Replacing my Mac Pro

I wrote about my new Mac Pro a year ago. It’s still rock-solid, and it’s done everything I asked of it. But the writing is on the wall: Apple’s new $1,000 MacBook Air is now comparable in speed to my year-old $10,000 Mac Pro. This year, Apple will likely release updated MacBooks Pro with more cores and memory and blow right past the performance of my Mac Pro. Next year, an updated Mac Pro will do the same again.

I had hoped to get seven years out of it? That was before Apple announced the switch to their own chips, and before they blew Intel chips away with the performance of the M1. My expectation was based on the incremental performance gains we’ve seen from Intel over the last decade, not the paradigm shift ushered in by Apple’s M1. The Intel-based Mac Pro is rapidly losing value, and it’s clear I’ll want to replace it as soon as I can.

My Plan

Here’s my current plan; we’ll see if Apple releases the right products in the right order for this to work out.

Mid 2021: Buy the rumored 14-inch MacBook Pro. I expect it to be faster than my Mac Pro for all practical purposes. Hook it up to my existing two monitors and use as my main machine. Sell or trade in the Mac Pro before it loses too much of its value.

Mid 2022: Evaluate the new Mac Pro, and possibly upgrade to that one.

External Displays

I’m glad there are finally some rumors about cheaper external displays. I think Apple was waiting to release monitors until they redesigned the iMac, so the monitors could match the look of the iMac (ideally using the same enclosure with simpler innards). And they were waiting with the iMac redesign until they could use their own chips, both for lower thermal requirements and to be able to include Face ID. Now their ducks are finally all lined up.

It makes too much sense for Apple to plug this hole in their lineup. And the work Apple has put into making resolution switching seamless also makes more sense if monitors are on the horizon. Here’s hoping — I’d love to replace the LG 5K with an Apple monitor with Face ID.

So while my Mac Pro didn’t turn out to be the long-term investment I had hoped for, I’m stoked about Apple’s M1, and very excited about what they’ll announce this year and next.

SmartGo: Mac $0, Windows $19

tl;dr SmartGo for Mac is now free; SmartGo for Windows reduced to $19 (was $39). All-new version of SmartGo for iOS in the works, will come to Mac later. No ETA.

Future of SmartGo Apps

The all-new version of SmartGo for iOS is taking shape. Still no ETA, but getting closer, and I’m excited for how it’s turning out. If you have an iPhone or iPad running iOS 14, and are interested in early testing, let me know.

The new iOS version will replace both SmartGo Player and SmartGo Kifu. It will be free to download, with a subscription for the GoGoD game collection and some functionality; additional problem collections will be available through in-app purchase.

SmartGo for Mac

I plan to bring that same iOS app to the Mac. Catalyst has become much more capable this year, making it easy to bring an iPad app to the Mac. Thus it’s now clear that the current Mac version (built on the old code base) is a dead end, and that it doesn’t make sense to update it any more. I’ve released what is likely the last iteration of that app. While it’s far from perfect, it can still be a useful tool for many until the new Mac app comes along, so I’ve made it a free download. Thanks to GoGoD and goproblems.com for letting me take that step while keeping their game and problem collection in the app; please support them in other ways (e.g. by buying books by John Fairbairn).

SmartGo for Windows

SmartGo for Windows has not been getting frequent updates over the last years, and that will likely not change. My focus is on the iOS and Mac versions of SmartGo. Given that reality, I’ve reduced the price from $39 to $19. The app is getting long in the tooth, but it’s still an indispensable tool for go players on Windows, with 108,000 pro games, 2,000 problems, joseki matching, and more. It may get some updates, but no promises; buy it for what it is and can do today.

Enjoy! And please stay safe until we can play go in person again.

Go Books in German

tl;dr Go Books is now offering some books in a single non-English language instead of bundling all languages for a book into a single purchase.

I just added three German-only books to gobooks.com:

  • “Elementary Techniken” by Thomas Hillebrand
  • “Strategie” by Richard Bozulich
  • “Angriff und Verteidigung” by Akira Ishida and James Davies

The first is new to Go Books, the second was already present as “The Basics of Go Strategy” (in English, Spanish, and German), and the third is “Attack and Defense”, which did not have a German translation in Go Books. German has been removed from “The Basics of Go Strategy” – if you already have that book and were reading it in German, please let me know, and I will get you a complimentary copy of “Strategie”.

Why this shift? The previous approach had advantages in producing and maintaining the book (the diagrams were shared between languages, so any fixes would apply to all languages), but it became clear that there were some significant disadvantages that limited the creation of translated versions:

  • Different language editions might be by different publishers, with different royalty requirements.
  • With no way to tell which language people were buying and reading, it was hard to decide which translations were worth it.

Most books with translations remain multi-lingual for now, as we see how this experiment works out. The “Lehrbücher des Go” series of six books will be completed as German-only books, adding German translations for “Tesuji” by James Davies, “Counting Liberties and Winning Capturing Races” by Richard Hunter, as well as “Leben und Tod” by Gunnar Dickfeld.

Spain in February

Spain in February

My mom likes to go to Spain in February to escape the Norwegian winter. I was lucky to be able to visit her there and time it perfectly to include a Go tournament in Barcelona. Little did I know that this would be my last trip for a while. And while Europe is now far along the road to recovery, the US has grossly mismanaged the epidemic to the point where we’re now (rightly so) banned from entering Europe.

It may seem frivolous to write about travel in these times, and this blog post was sitting half-finished for months. However, I’m confident that we’ll be traveling again someday; for now, please join me from home. I hope you’re safe and healthy wherever you are, and that looking forward to travel may help you get through this.

I’ll start with the Go tournament; stick with me if you’re interested in some of the architecture Spain has to offer.

Barcelona Go Tournament

It was fun to meet tournament organizer Julio Martinez in person after only knowing him as @liopic on Twitter, and I even got paired against him in the first round. I ended up winning three games and losing two, bringing my European rating back up to 1 dan. The game against the eventual winner of the tournament, Rita Pocsai 4 dan, was a foregone conclusion, but every other game could have ended differently.

In the game against Marco Meyenschein 4 dan, I misplayed the top right corner, but at least got some outside influence while giving him 40 solid points. I was close to resigning; if it had not been the last game, I might have done so and saved my energy for the next game. Playing on, I managed to stake out a moyo large enough that he was forced to invade to reduce it:

game-5-pos1

As he was running away, I built up territory, but not enough. He just had to connect out, but after misreading a connection, his stones got trapped and eventually died.

game-5-pos2

Not sure what the lesson is: Don’t give up too soon? Beware an opponent who has nothing to lose? Or resign earlier so you don’t have to win this way?

Alicante

The area around L’Albir is really picturesque, with mountains going all the way down to the sea, and narrow streets in the old town of Altea. And a climate that attracts a lot of Norwegians.

Valencia

As a fan of Calatrava (see my trip to his train station in Liège-Guillemins), I stopped in his home town of Valencia to see the City of Arts and Sciences. What a sight! Season 3 of Westworld features many scenes at these futuristic-looking buildings. I only had a few hours, and couldn’t explore the insides, but what an experience to just walk around and take it all in.

Sagrada Família

Barcelona is home to Gaudi, and especially the Sagrada Família. My last trip to Barcelona was in 1992, playing in the Othello World Championship. Since then, the Sagrada Família has made a lot of progress. The outside is still weird:

But the inside is even more magnificent:

Unfortunately, access to the towers is more restricted than it was in 1992, but still well worth it for the spiral stairs, and views into the church from above.

It’s still a construction zone; I’m looking forward to visiting Barcelona again when it’s completed in 2026 (not software, so maybe they’ll even finish on time).

Casa Milà

Another Gaudi building with a lot of controversy. While it’s been derisively nicknamed La Pedrera (the stone quarry), the construction as well as the inside is amazing: lots of light thanks to the dual courtyards, the first underground car garage in Barcelona, arched attic (used for laundry), rooftop with chimneys and ventilation as sculptures.

As with the Sagrada Família, Gaudi figured out the load-bearing structure using hanging chain models, resulting in optimal arches when turned upside down.

Memories and pictures of my trip help keep my spirits up as I remain at home. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Spain – it may be a while, but I’ll definitely be back. Meanwhile, please stay safe.

IMG_4011

 

The State of Game Center

My happy blog post on SmartOthello for Mac conveniently skipped my journey through Game Center purgatory. While profile pictures are back, Apple is still not giving Game Center proper attention. I’ve been busy submitting bugs to Feedback Assistant – here’s a sampling:

  • There is still no way to get notified of invitations without polling (FB5990491).
  • On the Mac, turn notifications are not received (FB7659591).
  • On the Mac, there’s no way to edit your Game Center profile picture (FB7667313).

When you try to start a Game Center game on the Mac, you get the following cut off dialog (FB7668604):

mac-game-center-cut-off

(Yes, that’s the actual amount of white space.) Luckily, you can resize it to reveal some more buttons:

mac-game-center-revealed

The worst issue right now is that Apple has deprecated GKPlayer.playerID, and tells developers to use teamPlayerID or gamePlayerID instead. However, those simply don’t work (FB7662712), as the IDs keep changing even within a single game, making it impossible to e.g. cache profile images, never mind reconcile locally stored games with Game Center data. If GKPlayer.playerID gets removed in iOS 14 without fixing teamPlayerID, I will have to pull SmartOthello from the App Store.

How to Play With Friends

The whole process of finding friends to play with is way too convoluted. I’ve improved the UI in SmartOthello 3.0 to make it easy to start a game with somebody you recently played with. However, the process to first find somebody to play with is kafkaesque:

1. Tap on New Game and choose Game Center at the top.

start-game-center-game

2. SmartOthello lists recent opponents, and you can easily start a game with them. To play with anybody else, tap on Invite Friends.

after-invite-friends-long

3. This leads to a screen that has two buttons: Invite Friends and Play Now. While Invite Friends is just lightly outlined and you’re tempted to tap the boldly emphasized Play Now, that would just try to match you with somebody else who’s looking for a random opponent right then, which only really works if the app is much more popular than SmartOthello. So don’t get stuck in limbo; tap Invite Friends.

after-second-invite-friends

4. This brings you to an iMessage screen where you can send an invitation to a contact. However, the instruction “Tap + for Friends and more” is trying to give you a clue that you should tap on the ⊕ button, and then you’re finally presented with the right choices: play with contacts, friends, nearby players, or players you recently played with.

final-game-center-screen

This last screen makes sense – Apple needs to give developers a way to take users directly to that screen (FB7672633). Game Center matching was much easier when there was a Game Center app; Apple really went off-track when they decided that matching should go through iMessage.

I hope this helps others navigate through Game Center issues with turn-based games. If I’m wrong about any of these, I’d love to know! Hopefully, Apple can address these issues in iOS 14 and give both players and developers a better experience with Game Center.