Nerve Endings Firing Away

New Work Laptop

I got a new laptop from work this week. Mine was five years old, and the battery was losing its longevity. Plus, it was one of those Intel MacBook Pros, which was perfectly fine in 2018, but compared to Apple Silicon-powered machines I had worked on, it positively seemed like crawling. But I still hung on to it. Why? Because I had administrator privileges on it and could install and update apps at will. Our university changed policies sometime around 2020 when it granted admin privileges only to faculty and university leadership. All staff, no matter how senior, couldn’t get that privilege. This was a no-go because I relied on several apps I had bought on my Apple ID (Agenda, Drafts, etc.) that I also used for work.

I soldiered on with my aging laptop but at least was spared the ignominy of having to skip a Zoom meeting because it wouldn’t launch the application unless you updated it, and to update it, you needed the IT Support person to remote-in and, of course, couldn’t be located five minutes before the meeting. This happened several times with postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and some staff members who got a laptop after the new policy was enacted. In my previous role, the department IT and even the administration wouldn’t budge on making an exception for me despite the PI, a star faculty member insisting on it. We made all sorts of excuses that I was senior enough to be faculty-adjacent and was even on the Faculty listserv and had the authority to make decisions for the faculty I worked with.

Then I changed my role and worked with a different faculty in the same department. She is a more senior faculty and has been at UT Austin for the last 30 years. She also has a reputation for being a hard ass and not taking no for an answer. The department staff is genuinely scared of inviting her wrath, and she doesn’t make any attempts to disabuse them of their notions. So after I joined her team and I told her about my aging laptop, she asked me to wait for a couple of months and asked me to rest assured that I would get what I needed. Last month, she sent an email after asking me for the laptop’s specifications to the department IT and added that it was necessary to have administrative privileges. No reasons as to why or justification but simply stating her wish. And it worked! They didn’t question her, and a month later (supply chain issues persist, they claim), I had my laptop. The incident reminded me of this story that, apparently, Ph.D. Advisors like to tell their new graduate students.

Anyway, on to the fun part. My new laptop is a 2023 MacBook Pro, 16-inch with an M2 Pro chip, and it comes with a simple way to grant me administrative privileges to install and update apps. Admittedly, working at a university helps since they don’t impose too many restrictions or add any snooping tools. It’s a solid, unibody, straight-edge yet sleek machine. No Touch Bar, but it comes with a Touch ID button on the keyboard. Compared to my older laptop, it flies, and the battery seems to last forever. The only thing I dislike about it is that the keyboard smudges very easily, and you would think I’ve typed after eating oily fries. Either that, or I’ve above-average oily skin that Apple doesn’t consider when choosing the material for the keyboard.

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