Apple : Switching from Intel to M1


Background

Of course, you are all aware that Apple released their own CPU based on ARM technologies. I'm not going to tell you how powerful they are and all the marketing blablabla.. The reason why I'm creating this post is because some applications might not work in the Enterprise world. Since I'm a professional user, I need to be sure I'm all set and ready on my software stack. I will try to help you to validate yourself based on my experience

Inventory

Before going into the compatibility checklist, you need to identify the software you are running, at least the minimum vital set that you are using on a daily basis for you own work.


Here is the list of software by category and version that I'm personally using daily :

Networking
  • Cisco AnyConnect (4.8.00175)
Productivity
  • Chrome (86.0.4240.198)
  • Fantastical (2.5.5)
  • Microsoft Office 2016 (16.41)
  • EverNote (7.12)
  • iStat Menu (6.51)
  • Bartender (3.1.25)
Communication
  • Slack (4.0.2)
  • Zoom (5.4.6)
Development
  • BBEdit (13.5.2)
  • SecureCRT (8.7.3)
  • Php (7.3.11)
  • Homebrew (2.6.0)
  • Postman (7.36)
System Admin Tools
  • iTerm2 (3.4.2)
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop (10.3.0)
  • TeamViewer (15.4.44)
Other
  • Spotify (1.1.46)
This is the basic set of software that I need to work. 

Big Sur

Apple Silicon is bringing 2 updates at once : macOS Big Sur and the M1 CPU architecture.


So, if your favourite software is not compatible with Big Sur, it won't be compatible with M1. Indeed, today, M1 only runs on Big Sur.

Now, if there is no M1-ready version of your favourite software, it does not mean you can forget using it on M1. Indeed, Apple released an on-the-fly conversion tool called Rosetta 2. Unlike its predecessor (Rosetta), this piece of software translate (emulate) the code intended for Intel CPU to M1 CPU. Rosetta v1 was used to translate PowerPC-based app to Intel-based CPU.

Rosetta 2 is an emulator designed to bridge the transition between Intel and Apple processors. In short, it translates apps built for Intel so they will run on Apple Silicon.


For most of the apps, it translate the code at first launch, all consecutive startups will be faster since already translated. This is impressive but it does not works for every application.

So, what is the need of having dedicated M1 application if Rosetta 2 is translating it ?!? The answer is easy : the emulated code is not optimized for M1 CPU so, it will be slower, generating more heat and consuming more battery life. In other words, keep focused on M1-native applications.

So, is M1 enterprise ready ?

Let's see what application are M1-ready to date (9-Dec-2020). There is a list maintained here. There are 3 types of answers : 
  • Natively works ✅
  • Works with Rosetta 2 🔶
  • Does not work at all ❌
Looking back at the software inventory above, here is the result

Networking
  • Cisco AnyConnect (4.8.00175) 🔶
Productivity
  • Chrome (86.0.4240.198) ✅
  • Fantastical (upgrade needed) ✅
  • Microsoft Office 2016 (upgrade needed) ✅
  • EverNote (7.12) ✅
  • iStat Menu (6.51) ✅
  • Bartender (3.1.25) ✅
  • SnagIt 2021 ❌
Communication
  • Slack (4.0.2) 🔶
  • Zoom (5.4.6) 🔶
Development
  • BBEdit (13.5.2) ✅
  • SecureCRT (8.7.3) 🔶 
  • Php (7.3.11) 🔶
  • Homebrew (2.6.0) ❌
  • Postman (7.36) 🔶
System Admin Tools
  • iTerm2 (3.4.2) ✅
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop (10.3.0) 🔶
  • TeamViewer (15.4.44) ✅
Other
  • Spotify (1.1.46) 🔶

So, appart from SnagIt (screen capture) and Homebrew (package management) it should not be a big issue on paper. Now, let's see on the field !

I've received my new Toy ! 

My MacBook Pro (8 GB RAM / 512 GB SSD) as been delivered after a very long waiting time. But it is now reality ! First impression, the MacBook Pro 2020 is smaller and thicker than my 2017 MacBook Air, this is a strange feeling, the screen however, is exactly the same size. 


The Touch bar ID is fun and the trackpad is so massive ! Sometimes I'm moving the cursor while typing, I also need to get used to it.

The sound quality is (really) incredible. A bit sad that this MacBook only receives 2 USB-C ports. My initial order was for a Intel i7 version with 4 USB-C but I have a hub and it should be fine.

After data migration with the assistant, the first startup smooth, all my settings seems to be migrated fine and data are at the right place. Some ajustements where done and almost all applications were migrated successfully.

SecureCRT was working fine even if the support told me that this is not yet supported. I have managed to solve the SnagIt issue by following this post.

My Logitech Mouse (MX Anywhere 2) is also supported (As of 3rd of December).

Other apps that I was able to run perfectly : ForkLift, LanScan, Desk Control (for my standing desk), PingPlotter, WiFi Explorer, Discovery, Endurance, HyperDock, Bartender, Commander One, HP Easy Scan, Panorama Stitcher, AirMagic, WhatsApp desktop client

The overall performance of the machine is also amazing, many other blog posts are covering it already so I won't go deeper into this topic. But yes, this is really amazing. You never wait for any actions, even Time Machine is lightspeed compared to my previous experience on the MacBook Air ...

[EDIT Jan, 6th 2021] : Homebrew is now available on Apple Silicon using this command to install it : 

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"


My Logitech Brio 4K Webcam work perfectly and since day 1, the only hiccup is when connected to my StarTech.com docking station.

[End of EDIT]

So, I'm all set on my machine and I can conclude that Apple M1 with Big Sur is Enterprise ready - at least with all the tools I need.

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