26 Aug 2017

Broadband Blunders & Mac Machinations

This is a story in two parts, both revolving around a simple desire: to turn my ageing MacBook Air into a simple gaming machine. Bought in late 2013, it was nearing the end of its useful life as a workhorse, and I’d been eyeing up the more modern Pro line to replace it. To eke some final mileage out, I thought about installing some games on it.

Sounds simple, right?

First, let me cover off the side-issue, before getting to the main event. While I was running updates and downloading software on the Mac, I noticed that the download speeds I was getting were twice that my desktop (a heavyweight Win10 gaming rig) showed. Perplexed, I did some digging, taking a closer look at how my home network is set up.

I’m fortunate enough to benefit from cable where I live, offering a hefty 200Mbps. The modem hooks into a gaming-grade router, which plumbs into most of my entertainment stuff. My home office, where the PCs are, uses a bridge and extender to provide internet access to everything that doesn’t have a wifi card. 

And there, folks, was the problem. Bought before broadband speeds soared, I’d saved some cash by getting a bridge with only 100Mbps Ethernet ports. Today, it’s a crimp on my internets.

You can imagine my anger. I could have been downloading Steam games TWICE AS FAST. My MMOs could have been patching TWICE AS FAST. I could have been mashing buttons and pwning noobs TWICE AS FAST. Okay, maybe not the last point, but you get the idea.

It’s getting replaced. With this.

Back to the Mac, and I’m hitting a stumbling block. World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 and EVE Online all have OS X versions, so I’ve gone native with those. But Star Wars: The Old Republic and WildStar are both Windows-only affairs, so I’ll need to bootcamp. That means digging around my various boxes of junk to see if I’ve got a spare Windows licence I can slap on.

Unfortunately, the Mac has a funny way of displaying drive space, with this tag for ‘Purgeable’ to indicate everything that could be stored in iCloud but is sitting on your laptop. With no neat tools to control how much of your SSD it devours, I watched it oscillate between 20Gb and 130Gb while I did some housekeeping.

Even then, it decided to get awkward while I was partitioning, saying that drive errors meant I needed to use Disk Utility. That threw up even more problems, advising me to reboot in Recovery Mode and run the First Aid tool from there.

I didn’t even know Macs had a Recovery mode. Today I Learned…

Still, it’s done, fixed, and efforts are progressing. Most games run with potato quality graphics, but that’s good enough for talking trash in Jita or hanging around in Lion’s Arch. I might even provide a synopsis of what works on the aluminium clamshell, once everything’s up and running.

The upshot is that I’m staring to consider if I really want to go for that MacBook Pro, or if I’d be better off getting a different premium-grade laptop for photo editing, coding development, and design. While I’m heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem (TV puck, watch, phone, tablet), it might be time to reassess.

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