Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

USB-C dongle life

Due to life circumstances, my trusty 5K iMac (2017 edition) got removed from my possession, and needing a replacement device to do all my creative stuff, I recently acquired a 2019 15-inch Macbook Pro. I’ve gone mobile again, after five years of running desktop macs of varying style. The immediate reaction isn’t from the nearly half-size reduction on screen real estate, but rather the sheer advancement in computing power in only two years’ time.

The 5K iMac remains a beast of a machine: 3.4GHz quad core chip, 40 gigabytes of ram, and 512 gigabytes of super fast storage. It handled everything I needed to do creatively, so of course I had zero plans to replace it anytime soon; unfortunately, other plans got in the way. Armed with a 9th-generation Intel processor with six cores, my new Macbook Pro absolutely chews through 85 MB RAW files as if they were iPhone jpegs. Making adjustments to photos is incredibly immediate, with no discernible lag; it makes the 5K iMac feel rather stilted in comparison, a difference I didn’t even know existed.

Latest Apple computer is fast. News at 11!

Ever since the latest restyle of the Macbook Pro was introduced back in 2016, the constant joke is that owners have to live the ‘dongle life’. In the constant pursuit of forcing users to buy high-margin accessories, Apple engineered the Macbook Pro with only four USB-C ports as IO. USB-C was relatively nascent technology back in 2016, and three years later, the landscape hasn’t exactly improved. Other than a GoPro 7, none of my other peripherals and electronic devices offers a USB-C connection, so in order to use this new Macbook Pro, I am indeed living the dongle life.

It’s absolutely absurd that fresh out of their respective retail boxes, the latest iPhone is (still) unable to connect directly to the latest Macbook Pro.

But there’s another problem: official dongles made by Apple are not exactly cheap. For a basic USB-C to SD card adapter - replicating the SD card slot that’s built-in to the iMac, Apple charges $39. An external display adapter is even worse: $69 if you wish to plug your Macbook Pro into a TV.

Seeing that I just dropped over $2000 on the laptop itself, I am actively fighting having to spend additionally on extra dongles. Thankfully, I actually do have USB-C to USB-A adapter, so I’ve been using that for everything. The process can be somewhat cumbersome: what was once a simple motion of taking the SD out of the camera and plugging it in to iMac, is now a multi-step challenge involving the camera itself, a USB cable, and the aforementioned USB-C adapter. Transfer over camera USB is much slower than the card straight in, too, so that’s quite a pain when dealing with many gigabytes of photos.

I think soon I just might give in and get a small docking station, with all the IO I’ll ever need.

Now this is a sort of commute I want.

Why is Adobe Lightroom so slow?

Adobe Lightroom is one of worse applications in terms of proper usage of computational resources. I’ve recently upgraded to the latest 5K iMac, quite the snazzy with ‘Kaby Lake’ Intel Core i5 processors and AMD Radeon 500 series graphics, which one would think should chew through Lightroom tasks with surgical ease. 

Completely not the case.

Lightroom ran the same on my new 2017 iMac as it did on the 2014 Mac Mini it replaced(!), which is to say, inadequately slow. It’s unacceptable for a company like Adobe to be putting out products like this (Premier Pro users on the Mac platform should understand my pain), wholly unable to utilize the computational reserves to the maximum. How on earth can there still be agonizing lag when applying sharpening to my Sony A7R2 RAW files when the iMac’s got 40 gigabytes of memory and the fastest consumer flash storage yet available?

And it isn’t like I can simply switch to another editing platform. Apple has long abandoned it’s once glorious Aperture app, and my blood isn’t rich enough for Capture one. At least Adobe has recently (finally) acknowledge the utter slowness of Lightroom and is supposedly working hard to remedy the situation in future releases. 

Perhaps late this year, Adobe? Pretty please?