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  • Newsletter Issue #970

    August 8th, 2018

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Without much fanfare last month, Apple introduced a 2018 edition of the MacBook Pro. It was accompanied by a press release and a few press opportunities with company executives. So on the surface, it seemed to be a fairly modest update, but it became clear as soon as you read the specifics that it was a lot more than modest.

    It marked the first time Apple has used a six-core CPU on a notebook computer, with Intel Core i7 and Core i9 processors available for the 15-inch model. Benchmarks are mostly way better than last year’s model with a caveat. Even though Apple fixed a troubling bug that resulted in excessive throttling of the CPU under load, the design isn’t perfect. Some of those PC notebooks are heavier, thicker, with more robust power supplies than even Apple’s brilliant designers can put in a slim and light box.

    This is the sort of tradeoff that one might expect, but the Windows notebooks that attempt to mimic Apple’s design approach usually deliver similar benchmarks.

    And bear in mind the powerful Xeon CPU on an iMac Pro will may also suffer from similar symptoms if you stretch the boundaries. A MacBook Pro can also be priced in iMac Pro territory if you option it to the hilt and include the available 4TB SSD. You can probably expect to see one on the next iMac. To me, paying close to $7,000 for a Mac notebook wasn’t so unusual in the 1990s, but I stopped breathing for a moment when I configured everything on the new model..

    Now on last weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured irrepressible commentator/podcaster Peter Cohen, who focused on Apple’s recent report of stellar sales for the June 2018 quarter, and becoming the first company to exceed a one trillion dollar market cap despite the skeptics saying Amazon would get there first. What about the extreme disconnect between the claims from some alleged industry analysts that the iPhone X was a huge failure, even after Apple CEO Tim Cook announced it was their top-selling smartphone (and the top selling smartphone on Earth) for three quarters in a row. Peter also expressed his concerns about the 13% drop in Mac sales for the last quarter, and whether Apple has dropped the ball in creating compelling new models that will restart sales.

    In a special encore segment, you also heard from outspoken columnist Jonny Evans, Computerworld’s “Apple Holic,” who talked about reports of an “iPhone addiction,” in which people supposedly pay too much attention to their smartphones. Gene mentioned the well-known phenomenon of lines and lines of people walking about looking down at their mobile gear. Apple’s CarPlay was briefly mentioned, along with the 2018 CES in which, again, many of the announcements involved gadgets that will never see the light of day. Jonny brought up privacy in connection with Amazon’s Alexa, about the world’s largest online retailer’s interface turning up on some TV sets. After Gene mentioned the connection cables he needed for his TV and his iMac, Jonny made a strong pitch for “cable free,” in which all your gear can be connected without the need for wires and endless wire clutter.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast:  Gene and weekly cohost J. Randall Murphy present former national security officer Walter Bosley with more details of his military background, and what he knew about fellow intelligence officer Rick Doty. You’ll hear about breakaway civilizations, secret spacecraft and lots more, including Bosley’s UFO sighting. He is the author of the “Secret Missions” series and, with Richard B. Spence on the first volume, the “Empire of the Wheel” trilogy currently being developed for television. He speaks at various events and has appeared on “Ancient Aliens.”

    THE NIGHT OWL TAKES A CAUTIONARY APPROACH TO macOS MOJAVE

    On the surface, it may seem that macOS Mojave is an extremely minor update. Other than Dark Mode and the reliance on Metal graphics, it doesn’t seem a whole lot different when you look it over, as I did starting last month. But the mere fact of choosing Metal means that Macs without support for that graphics technology have been made obsolete.

    Before Mojave was announced, I had planned (hoped) to test the betas on my 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro. Obviously that’s not possible, despite the fact that it has an SSD formatted with the APFS file system. That’s because its graphics hardware, state of the art eight years ago, preceded the arrival of Metal.

    A 2012 MacBook Pro,  where a Retina display debuted on Macs, works just fine. So do older Mac Pros with graphics cards that support Metal. So, my only option was the iMac. With a Fusion drive, it lost out on the APFS conversion last year, because Apple couldn’t make it compatible. It appeared on the early betas of High Sierra, but was soon pulled.

    There was a certain promise from Apple software chief Craig Federighi that APFS support would return in a “future update.” Nothing more was said on the subject until May, weeks ahead of the WWDC and the launch of High Sierra’s successor, Mojave. I wouldn’t assume Federighi expected it wouldn’t arrive till then, but if he knew it would take the full year all along, he wouldn’t admit it.

    This time it was clear APFS was expected to work. So, with multiple backups, I was willing to take the chance. If something went wrong, I could just restore the computer.

    My only concern at the time was the report from Rogue Amoeba, publisher of Audio Hijack, which we use to capture audio for the radio show, that it wasn’t compatible with Mojave. Apparently the ACE component, used for instant capture, doesn’t work as of this writing. So far, the publisher hasn’t even hinted at when that update will arrive, though it is expected to appear when Mojave is released. I asked their support people if I might make it work without ACE, and the answer wasn’t definite.

    Based on experience with previous versions of macOS, where this component had to be updated, I suspect that the main issue would be that I couldn’t capture audio with an app running. Audio Hijack would have to launch it first. If the app is running, it’ll put up a prompt that you click to quit and relaunch the app. Yes, an assumption, but I decided to go for it.

    So on a Friday night, I backed up all my content via Carbon Copy Cloner to a second drive. I was ready.

    I didn’t monitor the entire installation, except for an occasional glance. When I woke up the next morning, my iMac was running Mojave, and for the most part it didn’t look terribly different. Well, until I launched Disk Utility, and discovered that the drive was indeed using APFS. There was no warning and no option to block it. There it was, and it seemed OK.

    I assume Apple has tested Fusion drives to know that it would be successful, and so far Mojave is mostly behaving. I do see slightly speedier performance, and I like the idea of being able to duplicate files to another portion of the drive almost instantaneously.

    But what about Audio Hijack?

    I launched it, selected my workflow and started a recording. As I suspected, Skype launched and everything went normally. If, however, I started a recording while Skype was running, Audio Hijack would put up a prompt to quit and relaunch. That’s no different from the way it worked before the ACE or instant capture component was developed.

    I’m still waiting for an update from Rogue Amoeba — they aren’t sure when it’ll be ready — but I’m happy to accept this very minor inconvenience to produce my radio shows. Now maybe some other features, such as scheduling, are also affected, but I don’t use them.

    As for Mojave, it does seem a tad snappier, but I’ll await official benchmarks with the release version. The iMac’s startup takes nearly twice as long, though. It stops a little more than halfway through, and resumes a short time later. I assume that glitch will also disappear from the release version, though I grant that Apple has allowed OS bugs to persist through a beta process in the past.

    This week, Apple released developer beta six, which is the fifth beta made available to public beta testers. Within the next four to six weeks, a Golden Master candidate ought to be out, which means that the rest of the development process will mostly involve fine tuning. Once it’s released, Apple will go full steam into the first update, 10.14.1.

    In the meantime,  I’ve looked over Mojave’s Dark Mode and turned it off. Maybe I’m too set in my ways. Unfortunately, the latest beta has essentially made my Brother printer useless. Whenever I attempt to print a document, any document, the printer driver app displays an error, “Unable to startup session, error =-10.”

    I went through the usual troubleshooting routines, including restarting. resetting the iMac’s printing system, resetting the printer, and reinstalling the latest drivers from Brother. They are rated for High Sierra. So this is clearly a problem that Apple or Brother — or both — must fix. For now, I can’t print, since my other printer, an Epson All-in-One, is at a storage facility along with most of my stuff.

    So I’m bummed out a little, though it is time I cure the printing habit, so maybe it’s all good.

    As to Mojave, I don’t regret installing the betas. At this late stage, it’s probably in decent shape — well except for that printer glitch. But if you’ve waited this long without fretting over it, you might as well wait for the final release that’ll probably arrive at the end of September or early in October.

    THE FINAL WORD

    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
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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