• Newsletter Issue #927

    September 4th, 2017


    I will be 72 on September 9th. I have worked long and hard for over 50 years to earn my keep.

    Unfortunately, the Night Owl is suffering from a severe financial crisis.

    If anything I’ve ever done has ever made a positive difference to you, please help me survive and get past this nightmare.

    You may send a donation via the following:


    IMPORTANT! Please don’t forget to uncheck the box labeled Paying for a good or a service? so I’m not charged a service fee. Thanks.


    The other day, a reader suggested that any feeling that Apple can keep much information about future products a secret is long ago and far away. Far too many people across a huge supply chain have access to various details about Apple products under development to keep much of it a secret. Sometimes it even has a deleterious impact on sales, such as the massive rumor machine building anticipation for an iPhone 8. According to Tim Cook, March quarter iPhone sales were hurt this year by all that speculation.

    So maybe we should be surprised that the iPhone 7 performed so well despite possible ample reasons for customers to look to the future for something much better.

    Three days after my birthday, Apple is holding an expected iPhone media event to announce whatever there is to announce. There are still open questions that I won’t dwell on, largely because whatever I say will become obsolete so soon. You can also expect four operating systems to launch within days of each other. That macOS High Sierra appears to be hurtling towards release faster than I might have expected is reason enough for me to make sure my desktop and notebook computers are now running the very latest beta.

    I’ll have more to say on that subject in the next column.

    In the meantime, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented writer/commentator Josh Centers, Managing Editor for TidBITS, and author of “Take Control of Apple TV” and other titles, As the segment began, Josh revealed that he’s quit smoking, so let’s wish him lots of luck.

    The discussion quickly moved to the Apple TV and possible missed opportunities for Apple. What about Apple’s alleged attempts to persuade the movie studios to charge the same for 4K and regular HD movies? And what about reports that the movie companies want to offer movies 17 days after release for home rentals at $50, with a $30 price tag after four to six weeks. Does that even make sense? There was also a brief discussion on what might be announced during Apple’s September 12, 2017 media event, where new iPhones are expected along with a new Apple TV with 4K and HDR, and the Apple Watch Series 3. Josh briefly listed the new features in iOS 11.

    In the second segment, Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer, also covered the forthcoming Apple event, as Bryan cited a published report suggesting that all of the new Apple smartphones will carry an iPhone 8 moniker, even the regular models previously expected to be known as the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus. And what about Apple’s plans for professional Macs, beginning with the promised December release of an iMac Pro that starts at $4,999? Gene suggested that a top-line model, with an 18-core Intel Xeon processor, could max out at over $15,000. What about the Mac Pro, expected next year? Will the top-line version, possibly with an Intel 28-core processor, exceed $20,000? What is the potential audience for such a device? Bryan also provided Apple TV and Apple Watch predictions.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present a very special episode featuring world-class UFO researcher Dr. Jacques Vallee. Dr. Vallee appears on the occasion of the publication of his three-volume set of personal journals entitled “Forbidden Science.” You’ll hear a very personal side of Dr. Vallee as he speaks about his early meetings with Ray Palmer, Kenneth Arnold, and even his first encounter with Jim Moseley (Gene was present), whose outspoken writings he enjoyed for many years. Chris and Dr. Vallee will discuss their investigative process, and the work they’ve done on the strange happenings at the Skinwalker Ranch and other strange events. You’ll hear why Dr. Vallee maintains that the witness is an extremely significant element of the paranormal research process.


    The first developer beta for macOS High Sierra dropped on June 5th, after the WWDC keynote address in which four operating systems were demonstrated, plus new Macs and new iPads. As Apple events go, it was filled with stuff, lots of stuff, and should thus be regarded as a rousing success.

    But while iOS 11 has a load of front-facing improvements and enhancements — including the beginnings of decent iPad multitasking — macOS 10.13 may be regarded as somewhat of a subpar release on the surface. Beneath the surface, with Metal 2 graphics, a new file system (for some Macs anyway) and other enhancements will make for snappier performance.

    Metal 2 graphics can yield a decided improvement if your Mac supports the technology. It allows the CPU and GPU to cooperate in providing better support for games and high power apps. Whatever Metal did, Metal 2 does better and adds additional functions.

    But if your Mac doesn’t support Metal 2, it won’t make a difference to you. Apple’s list of supported hardware lists Macs produced in 2012 or later, plus the Late 2013 Mac Pro and the 2015 MacBook. But that shouldn’t necessarily slow down an older Mac. My aging 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro runs just fine.

    Another significant enhancement is the Apple File System (APFS), which replaces the aging HFS+ that debuted way back in 1998. Since then, Apple has added file journaling and other features to more or less keep it up to date, but it was time to make a change. One almost felt the aging fire system was being held together with tape and wire.

    APFS offers more robust file handling, built-in encryption, and speedier performance in some cases. It may also be more efficient and increase free space for some devices. Some iPhone and iPad users noticed the improvement when APFS was released with iOS 10.3.

    The amazing thing is that Apple managed this incredible transition on hundreds of millions of mobile devices with a routine update, and it appeared to go off almost perfectly. But don’t expect the transition to be quite as efficient on Macs, especially considering that there are so many thousands of storage system combinations and equipment configurations. What’s more, it’s not at all certain that millions of Macs can even be converted to APFS.

    In the early days of the public beta, I installed High Sierra on that MacBook Pro, one of the oldest supported configurations. Since it has a 500GB SSD, it was automatically converted to APFS. But not all Macs appear to be eligible.

    The original beta of APFS, which arrived with the Sierra developer releases last year, omitted support for hard drives and Fusion drives. The latter combines an SSD with a conventional drive for faster performance. While it appeared at first that Apple would add support across the board with High Sierra, it’s not at all clear things are going that way. When I updated a fairly recent iMac with a Fusion drive to High Sierra, after installation the drives were still formatted as HFS+. There was no option offering to convert the system to APFS. Supposedly this can be done via Disk Utility in recovery mode (Command-R at startup).

    Unfortunately, Apple’s notes about APFS are a little confusing on the subject, or just poorly written. One technical note had it this way:

    When you upgrade to macOS High Sierra, systems with all flash storage configurations are converted automatically. Systems with hard disk drives (HDD) and Fusion drives won’t be converted to APFS. You can’t opt-out of the transition to APFS.

    Notice that it doesn’t specifically state that you can’t convert the hard disk or Fusion drive to APFS, only that it’s not done automatically, and you cannot exclude an SSD. My suggestion is that, if your Mac’s drive isn’t converted to APFS, don’t worry about it for now. One hopes Apple will sort things out before the new macOS is released, or perhaps any setup with a regular hard drive will never support APFS. But since iMacs are so heavily dependent on Fusion drives, that, too, sounds peculiar.

    On a less confusing note, most things work fine on my iMac. A colleague reports a problem running the SiriusXM online player in Safari; it doesn’t produce any audio even when the relevant settings are set to “On.”  But it does appear to work just fine in other browsers, such as Firefox. YouTube audio has been trouble free.

    You will likely encounter some issues with various and sundry apps. Rogue Amoeba’s support for some of its apps, such as Audio Hijack, are labeled as “preliminary.” But I recorded one of my radio shows, which involves capturing audio in the app from an external mixer and Skype, without difficulty. Everything worked perfectly.

    Safari is also snappier, and I appreciate the easy ability to block sites from presenting autoplay videos. Maybe some web developers will begin to take the hint and stop the practice. To be fair, I do present a brief video introduction on my Rockoids sci-fi site, but you can easily skip it and move on. I haven’t had any complaints.

    A recent Macworld article covers the essence of High Sierra. As you see, there’s little that’s mission critical there, although the backend performance improvements are certainly welcome. In addition, Photos represents a huge improvement, particularly when it comes to touch-up tools. You may never need to use another image editing app to spruce things up. That said, it will work pretty seamlessly with third party photo apps, such as Adobe Photoshop.

    Now remember that, even though High Sierra is close to release form, Apple’s development team still has some work to do before it goes live. So if you decide you want to give the public beta a try, don’t forget a full backup and an exit plan in case things go astray.

    Update! Long and short is that, based on my limited experience with one iMac and a Fusion drive, it’s not possible to do an inline conversion to APFS on one of these storage systems. It didn’t happen when installing High Sierra build 17A360a, there was no checkbox offering this option, and it’s grayed out when booting via the Recovery mode. Apple’s documentation on the subject remains unclear. Perhaps this limitation will be removed when High Sierra goes GM. I was, however, able to convert an old FireWire drive, connected with a Thunderbolt adapter, and am running a full clone backup on it as I write this update.


    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
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