The Lathe #4

A new computer

The Lathe #4

A new computer

In last week’s issue I described my plans for improvements to my home workstation.

Of course the most significant component in my setup is the computer. For that, I’ve decided on a new M1 Mac Mini.

Mac Mini M1. (Photo: Apple)

The Mini arrived this week. I originally planned to set up the new Mini using a Time Machine backup of my almost-new M1 MacBook Air. Every time I get a new computer I tell myself the same thing: don’t start from scratch, it’s too much work. And every time I get a new computer, I start from scratch. That’s what I did this time, too. I was right, it’s too much work.

But, after a few days, things have gotten to a usable point, and I have an opinion about the new Mini; it’s wonderful.

This thing is small, quiet, and fast. I opted for the 16GB/512GB model. I read many reviews stating that, surprisingly, and against one’s instincts, 8GB is enough. Coming from 32GB in the iMac, I wasn’t about to test that theory, so I went with 16GB of RAM.

An enjoyable thing about setting up a new computer from scratch is that I’m forced to decide which apps and settings and utilities I’m going to install. I tell myself I don’t need much, so it starts out with the basics. But it quickly becomes apparent that my “basics” aren’t really that basic. And there are a lot of them. Here’s the list of apps I’ve installed so far:1

1password , WebDAVNav Server , NextDNS , Dropbox , iTerm2 , Rosetta 2 , Command Line Tools , Alfred , DEVONthink , Homebrew , Fish shell , Oh-my-fish , Day One , BBEdit , SetApp , CleanShot X , CleanMyMac , Emacs , Rectangle , Lightroom Classic , Backblaze , Carbon Copy Cloner , Nik Collection (for Lightroom) , Kyno , Keyboard Maestro , Roon , Slack , Flickr Uploader , EpoCam driver for Mac , Curio , PopClip

I expect there will be more.

Overall, having a small, relatively inexpensive ($1,100) but fast-enough desktop computer with a separate 32” 4k monitor is a great setup. I like the idea of upgrading CPU and Displays separately. I feel less tied to one configuration than I did with the all-in-one iMac.

I was concerned at first that the 4k resolution would feel like a step backwards from the 5k iMac but frankly I haven’t noticed. The first day I would lean in, nose practically touching the monitor, and think, “Darn, I can see the pixels!” but after a week of just using it, I don’t notice a meaningful difference.

How’s the speed? Well, new computers always feel faster, but I find it to be snappy and have experienced no slowdowns or other signs of this little Mac not being up to the tasks. I haven’t edited video yet, but I’ve done a lot of work in Lightroom (Classic) and it feels plenty fast. And Lightroom is still running under Rosetta 2 so it should only improve.

Replacing the 2017 iMac with the new M1 Mini and 32” monitor was a good move. I’ll post a photo of the final configuration once all the pieces have arrived. Hopefully next week.

An updated photography workflow

I had to make a difficult decision while setting up the new Mac Mini: which photo editing software will I be using? As much as I adore actually editing photos using Capture One Pro, I’ve passed on that and installed Lightroom Classic. When I’m serious about a photo, I prefer Capture One, but almost none of my photos are “serious” and Lightroom does a fine job.

What Lightroom lacks in joy of editing it more than makes up for in ecosystem. Its library features are very good. Plugins and presets are available to do anything one might need. I’ve been getting Lightroom configured to suit how I like to work. New export settings, plugin updates, and storage planning are all in place. The goal is to have my workflow so burned in that I can stop thinking about it. On the iMac, I’d been running both Capture One and Lightroom and it was a constant source of internal conflict and frustration with re-learning or duplicating configuration.

I haven’t installed Capture One this time.

Odds and Ends

I’ve been trying to make Emacs look like a modern writing tool rather than a 30-year old Lisp interpreter for editing code. It’s not going great, but nano emacs has some good ideas so I’ll try adopting the useful bits into my Doom Emacs based configuration.

I’m becoming disenchanted with Roam and friends. Not Roam itself, which is awesome, but the idea of building this giant graph of links and backlings. I’m just not sure it’s worth the trouble. I’m not a researcher, I just jot things down and seeing backlinks can be handy but as often as not are just noise. Here’s a quote from the wiki this week:

Whenever I see a reference to Taking Smart Notes I cringe and think that it means spending a weekend tweaking my system so that I am ready to take notes on books I'm never going to read anyway.

As a test, I’m using Apple Notes for a week to see if I even need a fancy note-taking app.

The Roon 1.8 update is terrific and beautiful. I remain very happy with my decision to purchase a lifetime subscription in 2018.

Photo of the week

I shot a roll of TMAX P3200 in the M6 this week. It’s hard to find a subject that fits the low-contrast, grainy look of 3200 speed film, but this one of Alice sprawled out on the carpet works.

Alice (2021). Leica M6. Summilux-M 50mm. Kodak TMAX P3200

Have a great week!

  1. Sorry about not linking to all of the apps. The list looked overwhelming and I gave up before I started.