New Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad is surprisingly good, even excellent!

Recently, I’ve managed to render my beloved old Apple Keyboard (full-size, with numeric keypad) useless – accidentally pouring half a glass of tap water over it was sufficient, unfortunately (due to the mineral ions in the tap water; distilled water wouldn’t have conducted electricity and thus wouldn’t have shorted circuits; on the other hand, drinking distilled water would probably shorten your life, so please don’t consider doing this).

Luckily, I could temporarily use a similarly old, compact Apple Bluetooth keyboard instead. As I really wouldn’t recommend that keyboard for everyday work though (poor, bubbly typing experience, odd placement of keys requiring weird function key combinations, no numeric keypad), I had to order a full-size keyboard as a replacement again, so I ordered one of the new Apple Magic Keyboards with a Numeric Keypad (in Space Gray and I really like that, but the colour doesn’t matter in regard to the typing experience):

https://www.apple.com/ch-de/shop/product/MRMH2SM/A/magic-keyboard-mit-ziffernblock-schweiz-space-grau

(above is the Swiss German version, US version: https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MRMH2LL/A/magic-keyboard-with-numeric-keypad-us-english-space-gray)

I first thought that the even smaller lift of the keys (luckily with scissor and not butterfly switches) of this new keyboard would be very disturbing and that I’d have a hard time getting accustomed to it.

To my big surprise however I got accustomed to this new typing experience within a couple of hours already and now, after about 3 weeks of using it, I can confidently say: I love this new Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad even much more than my previous, old Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad and wouldn’t want to switch back anymore.

Typing with it feels so immediate, so quick and so “raw” and “crunchy”, it’s literally almost addictive. I can type considerably faster with it than with the previous keyboard, let alone any regular IBM-type keyboards (although I like those too, for their build-quality, for the interesting history and stories behind them, for their customizability and standardization, for the bustling keyboard enthusiast scene around it). Further, typing for a prolonged time feels much less tiring for the fingers, hands and forearms.

It feels as if you had to work with a wobbly tool for quite some time, then all of a sudden, get a very precise and exact instrument, like e.g. skiing with racing skis vs. with allround skis. It’s pure joy!

The difference is difficult to describe, so I would recommend you rather go experience it yourself and judge for yourself. For me, it’s my most favourite keyboard so far.

I’m even thinking of getting one for the Windows workstation at work too, it’s that good.

FreeNAS 11.2/FreeBSD BTX boot loader 1.0: Very slow booting if “Legacy USB 3.0 Support” is enabled

Starting with version 11.2-RELEASE-U1, FreeNAS uses the FreeBSD BTX 1.0 boot loader instead of Grub (reason: The FreeBSD boot loader finally started supporting ZFS – years after Grub supported it, BTW).

Unlike Grub, the FreeBSD boot loader seems to have rather “suboptimal” support for storage devices (like USB sticks, USB drives) that are accessed using the legacy USB 3.0 mode at boot time. So, when I upgraded FreeNAS from 11.1-U7 to 11.2-RELEASE-U2 on my home-built ASRock FreeNAS E3C226D2I NAS appliance, booting FreeNAS from an internal 16 GB USB 3 stick took all of a sudden almost 30 minutes(!) instead of the usual 1-2 minutes.

As I found out by “trial & error” (or educated guessing, as some would say), the only reason for this huge slowdown was that “Legacy USB 3.0 Support” was enabled in the AMI BIOS (the effect is reproducible). So, just disable “Legacy USB 3.0 Support”[1] in the BIOS and FreeNAS >= 11.2 will boot quickly again.

[1] Note: There’s no need to disable “Legacy USB Support”, so you’ll still be able to use your USB 2 keyboard or mouse at boot time.

Windows 10 backups using Duplicati

“File History”, the built-in backup functionality of Windows 10, leaves a lot to be desired. It starts with a totally non-intuitive, “dumbed-down” user interface (displaying a backup size of 0 bytes, “backing up your data…” and an enabled “Back up now” button at the same time) and ends with lacking transparency (no information about progress and speed at all) and checkability in general.

Luckily, there’s a better open source alternative: Duplicati

Duplicati might not be the fastest backup solution either, but it has a good, intuitive GUI and wizard. And it’s fully transparent and highly adjustable.

Got a recent Mac and Boot Camp? You’ll need unofficial drivers.

(Or: The sad state of Apple’s Boot Camp support)

If you use Boot Camp with the official AMD GPU drivers the Boot Camp assistant installs, you’ll notice that many recent games in Windows 10 will issue warnings about outdated AMD GPU drivers and/or will simply crash (e.g. after a couple of minutes, like Forza Horizon 4).

Apparently, the only remedy is installing unofficial AMD drivers from https://www.bootcampdrivers.com (kudos!). It worked fine for me ( Adrenalin 19.1.2 V3 on a 15 inch MBP late 2018 with an AMD Radeon Pro 560X) – the games stopped crashing – BUT apparently, installing unofficial drivers from the above web site happens to void your Apple Care warranty (read: You do it at your own risk).

This means that one has the choice to either void the warranty or stick with an unacceptably buggy Boot Camp installation. Really, Apple?

PDF Squeezer for macOS

If you’ve ever looked for a macOS tool that can compress PDFs, you’ve probably come across a list of dozens of apps in the Mac App Store for exactly that purpose. The problem: Most of them seem to be really old, incomplete, buggy or hardly working anymore.

One tool I can recommend (I bought it, use it almost daily and like it): PDF Squeezer (5.99 USD) (Home page)

Unlike the barely usable PDF compression feature in Apple’s Preview app (in the macOS file previewer, choose “Export…”, then “Quartz Filter: Reduce File Size”), PDF Squeezer manages to reduce a PDF file’s size by about 60-90% while retaining the original file’s legibility and good quality.

P.S. Another useful (free) tool from the same publisher, the PDF Print Service Creator, can be downloaded for free and allows to customize macOS’s print dialog in order to send any printable document directly to any of the apps that are capable of opening PDFs.

Paragon CampTune – a handy tool to resize the Boot Camp partition

Recently I ran out of space on a Boot Camp partition with Windows 10 Pro. So I looked around for ways to make more space for Windows by shrinking the macOS partition and enlarging the Windows partition. Apple doesn’t officially support this in Boot Camp without reinstalling Windows, and doing these operations by hand, e.g. with the help of GNU Parted, is time consuming and tedious.

Luckily, I stumbled over Paragon CampTune, a commercial macOS utility (ready for 10.14 Mojave) that automates these tedious tasks and allows to resize the macOS and Boot Camp partitions on the fly, without having to reinstall Windows or macOS.

It finally worked wonderfully, the only irritating thing was that the tool showed a bland error at the first start of the repartitioning process: “Object not found”. After restarting the process with slightly different partition sizes, it could be successfully completed.

I can thus recommend this handy utility as it can save hours of work for a few bucks (ca. 22 USD).