Freelancers meet 14th June – Mac hassles, Vision Pro, and causing technical chaos

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This week we had 14 people at our freelancers networking event, spread across three tables in the beer garden of the Hampton Arms in Brighton. It was great to be outside for the whole meet up.

Here are my notes of what was talked about. I missed lots of conversations as I was deep into talking Javascript state problems on one table and lots of conversations were happening on the others.

  • Saving and restoring state in a Javascript app
  • The pros and cons of M2 MacBooks
  • Humidity and heat in Taiwanese summers
  • Cavity wall insulation causing damp
  • Smartwatches
  • The new Farm blog
  • Hubspot driven websites
  • Making WordPress blocks using Advanced Custom Fields plugin
  • Replacing Hubspot with another CRM
  • When a client needs to replace multiple systems, making sure their technical chaos doesn’t happen all at once
  • Choose off the shelf before you write something custom
  • Google Analytics 4 transition pushing companies to other analytics tools
  • Google Site Kit for WordPress
  • In South Africa, Woolworths is like Marks and Spencer
  • Underwater hotel
  • Ice restaurant and ice bar
  • Boat ownership hassles
  • Apple Vision Pro has an inbuilt M2 Mac – can it be used without the headset?
  • The bad side of using a VR headset for a long time

Eight people sit around two picnic tables with drinks, chatting about freelancing


Apple Tech

Apple computers have been popular with people in the web industry for a long time, and iOS app makers have to use them, so lots of Farm members use Macs for their work. Two Apple related conversations happened this week:

M2 / Apple Silicon VM problems

Laura and I both have systems on our Intel based Macs for running virtual machines using Vagrant. This is a helpful way of setting up a virtual machine (VM) on your computer which is close to what runs on a server, i.e. a version of Linux and various bits of software that match what your client is running. This setup is particularly common for PHP developers using the Laravel framework as their early training uses a Homestead VM run through Vagrant.

This works great on Intel based Mac computers, using OpenBox to run the virtual machines.

Unfortunately, OpenBox doesn’t work with the newer Apple M processors, as the architecture is different from the Intel based chips OpenBox is built for. Apparently if we use Parallels it may work with that, but I haven’t tried it yet and Laura’s looking at whether it would make more sense to have a small PC dedicated to her client sites rather than trying to use VMs on a new Mac if she upgrades. So, all up in the air at the moment.

The Vision Pro headset has an M2 Mac in it

Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro virtual reality / augmented reality headset came up in conversation again. Some members didn’t realise it has an M2 based Mac built into it. We wondered whether it will be possible to use this computer plugged straight into a normal monitor if you do not wish to use the headset for a while, just as you can use it with a Bluetooth keyboard, not only the virtual keyboard.

None of us have heard anything about using it without the headset, it’ll be interesting if that is possible when it comes out.

We also talked about potential markets for the headset. It’s fair to say, none of us were expecting to be queuing up for the system when it comes out in the UK due to the hefty (if justifiable) cost. Some members have used VR for extended periods and while interested in the idea of having a massive virtual desktop, are concerned about the feeling of wearing a headset for many hours of their working day.

Technical chaos

Sometimes you’re involved in a project with a client that means a lot of change for them, e.g. their website changes, their customer relationship management tools, their phone system. If you’re in a project like this, the sage advice from the more experienced people along is to only change one system at a time and to give people a chance to get used to it before changing another system. As this is people’s work lives you’re disrupting, changing lots all at once can make life hell for them and cause people to leave as they can’t take all the chaos. Phasing it in gives people a chance to adjust and not feel like everything is broken all the time.