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macOS Update Paranoia

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.