Next month I will continue the tradition of flying over to Austin, TX, USA to attend the annual AccessU conference and teach some classes. Organized by Knowbility, the conference is a gathering of brilliant minds around accessibility and is an excellent opportunity to broaden your accessibility knowledge. Here’s an overview of my four classes:

  • Responsive and Accessible Images (March 17, 2017 – 2:15pm–3:45pm)
    Images are an important part of the web. This course will give an overview of the considerations for accessible images and their alternative texts, but also take a look from a content strategist perspective on how to present pictures in a responsive context. You will learn how to write good alt text, when longer descriptions are necessary, using resolution-independent images, and how to use different images in different responsive contexts for art direction.
  • Advanced Accessibility: Deep Dive for Developers (March 17, 2017 – 4pm–5:30pm)
    This session gives a general overview of good development practices that ensure a more accessible web product. It includes ARIA, styling, and advice for making your website more semantic and thus more accessible to everyone.
  • Use ARIA Responsibly (March 18, 2017 – 8:30am–10:00am)
    How to build web components, websites, and web applications in a way that leverages the capabilities of HTML5. Add ARIA on top to enhance the user experience. You’ll learn where to find information on how to implement ARIA correctly, and shows you a practical example.
  • Simplify Your Development Life with Tools, Tests, and Procedures (March 18, 2017 – 10:15am–11:45am)
    A condensed overview on how developers can simplify their life by making sure that procedures and tests are in place to ensure accessibility in every step.

Tickets for AccessU are still available.

Also, Knowbility is organizing the Inaugural Knowbility Accessibility
Leadership Symposium on May 15th and 16th: The opportunity for senior management to collaborate, confer and learn about accessibility challenges in the enterprise and how to address them, leading to a more diverse customer base.

After AccessU, I’ll attend the W3C Education and Outreach Working Group’s Face to Face Meeting on May 19 and 20.

Great video over at the Google Chrome Developers channel about the upcoming CSS Level 4 :focus-ring selector (draft). The focus is often removed for stylistic reasons when using the mouse, but then keyboard users also have no indication of where they are on the website. :focus-ring solves that issue.

Focus Ring! -- A11ycasts #16

The video includes a shout out to this handy polyfill on Github. There are other videos about accessibility, also presented by Rob Dodson, available on the channel as well. Captions are available.

Apple Marketing Photo of the MacBookPro 2016

In 2006 I got my first Mac ever, the 2006 Apple MacBook “Core Duo” 1.83 13”. After owning a humongous Acer 15” Laptop in the previous years, the experience of owning this computer was something from another world. Since 2013 I owned a 13” MacBook Air with 8GB RAM and an 1.7GHz Intel Core i7 processor and while I loved the portability of the device, I recently started to feel the limits of the processor and the disk space (just 128 GB).

What I got

I bought a 13” MacBook Pro 2016 with a Intel Core i5 3.1 GHz processor and Touchbar and 16GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage. In Space Grey.

What I use it for

I mainly do web development, lots of writing and editing – not something you necessarily need “Pro” hardware, to be honest. But then there are some operations, like optimising images and decoding videos, that happen often enough so I can use the power. It’s also amazing how quickly Jekyll and Middleman projects build. I sometimes need to test websites in Windows, and firing up a virtual machine is now obviously less of an hassle.

In addition, I occasionally play Cities: Skylines and while there is a bug with the (unsupported) Intel graphics card, it is really cool to see houses and cars that are not just mushy blobs of textures.

What I like

  • The Screen is just great. I never had a “Retina” screen before and this is really good. Type looks crisp and icons do, too. However parts of the web look awful as many people are not optimising their graphics. It’s especially appalling with icons. Use SVGs, everyone!
  • The Speakers are phenomenal. I have never really used the built-in speakers in my previous Macs, and I don’t really plan to use the ones built into this machine, but wow, they sound really good.
  • The Touchbar is a great gimmick. When apps support it, it shines, but without support it’s only mildly useful. The Touchbar is empty in that case, so you got a gap on the keyboard. I usually don’t need to use function keys and if I do pressing fn (like I used to do) brings them back. I have accidentally touched the Touchbar while typing and when it happens it is irritating. However it happens less and less. The bar is well integrated into Safari, so you can play and pause video playing in the browser from the bar and also scrub around the video which is much more intuitive and precise than using the touchpad and drag the handle. The only thing that is really annoying is that the Touchbar crashes occasionally – putting the computer to sleep and waking helps.
  • TouchID goes without saying. Unlocking the Mac or 1Password is blazingly fast. Now hurry to provide Apple Pay in Germany, Apple!
  • The built quality and portability. It’s incredible how dense this computer is, when you put the Air and the Pro on top of each other, the Pro is much smaller. It is thicker, but not by much. The space grey color is stunning.

Other observations

  • The Keyboard is right in my ballpark. It is clicky, it is responsive, it is totally fine. But I don’t have a very specific taste in keyboards and I found every Mac keyboard that I typed on at least OK. Not having the inverted-T shape for the arrow keys is throwing me off however as it is hard to feel for the position of the arrow keys.
  • The Trackpad is working as expected. As a “tap to click” person it’s totally good for me. I haven’t used any force touch features a lot, but using it for the occasional dictionary lookup is useful.
  • Thunderbolt 3/USB-C works as expected. I can charge my Mac from either side, which is great, as the socket is on the right when I’m sitting on my couch. I miss MagSafe though. I bought one USB-C to USB-A and one USB-C to VGA/USB-A/Power adapters from Apple. I also got a two pack of the Aukey USB-C/USB-A adapters (affiliate link). My external display (that I only use for referencing stuff when needed) and microphone are plugged in into the VGA/USB-A/Power adapter all the time. I still need a good SD card adapter but did not find one that I think is worth buying.

Migration

  • I chose to start fresh and not use Migration Assistant to move my data.
  • I migrated most apps via the Mac App Store and SetApp and downloaded others directly.
  • I moved my data almost exclusively by AirDrop, which worked very well for my 6GB MailMate archive and my 10GB ~/projects folder (yes, I need to clean that up at some point).
  • Other data was synced using iCloud (works well for me, ymmv), Dropbox (where I downgraded to the free plan after moving most of my data to iCloud), and iCloud Photo Library.
  • The most inconvenient part was installing all the command line tools, like Middleman, Jekyll and Gulp. In the end this was just a small portion of the migration experience which took about one day.

Conclusion

This is not a Mac for everyone. It might not be for you if you have special needs, or need more power. However I think it is very versatile and while the USB-A to USB-C transition is inconvenient, it is where the future lies. This might be my last PC-type of computer (if there comes more pro functionality to the iOS platform), so being future proof is important.

Majestic historic temple in front of a blue sky.

Over the last year, the name of a city is coming up in German news more often than I like it to be: Aleppo. It is not just a city involved in the war in Syria, it is the scene of a standoff that is lasting for months.

This city, the mention of its name on the news, the descriptions of the cruelty that happens there, is especially painful for me. When I was in elementary school, we had Syrian neighbors who fled during the Gulf War. Mohammad and I shared a class. We were good friends, played football together, learned together. I still long for his family’s traditionally baked bread sometimes.

After a few years, that felt like a whole life for me as a child, they had to go back. Although quite well integrated, there was no way for them to get a permanent working permit, and they were happy to get back into their home country. (Of course I don’t know if that was really really the case, but that was what I gathered as a child.)

The children, Mohammad had a little brother and – I think – a baby sister, were not too happy to leave, having their friends in that small town where I grew up. One day, we said goodbye, and they made their way to their home city of Aleppo in Syria.

The thought alone, that those people, including my elementary school friend, might be injured or dead is gruesome to me. Hearing from injured or dead children makes me think about the potential children of Mohammad and his siblings.

For most, the war in Syria is far, far away. For me, it feels close. This is why I think getting to know other people, other cultures is so important. It allows us to be close with people and to not brush this conflict away as “someone else’s problem”.

Image: Palmyra – Temple of Bel: A cultural heritage that was destroyed during the war. Uploaded by Juan Llanos on Flickr. See how that site looks today.