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LittleBITS: Crab Fit, Insta360 GO 2, myCharge MAG-LOCK, Windows on M1 Macs

I’ve recently been frustrated by wanting to share little bits of information for which I lack either the time or motivation to write standalone articles. They may be casual observations that don’t merit the depth of an article, answers I’ve given to email queries I’ve received from readers, or updates on something I wrote about once and don’t want to reprise in depth. I make no promises about keeping this LittleBITS column going, but we’ll see if it turns into something that feels worthwhile and that I enjoy doing.

Crab Fit Modernizes When2Meet

Almost a year ago, I wrote “When2Meet: An Easier Way to Settle on a Meeting Time” (6 January 2021) to share with you an online tool that I’d found far better than Doodle (see “Doodle Helps You Schedule Meetings,” 28 May 2015) for scheduling meetings that need to take into account the schedules of numerous people. Since then, I’ve used When2Meet successfully, but as I’ve watched people use it, I’ve observed a few problems:

  • As I noted in the article, it doesn’t work well on the iPhone.
  • Some people get confused about the need for a password, so I have to explain that it’s only if they want to change their vote in the future.
  • There’s no good way to differentiate between “This time is good for me” and “I don’t like it, but I could make it if need be.”

After that article came out, Web developer Ben Grant dropped me a note. He loves When2Meet’s lightweight approach to scheduling but was frustrated by its lack of a mobile-friendly interface. His answer to that problem: Crab Fit, which works exactly like When2Meet but has a clean, modern interface that displays well on the iPhone screen.

Crab Fit on iPhone

Crab Fit solves the mobile problem, and it provides a clear explanation of what the password is for. It doesn’t have an answer for the issue of how to have an “if necessary” vote, but that would significantly increase the complexity of what is a deliciously simple system.

My only real issue with Crab Fit is the name. It’s memorable and may be explained by Ben’s day job working on Pok Pok Playroom, a collection of digital toys for kids that won a 2021 Apple Design Award. But it is hard to ask a non-technical person to vote “in a Crab Fit poll” (a workout based on scuttling around the floor?) compared to voting “in a When2Meet poll” (will Friday work for you?).

Insta360 GO 2 Camera Shrinks the Action Cam Even Further

Early this year, I wrote about the Insta360 ONE X2 action cam, which lets you take 360º video by merging footage from a pair of cameras (see “First Look: Insta360 ONE X2 Steady Cam,” 12 February 2021). I haven’t used the ONE X2 as much as I would have liked this summer, though, partly because I’ve been unable to run much due to injury and partly because I haven’t been able to figure out what I want to shoot with it. I could record a standard group run, but I’m not enthused about carrying the selfie stick for 30–90 minutes, and who would be interested in watching a bunch of runners talking for that amount of time? Or I could try to record a trail race course for previewing it, but again, that’s a long time to watch trees go by. And my life is busy enough that I don’t have hours to edit video after running, especially if I need to condense an hour into a few minutes. I suppose I’ll never be a YouTube star.

But Insta360 has a new $299.95 camera that’s being sold in the Apple online store that addresses at least one of my issues—holding the selfie stick for a longer run. The tiny Insta360 GO 2 is only 2.08 x 0.93 x 0.81 inches (52.9 x 23.6 x 20.7 mm) and weighs just 0.93 oz (26.5 g). It’s small and light enough that you can attach it to a pendant, your clothing, a hat, a headband, or a little stand, and it’s even waterproof up to 13 feet (4 m) deep.

Insta360 GO 2

In terms of video, the GO 2 provides 120º video at 2560-by-1440 and up to 50 frames per second. You have to see it in action to understand just how small it is.

Of course, diminutive size brings with it significant limitations. The maximum clip length is 10, 15, or 30 minutes, depending on shooting mode, and the runtime is similarly 20 or 30 minutes, depending on mode. It’s probably ideal for TikTok users or those who need to record little bits of their days all the time. I’ll stick with trying to figure out the best ways to use the ONE X2.

myCharge MAG-LOCK External Battery Works with MagSafe iPhones

I recently received a myCharge MAG-LOCK external battery for review. It’s a MagSafe battery, so it’s compatible only with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, but since I just upgraded from an iPhone 11 Pro to the iPhone 13 Pro, I was curious to give MagSafe a try.

I got the $59.99 6000 mAh Mama Bear battery—the $49.99 Baby Bear model is 3000 mAh, and the $69.99 Papa Bear battery offers 9000 mAh. The gray battery—there are five colors—is pretty thick at 0.63 inches (1.6 cm), but I could still put my iPhone 13 Pro in my jeans pocket with the battery attached. And it stayed attached—the MagSafe connection is strong enough that the devices stay connected even if you pick up the combination by the top device. Shaking the iPhone dislodged the battery, though, and I could imagine them coming apart in a purse or bag. I did appreciate how MagSafe aligned the battery properly—I’ve hated that aspect of Qi-compatible wireless chargers.

MAG-LOCK battery lineup

You might notice if it detaches, though, since the battery whistles quietly when you attach or detach it, which is helpful feedback. It also has an LED that shows green when it’s charged and red when it’s low on power; a button turns on the LED if necessary, but you don’t have to press the button to start charging, as on many other batteries (see “Comparing MagSafe Battery Packs: Not A Simple Choice,” 20 August 2021).

On the downside, it was slow—it took 4:11 to charge my iPhone 13 Pro from 0% to 100% with the MAG-LOCK. However, I was impressed that it didn’t fully deplete the battery. Another problem was that the battery extended under the camera lenses just enough to put a thin gray edge at the bottom of my photos. That’s not a deal-breaker because you could just take it off before snapping a picture. And finally, I had to take the iPhone 13 Pro out of its case, which isn’t MagSafe-compatible.

myCharge has branded these batteries as the “MAG-LOCK Superhero Chargers” and festooned the marketing materials with a stern-looking guy in a costume. At first, I thought the MAG-LOCK might stop bullets, but myCharge’s video makes it clear the batteries are actually constructed of the same substance as Thor’s hammer and will fly to your iPhone from a distance when summoned. This did not work in my testing.

I don’t have enough experience with other external batteries to recommend for or against the MAG-LOCK battery. It works as advertised, it has some nice features, and its problems aren’t severe. But I remain negative about wireless charging in general because I inherently disapprove of a technology that trades minimal convenience for a massively inefficient use of power (see “MagSafe Is Cool, but Is It Worth the Trade-Offs?,” 6 November 2020).

What’s the Deal with Windows on M1-Based Macs?

TidBITS reader Geoff Hart wrote to ask what I knew about running Parallels Desktop on M1-based Macs. The problem, of course, is that the standard versions of Windows (and Windows apps) run on Intel chips, not the ARM-based M1. There is a Windows 11 for ARM Insider Preview that can run Windows apps in emulation; Parallels provides instructions for getting it. Unfortunately, Microsoft said back in September that running Windows 11 on M1-based Macs is not “a supported scenario.” When I reached out to my old friend Kurt Schmucker at Parallels to get his take, he replied with this highly politic if not particularly helpful official statement:

While we can’t comment specifically on another company’s statement, it’s not unusual for software manufacturers to have policies regarding the hardware requirements and environments they officially support. And throughout the tech industry, there are many examples of software use cases and configurations that may not be officially supported, but remain very popular in both corporate and individual end user environments.

Geoff was hoping to upgrade to a new 14-inch MacBook Pro, but he needs to run Word 2019 for Windows, and it has to be as rock-solid as his combination of macOS 10.13 High Sierra, Parallels Desktop 15, and Windows 10. And he was hoping we might write an article on the topic.

A few months ago, I installed Parallels Desktop 16 and Windows 10 for ARM Insider Preview on my M1-based MacBook Air, and I verified that Windows boots and seems to work. But I only ever run one Windows app—the crusty HyTek Meet Manager for six track meets per year—and this summer, I wimped out and reverted to running it on a 2016 Intel-based MacBook Pro that I know works with the USB-to-serial adapter I use to connect it to our Time Machine timing system (Apple came late to the naming game on that one). I spend far more time updating Windows than using it.

After Geoff wrote, I upgraded to Parallels Desktop 17, updated to Windows 11 for ARM Insider Preview, and verified once again that it boots and lets me launch apps. It seems to work fine. But saying “works on my machine” isn’t enough for me to assure Geoff that Word 2019 will be rock-solid. Microsoft could always block it from working in the future, too. And I certainly don’t know enough to write an article that I could stand behind.

In the end, I recommended that Geoff purchase the 14-inch MacBook Pro and put everything through its paces with his actual workflow. You can always return a Mac to Apple within 14 days for any reason, so if it didn’t perform adequately for his needs, he could take it back and look for one of the dwindling stock of Intel-based MacBook Pros.

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Comments About LittleBITS: Crab Fit, Insta360 GO 2, myCharge MAG-LOCK, Windows on M1 Macs

Notable Replies

  1. I find that the reply by your Parallels contact regarding their stance on Windows on ARM is interesting, and at the same time somewhat disingenuous. Reading between the lines, they know full well that Microsoft does not intend to support what they’re doing, but they don’t want to come out and tell this to their customers as their business is primarily “Windows on Mac”.

    Until Microsoft changes their position, using Parallels for Windows on ARM is best left to the hobbyist. Using it for real work is taking the chance that if something breaks you won’t get help from Microsoft.

  2. That’s definitely a concern, although I don’t know that Microsoft could be counted on to provide any useful support even if you had a problem with a supported version of Windows under Parallels Desktop. I somehow doubt that’s a configuration Microsoft tests against.

    The question then is if Parallels would be able to provide the support you need, and that’s a different judgment call.

  3. Well at least Microsoft considers Intel processors that Apple uses a supported chipset on which to run Windows. They do not consider Apple Silicon a supported chipset for Windows on ARM - only Qualcomm Snapdragon and the two derivatives that Microsoft used in the Surface.

    Windows hardware support is tricky and yes, they don’t test every permutation. However, they start by specifying a list of supported CPUs for the product, and certain features such as the TPM module. From that point OEMs provide peripheral drivers (disks, graphics cards, sound cards, etc.) if needed. As of Windows 11 those seem to be WHCL certified new-style drivers. I bet Microsoft expects OEMs to provide that support and testing from what I’ll call a “reference configuration”. This works for virtualization because the vendors start with a Microsoft-certified chipset (Intel) and then add either emulated devices for standard Windows drivers, or drivers for their virtual devices (e.g VMware Tools or open-vm-tools).

  4. Adam: I find Kurt Schmucker’s reply a masterpiece in evasion and obfuscation, as I expect do you. This does not bode well.

    I am faced with yet another upgrade decision, and M-chipped Macs’ inability to host anything much under Parallels is a major issue, not least because I have taken the ‘freeze and virtualize’ approach rather than OS Upgrade Hell over the past two decades. As a result I work a lot in Office for Mac 2004. (It works, I paid for it, it does what I need, so why not? And that’s not even going anywhere near my major software investments – Adobe.)

    Unless and until (or even if: it might be technically impossible) Apple silicon can support the massive raft of virtualized OS-es that Intel silicon can in Parallels, it will sadly remain a closed world to me.

  5. Office 2019 / 365 on Mac is a universal App and in 2016 was re-written from scratch in native Cocoa. It runs very well indeed and it’s updated frequently. I don’t know the specifics of the particular workflow. But the only downside is that the Office for Mac apps are sandboxed so if your VBA / Macros / Add-ons access things outside of Word they may not work. If the 3rd party that created an Add-on doesn’t bother to support Mac then you’ll need to find an alternative. The Apps are sandboxed because they are in the App Store but can also be downloaded and installed from Microsoft but they are still coded to run in a sandbox.

    There’s always more than one way to accomplish a goal and some of these workflows may have been cobbled together over the years using available tools but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it. We had a metric ton of custom spreadsheets and MS Access databases and the like where some whizkid in a department built it and the whole department used it then the whizkid leaves the company and there is no one to support it. Unless you find a grizzled old engineer who happens to be having a really great day and they are bored, they might take a stab at peeling back the layers and tackling the mess under the hood. Eventually we started looking into all the business apps and eliminated redundancies and replaced multiple toolchains into modern web apps. So instead of a home grown app launching Word to generate a letter, we have a web app that generates a PDF hooked to a record in a cloud based database server. As time went on we eliminated a lot of these kludge solutions from decades ago. One such tool was a PTO time tracking Access database. We just installed the HR tool Workday and that offered the same functionality even better.

    Personally, I find Word to be such a tangled mess that I can barely stand it. Pages is far easier but underpowered. I’ve taken to writing technical documentation in LaTeX and I can check the markup text files into a git code repository. I even found ways to automate it with various scripts and python. I can now crank out technical documentation and make it look amazing in PDF’s. The only trouble with LaTeX is the learning curve but it’s not all that bad. Once you have your templates set up the rest is inputting the content with minimal markup. If you have a programmers text editor it’s a piece of cake. But alas it is not for everyone. Yes, it does mathematic formula formatting exceptionally well. But it can do complex book layouts, presentations, pamphlets, etc. It is a very capable typesetting system.

  6. To be clear, I’m not criticizing Kurt. He and Parallels have to navigate a tough situation that’s not of their making and isn’t under their control. In our ideal world, Microsoft would just release Windows 11 for ARM and throw their full support behind it. Obviously, that’s not happening, and I’m sure there are multiple reasons for that too.

  7. Unfortunately, this is going to be a major pain point for you, should you want to keep doing this in the future. It might be worth considering upgrading to some newer apps.

    Sooner or later, you will be forced to upgrade. Once Apple stops making Intel Macs and the marketplace for used equipment dries up, your only other option will be to abandon Macs altogether.

    We won’t see virtualization environments capable of running Intel (or PPC) operating systems. That’s simply not what virtualization does. VMs on Apple Silicon will be able to run ARM-based operating systems, but not Intel.

    But that’s not necessarily the end of the road. There is also the possibility of emulation, where ARM-based software emulates an Intel (or PPC) processor and related system hardware in order to run operating systems designed for those platforms.

    You may want to look here for some starting points: Apple Silicon M1: How to run x86 and ARM Virtual Machines on it? | by Dmitry Yarygin | Medium

    It looks like there are a few products that might work. All are emulators based on QEMU. I don’t know if any of these are yet capable of running macOS in emulation.

  8. For those intrigued by the small size of the Insta360 GO 2 but put off by its recording limitations, there’s now a 64 GB model that presumably doubles the recording time in different modes.

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