Apple M1 chip

Here’s my take on it, based on what we know so far.

It’s a modified mobile APU, which means it has both strengths and drawbacks of other Apple’s mobile chips: it produces great computational power and uses very little energy. That much is obvious from the reviews.

The drawbacks are that the peripheral connections seem to be an afterthought. It appears to have two thunderbolt connections, but if you read carefully it turns out that when you connect one monitor to the USB C, the other USB C can’t connect the second monitor, and it’s questionable how much you can connect to it at all, because although they call it thunderbolt, it doesn’t work with e-GPU, and it’s questionable how many PCIe lanes it exposes, if any. Also, the connected monitors seem to mostly work at 30Hz, with 60Hz support being very… let’s say “selective”. Basically, it’s an iPad pro chip slightly tweaked to allow for the peripherals, but the “tweak” in question wasn’t serious enough to support anything even remotely resembling the level of connectivity we normally expect on desktop computers.

Also, they modified the recovery boot menu, completely turning off the option that previously allowed us to boot from an external drive. This means two things. First, if your SSD dies, you’ll need to change the motherboard, you can’t just plug in an USB or Thunderbolt SSD and install the OS there, and continue using the computer. Second, no more installing Linux on a Mac. That there’ll be no BootCamp Windows is already known. They completely locked the hardware in. If they lock the software in as well, a Mac will become a very nicely decorated prison cell.

Also, since the RAM is on the chip itself, that means no RAM expansion. This is a step further from soldering the RAM onto the motherboard, and we’ve only seen this level of non-expandability on smartphones and tablets. One would expect it from an ultrabook, but on a Mac Mini or a Macbook Pro, the inability to change the SSD or upgrade RAM is terrible news. Those systems are so closed off, they feel claustrophobic – no RAM upgrade, no SSD upgrade, peripherals reduced to one monitor, with the other USB C port switching to low capacity mode when that happens, which means the bus is quite constrained and, in lack of another word, anemic.

Having all that in mind, it’s questionable what can one do with all that computational power? It reminds me of my iPhone, which has as much power as a desktop computer, but you are so constrained by all the limitations of the form factor, lack of peripherals, and limitations of the OS, that it remains just a phone that does the trivial phone tasks really, really quickly. For professional use, where you have to consider connecting two external monitors, a fast external storage drive, LAN and similar things, which is what you would actually use to do non-trivial work, the Intel machines are vastly superior, and my recommendation would be to look into the 16″ Macbook Pro, and the new 2020 iMac, which are both excellent. The new machines are good for applications where battery life is the absolute priority, and where you need extreme computational power, but with little or no demands for peripheral connectivity.

Language peculiarities

I’ve been asked many times what’s the difference between a crow and a raven, and my answer was that crow is the species in general and raven is a male specimen, something like sheep and ram. However, I never felt perfectly satisfied with this answer, until one day I found out that the Icelandic word for raven is “hrafna”, and then it clicked – they come from two completely different languages, raven is the Norse “hrafna”, and crow is the Latin “corvus”.

I apologize in advance if you learned about this in kindergarten or elementary school, but it’s actually new to me. 🙂 The same goes with the names of the days of the week, where some are obvious, but I didn’t really get the etymology of others until recently:

Sunday – Sun
Monday – Moon
Tuesday – Tíw (old English for Norse Týr), the one-armed god of war
Wednesday – Wōden/Wotan (old English for Odin)
Thursday – Thor
Friday – Freya
Saturday – Saturni dies, Latin

Technical issues

I’ve been busy with the technical stuff lately; not only that I had to transcode the database of the forum, to be usable by the new software, and write/adapt parts of the software to fit the needs of the community using it, but I also had a disproportionate number of hardware failures this year. Most of them were bloated or weakened LiIon batteries on phones and laptops, but we also had two NVMe drive failures, including one in the recent days, which was hard to diagnose because I initially suspected some driver or faulty Windows update, but as evidence allowed me to narrow it down, I started to suspect the Samsung system drive, and my confidence in that assessment grew to the point where I preventatively replaced it without waiting it to fail completely and force me to rebuild the system from the ground up. And yes, since I cloned and replaced the drive I had no more system freezes. As in the case with the two failed drives before (Mihael’s Adata SATA drive, and Biljana’s Samsung PCI-E drive in the 13″ Macbook pro), it was controller failure, which produces symptoms so similar it made it possible for me to diagnose it prior to complete failure this time. All in all, I had an increased number of drive failures since we moved away from HDD to SSD technology, and literally none of them were due to NAND wear, which everybody feared initially; it’s always the controller that goes, and it’s the worst case scenario because if you don’t catch it in time, it’s complete and irrecoverable data loss. However, only Mihael’s drive went all the way, because we were late in reacting to it malfunctioning for days, and likely weeks. With Biljana’s laptop, I already had some experience with SSD controller failure so I replaced her drive preventatively and all the symptoms ceased, and I did the same with my own system drive on the main computer. Basically, the symptoms look very much as if the system bus is clogging up and the system events are not going through. When that takes place, I’m starting to suspect the system SSD controller failure. This, of course, puts Apple’s practice of soldering SSD components directly onto the motherboard, so that the SSD can’t be replaced, into perspective. That’s just asking for trouble, because it turns something that can be a simple and straightforward process of “back the old drive up, replace it with a new one, and restore from backup” into motherboard write-off and replacement, and those are expensive. Sure, it can be a welcome excuse for replacing your obsolete computer with a new, more modern one, but in 2 out of 3 cases of SSD failure that I had recently, only one computer was obsolete and ready to be replaced, and two were perfectly good machines that required only a system drive replacement. I am seriously not a fan of having SSD and RAM soldered onto motherboards, because those are the two main things that have to be either upgraded or replaced due to failure, and not allowing for that is just screaming “planned obsolesecence”. It’s like not allowing the GPU to be replaced in a gaming PC, knowing that it’s the first thing that will need to be upgraded in order to keep the machine functional. Sure, I have a habit of keeping the old hardware in use until it becomes completely useless, which means I could occasionally use some sort of a push to buy a new, more capable system, but on the other hand, if I see nothing wrong with the system I’m using, in the sense that it does everything instantly and is not causing me any troubles, why would I have to be forced by the manufacturer to throw it away just because some component went off prematurely? The system I’m using plays Witcher 3 on 4K at 60 FPS, on ultra. It’s not a slow and decrepit system by any stretch of the imagination. If I had to replace the whole computer just because the system drive failed, I would be really pissed, and that’s exactly what would have happened with Apple, if I used one of their fancy-looking machines with SSD soldered on. The only one of their current machines that’s actually designed properly is the new Mac Pro, but that one is so expensive it makes no sense to buy it, unless you hate your money and want to see it burn. Someone will say that you have to pay for quality, but that’s really bullshit since they use the same Samsung NVMe drives I buy off-the-shelf to build my own systems, and based on my experience the drives they use are exactly as likely to fail as any other Samsung drive. So, sure, you can solder it onto the motherboard, but then I want a 5 year warranty on the motherboard with instant replacement in case of component failure, no weaseling out.

Minimalism

I’ve been intrigued by the concept of minimalism, which I see mentioned occasionally.

It’s not a simple issue, because although the first thing that comes up is an uncluttered living/working space, and having a “the fewer the better” approach to things, it’s not necessarily about “less is more”, when you dig deeper. If anything, it’s about reducing dependency, reducing resource drain, and reducing clutter.

However, I’ve seen people who purport to live a minimalist lifestyle, often living in either a very small apartment or even a van, and if there is a trend there, it’s that they compensate for the lack of space and assets with greater investment in time and work, basically having to re-arrange things all the time just to retain a functional environment, and they have to use extensive workarounds to get things done. If I’m watching the people who just prefer to get things done, there’s another trend: they tend to have a large number of various specialized tools, and they don’t care that one could probably do with less; no, they have just the right type of a hammer or an axe or a chainsaw for just that particular type of job, and it’s better. Also, there’s always an inevitable amount of clutter around them, because that’s what happens when you actually do things, but there’s always order to the madness; all the things are normally stored in very specific, often labelled places, and after you’re done with them, they are returned to their specific place. It’s just that you don’t return everything immediately; you leave things around you while you work, and you clean up afterwards. A certain amount of chaos obviously has to accompany the creative process, because you can either focus on what you’re doing, or you can focus on cleaning up, but not both at the same time. Sure, you can do it, but the quality of what you’re doing will suffer. For instance, when I’m writing, I couldn’t care less about the empty cup of coffee or a bag of peanuts on my desk, or if everything is aligned perpendicularly to create the illusion of order. I care about what the keyboard feels like, what the monitor feels like and what the mouse feels like, because that’s what I’m using to create. If there’s a problem with those things, it interferes with my concentration and impedes my creative process, but a certain amount of chaos might actually help, because it doesn’t impose the subconscious stress of trying to keep things orderly all the time.

Also, I could have only one computer, and that would be a minimalist way of doing things, but I don’t; I have multiple computers, specialized for what I use them for. A desktop machine is completely silent, it’s comfortable to use, and it’s powerful. It’s something that just gets things done, and it can cool itself easily even if I push it at 100% for days. Then there’s the 15” laptop, which becomes the primary computer when I’m on vacation. It can do everything the desktop machine can do, except gaming, and you can ask why I don’t just use that for everything, because I could plug peripherals into it and it would do just fine as a desktop machine, but it would overheat, it would be noisier, and it wouldn’t last. So, I’m already at two computers, just for the convenience of not killing the laptop with a 16h/day regime. Then there’s the ultralight laptop, which I use in bed because the 15” is too heavy and cumbersome, or for reading or doing things from a couch or in some weird position. It’s an awfully specialized thing to have a dedicated machine for, but I do, and I find it incredibly convenient, for the same reason I have several types of pocket knives, and several different types of shoes. Sure, you can do everything with just one pair of jeans, and just one pair of shoes, but I find that awfully inconvenient, and although it seems simple and elegant, it forces you to constantly adapt to the inadequacies of the equipment you’re using, and it introduces stress, hassle and just breaks your concentration from the things you actually want to do. Sometimes less is indeed more, but if you ever tried to fix something that unexpectedly broke, you’ll know how convenient it can be to have a certain amount of junk somewhere that can be adapted to fix something. If you don’t have your small personal junk yard, you’ll be forced to go drive to a store every time you need a SATA cable or a screw for the SSD or a nail to hang a painting, or a wood screw to fix something that got loose. No, it doesn’t look elegant, and having capability to create or fix things will not make your place look like Apple store, but at some point you need to ask yourself if minimalism is actually contributing to or detracting from your productivity. So, no, less is not more if you need that spare SATA cable, and it’s definitely not more if your one and only computer unexpectedly died and you don’t have a secondary one to look for possible solutions on the Internet.

That’s where I departed from the conventional interpretation of minimalism, and started thinking about defining it as something more akin to self-reliance, or not depending on others to solve your problems. A minimalist approach in that sense doesn’t consist of having only one computer, and it being an elegant iMac or a Macbook Pro. It consists of using generic components you can source locally to build your own computer, building it in ways that make it easy for you to repaste the CPU, change noisy fans, clean up dust, install and set up the OS yourself, and be able to maintain the whole thing without anyone’s help. Sure, such a box doesn’t look elegant, but it becomes very elegant if you need to take off the CPU cooler and change the paste, because the whole thing isn’t glued in behind the screen. It’s two big screws to remove the side panel, and some more screws to remove the cooler, and everything is big enough to work on comfortably and quickly. Essentially, the more elegant and “clean” things look, the more pain in the arse they can be to maintain if something goes wrong with them, and sometimes you can’t even fix them at all, you’re expected to just throw them away and get another one, because that’s also “elegant” and “clean”.

The same goes for software. The older I am, the more I tend to use the most user-unfriendly, basic tools imaginable, such as connecting to a local server via ssh, connecting to the database via shell tool where I type all the commands manually, with no fancy GUI tools, I type code in pico editor, rsync it to a production server, and it all works the same regardless of what computer I actually use to do it – I couldn’t care less whether it’s a fancy and elegant Mac, or a Raspberry pi board connected to other shit with wires hanging. What is minimalistic and elegant in this approach is that I don’t rely on having lots of secondary shit installed on my computers, and I don’t try to maintain a super-complex software system that is supposed to make things “easier” by complicating everything to the point of a bloated mess. No, make things simple by learning a few tools that work everywhere, and reduce the number of intermediary steps I have to take in order to get things done. You may think that a nice fancy GUI with icons is a more elegant way of getting files across than rsync, but it’s only elegant if it works, and those things have a tendency to break in various creative ways just when you have to do something quickly, and you can spend a whole day trying to fix something that is really not essential to your primary task, fixing some environment instead of writing your code. So, yes, compared to some “elegant” thing such as an iPhone with user interface chimps and cats can be taught to operate, my ideas of simplicity and elegance can seem counter-intuitive, but guess what? I maintain my own mail server, web server, blog and forum without anyone’s help. If something goes wrong with any of it, I fix it myself. If something goes wrong with my computer, I fix it myself, whether it’s a software or hardware problem. If I have to choose between elegance and self-reliance, I pick self-reliance, because “clean” solutions have a nasty tendency to just displace the messy parts of life somewhere else. Also, if I have to choose between practicality and productivity on one side, and simplicity and elegance on the other, I prefer to just get things done and not let minimalism get in the way. That is how I personally see the desirable kind of minimalism: it’s minimizing the number of things that interfere with the creative process.

Vajra in the context of siddhi

There are several obvious questions everybody will want to ask after reading the previous article, the most obvious being the omission of initiation into vajra in the definition of stages of spiritual magnitude, and that was actually intentional, because I omitted things that would increase complexity at the point where I wanted to simplify things for the sake of getting the point across. However, it’s quite a big omission, so I’ll get to it now.

First of all, we need to return to the kalapas themselves, to get the basics straight. As I already mentioned, kalapa is the smallest spiritual particle, the smallest manifestation of sat-cit-ananda in the relative. They have inherent intelligence, reality and blissfulness, if you want to simplify it a step further, but that’s already straying from the clarity of definition and introduces linguistic ambiguities. Enlightenment, too, is a misnomer; it is misunderstood and misinterpreted so much, that the word borders on the useless, but let’s for the sake of argument use it to describe a situation where kalapas, the fundamental soul-particles, aggregate in sufficient quantity, and are in such mutual alignment as to not cancel each other out, as they for the most part do in normal human condition, but produce a strong, coherent light, all of the same “frequency” at once, all pointing at the same direction. Patañjali would speak of waveforms that cease to fluctuate and enter a state where complete clarity is possible, and that is certainly a legitimate interpretation of what’s going on, but that’s not the entirety of what is going on, because, to introduce another analogy with physics, when the kalapas are in a coherent state, and when their quantity is sufficiently large, the repulsive forces between them drop exponentially, in a way very similar to what happens in the core of a star, where the hydrogen atoms are compressed so much that this force overcomes the normal repulsive forces between the particles of the same electric charge, or, as a physicist would put it, it overcomes the Coulomb barrier. This results in nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium, to simplify things greatly again for the sake of intelligibility. This fundamentally and permanently changes the nature of the physical matter, because the helium thus produced in a stellar core remains stable in all conditions, from stellar core to the cold of space and room temperature. Once the critical conditions for a transformation are achieved, the process cannot be reversed by removing the extreme conditions. There are several even more extreme transformative environments that permanently change matter – a supernova explosion, and the pressures inside a neutron star or a black hole – but let’s, for the sake of clarity, just accept that there are special, extreme circumstances that can permanently change matter, and this change is not reversed once those extremes are no longer present, because that is the analogy I want for the situation with kalapas and the process of initiation into vajra. Vajra is, basically, a different form of a spiritual body that is attained by coherence, compression and “fusion” of kalapas into a form of spiritual mass of different “hardness”, higher “reality” and “density”. The existence of vajra doesn’t introduce any fundamentally new concepts – you still have brahman that is sat-cit-ananda, you have kalapas as the smallest energetic manifestations of sat-cit-ananada in the relative, you have spiritual growth by accretion, by aggregation of kalapas into a greater spiritual entity, due to, if we resort to a poetic description, their “realization” that they are “more God” together than individually. This poetic way of putting things is not at all out of place, because you have to remember that those are not inert material particles, they are inherently spiritual, and they actually feel and reason, on a fundamental level, and this feeling and reasoning is stronger when they are bound together, and this increased feeling, reasoning and self-awareness is a coercive force that binds them together in proportion to its strength, and eventually results in threshold-events such as the collapse of repulsive forces and initiation of the whole mass into vajra.

So, if we now return to our initial classification of spiritual progress as levels of siddhi, it will become clear why I had to omit initiation into vajra for the sake of simplicity, because once I mentioned it, I would have to use different language throughout the definition, and it would probably be for the better, because then it would be difficult for stupid people to think they know what I’m talking about, just because they heard similar words before.

A person who had a spiritual experience, a darshan or a samadhi, is still a “level 0”, or not a siddha at all. It’s not an achievement, it’s an experience. When an experience is transformative in a way that you actually make it your own, act from it and change in ways that are “of God”, that changes your spiritual structure on a kalapa-level, puts it into coherence, unites the incoherent waveforms within the mind into a coherent one, and this is how the most underestimated type of yoga, karma yoga, is the only one that actually produces great achievement, because to put a spiritual state in action is to put your entire being in coherence on a high energy level, not leaving parts behind by entering meditation, and this coherence promotes conditions that eventually result in initiation into vajra, which doesn’t take place at some nice round number in my classification of siddhi, but it has to be more than level 1, because that’s the threshold that promotes the necessary preconditions for the transformation. It becomes both simpler and more complicated later on, because let’s say that on level 2, you become a being that is attaining initiation into God-stuff of even higher density and quality than vajra, and you become capable of wielding vajra with the coerciveness similar to that in which a vajra-being can wield astral substance at will, because vajra can coerce astral in a way analogous to the effect of a powerful magnetic field on a cloud of electrically charged particles. So, this nameless God-stuff coerces and wields vajra as if it were nothing, and not the stuff of enlightenment and virtue, so hard that any kind of “love” and “wisdom” a normal human being can imagine are but a wisp of smoke in comparison. This process of initiation and mastery happens somewhere between siddhi levels 2 and 3. Between levels 3 and 4, your core structure progresses in “hardness” and “density” to the power levels where you wield that previously described nameless God-stuff the way you previously learned to wield vajra. Compared to this, anything a religion can perceive as God is a bug hitting a wind shield; not that it takes anything away from the majesty of Gods, but this analogy is necessary to describe the magnitude of what we are talking about here. Any yes, there is a level 4. 🙂

Anything a human, who isn’t a vajra-initiate, can possibly understand, is level 1 siddhi and below. Stuff above level 1 falls into the category of inconceivably powerful, magnificent and terrible beings generically called angels, demigods or gods. Level 2 or above is that absolute terror Arjuna saw in Krishna’s true form, a power that wields death and destruction, time and space, boundless and limitless and void of any human emotion, and Arjuna at that point shits himself and begs Krishna to show him his human form again because this god-stuff is absolutely terrifying, incomprehensible, vast and deadly. God is not love and kindness. God is not your mother. If you saw God you wouldn’t feel the warm fuzzy feeling of a pampered child. You would shit yourself from sheer terror and, unless you are already an excessively pure and holy being of Arjuna’s magnitude, your soul would disintegrate, because coerciveness of darshan would overpower coerciveness of cohesive forces within your soul.

And yes, beings of all four levels of siddhi can be absolutely and completely human, to the point where you can spit, whip and crucify them. If that doesn’t blow your mind, you probably don’t have any to begin with.