The Apple M1 compiles Linux 30% faster than my Intel i9

(With a caveat: I'm compiling the ARMv8 64-bit Pi OS kernel.)

It seems every week or so on Hacker News, a story hits the front page showing some new benchmark and how one of the new M1-based Macs matches or beats the higher-priced competition in some specific benchmark—be it GeekBench, X86-specific code, or building Emacs.

Well, here's my quick story.

I've been doing a lot of work with Raspberry Pis lately—more specifically, work which often requires recompiling the Pi OS Linux kernel for the aarch64 architecture. I recompile the kernel enough I made my own shirt for it!

Cross-compiling the Raspberry Pi OS Linux kernel on macOS

After doing a video testing different external GPUs on a Raspberry Pi last week, I realized two things:

  1. Compiling the Linux kernel on a Raspberry Pi is slow. It took 54 minutes, and I ended up doing it 7 times during the course of testing for that video.
  2. If you ever want to figure out a better way to do something, write a blog post or create a video showing the less optimal way of doing it.

To the second point, about every fifth comment was telling me to cross-compile Linux on a faster machine instead of doing it on the Pi itself. For example:

cross compile raspberry pi kernel youtube comment

And on the Pi Forums, it seems like nobody worth their salt compiles the kernel on the Pi either, so I figured—since I'm probably going to have to do it again another thousand times in my life—I might as well put together a guide for how to do it on a Mac.

Setting up a Mac mini from MacStadium for headless CI

I recently got an offer from MacStadium to use one of their dedicated Mac minis to perform CI and testing tasks for my Mac-based open source projects (for example, my Mac Dev Ansible Playbook, which I use to configure my own Macs).

Apple logo on glowy laptop background

So I thought I'd document a little bit in this blog post about how I configured the Mac mini for more secure remote administration, since Macs tend to be a little more 'open' out of the box than comparable Linux machines that I'm used to working with.

Securing SSH

First of all, I used ssh-copy-id to add my SSH key to the default administrator account on the Mac mini that was created for me:

What does Apple Silicon mean for the Raspberry Pi and ARM64?

Note: There's a video version of this blog post available here: What does Apple Silicon mean for the Raspberry Pi and ARM64?

Apple Silicon and the Raspberry Pi

A couple weeks ago I tried using the latest Raspberry Pi 4 8 gig model as my main computer for a day, and I posted a video about my experience.

Besides many diehard Linux fans complaining in the comments about my apparent idiocy caused by being a Mac user, the experience taught me one thing: A lot of software still isn't built for 64-bit ARM processors, or even for Linux in general.

But there's one trend that I'm seeing: most of the open source software I use already works great on a Pi 4 running on its 64-bit ARM processor.

Recording multiple camera angles, full-size, simultaneously, on a Mac

I've been doing a lot of video production work for the past few months, both for my YouTube channel, and in helping people with their live streams, and one thing that I miss by not having dedicated (and expensive!) video production system like a NewTek TriCaster is being able to record multiple camera angles at their full resolution simultaneously on my Mac.

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There are a lot of little conveniences you get used to if you do professional live video production with high-end equipment that you often can't replicate in a budget studio... like my desk here at my house.

Flashing a Raspberry Pi Compute Module on macOS with usbboot

I recently got to play around with a Turing Pi, which uses Raspberry Pi Compute Modules to build a cluster of up to 7 Raspberry Pi nodes.

Turing Pi Raspberry Pi 7 nodes of Compute Modules

Interested in learning more about building a Turing Pi cluster? Subscribe to my YouTube channel—I'm going to be posting a series on the Turing Pi and Rasbperry Pi clustering in the next few weeks!

You can buy Compute Modules with or without onboard eMMC memory. If you don't have memory, you can attach a microSD card and boot from it, just like you would on any Raspberry Pi model B or model A. But if you have the eMMC memory, it's nice to be able to 'flash' that memory with an OS, so the compute module uses the onboard storage and doesn't require a separate boot device (either microSD card or USB disk).

Revisiting Docker for Mac's performance with NFS volumes

tl;dr: Docker's default bind mount performance for projects requiring lots of I/O on macOS is abysmal. It's acceptable (but still very slow) if you use the cached or delegated option. But it's actually fairly performant using the barely-documented NFS option!

July 2020 Update: Docker for Mac may soon offer built-in Mutagen sync via the :delegated sync option, and I did some benchmarking here. Hopefully that feature makes it to the standard Docker for Mac version soon.

September 2020 Update: Alas, Docker for Mac will not be getting built-in Mutagen support at this time. So, read on.

Z shell or Bash command alias to open two tabs to specified directories in macOS Terminal

There are a few projects I have where I need to work from two separate directories simultaneously, and while there are a number of ways I could set up workspaces in various esoteric IDEs or terminal session managers, I am stodgy in my ways and enjoy using the built-in Terminal in macOS for most things. If you use iTerm on the Mac, the commands are similar, but the AppleScript events that I use may need to be adjusted.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. For these projects, I want to have a bash/zsh alias that does the following:

  1. When I type xyz (alias) and hit 'return'
  2. Open the current tab to path ~/projects/xyz
  3. Open a new tab next to this tab
  4. Change directories in then new tab to path ~/something-else/xyz

Simple enough, you say, but I found that a number of AppleScript incantations (e.g. do script and the like) could not be made to work with bash aliases easily. In the end, I put the following in my .zshrc file (see all of geerlingguy's dotfiles here—some private aliases excluded):

If you're having trouble formatting a new SSD in a Mac, it could be the cable

tl;dr: If you see weird errors when using or formatting a drive internally on a Mac (especially after upgrading to a newer and/or faster SATA hard drive), it could mean the SATA cable needs to be replaced.

Mac mini mid-2011 lower SATA hard drive cable with connector
Who would've thought such a tiny cable could cause so many problems?

I have an older Mac mini (mid-2011 i5 model), and I use it as a general media server and network backup. It handles Time Machine backups for two other Macs, it has about 20 TB of external storage connected, and I also use it as a 'home base' to store all my Dropbox, iCloud, and Photos content locally, and store an extra Time Machine backup of all that. I'm a little nutty about backups... but I haven't lost a file in two decades and I don't want to start now ;-).