Tag Archive for ‘MacBook Air’

Tech Is Still Cool

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for present-day Apple, there’s still a lot to be excited about in the world of technology. The following is an unordered list of things that I’ve been excited about recently. If you have any thoughts about the following items or have some tech that you’ve been excited about, I’d love to hear from you.

Old MacBooks

I recently purchased two 2015 11-inch MacBook Airs — one for myself and one for my wife. They can run up to macOS Monterey, which is still supported by Apple and by the vast majority of application developers. And if you’re willing to deal with potential pain points, you can use OpenCore Legacy Patcher to install macOS Sonoma on the machines as well.

I have Sonoma running on mine and it runs like a champ. Other than the non-retina display and lack of USB-C ports, these machines feel surprisingly modern.

Old MacBooks are also very easy to upgrade. In addition to the 2015 MacBooks that I recently purchased, I have a couple of older 2011 models that I’ve been toying with as well. The battery and storage has been a breeze to upgrade on these machines. I’ve put brand new batteries and 500GB SSDs in both and completed the tasks in less than ten minutes each.

Linux

An entire operating system, complete with its own selection of applications and features to explore. I’ve been doing so primarily through virtual machines on my work laptop, but I plan to dual boot Sonoma and Ubuntu 24.04 on my 11-inch MacBook Air now that this new long term support release is available.

The most interesting thing about Linux to me is the myriad of windowing managers. I can’t say its necessarily better than what we have on macOS, but it has plenty of innovative ideas that has me working a bit differently — using multiple virtual desktops never clicked with me on macOS like it has in Linux.

Self-hosting

There isn’t much that excites me more than being able to eliminate my reliance on a service controlled by someone else. I have three servers where I run various applications from my home office alongside a Linode and SiteGround account where I run services as well.

Plex and Mastodon likely get the most use from me, but I’m also a huge fan of Invidious, Miniflux, and Wallabag.

I’d like to self-host even more and should be doing so soon. I’m waiting on the arrival of an Umbrel Home. It should be here in the next few weeks. I have Umbrel running on an old Mac mini now, but it seems to bog down quite a bit when I have more than a few applications running on it. I expect the Umbrel Home should handle things a bit better.

Emulation Handhelds

I have a Retroid Pocket 2+ and a Retroid Pocket 3. Both of which are excellent devices for what they are, but I’d love to have something that features a bit more horsepower for PlayStation 2 and GameCube emulation.

I’ve been hemming and hawing over whether I want to get myself an Ayn Odin 2 or a Retroid Pocket 4 Pro. I believe both of them would be able to run the games I’m interested in, so it’s just a matter of which form factor is preferable to me.

I just love the idea of having a single device that can run all of the games from my childhood.

Emulation on the App Store

Apple updated their App Store guidelines earlier this month to allow for retro game emulators in the App Store. It’s still very early days and Delta appears to be the clear standout. It supports Nintendo systems up to Nintendo 64 and Nintendo DS.

I’m still using AltStore for now, though. Delta is a great emulator, but it just doesn’t compare to RetroArch in terms of the number of systems supported. I expect RetroArch will eventually make its way into the App Store, but that will take some time. I’m sure there are some changes that will need to be made to the app to fully come into compliance with Apple’s guidelines.

I’m okay using AltStore for now, but I’m excited about a future where I won’t have to resort to hacks in order to run this type of software on my own device.

PC Building

I built a gaming PC last fall, with the goal of having it run Steam as a headless home server. I’m using one of these inexpensive display emulators and interacting with the system entirely through Steam Link and VNC — using Screens. With this setup I can play any PC game I’d like and emulate more powerful systems from any device in the house — most often my iPhone and the living room Apple TV.

For anyone curious, here are the parts I used for the system:

  • AMD Ryzen 5600 Processor
  • AMD Radeon RX 7600 Graphics Card
  • 32GB of Crucial DDR4 3200 Memory
  • ASRock B550M-ITX/AC Motherboard
  • 2TB Crucial NVMe Solid State Drive
  • 4TB Samsung SATA Solid State Drive
  • Fractal Terra Mini-ITX Case
  • Noctua NH-L9x65 CPU Cooler
  • Corsair SF750 Power Supply

It’s not the most powerful thing in the world, but it’s more than capable of playing everything I’ve thrown at it. And since I’m streaming everything over Steam Link, I’m not all that concerned about playing anything at high resolutions — 720p or 1080p are more than sufficient for my needs.

But with this project, I’ve started paying attention to the world of PC hardware again. Primarily through YouTube channels like Gamers Nexus, JayzTwoCents, optimum, ozTalksHW, and more. This is an area of tech that I haven’t really paid attention to since the early 2000s. And, boy, does it feel fresh and exciting in comparison to Apple hardware.

Steam Link

How amazing is it that you can just play games from your PC on all of your devices? I can have Skate 3 running in RPCS3 on a computer in my home office and use my iPhone as a display and a Backbone One as the controller. Or I can use the television in my living room paired with an Apple TV and an 8BitDo Pro 2 controller.

Steam Link is to video games as Plex is to movies and TV shows.

There are definitely times when the bandwidth just isn’t there, but most of the time everything works smoothly. And I’m sure it will get even better if I actually work on running ethernet to all of our Apple TVs — a project that never seems to receive the priority necessary to accomplish.

iPods

I recently purchased an iPod from Elite Obsolete Electronics. It was a 5.5-generation model that I paid to have modded with a 128GB microSD card and a brand new face plate, backplate, and click wheel.

I’ve since toyed around with just about every feature the device has to offer. I’ve added Click Wheel games, played around with the Notes feature, setup a preset in Handbrake to convert video to a compatible format, and it’s been a blast all along the way.

There’s something nice about using an offline device. Something that, by its very nature, only has the content that’s on it right now. If I want something new, I have to connect it to a computer and sync. It allows me to be a bit more intentional about the content I’m consuming.

Currently, the iPod is my primary method for podcast and audiobook listening. Huffduffer is a great tool that I’ve been getting a lot of use out of for adding random audio files to the iPod.

I’ve also been using the iPod for the majority of my YouTube viewing. I download the videos with my Invidious instance, convert them with the aforementioned Handbrake preset, and then add them to the Apple Music app for syncing — I’ve found it to be a bit easier to add them to the Apple Music app as music videos rather than adding them to the TV app.

11-Inch MacBook Air

I often find myself checking OWC to see the used Macs that they have available. Especially the Mac Mini and Mac Pro. Two machines that I’ve just fallen in love with over the years.

I currently own five Mac Minis, all of which are in use throughout the house. They’re great for home servers, retro emulation, or general computing. And they’re dirt cheap now. You can routinely find 2014 and earlier models for around $100 with a decent amount of memory and storage.

As for the Mac Pro, I’ve never owned one at all. But back in my early days of writing on the web, I would find myself jealous of folks like Shawn Blanc and Glenn Wolsey who used these powerful machines as their daily drivers. I haven’t been able to pull the trigger on one yet, but the prices on old Mac Pros are reaching a point where they’re just too inexpensive to pass up.

But there’s one more Mac model that I keep an eye out for — the 11-inch MacBook Air.

The 11-inch MacBook Air is my absolute favorite Mac ever released. Ever.

Aside from the 12-inch MacBook, the 11-inch MacBook Air is the smallest and lightest laptop Apple has ever released. And unlike the 12-inch MacBook, the 11-inch MacBook Air has a functioning keyboard and a great assortment of ports — two USB-A ports, a single Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt port, and MagSafe for charging.

I bought two 11-inch MacBook Airs back in 2011. One for myself and one for my wife (girlfriend at the time). The one purchased for her is no longer working properly. It has a bad trackpad, bad battery, and possibly a bad logic board. Mine is now used by my wife as her occasional non-work machine. It’s still on High Sierra, but it can run LibreOffice and Firefox ESR, which is about all she needs it for.

I could probably put some effort into the broken one and get it working, but for the price of a trackpad and battery, assuming the logic board is actually okay, I’m already about half-way to the price of another 11-inch from a later model year and I would get the benefits of a newer machine — faster USB ports, longer battery life, increased performance, and support for later versions of macOS.

Luckily enough, last week while perusing OWC’s available models, I noticed they had a 2015 11-inch MacBook Air with 8GB of memory, in “excellent” condition, with good pricing on storage upgrades. It, unfortunately, only had the 1.6 GHz Core i5 instead of the higher-end 2.2 GHz Core i7. Nevertheless, I pulled the trigger.

I selected the 500GB storage option, paid $300 after tax, and am expecting it to arrive by the end of this week.

I could probably find a better price on EBay, especially if I upgraded the storage myself, but I’ve bought a handful of used Macs from OWC and have always been happy with my purchase.

When the machine arrives, I’ll give it a once over in macOS. I’ll make sure the battery is still in good shape, the specifications are what they should be, and that all of the ports and whatnot are working properly. At that point I’ll more than likely try setting it up to triple boot macOS Monterey, Windows 10, and Ubuntu using the rEFInd boot manager.

And then I’ll have the coolest laptop setup ever.

Home Screens to Begin 2024

Last year I published my home screens at the beginning of January and declared that it will be an annual tradition. Following up that this year with my home screens below.

It’s worth noting that I had a dedicated gaming handheld last year, but that is no longer the case. Instead I’m using my iPhone as my gaming handheld, paired with the Backbone one to play games in Steam Link, PPSSPP, and RetroArch.

iPhone 15 Pro Home Screen

iPhone 15 Pro

iPad Pro Home Screen 2024

iPad Pro, 11-inch

Ubuntu 22.04 Virtual Machine

13-inch MacBook Air with M2

This is actually a screenshot of a virtual machine running Ubuntu 22.04. The MacBook is primarily a work machine and I had previously setup a separate user account on it for personal stuff. This year I decided to move that to a virtual machine instead, which makes it easier to switch back and forth for quick breaks throughout my work day.

Apple TV 4K Home Screen

Apple TV 4K

Apple Watch Faces

Apple Watch Series 5

Home Screens to Begin 2023

I haven’t been sharing my home screens as regularly as I’d prefer, so I thought I’d just publish screenshots from each of my current devices at the beginning of the year and plan to do the same each year going forward.

iPhone 13 Pro

iPad Pro, 11-inch

MacBook Air with M2

Apple TV 4K

Retroid Pocket 3

Apple Watch Series 5

M2 MacBook Air

M2 MacBook Air with Magic Mouse, Retroid Pocket 3, and HomePod Mini

Automattic has a pretty generous laptop replacement policy — there aren’t too many restrictions on what I can get. Essentially, we have a limit on the amount of storage and memory we’re able to select, but beyond that we have the option of ordering any of Apple’s notebooks. It’s an interesting position to be in.

With this much freedom, the major deciding factors (for me at least) are physical size and performance. The last go-around, I opted for a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. It was a nice machine and served me well over the past two years, but I was more than ready to upgrade.

This time, I ordered an M2 MacBook Air in silver with 24GB of memory, 10-core GPU, and 512GB of storage. I thought I’d share my thoughts on each of the major aspects of the new machine.

Physical Dimensions

The differences between the 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020) and the M2 MacBook Air seem so minuscule. All Apple laptops are thin and light these days. But the M2 Air is about 12% lighter than the MacBook Pro, which is definitely noticeable in my bag and when carrying the machine around the house.

I was actually a little concerned about the difference in depth — the M2 Air is 0.26 cm deeper than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The backpack I use has a zipper compartment where you have to kind-of shimmy the laptop in from the side and it always felt like a snug fit for the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

I was a little concerned that it would be even worse for the MacBook Air with that additional depth. But I guess the thinner chassis more than made up for it. It’s actually easier to put the M2 in and take it out of my bag than it was for the Pro.

Two Thunderbolt and MagSafe

Moving from four Thunderbolt ports to two Thunderbolt ports plus MagSafe would likely be a deal breaker for others, but it’s made absolutely no difference for me. I don’t actually connect much to my laptop. On the rare occasion, an external drive or SD card adapter, but more often than not I’ll use the ports to top-off my iPhone or AirPods. Two ports are fine for my needs.

MagSafe is an interesting feature for me. Despite my affinity for it on older laptops, I haven’t even used it on the new MacBook Air and I’m not sure I ever will.

At my desk, I have a single USB-C cable running from a power adapter to the desk surface. I use that same USB-C cable to charge my MacBook, iPad, Retroid Pocket 3, and most other devices I use (since most charge over USB-C). It’s nice having just a single cable for all of this — I can just swap it to whatever device needs charging the most.

If I used MagSafe, it would be a dedicated cable only for use with my MacBook. That would mean I’d have to keep another cable around for charging everything else. But it’s not like I’d get any of the benefits of MagSafe at my desk. It’s not really possible to trip over the cord because of it’s positioning. It’s all downside.

Similarly for travel, if I took the MagSafe cable with me, it would be a dedicated cable that only works with my MacBook. I want the cables I bring to be usable by as many devices as possible. I’ve even gone so far as to buy little USB-C to Lightning adapters, so the cables I use for my iPhone and AirPods can also be used to charge everything else.

I would see the benefits of MagSafe while traveling, since it’s more likely I’d be in scenarios where the cable can be tripped over, the battery life on this machine is incredible. I can be strategic about when I charge my laptop to limit the chances of the cable being tripped over.

MagSafe just doesn’t seem worth it at this point when compared to the benefits of a universal cable.

Battery Life

Speaking of battery life. It’s amazing. I’ve had a few days where I’ve tried working my entire day from battery alone and ended at around 30% each time. None of those days included any Zoom meetings, but I didn’t make any adjustments at all — no dimming of the screen or avoidance of apps, it was just a normal day for me.

I’m pretty confident that, even on days with meetings, I’d be able to make it through without much trouble at all.

The Notch

It stinks. It really does. Hopefully Apple will find a better way. Maybe the Dynamic Island will make an appearance in future Apple laptops, but even that is a stop-gap measure until they eventually find a way to hide all of that tech seamlessly behind the display.

Until then, I’m using Boring Old Menu Bar to hide the notch. With a black menu bar, I forget that the notch even exists. Until I open Thunderbird and notice the massive gap between the “Window” and “Help” menus. Or my mouse cursor disappears underneath it.

Silver

The last two laptops I’ve used were of the Space Gray variety. It was time for a change. Silver is classic and looks better as it ages. It doesn’t show scratches as easily, which tend to accumulate around the ports especially.

No Touch Bar

The Touch Bar was not a good feature. The idea of having a specialized interface for each application sounds like a neat idea on paper, but in practice, I would just rely on the keyboard, mouse, and trackpad for interact with my apps. Eventually, I switched the Touch Bar to displaying the exact same interface regardless of what app was running and everything it contained just mimicked the functionality of a traditional function row.

There is one single feature that I miss about the Touch Bar, though — an indicator for Fast User Switching.

For those unaware, you can actually use Touch ID to quickly switch between user accounts on your Mac. I have a user account for work-related tasks and a separate one for personal tasks. This way I can remain focused while working and have a separate environment when I take breaks and want to check in on Mastodon or something similar.

With the Touch Bar, I could rest my finger on the Touch ID sensor that’s associated with my personal account and there would be an indication displayed that I can press the button to quickly switch accounts. This same functionality exists on Macs without Touch Bars, but the indicator isn’t present.

This can cause some annoying results. Touch ID can, in some instances, misread your fingerprint and then when you press the button, you’ll just be kicked back to the Lock Screen where you’ll have to select “Switch User” and then login to the other account. This never happened with the Touch Bar because the system would indicate when it was ready to switch to the other account. Now I just have to set my finger on the sensor, wait a moment, and then press it, hoping that it will switch to my other account like I want it to.

I wish Apple would add an indicator of some kind on the system’s main display to mimic the Touch Bar’s functionality in this process. It would do a lot to smooth out the rough edges.

Performance

It’s incredible how fast this machine is. And that Apple was able to build it without any active cooling system. It’s faster than any computer I’ve ever owned in my life and is completely silent under full load.

For comparison’s sake, here are the Geekbench 5 results I received on the M2 MacBook Air alongside the results from a few other devices:

Single CoreMulti-core
MacBook Air (M2)18868620
iPad Pro (M1)17157245
iPhone 13 Pro17374683
MacBook Pro8873980

I’m not sure if there’s all that much to say beyond that in regard to performance. It can handle everything I’ve thrown at it and then some. At this point, the performance of my machine isn’t a limiting factor for my workflows.

Overall

I love this machine. Great performance and incredible battery life in a thin and light chassis, what more could you want? The notch is really the only blemish of note and there’s ways to hide that with software to minimize it’s annoyances.

Unless you really want a larger display from the MacBook Pro or you need to save $200 with the M1 MacBook Air, this is the laptop to buy.

OpenCore Legacy Patcher

MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2011) running macOS Big Sur

I recently saw Brad Taunt mention that he was installing Monterey on an unsupported Mac using OpenCore Legacy Patcher. This piqued my interest. My mid-2011 11-inch MacBook Air has been floating around my office unused for a while and I thought it was a good opportunity to give it a try.

I was aware of similar patchers in the past, but never bothered to use them. Instead, I was happy enough to install whatever Linux distribution caught my eye when I wanted to tinker. But in reality, I never really used them beyond the first week or two after setting up the system.

The problem is that I’m too invested in the Apple ecosystem. Despite my best efforts — moving to Fastmail for contacts syncing and using almost entirely third-party apps on iOS and the Mac — there’s still some system-level integrations that I rely on. The most prominent being iCloud Drive and Messages.

If I could install a more recent version of macOS on my trusty 11-inch MacBook Air, I could have access to those system-level features, I’d be able to work with software I’m a bit more familiar with, and get some more use out of hardware that’s over a decade old.

The OpenCore Legacy Patcher makes the process pretty straightforward. You use the app to download the upgrade, create a bootable installer, and then install OpenCore. You can then boot from the installer disk and install macOS as you would normally.

After installation, you’ll have to run the patcher app again to get the system to a state where it runs seamlessly — without displaying a boot picker, for example. But from that point forward it mostly runs without intervention. I haven’t had to touch the patcher app since I first installed it and I’ve been running it on my MacBook Air for a week or two.

The experience running Big Sur on such an old machine is a lot better than you might expect. It’s not perfect, of course, only having access to 4GB of memory is the biggest bottleneck, but I don’t have much trouble running a handful of apps at a time as long as I’m not pushing things too hard.

The system does run a bit warm and the battery life isn’t great — only about three hours or so when I’m using it as I normally would. But that was the case even when the laptop was brand new. This machine was from an era just before Apple made some pretty significant strides in battery life and even with a relatively new battery with just a few dozen cycles on it, it’s no where near the all day battery life that Apple offers on MacBooks of today.

For those that want a basis for comparison from a performance standpoint, I ran Geekbench 5 and received the following scores:

Single-Core Score: 476
Multi-Core Score: 969

Those aren’t particularly impressive, but are plenty for web browsing, email, listening to podcasts, and some occasional text editing and other productivity tasks.

But I wasn’t excited about installing Big Sur on this machine because of the performance. I was excited because of the form factor.

Apple just doesn’t make laptops like this anymore. It weighs just 2.38 pounds — about a third of a pound lighter than the M2 MacBook Air, which is the lightest laptop in Apple’s current lineup. Carrying around the 11-inch MacBook Air feels like nothing when compared to my 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The depth of the machine is also something I really miss. I know that everyone seems to like taller displays lately — Apple’s laptops are 16:10 and I remember seeing a lot of people raving about the Framework laptop’s 3:2 display. But I kind of miss a 16:9 display. It just allows for a much more compact footprint and I don’t really feel like I need more vertical screen real estate.

It is incredible that this little MacBook Air has some life remaining, though. Even after eleven years I can still get use out of it. I’ve replaced the battery and the trackpad, but everything has held up incredibly well. The hinge isn’t as tight as it used to be, but it’s still a lot better than most Windows laptops I come across.

If you have an old MacBook laying around and are looking for a good weekend project, I’d suggest giving OpenCore Legacy Patcher a try. At the very least, it’ll be a fun nostalgia kick, but you also might find that you can repurpose an old machine and get some more years of use out of it.

Three Years Later, the 12-Inch MacBook Is Still Missed ➝

Stephen Hackett:

In the lead up to Apple silicon there was a lot of conjecture — including by me — that the 12-inch MacBook would make a great candidate to lead the processor transition. So far, the MacBook hasn’t made a return, but I know a bunch of folks would like to see the line resurrected one more time.

I never used a 12-inch MacBook beyond the brief moments toying around with one in a retail store, but I’m a massive fan of the 11-inch MacBook Air. I used my 2011 model as my primary Mac up until 2018 and still use it occasionally today — I just recently used OpenCore Patcher to install Big Sur on the machine.

Despite my affinity for the 13-inch MacBooks, I still miss using an ultra-portable in the 11- or 12-inch range. My 11-inch Air is just so darn light and the smaller display never really feels like a hinderance to me. If Apple brought back the 12-inch MacBook — with a good keyboard this time — there’s a good chance I’d order one to use as my primary work laptop.

➝ Source: 512pixels.net

Hello, Air. ➝

Ru Singh:

I finally went with the MacBook Air, with 16 GB of memory and 512 GB of disk space. I also opted for the extra GPU core, although I’m told it doesn’t really make much of a difference. It’s just a nice to have so I can hopefully run this machine for two or three years.

At this point, it’s already over a year old, and it might have been better to wait for the M2 Air, but waiting for new tech is an endless cycle. Assuming something is announced/released in late-2022 or even mid-2022, the chip shortages are expected to continue, and getting my hands on one would have delayed it to early 2023. Why wait a whole year?

I’m due for a new work laptop soon — I should be getting my ping about a replacement sometime this month. I’ll probably get this exact same model. The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros are neat and all, but I really like the size and weight of the MacBook Air. And all “upgrades” that you get with the Pro are either superfluous or would more likely feel like downgrades to me.

➝ Source: rusingh.com