• Newsletter Issue #879

    October 3rd, 2016


    So the Apple Watch Series 2 is out and about, but one overriding question is whether Apple’s nascent smartwatch is now poised to take off in a big way, or will continue to coast. Certainly, Apple did smart things to make it faster and more useful separate from the iPhone, with a built-in GPS. That’s short of what some of us expect some day, which is a built-in cellular radio. Not that it probably can’t be done now, but at what cost?

    No doubt battery life would be sacrificed, and something would have to go, because it’s already a tight fit in there. But someday, it’ll happen. Someday I expect the Apple Watch to be fully functional untethered from an iPhone. Indeed you may never have to pair with one. It won’t replace the flexibility of a large display, but it would otherwise fill many functions that people might need.

    All right, people my age will recall the Dick Tracy comics and that 1990 Warren Beatty movie about the character. Maybe I’ll even consider buying an Apple Watch when it gets to where I think it should be.

    Now on this weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured commentator Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer. The discussion began with his experiences as owner of an Apple Watch Series 2. Is it something one comes to love, or simply like a little more than the original Apple Watch? During the conversation, Bryan revealed that, even though the specs for all-day battery life are unchanged, he is getting far better from his Series 2.

    The discussion also focused on the iPhone 7, and Samsung’s battery defects on the Galaxy Note 7. And what is Google doing that has allowed Chromebooks to soar in popularity at U.S. schools at the expense of Apple? Is it all about price? If so, how can Apple possibly compete? The discussion also briefly covered the latest scuttlebutt about the Apple Car, which I continue to refer to as Apple Drive, because I think it’s more about self-driving technology than a brand new motor vehicle.

    You also heard from one of our most popular guests over the years, Joe Kissell, author of over 60 books on technology, including ‘Take Control of Upgrading to Sierra.” You learned about the best features of the new macOS. The discussion also covered Time Machine backups, and its limitations, and Apple’s new APFS file system, first introduced in development form in Sierra, which is expected to be ready for public consumption by the time the next macOS arrives in 2017. You also heard hints and tips from Joe from one of his books, “Speeding Up Your Mac,” and the best ways to get maximum performance from your vintage computer. Gene mentioned the huge gains after putting an SSD and more RAM in his 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro.

    Joe also presented common sense advice from another book, “Troubleshooting Your Mac.” The title reminded Gene of the title of a book he wrote a number of years ago, “Upgrading and Troubleshooting Your Mac,” but only in passing. My publisher quit updating that title after 2001.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast:  Gene and Chris present Ardy Sixkiller Clarke, everyone’s favorite compiler of Sky People/Star People Native American tales. Her latest book, More Encounters with Star People: Urban American Indians Tell Their Stories, takes us from the Reservations out into the world-at-large for more entertaining tales of contact and intrigue. “[It] details the UFO stories of American Indians who live off the reservation. One intriguing difference between the two groups: There were more cases of physical evidence presented to back up the testimony of urban American Indians. As with her first book, this volume not only recounts their encounters, but the recounting itself becomes part of the story. [Dr. Clarke] is a professor emeritus at Montana State University and reveals herself as part UFO investigator, part journalist, part therapist, and part friend.”


    Nearly two weeks in, I continue to find macOS Sierra to be mostly a very satisfactory upgrade. As most of you know, I don’t care so much about Siri. It works, and I realize it’ll have value for those of you who are involved with using Siri on your iOS gear, but that’s not me. I use Siri for directions and for setting alarms on my iPhone. I know I’m missing out on a lot, and maybe I’ll consider that when I grow older.

    But not today.

    In saying that, I realize that many of you have come to love Apple’s digital assistant, that you might regret that it doesn’t do more things. But one key limitation in Apple’s efforts to expand its use of artificial intelligence is that it will not scrape your personal information from your devices in the fashion of Google or Microsoft. So it has to be smarter, and perhaps, over time, it’ll learn more without touching your privacy.

    In the meantime, a few glitches I encountered since installing Sierra have mostly been resolved, but one is still present, a relic of El Capitan. That’s the annoying symptom of Mail to, of a sudden, freeze up. Within a short time, maybe 30 seconds or so, I’ll start working again. A quicker solution appears to involve switching to another app and right back again.

    That this problem has persisted over two macOS releases is troubling to me. Is it possible my choice of email providers, or the size of my mailboxes, is responsible? I suppose, but the problem never existed ahead of El Capitan, where it appeared with the very first betas. Since the first Sierra update, 10.12.1, is under development now, I’ll begin to look it over more carefully. When it’s released, if the problem is still there, I’ll make it a point to contact Apple support and work it through.

    That said, there appears to be another problem with Mail, and that is the lost ability to send messages via my AOL account. Even removing and adding the account doesn’t help. It stalls and eventually times out during the SMTP process. I don’t use the account all that often, and I have not tried it with other IMAP apps, such as Microsoft Outlook for Mac. But I will and see if it’s still there.

    Another troubling problem, since resolved, was an apparent memory leak with Sound Studio, the app from Felt Tip that I use for editing the audio files I use for my radio shows. When running, memory use on my 27-inch iMac would soar to over 55% of CPU, which is several times higher than you should expect from apps of this sort. This problem only appeared after I installed Sierra.

    Ahead of writing to Felt Tip about it, I checked yet again to see if I had the latest version. The Check For Updates feature in the app indicated that I was using the latest, reported as 4.8.1. But that isn’t the latest. When I went to the developer’s site, I found a version 4.8.2 that was released in mid-September, only I was never notified about its existence. After installation, Sound Studio’s resource use was back to normal, and this is one of the listed problems addressed with the update. And, yes, I did notify the publisher about the lack of notice of the update.

    I also stumbled across a new version of HairerSoft’s Amadeus Pro, another app that I use to manage the editing process for the two shows. Version 2.3 also arrived last month, but the list of fixes doesn’t include anything obviously related to Sierra, and I still have one minor issue with my workflow. So I combine two stereo files to embed the themes at the beginning and end of my radio shows. This is done by adding a second stereo track, opening and pasting the theme, and positioning it in such a way that it partly merges with the voice file.

    Sometimes I cannot place a mark on the file to indicate where the extra file is placed. Suddenly the application becomes non-responsive, and I have to quit to make it work again. I suppose it’s a Sierra issue. While I also use the latest Sierra-savvy version of Jon Gotow’s Default Folder X, I disabled it previously from Amadeus Pro because of problems with the Open/Save dialogs, so it shouldn’t be a factor.

    All in all, these are minor and specialized bugs that most of you will never encounter. They do not actually prevent me from completing my weekly workflow, and the delay in having to quit Amadeus Pro a time or two is brief. I can’t complain about losing a minute or so once or twice a session.

    In recent days, I’ve also observed memory spikes from the background process for the CrashPlan online backup service. Sometimes removing and reinstalling the app removes such glitches, but the jury is still out on this one.

    Among the problems I’ve read about are incompatibilities with Logitech input devices. I have two Logitech keyboards and two mice. None of them exhibit any noticeable issues, although Logitech’s Unifying software quits upon launch. Again, it doesn’t seem to keep me from actually using these accessories.

    Another problem listed at some sites is the return of those persistent Wi-Fi connection issues. It harkens back to OS X Yosemite, where the problem remained almost until Yosemite gave way to El Capitan. It was apparently traced to a single network component that Apple changed out. When they returned to the one used in previous OS versions, the problem appeared to have vanished with it. Could that explain why it may be back in Sierra, that Apple decided to use that component again?

    In the meantime, I rushed over to the App Store to see what Mac users were saying. As of the time I wrote this article, there were no reviews at all. Maybe Apple wants to give it more time? El Capitan only reached three stars after all the maintenance updates arrived. That was curious, as I expected better.

    I wonder when or if Apple will open the floodgates for Sierra reviews. One hopes it’ll happen soon.


    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis

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    3 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #879”

    1. Marvin Weide says:

      Several months ago I expressed my displeasure that my late updated MacPro would not support macOS 10.12. My MacPro is updated to 5.1 which is the same as the late 2011 MacPro.

      Alas, I am happy to say macOS 10.12 loaded with no problems.

      • According to the system requirements released in June at the WWDC, any Mac Pro released from 2010 on is compatible with macOS Sierra. There was never anything to worry about.


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