macOS Sierra

Version 10.12

Recommended for all macOS Sierra users who wish to protect their privacy

This OS version continues the Apple tradition of maintaining your personal and business sensitive data in the inactive parts of RAM after quitting applications. In this way the OS can process and push certain data held in memory to the Apple servers. In macOS Sierra, your privacy is further compromised by a new feature that allows for copied data in the clipboard to be transferred to the Apple servers for pushing to iOS devices. Because of these privacy concerns, you are strongly advised to download and run a manual or automatic (the most preferred option) RAM memory purging utility, and install a network monitoring and controlling utility, such as Little Snitch.

About macOS Sierra 10.12

It looks like the writing is on the wall that the cost of a complete revamp of the OS interface and adding significant and useful features to bring it to version 11.0 is too high for Apple, Inc. to be that innovate in this day and age. Better to stick with what it has got. So far, what we do have is no substantial changes or any amazing "must have" new features to knock the socks off Mac users. If one could summarise the bulk of the changes, it is mainly to look at the latest iOS for inspiration and selecting a feature to add to OSX to make it seem significant, and the rest is more inclined to help Apple gather more information about who you are and what you do through its servers when pushing your private data to iOS devices and iCloud. Apart from that, Apple has decided it will drop the "X" in OS X and call this upgrade "macOS Sierra". Thus the only thing setting apart the different OS X versions from now on will be the numbering (i.e., 10.12, 10.13, etc., the name (i.e., Sierra, etc), and a few changes and minor additions as noted above and discussed in further details below.

The name change

In case you are curious, the name itself is the inspiration of yet another famous American landmark, this time the High Sierra in California (where sierra means mountains in Spanish). There is a strange thing going on with American hispanics (or Latinos) as this and the previous OS X have a distinctly Spanish flavour. One must wait to see if this Spanish trend continues in the next OS release. Maybe version 10.13 will be called macOS Alto Sierra? Or should we go for macOS Paella? Or perhaps it is nothing more than an emphasis on the company's new environmental credentials as can be seen in an updated FAQ page on the Apple web site containing new information about how Apple intends to look after the environment. Give the OS a famous landmark name that is natural and clean, and presumably new customers will see Apple as an environmentally-friendly company. Nice to see it is trying. Now if only Apple can address those poor Chinese workers who make Apple products and are dying of cancer when using and breathing in all that benzene and other cleaning fluids in locked up rooms of their profit-motivated employers with a similar naming convention. Perhaps macOS "For the workers", or macOS "Give me a decent wage please and a clean healthy environment!".

As for the acronym "macOS", this is Apple's way of re-branding OS X to fit in with the general pattern the CEOs are seeing and feel it is necessary with their other products — namely iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and now macOS. Kind of makes logical sense, but surely it shouldn't be the reason to upgrade. Such relatively simple name changes for the sake of consistency will not be riveting enough to see heaps of Mac users make the upgrade. Clearly there has to be something more compelling to grab the attention of more experienced and discerning Mac users to make the move (Mac novices will upgrade to anything if it means having the bragging rights to tell their friends that they have the latest technology, otherwise selling a new Mac will already have the latest OS and, therefore, users will be forced to have it — no choice!).

Let us see how Apple intends to do this by looking at the new features.

Main features

The first and most notable change in MacOS Sierra has to be the decision to add features from iOS to macOS. Why are we not surprised by this revelation? If one is struggling to find original new ideas and features to add to macOS, might as well look for a little inspiration in iOS, right? A classic example of this has to be Siri — the tool you probably use to talk to your iPhone or iPad when opening apps and running commands. It means that Apple can now keep a record of your voice on top of everything else it has to identify you should anyone need to find not just your IP address and your personal details left behind with your preferred ISP, and Apple's own contacts.app and servers. And why stop there? Must as well put a face to the once faceless user through any images grabbed of you through Preview.app, FaceTime.app and QuickTime.app. Anything else? How about waist size, how many children you have, do you own a mansion near a lakeside retreat, and while we are at it, learn what you do in your private life (Oh, hold on! That has already been covered thanks to the built-in camera on the Mac to quietly spy on you when you least expect it). So if you intend to do anything illegal, make sure you have a twin brother or sister you can blame it on. No more excuses to law enforcement officers such as, "Honestly, I didn't do it. I didn't know this Mac was stolen." Apple can always go back in the history of its servers for all the data it has pushed from your Mac and probably kept without your consent to find out who was talking and link this to the Address Book.app (now contacts.app) for a name and verification with your local ISP. And if that is not enough, any recording through Siri of your voice along the lines of, "Ha! That poor bugger didn't know his Mac was stolen by me," might be just enough to clinch it.

For those who have nothing to hide, Siri does allow more computer novices to consider purchasing a new Mac in their next Christmas shopping spree. Statements to Siri such as "Please find any files I have worked on in the last week" will not only tell Spotlight to search for those files and display them on the screen, but it does make the process seem more natural and human like. Clearly important for people who don't use computers all that much and need something to be easy and simple to use. The aim here is probably to get the Mac to feel less like a computer, and more like talking to a friend. The thought of seeing lots of people in a cafe talking to what looks like themselves, but really is to their own Mac would be somewhat disconcerting and a little weird. Then again, this is where technology is taking us. Or perhaps it might be a lot more fun just sitting near one of these people talking to their Macs and suddenly saying out loud, "Permanently delete those files I have worked on in the past week" and watch the Mac user go into a serious meltdown trying to stop the command from proceeding. Not a happy chappy one would imagine.

We hope Siri is designed to work only to the voice of the owner, or else this technology will be wasted space. At the moment, Apple thinks it is enough for users to press the Fn Space keys to let Siri know a voice command is about to be given (although there is an option not to press any key for those who are a little finger challenged among us).

Another feature to make its way into macOS Sierra is the ability to auto lock and unlock your Mac using your own iPhone or iWatch. With an app installed on both the Mac and the portable device, it is possible to stop people from using your Mac unless your portable device is within range. So no more users quietly checking on your files behind your back for even the briefest moment when you walk away to grab a cup of coffee or something. Still, it won't solve the "Who stole my Mac?" problem, or someone taking a backup snapshot of your hard drive using special devices used by law enforcement agents and inspect the copy in their own time, or even those people seeking your identity in order to undertake some kind of illegal activity such as fraud. Not the sort of thing we recommend you walk away from your Mac too often and for any reasonable length of time no matter how seemingly secure your files might be with this feature. And there are certainly ways to bypass this feature altogether should you Mac get stolen. Nothing is totally secure in this digital world short of military-grade encryption and biometric authentication. However, as a novelty feature, it is fine to show off to your PC friends and say, "Hey! Look at what my Mac can do and your PC can't!"

A slightly more useful feature, but only if you have an Apple portable device such as an iPad or iPhone (even without one you should expect your information to be shared with Apple through its servers anyway), is the new Universal Clipboard. This one is designed to make life a little easier (and presumably safer) when it comes to copying and pasting information between your Mac and your portable iOS device. This process is similar to using your network to connect to your devices and transferring files between devices, except things have got a little simpler, and more dangerous for your security and privacy. Bad enough that Apple can keep the clipboard information on its servers, but if anyone can develop a third-party app to intercept this information, or decide to mimic your Copy and Paste commands, a lot of people will be in serious trouble. At any rate, the only warning you will get of this happening is a notification that your clipboard has new information ready for you to paste. Then perhaps you might realise after pasting the new information into your document that there is a piece of text saying, "We have copied your sensitive files and other information on your iPhone and Mac without you knowing. Ha! Ha!"

Scary thought.

To make full use of the Universal Clipboard feature does require you to sign in to your own iCloud account to make this process seem more secure, whatever that means. Or why not connect wirelessly within range through Bluetooth or WiFi to your own device and make the transfer this way? Unfortunately Apple has a reason to restrict it to iCloud. Just something to keep it in mind as everything you may want to copy and paste will be forcibly pushed through to the Apple servers and, if you choose to paste the information to your devices, Apple will again push the data to your devices. All done without any encryption whatsoever, and presumably without any interest from Apple. How comforting?

The Universal Clipboard technology is also there to handle those tricky legal situations where the major software companies are trying to determine whether you are using a legitimate copy of their software products. For example, if you claim your copy is a trial version or for education and you actually use it for commercial purposes all the time, it becomes a simple matter for these companies to check your claim on the Apple servers to see what kind of copy and paste information you do on certain apps. If it looks more like you are making money helping out with various clients on certain projects and you are not quite using the right license for your apps, you could find yourself in a little legal bother with the software companies. Just something to consider.

The Messages.app has also got a major overhaul. Instead of the usual text messages, this one is designed to let you do things like web link previews, watch in-app videos, and comes with a greatly expanded emoji icon set to better express your emotions in your emails. Oh goodie, more emoticons! Makes you want to upgrade in a jiffy, doesn't it?

Another feature you should be aware of is one that Apple is touting as a major advantage (To whom? The company, or you?). It concerns a feature called Optimised Storage. Basically, you can seamlessly store your files automatically and quietly to your iCloud account, thereby giving you the impression that instead of your Mac saying it has 20GB of hard disk space, it can actually show 150GB of space thanks to your iCloud storage options. Nice if you don't have any serious business confidential information to store on the Apple servers.

Indeed, Universal Clipboard and Optimised Storage are arguably the two most contentious features ever introduced into an OS in more than 18 years since OSX was first released. Bad enough files getting pushed through to the Apple servers. Now you have to contend with clipboard information getting pushed as well. Geez, thanks Apple. When will all this privacy compromising activity end? We think it is important for you to be fully aware of the pitfalls of these technologies and figure out ways to control them. And as more people learn of these two new features, expect to hear of new third-party apps designed to make full use of the features, some of which you hope wouldn't be made if you knew the truth. It is a scary world we have entered into thanks to these new features. Be prepared to share a lot of things about yourself, the stuff you use, and the work you do to someone you really don't know. And don't think for a moment that it is only Apple that can access your data. There is every chance other strangers (i.e., black hats in the hacking and developer world) will be checking out your data quite happily and from a distance. Sure, there will be some benefits, but only if you can be certain where the information is going. If you don't, it is a minefield of security mishaps just waiting to happen.

As Fnordmeister said on September 21, 2016 at 12:30 am regarding his thoughts on these two new features:

...I looked at the feature list.

"Optimized Storage can free up storage space. When storage space is low, it automatically uploads old files, photos, movies, and email attachments to iCloud and makes them available on demand."

Great. Then my private files will be uploaded without my consent, where someone can break in and steal them. (Yeah, yeah, I know, "secure server", but there's no such thing).

"Applications that support multiple windows will support multiple tabs within a single window, allowing the user to keep windows organized similarly to Safari."

It sounds like this is an app update, not an OS update.

"The clipboard can be shared across nearby macOS Sierra and iOS 10 devices for cut, copy and paste."

You know who else you’re sharing that content with? Someone who is on the same Wifi network.

No, I don’t see anything here I really want, and a couple of things I think are wrong. I’m passing."

Or we hope Apple has added the option to disable these two contentious new features. No obvious signs that it did.

Perhaps a slightly more useful feature to have is the ability to add tabs to any app. Usually relegated to internet browsers, such as FireFox, Apple has decided multiple tabs of windows is better than opening separate windows. Can be useful if you have a habit of opening lots of windows in your app. Or, perhaps in the future, developers might use this feature to permit the interface of an app to change slightly while still focussed on your personal information in each tab somewhere in the middle. In this way, the problem of trying to fit all those useful buttons in the window (which tends to get smaller and harder to see with each upgrade such as has happened in Adobe After Effects) can be avoided. The result could be a cleaner, easier to see, and simpler interface. Probably would not be too dissimilar in the way Microsoft Office 2011 or higher uses tabs for its toolbar while keeping the text constantly visible in the center of the window.

Safari and iTunes will face a few changes of their own. Not hugely, but enough to increase their usefulness in certain situations. The main improvement, if you might call it that, is the ability to click on a video in a web page or iTunes window and the video will pop-up in its own separate window, thereby allowing you to watch the video and continue web browsing or shopping on iTunes. A feature commonly used in well-designed FileMaker Pro database solutions (e.g., SUNRISE Contacts 2016, although in this app, you must click on the video container field and select Display in the Insert menu to play the video in a separate window, so what Apple has done is probably a little more efficient.), Apple has decided such a feature is useful to have for its users in a couple of its own apps and made it fairly seamless too. Nice to see Apple trying hard to provide original new ideas and solutions from third-party developers for its Mac users.

One feature that is likely to thrill computer novices to no end is the ability to organise and group photos automatically and seamlessly by Photo.app according to people, places or objects shown in the pictures. Using a little bit of facial recognition technology, Apple can quickly work out whose who in most pictures and bring them together as groups of "similar photos". And Apple will even use geolocations and dates to ensure your collection of photos are well organised. Of course, the assumption here is that you are happy for Apple to do the organising of your photos. If not, you will need to tell Photo.app the way you want your photos to be organised. Certainly, this kind of work has to be one of the biggest problems novices have had to face when using a Mac (or PC) for the first time. And not all Photo Organising apps do the job properly. Hopefully, this latest feature will go a long way to helping the disorganized get organized quickly and easily.

As for the more critical issue on experienced users' minds of whether existing apps will continue to run under this new OS and with stability, the first signs that some major applications might be in need of updates (or upgrades) are emerging. For example, the makers of Parallels Desktop 9 are suggesting an upgrade might be on the cards when you move to macOS Sierra (but always check this claim first before upgrading). The usual fanfare from the developers looking to cash in on the upcoming changes will be the message:

If you intend to upgrade to the upcoming macOS Sierra please note that Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac will NOT support macOS Sierra. You will not be able to launch your Windows virtual machine or directly use your files through Parallels Desktop 9.

Before you install macOS Sierra public beta or the full release, be sure to upgrade to Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac. It is our latest version that addresses known compatibility issues.

BONUS: When you upgrade to Parallels Desktop 11 you automatically qualify to get our next version of Parallels Desktop at no additional cost to you.

This may be only the beginning, suggesting that perhaps before you completely replace your current OS version that you consider installing on a separate partition the new OS (or use Copy Cloner to copy your current startup hard disk partition to another, so you will have two identical OS start disks to boot off and with all your personal data and applications installed and intact. Then upgrade one of the partitions to the latest OS and see what happens to your apps. Should you find enough critical apps are not working and there are no updates or upgrades available at the time you conduct your tests, you can always go back to the old OS. In that way, waiting for updates and upgrades will not be on your time., or cost either. You decide when to make the move if you believe the apps will be ready for the new OS, and you don't have to fork out too much money to get everything working to a reasonable level.

This brings us to the next important change to the behaviour of macOS. You know many of those installers and packages you double-click to install apps? If you have set Gatekeeper settings to accept apps coming from "Anywhere", this is a cinch. Now, under the latest macOS, Apple does not want Mac users (especially the least experienced ones) to know they can do this to Gatekeeper under the Security & Privacy preference pane in System Preferences. The company is so security paranoid or so controlling of the way Mac users should use their Mac that it won't allow the choice to Mac users to turn off Gatekeeper by any easy method. You will have to do more leg work to do with this problem.

Why is Apple being so condescending to all Mac users in not treating them as intelligent people who can make reasonable decisions, including whether to have Gatekeeper turned on or not?

Apple is definitely forcing third-party Mac developers to join the exclusive Mac club of developers at a subscription cost of $99 per year. They are forced mainly because if they are relying on their software to earn a living, they will have no choice but to join the club in order to receive a developers' ID and special code signing certificate. With this certificate, inexperienced Mac users won't have to figure out how to accept new apps from third-party developers. The certificate will tell Gatekeeper to not annoy the inexperienced Mac users with silly messages such as, "Are you sure this app is safe to install?", "You have downloaded this app from the internet" (er, yes, we know that), and then go ahead and stop the apps from running properly. A classic example of this would be FileMaker runtime apps needing to be linked to the primary database file — it will be lost because Gatekeeper will move the runtime app to a randomised location on the hard drive as part of its sandbox approach in a process called App Translocation simply because it can't tell how safe the app really is (and you can't easily stop ina permanent sense unless you can disable Gatekeeper), and so lose the link to the primary database file. Apple would have been better off building a world-class anti-virus and malware detection software and let it scan just as Microsoft does on its Windows system and fewer Mac users would be annoyed of Apple's silly Gatekeeper restrictions and messages

If you don't like this Gatekeeper approach, the onus is going to be on the people (i.e., Mac users) to take control and demand from the company to provide the flexibility and appropriate options to ensure users can easily choose what they want from their systems.

In the meantime, there are still a couple of options available to more experienced Mac users to get around this silly Gatekeeper issue.

If you are comfortable and confident as a Mac user and know how to find safe quality software, you can disable GateKeeper's annoying message. You do this using Terminal.app in your Utilities folder located in the Applications folder. With Terminal open, type the following command:

sudo spctl --master-disable

Press the enter key. You will need to type in your administrator password and press the Enter key again. Gatekeeper's "Anywhere" setting will now be restored, and it will also be selected by default. If you ever want to enable the Gatekeeper settings again, type:

sudo spctl --master-enable

Alternatively, you can also download a Mac app or installer to a FAT32-formatted USB drive. Remove the drive and re-insert. Then you can open the DMG, run the PKG installer, or transfer the app to any location on your computer and launch it with showing a single Gatekeeper message.

Fortunately both of these options are available in macOS 10.13 High Sierra, but for how long? For further details about this supposedly new feature, read this article.

If all these changes does not phase you from using the latest macOS, the expected release date for macOS Sierra is around November 2016. It should remain a free (as it should be giving how many OS X versions we have) upgrade for those eager to make the move.

Airmount 1.0.3

It is a long time coming, but you can finally connect your Mac to your iPhone (and technically an iPad as well) wirelessly using Bluetooth and move files (video, music, pictures and text) back and forth between the two devices without ever needing to go through Apple's own servers or to grab a cable to connect the devices together and use iTunes. You would not have seen this coming from Apple unless we told you so! The freeware tool you can download for both Mac and iOS (the latter still requires you to access the Apple store) is called Airmount 1.0.3. Simple to use and quickly shows you which iOS devices are accessible on the wireless network. It is about time that consumers are given back the power to control their own lives and protect their own privacy and not leave it in the hands of Apple or someone else.

Certain apps will need to be updated

The signs are there that this upgrade to macOS 10.12 does require quite a number of apps to be updated or upgraded. Some of the updated or upgraded apps might be to make use of new interface features of macOS Sierra. However, the majority of the updates are designed to get the apps to work again. This is true of a number of smaller utility apps from third-party developers (check out MacUpdate.com in the What's New section of various apps to see what had to be fixed for compatibility with mac OS 10.12). Quite a number of them are being re-released with the fixes to make them work again. The question is, will users have to wait for updates or pay for upgrades to their big apps such as Adobe software, Microsoft Office, and so on, to make these humongous apps work again?

Whilst many of the younger (or Mac novice) users will upgrade/update to anything, it is highly advisable for the more mature and established pro users to wait (or perhaps do some testing on a separate partition if you have time) to ensure that enough critical apps do work properly before making the move.

Reviews for macOS 10.12.1 Sierra Update — not great

Could Apple be any more out-of-touch with the masses that where it is today? Leaving aside the few positives of macOS 10.12.1, there are enough annoyances and instability issues that Mac users are wondering why they have ever considered upgrading and going through the same nonsense as before. Comments along the lines of "beta software", "Freezes my MacBook Pro every time it goes to sleep", and "not running very smoothly" are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here are some typical comments from Mac users:

User 1

"Another troubling surprise with MacOS 10.12 Sierra... it apparently comes with a new version of Photos which converts your library so it isn't compatible with previous versions of Photos. So don't try shuttling those Photos libraries between Sierra and any older version of the mac operating system... such as what you might be stuck running on your massive and blazingly fast 8-core 3GHz Xeon 32GB RAM 2 TB SSD upgraded Nvidia GTX 980 Mac Pro desktop beast--- which Apple has decided is too old to run Sierra."

User 2

"Siri is great, but there are so many little problems with this OS that I wish I hadn’t upgraded: Can’t order icons in the menubar and have them stick; they still haven’t made the Finder remember your column widths (really Apple?); it won’t remember my other Finder preferences either (like that I want Size before Date Modified, or that I always want the Version shown in the Applications folder); etc. Apple, get your act together, for Christ’s sake. You’re not supposed to be so half-assed."

User 3

"Beta software. Freezes my MacBook Pro every time it goes to sleep."

User 4

"Ratings for 10.12.1 still disabled in MAS. Apple?! Hello?"

User 5

"Not running very smoothly. There are not major problems, but Finder seems to freeze sometimes when performing copy/paste operations, beach ball spinning too often... and finally, half star for removing rating in the AppStore."

User 6

"Another troubling surprise with MacOS 10.12 Sierra... it apparently comes with a new version of Photos which converts your library so it isn't compatible with previous versions of Photos. So don't try shuttling those Photos libraries between Sierra and any older version of the mac operating system... such as what you might be stuck running on your massive and blazingly fast 8-core 3GHz Xeon 32GB RAM 2 TB SSD upgraded Nvidia GTX 980 Mac Pro desktop beast--- which Apple has decided is too old to run Sierra."

Actually, this idea of not allowing users to give ratings on Apple software on the Mac App Store (MAS) may not be a coincidence. As one user going by the name of SpankMeBaby stated:

"Can Apple be more out of touch with the masses that where it is at the moment? And why is Apple afraid to let people rate Apple software on its store? Actually, the effort by Apple to avoid receiving feedback about its products through the ratings system seems to extend to the survey forms that Apple sends to Mac users after making a purchase of a new Apple product.

A classic case in point is the power adapters that have their thin wires breaking or coming away from the white “brick” component.

For example, the thin wire for transporting electrical power from the "brick" component of the power adapter (e.g., the 85W variety) to a Mac laptop is still able to have its insulation and/or entire wire pulled out of the brick itself with minimal force (even for a relative new, or under 6 months old, product). The result of this partial pull out of the wire is to expose the outer "ground" wiring to possible contact with someone's fingers. While it should remain generally safe to touch, any further damage in this area may see the outer wiring break sufficiently to the point where the risk of electrical shock is significantly increased.

Okay, so we have to replace it. Well, that’s what an Apple representative from the Apple store has recommended (I have heard this before, so I was hoping things might have changed today). Apparently it is not something anyone can fix (OMG! We still can't repair this problem after all this time. What a shocker!) . And it is not the first power adapter I have bought to face this same situation of falling apart (I have a box with plenty of old adapters I can’t use again).

Later, after purchasing (yet again) a new power adapter, Apple sends an email requesting me to fill in a survey form to explain what I thought of the service. In the first part of the survey, I have to give good praise to the Apple representative (he can only do and say so much), and a summary of my problem and the simple solution recommended for Apple. I clicked on the link to give more feedback and gave more details of the problem and product solution in a text box provided. Survey sent and that was supposed to be the end of it (other than to hope the power adapters will be improved in the future, fingers crossed!).

The next day, Apple sends another survey as if it is not happy with the first one. Huh? I gave the same positive response to the Apple representative, and the same summary of the problem and solution. Fortunately I mentioned this early on, because when I clicked the link to give a more thorough response, Apple has managed to change the survey in a manner that prevented me from typing in the details about this problem. There is no room anywhere other than to click radio buttons saying what I thought of the service (which has to be positive for the representative). Survey was sent straightaway at a time when I thought there would be another page for me to give more details. Nope. Apple does not want to know about the issue. Fortunately I did mention my summary of the product issue and solution right at the beginning.

And what is the solution? It is simply this: Make sure the people who manufacture this power adapter for Apple (from China, Taiwan or wherever) tie a knot and have it hidden inside the "brick". In that way, should any pull occur on the thin wire, the knot will effectively press against the inside of the brick casing to prevent the wire (or at least the insulating part) from being pulled out, but ensures the connection to the power board internally and the insulation remains unstressed and perfectly intact.

A simple solution like this will cost nothing to Apple. However, it will save hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars for the consumer. Unless, of course, this is all part of what a shareholder company and its Apple resellers must do to continually make a profit from suckers like me (sorry for being a bit cynical).

I should add that when I showed the Apple representative the problem with my old power adapter and asked if it could be fixed or what else I could do to prevent this from happening, all he could say was an emphatic "No." to the former question, and a recommendation for the latter to wrap the thin wire around the small plastic handles that come out of the brick. I have done that before. However, the other problem I have noticed with wrapping in this manner is that the wire also gets itself into a permanent twist. Eventually the wire breaks internally and this ensures I must purchase a new power adapter. Yet another issue I have with this Apple product.

So, in the end, it is a no-win situation for the customer, but a considerable win for Apple and the Apple reseller (they are the ones to make a profit, right?).

Now I am wondering whether Apple has extended this idea of not receiving feedback for Apple products to stopping people from putting in ratings for Apple software on the Apple Store?"

Given the problems with macOS 10.12.1 in its current form, it might be a good idea not to make the upgrade, at least not for the next 12 months. As SpankMeBaby from MacUpdate recommended:

"...maybe the idea of not upgrading straightaway is actually a blessing in disguise."

If Apple hopes to improve macOS 10.12, here is the recommendation from the same MacUpdate user, and something we think the company should consider seriously:

Sometimes I wish Apple just provide Mac users with a core macOS that is compact, simple and stable (and should run on any computer with minimal RAM and storage space requirements, including older as well as the latest machines). We really need an OS that is rock solid and gives us the essentials in organizing and finding files and apps easily on the desktop (really, what else does an OS have to do these days, apart from allowing users to access the internet? Serve us drinks from the bar as well? Nice, but I can do that myself without Apple's help and all the heavy RAM requirements and storage space needed for it). And it would be so nice to focus on getting the little things right in this core OS, such as setting column widths that remember the next time you open the window. That sort of thing would be an absolute time-saver. Everything else Apple has thrown in there for macOS 10.12.x, such as Siri, Photos.app, iTunes.app etc should all be seen as optional extras (and, in my view, taking up too much of my storage space). Extras should only be installed if users want to (that is, as either system extensions or additional apps in the Applications folder). None of this silly "all or nothing approach" from Apple . In fact, I'm happy to pay for the extras should I ever need them (now there's a thought for Apple and its shareholders -- a bit of a profit on the side too), but just so long as the "free" core macOS system is truly stable and works brilliantly well. That is all Mac users could ever ask for in this day and age. Then perhaps we can all finally have some peace and stability and a chance to have exactly what we need (and not what Apple thinks we should have)."

It is amazing Apple is still having instability problems with the latest macOS. Why bother releasing an OS upgrade at all? Better off releasing updates that actually fix problems in the previous OS and don't create new ones through an upgrade.

As for standalone update files, it looks as if Apple may be forcing users to accept downloads strictly from the Mac App Store. As one MacUpdate user noticed:

"

Has Apple moved to an App Store-only approach to releasing updates to macOS Sierra? I yet haven't seen any sign of a standalone 10.12.1 updater."

Oh, hold on! Users were fooled this time around (and it isn't April 1st). It took more than a week, but finally Apple has released a separate delta download link on 28 October 2016, and already it is a massive 1.3GB. At least some users have something to cheer about.

Why the large update file size? No one really knows for sure other than what Apple is prepared to mention in its release notes. Does this mean Apple had to make substantial changes to the OS? The above statements from users are not suggesting this. If this is already the standard for an update, Mac users can expect future updates to not only fix glaringly obvious problems, but with each update it will increment in size until it is nearly 2GB. Apple must think everyone is on one of those data plans that people have hundreds of gigabytes to download movies or watch Netflix. Therefore, what's 1.3GB in the whole scheme of things, right? How comforting to know Apple CEOs are able to find time to enjoy this kind of lifestyle and yet still not able to find the time to fix the OS to a proper state of stability and usefulness.

Stuck on macOS Sierra because the company you are working for has decided this OS must be the latest and greatest thing on the planet? Sorry to hear that. We feel your pain. If you can downgrade, do it and wait for the final update (which will be macOS version 10.12.6) to get the main bugs fixed. Or then again, why? What exactly will you be missing if you don't upgrade? Oh yes, Apple will stop you from running FileMaker Pro 17 unless you have macOS Sierra or higher. Fair point. If FileMaker does not tickle your fancy as a necessary app to have, then remember that should you do upgrade, expect more of the usual "We don't care" attitude from the company when it leaves behind enough bugs to "encourage" users to upgrade once again. This is familiar among experienced Mac users, except now it is possible the company may have overcooked it. Too many experienced Mac users (and an increasing number of young technophiles are having second thoughts) are fed up with this constant waiting for updates and upgrades to get things stable again. Stay where you are. Or better still, create virtual disks of older and the newest OS for Windows and Mac and run them on VMWare, Parallels Desktop, or some other software only for the things that you can't run on your current OS, but choose the one OS that you are most happy to be on all the time.

Who would of thought that staying where you are on an older OS would be considered an improvement? Not upgrading may turn out to be an essential feature in today's constant changing environment.

macOS Sierra 10.12.2 Update

Apart from adding 100 new emoji icons from its recently released iOS 10.2 update (apparently there is a university course nowadays designed to teach you what each emoji represents), this update mainly improves the setup and reliability of the AutoLock, resolves graphics glitches, and gets the Touch Bar feature to work properly in the new late 2016 MacBook Pro.

Other improvements are mainly to fix up a large number of issues in the way all the Apple apps work together and do as they expect for people who rely on these apps, and to plug-up heaps of security holes in the system. For third-party related apps, the main improvements are:

  1. New installations of Windows 8 and Windows 7 using Boot Camp are supported for a greater range of Macs.
  2. Being able to see the graphics on the screen on the latest MacBook Pro.
  3. Allow screen resolutions to be made available on third-party displays.
  4. Added support for more digital camera RAW formats.

Other than that, all your apps should technically run without any problems (but do check with the software manufacturer's web sites for any updates specifically addressing issues under macOS Sierra).

Detailed information about this update is available in Apple's release notes. Security-related improvements are listed in this support document.

macOS Sierra 10.12.3 Update

Nothing too riveting to mention about this update (full combo update is 1.9GB). The usual update to Safari as well as the latest security vulnerability fixes (a never ending task for Apple it seems). Any other updates are mainly to fix up further issues related to the Touch Bar and certain graphics features of the latest MacBook Pro (from October 2016). Or more specifically:

  1. Improves automatic graphics switching on MacBook Pro (15-inch, October 2016).
  2. Resolves graphics issues while encoding Adobe Premiere Pro projects on MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13- and 15-inch, October 2016).
  3. Fixes an issue that prevented the searching of scanned PDF documents in Preview.

However, as one MacUpdate user has mentioned after applying this update:

"Is 10.12 really that much different (in a bad way) than 10.11? My general impression from all the website reviews is that 10.12 simply adds Siri and a few under-the-hood changes."

While another user remarked:

"Buggy and a horrible UI."

OS X has truly reached its use-by-date.

macOS Sierra 10.12.4 Update

Apart from Apple's insistence in removing the rating system in the App store for macOS Sierra (perhaps the company thinks the OS is the best in the world and, therefore, no one would ever be able to compete or complain about it — well, we all need an OS on a Mac, don't we?), the company has also kept quiet on some other changes with this release. It is mainly to affect third-party Apple developers. On the other hand, Apple is more than happy to gloat over the improvements and new features made for users like they are the best things since sliced bread — classic marketing hype. These are mainly in the following areas:

  1. Added a new feature called Night Shift to help all those U.S. citizens to feel psychologically warmer in the winter at night by shifting the colours of the display slightly to the warmer end of the spectrum.
  2. Increased the ability for Siri to communicate verbally and receive important voice commands for cricket sports scores and the Italian Premier League scores and events.
  3. At a more workhorse level of the system, slight improvements to the PDF rendering and annotation issues have been observed in the updated Preview.app.
  4. Interface improvements to Mail.app, including making the Subject line visible in Conversation View mode.
  5. The usual security and Safari.app updates to make this seem like a worthwhile download for those who love the latest OS.

As for third-party Apple developers, they may find themselves in some bother following news at MacUpdate.com that building third-party apps will get harder for those developers wanting to provide backward compatibility on OS X Mavericks or older systems. Apple has seen a need to make life harder for developers, this time by preventing Xcode 6.4 from running. However, you can bypass the inconvenience, but not without some PITA issues. As observed by MacUpdate user sockmonkey:

"Beware! If you are a developer relying on being able to run Xcode 6.4 on a Sierra system (already requires some workarounds), [macOS] 10.12.4 now prevents the app from opening at all. You can still run the binary directly from the Terminal, but it's a hardship."

Now the more lazier Apple developers among us will prefer to run Xcode 7.3.1 or higher, and with it the necessary enticement for them to develop only those apps that run on OS X Yosemite or higher (and so force other users to make the move to a newer OS version). It probably explains why the rating system was removed. Apple has to force users to upgrade to the latest OS and the best way it can do it (while wiping its hands clean of the changes) is through the apps third-party developers make. Any complaints can now be handled by the third-party Apple developers (blame the whole thing on them for not making software backwards compatible).

The full combo 2.0GB update is available from here

This update was released on 28 March 2017.

Undocumented security feature added to macOS Sierra 10.12

Another feature, if you may call it that, and one that is not mentioned in the annals of Apple documentation can be best summed up with a quote from MacUpdate.com user Cjbolland:

"WTF . . . macOS 10.12 has a new security added that disables you to download apps in zip or other compressed format. This makes things like Sparkle not working anymore. In other words, all apps that are using Sparkle cannot auto update anymore.

Damn..."

It would appear macOS is either able to read inside any compressed file (except where encryption is applied) to see if apps are properly code-signed, or the compressed file itself must be code-signed. If it is the latter, Apple could be expecting only compressed DMG files to be code-signed since these are the files that can be downloaded and opened without a problem (or showing the least number of security warnings). If, on the other hand, it is the former, then any compressed file can only be downloaded and uncompressed so long as the app itself is code-signed. Otherwise, the OS will interpret unsigned apps to mean the app is probably dangerous and should be avoided at all costs, in which case it will make the decision on your behalf to never allow the compressed file to be downloaded.

Geez, that's helpful.

Has Apple gone a little too far with its security measures? Has it become the new nanny state for all users using a Mac in the sense that we are so naive and inexperienced in using a Mac and the internet not to know whether an app is likely to be safe or not? Or is this Apple's way to further encourage Mac users to stick to the App Store for all their software needs?

Question: How do you code-sign a DMG file if you do not have Xcode and a Developer ID?
 
Answer: You can't. Apple expects you to sign up to its Developer web site to get your own Developer ID at a cost of US$99 per year. In that way, Apple can identify who you are (and encourage you to produce secure and clean apps or else your certificate for code-signing will be revoked). Then you can code-sign to your hearts content any DMG file you like for distribution using certain Terminal commands before distributing the file to others online.

This additional hassle comes courtesy of GateKeeper, the OS preference pane Mac users were forced to have and introduced in OS X Lion 10.7 to help Mac newbies with little security sense to be told by Apple which apps are likely to be safe, and which ones are not. And if you go to the App Store to purchase your software, then Apple can guarantee the newbies that the apps will be safe to run. It is just that now in MacOS 10.12, GateKeeper now needs to check DMG files and anything else compressed for the extra level of security we apparently all need, not just the apps themselves.

For further details about this feature, click here.

macOS Sierra 10.12.5 Update

This update (full combo 2GB) contains all the latest security improvements Apple is willing to provide (mainly to fix memory corruption and poor validation processes), as well as the following enhancements:

  • Fixes an issue where audio may stutter when played through USB headphones.
  • Enhances compatibility of the Mac App Store with future software updates.
  • Adds support for media-free installation of Windows 10 Creators Update using Boot Camp.
  • Adds support for more digital camera RAW formats.
  • Resolves an issue, affecting some enterprise and education customers, that may cause the system date to be set to the year 2040.
  • Prevents a potential kernel panic when starting up from a NetInstall image. This fix is available when starting up from a NetInstall image created from the macOS 10.12.5 installer.

And iTunes 12.6.1 is thrown in for good measure to make the update seem worthwhile. In the meantime, Apple is more focussed on releasing macOS 10.13 at the present time. Apple developers will receive beta versions in June 2017.

macOS Sierra 10.12.6 Update

This full combo update (5.01GB) provides more critical security updates and fixes to essential Apple apps you may use regularly. The fixes are mainly to plug-up areas where malicious and carefully-crafted code can run without adequate security measures. There are also some slight performance improvements to be had from this particular update. Why that should be the case isn't clear, but if you wish to experience this on your own computer, we recommend you apply the following steps:

  1. Backup to a separate disk (outside your computer) all mission-critical files and apps (mandatory!).
  2. Launch the latest OnyX for your macOS version (in this case Sierra).
  3. In Maintenance tab, verify the structure of the system files on your startup disk. You should receive a clean bill of health (if not, don't apply the security update — it is time to get a new hard disk and/or computer or take the risk re-installing macOS).
  4. In the Maintenance tab, execute Permissions to fix up any file permission issues.
  5. In the Cleaning tab, run through the cleaning procedure for System, User, Internet (optional, or else you may have to re-establish automatic access to certain sites), Fonts, Logs and Misc. After each one, just Close the message about restarting until you get to the Misc tab, then restart your computer.
  6. When you are back to the desktop, and with the power cord plugged in and providing uninterrupted power supply, run the macOS Sierra 10.12.6 update package.
  7. Be patient. The update process can take a while. And don't be fooled by the initial estimated time to install. It will repeat with each sub-update process. So total time could be anywhere up to 25 minutes (in most cases less than 10 minutes, but no guarantee).
  8. You should finally get back to the desktop. Noticed any performance improvements?

The update already includes Safari 10.1.2, an essential improvement for your online security.

And now back to life...

Security Update 2018-001

We are getting close to the end of Apple support for macOS Sierra. The company has decided to only issue Security Update 2018-001. Highly recommended considering Apple has never been able to make its OS fully secure to this point in time (and probably never will). And if you must use Safari, it is best to update this app too to version 11.0.2. However, you may find Safari 11.0.2 is more temperamental when running a YouTube video (e.g., no sound) etc.So be prepared to apply the latest macOS 10.12.6 update to your machine, fix file permissions using OnyX, and restart to reduce the issues or eliminate them altogether.

The security update is the first indications that Apple will no longer provide macOS updates for Sierra. So no more macOS Sierra 10.12.7 or higher at this stage. The company believes it is stable enough, although it has just enough annoyances in the hope of getting enough people to move onto macOS High Sierra at some point.

Apple Security Update 2018-002

An Easter time bonanza with the release of Apple Security Update 2018-002 after Apple updated macOS 10.13.4 just recently. Also recommended is an update to Safari 11.1 with an emphasis on more notifications about your personal information and where it might be going and used for as well as whether you are entering and sending the information on unencrypted web pages. More privacy icons and helpful advice in times when Apple needs to convince users that the company is really trying to use your personal information in a responsible way. You can download Safari 11.1 from here, as well as iTunes 12.7.4 (if you are feeling secure with this app).

Apple Security Update 2018-003

Good news, Apple has kindly extracted the security improvements from macOS 10.13.5 and created an independent Apple Security Update 2018-003 for Sierra file. You can download it, and should work fine for those on this version of macOS and for any year model of Mac you may own (not like those running OS X El Capitan).

Apple Security Update 2018-004

Heaps of essential security improvements for Sierra users (a few of which have been provided to El Capitan users) to make this a necessity. Download it here. Among the fixes include "An attacker in a privileged network position may be able to intercept Bluetooth traffic" (now fixed for all remaining Mac models, including those sold in 2018), "Cookies may unexpectedly persist in Safari" (when quitting from Safari in private mode), "A malicious application may be able to break out of its sandbox" (should finally be fixed for all Mac models), "Visiting a malicious website may lead to address bar spoofing" (mainly for macOS Sierra), and a few others.