Tag Archive for ‘Mac’

M1 iMac

The iMac earns the distinction of being the first Mac in the lineup to be completely redesigned in the M1 era. This new iteration comes in seven colors, which is the first time the iMac has been available with colored housing since the G3 models in the late 90s and early 2000s.

I think the silver is actually the most attractive of the bunch. It’s possible I might change my tune after seeing them in person, though. I get the feeling the press shots and videos don’t really give a great impression of what they look like in real life — the colors all seems so pastel on the front. But it is worth noting, aside from the pink model in the audio testing room, the only models shown in the workspace behind the presenter were silver.

Before we get too much further, though, let’s address the elephant in the room. What is the deal with the chin? It’s been a part of the iMac design since 2004, but it’s not necessary anymore. Apple can build a sufficiently thin iMac with the computer components fully behind the display. Why won’t they do so? I can’t think of a single good reason not to.

Though, they have managed to give the iMac a much larger display — a 24-inch, 4.5K display — without increasing the overall size of the device too much. It has an anti-reflective coating on the glass and True Tone support. I’ve never been a fan of True Tone and disable it on all my devices, but I expect I’m in the minority with this.

They’ve improved the camera with a larger, 1080p sensor. I’m glad they’re finally making improvements on this front. They should have started years ago. And I hope this is just the beginning of a trend which will bring better front-facing cameras to the entire Mac lineup.

They’ve introduced a new, proprietary power cable with this model. It’s magnetic and allows them to add an Ethernet port on the power brick. It’s a little disappointing that the power supply isn’t integrated into the iMac anymore. And the proprietary cable is a little lame — it was kind of nice on previous models that you could plug in just about any standard three-pronged power cable and it would just work.

Moving Ethernet to the power brick is kind-of neat. Although, I always thought they would do something like this for laptops. The existence of USB-C and Thunderbolt seems like that would have been a bit easier to develop — since the cable is already capable of so much. Just imagine a power brick with an SD card reader, a couple of USB-A ports, a couple of USB-C ports, and HDMI. A lot of people would be really excited about a product like that.

Alongside the iMac, Apple introduce color matching accessories — Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard. The standard keyboard features more rounded corners and some new keys — most notably a lock button and an emoji key. But there is a second keyboard model that features Touch ID on the lock button.

My work laptop — a 13-inch MacBook Pro features Touch ID and I love it. Most of the time my Watch is used to unlock, but the times when I’m not wearing my watch, the Touch ID sensor is clutch. Although we all know that the inevitable introduction of Face ID is going to be where it’s at, Touch ID is a welcomed addition.

The M1 iMac is available to order April 30 and starts shipping in the latter half of May. The base model starts at $1299 and is available in four colors — blue, green, pink, and silver. It features an 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, 8GB of memory, 256GB of storage, two Thunderbolt ports, and the standard Magic Keyboard.

The higher end model starts at $1499, also comes in yellow, orange, and purple, adds two USB-C ports, an additional GPU core, the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, and Ethernet on the power adapter.

Despite my qualms about the chin and color options, these seem like excellent devices. And I do appreciate the return of color, even if I personally prefer the silver model. And it does have me excited about the future of the Mac. What will come to the Mac Pro, 16-inch MacBook Pro, and 27-inch iMacs? What is Apple capable of when they really put the peddle to the floor with their own chips?

My Backup Strategy

Time Machine Preference Pane

We all know backups are important, but they’re not as flashy and interesting as the next Apple Silicon Macs or nifty new piece of software. So they don’t really get discussed as often as they should. But in honor of World Backup Day, which I didn’t know existed and just happened to conveniently take place while I was already working on this piece, I thought I’d share my current backup strategy.

Macs

We have three Macs currently in use in our house — my work MacBook Pro, my wife’s MacBook Air, and our Mac Mini home server. The Mac Mini has an OWC ThunderBay 6 connected with a handful of drives inside — an SSD boot drive, a couple of 4TB drives for storing media, and a couple of 8TB drives for storing backups.

The Mac Mini shares the backup drives over the network as Time Machine destinations. And every Mac in the house backs up over Time Machine to these drives. So all of our local backups and media are stored in a single box — the ThunderBay.

We use TimeMachineEditor to have a bit more control over when our Time Machine backups take place. I have the Mac Mini setup to backup in the middle of the night and the MacBook Pro setup to backup at lunch time on weekdays.

The Mac Mini and my MacBook Pro are also setup with Backblaze to continuously backup all relevant data to the cloud. We will likely setup Backblaze on my wife’s MacBook Air too, but she only recently started using it again and we just finished the initial Time Machine backup.

iOS Devices

I pay for a 2TB iCloud storage plan that is shared with my wife. Our iPhones and iPads all backup to iCloud nightly. We store all of our documents on the service too.

We don’t use iCloud Photo Library, though. Instead, we use Google Photos — the primary reason being their excellent Partner Sharing feature. The feature automatically shares each photo and video to each other’s library. This means we don’t have to worry about who took a given picture or where the full version is stored — we both have access to all of the.

And seriously, Apple, get that feature figured out so I don’t have to maintain an additional service.

But Google Photos doesn’t give us the option to store local copies on the Mac, so a few times each year we manually backup photos from our iPhones and iPads to the Mac Mini server using the Photos app.

So every single photo we take and video we record is stored in six locations — the original device, Google Photos, the iCloud device backup, the Mac Mini’s media drive, backup drive, and Backblaze. It might seem like overkill, but our family photo library is almost certainly the most important data that we have and I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Overall

The pillars of my backup strategy are Time Machine, Backblaze, iCloud, and Google Photos. As I mentioned above, it would be nice if Apple finally introduced a solution for family photo libraries. Then we could eliminate Google Photos from our setup and we’d no longer need to manually backup photos to the Mac Mini, since the Photos app offers the option to store full size local copies of everything in your iCloud Photo Library.

But in terms of locally stored backups, I’m pretty happy with the setup. Since everything is stored inside the OWC ThunderBay 6, if there was ever an emergency, I could grab my iPhone and the ThunderBay. Those two items contain all of the important data in my life.

The Mac Needs Shortcuts ➝

Jason Snell:

It’s clear to me now: Apple needs to make Shortcuts available everywhere. It’s the logical successor to Automator, and already does more than Automator—and better, too. Apple should hide Automator away somewhere for a while for compatibility reasons, but otherwise embrace Shortcuts on the Mac.

Seriously. Shortcuts is the only automation tool that really clicked for me. I use Automator and Alfred on the Mac, but mostly with automations that someone else built. And the ones I have built are pretty basic.

➝ Source: sixcolors.com

How to Create a Bootable Installer for macOS ➝

I used this last night to install High Sierra on an old MacBook Air. I wish it didn’t require a Terminal command, though. Why can’t the macOS installer apps include an option to create a bootable installer? Seems like that could come in handy.

But I did hit a road block along the way. My MacBook Pro has Catalina installed and I wasn’t able to download High Sierra from the App Store — it just kept throwing an error. I ended up downloading it on my Mac Mini, which is still on a High Sierra. But what would someone do if they didn’t have access to another machine with an older version of macOS installed?

➝ Source: support.apple.com

AltTab Brings Windows-Style App Switching to the Mac ➝

A quick video from my buddy Matt Birchler about the app AltTab, which adds a Windows-style app switcher to macOS.

This reminded me of a lesser-known keyboard shortcut that I use frequently throughout the day — ⌘+`. This keyboard shortcut cycles through all windows of the currently selected app. So a common pattern for me is to use ⌘+tab to switch from whatever app I’m in to Chrome and the ⌘+` to switch to the specific browser window I want.

➝ Source: m.youtube.com

Another iPad Post ➝

Matt Birchler, after discussing how he uses macOS for his day job and the video editing for his YouTube channel:

Literally everything else I do, which admittedly is less intense “work”, happens on my iPad. Writing this post, reading the news, doing my email, doing freelance writing work, editing my photos in Lightroom, recording and editing audio, creating my newsletter, managing the tasks for my YouTube projects, watching YouTube videos, talking with friends, task management, and even coding changes to this very website all happen on the iPad.

I’m pretty much in the same boat. I primarily use macOS for my work at Automattic and have a few personal applications/tasks that I use my Mac Mini server for — Plex, Channels DVR, and long-term local photo backups, to name a few. But the vast majority of my computing takes place on iPad or iPhone.

And even the personal tasks I perform on the Mac, most of the time I’m using Screens on my iPad to access it.

The iPad can’t be the primary computing device for everyone, sure, but I think it can fill that role for far more people than not.

➝ Source: birchtree.me

Thoughts on M1 Macs

This week’s Apple event was exactly what we all thought it would be — the announcement of the first batch of Macs powered by Apple Silicon. They detailed the M1 chip and introduced a new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini.

Mac Mini

The Mac Mini was the most surprising to me. Given the power consumption of Apple’s existing chips, Mac notebooks felt like a safe bet to be included in the first group of machines. A new Mac Mini is quite the welcomed introduction, of course, but I’m not sure if anyone expected it with a good degree of confidence. Especially given it’s spotty upgrade history — Apple notably waiting four years after the introduction of the 2014 model before releasing the 2018 iteration.

I’m pretty excited about the new Mac Mini, though. As many of you may know, I’ve been considering an upgrade for quite some time. The Mac Mini that we’ve been using as our home server is from 2011. It isn’t officially supported past macOS High Sierra and it’s performance when ripping and converting Blu-ray discs leaves a lot to be desired.

I’m still waiting on actually benchmarks from reviewers before pulling the trigger, but if Apple’s numbers are to be believed, I think we’re in for a real screamer in the M1. An 8-core CPU, up to 8-core GPU, the integrated Neural Engine, and unified memory architecture seem like a massive upgrade when compared to Intel chips. Intel’s been floundering for a handful of years now, AMD recently surpassed them in performance, and now Apple’s moving to their own chips. The folks at Intel have their work cut out for them.

The Mac Mini as a whole isn’t necessarily a strict upgrade, though. The M1 model is limited to 16GB of RAM — that’s compared to the 64GB limit of the Intel-based model, which is still available for sale, to be clear. I can’t speak to specific workflows that would necessitate the additional memory and I’m not sure if changes to the memory architecture of the M1 would result in needing less memory for given tasks (more efficient usage, for example), but if you feel you need more than 16GB of memory Apple isn’t giving you the option on an M1 Mac.

And that 16GB memory limitation is across the board for all models announced by Apple at their event. These Macs are only available with 8GB or 16GB of memory.

Back to the Mac Mini, this also means the end of upgradable RAM. One of the things that appealed to me about the Mac Mini was the ability to upgrade it over time. That was hindered a great deal when they moved from 2.5-inch drives to SSDs that were soldered to the logic board, but up until these M1 Macs, you could still upgrade RAM yourself.

For thrifty buyers, that gave you the option to save a bit of money at the time of purchase and acquire less-costly aftermarket RAM, upgrading it yourself. If I purchased the 2018 Mac Mini, that’s exactly what I would have done — bought it with 8GB of RAM and then upgrade it sometime after purchase. With the M1 Mac Mini, for both internal storage and memory, you’ll need to get what you need right out of the gate.

The M1-powered Mac Mini also saw a reduction in ports when compared to the Intel-powered model. The Intel Mac Mini has four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, HDMI, audio out, and ethernet. Of the lot, the M1 model lost half of the Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports.

The changing port configuration won’t have any impact in how I use the Mac Mini. My current Mac Mini has a ThunderBay 6 connected over Thunderbolt (through Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter) and occasionally has a USB-A Blu-ray drive and/or an external SSD connected over USB-A. None of that will change if I end up with the M1 Mac Mini. I’ll still be able to connect all of my accessories without issue — I’ll even be able to drop the Thunderbolt adapter.

The last change is simply cosmetic — the M1 Mac Mini is only available in silver. I was looking forward to purchasing a Mac Mini that was more similar in color to the ThunderBay 6 that it will sit on top of. It’s not that my current, silver Mac Mini is an eye sore or anything, but it would have been nice to have some uniformity on my server shelf. I hope Apple offers the Mac Mini in space gray again at some point in the future.

MacBook Air

My wife is a school teacher and was suddenly forced to work from home earlier this year. At the time she was teaching pre-kindergarten and didn’t need much in the way of technology in order to provide her students with regular instruction. This year, though, she’s teaching fifth grade and with that comes the need to manage online teaching portals, video calls, and documents — often simultaneously.

The only computing devices she has at home are her iPhone and an iPad Air. They’re more than enough for her everyday tasks and were usable when working from home with her pre-k class, but she recently spent about a week working from home teaching fifth grade and it was usable at best.

Her school is opened up again, but there’s no telling when or if it could be closed again for some period of time. So she has her eye on acquiring a new laptop. I think this new MacBook Air would be the perfect fit. It has incredible battery life — up to 18 hours according to Apple — a fan-less design, and all of the great features of the previous MacBook Air.

I am a little surprised that there was no change in pricing for this new model. The Mac Mini’s starting price is $100 lower, after all. And while it’s easy for me to say Apple should lower the price, without much knowledge of the factors that lead them to the $999 price point, it sure seems like it would be possible now.

Given that Apple’s designing the chips in house, the MacBook Air is almost certainly their biggest seller giving them economies of scale, the M1 in the MacBook Air starts with a 7-core GPU, and the machine is available for $899 with education pricing. It just seems like this would have been a good time to lower the price a smidge.

Even still, this looks like a great machine overall. Like with the Mac Mini, I’ll wait for reviews, but I expect my wife will end up with the base model MacBook Air in gold before too long.

MacBook Pro

The new MacBook Pro has all the same features of the previous, two-port model but with the M1. When compared to the MacBook Air, it has better battery life, no 7-core GPU option, and an active cooling system.

The cooling system seems to be the real differentiator here. Like the rest of the lot, we’ll have to wait for reviews and benchmarks, but I suspect the performance differences between the Air and the Pro will come down to cooling capabilities.

The Pro’s fan should give it the ability to sustain higher clock speeds for longer than the Air can while under load. So unless there are some more inherent differences between these two machines’ M1s, this seems to be all there is to it. And if that’s the case, for short bursts, the Air and Pro (with the same number of GPU cores) should preform identical to one another. The difference wouldn’t be noticeable unless you’re performing longer, sustained tasks that tax the system.

If that theory pans out, I feel like the vast majority of users should just opt for the MacBook Air. You’ll save a little bit of money, still get incredible battery life, and much of the same performance. Unless your workload involves heavily taxing sustained tasks, I just don’t see the reason to spring for the Pro.

Future Macs

This initial batch of Macs powered by Apple Silicon is a huge step forward, for sure, but I’m still left wondering what the rest of the lineup is going to look like long-term. The 16-inch MacBook Pro, 21.5-inch iMac, 27-inch iMac, iMac Pro, and Mac Pro are still left unchanged.

These also happen to be the machines that are built with more desktop-class components. And there’s a lot of questions left unanswered in that regard. Is Apple going to release another chip or collection of chips for these machines? Should we be expecting an M1X? An M2? Will these other machines be available with more than 16GB of RAM?

And what about the Mac Pro? Is Apple going to release a machine powered by Apple Silicon that has the ability to install and upgrade internal components? None of this first batch of M1 Macs support external GPUs, so is this the beginning of the end for AMD or Nvidia powered graphics in Macs?

Will Apple consolidate the lineup at all? Will the 27-inch iMac and iMac Pro be merged into a single offering? Is the current Mac Pro the last Mac Pro?

We could speculate all day, but what I can say with certainty is that I haven’t been this interested and excited about the future of the Mac in a long time.

Boring Old Menu Bar ➝

I don’t plan to upgrade to Big Sur for several months after release. But I’m not too fond of the translucent menu bar, so when I eventually upgrade, I’ll probably use an app like this.

➝ Source: publicspace.net