How to Break Apple’s M1 Chip
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How to Break Apple’s M1 Chip
My bad Dropbox organization habits brought Apple’s power-sipping MacBook Air to its knees in just a single day
I’m not a video editor, but I’m pretty sure I brutally slayed the M1 MacBook Air I just bought (8 GB RAM and a 512 gigabyte SSD, in case you were wondering) in less than a day of use.
It comes down to two reasons, really: The lack of an Apple Silicon-optimized Dropbox app (it’s coming), and a solid decade-plus track record of bad habits in terms of how I store my old projects.
So, here’s the deal: For a number of years, the content management system I used for my newsletter was based on Node.js, which generally stores its many parts inside of folders called
node_modules. Any small Node applet inside of the primary Node app can also have a
node_modules folder. These apps basically build on one another, creating a Russian nesting doll of sorts, each folder filled with its own tiny folders, of which there can be thousands included in a single directory.
Dropbox traditionally has not handled lots of small files particularly well. And in the past, my Dropbox folder has brought computers large and small to their knees… and made them kick up the fans.
Here was a fanless, highly optimized computer with a chipset said to allow for comically robust battery life — Apple claims 18 hours, and many reviewers have gotten close to that. How’d it do? Well at first, I thought it was holding its own. However, I soon noticed that Dropbox was taking up three-quarters of my RAM, and that my swap file was reaching 10 gigabytes in size. Even after letting it sit around overnight to sync, it still wasn’t done — and worse, I started seeing beach balls.
The culprit? All those dang
node_modules folders. I would keep these old folders of my CMS around as backups of local installs on the off-chance something would break. (Eventually, I started compressing them.)
At some point, it sucked up so much power I decided to unplug my laptop to see how fast it would drain the battery. In about two and a half hours, I managed to knock out two-thirds of the computer’s battery life, by which time I had made a point to remove syncing capabilities on every folder with
node_modules as a subfolder. It seems on track for about four and a half hours while plugged into a monitor… even after all that.
I’m a special case. I experiment a lot with random things, and my Dropbox folder is like a storage locker that’s never been organized. It is totally unfair to Dropbox to blame them for my bad storage habits.
And on top of all that, it’s not fair to criticize Dropbox for having an app that appears to otherwise work fine on a brand-new architecture at a time when around 15% of Intel apps aren’t, according to “Does it ARM.” (And glitches are common; my web browser of choice, Vivaldi, does this on the Twitter website right now.)
But a suggestion to Dropbox as they create an Apple Silicon version of their namesake app: Automatically disable syncing on any folder named
node_modules. I promise you, nobody will miss them.
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