Drinking the M1 Kool-Aid

So I started a new job at the turn of the new year. For the first time, I get the chance to use a Mac as my main daily driver. This is in stark contrast to the entirety of my professional life which has always revolved around some sort of a Windows based system. Even when I was the weirdo running Linux on my laptop, my main system was a Windows system. From Windows 2000, XP, 7, and ultimately 10, it all revolved around Windows.

Suffice it to say, converting to a Mac dominated workflow was pretty different. Granted, for the last 7-8 years, I have had a Mac for personal use, and for occasional light work. So I am certainly familiar with the system. But using it on a daily basis is a very different prospect.

I was fortunate enough to receive one of the new MacBook Air systems with the Apple M1 processor. This is the direct successor to my Intel based MacBook Air that is from the earlier half of the 2010s. The long and the short of it is that the new M1 MacBook Air is absolutely amazing. From the effortless performance to the snappiness of all the applications to the seamless translation of Intel-complied applications using Rosetta 2, it is an amazing system. Although I’m not naive enough to believe that Macs don’t get viruses (e.g., new M1 compatible Mac malware), it certainly is a nice and seamless system. This, combined with a workflow centered around Dropbox Business, is bringing a fresh look to my daily work.

And fortunately, the M1 does not seem to have any of the issues I mentioned in an earlier post about my Dell U3818DW monitor. Except for some minor glitches when the Air wakes up from sleep, the monitor and the laptop play together perfectly using the USB-C cable to charge the laptop, transfer the video signal, and transfer the keyboard and mouse signals. Just one cable to make it all work. Admittedly, it is a slick solution. I sometimes hook in an additional cable (line-out to the integrated amplifier) for audio, but more often than not I simply AirPlay music from the phone or the Music app, or simply stream music from one of several Internet radio stations. Seamless and reliable, the perfect combination.

Unfortunately, we still work primarily in Microsoft Word. A serviceable software package but it would be nice to have iterated on the modern word processor somewhat. Maybe sometime soon there’ll be innovation in this end of the daily work software/hardware stack in the near future.

Rediscovering Internet Radio

Being old enough to have run my computer all night to rip a CD into MP3 format, I remember the genesis of Internet radio. When iwas first released onto the world, now anyone could be a radio host.

And holy shit do a lot of people have terrible music taste.

But this was also the genesis of the live stream. Of the democratization of content. And helped emphasize how sometimes, a curated feed is exactly what we want. Sorta like how Netflix is in fact a paradox of choice.

Similarly, with music, especially if you have a streaming package like Apple Music, you have at your fingertips a library of music that you will likely never be able to finish in its entirety.

But what do you listen to? At least Apple provides some guidance and recommendations. Along with radio shows where someone curates the content for you.

But sometimes, an aimless radio station is exactly what’s needed.

I’m glad to see that SomaFM continues to be a thing. The local NPR station, WAMU, is often streaming as well in the household. But I’m slowly poking around, seeing what is out there still. With a fairly decent sound system sitting with me at my desk now, what better time to rediscover serendipity in music?

For my setup, I’m using my trusty Airplay Express with my NAD C350 integrated amplifier which are driving two Klipsch R-15Ms that I picked up on a whim at Best Buy. Driving audio to this setup, I have forked-daapd running in a docker container (courtesy of the fine people at linuxserver.io). I’ve created a custom playlist that links directly to my favorite streams, including:

Because it is forked-daapd, it works well with the Apple Remote app on the phone and is therefore wife approved. And works well with Apple Music on our individual devices. The Marantz receiver in the living room purportedly supports Airplay as well, and usually performs well. But for reliability, you cannot beat the Airplay Express even though it was released in 2012. With a firmware update from 2018, it supports Airplay 2 and is more than sufficient for my needs for the time being.

Microsoft is the … good guy?

Once upon a time, Microsoft was the bad guy. Steve Ballmer once called the Linux kernel “communism” and Linux a “cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” (Wikipedia citation) This is from the guy who once trounced across a stage yelling “Developers developers developers” In this era, Microsoft would do whatever was needed to maintain market share and keep open source software licensed under the GNU Public License or similar licenses from making the inroads at companies and municipalities.

My how times have changed. Ballmer has left and now regrets his statements on Linux. Satya Nadella has changed Microsoft’s stance and now embraces Linux. For example, Windows 10 now includes OpenSSH. There’s a Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows 10 that is a compatibility layer for running Linux binary executables natively. In other words, you can install Ubuntu (or Debian) in Windows 10. Talk about a crazy change in posture.

The new Microsoft even tries to help individual developers. Visual Studio now has a Community version licensed and free for individuals and small teams. Although the Enterprise version is still superior in some ways, the Community version is more than enough for small projects.

If you had predicted this in the early 2000s, you’d have been laughed out of the room. But here we are. Amazing.