Friday, November 30, 2018

Charger Town

I do think as a species we are capable of sensing much more than we are capable of articulating. - Jony Ive
I'm looking to upgrade Mrs.Chaos' 2011 MacBook Pro and it turns out to be a lot more fun than I thought I was going to be. I mean, there are some easy solutions if I'm willing to spending exorbitantly, but trying to be cost efficient in the process makes makes me take a train to complication-ville.
The first part is that the family Apple Photos library is on her current MacBook Pro. It is 680GBs of photos locally stored on the 1TB SDD I bought aftermarket and installed. To upgrade the MacBook Air 2018 model to have enough storage would be the 1.5TB option fo an additional $1,200 which doubles the price of the computer. Fun times, right? Since that is the only major storage item on Mrs.Chaos' computer, I think the right solution is to move to iCloud Photos and pay for the 2TB family plan which costs $120/yr. So basically, we could store photos there for 10 years before it would be more cost effective to put in the larger drive, right? Right.
The next change is the entrance into the world of USB Type-C which is exciting in a different way. The first way it is exciting is charging. Mrs.Chaos has three key computing locations: (1) office desk, (2) bed, (3) backpack (e.g. on the go) and so I need to have a charger option in each of those locations and the bed and backpack require a 6' charging cord. Here is where it gets "fun" - to charge a laptop, both the charging "brick" and the charging cable need to be able to deliver enough power. I have a lot of USB-A chargers, but just connecting one of those to the laptop with a USB-A to USB-C cable is not going to charge the laptop. The Wire Cutter has a good summary of which cables they found where able to correctly negotiate laptop-level power requirements. There are basically four potential specs that a USB Type-C cable could have that needs to be negotiated:
  • USB 2.0 or USB 3.0/3.1 - this impacts data speed and what devices work. Most important display capabilities.
  • Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 3 - this impacts data speed and what devices work. Yeah, these cables may or may not support sending Thunderbolt across which also have impacts to display.
  • DisplayPort - I have quiet figured this out, because this will either be DisplayPort over USB or DisplayPort over Thunderbolt. I don't think there is a separate spec for the cable on this one - but there is for the monitor. It's important to know if the monitor is a Thunderbolt monitor or USB 3.1 monitor.
  • USB PowerDelivery (USB PD) - this is required to be able to send high amp/volt power through to charge a laptop device.
    Simple, right? Also, I need the bed and backpack cables to be six feet (6') in length, which impacts things, because distance matters in the cables ability to send high throughput data.
So I think what I ended up with here was the desk can use the three foot (3') USB-Type C cable that comes with the Mac and the other two should use Anker's Cable. Now note that those cables are USB 2.0 they don't have Thunderbolt or DisplayPort, so they won't be able to carry video. Also, if we ever got a USB3.0/Thunderbolt peripheral this cables wouldn't work there either. Awesome, right? I thought so too.
From a brick standpoint, same basic idea, is that it needs to be able to carry enough current and you can't just go with wattage, because there is a wattage/amperage math thing going on here. So to toss in the bag I think it's that long cable along with an Anker charger. For the desk it would be the short cable and this HyperJuice charging hub which has the bonus of also charging a phone/iPad from the USB-A port.
Almost done, right? One final trip into dongle-town since this laptop comes with only two Type-C she needs a way to get photos off the SD Card, connect to the Cricut over USB-A, and connect to an external display (to watch movies) over HDMI. Once again, Apple is pretty expensive to get the three dongles required for this, so instead I think this nice little Satechi hub will do it.
I gotta say, that was pretty stressful.