Monthly Archives: November 2022

Replacing MacBook Air 2014 in 2022

I have a MacBook Air 11-inch 2014. It runs Big Sur and it is stuck there (not Monterey or Ventura) so I can guess I have security updates for another year (to autumn 2023). This means I am beginning to look for a new MacBook, but I am not desperate.

My 11-inch was bough as an outgoing model, discounted, sometime in 2015 so it has given me 7 years of good use so far. When I bought it I paid not so little extra money get 8GB of RAM (instead of std 4GB) but I left it at standard 128GB of SSD. Later I have bought a 256GB minimal USB-key that is constantly plugged in for a total of 384GB of storage.

Looking at Apples baseline today (autumn 2022) that is 8/256 GB, twice as much as it was 8 years ago (where is Moores Law?). Using the same logic as in 2015 I would be buying the M1 Air with 16/256.

Apple Support

Apple typically supports a computer for 7 years, then releasing security updates for another 2 years. But this is no rule. Some models are luckier than others. We may assume the M1 Air will be abandoned before the M2 Air. But it could be different. Maybe Apple will support Apple silicon indefinitely because of environmental reasons. Maybe the M4 will be very different, and M1-M3 will all be dropped with the same future release of macOS. We do not know.

My 2014-Air is approching end of support. But I have to admit that is not the only reason I want to replace it.

Apple Upgrades

Apple computers can not be upgraded when it comes to RAM, SSD or CPU. And Apple charges quite much for upgrades when you order. So it may make more sense to buy a computer that will last you for a few years (and a little longer if you are lucky) than to pay much extra for a computer that may last a few more years (if it is still alive and supported).

Being Cheap Strategies

Assuming you want value-for-money when you buy a new Apple laptop there are a few strategies:

Buy the cheapest (outgoing) model that can support your needs today. Since Apple computers are relatively expensive this gives you all advantages of a Mac and a new computer at the lowest price. This is also a wise choice in the sense that the computer may fail, be lost or be accidentally broken.

Buy a discounted (outgoing) more premium model that can be expected to be useful for longer. The drawback is primarily that the computer will be supported by Apple for a shorter time after you bought it.

Buy a new model just when it shows up. Apple keeps models for 18 months or longer, and rarely lowers the prices much. So it makes sense to wait until they release new models and buy them immediately. This maximizes Apple support time.

Regardless, the best time to buy a Mac is when new models just came out.

Right now, Autumn 2022, is not the best time based on the above. But we have a situation with inflation (and I would guess the upcoming M2 Pro and M3 Air will be more expensive than current lineup) and recession (Black Friday offers may be unusually good 2022).

As the M2 Air was introduced this year I looked at it and decided to keep my 11-inch 2014 until the M3 Air is introduced in the future, but a good enough Black Friday deal could perhaps change my mind.

Apple compters can not be upgraded (RAM/SSD). The problem with future-proofing by buying a very expensive computer (say M1 Ultra, 32/2048) is that it may take several years until you have any need for it, and by that time it may be the wrong thing anyway (or it has broken). Paying for a 2TB SSD today that you will not make use of until 3-4 years, or never, is simply not so smart.

My 2014-Air and Requirements

The status of my 11-inch 2014 is:

  • 8GB RAM is enough for now
  • 128GB SSD is too little, mini USB-key helps
  • Screen 1366×768 is beginning to feel underwhelming (as is webcam)
  • Approaching end of support
  • Can not use my iPad as second screen

So when I bought the 2014-Air I knew these things and I knew it would perhaps last so long. In that perspective, 7 years of service is good.

What are my new requirements?

  • RAM
    • 8GB would currently be ok, but I doubt it is a smart buy
    • 16GB is ok
    • 32GB would be for a need or usecase I am not aware of today (I have a Windows computer for playing games with 32GB of RAM)
  • SSD
    • 256GB – I could squeeze myself down from 384GB, but it feels wrong
    • 512GB is ok for needs as I know them today
    • 1024GB would allow me to not think so much about storage organisation as I do today
    • I have a NAS and other computers, so I can work with less SSD, and I do not really need 1024GB of high-performance storage.
  • CPU
    • I currently do not do any CPU-intensive tasks where M1, M1 Pro or M2 would make a significant difference

The problem with CPU is… that it is currently the most limiting factor of my 2014-Air (i5@1.4Ghz), but no other laptops in 2015 would really have made a difference today anyway. When you are out of SSD, or when you are out of RAM, it really limits you and you need to replace the maching or change how your work with it. When your CPU gets old it is just a slightly degraded experience. What my computer is not capable of is to use my iPad as a second display, and that is just because it is a too old generation.

What options do I have today?

M2 Air 16/1024GB: this would be a convenient choice. However it is so expensive (twice as expensive as the computer it replaces).

M1 Air 16/1024: this would be a reasonable choice at a good discount. But this is a computer that already used 2 years of expected support. Buying it at full price (which is cheaper than the M2 Air) would have made sense when it was just released but not today.

M1 Air 16/256: At a good discount, this is the equivalent decision of buying my current 2014-Air in 2015, which turned out ok.

M1 Pro 14-inch 16/512: This is a machine that I usually consider too expensive (because I can lose it, pour Coca Cola in it, or it may just break after warranty). However at a good discount it definitely seems to give value for money.

M1/M2 Pro 13 Inch: This machine would be a “pro” option if it had SD-slot and Magsafe.

Black Friday Discounts

I live in Sweden so the prices are in SEK. Black Friday season has started and we see lower prices. But given that these are models that are 1-2 years old, to me it looks more like an adjustment for an older product than a real bargain.

The M1 Pro is down to 5/6 of the price. But what if that gives you just 5 years of supported usage instead of 6? Then I basically pay the same per day of usage, but I missed the first year when the model was the best. On the other hand, if the Pro is the right way to go (14-inch, better loudspeakers, SD-slot), this may be the last opportunity ever to pick up a Pro at this price point.

Models and prices

I have to say that Magsafe is something I really want. I am so happy Apple brought it back (otherwise I could considera Dell XP13 at a great Black Friday price). So M1 Air is a bit off the table.

I also like the idea of an SD-slot, not only to import photos now and then, but also to use for extra semi-permanent storage in the future.

Given what this looks like the only thing that tempts me is an M1 Pro.

M1 AirM1 ProM2 Air
16/25615995
14495
18995
16/51218495
17195
23395
19990
21495
16/102420995
19995
2649523995
16/1024 (10 Core)29990
22990
MagsafeYesYes
SD-Slot (and HDMI)Yes
Age / Support-2 years-1 years
Better Display & AudioYes
LighterYesYes
Faster CPU/GPUYesYes

Switching from Ubuntu to Fedora

I have been using Ubuntu since 6.06 I think, and before that I mostly used Debian. Before that I used Slackware, and I have occasionally tried Red Hat Linux (version 6 or 7, not RHEL) long ago as well.

I have mostly used Xubuntu because it is light, clean, traditional desktop-minded, and somewhat similar to macOS, and my current Linux PC is a Hades Canyon that I installed Xubuntu 19.10 to. That Xubuntu has been updated a few times, lastly from 22.04 to 22.10, and while I like a Debian based system there are somethings that have bugged me:

  • HDMI Audio got noisy after upgrading to 22.10 (this used to be a problem earlier)
  • Audio IN (and Bluetooth Audio) has never worked well with Xubuntu.
  • Some I/O errors/warnings occasionally when booting, no real problems though
  • Background image in Xubuntu sometimes is replaced with a generic background, and a few days later it came back (not feeling 100% solid)
  • Firefox is SNAP, updated separately and manually (so I get a notification to close the browser, but that does not update it, so I have to do a manual update and then restart my browser)

Some of these problems are perhaps caused by a system having been updated for several versions over a few years so it was anyway time for a clean install.

The HDMI noise was something I could not tolerate so I tried a Live Ubuntu 22.10 USB, and that worked fine. But I have recently read some things that made me curious about Fedora so I tried a Fedora 37 Live USB as well, and that also gave me good audio out. Both come with a new version of Gnome (Fedora more standard than Ubuntu).

Gnome?

I have never really been a Gnome fan. Checking out the Live USBs I realise that Windows 11, Gnome and ChromeOS are surprisingly similar. And in a way they are all pretty similar to macOS.

Deep inside I would like to use the Awesome Window manager. But I am not really willing to pay the price of learning and of not having the convenience (of a modern desktop). I have not tried Awesome so I do not really know.

So I am willing to give Gnome a chance instead of lingering on Xfce and Xubuntu. Those people who design Gnome must hate high information density – I have a problem with that.

Advantage Fedora

Given I want to try Gnome I see some advantages with Fedora:

  • No Firefox-SNAP-situation
  • Standard Gnome
  • Wayland (?) – at least it makes me curious
  • Trying something new

A few days with Fedora

Installing Fedora 37 (BETA) was easy. I few thoughts after a few day:

  • My immediate impression is that Wayland (or Gnome) is faster than X11/Xfce. There is a snappier more immediate feeling to the UI.
  • Pressing the start-button on the keyboard, and the clicking a common application or searching for anything is not so bad (like Chrome OS and Windows 11).
  • Even though the information density is low there is little cognitive noise. When running the browser, the tabs are on top of the window and Gnome itself occupies minimal space, I like that.
  • Settings windows is dead simple, very much like ChromeOS but even more minimalistic. Appearance: I can change background image and light/dark theme. That is it. Change the font or font size of window headers? Nope.
  • Audio Input on the Hades Canyon NUC is still not working properly/easily. Perhaps a USB headset would work, I have none available to try.
  • On shutting down the computer it asks me if I want to install updates before it powers off – this feels like the right thing to do.
  • The new package manager seems nice, I used it to install node.js, and it seems solid.

On my Mac there is an application called Performance Monitor. In Gnome I have System Monitor. This is for a technical audience but System Monitor in Gnome feels underwhelming. This is where I would like higher information density, options to dock it the the menu (or something), and simply a better application. Honestly, Task Manager in Windows NT4 felt more professional.

On my Mac there is the “About this Mac” menu option. I like it much. I can immediately see details about my computer, both hardware and OS. It would make so much (more so than in macOS) sense to have this in Fedora: RAM chips, CPU model, Motherboard model, Installed hard drives, GPU model and VRAM, and so on. And what is my Gnome version? It may sound like a joke, but then you want to install and configure stable-diffusion and you need to know you GPU spec.

In the “Software” application I can see that there is a kernel update from 6.0.6.300 to 6.0.6.301. But it does not tell me I am on Fedora 37. And lsb_release is not available, as it is on Ubuntu.

I suppose it is possible to install more things and configure Gnome to make it a bit more tech-savy.