Throw away your mask

Just kidding, don’t do that yet. Interesting but also not surprising that masks and staying remote has led to me not getting sick at all this year. Even with CDC guidance pointing in the other direction, I’m not entirely sure I’ll fully ditch masks; at least, not on public transit or around people who have kids.

I picked up one of the new iMacs yesterday. It’s very blue. At least, the back of it is. The front of it is more of a pastel blue with a white bezel, which has a completely different vibe. I don’t hate it, but if there was an option for a darker blue all the way around, I might go with that next time.

I went for the mid-range configuration, as I usually do. Go for the spec boosts from additional GPU, RAM, and IO, but leave the storage upgrades behind. Those tend to be expensive for what you get, and I simply don’t use bulk storage locally anymore.

Early impression is that the system is quite capable at doing what I need it to do. The speakers sound pretty good, considering the entire thing is as thin as it is. Better than what you get on an iPad or on most laptops. The screen’s nice, as they usually are. I don’t frequently use Windows 10 with a display larger than 1080p, but my experience has been that MacOS handles 4K-and-higher displays much more uniformly. (That’s to say nothing of the absolute circus that Windows 10 itself is; why, after six years, are some settings still in the Control Panel and others in the Settings app?)

Included in the box were a keyboard and mouse that matched the color of the computer itself. I can take or leave a Magic Mouse – I don’t particularly get a lot of use out of the touch-sensitive surface, and having the charging port underneath the mouse so you can’t charge it and use it as the same time is a pants-on-head-stupid idea that I wish Apple would fix. But the keyboard is nice; it’s comfortable to type on, and it includes a Touch ID button for faster authentication. One of these years, Apple will ship Macs with FaceID to bring MacOS to parity with Windows Hello, but it doesn’t seem like it’s high on their list of priorities.

The translation layer Apple provides to support x86 applications on the new M1 chip is actually pretty crazy. When you try to run an x86 app for the first time, MacOS downloads Rosetta and then uses that to recompile the x86 app to run on the M1 chip. Considering this was a wholesale CPU architecture change, I expected there to be hiccups among the stuff I use, but there simply haven’t been.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I occasionally play Rocksmith. The Mac build distributed via Steam works perfectly fine on M1, and although I’m usually focusing on other things when I’m playing (like staring at the fretboard of my bass), I’m hard-pressed to notice performance issues with the graphics, stuttering audio, etc. – the game simply runs as if it was targeted for the new platform to begin with.

I haven’t tried any other games yet. I’d expect the Good Old Games distro of SimCity 2000 that I still occasionally play to work fine. Supposedly Final Fantasy 14 is serviceable as well. However, I’m currently struggling to come up with a reason to play that on the Mac when the PS5 is in the same room, giving me much better hardware and a much larger screen to play on.

Long story short, Apple did a good job with building a complete package that serves the purposes they think they need to serve, and it seems clear to me that the tight integration and focused set of use cases are things that will be to their advantage for quite some time.

Windows (and Linux, to be sure) are designed to play to broader sets of hardware configs based on general-purpose components. Fifteen years ago, I would have identified the lack of AAA-level PC gaming as a weakness for the Mac platform; but then again, if I’m doing all my gaming on consoles and not even maintaining a PC for PC gaming, do I care? Probably not, right? Eliminating that checkbox from the list of things I need a computer I buy to support means I can look at other options that can potentially serve other purposes even more effectively.

And the bonus is I don’t have to subject myself to the vagaries of the interplay between an operating system I don’t particularly like and the sheer number of hardware configurations it needs to support.

If only 2003 me could see me today…

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