Apple is well known for its splashy media events, now usually held in the Steve Jobs Theater at the company’s new Cupertino campus. But Apple reserves such events for major announcements. Smaller announcements, such as minor updates to particular product lines, operating system updates, or new repair programs, get only a press release, if that.
But just because a change doesn’t merit much fuss doesn’t mean it’s uninteresting—if you’ve been waiting for the right moment to buy a new Mac, for instance, an announcement of a small MacBook Pro revision might be exactly what you want to hear.
Here’s a roundup of Apple’s recent announcements in May 2019.
New MacBook Pro Models Feature Faster CPUs and New Butterfly Keyboards
Although Apple has a reputation for innovation, the company should also be lauded for its evolutionary changes, which are much more common. To wit, Apple quietly updated the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models equipped with a Touch Bar with faster CPUs while keeping the prices the same.
You can now buy a 15-inch MacBook Pro with the latest 9th-generation 8-core Intel Core i9 processor, making it the fastest MacBook Pro ever—the previous model offered only a 6-core processor. The 15-inch models also offer faster graphics processors as options.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro models didn’t receive the same level of changes, but they gained slightly faster 8th-generation Intel processors that provide minor performance improvements.
Both models now come with the fourth generation of Apple’s controversial butterfly keyboard. We’ll have more on that issue soon.
Apple Launches MacBook Pro Repair Program for “Flexgate”
13-inch MacBook Pros from 2016 are susceptible to a display-related problem the press has dubbed “Flexgate.” According to Apple, affected Macs exhibit one or both of these symptoms:
- The display backlight continuously or intermittently shows vertical bright areas along the entire bottom of the screen.
- The display backlight stops working completely.
The problem is related to a flex cable connected to the display that’s too short and too fragile; some repair experts have suggested that failure is inevitable.
If your 13-inch Mac is showing either of these symptoms, you can now take advantage of Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program to get a free repair. You can have your Mac fixed by Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, and if you already paid for a repair, you can request a refund from Apple.
iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 Add New TV App; iOS 12.3.1 Fixes Calling Bug; macOS Addresses ZombieLoad
As you’ve no doubt noticed in your Software Update notifications, Apple recently updated all its operating systems: iOS 12.3.1, macOS 10.14.5, watchOS 5.2.1, and tvOS 12.3. If you’re already running iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 Mojave, it’s fine to update.
iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 are notable primarily because they include a new version of Apple’s TV app. This app now provides access to “channels,” by which Apple means subscription-based streaming video services like HBO and Showtime. Apart from letting you subscribe to such services inside the app and playing content from them in the app, the new app looks and works much like the previous version. The new app will also support Apple’s original content on the Apple TV+ service later this year.
Shortly after iOS 12.3 shipped, Apple released iOS 12.3.1, which fixes a critical bug that could prevent your iPhone from making or receiving phone calls. So if you upgraded to iOS 12.3, be sure to update to iOS 12.3.1 right away.
Similarly, it’s worth updating to macOS 10.14.5 to protect against a security vulnerability called ZombieLoad, and if you’re still running 10.12 Sierra or 10.13 High Sierra, be sure to install Security Update 2019-003 for the same protection.
New iPod touch Gains the A10 Chip and a 256 GB Configuration
Finally, Apple showed a little love to the littlest iOS device, the diminutive iPod touch. In the new model, Apple swapped the old A8 chip for a faster A10 chip that promises up to twice the performance. That added performance enables the new iPod touch to support Group FaceTime calls and enhanced augmented reality (AR) games.
The only other change in the iPod touch is that Apple now sells a 256 GB configuration for $399, joining the 32 GB configuration at $199 and the 128 GB configuration for $299.
(All images courtesy of Apple)
Social Media: If you haven’t been paying close attention, you might have missed Apple’s new MacBook Pros, new iPod touch, support for other streaming services in the TV app in iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3, and a repair program for “Flexgate.” Read on for details:
If you’re running macOS 10.13.4 High Sierra or macOS 10.14 Mojave, you may have seen a dialog that says an app isn’t optimized for your Mac. The message differs slightly between High Sierra and Mojave, with the High Sierra version telling you the developer needs to update the app to improve compatibility whereas Mojave saying bluntly that the app won’t work with future versions of macOS.
What’s going on here, what should you do, and when should you do it?
What’s Going On: 32-bit and 64-bit Apps
Over a decade ago, Apple started to transition all the chips used in Macs, along with macOS itself, from a 32-bit architecture to a 64-bit architecture. Without getting into technical details, 64-bit systems and apps can access dramatically more memory and enjoy significantly faster performance.
Apple knew it would take years before most people were running 64-bit hardware and 64-bit-savvy versions of macOS, so it allowed macOS to continue running older 32-bit apps. However, maintaining that backward compatibility has a cost, in terms of both performance and testing, so at its Worldwide Developer Conference in 2017, Apple warned developers that High Sierra would be the last version of macOS to support 32-bit apps “without compromise.” At the next WWDC in June 2018, Apple announced that macOS 10.14 Mojave would be the last version of macOS to run 32-bit apps.
Happily, the only “compromise” for 32-bit apps in Mojave is the warning dialog, which appears every 30 days when you launch an older app. But the writing is on the wall: 32-bits apps will cease working in macOS 10.15.
How Do You Identify 32-bit Apps?
Apple provides a tool to help you find 32-bit apps. Follow these steps:
- From the Apple menu, choose About This Mac and then click the System Report button.
- In the System Information utility that opens, scroll down to Software in the sidebar and select Applications. It may take a few minutes to build the list of every app on all mounted drives.
- When it finishes, click the 64-bit column header (No means 32-bit; Yes means 64-bit) to sort the list, and select an app to see its details in the bottom pane.
This technique works in both High Sierra and Mojave, but in Mojave, System Information includes a better-formatted section, called Legacy Software, that also provides a list of 32-bit apps. However, this list may be smaller because it includes only those apps that you’ve launched. Since it’s likely that you open old 32-bit apps only occasionally, you can’t trust the Legacy Software list to be complete.
If you find System Information’s Applications list overwhelming, check out the free 32-bitCheck utility from Howard Oakley. It performs exactly the same task but lets you focus on a particular folder and save the results to a text file for later reference.
What’s Your Next Step?
Once you know which apps won’t work in macOS 10.15, you can ponder your options. Luckily, you have some time. We expect Apple to release macOS 10.15 in September 2019, but you don’t need to upgrade right away—in fact, we recommend that you wait a few months after that to allow Apple time to fix bugs.
That said, we do encourage upgrading eventually, and if you buy a new Mac after September 2019, it will come with macOS 10.15. So you need to establish a plan—it’s better to know what you’re going to do than to be forced into action if you have to replace your Mac on short notice. For each 32-bit app on your Mac, you have three options:
- Delete it: It’s not uncommon to have old apps that you haven’t used in years and won’t miss. There’s no need to waste drive space on them in macOS 10.15.
- Upgrade it: Apps in active development will likely have a new version available. The main questions are how much the upgrade will cost and if there are compatibility issues associated with upgrading. You can upgrade at any time, although it’s likely worth waiting until you’re ready to move to macOS 10.15 to minimize costs. The apps that cause the most irritation here are things like the Adobe Creative Suite—Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign—that require switching to a monthly subscription.
- Replace it: If no upgrade is available, the cost of upgrading is too high, or upgrading comes with other negatives, it’s time to look for an alternative. This can take some time, so it’s worth starting soon to ensure that the replacement will provide the features you need before macOS 10.15 forces the decision.
Needless to say, if you’d like recommendations about how to proceed with any particular app or workflow, get in touch with us!
Social Media: Have you seen dialogs warning that an app isn’t optimized for your Mac? Here’s what’s going on, what you should do, and when you should do it:
There are three types of people in this world: those who keep their Mac Desktop organized, those who don’t and don’t care, and those who don’t but wish they could. If you’re sitting on the Group #3 bench–you have oodles of icons scattered willy-nilly`around your Desktop, and it bugs the bejeebers out of you—macOS 10.14 Mojave might have the solution: Stacks.
Apple has used the term “Stack” before, and still does, in relation to how the icons of folders in the Dock display, either as normal folders or as a stack of icons with the first on top. Mojave’s new Stacks feature brings that visual approach to the Desktop, organizing icon clutter into neat stacks that you can expand and collapse with a click, working with the revealed icons just as you’ve always done.
In the Finder, the best way to invoke Stacks is by Control-clicking the Desktop and choosing Use Stacks from the contextual menu (below left). If you first click the Desktop, you can also find the commands for Stacks in the View menu: Use Stacks and Group Stacks By. Lastly, if you open the View Options window by Control-clicking the Desktop and choosing Show View Options, you can work with Stacks by choosing from the Stack By pop-up menu (below right).
Regardless, when you invoke Stacks, the Finder promptly collects all like icons—even new files, as you create them—together into one or more stacks of icons. Click once on a stack to reveal its contents below. Click again to collapse the revealed icons back into the stack. If you open multiple stacks at once, each subsequent stack takes over a spot at the top of the screen and expands down. If you don’t show disks on your Desktop, you can get a nice columnar view of what’s on your Desktop.
How does Stacks figure out which files are alike? You determine that by Control-clicking the Desktop and choosing from the Group Stacks By menu. You can create three basic types of stacks:
- Kind: These stacks are named for the type of file they contain, such as Documents, PDF Documents, Movies, Images, Screenshots, etc.
- Date: With date-based collections, each stack’s name and contents depend on what date ranges make sense, such as Today, Previous 7 Days, Previous 30 Days, October, 2017, and so on. The date groupings can key off the date added, last opened, last modified, or created.
- Finder tags: Tag-based stacks are useful only if you regularly assign tags to all your files.
We expect that grouping stacks by kind will work best for most people, with a few chronologically inclined folks opting for one of the date options.
How can you control the order of the files within a stack? That’s trickier. Control-click the Desktop, choose Show View Options, and in the View Options window, choose from the Sort By pop-up menu. We’re partial to Name (for an alphabetical list) and Last Modified (to put the most recent file you’ve touched on top), but see what works for you.
The main problem with Stacks is that it eliminates any spatial memorization you might have relied on to find icons on your Desktop. You might be able to identify the document you’re looking for by its icon, but exactly where that icon appears when you expand its stack depends on what other stacks are open or closed, what other files are in the stack, and how the stack is sorted. So if your Desktop is a mess, but you know to look in the lower-left corner for the files you’re working with, Stacks may irritate you.
Luckily, you can give Stacks a try without permanently rearranging your Desktop. Just invoke it—the Command-Control-0 (zero) keyboard shortcut can be handy here—and try Stacks. If you don’t like it, another press on Command-Control-0 puts things back the way they were, with no harm done. (The only exception is that if you sort your Desktop, switching in and out of Stacks removes your Sort By setting.)
Stacks may not be ideal for everyone, but many people whose Desktops are obscured by icons will appreciate how it cleans things up instantly and keeps everything neat and tidy.
Social Media: Is your Mac’s Desktop a cluttered mess? If you’d like to clean it up in a flash—and keep it clean—try the new Stacks feature in macOS 10.14 Mojave.
Siri on the Mac hasn’t been as useful as on iOS devices, but with macOS 10.14 Mojave, Apple enhanced the Mac version of Siri in a variety of ways. Apple says that Siri now knows about food, celebrities, and motorsports, but more interesting is how you can ask Siri to control your HomeKit devices (“Turn on the bedroom lights.”) and locate your iOS devices or AirPods via Find My iPhone (“Where is my iPhone?”).
You probably fall into one of two camps: people who haven’t the foggiest idea what pressing Command-Shift-3 or Command-Shift-4 do on the Mac, and those who use those keyboard shortcuts regularly to take screenshots. Either way, macOS 10.14 Mojave makes it easier than ever to create a still image of what’s on your Mac’s screen and to record a video of actions you take on the screen. (And don’t worry, the old shortcuts still work just as they always have.)
For those who aren’t screenshot takers, why would you want to? The big reason is to share something you’re looking at, perhaps to send a friend a map to where in a park you want to meet or to tell tech support about the error dialog you keep getting. And a screen recording is a great way to show an employee how to perform a task without having to write it all up.
To start with Mojave’s new tools, press Command-Shift-5 and look at the controls that appear in a floating control bar. (If you open it accidentally, click the X button or press Escape to close it.)
The first three buttons help you take screenshots, with a few welcome enhancements over the Mac’s longstanding screenshot capabilities. The resulting screenshot will always be in PNG format.
- Capture Entire Screen: Click the first button and then click anywhere to make a screenshot of the entire screen. If you have a second monitor attached to your Mac, you can click anywhere on that screen to capture it instead.
- Capture Selected Window: To focus on a particular window, click the second button and then click the camera pointer on the desired window. This also works with dialogs and menus; make sure they’re visible before invoking the screenshot controls. A tip: press the Option key when clicking the camera pointer to capture the object without its drop shadow.
- Capture Selected Portion: What if neither of those is quite right? Click the third button, drag out, position, and resize the selection rectangle over the spot you want, and click Capture on the control bar. Note how the rectangle shows the dimensions of the image it will create as you resize—that can be useful.
There’s also an Options menu on the control bar. Click it to choose which folder or app should receive the screenshot and if you need a 5- or 10-second timer to get the screen looking right first. You can also choose to show a floating thumbnail of the screenshot in the lower-right corner of the screen for quick markup or trashing, remember the size and location of the selection rectangle, and show the pointer in the screenshot.
The fourth and fifth buttons are for creating screen recordings, and they’re similar to the screen capture choices. When you select one of them, the contents of the Options menu change, and the Capture button changes to Record. The movie will always be a QuickTime movie using the H.264 codec.
- Record Entire Screen: Click the fourth button and then Record to start recording actions on the entire screen.
- Record Selected Portion: The problem with recording the entire screen is that the resulting file can get big. To focus on a small area of the screen, click the fifth button. Then drag out, position, and resize the rectangle in which the recording will take place, and finally, click Record.
However you start a recording, you can stop it in one of two ways. A stop button always appears on the menu bar; click it to finish and save the recording. On a smaller laptop screen, it’s possible for the menu bar button to be obscured, so here’s an alternative method: press Command-Shift-5 again, and the recording controls are replaced by a stop button.
You can record yourself speaking while you make a movie of what’s happening on the screen. To do that, open the Options menu and choose Built-in Microphone. Another special movie recording option is Show Mouse Clicks, which puts a dark circle around the pointer in the recording whenever you click.
That’s it! Mojave’s new screenshot and screen recording controls offer more options and are easier to use than the previous techniques, as long as you remember the Command-Shift-5 keyboard shortcut to bring them up. Practice that a few times, and you’ll be ready the next time you want to capture a funny dialog or strange occurrence on your Mac.
With macOS 10.14 Mojave, Apple has beefed up the Mac’s privacy so it more closely resembles privacy in iOS. You’ve noticed that when you launch a new app on your iPhone or iPad, it often prompts for access to your photos or contacts, the camera or microphone, and more. The idea behind those prompts is that you should always be aware of how a particular app can access your personal data or features of your device. You might not want to let some new game thumb through your photos or record your voice.
macOS has been heading in this direction, but Mojave makes apps play this “Mother, May I?” game in more ways. As a result, particularly after you first upgrade, you may be bombarded with dialogs asking for various permissions. For instance, when you first make a video call with Skype, it’s going to ask for access to the camera and the microphone. Grant permission and Skype won’t have to ask again.
Skype’s requests are entirely reasonable—it wouldn’t be able to do its job without such access. That applies more generally, too. In most cases, apps will ask for access for a good reason, and if you want the app to function properly, you should give it access.
However, be wary if a permission dialog appears when:
- You haven’t just launched a new app
- You aren’t doing anything related to the request
- You don’t recognize the app making the request
There’s no harm in denying access; the worst that can happen is that the app won’t work. (And if it’s malicious, you don’t want it to work!) You can always grant permission later.
To see which permissions you’ve granted or denied, open System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy. A list of categories appears on the left; click one to see which apps have requested access. If you’ve granted access, the checkbox next to the app will be selected; otherwise it will be empty.
You’ll notice that the lock in the lower-left corner is closed. To make changes, click it and sign in as an administrator when prompted.
Most of these categories are self-explanatory, but it might not always be obvious why an app wants permission. In the screenshot above, for instance, Google Chrome has been granted access to the Mac’s camera. Why? So Google Hangouts and other Web-based video-conferencing services can work.
There are five categories (including three not showing above) that could use additional explanation:
- Accessibility: Apps that request accessibility access want to control your Mac. In essence, they want to be able to pretend to click the mouse, type on the keyboard, and generally act like a user. Utility and automation software often needs such access.
- Full Disk Access: This category is a catch-all for access to areas on your drive that aren’t normally available to apps, such as data in Mail, Messages, Safari, Home, and more, including Time Machine backups and some admin settings. Backup and synchronization utilities may need full disk access, in particular. An app can’t request full disk access in the normal way; you must add it manually by clicking the + button under the list and navigating to the app in the Applications folder.
- Automation: The Mac has long had a way for apps to communicate with and control one another: Apple events. An app could theoretically steal information from another via Apple events, so Mojave added the Automation category to give you control over which apps can control which other apps. You’ll see normal permission requests, but they’ll explain both sides of the communication.
- Analytics: The Analytics privacy settings are completely different—they let you specify whether or not you want to share information about how you use apps with Apple and the developers of the apps you use. For most people, it’s fine to allow this sharing.
- Advertising: Finally, the Advertising options give you some control over the ads that you may see in Apple apps. In general, we recommend selecting Limit Ad Tracking, and if you click Reset Advertising Identifier, any future connection between you and the ads you’ve seen will be severed from past data. There’s no harm in doing it. It’s worth clicking the View Ad Information and About Advertising and Privacy buttons to learn more about what Apple does with ads.
So if you’ve been seeing repeated requests for permission after you upgraded to Mojave, now you know why these dialogs keep popping up. They’re a bit annoying at first, but the added privacy is worthwhile, and once you’ve granted permission to an app, you shouldn’t hear from it again.
The Mac’s Dock gives you quick access to frequently used apps, documents, and folders, and makes it easy to switch to a running app. In macOS 10.14 Mojave, the Dock has another feature: a list of apps you’ve used recently that aren’t on your default Dock. Icons for these apps appear between your Dock’s default apps and any documents or folders that you’ve added—look closely and you’ll notice subtle lines in the Dock that delineate this area. It always holds at least three apps, but expands to hold as many launched apps (note the subtle dot under the icon) as necessary; as you quit apps, their icons disappear until you’re back down to three. If you don’t like this change, turn off “Show recent applications in Dock” in System Preferences > Dock.