eXtensions - Thursday 7 March 2024

Thursday Notes: M3 MacBook Air Announced; Updates to the Office Mac mini Installation

By Graham K. Rogers


Not exactly as I had hoped, Apple announced new MacBook Air computers with the M3 chip; but still no updated iPad Pro even though iOS and iPadOS were updated to version 17.4. Backups to the Mac mini at work started to go wrong and no fixes would work: new disk coming. Also replaced were the keyboard and trackpad which after some years were also showing their age.

I noticed that hits were beginning to fall and although a number follow me on Facebook and X, a better way is to use the RSS feed. This is shown on the top of the link page, but would be more accessible here. The RSS feed for the articles is http://www.extensions.in.th/ext_link.xml - copy and paste into your feed reader. I use Newsify on the iPad.

Not that I am one to follow Marc Gurman slavishly, but a comment in his newsletter this week sort of rang true regarding anticipated announcements on new iPads and Macs. Instead of an event - live or prerecorded - any announcements this month would be by way of press release: gently easing the products into the market. These are not new products. I have been using versions of the iPad Pro for some 8 years and I have had the 11" iPad Pro with M1 chip for just under 2 years (April 2021). It was a real advance compared to my previous A-chip version. I am now waiting for the M3 iPad Pro.

M3 MacBook Air
M3 MacBook Air - Image courtesy of Apple

A few hours after the newsletter, the first announcement appeared: new MacBook Air computers with the 3nm M3 chip. There are 13" and 15" versions, and the new device supports 2 monitors, but only with the lid closed - clamshell mode (John-Anthony Disotto, iMore). That feature is likely to come to existing MacBook Pro models with an update. Pre-orders of the MacBook Air start on Friday. The starting price in the USA is $1099. They are shown on the Thai Apple Store pages starting at 39,900 baht.

The M1 version has gone - the last wedge-shaped version - but the M2 MacBook Air is still available at $999. There are two 13" M2 versions here at 34,900 and 41,900 baht, respectively. Hartley Charlton (MacRumors) compares the current M2 and new M3 MacBook Air computers. Within a day, benchmark figures started arriving and these show how much faster the M3 MacBook Air is compared with its predecessors: 20% boost over its predecessors. Several sources had these, including Stephen Warwick (iMore).

M3 MacBook Air
M3 MacBook Air - Image courtesy of Apple

We may have become blasé about this, but the M-series chips have been with us since November 2020, with the M3 announced last October, so neither the iPad nor the chip would be ground-breaking. Why waste resources on a live event? There are sure to be videos of the new products, which, according to Joe Rossignol (MacRumors), are expected also to include a new keyboard, a new Apple Pencil and other devices. The folio case which I regard as an essential, is not mentioned. My current one is a bit tatty round the edges because of the hard work it does in my hands. A new one will be a necessary purchase for me.

iPad Pro folio case
Hard working iPad Pro folio case

It is almost certain that new iPads are to be released, probably this month. Despite the MacBook Air release, there was no update to the iPad range and I expect we may have to wait a few more days at least. Updates (17.4) to iOS and iPadOS appeared Wednesday morning here, so the iPads should appear soon. I am trying to be upbeat: I really want a new iPad Pro.

iOS 17.4 update iPadOS 17.4 update

Note that in the update, Apple is now mandated to allow sideloading for users in the European Union. I shudder when I write this. Ugh. Be careful what you wish for. More information about the updates is available from several sources, including Christian Zibreg (iDownload Blog) who outlines 11 new features; Rajesh Pandey (Cult of Mac) who has a deeper examination of EU mandated changes; and Jason Cross (MacWorld) who has a wide look at the new features and some other changes arriving in the update.

Apple has had a long relationship with Singapore. It has long been a major administration and distribution center for the company, with some products made there in the past (maybe they still are). At one time, the repair and warranty operation here had to order parts from there with several days delay, although that became easier when email and overnight shipping became the norm. Dennis Sellers (AppleWorld Today) reports that Apple has now opened the first South-east Asian developer center there

Office Mac mini

I had some problems with the M1 Mac mini recently, especially with Time Machine backups which filled the disk. What is supposed to happen (and didn't) is that old backups are deleted to make space. When I looked at the folder on the external disk (Seagate, 2GB) I did not see the list of backup folders I expected. The Mac mini is only a spare machine, in case I need access to a Mac at my office. I use data and files from my MacBook Pro via iCloud on the Mac mini as well as the iPhone and iPads. I erased the backup disk and started again. However, after a couple of hours running the first backup, it again reported that the disk was full. The storage on the Mac is 500GB so why that would fill a 2TB disk is not clear. I tried the erase and setup process again, but the result was the same.

Failikng backup disk

I have had the wireless keyboard and Magic Trackpad I use with the Mac mini since I bought the previous Intel version of the Mac, so they must both be 7 or more years old. The trackpad had been dropped a couple of times and had become erratic with some operations. Likewise the keyboard had been dropped, damaging the softer aluminum round the On/Off/Pair button. A couple of times recently while working through the disk problems, it failed to connect. Time to bite the bullet. This is why I have 3 backup disks at home with a spare at the office I rotate with one of the 3.

Apple Wireless keybopard with TouchID
Apple Wireless keybopard with TouchID

I ordered a new wireless keyboard, this time with Touch ID and a new (black) trackpad. They arrived within a couple of days (Apple ordering here is so much better than a few years back) and I began to set them up on Friday. I noted that the power to the Mac was off, so there had been a power cut in the last day or so. With the new items unboxed, I started the Mac, but immediately ran into a problem when the current wireless keyboard would not connect. I tried several times, before asking the IT department if I could borrow a USB keyboard: a clunky thing usually connected to a PC. It did the trick and I had the Mac back.

TouchID on keyboard Trackpad on/off switch

The new wireless devices came with lightning to USB-C cables: white for the keyboard, black for the trackpad. They are rechargeable so there is no need to go hunting for AA batteries. Pairing is relatively painless and just requires the device to be connected using the cable one time. It is necessary first to slide the On/Off switch on the back of each device so that it shows green. The keyboard also adds another part to the process with the fingerprint ID. Like other Touch ID devices, we press and touch while the grey fingerprint image fills up the lines in red.


Once these were paired I unpaired the old keyboard and mouse, and returned the USB keyboard to the IT department. The disk was still not wiling to play and is showing other signs of age, so it is time to move on. Apple has changed its selection of disks on the Apple Store, so I will have a look round local shops before making a decision; but if 2TB won't work (for whatever reason) I should really consider a 5TB - perhaps SSD - to bring everything up to date.

I bought a 4TB WD My Passport Ultra disk and I shall set that up over the next day or so.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on X (@extensions_th)


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