The 16″ mega beast of a MacBook Pro arrived yesterday and it was glorious. It had already run up 5,700-odd miles making its way from Shanghai to Reading (hang on, it’s not a car..) before eventually reaching me.

Despite having a 16″ screen, the unit is not that much better than the 15″ machine it replaces. It fits fine into my existing sleeve and backpack, so there’s no need to go out replacing existing carrying cases/sleeves if you already have them.

The slightly higher resolution is very noticeable, as is the thinner screen bezels. But what really stands out is how good the reworked keyboard is. It’s very much on par with the external Magic Keyboard that I use when the machine is docked to my Dell 23.5″ monitor.

After the usual macOS set-up, it was time to start shifting data over from the old MacBook Pro. I keep a few external hard drives about for such purposes, so had been copying my data to them throughout the day. The first software to be installed was Chrome and 1Password, my password manager. Then iStats Menu, which gives me an overview of system resources along the Mac’s menubar.

Then it was a case of copying over the 133Gb of photos to the system. Alas, Apple switches on iCloud Photos by default which creates an existing Apple Photos library catalogue “file” which caused a problem with the external hard drive copy. So I had to stop the copy, delete the catalogue file which was there, restart Apple Photos and then – just to see how fast it would take to download all 10,443 photos and 463 videos over a 300Mbs connection – enabled iCloud Photos. Turns out its about 3 hours. Though you need to be VERY patient with the macOS Apple Photos app because it’ll need to do a bit of housekeeping first before it starts downloading anything.

Apple Music was a little better. I copied over 103Gb of music, fired up Apple Music, signed in and.. it told me I hadn’t signed in. So I had to log out and log back in again, forcing another resync. I could now play my music. The downloaded files were playable – they didn’t have to be re-downloaded again, thank goodness. But all the album artwork had vanished in listing mode. Even now, despite manually attempting to force through updates, it’s very slow or has completely stopped (I’m not currently sure which).

During all these tasks, I was watching a YouTube video in Chrome with a number of open tabs. Now, Chrome is notorious for memory usage. Which is why I specced out 32Gb RAM for this machine. Yet, the entire system froze. The video continued to play for a while, but even that stopped. Completely unresponsive – couldn’t even force quit anything. So I had to hold down the power button down and restart the machine. Now, I hadn’t logged out or rebooted since I first went through setting up the machine – so it could be a leftover/hung process or something that caused it to go haywire. It’s been fine since, and I’ve pushed the CPU and the fans to their limits on a number of occasisons.

Speaking of the CPU and the fans, the 9th generation 8-core Intel Core i9 processor is a definitely a bit of a step-up from my 8th generation 6-core Intel Core i7, even though the minimum speed is 300Mhz lower on the newer machine. But with each generation comes improvements in efficiency and you could really see it here. The 4Tb SSD speed is not much different than that of the older MacBook Pro, but bloody hell, it’s nice to have the space!

The AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with its 8Gb RAM feels like a significant improvement over the 560X with 4Gb RAM. I tested performance in the game Fortnite and got between 50-80 frames a second in my first test – settings at high, and a resolution of 1920×1080. With the older Mac, the frame rate varied greatly and barely got between 28-40 fps.

Overall I’m very happy with the new 16″ MacBook Pro. It’ll keep me going for a lot longer – and maybe even in the ARM-based era of the MacBook/MacBook Pro. I’m still a bit concerned about the total system freeze, but as I’ve said, I hadn’t rebooted since the initial switch on, and it may just be a small glitch. macOS Catalina hasn’t exactly been the most stable of operating systems since the release – but Apple is rolling out updates regularly and they nothing if not committed to making it one of the best Macs (and OSes) yet.

Look for another review coming soon – the AirPods Pro. Perhaps Apple’s greatest contribution to audio yet (aside from the 16″ MacBook Pro speakers which are apparently awesome – though I’ve yet to test them).

Thanks to overpaying for insurance which I didn’t need (thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger for the push), I am – for the first time in ages (and without the need for credit) – able to make a generational upgrade to my Mac hardware. This is likely to be the last upgrade for 4 years (or so) and the very last Intel CPU-based Mac that I’ll own.

While it’s been predicted that Apple will start to shift Mac CPUs to their own silicon ARM-based processors, with the delivery of the 16″ MacBook Pro and the crazy-expensive, but crazy-powerful Mac Pro that utilise Intel’s 9th generation processors (though that’s now been superseded by the 10th generation processors which are just hitting the market) – I very much doubt we’ll see Macs using AXX chips for another 2-3 years. 5 at a push.

So I’m replacing my 2018 15″ MacBook Pro (2.6Ghz 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor with 6 cores, 16Gb RAM, 1Tb SSD, AMD Radeon 560X graphics with 4Gb RAM) with the new late 2019 16″ MacBook Pro (2.3Ghz 9th generation Intel Core i9 with 8 cores, 32Gb RAM, 4Tb SSD, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics with 8Gb RAM). Bigger screen, smaller bezels, higher resolution, 2x faster graphics and more RAM and storage to play with (which will come in handy when helping to digitise and arrange Dad’s many, many photos, as well as learning to set-up a new Active Directory system from scratch using virtual machines). It’ll be used for work quite a bit too. This is effectively a geek’s car upgrade.

If anybody is interested in taking the old machine off my hands, please do get in touch. I’m looking for around £2,000 (or nearest offer) – but that does include AppleCare up until 19th July 2021, and will remain part of Apple’s free keyboard replacement program until 2022 (though I haven’t used the keyboard much – I tend to use my MacBook Pro with an external monitor, keyboard and mouse). Includes original packaging and power supply brick, etc.

I’ll let you know what I think of the new 16″ MacBook Pro when it arrives, but with a redesigned keyboard (including the return of a physical Escape key which, as a systems administrator, is essential) – the reviews of this new Mac have been extremely encouraging. I just wish it didn’t cost so much!

Ever since I changed jobs back in 2017, it was at the exact same time when South Western Railway took over the franchise from South West Trains. As such, I’ve been constantly late or have had to work from home due to significant delays and cancellations due to a combination of South Western Railway and Network Rail problems. And don’t get me started on the Smart Card ticketing system.

This is in stark contrast to my days working at Memset with South West Trains and travelling between Woking and Guildford. I had to take one of two scheduled company-paid taxis to Dunsfold which, if I missed it, meant forking out £25 extra on a regular taxi to get to work (or turning around and going home – wasting time). I never had to do that because I rarely had any issues with SWT. I can count on one hand the number of times South West Trains had any substantial problem which meant I had to turn around and go home.

The past two years with South Western Railway has been extremely annoying, stressful, and with constant 2-3 hour journeys door-to-door (from Woking to Wimbledon), exhausting. Last month’s strike by the RMT was exceptionally stressful and totally unpleasant. Wimbledon may well as be as far as Mars with SWR in charge.

So I’m not surprised to hear that SWR could lose the franchise as they’ve “been affected by issues including strikes and infrastructure reliability”, and has posted a loss of £136.9m back in March 2019.

Let’s hope something good eventually comes out of this and gives us commuters something better than what we’ve been used to for the past couple of years.

Now that it’s 2020, I felt it was time to cut back a bit on social media, which has recently become so Marmite-ish that everything tastes bitter and salty. So much anger. So much aggression. It’s all become very toxic.

So I’ve made it a New Year’s resolution to cut back on Twitter. I’m kind of scaling back on Instagram too, though mainly cutting back on the number of people and things that I’m following. The biggest problem with social media is that the more people you follow, the longer it takes to read everything, the noisier it gets, and it then ultimately exposes you to the knuckle-dragging Bad People®, and that makes you wonder why you bothered in the first place.

So, I’ve abandoned my 409-odd followers and the 600-odd people/things I were following and started again from scratch – retaining a follow a select few fellow twitterers whose tweets don’t make me want to go out and get a lobotomy.

My new account (@MartynDrake76) is going to be permanently set to private, and I’m resisting the urge to post anything to anybody who chooses to follow me. It’s more of a lurking/read-only account. Useful for checking the latest train info, or news updates.

Bring back the days of computing where nothing was interconnected. Where you had to wait 10 minutes for a computer game to load from tape, and if the system subsequently crashed just after loading the game, you’d do the same thing again. It taught us patience (well, maybe some of us – definitely not me).

Don’t get me started on Facebook. It has its uses (mainly family and close friends), but even then it’s not something I actively engage with much. Facebook’s Instant Messanger and WhatsApp apps are extremely useful – but that’s really the only things that get any kind of decent workout. The site itself I only glance at a few times a week at most – and for a minute or two.

I hope everybody had a good holiday. I know I did. A week at my dad’s of sleeping and doing nothing other than putting on 3 lbs of weight which (I hope) will fall off come January when things start getting hectic at work.

Apart from eating and sleeping, the only other thing I did was to put a Berocca energy tablet in my morning coffee by accident – and watch a bit TV and listen to the radio.

Visual summary of my holiday downtime

I didn’t watch a whole lot of TV, though. Mainly because the TV schedules were generally rubbish. I did download the whole of HBO’s Watchmen to my iPad Pro but ended up not watching it. I will. And I promise to finish off HBO’s Chernobyl too.

I did download and watch Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns from Sky Cinema which proves that you can get away with anything when an author is dead and buried and whose wishes you can stamp upon without fear of getting an ear-bashing every five minutes from them (also see the BBC’s recent version of A Christmas Carol – Dickens would be spitting feathers). Mary Poppins Returns isn’t too bad, but it struggles with a poorly developed first and second act that brings to mind the amount of story recycling going on in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The VFX are nothing special – especially in this day and age of audience members who’ve seen all this kind of thing before – and have probably figured out how it’s all done. The musical numbers vary between reasonably good to far too modern – a shame since Marc Shaiman is a favourite composer of mine. I also feel there are maybe one or two many songs for its own good. The third act, and the story’s resolution, is worth it – watching a 93-year-old Dick Van Dyke sing and dance without any difficulty is inspirational. And Angela Lansbury as the balloon seller is also a lovely tribute. As is the finale which actually does a decent job of building upon “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”. One final note – kudos to Disney for crediting Peter Ellenshaw (officially designated a Disney Legend) who designed the original Mary Poppins titles and matte paintings, for inspiring the filmmakers to adopt his style for the titles of this film.

I also downloaded Disney’s live-action Dumbo too. I’ve got to say I greatly dislike the stylistic direction that Tim Burton has gone in recent years. Indoor green screen galore with CG backgrounds has replaced physical location work and physical sets with virtual ones. With that many visual effects, it makes me wonder why Disney even bothered with a live-action remake in the first place – in the same way, I wonder why Disney’s The Lion King exists other than as a technical demo. I switched off after ten minutes. Couldn’t stomach the style.

The Undateables at Christmas (Channel 4) was a testament to the saying that there is somebody for everybody regardless of whatever physical or mental attributes you may have. The Undateables has been a shining beacon of positivity in the fog of an increasingly negative world. When two people come together, it makes me happy. You can shove your Love Islands up your bottom. This is the real deal.

This year, Richard, who hates Christmas with a passion, and won’t travel more than a certain number of miles outside his home in Surrey, should be able to find somebody if he really, really, really makes the effort. As for Daniel and Lily, I almost wept by how much these two love each other. Daniel is a whirlwind force of positivity, and having already proposed last year to Lily (which DID make me weep), he upped the ante considerably to lay on a surprise in which he appeared in the local panto as Prince Dan-Charming who is looking for his Cinder-Lily. Having brought her on stage, he then presented her with her own sparkly shoes. If this does not define the very notion of romance, I don’t know what is. I can’t wait to see their wedding – I do hope Channel 4 has been given an invite.

Leeds fan Ray and Christine – also favourites of mine – were also wonderful, with Christine surprising Ray with a trip to see his football idols up close and personal. It was a lovely thing to do, and I do hope they both tie the knot in the not-too-distance future. As for Francesco, I think Channel 4 needs to take him to Japan. His future missus has got to embrace the Japanese culture. In any event, I wish him only the very best of luck.

The BBC’s The Snail and the Whale was an animated triumph. A simple tale of a sea snail wanting to see the world was beautifully rendered by the team at South Africa’s Triggerfish Animation.

Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special saw a very welcome return after an absence of ten years away from the West and Shipman families. Ten years! And it didn’t feel as if a day had gone by since season 3 had ended. But many things HAD happened: Gavin and Stacey have had three kids. Nessa and Smithy’s son (Neil the Baby) is now a teenager. Smithy is seeing somebody else – with a view to getting engaged. Uncle Bryn is.. still Uncle Bryn. The camaraderie between the cast is still there – maybe even tighter than ever. Nessa and Bryn’s rendition of The Fairytale of New York was just perfect (and not shying away from THAT line – good – as uncomfortable it may make some people, you’re exposing the character in the song), and the uncomfortable meeting between Smithy’s new girlfriend and the rest of the family was a delight – especially when it came to Nessa’s Christmas presents. All in all, this was a perfectly crafted comedy which exposes just how good James Cordon and Ruth Jone’s writing really is. But we cannot – cannot, I tell you, leave it at THAT cliffhanger. But, as they say, leave them wanting more..

Mackenzie Crook was possibly always meant to play Worzel Gummidge. Combining his talents as an actor, writer and director, you’ve got yourself a Worzel that is equipped for the 21st century and all the environmental problems that it has brought us. Worzel’s conversation with The Green Man was spot-on – nature and human beings have got to work together. Yet Mackenzie’s Worzel is also the classic Worzel that Barbara Euphan Todd first wrote about all those decades ago. Although this Worzel is a very different Worzel to that played by Jon Pertwee, I love both interpretations of the characters, and after watching both hour-long episodes, I am rather keen that – if Mr Crook is happy to do so – the BBC commissions a full series.

The make-up by Neil Gorton’s Millenium FX is first class, though I’d probably consider animatronic heads for the some of the scarecrow characters to bring a bit more articulation that prosthetic make-up alone can’t quite reach. Nonetheless, the costumes and everything supernatural about our magical beings is nigh spot on. Aunt Sally’s wooden make-up and lack of a lower-body other than an open frame on wheels make for a delightfully spooky encounter in the first episode.

And finally, Tommy Cooper: In His Own Words was a repeat, but I could never tire of seeing him work. He was a comedy genius and loved him as a kid. I also remember watching his final performance live on TV (I would have been eight at the time) and being shocked that I actually watched the man die on stage. This TV show gave us a lot of good memories of the man, including a lovely tribute from his daughter.