macOS Update Paranoia

January 25th, 2018

According to published reports, Apple has seeded a brand new macOS High Sierra update to developers. and public beta testers should have at it shortly. This one, 10.13.4, will put up warnings that Apple plans to remove support for 32-bit apps.

Says Apple:

To prepare for a future release of macOS in which 32-bit software will no longer run without compromise, starting in macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 a user is notified on the launch of an app that depends on 32-bit software. The alert appears only once per app.

Now it’s perfectly normal for Apple to remove support for older apps and features. macOS Lion, released in 2011, removed support for Rosetta. That was the app that allowed you to run PowerPC apps on an Intel-based Mac. Since Apple went Intel in 2006, you’d think that five years would be quite enough, but some apps never made the transition. As for 32-bit apps, by 2007 all Macs supported 64-bit, which should have been a proper incentive for all developers to get with the program.

So I suppose it makes sense, except, of course, if you are saddled with an older app that’ll never be updated, and you’ll have to seek an alternative. Or not use High Sierra’s successor, 10.14, which is probably the release that will eschew 32-bit apps.

But the issue that has reared its ugly head is not that Apple has released several updates in nearly four months, it’s that older macOS versions have seen fewer updates in the same period of time. Is there some deep, dark reason why 10.13.4 is on the horizon so soon, relatively speaking?

On online blogger has actually posted a chart that records the update pace compared to an earlier macOS release. Maybe that person has enough spare time to engage in such chores. Maybe it’s a case of idle curiosity, or maybe it’s a case of wondering why.

So is Apple more aggressive to remove bugs more quickly nowadays, so users won’t have to suffer with them, or are there more bugs in the newer release?

I would suppose that a better solution would just be to examine the release notes and see how many issues have been fixed with each release. What I see is that the number is fewer, although I’m not necessarily considering the severity. Some of those bugs were foolish, such as the one that allowed you to gain root privileges on your Mac without a password, or the ability to do the same with App Store preferences.

Security fixes include several for that notorious CPU bug, involving two issues dubbed Meltdown and Spectre. Although some uninformed members of the media incorrectly claimed the bug primarily affected Apple gear, that fiction is no longer being repeated. Regardless, these issues were not Apple’s fault, but the company is to be commended for taking charge of the situation and explaining what it planned to do.

Even if High Sierra and older OS versions getting those fixes were otherwise pristine, these issues would have to be addressed. Apple refers to the process as “mitigate,” since the fixes do not completely eliminate the problems.

There is, however, the perception that High Sierra has been especially buggy, but other than the password issues and security fixes, that doesn’t seem to be correct. I’m only an example of one, but our readers haven’t complained about its reliability, and I haven’t had any particularly unusual problems, and I’ve been using it since early in the beta process (but not originally on my work Mac).

What I’m actually waiting for is Apple’s promised fix for the inability to convert a Fusion drive to the Apple File System (APFS). The feature was there at the early stage of the beta process, but removed because it was buggy. Indeed, when you reverted your Mac to HFS+ before installing the final release of High Sierra, you had to undergo a more complicated reformatting maneuver that required some Terminal commands.

When High Sierra was released, Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi said support for Fusion drives would come “in a future update,” but nothing has been heard since. Evidently it has taken longer for Apple to make the process reliable. For now APFS, which promises improved security and performance, is designed strictly for Macs with SSDs and, of course, iPhones and iPads. A regular hard drive can be converted, and evidently reliably based on my brief tests. The Fusion drive’s combination of HDD and SSD, however, is evidently the sticky wicket.

It’s not that my iMac is going to suffer from the lack of APFS support, although my aging 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro, outfitted with an SSD a few years back, converted in perfect form and continues to run reliably.

But it would be nice if Apple gave us an update on the status of the ability to convert Fusion drives to APFS. Or maybe the question isn’t being asked by many people, as I’ve seen very little mention about the topic in tech publications. That, of course, is not going to encourage Apple to continue to work on the problem, so maybe it’ll be set aside for High Sierra’s successor.

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4 Responses to “macOS Update Paranoia”

  1. DaveD says:

    My 2012 MacBook Air is running El Capitan. Not in a rush to upgrade to Sierra (not High Sierra) because it is still getting Safari and Security Updates. El Capitan is OK due to what I sensed is system rot. The one sign is the user sound effects disappeared which is my indicator that a system restart is in the near future. My oldest (2008) MacBook is still on Snow Leopard. It is the keeper on my iTunes library and will remain that way until the MacBook no longer functions.

    I no longer have interest in using the latest macOS. The best way to run the my Macs for stability is to use the very last version of the one OS you preferred. I learned this valuable lesson using Yosemite. In addition, I gave an OK to a friend with a 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro to update to 10.13.2 after reading no major issues. But, I was wrong. Even though the upgrade from Sierra to High Sierra went well, it was booting up that became problematic. The MacBook Pro would get stuck at the OS boot progress at around 95 percent. Numerous reinstalls resulted in the same situation. I ended up finding a very recent Apple Discussions topic opened last December affecting some users with the same problem. After trying the usual tricks such as repairing the disk, reset SMC and NVRAM, etc. Nothing fixed the stuck boot. I recommended a restore from backup. A trip to the Apple Store confirmed the issue and the Apple Genius did the restore from Time Machine for the friend back to Sierra. Lots of lost time on a bad upgrade. My suspicion that it may be APFS on an older hard drive.

  2. BradMacPro says:

    The new APFS Copy on write for metadata tends to fragment spinning hard drives which includes Fusion drives, so either Apple has to get more aggressive on the background defragmentation, of the larger files it ignores now, or they have to add a defragmentation utility to the recovery partition or turn off this feature when APFS is setup on non-SSDs.

  3. PaulCons says:

    Most likely along the same lines, there was explicit support for APFS and SSDs in a RAID set in their literature. However, 10.13 did NOT ship with functionality backing up their promise of compatibility. I have been anxiously awaiting any word, but nothing but silence. Honestly, there are just so much funationality that we had even as far back as OS9 that simply no longer work, even though functionality is claimed. I am pretty resigned to the fact that the MacOS engineer are simply not even halfway up to the kind of snuff they used to have. Face it, the phone is really their only product, the one that they WILL devote resources to KEEP selling millions of every year. They USED to build dsktop machines because they had a real passon for them, but guys like Andy Hertzfeld and Bill Atkinson simply don’t exist today inside Apple. Somehow I think they re in the “we always built desktops, see we still build them” mode.

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