That Sciency thing!

Yes, I know “Sciency” isn’t really a word, but it fits the narrative so that’s where I’m going with it. Also by “thing” I mean solutions to issues I’ve had moving to Apple’s new M1 series of processors for their latest Macs. Pretty much everyone has agreed that as far as transitions go, it’s been remarkably smooth but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some problems.

If you listen to MyMac Podcast, in 832, Gaz and I addressed these issues and gave some solutions. After writing them all down though, I realized this might make a nifty (yeah I said “nifty”. I’m 60 years old so I can do that) article with links to the products I used. So here they are and I hope you find it useful.

So in the podcast I talked about the five main issues I had with the switchover to an M1 Mac Mini from an Intel iMac and I have about 3 and a 1/2 of them solved…I think. Here are the problems:

1. Bluetooth Mouse and Keyboard

Solved-ish. I’m still experiencing an occasional drag from any mouse or trackball that isn’t an Apple device. Apple needs to address this. I don’t believe (yet) that it’s unsolvable since Apple’s own devices seem to work fine. However here’s some things you might want to try. I turned off WiFi (which may not be possible for some of you) as both the Mojave Intel Mac Mini (2012 model) and the M1 Mac Mini are directly connected via ethernet to a switch in Macparrot Central (also known as the mancave or that place my wife calls “Where you seem to go to waste incredible amounts of time”). The Satachi keyboard is backlit, has 3 different connections through Bluetooth so I use it for both Mac Minis and it seems to work OK.

The Apple Magic Trackpad works without an issue and always has since getting the M1 Mini, so at the very least I’m never frozen out from my cursor or having to reach for an old USB mouse I’ve started keeping around in case of emergencies which oddly enough besides unfreezing my cursor also leads to cursing…from me.

The Jelly Comb trackball I use also will work with three different computers including one dedicated to the 2.4GHz dongle which I have also on the Intel Mac Mini. I would put it on the M1 Mini, except i don’t want to lose any of the limited number of ports it has which leads to problem 2…

2. Connecting two monitors

Solved. The M1 Mac Mini is screamingly fast which makes me give all kinds of excuses to some of its shortcomings like…not very many ports. It has 2 Thunderbolt 3-4/USB-C 3…(or something) ports, 2 USB-2/3 style ports, and an ethernet port. That’s about it and when you have an audio setup that needs one USB-2/3 port and a webcam that needs the same, and two 27-inch 4K displays, this doesn’t leave much for other things. Like say crap tons of external storage. So I have two things from OWC (Other World Computing) that will make things easier…once I decide how to implement them. One is their new Thunderbolt Hub which gives you 3 screaming fast ins and outs and their Thunderbolt 3 Minidock which gives you 2 4K HDMI inputs of which you can only use 1 and 2 USB ports of which you can use both. So for the displays, I have one connected through the M1 Mini’s HDMI port and I use another HDMI port on the TB3 Minidock for the other. Works great…which leads to

3. Using one monitor with two computers

Solved. I purposely chose the Dell S2721Q 4K displays for a variety of reasons. They’re inexpensive for 4K displays at the $300-ish mark, they look pretty good, and they have 2 HDMI inputs. When I first set everything up, I used both HDMI inputs. One for each computer. However switching between them is not that easy, so I scienced it up and got a 4K video switcher. 2 cables in, 1 cable out and I thought the problem was solved until I tried to use it and it kept auto-switching to the other computer when I least expected it. If you’re in the middle of a zombie horde in Left4Dead 2, this can be a frustrating a deadly experience. Nothing I could find in System Settings, or with the 4K switcher would stop it from doing it. So I scienced it from a different direction and looked at the Dell Monitor settings. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything to stop the carnage of auto-switching but I DID find a setting for shortcuts. AHA! So With 2 buttons available, I set one for the HDMI 1 input and the other for HDMI 2. Then I sneered at the switcher until I remembered it was already past the point I could return it for my money back and cried instead. I wiped those tears away and moved on to problem 4…

4. Lack of USB ports.

Solved-ish mostly so I’ll count it as a win. I still need to re-arrange a few things and I may not need the OWC Thunderbolt Minidock when I’m through, but a powered 7-port USB hub is more than enough ports for all the other things I have connected. Currently going through the OWC Minidock.

5. Apple’s App Store

Solved-ish but only for the iWork Apps. So I mentioned I have an older 2012 Intel Mac Mini running Mojave because I want one computer still capable of running 32-bit apps for games…I mean science. However if, like today, I’m actually doing stuff on it besides games…I mean science, and I want to use Apple’s Pages app for writing, say podcast shownotes, it should be easy. I didn’t have it on this computer so I went to the Apple App Store, signed in with my ID, and went to download Pages except, it wouldn’t let me. Pretty much anything you want off the App Store now is 64-bit and wants at least Catalina which is 64-bit only and that won’t play games…I mean science in the way I want it to. I didn’t give up though and scienced a little more by remembering you can also use the iWorks suite online! So I fired up Safari, went to iCloud and signed in, and presto I have Pages, all the other iWork Apps, and all. my documents.

In closing, those were some of the issues and solutions I found in using the M1 Macs. If you’ve had similar issues, I hope this helped and if you found alternatives, let me know here.

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