Macs Moving to Apple Silicon

Apple announced that in the future, Macs will no longer be powered by Intel chips but will instead rely on custom-designed Apple chips. The company has made such massive transitions twice before: first in 1994 with the move from Motorola’s 68000 chips to IBM’s PowerPC platform, and again in 2006 with the jump to processors from Intel. 

What is Apple silicon?

Apple creates its own chips to power the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV. These chips are based on a platform called ARM. Of all Apple’s products, only the Mac has continued to use processors from Intel. Apple said it would be creating chips specifically to power Macs, although they’ll be part of the same chip family used in iOS devices.

Why is Apple making this transition?

  • Performance: By creating its own chips, Apple can tweak the designs to the sweet spot of performance and power consumption for any given Mac.
  • Profit: Intel processors have high profit margins, and Apple would prefer to keep that money instead of paying it to Intel.
  • Control: With Apple making its own chips, its product roadmaps are within its control, rather than being subject to Intel’s schedule, capabilities, and whims.

When will the first Macs with Apple silicon appear?

Apple said that we’d see the first Mac with Apple silicon by the end of 2020.

Is it better to wait for Apple silicon Macs?

There are two schools of thought. Some recommend buying the first models that appear because Macs with the previous chips may have a shorter effective lifespan. Others prefer to buy the last models with the earlier chips under the assumption that the first new Macs might have unanticipated problems.

How long will Apple keep selling Intel-based Macs?

The company said that it anticipates releasing new Intel-based Macs for roughly 2 years and that it has some exciting new models in the pipeline.

How long will Apple continue to support Intel-based Macs?

Apple didn’t commit to a specific length of time but said it would be releasing new software and supporting Intel-based Macs “for years to come.” In the previous processor transition from PowerPC to Intel, Apple maintained the Rosetta translation environment for over 5 years.

Will my software run on a Mac with Apple silicon?

Happily, yes! Apple announced Rosetta 2, which will ship with macOS before Macs with Apple silicon appear. Rosetta 2 automatically translates existing Intel-based apps. Apple said that Rosetta 2 will be completely transparent to the user.

WFH Internet Protection

MacLab support plans now include Internet protection for work-from-home staff. Typically, home Internet is not protected from botnets, malware and phishing sites. Office networks have firewalls that block attacks, but home networks are left to fend for themselves and given weak or ineffective protection by the Internet provider. MacLab has a small agent that installs on the Mac that redirects traffic through a filter and checks for malicious sites. This can also be customized for your organization to block or allow particular sites or categories of sites. Domains created within the last 30 days can also be blocked, since those are the most likely to be sources of phishing.

The service is effective regardless of where the computer is being used. Home, coffee shop, or public wifi. This is not designed to stop email spam. Spam is blocked by your spam filter. However, if the message makes it through and a malicious link is clicked, the site may very well be blocked by this service.

The service is included free with most new support plans.

New MacBook Air

In an effort to eliminate the hated butterfly keyboard from the Mac line, Apple has released an updated MacBook Air that features the scissor-key Magic Keyboard introduced last year in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. That keyboard has received highly positive reviews, and we’re happy to see it appear in the MacBook Air. (Look for a new model to replace the current 13-inch MacBook Pro soon as well.) The Magic Keyboard includes 12 function keys as well as a Touch ID sensor, but no Touch Bar.

Apple significantly improved the MacBook Air’s performance by providing a choice of 10th-generation Intel Core processors, including the model’s first quad-core processor option. The base level 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 is probably pretty slow, but upgrading to a 1.1 GHz quad-core i5 is only $100 and a 1.2 GHz quad-core i7 is just $250.

Graphics should be noticeably speedier as well, thanks to the switch to Intel Iris Plus Graphics. The MacBook Air can now drive a 6K display too, if you have a Pro Display XDR.

Apple also doubled the base level of storage to 256 GB, and you can increase that to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800).

Minor enhancements include True Tone technology for more natural images on the 13-inch Retina display, “wide stereo sound” for the speakers, and support for Bluetooth 5.0.

As welcome as all these changes are, the best news is that Apple simultaneously dropped the MacBook Air’s price. The entry-level model now starts at $999, and it’s available to the education market for just $899.

The New Mac Pro

The new Mac Pro is finally available. The Mac Pro utilizes a stainless steel frame that provides mounting points for a wide array of components and configurations. An aluminum housing slips off to provide 360-degree access, with the processor, graphics, and expansion slots on one side, and storage and memory on the other. One size does not fit all pro users, so you’ll be able to customize the Mac Pro to your needs.

For the ultimate in performance, the Mac Pro relies on an Intel Xeon W processor, and you can choose from 8, 12, 16, 24, or 28 cores. Base clock speeds vary with the number of cores. With the high-end 28-core configuration, Apple is promoting performance increases over the previous 12-core Mac Pro of 300% to 500% for activities like Photoshop filters, Xcode builds, Logic Pro plug-ins, and Autodesk Maya rendering.The base level of RAM is 32 GB, but there are 12 DIMM slots, so you can upgrade to 48 GB, 96 GB, 192 GB, 384 GB, 768 GB, or a whopping 1.5 TB.

Much of a workstation’s performance comes from its dedicated GPUs, which are essential for 3D animation, 8K video compositing, and building lifelike gaming environments, along with pure number crunching. Apple integrates GPUs via the new Mac Pro Expansion Module, or MPX Module, and the Mac Pro holds two MPX Modules. Those modules come with an AMD Radeon Pro 580X, Radeon Pro Vega II, or Radeon Pro Vega II Duo, the last of which combines two Vega II GPUs in a single module. Those cards also offer a variety of DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, and HDMI 2.0 ports for connecting displays.

The Mac Pro offers eight PCI Express expansion slots: four double-wide slots, three single-wide slots, and one half-length slot preconfigured with an Apple I/O card. Apple also offers the Afterburner PCI Express card, which accelerates ProRes and ProRes RAW codecs in Final Cut Pro X, QuickTime Player X, and supported third-party apps.

That Apple I/O card provides two USB 3 ports using the USB-A connector, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and two 10-gigabit Ethernet ports. The top of the Mac Pro case provides another two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Storage begins with a 256 GB SSD for those whose data is all stored externally. However, you can also upgrade to 1, 2, or 4 TB SSDs.

The Mac Pro starts at $5,999.

Control Location Tracking

The New York Times recently published a bombshell article revealing just how completely our every movement is tracked by companies in the business of selling our locations to advertisers, marketers, and others. Anonymous sources provided the Times with a dataset from a single location-data company that contained 50 billion pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans over several months in 2016 and 2017.

This data enabled the Times reporters to track numerous people in positions of power, including military officials, law-enforcement officers, and high-powered lawyers. They were able to watch as people visited the Playboy Mansion, some overnight, and they could see visitors to celebrity estates. Once they identified any particular phone, they could track it wherever it went. Imagine what that data could be used for in the wrong hands.

No one intends to let unknown companies track their locations constantly. But code built into smartphone apps does just that, often without our knowledge. Many of the apps that request access to location services have an entirely legitimate reason for doing so—for example, Google Maps can’t provide navigation directions unless it knows where you are. But others want location access for less practical reasons—do you really want to let a coffeeshop app know your location at every moment in exchange for the occasional free latte? And some apps—notably weather apps—may have a legitimate need for location information but use that data for far more than users expect.

Even if you’re not too perturbed about companies you’ve never heard of knowing your exact whereabouts at all times, there’s no guarantee this data couldn’t fall into the hands of foreign governments, organized crime, or hackers willing to sell your movement patterns to an aggrieved employee, corporate spy, or jealous ex-lover.

Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Location Privacy

Luckily, Apple provides controls in iOS that let you limit your exposure. For most people, going completely dark isn’t realistic. Too many iPhone capabilities require location services, ranging from turn-by-turn directions, to geotagging photos, to using Find My to see if your kid has left the soccer tournament yet.

Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and scroll down to see a list of every app on your iPhone that would like to know your location. (The same is true on the iPad, but fewer people use their iPads as much while out and about.)
  2. For each app in the list, tap the app’s name to bring up the Allow Location Access screen, which has up to four options:
    • Never: Prevent this app from ever determining your location.
    • Ask Next Time: The next time the app wants permission to track you, make it ask again.
    • While Using the App: Allow the app to track your location as long as you’re actually using it.
    • Always: Let the app track your location at all times, even when you’re not using it.
  3. Tap one of the options to select it, and then tap Back to return to the list.

We can’t tell you exactly how to configure each app since everyone has a different set and different levels of privacy worry.

Go with your instincts. If thinking about a particular app or company recording your location gives you the creeps, turn it off and either find an alternative or do without.

New 16-inch MacBook Pro

Apple has introduced a new 16-inch MacBook Pro that improves on its predecessor in several ways. The 16-inch MacBook Pro replaces the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro and starts at $2399.

Apple says the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s new Magic Keyboard has “a redesigned scissor mechanism and 1mm travel for a more satisfying key feel.” Many people disliked typing on the previous keyboard’s butterfly mechanism and keys failed frequently, causing Apple to redesign the keyboard multiple times and offer a repair program for out-of-warranty devices.

The display is of course larger, with a 16-inch diagonal measurement and a slightly higher native resolution. That translates to a default resolution of 1792-by-1120, up from 1680-by-1050, so the new MacBook Pro will show more content than the previous model. Apple says the 16-inch MacBook Pro is up to 80% faster than the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro. 16GB of RAM is the base level and up to 64GB is available. Storage starts at 512GB and goes to 8TB. The new notebook also features significantly improved audio input and speakers.

Between the larger screen, the six-speaker sound system, and the 100-watt-hour battery that Apple says provides up to 11 hours of battery life, the company had to increase the size of the 16-inch MacBook Pro slightly compared to the previous 15-inch model. It’s about 8mm wider and 5mm deeper and weighs 4.3 pounds, which is more than the 4.02 pounds of the previous model.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro continues to offer four Thunderbolt 3.0 ports for charging and connectivity. You’ll still need a collection of dongles for connecting peripherals, displays, etc. Note that the 16-inch MacBook Pro ships with macOS 10.15 Catalina and almost certainly cannot be downgraded to 10.14 Mojave.

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