Mia

On my birthday this year, the unthinkable occurred and things finally came full circle. For the first time ever, I’m joining the Apple world with an Apple M1-based MacBook Pro!

VSCode running on macOS

Portable, powerful and able to run on battery power for many hours*, this 16” MacBook Pro — which I’ve dubbed Mia — is without a doubt the most beautiful machine I’ve ever used. Although back in 2012 I moved away from using laptops as my daily driver, I can’t help but be more excited about using my MacBook than my desktop right now, probably because of how seamless the entire experience is compared to the usual Linux or Windows fare. Not to mention, of course, the astounding display quality compared to the 1080p 60 Hz dual screen experience.

* Apple claims this is approximately 14 hours of wireless web browsing, but we all know that’s based on an artificial “normal” workload that’s rather unlikely to happen in practice.)

Saying I’m happy would be a massive understatement, basically. 😄 And as you can see, I already customised it a fair bit to suit my personal aesthetic and preferences — sorry, fans of all-default settings!

It’s absolutely impossible to show in screenshots or video captures how good the screen is. Not only does it have the usual Retina quality for rendering unbelievably smooth text, the 2021 14” and 16” MacBook Pro models also have ProMotion capability, meaning an adaptive 120 Hz refresh rate for workloads that can benefit from the increased fluidity — including windowing effects — as well as High Dynamic Range (HDR). My regular desktop screens look absolutely horrendous in comparison and this is even more evident if I plug them into Mia as externals.

Wesnoth on macos

Quite impressingly, Mia is able to build (native M1 only) Wesnoth in around 2 minutes without spinning up the CPU fans, while my desktop takes 5+ minutes and wastes a huge amount of heat in the process which causes its fans to spin much faster for the sake of not melting the CPU. Hm.

The audio quality on the built-in microphone is honestly quite impressive — the other day my partner actually thought I was using my desktop computer and my recording microphone to call her. The FaceTime camera is also pretty good, as expected.

I will admit I was previously skeptical about Touch ID being more reliable than Samsung’s fingerprint reader, but as it turns out, I can always unlock my MacBook instantly without pressing my finger against the reader a dozen times — something that is sadly a common ocurrence with my phone and often results in Android giving up and asking for my PIN instead.

When Apple started to introduce the dreaded notch into their design language, I was part of the crowd in the gallery grabbing popcorn — especially so when they announced the notched 14” and 16” MacBook Pros. However, now that I am actually using a notch-bearing Apple product I realise that they put more thought into the design than I assumed.

Notch? What notch?

The truth is that macOS’s window manager is designed to take some vertical real estate off fullscreen apps in order to let the notch inhabit the off-window area, with the menu bar turning black and remaining hidden unless the mouse is occupying the top area. In practice and helped by the screen’s deep blacks, this makes the notch (sans the FaceTime cam indicator if applicable) almost completely merge with the menubar whenever a window is in fullscreen mode. Of course this means sacrificing a small chunk at the top of every fullscreen window regardless of anything, but this hasn’t been a concern in normal usage for me so far.

In non-fullscreen mode, of course, the notch just takes away a horizontal chunk of the menu bar which is already always present, so it does not make any difference at all and even looks kind of stylish... as long as you are not running with an excessive number of menu bar items, oops.

So how do I feel about the notch, overall? Kind of neutral, really. I can see how it could be annoying for certain use cases, but right now it stays completely out of my way.

Now, while I did come here fully expecting to learn new workflows — much like I had to do when I started using Linux and KDE 3.4 after years of using MS-DOS and Windows computers — there are a few things that bother me, although nothing too major as it is all stuff that can be corrected with some tweaking in System Preferences:

Finder Preferences dialog showing the “Keep folders on top” options

  • Apple believes in not treating folders as a separate class of entities in file listings and the like, so the default for Finder is to arrange folders and files together, instead of listing folders first and files second like Windows does. I can kind of see where they are coming from, but I personally find it a bit awkward so I changed the corresponding setting. (This explains why KDE Dolphin’s devs decided to add an option not to list folders first...)

  • For whatever reason, Apple has also decided you don’t need to know whether a Finder view can be scrolled down when you first look at it. This one I find rather inexcusable because it makes essential information easy to miss if you aren’t like one of my friends and try to scroll down every single window you see... for some... reason.

Finder window with rows full of folders

I guess Apple’s logic is “full last row = try to scroll down just in case”
  • This is admittedly me being nitpicky after using KDE software for so long, but there isn’t a built-in mechanism to browse SFTP shares, which to be fair is a problem on Windows as well. For me, it’s just incredibly convenient on Linux to use Dolphin to browse through files on remote machines when there are a lot of them (e.g. web server docroots). KIOSlaves make it even more convenient to work with said files on familiar apps like Kate and the like. There are third-party SFTP apps I might try in the future if they can provide the same level of convenience I’m used to.

  • Since macOS does support Microsoft SMB network shares, I decided to whip up a Samba server on Hana and use that as a makeshift file server. Only problem is that macOS does not seem to like it when SMB shares disappear and does not provide a way to automatically reconnect to them when they next become available again, unlike Windows.

Wesnoth on the Mac App Store

This app seems familiar...
  • Installing Xcode through the App Store takes forever because of how large it is. While my new Internet connection can handle this just fine, I find it a bit confusing that the detailed progress meter is under the Launchpad icon and not in the App Store, uh, app.

  • This is less of an issue with Apple per se and more one with the ecosystem, but somehow despite Android being a very open platform where you can run an sshd on a non-standard port if you so desire — which appears to be how KDE Connect allows browsing files from your phone — nobody has considered yet that integrating Android devices with macOS is very much not impossible even without Apple’s blessing.

Name & OperationCPUGPURAM & StorageOS
Mia
2022–present
Apple M1 Pro
8× 3.2 GHz cores / 2× 2.0 GHz cores
Apple M1 Pro
16 cores UMA
16 GB RAM
512 GB SSD
macOS Monterey 12.2.1
Hana
2017–present
Intel Core i7-7700K (Kaby Lake)
4× 4.2 GHz HT cores
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
6 GB VRAM
32 GB RAM
512 GB + 1 TB SSD
3 TB + 2 TB HDD
Arch Linux
Windows 10 21H2
Nana
2012–20172
Intel Core i7-3770 (Ivy Bridge)
4× 3.4 GHz HT cores
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
6 GB VRAM
16 GB RAM
512 GB SSD
2 TB HDD
Debian Stretch
Windows 10 1607
Derpy
2012–present
Intel Core i7-3537U (Ivy Bridge)
2× 2.0 GHz HT cores
Intel HD Graphics 4000
NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
8 GB RAM
1 TB SSHD
openSUSE Tumbleweed
Windows 10 21H1
Rei1
2010–???
Intel Pentium T4300 (Penryn)
2× 2.1 GHz cores
Intel GM454 GB RAM
500 GB HDD
Debian Wheezy
Blue
2008–???
AMD Athlon 64 X2 QL-62
2× 2 GHz cores
ATI Radeon HD 32004 GB RAM
250 GB HDD
Debian Wheezy
Windows Vista SP1
Grey
2007–20082 3
AMD Turion 64 MK-38
2 GHz
ATI Radeon Xpress 1100??? GB RAM
80 GB HDD
Debian Lenny
Windows Vista
Black
2006–20162
Intel Pentium 4 517 (Prescott)
2.93 GHz HT
S3 UniChrome Pro/VIA P4M8001 GB RAM
160 GB HDD
Windows XP SP3
Debian Squeeze
PC #2
2002–20064
Intel Celeron 1300 (Tualatin)
1.30 GHz
Intel 810E256 MB RAM
40 GB HDD
openSUSE 10.0
Windows XP SP2
PC #1
1997–20164
Intel Pentium MMX (P55C)
166 MHz
S3 Trio64V+
1 MB VRAM
32 MB RAM
1.2 GB HDD
Windows 95 OSR 2.0
1 Functional but in storage.
2 Major damage or electrical fault.
3 Partial destruction from shoddy construction.
4 Total destruction/decay from inadequate storage.

I will say it’s quite unusual for me to come into possession of a computing device while whatever it is meant to replace is still perfectly functional, although technically only Grey and Blue were my laptops and Rei and Derpy were hand-me-downs. Then again, calling Derpy “functional” may be a slight stretch. I mistakenly assumed this Sony Vaio laptop died back in 2017 around the time I acquired Hana, but this turned out not to be the case — the battery was just seriously drained. Even so, it’s plagued by weird bugs and other unusual behaviour that makes it rather inconvenient for me to use:

  • Derpy’s trackpad glitches out when using tap-and-drag gestures on either Windows or Linux until rebooted. Sometimes this just randomly happens without tap-and-drag anyway.
  • The CPU heats up above 70 °C with ease when watching videos or streams, or just running any CPU intensive application (hi Windows Installer Module Worker, I hate you so much). Being an Ivy Bridge model, it’s also clearly showing its age.
  • Its NVIDIA GT 735M GPU is Kepler-based, which means missing out on some of the more recent NVIDIA Optimus-related and GBM/Wayland-related improvements in Linux-land due to discontinued mainline support. The limited codecs also contribute to the aforementioned issues with CPU temperature as platforms move onto newer and more efficient video encoding.
  • You can’t really tell its got a hybrid disk drive (SSHD) because of how infuriatingly slow it is 100% of the time. Often it feels even slower than a traditional 5400 rpm laptop HDD!
  • The humongous size of the whole thing exceeds even that of the 16" MacBook Pro, which makes it pretty much impossible to carry around.
  • Its 17” screen is not even worth it since it’s not an IPS panel and it has a seriously bad colour range even when viewed at a straight angle. This was somehow marketed as a media creation laptop back in the day, by the way.
  • The full PC keyboard manages to be more of a hindrance than an advantage most of the time.

There is pretty much nothing about it that I miss on this MacBook. And this may be a shock to some, but I don’t miss Linux either, although explaining why Linux has been rubbing me the wrong way for years would be worth an entire blog post of its own.

Having said that, Mia is not going to replace Hana but rather complement her. I do really wish I could replace my current 1080p dual screen setup with 4K screens to even out the playing field, but my NVIDIA GTX 1060 would probably take great offence to that. It’s still something to think about. 🤔

It’s gonna be a bit of a journey to get there, but hopefully I will get to reveal more about Mia’s ultimate purpose soon. 💜

(Note: As both a company as well as a manufacturer of computing devices, Apple is certainly not without its negatives. But right now I’m focussed on the positives, which I feel is something I deserve after many years of letting negativity — from both internal and external sources — get the better of me. Plus we are on the brink of World War III or something, let me live for a bit before the world ends.)