Catching Up

A great deal has happened this week, which kicked off with what was likely the most eventful Apple WWDC keynote in recent years. I have had little to no time to spend writing my thoughts about it, but an extended weekend is just the ticket for fixing that (as well as posting a few updates on multi-arch Docker images and my upcoming migration away from Dropbox).


I, for one, welcome the return of the “cheese grater”, for even if a lot of the design choices and pricing options seem excessive (don’t get me started on the price of the monitor stand), at least now Apple is back on the modular workstation business.

The only thing about the Mac Pro’s silicon that annoys me a bit is the continued emphasis on Radeon GPUs—the lack of an NVIDIA option is disappointing, but it could be argued that (at least for deep learning) stuffing a few cards into a Linux box or using an external GPU with a Mac mini might be a more reasonable alternative for most people.


Obviously enough, iPadOS stoke the show as far as I’m concerned, and I’m looking forward to playing around with it soon as soon as it reaches release candidate status.

As to the Mac, I am going to wait and see. Catalina is going to bring a number of changes to the UNIX userland (some of which long overdue), but is not likely to impact any of my workflow (brew seems to have a migration strategy in place, and that is all I need to get pyenv and the rest of my tools going).

I have, however, already started to switch to zsh (including on Ubuntu), for given the amount of time I spend inside a terminal I’d rather start getting used to the minor attrition that change will bring.

Another thing I will also wait patiently for is Switft UI. I have found myself repeatedly wanting to build a very specific app for my own use, but I don’t want to rush into another proprietary stack unless it is really easy to deal with across platforms.

From Dropbox To OneDrive

Something else that happened this week was that Dropbox decided to up its rates in the Plus plan and expand it to 2TB of storage, which would ordinarily be OK if I actually used it.

Since I only actually had a couple hundred gigabytes of files in my Dropbox (mostly VM snapshots in terms of volume and git repos in terms of number of files), I just wasn’t getting enough bang for the buck, and the extra $20 or so for twice as much empty space tipped me over the edge into cancelling my Plus plan.

To be fair, this was on the cards for a while, but I would have gladly stayed on and paid proportionally the same per GB for, say, a 250GB plan.

But given that I already pay for 2TB of iCloud storage and 5TB of OneDrive (included in Office 365) for my family, I decided it was time to cancel.

Obviously, this comes with a few caveats. For starters:

  • I lose direct integration in dozens of iOS apps, and have to use Files instead (which is a bit finicky given that the OneDrive storage provider is… slow, but usable)
  • OneDrive on the Mac refuses to sync files that don’t match Windows filename conventions, which is understandable but annoying (some of the files it refuses to sync live inside iMovie library bundles, for instance, and a substantial portion of PDFs I generate from web pages have “illegal” file names).
  • There is no official Linux client–the best thing I’ve found is abraunegg/onedrive, which works but requires a fair amount of tweaking (and I can’t get it to run inside k3s because it insists on having interactive setup, something I might have to fix myself).
  • OneDrive is, in general, noticeably slower and finickier than Dropbox on the Mac. Being less aggressive can also be seen as a good thing, but Dropbox worked really well for me over many years, and despite working for Microsoft I still think it has an edge over OneDrive in terms of sync speed–that is especially noticeable when moving between machines, even if they run Windows, since I often have to wait several minutes for replicas to catch up.
  • The Mac client is, in a word, hideous, and easily the most non-native Microsoft app I have installed. The iOS client also sports ugly Windows-like yellow folders, which doesn’t help either, but at least I can manage everything through the Finder or the Files app.
  • Even though I use “Files On-Demand” on Windows, I have it off (and fully intend to leave it so) on the Mac, since it appears to confuse Spotlight to no end when I search for some specific filenames (it shows me blank icons for stubs that it thinks are relevant for me).

This has been especially noticeable when syncing my development folders–and I wouldn’t have switched at all if I hadn’t been using OneDrive to sync around half of my git repos over the past few years (which it has done so with zero hassles, other than speed).

The worst bit for me is that the iOS file provider for OneDrive is very sluggish, in fact, and it is quite irritating to pick up my iPad (or even my Surface) and not find my new files (or updated notes from iA Writer) for a fairly long while (sometimes up to 15 minutes). I can use iCloud, of course (and it works great for that), but I am not keen on the way Apple insists in crowding it with a top-level folder per all, and actively dislike how it deals with both Documents and Desktop folders.

So this is a bit of a downgrade, at least until I settle in. But I’ve already moved everything across except this site (I will be setting up a new instance alongside), and the basics work…

A final Note on Multi-Arch Docker Images

After my initial foray into the topic a while back, I seem to have finally gotten this down to a nicely modular, re-usable system–this weekend I decided to sit down and build myself a couple of new base images with a sane init system, and alpine-s6 and ubuntu-s6 came to pass. I’m still testing them out, but the build steps and support for multiple architectures (arm32v6, arm32v7, amd64 and arm64v8, which is my way of future-proofing some of my ARM stuff) seem to work just fine on Travis CI.

Moving them to Azure DevOps has been a bit of an issue, since I have been putting off setting up a “permanent” workspace and need to clean up the multiple demo ones I have all over the place (including a couple in my personal account).

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