M1 MacBook Air

I called my wife a few weeks ago to tell her good news/bad news. The good news, all my stuff is backed up. (I got burned once in 2009 and vowed never to let that happen again.) The bad news, my MacBook didn’t like filtering a cup of coffee through its motherboard.

After the initial hope—can it be saved, what if we dry it out, etc.—had to face the truth. It was a goner.

We are fortunate enough to be somewhere I don’t have to go without. And paying for the 6-year-old machine to be repaired was an upside-down proposition. So I bought an M1 MacBook Air.

Things have changed in six years.

A lot of the immediate improvement is having functional parts. The old machine’s battery had been expiring for two years or so. Working on the couch meant taking the charger with me, and working early morning at my office meant a balancing act between working on the machine and having it plugged in to the only accessible outlet, located on the far wall. Apple’s switched keyboards, too. I never disliked the butterfly keyboard—the low travel was nice—but the new one is also nice. And seems less likely to malfunction when dirt or debris winds up beneath the keys.

The speakers are wild. Good volume, good depth. I don’t play anything louder than two or three ticks because even that low it’s plenty loud. (And my two-year-old is the only one who likes experimental music as much as I do.)

The M1 is a brand new chip, based off the ARM architecture they use for iPhones and iPads. It’s a revolutionary upgrade compared not just to the older, underpowered machine I used to have, but to almost anything. It wakes up faster, performs faster, and is vastly more energy-efficient than x86 chips. Since it’s the same architecture, it also runs iPhone/iPad apps natively. And it runs x86 apps with the help of a translation layer named Rosetta 2. While most of my work has already transitioned to M1-native software, the few apps that are still x86 run just as smoothly and just as quickly as M1 native.

The software packages I use at the command line to build and maintain my websites or pursue hobbyist programming have mostly been updated to M1 code. There’s a lot of Python packages that haven’t, but I can run a separate terminal in the Rosetta layer as x86, so it’s not like there aren’t workarounds.

I really like the new device, but it’s not my old one. I’m sure it won’t take long for me to form the same sentimental attachment. But my 2015 laptop was where I’d written at least 400,000 words. It was where I compiled pictures of my infant daughter into albums. Where I gathered music that spoke to me. It was the machine I took with me to write before kung fu, or in the morning before work. It was the first Apple laptop that was actually mine.

But the new machine is where I’ll finish The Wire Road, among other books. Where I’ll compile pictures of my wife, my daughter, and my son into albums. Where I’ll keep delving into the ouroboros of Spotify recommendations where “people who listen to [x] also like [y],” where I’m the only one who likes [x], and the only one listening to [y].

It’s where I’m typing this.

Welcome to the job, buddy.

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