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Wacky Comments from Our Readers

It takes all kinds of people to make a village of blog readers. Some like what you do, some don’t, and some are smack in the middle more or less. Regardless, I’m happy to receive comments, because I know people are reading. Some arrive via the Comments panels on the site, while others are sent via email. Either way, I make a good effort to respond when I can.

But it’s also true that some readers want to stir the pot, sometimes a little too eagerly. So I see messages where someone wants to make a contrary point, but when you engage them in a conversation, you find they’re merely egging you on for an online flamewar.

This reminds me of the days in the mid-1990s when I was working as a Mac forum leader for AOL. I was providing support for a beleaguered platform, and I also ventured out to those old Usenet message boards. They were rambling, large, and usually uncensored, except for a few that were moderated. But the uncensored boards could be both enjoyable and infuriating.

So I remember responding to someone who wrote a scathing piece about AOL. Now the core of the complaint was mostly correct, since  AOL offered a simplified online experience, highly curated, and didn’t always allow you to wade into the ditches. This is the sort of thing that was useful for newcomers, but power users resented the situation, referring to the service as “the kindergarten of the Internet.” Well, after replying to that poster, he made a response trying to goad me into an online argument.

I refused, and simply corrected his misstatements. His response? Well, I didn’t understand the way things worked out there in the Internet wilderness. He said, “I flame you, you flame me.” But I was having none of it. I simply made my point and went elsewhere. I actually had a life.

In recent days, the launch of the Late 2016 MacBook Pro has generated a lot of discussion, more so than any recent Apple product, other than perhaps the Phone 7 and the loss of the headphone jack. But that chatter more or less died when it appeared the new model was — and remains — surprisingly successful. Also, it doesn’t appear that this long-expected feature change, or removal, is really so big a deal for most people.

Now Apple has done quite a few things in redesigning the MacBook Pro to keep people talking, and not all of it is favorable. The 16GB RAM limitation has become an issue, even though no previous model has supported more RAM. The complete switch to USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, other than a headphone jack, has also proven to be polarizing. It has received even more discussion, it seems, than the release of the 2015 MacBook, which had a single USB-C port.

Then it was all about worrying what to do if you needed to connect a few devices. It was clear from the start, though, that Apple’s intent was to provide a notebook computer meant to do most of its work online. Indeed, the main purpose of the lone peripheral port was probably charging the battery, and if Apple had a working wireless charging scheme, it might not be there.

Four ports is a good thing (it’s two ports on the entry-level model without Touch Bar). But having a port design that is not yet in wide use is bad, because it means you may have to buy a bunch of dongles to connect your stuff. At least Apple got the message and made the adapters cheaper, at least until the end of the year. But maybe it would have also been a good idea to provide a couple of the most popular configurations in the box, free of charge. It wouldn’t be the first time Apple provided an extra accessory connector or two with a new Mac.

But cable makers with compatible adapters will love Apple’s decision.

The Touch Bar, also predicted in advance, remains controversial. Some of the complaints are extreme, such as the possibility mentioned in one reader’s email that it might cause RSI. Forgotten was the fact that there was already a row of keys there, the venerable function keys, so why would a touch-only keypad be such a big deal anyway? Indeed, it appears to me that if any PC-based display with touch capability had the potential to cause a wrist injury, it would be the so-called convertible PC, those 2-in-1 models.

You can test this for yourself if you just raise your hand while typing and attempt to touch something on your Mac’s display, particularly at the top. Do that a few dozen times in a few second’s time and tell me if it’s a comfortable move.

And one more thing: Where does Apple have the gall to increase prices by upwards of $300 on the new models? At a time when PC makers are struggling to sell product, you’d think the price should be lower, not higher. Or at least that’s what the critics say.

Now I’m not going to guess how much it cost Apple to design and build the new MacBook Pro. It may well be that the price is commensurate with the costs, although it might become cheaper in a year or two. That is what’s happened before.

More to the point, Apple VP Philip Schiller claims that online sales are at record levels. That pronouncement seems to be confined by a report from Slice Intelligence, a survey firm that evaluates purchase receipts to compile its numbers. If you can believe the survey, the new notebook has generated seven times more revenue than the 12-inch MacBook when it was released.

So it may be the fact that there’s lots of demand for the MacBook Pro that’s generating so much chatter and controversy. If you can believe the early sales reports, lots of people are buying them. So if you want a model equipped with a Touch Bar, you’ll be lucky to have to delivered in time for Christmas.