To the M1: Initial Thoughts.

83664148-1E23-47E7-A938-F6E543C2AB8AFirst, let me give some context: I have an Intel NUC 7 that has done well over the years to annoy the hell out of me. Between Windows 10 and the Nuc itself, whether it detects audio on the HDMI has been something that I could never get correct. It would simply get it right 1% of the time, and 99% of the time, I had to rely on a bluetooth speaker.

I updated the firmware, manually, because the automatic firmware updates didn’t work. I updated device drivers. I updated Windows 10. I did all these things with decreasing alacrity over the past 2 years. Booting took forever as, apparently, Windows and Intel could not quite figure out how to play well together.

I will tell anyone considering buying an Intel NUC of any sort to consider, perhaps, randomly giving yourself paper cuts across your knuckles throughout the day. It’s cheaper.

I shopped around. Ever since I did some work with a telecommunications company in Florida where Mac minis were all over their dev environment, I kept an eye on them and lo! The M1 Mac mini showed up with stuff related to neural networks. I like neural networks. They’re smarter than dumb people, generally, and what I have learned is elevating the level of stupid I deal with daily is all I can do in this world.

Nuc replacement? No. I’ll likely toss Linux on that thing where it can quietly do… something… without annoying me too much. I honestly have had such an annoying experience with that NUC that I will only sell it to someone I don’t know or like should I decide to get rid of it.

These things, of course, never show up in reviews of devices because it takes time to truly find the annoyances of any device, and you should bear this in mind as I write about the M1 – but truth be told, it has already begun to annoy me a bit.

The Mac Mini M1.

And so, I unpackaged the Mac mini M1 I had custom ordered (more RAM, more SSD, etc, because: because). I note a lot of reviewers like to talk about the packaging, and I have no idea why when it takes 5 words to communicate that: “It was hard/easy to unpack”.

It was easy to unpack.

In my mind, thoughts of someone in a sweatshop packing everything just so drifted through my mind, but I did not afford myself the luxury of that thought too much since the amount of packaging was minimal.

Next, not being an avid Apple user, I tried to turn the thing on which, of course, required me to read the 1 page documentation that came with it since in my experience there was an ‘on’ button on Mac keyboards. It wasn’t there. That took me all of 2 minutes.

It came on. It recognised the mouse and keyboard, and began the ‘new computer’ interrogation:

Where are you from?
What is your Apple User Id (or whatever the hell they call it)?
Do you want to… use this? That? The other? All 3? Just 2? Which 2?

I think the most amusing thing was that it asked me about Siri, so I set that up thinking, “Hey, did this thing come with an internal microphone?” Well, of course it didn’t, so the de facto world leaders in User Experience (UX) made a boo boo. It should have said, “Oh darn, you don’t have a microphone, no Siri for you”, instead of having me shout “Siri” at the Mac repeatedly.

And then, suddenly, we’re doing updates which are always annoying (who wants to start a new machine for updates? Nobody.) but they were relatively painless. It offered the latest Mac OSx version, Monterey, but I’m sticking with Big Sur a bit. 

And then it just… Worked. And that’s what people want. We want stuff that works. It recognised my monitor, the audio – though for some peculiar reason it didn’t save using the monitor as the default setting, something I’ll figure out in time.

So, out of the box – I like the M1.

Then comes the wonderful part of passwords from accounts, etc, which is always a hassle, but that’s pretty much done – and then, there is the adjusting of using the keyboard from the PC keyboards to the Apple keyboards.

Ctrl? No, Command, which is a key over and takes some getting used to.

And lastly, the part that’s horrid about the M1: Some applications just ain’t ready for it. Android emulators do work, but not as automatically as one would hope. Some games are hokey. The M1, being out for about a year, hasn’t grown the support outside of Apple that would make it a real contender out of the box, and I imagine the marketshare is something that doesn’t have software companies racing to compete for.

So on the software end, it’s a mixed bag – and fortunately, I have basic needs of the machine that are met which make the inconvenience bearable.

It is quiet. Creepy quiet. The silence that when it comes with a 3 year old human makes you wonder what they’re into.

Overall: It does what I need it to do, and it inconveniently does not do some things (yet?) that I want it to.

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