Posts Tagged ‘MacOSX/Apple’

Upgrade notes on macOS Sierra

I’m notorious for not updating OS X (macOS) too quickly, preferring to wait months on end for Apple to iron out bugs. I just hope that in 2017 they don’t make a major release and something sensible, i.e. that fixes usability and makes the OS much more stable.

However when you buy a new Mac, you’re more or less forced into the new OS. I did pickup a MacBook Pro 15″ with the new TouchBar, and at some stage I’ll talk about my usage (its been about 3 months of daily usage).

One thing that has annoyed me about the new macOS Sierra is that I don’t get to use GPGTools – it will not work on macOS Sierra. There is now however a beta you could try to ensure you’re signing and encrypting email just as well.

Another thing that I hit almost immediately? Some of my SSH hosts just stopped working. I’ve seen various sites talk about how ssh-agent does not automatically load pass phrases to keychain during startup to Upgrading to macOS Sierra will break your SSH keys and lock you out of your own servers.

My ~/.ssh/config now has:

Host *

UseKeychain yes

AddKeysToAgent yes

to fix things.

Everything else more or less works. I did Time Machine restore. I’m not too happy that they removed the Time Remaining from the Battery icon, and I’m not getting the battery life that I expect, but maybe when the new Mac Mini’s come out, I’ll do another Time Machine restore to that, and a clean install to the MacBook Pro.

Cleaning up the Mac, backup edition

A while back, I realised that com.apple.bird was getting too large and it was easy to purge it. I had to do this again.

The app I use to see where my space is going is OmniDiskSweeper. Its free, and I highly recommend it.

I use Arq to handle backups (in addition to Backblaze, and CrashPlan), and today I noticed that ~/Library/Arq/ had a huge (32.7GB) Cache.noindex. Apparently it is safe to delete, so that’s what I have done.

I also notice a large /Library/Backblaze.bzpkg – 8.1GB – and apparently you can’t delete it. The penalty you pay for keeping offsite backups?

Anyway, I suddenly have a lot more free space. Its annoying that I’ll have to keep track of all this from time to time, as one has to occasionally perform some housekeeping of one’s Mac.

com.apple.bird getting large?

I was wondering why my disk space was reducing pretty quickly on my Mac, and it turns out my ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.bird/ directory was 92GB in size! Inspecting some of the larger files, I notice that it has a WhatsApp header, which suggests that these are my WhatsApp iCloud backups.

There obviously seems to be some kind of bug as I have files, one per day, from sometime in April. They all start around 800MB and grow to 2GB in size. Each.

It seems like there are other files there too, and I wasn’t sure if deleting it would just make sense. The solution? System Preferences -> iCloud then toggle iCloud Drive off. There is a warning about how it will delete all iCloud documents from your Mac. Its all good considering this is supposed to be saved in the cloud right? Restart it, and voila, you see the directory go down to 0 bytes.

Something up with the bird daemon? I don’t know if brctl would help in any way, so I’m happy there’s an easier way to recover lost space.

OmniFocus Clip-o-Tron

I use OmniFocus and Apple Mail quite religiously. Sure there’s the wonders of GMail, but I’m an offline email kind of guy. What is not immediately obvious is how one can make a task from an email message in OmniFocus.

You want the OmniFocus Clip-o-Tron. I only recently just discovered it, and its one of those things you wonder why The Omni Group did not just install by default. It makes so much sense. It helps with GTD, after all, isn’t Mail the app where a lot of people spend their times and lives in?

Makes me wonder what else I’ve been missing out from using. This alongside MsgFiler are great tools to improve your Mail productivity.

Apple laptops not made for enterprise use

Like my recent upgrade to 10.8, I was forced to upgrade to 10.9 because my 13” MacBook Air succumbed to an odd logic board error involving a heat sensor going kaput. Turns out that kernel_task would go up to 300%, ensuring that the load averages on my machine would be in excess of 40-60s. The only fix seems to be swapping logic boards, and that usually takes 2-3 weeks. Too long to live without a laptop.

For reference, the Apple Hardware Test revealed: 4SNS/1/C0000008: THSP—124.

So I had to order a new laptop, and chose the 11” MacBook Air. I was always conflicted between the 11” & 13”, and left the world of MacBook Pro’s for a 13” due to the same resolution. I travel a lot, so I think smaller is better now, and got the 11” – max specs. So far, I have no complaints. When home its docked to a much larger monitor. On the road, it seems just fine. In a span of a couple of years, I’ve gone from 15” -> 13” -> 11”. I can’t complain.

Apple hardware is just not made for enterprise use. Next day on-site warranties from Dell are amazing (I’ve experienced it plenty of times), but they just don’t exist in the world of Apple even with AppleCare. 

I’ve been locked into some software (I know, silly me but there are things I depend on in my workflow) which makes it hard to switch away from OSX. If I ran Linux, I know I could have bought another machine within a day, but because Apple is all-integrated, I had to order another MacBook Air (who would want a MacBook Air with an i5 processor, small storage (128-256GB) and 4GB of RAM?). I mean if Apple plans to integrate everything, sell top-end machines – picking stuff up retail is important in my opinion.

It took me 5 working days to get my custom-built Mac delivered. That’s just too long to be using hardware you’re not familiar with (I actually did a lot of “work” with a Chromebook – also known as answering a lot of email, but nothing more productive than that).

The upgrade from 10.8 to 10.9 was surprisingly easy with Time Machine again. The only problem was Mail was misbehaving (caching folders), so I had to upgrade to 10.9.2, and just wait it out. I’m not happy with Mail, but its about the only desktop client that handles multiple IMAP accounts and works in an offline fashion.

I read recently an article by David Sobotta about how he moved away from the Mac, and to me it felt like this was my path too. It is not going to happen anytime soon, but I’ve set aside 2 years to get things done. I want to live more in the browser, I want to be able to make use of OfflineStorage, and I want to be rid of depending on just one piece of hardware. It is likely that even after a move to the cloud I will buy Apple hardware, it just won’t mean I’m “locked in” to the wonderful application ecosystem that it has.

If anyone says the 11” MacBook Air is not good enough, I can attest that its got a small screen but in many of my use cases I have it docked to a 24” or 27” monitor, so for coding, comparative studies, etc, I find that to be a great environment. But walking to a cafe or working in a cramped airplane seat? You can’t beat the 11” Air (11.6” if you look closely).

iTunes ate my podcasts

iTunes is fixed now (11.1.3) but somewhere in-between it broke and deleted all of my podcast downloads as well as the subscriptions. It has been over four months that I’ve gone without listening to podcasts and I can’t say that I miss it hugely. Audiobooks (on phone, in gym particularly), Spotify and Rdio have taken its place. 

This means a lot to me – I always thought that podcasting could be big business. Maybe its just niche business?

Apple engineering needs to QA this stuff. It’s not hard. There should be test harnesses. Heck, just testing the damn upgrade. 

In other news, the up arrow key seems dodgy again on my Macbook Air. It is still only 11 months old and this is the second time its happening. I will have to find time to walk into an Apple Store to get an immediate replacement (something we can’t do in Malaysia/Singapore obviously).

Overall feeling on the Apple experience in these terms: relatively negative. Am I going to give up their stuff? No. There’s a more positive post on Apple coming soon.


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