Welcome to part 5! If you haven't read parts 1-4, you can find them here:
Apple MacBook Air M1 for Network Engineers Part 1
Apple MacBook Air M1 for Network Engineers Part 3
Apple MacBook Air M1 for Network Engineers Part 4
So how is the M1 working out?
I have been using the M1 as my daily driver for a few months now. It has far exceeded my expectations. The "Instant On" like an iPad still blows me away, battery life is unbelievable, the Retina screen is amazing, memory management is so good I just don't even think about how many applications I have open.
Recently, I left work, came home, used it for a few hours web browsing, worked on Friday using it for probably 5 hours at three different sites, then Saturday morning I was web browsing and realized that it was at 39% battery! I can't wait until the plague is over and I get to spend 11-14 hours in airports and on planes with it. Oh, wait...
But it's not perfect! The M1 only has two USB-C Thunderbolt ports and the architecture of the M1 only allows a total of two displays - INCLUDING the Retina display. So even if you purchase two USB-C to HDMI adapters you can only drive one monitor. Since I have two 27" monitors in my home office and two 24" monitors at work this was disappointing.
But, it turns out the two monitor limit does not apply to DisplayLink monitors. StarTech.com makes a USB-A to DisplayLink adapter that has two DisplayPort ports and Gigabit Ethernet. It drives both monitors no problem and I can still use the Retina display for a total of three monitors. You do have to go to the Displaylink Downloads page and install the macOS app.
Of course, being USB-A, you still have to use a USB-C to USB-A adapter. I bought two from Satechi.com that have three USB-A ports and one Gigabit Ethernet adapter. That leaves the second USB-C port available for charging so I can work all day on two monitors and still have two USB-A available and Ethernet. They are very high-quality adapters and I can't recommend them enough. If you sign up at Satechi.com you will get discount coupons in your inbox.
In the field, I have been using another Satechi adapter - USB-C ON-THE-GO MULTIPORT ADAPTER. This one has
- USB-C PD charging
- Gigabit Ethernet
- 4K HDMI, VGA
- USB-C data ports
- micro/SD card readers slots
The USB-C to C cable stashes inside the adapter, a really nice feature and it comes with a second, longer USB-C to C cable. I really like it because I can use the USB-C PD port for charging, use Gigabit Ethernet, an external monitor, and a USB-A device while still having the second USB-C port available. Plus, like the other Satechi adapter, it's very solidly built and feels like it will last even getting banged around in my backpack!
One last accessory that I am loving is an OIKWAN 10ft FTDI USB-C to RJ45 Serial Adapter. I didn't know that you could buy 10' cables but the extra length rocks. Plus, I don't need to put in a dongle just to use a console cable.
At this point, we have a macOS system running Big Sur with a great shell, a great terminal, the development tools needed to automate the network and a vast collection of dongles! Now we will install and configure the tools that make macOS/Linux so much better than Windows.
Here is a list of the apps that we will be installing: