Looking back at 2021 on my Mac: articles worth reading again

It’s conventional at this time of year to look back at the old year just about to close, and make predictions about the New Year just about to start. For Macs, those seem consummately easy: 2021 was the year of the M1 Pro and Max, and the first major version of macOS since Sierra to consolidate rather than bring deep change. Next year will be the year of whatever Apple releases to complete its switch from Intel.

On 1 January, I called for last year to be the year of Disk Utility, little knowing that it was about to get more attention and include new features for working with snapshots. Although in Monterey it’s more capable, it’s still marred by bugs, particularly one that prevents it from unmounting volumes, causing First Aid to fail repeatedly. Perhaps last year was but the start of a full campaign by Apple’s engineers to modernise Disk Utility.

At the end of January, I started a whole series on Spotlight. Given the number of Mac users who report problems with search, you may find the following articles handy:
Spotlight on search: How Spotlight works
Spotlight on search: Search and you might be lucky
Spotlight on search: Better and different, 3rd party apps
Spotlight on search: In-app search (Core Spotlight)
How to test Spotlight out in 30 seconds with Mints 1.0b11
Spotlight on search: Four different Spotlights
Spotlight on search: How to diagnose and fix problems
Diagnosing a Spotlight bug in Big Sur: failure to index RTF content
As we had hoped, a little while later indexing and search of RTF files was magically fixed.

One of my long-term projects has been getting external boot disks to work with M1 Macs. In February I was still struggling, but with a little help finally got there in 11.4, and explained the process in detail recently.

One big advance in Big Sur was the introduction of Time Machine backing up to APFS storage. To explore that, I’ve published a series of articles with all the gruesome details:
Time Machine to APFS: Evolution
Time Machine to APFS: Initiating an auto backup
Time Machine to APFS: Understanding backups
Time Machine to APFS: Backing up
Time Machine to APFS: How processes have changed
Window controls in Big Sur
Time Machine to APFS: Backup structure and access
Time Machine to APFS: Maintenance and repair
Time Machine to APFS: Changing disks
Time Machine to APFS: How efficient are backups?
Should you back up to APFS or HFS+?
Time Machine to APFS: First full backup
Time Machine to APFS: Using a network share
Time Machine to APFS: When a network backup goes wrong
Going beyond T2M2 with Mints: grokking Time Machine to APFS
Upgrading to Big Sur or Monterey: migrating Time Machine backups
Backing up to network storage in Big Sur and beyond

In the summer, I started looking in earnest at the performance benefits of M1 series Macs, a subject which has continued to occupy plenty of my time, and subsequent articles. At the heart of Apple’s magic is sound user psychology coupled with its tight integration of two different types of core.

One of the big problems with Big Sur and Monterey for many users are the changes made to the ways to update them. For Big Sur, this meant a succession of large downloads, and those with more than one Mac should be using the bundled Content Caching Server to reduce their downloads and make updates faster. Although this is usually trouble-free, I put together an article on troubleshooting it.

For those who want to get the most out of their M1 Mac, I’ve been writing a series on coding in ARM assembly language. Parts published so far include:
Code in Assembly for Apple Silicon with the AsmAttic app (1)
Code in ARM Assembly: 2 Registers explained
Code in ARM Assembly: 3 Working with pointers
Code in ARM Assembly: 4 Controlling flow
Code in ARM Assembly: 5 Conditional loops
Code in ARM Assembly: 6 Flow, pipelines and performance
Code in ARM Assembly: 7 Moving data around
Code in ARM Assembly: 8 Integer arithmetic
Code in ARM Assembly: 9 Bit operations
Code in ARM Assembly: 10 Conditions without branches
Code in ARM Assembly: 11 Floating point registers and conversions
Code in ARM Assembly: 12 Rounding and arithmetic
Accelerating the M1 Mac: 13 an introduction to SIMD
Code in ARM Assembly: 14 Lanes and loads in NEON
I will be continuing those next year when time allows.

One persistent problem which has troubled many Mac users over the later part of the year has been websites with broken certificates. This is likely to recur in the future, and is worst with older versions of macOS, so you may need to refer back to my guide on how to deal with them.

As I get to grips with the new features in Monterey, I’ve been writing about them. Among these are some articles about Shortcuts which you may find useful:
Shortcuts: Automating the Mac
Getting started with Shortcuts: 1 Basics
Shortcuts: counting files and Quick Actions
Shortcuts: flow control, filters, sorting and iteration

Finally, to end this review and the year, it may be time to erase all content and settings, something else new with Monterey. And with that I look forward to providing further information in the New Year.