macOS High Sierra

Version 10.13

Recommended for all macOS High Sierra users

Privacy is still not high enough on the minds of Apple CEOs. This OS version continues the tradition of serving up technologies that compromise your privacy, such as not being able to clear data in the inactive parts of RAM after quitting applications. We strongly advise downloading and running a manual or automatic (the latter being the most preferred option) RAM memory purging utility. See OS X 10.11 for some fine examples of suitable utilities:

About version 10.13

Apple must be getting information to suggest a number of people are staying with older versions of macOS (or OS X). The comfortable nature of having something they are familiar with, is more privacy-protected (such as not having everything going through the Apple servers and being stored in the iCloud with little or no control), works in the sense that they know certain favourite apps will continue to run, and avoids too many unnecessary macOS features slowing down their slightly older Macs, are just some of the reasons to resist change. Perfectly understandable. There is only so much OS X/macOS people can take. Still, for those willing to defy the trend, there are enough of them out there who are tempted to try the latest. These are mainly the ones who want to be "first" at anything and think "Apple" is the greatest company in the world (and with a market worth of US$850 billion, who can blame them?). We can see why Americans love Apple, and why Apple loves Americans to help it carry these macOS upgrades through.

So, how do we entice the more established Mac connoiseur to move on? Good question. Moving on often equates to more profits for Apple and other software manufacturers. To the consumer, it usually means more changes and potentially further problems if the latest changes are not properly tested by the company (or should that be the beta testers consisting of newbies and those who want to be the first at everything?).

To increase the likelihood of receiving greater profits from those existing Apple users relying on previous macOS (or OS X) and hopefully grab a few more new gullible users to the Mac platform, we see considerable marketing techniques being employed by Apple through careful choice of words to show the brilliance of the latest release. And maybe it is, depending on what you hope to achieve with the latest macOS. Sure, there are lots of ways Apple will try to learn who you are and what you do (and what you are using for apps too) — now considered a standard feature (yes, there has always been another good reason to have users on iCloud). No need for Apple to emphasise this aspect. Rather, it is better to mention those other things that the company wants us to hear. Therefore, words to the effect of "advanced", "performed beautifully", "better", "new level of security", and "visual experience to the next level" will be just the tip of the iceberg. Sounds familiar? Well, you have to give it to Apple. It has been doing this for more than 30 years, and don't the profits show for it (mind you, if anything is good, it should speak for itself, right?).

Okay, so now we have macOS High Sierra. Just another in a long list of macOS versions The good thing is it does remain free — as it should given the glut of different versions out there at the moment. Therefore, the question on everyone's minds is, Is it worth it?

Or to put it another way, how well-justified is all the marketing hype for the latest release? Indeed, will it see all Mac users make the move to the latest macOS version (and with it a potential rise in sales of new Macs to handle it)?

The four main features

The features touted as a "game changer" (yes, another term used by Apple) and radically different from any previous OS version are in the following areas:

  1. In an attempt to handle the greater volumes of data coming in from 4k videos and the massive amounts of data needed to be processed and stored temporarily for creating interactive 3D worlds just to name a few, Apple has decided it is necessary to introduce a new Apple File System (APFS) for organizing your data (i.e., files and folders). It is the successor to HFS+. The early choice of words to describe this technology is a little unfortunate. Apple says, "You data is under new management" (according to the Apple blurb on MacUpdate.com as of September 2017). Most average users on hearing this will quickly form a picture in their minds of someone else wanting to organise your files and folders in the way this other person (i.e., Apple) wants it done. To some extent, Apple is already doing this (because it is assumed we are all dumb and have no idea how to organize our data) by forcing the appearance of folders to store your documents, photos, music, applications etc. And when it comes to those Save/Save As dialog boxes, the OS has an uncanny way of knowing which folder it will look at first because this is how Apple thinks you will organise your data in accordance with its preferred approach. In macOS High Sierra, you will get more of the same, but APFS is more about improving access to files and folders in a way that is faster, and hopefully more reliable. Plus there is the added advantage of allowing on-the-fly encryption/decryption of your files to stop unauthorised users from copying files (only Apple and the owner of the file will have access). Assuming you follow Apple's recommended approach to storing your data in the folders created for you, then the main advantage of letting Apple organise your data is a more secure and responsive experience of accessing your data knowing Apple has more of its finger in your data and knows where everything is and what is contained in them, but presented in a way that suggests life will be better for you in the long run if you let Apple manage your data. Leaving aside the interest by Apple in your data, to benefit from this technology to the max, it has been optimised for Macs with SSD and flash-memory (and to help preserve digital data for longer by spreading out the files knowing these types of storage systems have a limited lifespan should you keep saving information in the same spot in memory on a regular basis). So you will need the latest Mac. Otherwise it will revert back to HFS+ for Macs with traditional magnetic hard disks if you intend to upgrade. As for developers on the older macOS Sierra needing to test their apps for compatibility with the latest file system, this older OS will read APFS-formatted on partitioned drives without any trouble. It is good to see Apple has been thinking of you.
  2. With videos coming out as 4k to show the kind of detail more and more people are learning to accept, a new industry-standard video file format has been created. It involves a more efficient and faster compression technology with playback designed to not lose the quality of the picture. The file format has already been created and tested, and is now standard in macOS High Sierra (as well as iOS 11). It is called HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding). Basically the same as the previous video format H.264 in terms of quality, except compression has been made even more efficient. As a result, the new file format also has the name of H.265, just the numbering has gone up a notch. But since the name does not inspire people to see any advantages in the file format, it is better to call it HEVC. Once American Apple users see "high efficiency" in the name, you can be sure they will jump into it like fish to water. And to some extent, maybe it is better. At least this technology does makes use of the possibility that 4k videos could be downloaded and watched simultaneously in what users know as "streaming" while on the internet. With this in mind, the makers of the new video file format has made sure what you are seeing as it comes through the internet will never lose the same visual quality. Fair enough. The technology should be seen as a worthy addition.
  3. There is a thing called "Metal 2". Relying on the early advertising blurb from Apple, it is hard to tell what exactly this is. Is this a new user interface where the graphics will sport the metallic look? Not exactly. It seems more to do with allowing "apps to unleash the full power of the GPU". We thought previous versions of macOS was already doing something similar, and developers were just adding the features to their own apps in the usual way. Apparently there is something else going on here. All the enormous graphics processing requirements for things like 3D virtual reality will be offloaded to special and dedicated graphics cards connected to your Mac via Thunderbolt so that way the built-in GPU of your Mac does not melt under the intense processing requirements.
  4. With virtual reality and using special goggles to see a 3D world now being the "in-thing" at the moment, Apple has decided to catch the wave of interest with APIs that will allow developers to create interactive virtual reality experiences in high definition and rendered at high speed (probably with the help of "Metal 2" and some of the compression technology in HEVC). However, much more grunt is required in the hardware department. This will come with the release of new iMac Pro in late 2017, including a new Retina 5K display. When combined with optimized support for Valve's StreamVR and the HTC Vive VR headset, apparently developers and content creationists will be overjoyed with unparalleled Mac technologies to help them create the best 3D worlds on the planet.

Looking at the finer improvements, Apple has decided the idea of not auto-playing videos from web sites you are browsing in Safari is a considerable technological advancement from any previous macOS version to include. No more trying to listen to your favourite music and suddenly hearing over the top the sounds from a video coming in from a web page. Or more importantly, users are no longer being taken for granted that they can afford to give up GBs of data transfer they have paid when they come back with a cup of coffee and discover much of the video has already been played. Geez, thanks. So, in some sense, allowing users to make the decision to play a video is a particularly good one.

Changes can also be seen in Apple's Photo.app (if for any reason no other third-party alternative is better — you haven't been looking hard enough!). Here we find a few more features for managing and editing your photos (but don't worry, the app won't compete with Adobe or anyone else for that matter, as the app is always a dumb-down version of more professional apps out there). Mail.app gets a minor spruce up in terms of faster indexing of your email messages (presumably for your benefit only). Greater iCloud integration into the OS is considered a must with this macOS version, meaning that you can have your data invisibly and quietly transferred to Apple servers where you are told of the benefits of doing so, such as quickly sharing your personal data with family and friends via an invitation link sent to them when you want to share something (no invitation required for Apple as they already have your data).

Overall, there are numerous little tweaks here and there in the Apple apps. If you use these apps a lot, you may enjoy the improvements. For everyone else using third-party solutions, it just means the Apple apps are getting bigger in size and we are forced to see them in the Applications folder whether we like them or not (no choice about how we wish to use the storage space for more important things).

In summary, the improvements are primarily to prepare macOS to handle higher volumes of digital data coming in from 4k videos and virtual reality environments being generated by 3D software, which in the end may translate into more awesome 3D games and high-definition video for you to watch and enjoy. They may not exactly solve world problems, but at least you will be entertained even more in those off-times when you want to relax and enjoy watching something on your Mac. Sounds more like the Apple CEOs have not much to do nowadays but to find ways to plug themselves to 3D worlds and escape the reality of what's happening in the real world.

And if not, the CEOs can always get some exercise in the real world by swimming in cash given the higher numbers of new Macs with SSDs that are going to be sold for those users who think it might be worth making the move to the latest OS version.

macOS 10.13 Supplemental Update 1.0

Highly recommended, and certainly critical given how little testing is done by Apple on the new APFS technology. Apple has released the macOS 10.13 Supplemental Update 1.0 (a whopping 923.4 MB) as of 7 October 2017 (makes you want to live in New Zealand or Silicon Valley in California to benefit from high speed and cheap fibre-optic internet networks). A necessary update to fix a glaring security issue in APFS technology. Thrown in for good measure are a few more other essential improvements to help with greater stability of installer packages, as well as a fix for the cursor graphic bug while using Adobe InDesign, and also resolves an issue where email messages couldn’t be deleted from Yahoo accounts in Mail. No immediate other issues reported by users when installing this update, so hopefully it should be plain sailing other than the hefty size of the update.

Remember, it is all early days yet.

Further details about the update is available from the Apple web site.

Update
24 October 2017

There are definitely some teething problems with macOS High Sierra. Talk of missing login items after installing the supplemental update, as well as issues with Mail.app and the new APFS somehow retaining a phenomenal number of draft emails despite the user thinking they were either sent or deleted, are starting to become common among Mac users. For example, Macguruguy at MacUpdate.com said:

"Have had my second major issue with High Sierra. Login Items disappeared. Was not on initial install. Had to completely rebuild because replacing preferences file would not work. Luckily I had backup info."

Another MacUpdate user going by the name of Bob-Jacobson said:

"My Apple Mail has been "saving xxx of x thousand drafts" since I installed HS [High Sierra]. Not sure if it's just a figment or actually using processing power the whole time. Reported it to Apple, who asked for a system dump. Hoping to hear back from them soon or at least get a new upgrade that cures the problem. Not too keen on some of the file-handling changes either, I'm still discovering more...."

Given the significant changes made to the file management system on macOS High Sierra, it might be worth waiting until at least the official macOS 10.13.1 update comes out (which is expected to be in early December, just before the Christmas period where Apple will have a chance to see all the users who are using the latest macOS when they are forced to download the update).

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macOS 10.13.1 Update

Released just before Halloween day in America, this is an essential update from Apple to quietly fix up some really big and nasty "Halloween-like" bugs in macOS High Sierra 10.13.0 while giving the impression from the release notes that only mundane and minor improvements have been made. We may not be told of all the bug fixes (probably wise considering how well we know Apple tests its own products — still looking for more beta testers?), but we do find a hefty list of security fixes for those bugs we do know about. So important are these fixes that the company has provided separate security updates for macOS Sierra and macOS El Capitan. Of the bugs Apple is prepared to say, we see a fix for Bluetooth during those moments when it may stop working during Apple Pay transactions. Not being able to enter text in Spotlight using the keyboard is fixed. Greater reliability of SMB printing and Microsoft Exchange message sync in Mail.app, More importantly, any issues where a Filevault-encrypted APFS volume cannot be unencrypted because of corruption or loss of the original password can now be unlocked using a recovery keychain file. To use this file, you must work with the UNIX command man diskutil in Terminal. This is important given how new the APFS technology is at the moment. The risk of losing your data should anything happen to the password is heightened with this technology. Also one other crucial security bug fix has been carried over from the Supplemental Update 1.0. This is best explained in the following quote:

"It was recently reported that a vulnerability in macOS High Sierra allowed apps with malicious intent to access passwords stored in Apple’s Keychain in plain text. That would, of course, immediately give the owner of the app access to passwords which were supposed to be secured and encrypted by the system. The process of achieving this, which was reported to Apple on September 7th well before the macOS High Sierra launch, has never been officially disclosed by the discoverer, and while Apple fixed this in an Supplemental Update to 10.13.0, the same fix carries over to 10.13.1 as well." (Source: "Download: macOS 10.13.1 High Sierra Final Version Released": iPhoneFirmware.com, 31 October 2017)

Or better still, if you really want to be safe, we recommend waiting for the next macOS upgrade.

To make the improvements seem not too serious, Apple has also mentioned the addition of heaps more emojis for those riveted by their appearance. And we see "minor app and performance improvements" to iTunes, raising it to version 12.7.1.

At the moment, Apple wants users to download the update via the App Store to get a feel of how many users have upgraded to macOS High Sierra. The data gathered here will be compared with El Capitan and Sierra when users download from the App Store the Security Update 2017-004 file for El Capitan (814MB) and Security Update 2017-001 for Sierra (768.3MB).

NOTE: The above links to the security updates were made available a few days after the release of macOS 10.13.1 Update.