Apple Silicon Cometh

As indicated in Welcome to the Future, we've been making use of the new Apple Silicon Macs since they were announced at WWDC 2020. However, during that time, the impact on Cartographica has been limited because of limitations on some of our library providers. While libraries with source code (such as the venerable GDAL, without which most GIS applications would be significantly weaker) were relatively straightforward to move to Apple Silicon, some of the proprietary libraries Cartographica uses to access proprietary file formats have not been as easy.

After months (stretching in to over a year since Apple shipped the first M1 Macs) of waiting, I've decided to change course and end the waiting. Starting with the first development version of Cartographica 1.6, the software will now be M1 native. The good news is that it looks like we're seeing good performance gains from this—despite the fact that Cartographica ran quite fast under Rosetta. The bad news is that some of the proprietary file formats still haven't released new versions compatible with the new Apple platforms.

As such, there will be a few file formats that will not be available when Cartographica is run on Apple Silicon, at least natively. Because of how Apple's technology for runnning Universal Binaries works, Cartographica ships as a single copy of the program that supports both Intel and Apple Silicon processors.

For users with Intel Macs, there won't be much noticeable difference (except for the file formats that have been dropped, as mentioned in the Preparing for 1.6 article from last summer).

For users with Apple Silicon Macs, if you run Cartographica natively, you will lose access to some formats:

  • MrSID Raster
  • MG4 Lidar

In addition, although reading ESRI File GeoDatabases will work on both platforms (using OpenFileGDB), writing is only available when running on Intel or in Rosetta 2.

However, because of the way that Apple's Universal Binaries work, you will be able to use Rosetta 2 to access these formats if need be by going to the Finder, selecting Cartographica, choosing File > Get Info and then checking the Open using Rosetta box. This will run Cartographica in Intel emulation despite the fact that the software is also available natively.

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