Intel -> Arm Transition Is Official

I suppose I am old enough to have endured two big transitions in the Apple world. The first, of course, was Apple jumping ship from the PowerPC line of chips, ending with the G5 as its last hurrah in that space, to more competitive Intel chips. Today, at WWDC, Apple announced its next transition, promising to release the first Apple Silicone powered Macs by the end of the year.

A Mac Mini style developer’s kit is already being primed and made available to developers to take a look at what this new era will look like.

Already, we are being shown glimpses of new Apple Universal Binaries. (Blast from the past!)

I am always in a wait and see mode, but with the advances that its own chips have given it in the phone and tablet world, this makes sense for Apple. Their chips are excellent and are probably especially ideal for laptops. A MacBook with an Apple chip is going to be fast, efficient, and small, truly fanless without settling for an underpowered mobile Intel chip. It’s kind of exciting. Right now, you can mock up your own experience if you pair a decent iPad with an Apple Keyboard.

What will be especially interesting is the desktop end of it. Will someone really use a Mac desktop with an Apple chip to do their video editing? How will it stack up against the more serious and beefy options in the Intel/AMD world? Is this Apple giving up after recently redesigning the Mac Pro? Apple has committed to continue to support and develop future Intel Macs, and I could see a scenario where Apple’s ARM chips go into the consumer side of things like Mac Minis, MacBooks, and MacBook Pros but everything else remains in the Intel world. However, it’s probably unlikely. We’ll just have to see.

On the other hand, is this the end of any customizability in future Apple Silicone chip-based machines? Will we see, for example, a future Mac mini with upgradable RAM slots? I doubt it. Maybe these future Macs won’t need upgradeability, being far more efficient than current hardware. Maybe their form factors will be simpler, and their price tag a bit cheaper too. Who knows?

Once again, Apple is taking some risks, but in this case, it’s proven. They aren’t dependent on IBM to design and push the limits of its chips. They aren’t going to be tied to Intel either. Their chips are in their hands now. Of course, this could put pressure on Intel to step up and make a case for Apple to remain a customer, working hard to develop processors to fit future products. We’ll see.

Already, Mac users with long memories are wondering when their Intel Macs will be excluded from future Mac updates. Will it be a fast transition like Leopard to Snow Leopard? Or will it take a few cycles?

What a day for the Mac.

— Nathan

What to do with an old Mac Pro 1,1?

So, the story goes like this.

I ended up with a Mac Pro 1,1 in decent condition via a university surplus sale for less than $100.

With a firmware upgrade to make it act like a 2,1, more RAM, and a slightly better eight core Xeon processor, I had intended to turn it into a 24/7 file server to be accessible remotely. The Mac Pro, even the 1,1, for all of its warts has plenty of expansion space. Would I max it out internally? Add external hard drives? Make it less power hungry?

But, and there is always a but with these old machines, I ended up with an inexpensive dedicated NAS that sips power and does a lot more for less.

So, what to do with an old Mac Pro 1,1?

(And yes, I recognize that I am posting this on a G5 site.)

In the end, I am typing this blog post from Windows 10 installed on a second SSD (that I had pulled from another machine). On the other SSD, I’m running El Capitan, which is okay to do somethings especially within a browser like Firefox. The Mac Pro 1,1, despite its limitations on the Mac OS X side, makes a hell of a Windows machine. I’ve got an older but decent graphics card in here too (procured on the cheap). I can even game a bit.

Like all old Macs, the key question is why – why do you want to run them? Do you want to tinker? Do you want to learn? Do you want to scrounge around for old parts? Are you into nostalgia? Are you just curious? They are all good reasons. Especially if you can get access to these old Macs for next to nothing.

Older Intel Macs will become the beloved next generation of low end Macs precisely because they can dual boot in a lot of different configurations, from Linux to Windows. It makes them an intriguing option to keep around the house, even as their Mac OS X limitations creep in.

Our PowerPC Macs are only getting older and there is less speed and power to squeeze out of them as even Linux slowly leaves them behind.

Meanwhile, my wife’s old MacBook 1,1 is sitting below me. I’ve tinkered with it but found that its plastic case and roaring fans leave a lot to be desired. Still, it could run Windows. It could run numerous variants of Linux. It’s something to play with. But why? What do I want to do with it? Ultimately, that’s the question.

  • What is your next old Mac project?
  • Why do you work on old Macs?