In June 2020 Apple announced the start of transitioning from Intel chips to their own chips, for Macs. The first wave of these Macs came out in November 2020: the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. I bought the first M1 Mac mini, this page will represent logs of my experience during this transition. Older “entries” will be at the bottom. This is done as a single page instead of posts so that the link to it stays consistent over time.


20201118 - Full Setup

Today I swapped my iMac with the second (older) display for my Mac minI. In doing so, I’ve acknolwedged that this Mac mini, and more so, Big Sur and the Apple Silicon architecture, are functional enough for my day-to-day work. I’ll report back here as needed, but it has been remarkably smooth for me to get to this point so quickly.

20201117 - Mac mini Arrived

The Mac mini arrived today, aside from iCloud getting stuck on a tiny Terms of Service window everything went well. To get around iCloud, I first set up without it, then after updating the Mac to 11.0.1 logged into iCloud. Everything that I use with any regularity works just fine. I really cannot tell when I’m using an Intel app, as they “just work”. Much better than with the PPC->Intel transition. Even apps such as Local and VS Code work. The only apps I find a bit odd are the few iOS apps I’ve tried. As expected, Google Drive File Stream fails, but that is apparently being actively worked on by Google, and can be used in Safari until then.

20201113 – Looking at Big Sur on Intel

Looking closer at Apple-provided apps in Big Sur on an Intel laptop, it is clear that everyone gets the universal OS. With the PowerPC to Intel transition only the Intel Macs got universal builds of the operating system. I found this out by runniing the followoing against a few Apple-provided apps:

lipo -info /System/Applications/Mail.app/Contents/MacOS/Mail

I believe that you need Xcode installed to run that command. This showed that even on Intel these apps are universal (fat) binaries. That alone explains the higher disk space required for Big Sur. I will not, myself, use Big Sur full-time until I’m doing so on my M1 Mac.

20201112 - App Compatibility

I use a bunch of software. Almost all of it is Mac-only software, and even if not universal on day one, ought to work fine under Rosetta 2. Rosetta 2, by the way, translates binaries, not emulates Intel, so apps may take around 20 seconds (according to Misrosoft regarding Office) to launch the first time, but then be speedy from then on. However, some apps are more complicated. Any app with kernel extensions will need to be native, so that means in my case Google Drive File Stream and Dropbox (for smart sync) will not function right away, I bet. But I don’t use smart sync on my desktop, so the early-release builds (change to these in Dropbox account settings) should work just fine. Google Drive I can live with being browser-only if needed for a few weeks.

I use VS Code all the time for editing code. That has an exploratory ARM build I’ll use. The other less-Mac-like developer app I use is Local. That hasn’t yet been tested, but since Homebrew shows that PHP and MySQL work on macOS 11 (which is how they refer to M1 systems, as macOS 10.16 is still a version reported in some cases), and these plus Electron (which VS Code uses) are a big part of Local, I’m hopeful. Worst case scenario I use my iMac for development purposes a bit longer.

I do not think that any software incompatibilities will push me to return the Mac mini, they’ll just complicate my life for a bit, and perhaps make me a two-desktop human for a bit. That could be fun as a developer, and heading in to this Covid-laced winter. I don’t forsee myself being as busy with consulting work as some times these next few months, just given the patterns of that work, so this could be a nice fun extra thing to keep me busy in the dark days of our winter.

20201110 - Ordered a M1 Mac mini

Well, Apple announced new Macs powered by their own silicon. Maybe against better judgement, but hey, as a developer I can handle issues, I’ve ordsered a M1 Mac mini to replace my 2013 iMac. I’ve been waiting for Apple Silicon before upgrading, but for a number of reasons it is time to upgrade my main Mac.