called on me,” he said. “I really do feel settled here, though. I would not wish to – ”
Mr. Eckey interrupted.
“Consider it simply a sabbatical of sorts. Without strings attached. We are interested solely in God’s working here in this matter.”
“Are you wanting me to relocate?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“How about we say the Vatican is open and interested in the Father’s call on your life. We simply wish to – test the waters – see if this would or would not be a good fit.”
“So, if I go, and it is not a good fit?”
“Your place here at Saint Joseph’s would be available to you at any time you see fit. Like I said, no strings attached.”
“I would not feel comfortable going without Abbot Greenly’s blessing,” Christopher said.
“You have it,” Mr. Eckey said, his smile widening.
Christopher said nothing.
“Think of it as a vacation. Though, if I’m hearing you correctly, you really are in no need of one. But, then again…. ”
The man shrugged.
“May I – ”
Christopher pondered his words.
“Is it possible to consider this awhile before I decide?”
“Certainly,” Mr. Eckey said. “Because of the situation, though, we would need you to go sooner than later. Is there anything upcoming that you are thinking about in particular?”
Christopher shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I would just like to sit with this for a day or two. Pray about it. How long would the visit be?”
“As long as you need to decide,” Mr. Eckey said. “Preferably a month to start. Longer is encouraged. Like I said, it is a unique situation, so tradition does not really lend itself easily. But, I would ask – ”
He put his notepad and pen back in his briefcase and closed the lid.
“Because of the sensitive nature, the Vatican has requested that you do not discuss this with anyone except me. Not the other monks here, your family, not even Abbot Greenly.”
“But, how – ”
Mr. Eckey put up a hand.
“I’m heading back to discuss the situation with Abbot Greenly before I leave the grounds. He will certainly not have an objection. Not that I can imagine, anyway.”
He fished out a business card from the inside pocket of his blazer.
“Here is my contact information,” he said, handing him the card. “You can reach me on my cell phone any time. Whenever you decide, one way or the other. There is a great need, though, so I do hope you will consider at least visiting.”
Christopher took the card, looked at it, then looked up at Mr. Eckey.
“What kind of need, exactly?”
The man just smiled.
“All in due time,” he said. “Just let us know as soon as you are able.”
Christopher looked back at the card.
“Thank you, Brother Ward, for your time. I do think I can find my way back to the abbot’s office from here.”
He briefly looked around the grounds.
“I do envy you a little,” he said. “What a majestic space you monks have created here. It’s like a slice of Eden. Really.”
He got up, shook Christopher’s hand, then left him there alone, as the stranger retraced his steps to the abbot’s office.
Christopher took a deep breath, then sighed.
The wave of putrid death still lingered as another wind gust blew across the fields, dredging up memories he would have altogether wished could have remained buried, soaking him again in the blood of the past.
He stayed there for a long time, just watching as the endless sea of cornfields waved in the winds.
Buy my book Ashen Monk Mountain to find out what this cryptic and mysterious appointment is the Vatican is asking Christopher to take on. An unheard of monastery, hidden deep in the Canadian Rockies? A secret mission and call? What in the world could be going on?
Click here and grab your copy today! Whatever you do, don’t let this fantastically epic story get away!
But, trust me when I say, you’re not going to believe the truth even when you discover it for yourself. Find out what secrets lay hidden underfoot at Ashen Monk Mountain!