OK…let’s have a post that’s more interesting to read than all the blather about politics, stupid people, lies, and misinformation…Ima gettin’ plain tuckered out about that. As the MD governor said yesterday…”the majority of Americans are exhausted and fed up with politics and feel ignored by the politicians in Washington.” I gotta agree with him.
Nothing new at home…we’re just marking time waiting on the pandemic to be over and life as we know it to resume.
Anyways…let’s talk about Apple and the new hardware that they introduced this week…but in order to really make sense of it you need to have a little history about how we got here.
You’re probably all familiar with how Microsoft “saved” Apple back in 1997 by stepping in when they were “on the brink of bankruptcy” by purchasing $150 million worth of preferred, non-voting Apple stock and agreeing that they would continue to produce Microsoft Office or Macintosh. Unfortunately…the headlines don’t quite reflect reality…at the time Apple still had about $8 billion in cash or about 53 times the cash that Microsoft provided…so Apple wasn’t on the brink of bankruptcy. They were mired in a bunch of bad press about low market share and Microsoft’s support did help stabilize stock prices and consumer confidence. However…even at the lowest…Apple’s market share for personal computers was larger than the market share of BMW, Rolls Royce, and numerous other high value auto makers…none of which were “on the brink of bankruptcy” either. But no matter.
Steve Jobs returned from exile to lead Apple in 1997 and his first major new product was the original iMac…which as you know turned out to be a hit and it’s been followed by others.
There was scuttlebutt for years about Apple making a phone…and numerous luminaries in the phone business, which at the time was used for only making phone calls except for the little bit of web and email abilities that devices like a Blackberry could do…anyway they all said that Apple could not make a phone because they didn’t know anything about the phone business.
Fast forward a bunch of years…and everybody pretty much wants an iPhone…yes, I know they don’t have the majority market share over Android…but market share doesn’t matter. What matters is profit share…and Apple makes the vast majority of profit in the smart phone sector…this is because they intentionally market a high end, well integrated software and hardware device that mostly just works and as most will agree generally provides a higher degree of personal privacy and security than Android or other phone systems.
Then there was the tablet market…which was essentially non existent until Apple introduced the iPad…and you know how that’s turned out.
Ya see…Apple never tries to be first to market with anything. They let others try and watch what works and what doesn’t work…then they use their hardware/software integration magic to make the thing that you actually want to buy. They’ve been doing this for decades…and despite that they’ve been “proudly going out of business since 1984” as a lot of Apple product people have been saying for a long time.
A month or so…they introduced the new iPhone 12 and some upgraded iPad models…which predictably are selling as fast as they can make them.
But…what about the Mac? Apple for the past 10 years or so has been primarily the iPhone company and although Macs were still selling most of their profit came from the iPhone and iPad lines. Not so much this year…Mac sales, in particular laptop sales have had record quarters largely due to the pandemic and people needing to work from home. Neil’s said it for years…Windows is actually not a bad operating system…but for a non techie user without an IT department to support it it is much more difficult to setup, maintain, and use than macOS is…although in the latest iterations usability got better until they got into that whole whatever they did to the user interface with Windows 10. Take a reinstallation for instance. In the first place…you’re very much more likely to need to completely reinstall Windows than macOS to recover from a problem…having to do a complete reinstall on macOS is extremely rare…and if you do reinstall Windows you need to reinstall programs, restore data and all that. On macOS…even a reinstall is trivially easy so that your grandma can do it.
So…over the years since 1984…the Mac has run on 3 different chipsets so far. They started with the Motorola 68000 series chips until Motorola demonstrated that they couldn’t achieve the higher performing chips that more advanced hardware and software needed so back in 1997 Apple transitioned to a chip set named PowerPC…this required a complete rewrite of the operating system but as it turned out Apple had been working on this for years in the lab and the transition was a result.
Fast forward another bunch of years to 2005 and it happened again. The PowerPC consortium had mostly broken up by that time but again failed to deliver faster and more capable chips when needed so that Mac performance was falling behind that of Intel based computers. So…Apple did another processor switch to Intel’s x86 line of processors and those have been powering Apple’s Macintosh hardware ever since.
Note that both of these processor swaps required a complete rewrite of the OS…but that had been happening for years in Apple’s internal labs before the switch happened and both were pretty much a seamless and successful switch.
Stepping outside the Mac lineup for a moment…fairly early in the history of iPhones Apple switched to a processor based on an the ARM instruction set that Apple designed specifically for the iPhone and every year since they’ve introduced an improved version of the A series chip to power the new iPhone (and eventually the iPad) hardware. Fast forward a bunch of years to 2020…and we now have the A14 which powers the latest iPad and iPhone hardware…and this chip is faster and more power efficient than the chipsets powering most laptop computers. Add into that the fact that again Intel is falling behind in their ability to produce chips that are both more powerful to meet the needs of new hardware/software and reduce the die size of the processor sufficiently to decrease power consumption and thereby extend battery life…and for the third time Apple announced last June that the Mac would be transitioning to what they called Apple Silicon…essentially that Apple would switch from Intel x86 processors to an Apple custom designed and fabricated processor.
The advantages of this are obvious…by controlling both hardware and software Apple can design the capabilities of the chip to be exactly what they want them to be instead of what Intel can provide since Apple was only a minor part of the overall Intel chip business. Second…it allowed Apple to switch the Mac to what is called an SoC for “system on a chip”…in other words the entire computer essentially becomes just a single chip instead of the dozens of chips required with non SoC designs. This lowers power requirements all on it’s own, has a bunch of performance advantages, and by allowing smaller motherboards and hence larger batteries in the same sized laptop gives you a double benefit as far as battery life goes.
Since June…there has been a bunch of speculation about what Macs would get the new chips first and Apple committed in June to shipping the first one this year and complete the transition within 2 years…this is the same promise they gave for both previous chipset swaps and both of those were completed in about a year of their 2 year timeline.
At an event last week…we found the answer. Apple announced the M1 chip which powers their first released hardware…they took their A chips from the iPad/iPhone line, beefed them up a bit, added some more chips to the SoC design to do things that laptops need and iPhone/iPad doesn’t need. Then they stuck the new chip into the MacBook Air, the low end MacBook Pro, and the Mac Mini…in retrospect this seems the obvious choice as the first M series chip will be the slowest and worst performing M chip they will ever introduce…past history with the A series tells us that M2, M3, and so on will just grow from here. At the event…Apple also announced that you could order the new hardware the day after the event and it would ship 1 week later.
So…slight fast forward to this week and actual shipping production hardware is in the hands of review folks…and what do we have. Although things are early…all of the reviews have pretty much been spectacular.
Despite these being the low end laptops with the slowest M chip the will ever exist…the new hardware outperforms every other Mac laptop ever and every Mac ever except for the two high end desktops. Battery life is about 50% better than the identical laptop except for processor models they replaced.
Essentially…all of the reviewers…even those that are not particularly Apple fans…are…wow, these things are fast.
There’s not very much Mac software that’s specifically written for the new processor released yet…so in order to get around that problem Apple shipped a translator capability named Rosetta 2 with the new hardware…Rosetta 2 essentially translates any old Intel programs on the fly into the new ARM based M1 instruction set and then runs the translated code…as anyone familiar with code translation (as opposed to recompilation into new dedicated code) can tell you generally translated code is larger in size and slower to execute than non translated code. Despite this…the translated Intel code runs between 1.5 and 2 times as fast as the original code ran on the replaced Intel machines.
If we were in the market for new hardware…we would be on these like white on rice…but Neil as the head of the IT department says we’re waiting on the M2 and the updated MacBook Pro for his use. He offered Connie one of the new Airs…but she rarely uses her laptop these days as she relies almost exclusively on her iPad for her computer needs…so she said that unless it dies she’s not ready to replace her laptop…although she did put a new iPad on her Christmas/Birthday/Anniversary list as all of those happen between now and the end of the year.
OK…enough of that…Interesting things found on the net.
Everybody thinks the moon is pretty close to earth but when you come down to it the earth is 8,000 miles in diameter and the moon is 250,000 miles away or about 31 earth diameters. To give you a little bit of scale on that…on the far left in the image below is the earth and the far right is the moon with the correct scale for distance. Neglecting gravitational issues which would prevent this from actually happening…you could actually line up all of the other planets between the earth the moon.
One that might only be of interest to me…the largest submarine the US has built is the Ohio class SSBN the displaces about 18,000 tons antis 560 feet long. The Soviets built one the US designated Typhoon which is about 48,000 tons and 574 feet…it is much wider than the Ohios are. One might wonder just how big a 48,000 ton submarine is…this is one of the best pictures illustrating that…note the sailor sitting on top of the shroud around the port (left side) screw. That’s a seriously big ship…nothing compared to a carrier or supertanker of course but still big.
And the best one of the week.