My new M1 iMac has now been operational for a whole week, which seems worthy of note. The very good news is that it is blindingly fast. I sometimes have the feeling that it knew what I was going to do before I did. Getting to this point, however, has not been plain sailing and, to mix a metaphor, I am not out of the woods yet.

The problems have largely been of my own making. The old iMac, a mid-2011 model, had been on the fritz for some time, and had reached the point where it was dying at least once a day. That was scary enough. Worse, the on/off switch was flaky, taking a fair bit of cajoling to perform its job. It was becoming untenable, so I bit the bullet and bought.

A couple of years ago I had bought an external SSD to use as the start-up disk, which improved life a lot. So, when the new iMac arrived I kept the same username and plugged the SSD in to transfer things myself, because the Migration Assistant was being painfully slow. That mostly worked fine, except that much of the time I couldn’t really tell where the M1 was getting certain information from, the old user or the new one of the same name. This manifested most obviously in enormous pain getting passwordless login to my server working. It worked, then it didn’t, then it did; very frustrating. Finally, something clicked and I deleted almost all the hidden folders and files under the old user and now, touch wood, I think it is working. I still have not managed to get the few little backup jobs that I run with cron working properly, but that’s another story.

A few applications I needed to download again. Thankfully I mostly had registration details on file. A lot of apps I ditched. I kept a list, which could be handy to jog my memory if necessary. The biggest worry was the realisation that I had not exported all my photos from Aperture before shutting off the old machine for the last time. And of course, Aperture is not available for the new machine. Momentary panic.

I set the old machine up for what I hoped would be one last time, plugged in its start-up disk and caressed the on/off switch. To my delight, it did, eventually, come back to life. I exported about 7000 images from Aperture, breathed a sigh of relief, and switched the old machine off for the last time. Now all I need to do is arrange for Apple to collect it for recycling.

A different strategy

As I said, the old machine dated to mid-2011, and it served me faithfully till now. In the past, my strategy has always been to pay more for what I believed were high quality items and use them till they were broken beyond repair. That applied to computers too. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe, for computers especially, it is worth buying the newest generation (or the one before) when it comes out while the previous machine still has some resale value. I might just be saying this because the current machine is only 24″ and I would really like a larger screen, as that it what we watch shows on. I’ve read of people who adopt this kind of strategy, but do not recall ever seeing a cost:benefit analysis of any kind.

The most annoying thing about the new machine is the lack of ports. There are two usb–c ports and two lightning ports, and that’s all. Oh, and a minijack headphone socket. Before I could do anything with the new machine I had to buy a usb-c hub, and while that supplies a card reader, which will be handy, and ethernet and HDMI, for which I have no use at the moment, it has only two usb-3 sockets. One of those takes the outboard audio equipment, the other takes the external SSD, leaving no room for the gizmo that my vertical mouse needs or the usb connector to the headset I use for video conferencing. And the mechanical keyboard I love is in the other usb-c socket. Could I, possibly, get to like the Apple keyboard? That is the only way (short of a better equipped usb-c hub) I can return to the vertical mouse, which I also prefer to Apple’s magic mouse.

I feel certain that, having hung on to my old machine this long, I have not fully understood the benefits of having two lightning ports. Is there some way I could use those to improve my existence?

In the meantime, I am enjoying the new machine immensely.

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"have not fully understood the benefits of having two lightning ports. Is there some way I could use those to improve my existence?" I think the decision by Apple to re-add all kinds of ports for their 2022 M1 machines provides an answer....

Ton Zijlstra
3 days ago