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Does Ovito support Apple Silicon?

Dear Ovito team:

I am planning to change my laptop to the MacBook with Apple's new chip M1, I am wondering if Ovito supports the new chip. Probably it can work on Rosetta. Do you have a plan to make it native support on Apple Silicon?

Best regards,

Jintao Li

Hi,

I understand that you would like to know the answer to this question, because you need to make a hardware purchase decision, but I am unable to provide a definitive answer at this time, sorry. The OVITO team doesn't have access to an Apple Silicon machine yet to verify the compatibility, and so far we haven't received reports from other OVITO users who already own a new hardware.

Thus, I can only describe my current expectations from a developer's point of view. I don't see any reason why the existing OVITO x86_64 binaries for macOS would not continue to work on the new M1 processor, thanks to the Rosetta 2 translation layer. Of course we don't know how the resulting performance will be. Hopefully not too bad.

I will try to build OVITO universal binaries with native code for the M1 in the coming months, which should be possible on our existing Apple x86 machine. However, I would not be surprised if there are road blocks on the way. OVITO has dependencies on third-party libraries which may not be fully compatible yet, because they contain architecture-specific instructions. Examples are the Python interpreter, including the NumPy library, the Geogram library used by OVITO for Delaunay tessellation, and of course the OSPRay ray-tracing engine, which is an Intel software product. I expect Python to become available as a universal binary soon (maybe it is already), and Geogram has already been ported to other ARM architectures. So there is a good chance, that I can get it to work on M1 as well. However, a native port of OSPRay may never become available, for political reasons.

Furthermore, I foresee issues with the Anaconda package for macOS. That version of OVITO is being built in the standard Anaconda build environment, which currently consists of an older Xcode compiler not supporting the generation of universal binaries yet.

Let's see, I think the transition is going to take some time until everything works flawlessly and with native support for the new processor architecture. In the meantime, your best bet is the Rosetta 2 translation layer. My hope is that it will allow you to continue using OVITO as before. But I cannot make you any promises. I can only assure you that it is our explicit intention to support the new platform if technically feasible. If you decide to buy an Apple Silicon machine, I would be happy to work with you and see how far we can get in terms of compatibility.

-Alex