diglloyd Mac Performance Guide

Up to 8TB of Thunderbolt Storage!

SSDStorageMemory

A Pseudo-Security Trend: Password Reset and Locked Accounts

Last Friday, I was locked out of one of my email accounts by the provider because of “too many failed login attempts”.

None of which I made—it was someone trying to hack my account. I was told that this is a new “security feature”. But I have a good password, and I don’t want to be locked out of my account at any time.

In my case, I had to wait all weekend for a password reset, since this particular organization was closed on weekends. This pretty much makes this email provider useless for anything but trivial stuff; the account could be locked at any time.

What such security features really do is to play into the hands of hackers, allowing trivially easy denial of service attacks. Denial of service attacks are typically in the context of web sites (overwhelming a site), but can be applied to email or any kind of login account on a web site. For example:

  1. Dig up 100 million email addresses (many ways to do this).
  2. Fake login attempts N+1 times, where N is the cutoff for locking the account. Starting Friday night of course, so customer support staff are thinned out.
  3. Sit back and laugh as 100 million users find themselves locked out of their email, if only for a day or two.
  4. Repeat each day (hey, bot nets are cheap).

Variations include targeting specific providers. Web sites that lock accounts this way are in essence implementing denial of service support for hackers.

There are many other ways to approach this, other than this crude bludgeon. For starters, allowing the user to decline this behavior (perhaps requiring an especially strong password), an option to notify a user about activity, additional prompts if a login occurs after failures, two factor authentication including apps like Authy, etc.

Corollary — nuisance messsages from “password reset” dialogs

Apple provides an iForgot.apple.com site to reset a password. It’s an ongoing headache for me, since Apple kicks me over there if I type my password wrong just twice (which I do sometimes do if my hands are stiff and cold). Very annoying behavior. But 1Password eliminates that issue for me now. Except not in iTunes or the AppStore, where 1Password doesn’t apply. So it still gets me on a regular basis.

That is relatively minor. The bigger headache is the regular recept of this message below, which is some hacker-generated thing (not me). And sometimes this is followed or preceded by an Apple “account locked” email, similar to that discussed above. Ditto for my Apple Developer account, which generally locks me out every month or so.

Nuisance email

2-factor authentication

Apple has a 2-step authentication approach for purchases, but it’s unclear if it has been applied the idea to the above nuisance factors. Now enabled, MPG will soon see.

Apple 2-step verification security
Apple 2-step verification security enabled

OS X Yosemite Update (10.1): Regularly Deletes the AppleMail VIP List

Last week I wrote that OS X Yosemite had deleted my Apple Mail VIP list AGAIN.

Well, it’s now gone yet again showing that Apple Mail in Yosemite deletes the VIP for whatever reason, and that it’s not an update issue but a general bug.

The deletion renders the feature useless, because the list just disappears for no apparent reason.

RAID-0 vs RAID-4 or RAID-5: Does the CPU Usage Matter?

One reader expressed concern that the CPU usage required for parity calculations during writes would chew up too much CPU power. This concern is put to rest in this analysis:

CPU Usage for RAID-0 vs RAID-4 or RAID -5

Throughput of hashing speed with IntegrityChecker, RAID-0 vs RAID-4 SSDs
Throughput of hashing speed with IntegrityChecker, RAID-0 vs RAID-4 SSDs
~130% CPU Usage for RAID-4 or RAID-5 during intensive write  (during disktester fill-volume test)
~130% CPU Usage for RAID-4 or RAID-5 during intensive write
(during disktester fill-volume test)

RAID-5 vs RAID-4: Which is Faster?

RAID-4 is striping with a dedicated parity drive
RAID-5 is striping with distributed parity

Interesting finding in favor of RAID-4 for read speed.

RAID-5 vs RAID-4 with SSDs

OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, RAID-4 vs RAID-5 for varying transfer size
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, RAID-4 vs RAID-5 for varying transfer size

RAID: Performance vs Transfer Size

Stripe size is typically 64K, which means that the data is split across drives in 64K chunks. It could be 32K or 16K or 128K and so on; minor efficiencies can be had by choosing for specific types of access.

RAID-0 striping and RAID-5 striping with parity offer much higher performance than with a single drive under the right conditions.

Peak RAID performance is realized only when the I/O transfer size is substantially larger than stripe size, which allows the multiple drives in a RAID to operate in parallel (simultaneously). This is where the speed gains of RAID striping variants come from.

For example, with a stripe size of 64K, reading 256K of data allows 4 drives to each read 64K in parallel (assuming best-case alignment at 256K boundaries, but this is often not the case). Doubling that to 512K ensures higher efficiency, but even with 1MB transfers, peak performance is still only about 65% of peak peformance for RAID-0, as the graph shows.

Since many programs read/write in relatively small chunks, the full performance potential of RAID is often unrealized for real-world applications.

As a user, there is generally nothing you can do about this; it’s the application making the decision. For example, Photoshop uses ~ 1MB chunks for reading and writing its scratch disk, an anachronism that Adobe really ought to fix: observe on the graph below that 1MB I/O size yields much less than the peak performance. It is why a single very fast SSD can perform so well even relative to a RAID, see Thunderbay Mini with SSDs as a Photoshop Scratch Disk.

Shown below are two graphs, one for RAID-0 and one for RAID-5. Click through for article and then click the graphs for a much larger view.

Transfer speed vs transfer size , RAID-0 (SoftRAID 5.0.5)
Transfer speed vs transfer size , RAID-0 (SoftRAID 5.0.5)
Transfer speed vs transfer size , RAID-5 (SoftRAID 5.0.5)
Transfer speed vs transfer size , RAID-5 (SoftRAID 5.0.5)

Any Kind of RAID is Easy with SoftRAID

See also Software RAID Performance with SoftRAID 5 as well as recent tests of the OWC Thunderbay Mini using SoftRAID.

SoftRAID makes creating RAID easy: just select the drives, choose the desired total capacity, click—done. No need to think about partitioning or other nerd stuff.

See Initializing with New Drives page in my review of the OWC Thunderbay Mini for some examples.

If the drives are brand-new and thus never formatted, first select the drive(s) and then choose Disk => Initialize.

Shown below is how easy it is:

  1. Select the 4 drives, then Volume -=> New.
  2. Choose the type of RAID you’d like (RAID-5 is ideal with 4 drives), enter the desired volume size (this is the way to make more than one volume without having to think about partitioning).
  3. Cick Create.
Creating a RAID-5 volume in SoftRAID 5
Creating a RAID-5 volume in SoftRAID 5

diglloydTools Updated to version 2.2.9

diglloydTools

diglloydTools has been updated to version 2.2.9. Download page.

Purchase diglloydTools.

  • Modified default transfer size for various commands to a larger value (128MB) which is more in line with the hyper fast SSDs available today.
  • Fixed bug in which reported MB/sec was too high when using double async buffers in fill-volume with very fast SSDs.
  • Removed verify option from read-files and fill-volume; this is properly handled by test-reliability, and verification causes certain measurement difficulties with very fast SSDs. The double async buffer case is now a very tight loop and shows more consistent MB/sec readings.
  • Fixed erroneous MB/sec and time in sequential testing (intermediate message during testing).
  • Standard deviation is now reported with some test results.

Some of the capabilities in diglloydTools

Aside from testing hard drive or SSD or RAID performance and reliability with DiskTester, data integrity with IntegrityChecker is a must-have workflow tool for anyone with important data:

diglloydTools graphing template
diglloydTools graphing template

Email Notifications for Site Updates

An email notification service is in place for subscribers at diglloyd.com . At this time the list is only for subscribers (that includes diglloydTools).

Email updates are for diglloyd.com and/or MacPerformanceGuide.com and/or WindInMyFace.com. Each site gets its own email, so if all three sites change on any given day, you’d receive three emails, one per site (weekly choice would be one per week).

Specify: diglloyd and/or mac and/or wind. Details...

The list is opt-in, meaning that unless you ask to be put onto the list, you will not get email notifications of site updates. You can choose daily or weekly updates.

What an Impaired SSD Looks Like

This SSD below had seen some use. The red line for writes was its performance as I began testing it: very poor performance dropping to a stunningly low 30 MB/sec.

The orange line is following DiskTester recondition (DiskTester is part of diglloydTools).

Some SSDs benefit, and some do not but at least in this case, performance has held up since, at about 6X the speed of the impaired starting behavior.

Generally speaking, read speeds are unaffected and remain high, but it is write speeds that suffer when an SSD is ailing. And in general, one should be cautious about making regular backups when an SSD starts to behave like this.

Click for large graph. The graph shows writing and reading the entire drive capacity (MB/sec, 1000 large files to fill), before and after recondition.

Before and after DiskTester recondition on impaired SSD
Before and after DiskTester recondition on impaired SSD

SoftRAID 5.0.5 Released

See also Software RAID Performance with SoftRAID 5 as well as recent tests of the OWC Thunderbay Mini using SoftRAID.

A few of the release notes in SoftRAID 5.0.5 are interesting:

  • Your Mac may hang at shutdown if your remove a SoftRAID disk while your Mac is running. This bug only occurs if the disk is connected via SATA (or SATA over Thunderbolt) and you are running Mac OS X 10.9 or 10.10. We have tracked it down to a problem with the Apple SATA driver and are currently working with Apple engineers on a fix.
  • RAID volumes on USB disks are unreliable. We believe this is due to bugs in Apple USB driver and are currently working with Apple engineers on a fix.
  • There is an incompatibility between VMWare Fusion and SoftRAID volumes. We are currently investigating this
  • The SoftRAID driver now logs any illegal requests it receives for SoftRAID volumes. Log entries are written to the softraid.log file. This logging was added to help investigate bugs in other applications.!
  • Added code to detect modification of the SoftRAID application and driver. Users who run MacKeeper were unable to mount SoftRAID volumes when running Yosemite, Mac OS X 10.10. This was the result of MacKeeper modifying the code in the SoftRAID application and driver. This version of SoftRAID detects these modifications and tells !the user to download a new copy of SoftRAID.

MPG: Stick to Thunderbolt for RAID (or internal drives or SATA or miniSAS on older Macs).

OS X Yosemite Finder File Copy: Data Loss

MPG has never trusted Finder file copy across a network, having observed failures to copy changed items, as well as total-death system lockups more than once in past OS X releases.

Today I observed the OS X Finder copy a file to my other machine, delivering a zero-byte result after a short pause: no report of error and the normal sound played at the end of the copy. In short, total data loss (of the copy) with no warning whatsoever. Fortunately I had the original but had a move been done (by holding down the command key while dragging), the file would have been lost.

Such inexcusable bugs* are a good reason to use IntegrityChecker after a network copy operation, or after any important data transfer.

This was using WiFi; MPG normally uses only gigabit ethernet, but the MBP is short one Thunderbolt port while testing, until the OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock arrives.

* Network failures with WiFi are not uncommon; any file copying algorithm has to assume that a failure could occur, and report the error!

OWC ThunderBay Mini Performance with Four SSDs

Thunderbay Mini sales page at OWC.

Configured with 4 SSDs, the OWC Thunderbay Mini outruns even the lightning-fast 1TB SSD in the MacBook Pro Retina.

Thunderbay Mini with SSDs as a Photoshop Scratch Disk

OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: Photoshop scratch disk vs MacBook Pro Retina 1TB internal SSD
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: Photoshop scratch disk vs MacBook Pro Retina 1TB internal SSD

OWC ThunderBay Mini Performance with Four SSDs

Thunderbay Mini sales page at OWC.

The OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini is a very fast little box with four SSDs.

OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, aggregate throughput
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, aggregate throughput
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, transfer speed vs transfer size
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, transfer speed vs transfer size
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, large transfers with RAID-0, RAID-5, RAID 1+0
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, large transfers with RAID-0, RAID-5, RAID 1+0

OS X Yosemite: Problems From “system cleanup” Software

MPG has a strong distaste for “system cleanup” software. Here’s a specific case where problems occur, but it is not the only ill that can result. Avoid such “system maintainance” or similar software.

When Apple started shipping Yosemite, we started getting complaints from customers that they couldn't use SoftRAID volumes. We would ask them to reinstall the SoftRAID driver and use other similar tricks, but still the volumes would not mount. After a couple of days of investigation, we discovered that the SoftRAID driver was getting modified.

Yosemite increases the security of Mac OS X by always checking the validity of drivers, any drivers which have been modified will not load. The question was how was our driver getting modified.

We went back to our users and asked them what utility software they had installed. Out of the 6 users who first encountered this problem, all 6 had MacKeeper installed. We asked them to uninstall MacKeeper and download a fresh copy of SoftRAID from our web site. Then we asked them to reinstall the driver using the newly downloaded copy of SoftRAID. After that, all of them were able to mount their SoftRAID volumes.

MPG: MacKeeper was deleting the 32-bit portion of the binary to save space. But that portion is also digitally signed. So the signature check fails, and OS X Yosemite refuses to load the kext.

Any software messing with things like kernel extensions should be taken out to the woodshed. Keep your system lean and clean to avoid problems: install only the things that are absolutely essential.

OS X Yosemite: Update the SoftRAID Driver

MPG thinks that Apple code quality and quality assurance in OS X are both in a downtrend (and apparently accelerating), but it’s particularly worrisome when software is whacked at the kext level.

According to Tim Standing of SoftRAID, OS Yosemite installation corrupts SoftRAID by writing over a more current driver (version 5.0.3 is written over version 5.0.4, a bug report has been filed). No harm done, but run the SoftRAID app to update the driver back to the most recent version.

Once our customers started upgrading to the latest version of Yosemite, 10.10.1, some of them started having problems. Their SoftRAID volumes would no longer appear on the desktop. We started investigating this after today.

After repeating the upgrade process from 10.10 to 10.10.1 ten times in our lab, we found that Apple's update software modifies the SoftRAID driver about half the time. Once the SoftRAID driver gets modified, the Yosemite system software will no longer load it. This leaves customers wondering what went wrong.

The solution is to use the SoftRAID application to reinstall the SoftRAID driver.

Run SoftRAID.app to update the driver after OS X Yosemite installation

OS X Yosemite: TRIM

MPG spoke with driver expert Tim Standing of SoftRAID today about TRIM for SSDs and OS X Yosemite, to better understand the issue.

Online reports are that OS X Yosemite no longer supports TRIM for non-Apple SSDs. This is true.

Furthermore, use of a tool that enables TRIM on an SSD causes the system to become non-bootable, because Yosemite sees that a key 'kext' has been modified.

Users who have not upgraded to Yosemite that have used a TRIM-enable tool should be aware of this, and revert before upgrading to Yosemite.

MPG has not recommended SSDs that need TRIM for various reasons, but this is the latest development that really makes such SSDs unpalatable. OWC SSDs do not need TRIM, and MPG has been running them for years, thus avoiding the issue entirely.

Checking whether TRIM is enabled

Choose Apple menu => About This Mac => System Report

Check for TRIM enabled: About This Mac => System Report
Check for TRIM enabled: About This Mac => System Report

4K Televisions Plummet in Price

My jaw dropped when I some of the discounts being offered on 4K televisions.

The iMac 5K is pretty darn nice for its screen, but the iMac 5K is $2500, and not a TV and doesn’t work for high quality streaming from Netflix or Amazon. Yet a 4K TV is stunning for cameras like the Panasonic GH4 and/or 4K streaming from Netflix.

Amazon also has 4K Sony TVs and 4K Samsung TVs at blowout prices.

For example, Sony XBR55X850B 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD for $1598.

OS X Yosemite: Disable WiFi if Using Gigabit Ethernet

Many users find WiFi convenient (of course!). And it’s essential for iPhone and iPad and many televisions (streaming), etc.

But for computers, MPG strongly recommends gigabit ethernet instead of WiFi. WiFi at its best is inferior to gigabit ethernet, flaky from various types of interference, less secure, and comes with high latency that results in (for example) excruciatingly slow file copies, particularly for many small files.

Multiple computers on gigabit ethernet reno problem; wire them into a good WiFi router with multiple gigabit ethernet ports, and add an inexpensive ethernet switch for more ports.

Mark A writes:

Under Mavericks, I had ethernet priority over WiFi and Yosemite reset it without warning to favor WiFi.

So I was experiencing issues while the cable was plugged in and took me a while to realize the traffic wasn't wired as I'd set it and I didn't think to double check after an O/S upgrade.

MPG: Mark is correct, which I have confirmed by turning on WiFi, observing poor speeds rebooting, and continuing to observe poor speeds: WiFi is taking precedence over gigabit ethernet; it’s about 10X slower to load a graphics-intensive web page.

If you’re short on Thunderbolt ports (for a Thunderbolt to ethernet adapter), this is a good reason to get the OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock.

Disable WiFi when using Ethernet
Disable WiFi when using Ethernet

Yosemite

Yosemite is a point of confusion.

It’s one of my favorite haunts as a photographer: every email I get with “Yosemite” in the subject makes me think of the place, not the OS.

Glacial Blue, Winter’s Icy Hint  Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ f/1.4
Glacial Blue, Winter’s Icy Hint
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ f/1.4

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock with 5 USB3 Ports (2 High Power), Gigabit Ethernet, Audio, HDMI, Daisy-Chainable

Especially for iMac and laptop and MacMini users (limited ports), the new OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock at $249 looks terrific.

MPG expects to have one for review: it’s been a nuisance having to plug and unplug gigabit ethernet to test certain things.

More info on the OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Laptop users will find one especially useful for a home docking station because all these ports are gained, and yet there are still two free Thunderbolt 2 ports. For example:

Ports on a Laptop
  Laptop alone With Thunderbolt 2 Dock
USB 3 ports 2 7
USB 3 high power ports 2 of 2 4 of 7
Thunderbolt 2 ports 2 2
Firewire with Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter
(uses Thunderbolt port)
1
Gigabit ethernet with Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter
(uses Thunderbolt port)
1
HDMI possible with adapter
(uses Thunderbolt port)
1
Sound varies additional sound in and out
Digital camera card reader SDXC reader built-in on some models Plusin a fast USB3 card reader
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock, specifications
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock, specifications
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock, specifications
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock, specifications

OS X Yosemite Deletes Java / JDK, but Photoshop Needs It

OS X Yosemite deletes an installed java, which MPG uses for writing server code and various other tasks. Not a very nice behavior at all.

The problem is, some parts of Photoshop (some types of scripting) require java.

JDK 1.6 for OS X (works OK on 10.10)

Java 8 for OS X 10.10

See also Information and system requirements for installing and using Oracle Java on Mac OS X and How can I find which version of Java is installed without running an applet in Windows or Mac?.

The whole thing is a mess in terms of transition: JDK 1.6 goes into the right directories and shows up on the command line but JDK 1.8 does not, and does not have the familiar directory structure, breaking scripts and builds (no doubt solvable but very confusing and annoying). MPG needs 1.6 for development purposes so it works out for now. Photoshop users should be fine either way.

Other tips:

  • Disable java in web browsers (strongly recommended).
  • Do NOT disable javascript in web browsers (entirely different thing from java).

OS X Yosemite Update (10.1): Destroys Apple Mail VIP List Again

Last week I wrote that OS X Yosemite had deleted my Apple Mail VIP list, a finding confirmed by others.

Today’s 10.1 update nuked it again.

And 10.1 does not fix the severe file open dialog performance issues.

On the plus side, Apple did not delete my JVM this time. At least there is one thing that did not go wrong.

Sean S writes:

Mavericks also deleted my Stars List - however, there is a small heading above the Mailboxes and just below the toolbar that shows the word VIPs - clicking on that restored my VIP list on the side. Hope it works for you, tho’ too easy I suspect.

MPG: this small text button is grayed-out and inoperable on my system, indicating that there are no email addresses in the email VIP list.

To hazard a guess, I’d bet this is related to the Cloud (dust storm?) I don’t sync my Contacts to the Cloud and I don’t want to, but everyone at Apple is euphorically titillated with the platform lock-in potential of the cloud. But MPG considers it a general security menace.

OWC Announces ThunderBay Mini: 4-bay Enclosure for 2.5-inch Drives, Thunderbolt v2

See previous comments on the Thunderbay Mini. MPG expects to have both SSD and HDD versions of the Thunderbay Mini in this week for testing.

Thunderbay Mini sales page at OWC.

OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD
OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD

Our External of the Year Just Went Portable with the ThunderBay 4 Mini, Delivering Big Performance in a Small Footprint – Now up to 8TB with Sustained Speeds of up to 1,284MB/s!

Woodstock, IL – November 17, 2014 – Other World Computing (OWC®) http://www.macsales.com, a leading zero emissions Mac upgrade and storage technology company, announced today the release of the innovative ThunderBay 4 mini and ThunderBay 4 mini RAID 5 Edition, which builds on the proven performance and flexibility of its second generation ThunderBay 4.

Big Performance. Small Footprint.
Easily transport your data between production environments with this portable, professional-grade Thunderbolt 2 RAID solution. Optimized for 2.5” drives, the ThunderBay 4 mini delivers outstanding performance and reliability for the most demanding applications, including workflows involving 4K, 2K, uncompressed HD, and multi-stream SD video. Expand production capabilities in industry-leading creative platforms like Final Cut X, Avid Pro Tools, and Adobe Lightroom.

Key Features:

• Four 2.5” drive bays, perfect for SSDs
• Breathtaking Thunderbolt 2 performance with sustained speeds of up to 1,284MB/s
• RAID-ready with up to 4TB of SSD storage (HDD up to 8TB)
• Near-silent operation
• SoftRAID 5 – first ever software RAID 5 for the Mac (available with ThunderBay 4 mini RAID 5 Edition)
• Flexibility to combine multiple ThunderBays into a single massive RAID array
• Regimented multi-hour drive “burn-in” for ultimate reliability

Thinking Outside the Enclosure

OWC unlocks the incredible performance and flexibility of ThunderBay by pairing the drives with a robust software RAID solution.

Powered by the SoftRAID engine, ThunderBay 4 mini RAID 5 Edition delivers advanced RAID modes, real-time health monitoring with email notifications, and best-in-class rebuild speeds.

Unlike traditional software RAID solutions, SoftRAID’s revolutionary volume optimization allows you to quickly configure your drive for specific workflows. Now you can experience the absolute best performance whether recording audio, editing 4K video, or creating a multimedia server.

“Our new ThunderBay 4 mini is perfect for mobile workflows involving demanding applications and large mission-critical files,” said Jen Soulé, OWC President. “The combination of RAID-ready capabilities and Thunderbolt 2 technology makes working with large 2K and 4K files easier, faster, and more flexible and affordable than ever before. Now users can get big performance in a small footprint – all in a portable, production-grade 4-Bay enclosure.”

The RAID 5 Advantage

Thunderbay 4 mini RAID 5 Edition is preconfigured in RAID 5 and supports RAID 0, 1, 4, 5, and 1+0 enabling you to achieve the optimal balance of storage, performance, and data-redundancy your workflow demands. With RAID 5, the four drives inside ThunderBay 4 mini are merged for increased capacity and tremendous performance gains over a single drive.

Special redundancy data, called “parity information,” is also stored across the drives, allowing your data to remain completely safe so you can maintain your mission-critical workflows worry-free.

Burn in

Each ThunderBay 4 mini undergoes OWC’s regimented multi-hour drive “burn-in” to ensure you experience the amazing performance of your drive right out of the box.

Includes:
- ThunderBay 4 mini external drive
- 1 meter, certified, Thunderbolt cable and set of keys for front panel lock
- User guide and utility software bundle (Mac and PC)

Pricing and Availability:

OWC’s ThunderBay 4 mini and ThunderBay 4 mini RAID 5 Edition are available for immediate ordering in the following configurations:

OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD
OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD

SSDs Are Not Created Equal

MPG regularly receives emails of “what about SSD Brand X”, often because specifications of some new variant impressed, or the price is $10 lower, or whatever. This is not the way any professional or serious user looking for reliable long-term use should select gear. It is why MPG recommends only gear tested and shown to work reliably here at MPG. Top recommendations go to gear that has shown solid service under heavy duty.

Many users presume an SSD is an SSD, assuming that all SSDs are pretty much the same. Which they sort of are, for light duty use and where performance over time doesn’t matter much.

But brands vary in media life management and more over provisioning. For example, a 250GB SSD has 256GB of flash memory, and a 240GB SSD has 256GB of flash memory. Think about that— one SSD has 6GB of spare flash, and another has 16GB of spare flash. And flash memory blocks fail over time. Connect the dots.

All SSDs can fail for various reasons. All one can do is play the odds. And if the ultimate in reliability is needed, enterprise-grade SSDs are the (pricey) ticket, though overkill for most all users.

Shown below is one brand that in a few days of testing showed a drop in media life from 39% to 31%, and had some severe write speed problems also (disktester recondition made a *huge* improvement). Note also that “hours of use” is a modest 191 hours.

Screen shot from SoftRAID 5.

Rapid loss of media life in common-brand SSD
Rapid loss of media life in common-brand SSD

After only 14 hours more steady usage (disktester test-reliability), look what has happened to the media life: it has declined from 31% to 28%, literally overnight.

Rapid loss of media life in common-brand SSD
Rapid loss of media life in common-brand SSD

Get a Mac Pro Workhorse, Cheap

Half the price of a bare bones 2013 Mac Pro, the 2009 Mac Pro remains a solid workhorse.

Upgrade the CPU or add up to four internal hard drives in the drives bays or add up to three PCIe cards.

2.93 GHz Mac Pro for $1499

6-core 3.33 GHz Mac Pro from $1159 <==== 6 cores at 3.33 GHz

Other used Macs

Mac Pro workhorse system
Mac Pro workhorse system

OWC Offers Thunderbay Mini, Thunderbolt v2 Enclosure for 2.5-Inch SSDs or Hard Drives (4 bays)

The OWC Thunderbay 4 has become MPG’s all time favorite external storage.

OWC is now offering the Thunderbay Mini, a 4-bay enclosure for 2.5-inch drives (SSDs or hard drives). The smaller unit is attractive for portability and/or for installing solid state drives (SSDs) in a compact form factor. MPG will have SSD and HDD units for testing soon.

For example, a 4TB OWC Thunderbay Mini, using 4 X 1TB SSDs. While there are Thunderbolt 2 external SSDs that can max-out the bus, the 4TB capacity with a RAID-5 option (3TB usable capacity in RAID 5) adds fault tolerance to speed, a big plus for those who want to minimize the risks of any drive failure for critical work. But if needs change, one can switch at will, since the RAID is software RAID-5.

Or it can be run for maximum speed and capacity as RAID-0 stripe (4TB capacity) or a mirrored solution, or individual drives/volumes—see SoftRAID 5.

The Thunderbay Mini can also be outfitted with 2.5-inch hard drives, which allows up to an 8TB Thunderbay Mini (6TB as a RAID-5 solution).

MPG recommends the RAID-5 edition, because it includes SoftRAID 5, and one can then pick and choose whatever RAID or non-RAID one wishes.

OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD
OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD

iPhone / iPad: New Security Risks Emerge

Everyone, and perhaps especially parents with kids having iOS devices:

U.S. Government Warns iOS Users About 'Masque Attack' Vulnerability

According to Reuters:

Such attacks could be avoided if iPad and iPhone users only installed apps from Apple's App Store or from their own organizations, it said.

Hopefully Apple will take action quickly on this one and Wire Lurker.

Personally, I’d like features in iOS and OS X that shut off big chunks of junk (to me) that I never use. More features = more security holes, an age-old story that only gets worse as operating systems become more complex.

OS X Yosemite Deletes VIP list in Apple Mail

I had curated a just-right VIP list in Apple Mail with about 30 entries.

OS X 10.10 Yosemite destroyed that list—it’s gone, wiped out. As I seem to recall, OS X 10.9 Mavericks did the same thing.

MPG doesn’t know if this is a common problem.

Gary Q writes:

I also lost my VIP list. Just. Wonderful. I am also finding Mail to be hanging a lot and having to force-quit it very often. Never had issues like this before.

MPG: I suspect a general bug. I use the feature as designed; it ought to work across upgrades. I also have been seeing more Mail hangs that require force-quit.

Arne D writes :

This also happened to me, my VIP list disappeared. However, the 'stars' were still next to the names of mails from VIPs in the mail list. I Selected one of those mails and clicked the star twice (first un-VIP then VIP again). After this it showed the VIP list again, with the original VIPs still there.

MPG: MPG uses “classic layout” and no stars are visible in the mail list. Switching that layout style off, the stars show, but only for the new 2 or 3 now re-added / re-done. So the old list is apparently toast.

diglloydTools Updated to version 2.2.8

diglloydTools

diglloydTools has been updated to version 2.2.8. Download page.

Update: minor bug in the "dual" and "triple" patterns for test-reliability; fixed in 2.2.8a.

The DiskTester test-reliability command has been enhanced; see the diglloydTools release notes.

Purchase diglloydTools.

Some of the capabilities in diglloydTools

Aside from testing hard drive or SSD or RAID performance and reliability with DiskTester, data integrity with IntegrityChecker is a must-have workflow tool for anyone with important data:

diglloydTools graphing template
diglloydTools graphing template

Configuring and Backing Up High Capacity Multi-Drive Storage

I’m not entirely satisfied with my treatment of this complex topic, but I wanted to capture some points that keep coming up over and over.

Backing up High Capacity Storage: Partitioning for Practical Backup

Professionals and serious users might wish to consult with MPG on the best approach for their own particular workflow.

4K Video on 2010/2012 Mac Pro?

Will R writes:

I love the site and your exhaustive reviews!

I can’t find an answer to this question and wonder if I haven’t looked in the right place. If I wanted to buy one of the NEC or Dell wide-gamut 4K monitors, AND wanted to purchase a pre-2013 Mac Pro … did any of them come with GPUs that could support 4k? If not, do you have any recommendations?

MPG: Please consider buying stuff through ads on this site or at diglloyd.com, or subscribing to diglloyd publications, thank you—this helps.

Regarding 4K video on a 2010/2012 Mac Pro—several things are at issue:

  • Apple does not offer any video card with support, so it would have to be an aftermarket card. There are a few, but none are properly supported for Macs.
  • The issue is not the GPU but the connector and display bus, which would have to support the 4K video standards, e.g. Mini DisplayPort meeting the same specs as on the latest Macs.
  • Compatibility and reliability are concerns (display drivers). There are cards which “work” in a Mac Pro, but even Apple’s own GPU support has had serious bugs (witness the 2013 Mac Pro crash bugs in Photoshop, which were the result of driver bugs).

In general, MPG is reluctant to recommend any retrofit solution for these reasons.

Glenn K writes:

I have spent the last two days diagnosing Photoshop CC 2014 problems on two of my Dell Precision workstations. Turns out the problem is incompatibilities with AMD graphics card drivers.

The web is full of threads discussing BEX64 errors involving Adobe software and AMD drivers. I don't know which of Adobe or AMD is more at fault, but it is clearly a trans-Apple problem.

MPG believes it mainly related to the AMD drivers, regardless of platform (AMD chips were/are in the 2013 Mac Pro, and MPG worked with AMD and Adobe on the inital round of crash bugs, Adobe actually had to un-release support for GPU sharpening in Feb 2014!). But bugs are found in all software, who can say for sure except the involved parties. But “whose fault” is irrelevant to end users in the end.

GPU value in general

MPG is in general is not a fan of GPU technology unless and only if a specific task is proven to benefit from it (such tasks are few and far between in mainstream computing, games and eye candy user interface aside). And it has to be rock solid, and free of problematic display bugs. Such real-world considerations are never tested in benchmarks, yet they are critical to getting work done. So invest in a “faster” GPU if and only if there is solid evidence of value and reliability for your own work. Or to dispel the buyer’s remorse factor?!

To this day, very little software uses the dual GPUs in the 2013 Mac Pro effectively; one need only compare the disappointing performance of the dual GPU 2013 Mac Pro to an iMac. A year after introduction, the dual GPU approach of the 2013 Mac Pro is a practical failure in terms of performance delivered with real software, especially when set against the value of a 2nd CPU and/or 2nd internal SSD. Rather, the GPU has become a technology in search of a problem to solve, perhaps so as to degrade the user interface (even as it enhances other user interface elements). Practically speaking, the main value of the GPU for most users is to support screen scaling and basic drawing operations with 4K and 5K displays (the huge number of pixels to shovel around).

A GPU can shine only with highly efficient and robust graphics drivers, and at least on the Mac that has never been the case (ever). Taking just one example, Mac graphics drivers have long been inferior for game performance. Moreover, more straightforward technologies useful for professionals go unimplemented in graphics drivers: Mac users still live with 8-bit color, instead of 10-bit. But that’s up to Apple to deliver, and not a GPU issue per se.

Selling that Computer? Wipe Out Personal Files First

diglloydTools

The iMac 5K has gone back to Apple (see comments on why it’s a fine machine but just not for me). See also the review of the iMac 5K.

Having copied over my stuff including mail and source code and various, I didn’t really like the idea of just emptying the trash, so I wanted a fast and efficient way to overwrite my files.

Enter the wipe command command in diglloydTools, which wipes files efficiently without any need to erase the drive. The command also wipes out metadata in the file system catalog as well as renaming each file to a random long gibberish name, before finally deleting it. Double confirmation is needed before any files are actually wiped.

NOTE: the wipe and wipeFree commands are available in Terminal (command line) only at present (advanced users).

  • A full erase/wipe is always better if the drive is to be sold, but this is not viable or convenient when/if the drive is in active and continued use. (Very high security requirements would require physical destruction of the drive, or at the least, a complete erase and block-level wipe by booting off another drive).
  • Since wiping files on an SSD doesn’t really wipe those actual blocks, I followed the wipe-files command with the dgl wipeFree command, letting it erase all free space down to the last free byte. Then I repeated; with most of the drive unused, this effectively cycles through all blocks on the SSD.

The wipe command also supports an easy to use convenience feature: appending the suffix -wipeMe to any file or folder tags it for wiping (“dgl wipe”). All local volumes are scanned for such files in highly efficient fashion, making it convenient to mark many items for wiping, then do it in one invocation.

Other users for wiping free space

As it turns out, my most frequent use of the wipeFree command is to wipe free space on Disk Utility disk images so that they compress down to the smallest possible size (e.g. when I zip compress one for downloading).

See also

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: Create Multi-Resolution Image Series

More than any other test is the most “real world” relevant test possible for your author’s work in Photoshop. And the iMac wins in spite of its slower SSD.

iMac 5K vs Mac Pro: Make Multi Resolution Image Series

Create multi-resolution image series iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
Create multi-resolution image series
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

When the iPhone and Three Nearby Computers all Ring for a Phone Call, and is this a Privacy Issue?

With OS X Yosemite, three (3) computers and the iPhone were all ringing at once for incoming calls—and the computers keep ringing after answering the phone for a short time, which interrupted the conversation to start. This intrusive and unwanted behavior is new.

There is a way to fix it, but this begs the question: why should a user have to go fix something that used to work fine, and to do something of that sort with every new Apple release? Perhaps when a company sells to untold millions, that is The Way It Will Be.

After turning off iPhone Cellular Calls on the phone and syncing the iPhone, the box remains checked on the computer, so apparently one has to go to each and every Mac and turn it off on each.

Disable iPhone cell phone calls from other devices
Disable iPhone cell phone calls from other devices

On the computer(s), open FaceTime preferences and disable this checkbox, like this:

Disable iPhone cell phone calls from other devices
Disable iPhone cell phone calls from other devices

Privacy

Consider the privacy implications of how FaceTime does this: just because a phone rings—does that mean your co-worker or whoever should be able to read on the computer screen who is calling? (that little green FaceTime badge that pops up). The computer might even be in another room (“nearby”).

It’s subtle, but a potential invasion of privacy, and no more appealing than the unwanted cloud storage of sensitive documents. There is a common presumptuousness that connects these two Apple implementations, and MPG does not think it is a good trend. It is in the same vein as that free album showing up in personal iTunes accounts a while ago, which irritated a lot of people, and rightly so.

The original Apple genius was in making simple tasks simple to accomplish. Now the trend is moving in the opposite direction: new and possibly unwanted functionality that increases the complexity of using the basics, and might violate privacy or security, but in ways that ordinary users are not likely to detect or comprehend. This design challenge is not going to go away, and will likely get worse.

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: PhaseOne CaptureOne Pro RAW to JPEG

In a stunning repudiation of Apple’s dual GPU strategy for the 2013 Mac Pro, the iMac 5K beats out the Mac Pro with D700 GPUs on not just Unigine Valley, but also PhaseOne CaptureOne Pro, one of the few programs that use both GPUs.

iMac 5K vs Mac Pro: Capture One Pro Raw to High Quality JPEG

Convert 128 Nikon D800 36MP NEF to High Quality JPEG (12) iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
Convert 128 Nikon D800 36MP NEF to High Quality JPEG (12)
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

Apple iCloud: Promiscous Saving for Security Lapses

See also The 'Cloud' is DEFINITELY a Huge and Tempting Target for Hackers.

MPG has repeatedly warned and advised against the Cloud for many reasons over the years (and as recently as Oct 22). But sometimes it’s just chicken-brain design with nary a thought to implications. Call it an emerging lack of respect perhaps.

So here’s yet another story of Apple doing insane things with security. How many users might jot a password or something sensitive into TextEdit (with no intention of saving that file), not realizing it all gets saved to the cloud (iCloud) anyway? See What is iCloud.

...

How one man’s private files ended up on Apple’s iCloud without his consent

After security researcher Jeffrey Paul upgraded the operating system on his MacBook Pro last week, he discovered that several of his personal files had found a new home – on the cloud. The computer had saved the files, which Paul thought resided only on his own encrypted hard drive, to a remote server Apple controlled.

“This is unacceptable,” thundered Paul, an American based in Berlin, on his personal blog a few days later. “Apple has taken local files on my computer not stored in iCloud and silently and without my permission uploaded them to their servers - across all applications, Apple and otherwise.”

He was not alone in either his frustration or surprise. Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew D. Green tweeted his dismay after realizing that some private notes had found their way to iCloud. Bruce Schneier, another prominent cryptography expert, wrote a blog post calling the automatic saving function “both dangerous and poorly documented” by Apple.

MPG: nice new home for “MyPasswords.numbers” spreadsheet? I don’t want any of my stuff in the Cloud—ever. The core rots. Security surprises suck. First, do no evil. That’s not a hard concept.

Disabling cloud save

Apple’s instructions for disabling the iCloud saving feature don’t work for me: I cannot find any “Documents and Data” item in the iCloud control panel:

Turn off Documents & Data: Choose Apple () menu > System Preferences, click iCloud, then deselect the Documents & Data checkbox. When you turn off Documents & Data, the iCloud Document Library no longer opens for any Mac apps that use Documents in the Cloud.

Presumably “Documents and Data” is now renamed to “iCloud Drive”; the date on Apple’s instructions (Aug 14 2014) pre-date the release of OS X Yosemite.

iCloud settings in OS X Yosemite
iCloud settings in OS X Yosemite

iMac 5K: Content Lacking

MPG has no time for watching TV or movies really, but once in a while it would be nice to pull up a 4K stream and relax. Except that Netflix.com doesn’t offer any 4K streaming to a Mac, iMac or otherwise.

Sure, there’s Vimeo and YouTube for some home-made stuff, but until Netflix and Amazon Video offer 4K streaming to computers (not just specific televisions), it undermines part of the appeal of 4K and 5K displays. Why should a computer with a 27-inch 5K display be deprived of a good movie? That gorgeous display needs gorgeous high-res content to shine.

Verizon Tracking Users in Nefarious Way

Verizon is clearly out to compete with AT&T. Just not the competition I want.

Verizon Injecting Perma-Cookies to Track Mobile Customers, Bypassing Privacy Controls

Verizon Wireless has been silently modifying its users' web traffic on its network to inject a cookie-like tracker.

This tracker, included in an HTTP header called X-UIDH, is sent to every unencrypted website a Verizon customer visits from a mobile device. It allows third-party advertisers and websites to assemble a deep, permanent profile of visitors' web browsing habits without their consent.

Also unlike a cookie, Verizon's header is nearly invisible to the user and can't be seen or changed in the device's browser settings. If a user clears their cookies, the X-UIDH header remains unchanged.

This is an abusive violation of customer trust. A nationwide “quit Verizon” campaign resulting in customer loss seems very appropriate—and wow, this is a juicy opportunity for full page ads for a marketing “switch” campaign for a company like T-Mobile to take up.

It also seems like a great PR opportunity for the company that claims to take customer privacy to heart: Apple. Tim, you can stop this stuff, you have the clout. How does this kind of tracking dovetail with Apple Pay anyway?

Think about the real-time whereabouts tracking involved here with all that *unencrypted* web traffic: every time a web site is accessed, that cookie is there (the tracking doesn’t work with SSL/TLS apparently). What a juicy target for nationwide monitoring (and not just this country), built right into every Verizon user’s phone or whatever. WiFi packets sniffed over the air too—yikes.

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: More Benchmarks

Click each graph for more, and see all the review pages and comparisons.

The iMac outperforms an 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro with dual D700 GPUs in some ways: the “pro” in Mac Pro looks rather stale, particularly the GPU performance, even though the Mac Pro ekes out a win in most tests. Still, MPG prefers the Mac Pro for photography.

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: RAW to JPEG

iMac 5K vs Mac Pro, 36MP Raw to High Quality JPEG

Convert 128 Nikon D800 36MP NEF to High Quality JPEG (12) iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
Convert 128 Nikon D800 36MP NEF to High Quality JPEG (12)
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

OS X Yosemite Deletes VIP list in Apple Mail

I had curated a just-right VIP list in Apple Mail with about 30 entries.

OS X 10.10 Yosemite destroyed that list—it’s gone, wiped out. As I seem to recall, OS X 10.9 Mavericks did the same thing.

MPG doesn’t know if this is a common problem.

The iMac 5K Goes Back

The iMac 5K is going back. I love the screen, but in the end a full-spec iMac is around $4K + $400 for memory plus tax plus AppleCare plus external storage—we’re talking a $5K machine, at least. In that territory, the equation changes, at least for me.

Too much and not enough: a 4-core Mac Pro is a solid long term investment with 6 Thunderbolt ports on 3 busses, faster SSD, an upgradeable CPU, along with 2X or 4X the maximum memory. And the display is independent and can be truly calibrated.

The iMac 5K is just not for me, and I’d rather have my $4K+ back—the 2013 Mac Pro is my workhorse and the screen on the iMac is just not as big a plus as I thought. It’s very nice for viewing, but not really a good match for critical color work, and I’d rather have the NEC PA322UHD on my Mac Pro anyway (pro-grade with 1 delta-E color calibration).

Audio Storage Drive for a MacMini

Gene F writes:

I’m looking for good external storage for music in an audiophile system. I guess the main requirements are speed and quietness.

MPG: barring the need for fault tolerance (e.g., backups assumed), I’d go straight to connecting an OWC Mercury Elite Pro via USB3 to the MacMini. If needs are 2TB or less, then the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini is even smaller and quieter, and is bus powered too (one data cable does data and power).

Speed is a non-issue in terms of the drive itself: audio is a very low bitrate. Even video has low bitrates (BluRay is typically around 15 megabits and generally not more than 30, which is only 2-3 MB/sec, or about 2-3% of the speed of a slow hard drive). Specialty uses with uncompressed stuff might be higher, but then one had better have a gigabit ethernet connection for reliable performance (not WiFi).

Static Problems on Input/Output with Some Macs?

About a year ago, I gave up on using some headphones on my 2010 Mac Pro because of unacceptable static. At the time, I blamed it on the headphones, but maybe that was unfair to the headphones. Perhaps readers out there have some insight.

Kevin B writes:

I think Apple may have a serious hardware problem on its hands. I’m referring to the plethora of reports during the past several years with respect to audio static and the iMac. There are a number of other links, but this will suffice.

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5592063
https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4846997
https://discussions.apple.com/message/18626895#18626895

Whether we are talking about playback through external speakers, input through the internal mic, input through an external mic (which is how I use the iMac), etc., there are a number of reports on Apple Support pages (as well as Google) noting all of the problems people are experiencing with intermittent static.

Furthermore, people seem to be reporting the exact same thing with respect to Apple’s response: Apple denies that it knows anything about such static problems, that it has ever had reports of such static problems, and so forth; furthermore, it says the only way it can definitively know whether there is a problem with the iMac is for the individual owner to bring the iMac into an Apple Store and have the technicians test the iMac.

Unfortunately, there are a few reports of people who have done just this, only for the technicians to — of course — deny there is anything wrong with the particular machine.

I am one who is dealing with these exact issues. Our family has 2 iMacs: a 2009 model along with a 2013 iMac. We originally thought the problem was exclusive to the 2009 iMac. We were wrong. We get this brand-new 2013 iMac… And the exact same problem!

Both iMacs respond identically with respect to rather expensive Sennheiser microphones (ME-3, we have 2) connecting through a USB pod (Andrea USB pod, we also have 2 of these as well): there is a wealth of static after using the microphones only for a short period of time. (I use these microphones in association with voice recognition.)

I’ve also been in contact with Apple and have received the exact same response noted above. I have about 98% certainty that if I take this iMac into my only-somewhat-local (about 130 miles away) Apple Store I’m going to be informed that the iMac is performing perfectly. This, notwithstanding the fact that I only experience these problems when dictating with the iMac, not on a Windows machine we also own. There are never such static problems when using the Windows machine.

iMac 5K: Adding a 2nd Display (4K Display)

The iMac 5K can drive a second display, including a 4K Ultra HD display.

iMac 5K: Adding a 4K External Display

See also my thoughts on the LG Electronics 4K display and the NEC PA322UHD.

iMac 5K with NEC EA244UHD 4K display attached
iMac 5K with NEC EA244UHD 4K display attached
(OS X resolution on EA244UHD is erroneous, it is 3840 X 2160)

Photography is MPG’s Primary Work

One way to support the work here at MPG is to subscribe to any of the diglloyd photography publications. Thank you.

iMac 5K: Stressing the CPU and GPU

iMac 5K: Heat and Fan under Heavy CPU/GPU Usage

iMac 5K running 'mt stress' (MemoryTester)
iMac 5K running 'mt stress' (MemoryTester)

OS X Yosemite: Severe Performance Issues with File Open Dialog

UPDATE: sometimes I miss something obvious. John S wrote to ask if it affects all applications and in trying this, it seems to be a Adobe DreamWeaver problem (spaghetti code rife with bugs that never are fixed).

While all apps are sluggish to scroll (and this is new to Yosemite), DW has the 3-7 second drawing glitches described below and delays with heavy mds/mds_stores CPU usage. But why my laptop and iMac on the same folders do not show this behavior is unclear as yet. I dismounted most of my volumes, rebuilt the spotlight index, but this had no effect.

...

MPG continues to experience severe sluggishness in using the File Open dialog in OS X Yosemite. As yet, MPG has not found a workaround or deduced any root cause. It impedes work every single day. But on single-drive systems (MacBook Pro, iMac), the sluggish behavior does not occur—only on the 2013 Mac Pro workhorse.

BTW, drawing glitches with the GPU on or off now occur in Photoshop CC 2014 (latest version), which is a new problem in Yosemite also.

Without a doubt, it is a new badly-tested implementation involving Spotlight; listing files in a directory ought to take about 1/10 second, done right. But it is not done right: more Apple Core Rot.

mds CPU usage
Spotlight (mds):
4-5 seconds of
excessive CPU usage
  • 3-5 second delay in getting to point of being able to use the dialog: drawing glitch with heavy CPU usage followed by redraw followed by same, followed by redraw, then finally usable, but same behavior repeats if any sorting by column is done.
  • Not related to the number of files in the folder (which makes it even more ridiculous). A folder with few files is just as slow as one with hundreds.
  • Newly-created files do no appear for up to 20 seconds (this was a bug in OS X Mavericks also).
  • Occurs with images or HTML files (and others, not specific to a file type). Occurs in any sorted view (by name, by date, etc).
  • Occurs in icon view or list view, but not multi-level list view.
  • Scrolling and sorting by column invoke similar delays.
  • Drawing glitches (see below): blank-out, errant controls drawn in list areas, blank-out, list finally drawn.
  • Sorting by columns shows no indication of which column is chosen, and clicking on a column has the same 1-3 second delay in drawing the result.
  • Speed is a problem in list view or icon view. In icon view one can watch the generic icons draw (they don’t just appear in an instant as they shoudl), as if the system were reading each and every file.
  • Persists after logging out or rebooting.
  • On the fastest Mac Pro available today (3.3 GHz 8-core, 64GB, 1TB SSD, D700 GPUs). Occurs with fresh OS install.
  • Transparency turned off.

This more than anything is a really severe problem with OS X Yosemite; I use this dialog hundreds of times a day. Something is badly broken here.

It looks like Spotlight is involved, because every time I click on a folder, I see CPU usage in the 'mds' and 'mds_stores' processes spike. And with no disk I/O (probably all cached), so it looks to be a pure algorithmic bug in OS X Yosemite with no caching and with no regard for responsiveness to the user.

MPG suspects the performance issues run deeper, and are possibly associated with GPU usage, meaning many, many new bugs.

  Typical File Open dialog glitch in OS X Yosemite (happens twice in succession while drawing)
Typical File Open dialog glitch in OS X Yosemite
(happens twice in succession while drawing)
  Another drawing glitch in OS X Yosemite file open dialog
Another drawing glitch in OS X Yosemite file open dialog

Say

As a geek, I run shell scripts to do various things. But I was ignorant of 'say', which speaks aloud text. Thus it can notify when a script is done. Or baffle a non-geek (hint: install a launch agent on their computer that says things periodically).

For example, open a Terminal window, then paste in the following:

say "Like bones, wood weathers and rots hardly at all at high altitude.
At dusk it almost seems to glow in the blue high altitude light."

Say what you will, this is pretty cool.

Bones of a Tree
Bones of a Tree

Transparency in OS X Yosemite

This and many other cases seem to me like Shadow and Outline fonts in the original Mac (hideous), but at least one had to have the puerile judgment to employ them. But in OS X Yosemite, user interface mangling comes along automatically.

How does making a computer display look defective and as if it needs warranty service improve the user interface?

I’ve had to disable transparency in OS X Yosemite due to far too many ugly side effects that impair readability and damage the ability to view images. Incoherent behavior is not a gain in a user interface.

Color blob in OS X Yosemite
Color blob in OS X Yosemite

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: Video Transcode 4K to 1080p

Dual D700 GPUs in a Mac Pro should rock for video, right?

Wrong, at least for some things.

iMac 5K vs Mac Pro, Video Transcode 4K to 1080P

Transcode 4K video clip to 1080p (OS X QuickTime Player) iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
Transcode 4K video clip to 1080p (OS X QuickTime Player)
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: XCode Build

Various filters tested on the two fastest Macs one can procure as of late 2014.

iMac 5K Performance: XCode Build diglloydTools

XCode build diglloydTools iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
XCode build diglloydTools
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: Photoshop Filters, Various

Various filters tested on the two fastest Macs one can procure as of late 2014.

iMac 5K Performance: vs Mac Pro on Photoshop Filters

diglloydSpeed1 Photoshop benchmark iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
diglloydSpeed1 Photoshop benchmark
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: Integrity Checker (SHA1 Hash)

Real world factors influence real world results: SSD and CPU.

iMac 5K Performance: vs Mac Pro, Integrity Checker Verify

IntegrityChecker verify (SHA hash) iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
IntegrityChecker verify (SHA hash)
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: Photoshop

Three benchmarks are discussed, pitting a maxed-out iMac 5K against a 3.3 GHz 8-core Mac Pro.

iMac 5K Performance: vs Mac Pro on Photoshop Benchmarks

diglloydSpeed1 Photoshop benchmark iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
diglloydSpeed1 Photoshop benchmark
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

iMac 5K Review to resume...

Shooting in the mountains (photography). iMac 5K review will resume sometime this coming week.

MPG ran some tests before leaving for the mountains. The tests indicate that the iMac 5K is not quite as fast as the MPG 3.3 GHz 8-core 2013 Mac Pro, but should be about as fast as the 6-core. So it comes down to memory capacity, CPU cores, SSD speed, thunderbolt ports and busses—a lot of areas where the Mac Pro is superior. And in MPG’s view: likely reliability issues if an iMac is used as a workhorse like a Mac Pro.

Disappointing: iMac 5K Flash Drive (1TB SSD) way slower than Mac Pro

MPG has a 1TB Apple SSD in the Mac Pro, and a 1TB SSD in the iMac 5K.

MPG was puzzled why IntegrityChecker 'verify' was running significantly slower on the iMac, which ought to run significantly faster (faster CPU clock with ~1.4 CPUs used). Disk I/O speed is the culprit.

Not that the iMac SSD is slow, but there is a world of difference:

Mac Pro: writes at ~930 MB/sec and reads at ~1180 MB/sec.
iMac 5K: writes at ~693 MB/sec and reads at ~744 MB/sec.

Bummer.

PCIe lanes are 500MB/sec and apparently the iMac 5K dedicates only 2 lanes (1GB/sec) to the flash drive (Mac Pro uses 4 lanes).

The 'Cloud' is DEFINITELY a Huge and Tempting Target for Hackers

MPG advice is to avoid the Cloud as much as possible, and to never store sensitive information in the cloud. The Cloud is a Bad Idea in general, for a litany of reasons.

See also Apple iCloud: Promiscous Saving for Security Lapses.

About a week ago, MPG wrote The 'Cloud' Remains a Huge and Tempting Target for Hackers, one in a string of security-related posts over the years.

The Wall Street Journal reports today in Apple’s iCloud Service Is Under Attack in Mainland China of a widespread and highly sophisticated “man in the middle” attack:

Taiwan-based Chinese Internet activist Zhou Shuguang tested the service and found that communication channels between iCloud users and the iCloud server had been hijacked by an attacker in what is known as a “man-in-the-middle” tactic, Mr. Zhou said. Separately, Erik Hjelmvik, an analyst with Netresec AB, a network-security-software vendor in Sweden, said Tuesday he reviewed data posted online by Chinese Internet users and arrived at a similar conclusion.

“It’s evident that it’s quite massive,” Mr. Hjelmvik said. He said the perpetrators were able to attack users in different parts of China who used different Internet service providers. “The attack was quite sophisticated in that they apparently have quite a huge system set up in order to be able to intercept on such a large scale.”

The attack meant unauthorized parties would be able to decrypt the communication between iCloud users and the server, analysts said. This puts the iCloud users’ usernames, passwords, files, pictures and contacts at risk of being seen unencrypted.

Just today, I see a Chinese-origin IP attacking this site’s SSL link. The world is full of scum, and there are no security guarantees.

When a site uses TLS/SSL, a man-in-the-middle attack isn’t perfect—the user does get a warning that the security certificate is invalid. But many if not most users just will be confused, get annoyed and click right on through. NEVER, EVER do that—take the warning seriously, because it might really be a MITM attack and you’ve just logged logged your username and password in the hacker’s database. It is a fair question to ask why a browser should ever even allow a user to click through a failed certificate, but so it is.

iMac 5K Screen Scaling

See iMac 5K screen scaling discussion.

iMac 5K: System Black-Out

I’ve experienced a system black-out while changing display resolutions: the screen went black and nothing would bring it back.

I pulled the power plug and rebooted, whereupon the system noted that a “graphics problem” had occurred with a “Sent to Apple?” button (the usual system crash dialog).

iMac 5K: Display Quality in Context

Display resolution is fantastic on the iMac 5K, but gamut is relatively narrow, and what about display quality with all aspects taken into account?

Th iMac 5K screen is shiny and in this regard it is clearly inferior to the NEC EA244UHD and PA302W, which sit a few feet way on my desk. The first thing I noticed about iMac 5K display was my backyard. Meaning the iMac 5K display still has mirror-like qualities.

I rate the 24-inch NEC EA244UHD as equal in general display quality (ditto for the PA302W), but obviously superior in avoiding glare, superior in color gamut, and the NEC displays can be properly calibrated too (iMac cannot be calibrated at all). Its professional-grade sibling, the 32-inch NEC PA322UHD will be reviewed by DIGLLOYD in late Nov/early December.

Bottom line: I love viewing images on the iMac 5K display because of its vast screen real estate (14.7 megapixels), but that is its only real merit over a quality 4K UltraHD display (pixel count). Which is an operational reality but not a criticism of its value—where else can one get a $2494 5K display with a free computer built in?

For professionals with color-calibrated workflows, where color gamut, color accuracy and grayscale tracking over time and temperature matter, screen sheen compared to print media—the iMac 5K can certainly be used, but one need only view it side by side to see that the NEC displays are a better choice.

Color Gamut of iMac 5K

While the huge screen real estate at retina density is jaw-dropping to behold, the color gamut looks much narrower than my NEC PA302W.

Toggle to compare.

MPG iMac 5K Has Landed

The Apple iMac 5K has arrived. Initial reporting later today.

Search Terms in OS X Yosemite Get Sent to Apple

Wired Magazine has a interesting article for OS X Yosemite: How to Stop Apple From Snooping on Your OS X Yosemite Searches.

...over the weekend, users of Apple’s latest operating system discovered OS X Yosemite pushes the limits of data collection tolerance one step further: its desktop search tool Spotlight uploads your search terms in real time to Apple’s remote servers, by default..and search terms will also be shared with Microsoft’s Bing search engine, an even more surprising destination for queries that Mac users likely believed they were typing in the privacy of their own computer...

But note that Bing does not store the terms (according to Apple).

UPDATE: there is a response from Apple on the page linked above. It does sound much better than it did at first. Why is this not spelled out up front seems more like a stupid goof than anything else—why generate FUD?

Continues below..

OS X Yosemite — About Spotlight Suggestions and Privacy
OS X Yosemite — About Spotlight Suggestions and Privacy
In Spotlight Preferences, click About Spotlight Suggestions & Privacy

To search on the web, search terms do have to be transmitted to some server. This could be done completely anonymously with encryption techologies, but Apple does not implement that approach, nor does Google.

Google has always had search terms sent to its server, but I deem the Apple approach more concerning, because Apple ties so many devices together, including the potential for real-time tracking of your whereabouts, via Location Services (iPhone, iPad, laptop, iWatch, etc).

In key ways, metadata is far more of a privacy invasion than data itself; it gives a wide-ranging structural view of your activities and network of contacts and interests and so on. Very very useful stuff.

Search terms are metadata—consider these search terms: “treat genital herpes” (private medical) or “how to cook dogs” (nasty and illegal at least here in the USA) or “men seeking men” (private life). Stored on Apple servers. A Tor box doesn’t do much if you’ve signed into iCloud and everything is linked up with IP address, cookies, logins, acounts, etc.

Key questions are whether the user is advised of all the implications: are the terms stored anonymously (no) or tied as metadata to the user (yes) and/or IP address/device (yes), and for how long, etc. MPG is far from satisfied that Apple is doing the right thing here, but that is true of Google also. The recent move to iPhone encryption is only a minor point in such a context.

Apple and privacy

First, from A message from Tim Cook about Apple’s commitment to your privacy:

At Apple, your trust means everything to us. That’s why we respect your privacy and protect it with strong encryption, plus strict policies that govern how all data is handled.
... We believe in telling you up front exactly what’s going to happen to your personal information and asking for your permission before you share it with us.
... I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.

In OS X Yosemite, “up front” permission was not asked of me about transmitting search terms to Apple servers, nor was I aware of search term transmission ( buried info in a dialog does not qualify). So I see OS X Yosemite search as a violation of this policy in two ways.

Note that Tim Cook cannot make promises about the future this way (what happens when he leaves?), even if he could be trusted. Nor will he violate a secret court order nor can he even acknowledge the existence of one here in the USA. But will Apple abandon China if the Chinese government demands that Apple work with them, particularly if Apple servers are in China? Heck, Tim Cook foists music into your personal space without asking. MPG doesn’t give much credence to PR statements, which have no legal stature.

Turning off search term transmission

Turning off search term transmission is not one checkbox, and not where it ought to be (under System Preferences => Security & Privacy).

To turn off the transmission of search terms, disable (uncheck) the following:

ALSO, in Safari (not shown), uncheck Search => Include Spotlight suggestions.

OS X Yosemite — About Spotlight Suggestions and Privacy
OS X Yosemite — About Spotlight Suggestions and Privacy

OS X Yosemite: Severe Performance Issues with File Open Dialog

I am experiencing severe sluggishness in using the File Open or Save dialogs:

mds CPU usage
4-5 second of
excessive CPU usage
  • 3-5 second delay in getting to point of being able to use the dialog.
  • Occurs with images or HTML files.
  • Occurs in icon view or list view, but not multi-level list view.
  • Scrolling and sorting by column invoke similar delays.
  • Drawing glitches (see below): blank-out, errant controls drawn in list areas, blank-out, list finally drawn.
  • Sorting by columns shows no indication of which column is chosen, and clicking on a column has the same 1-3 second delay in drawing the result.
  • Speed is a problem in list view or icon view. In icon view one can watch the generic icons draw (they don’t just appear in an instant as they shoudl), as if the system were reading each and every file.
  • Persists after logging out or rebooting.
  • This is on the fastest Mac Pro available today (3.3 GHz 8-core, 64GB, 1TB SSD, D700 GPUs).
  • Transparency turned off.

This more than anything is a really severe problem with OS X Yosemite; I use this dialog hundreds of times a day. Something is badly broken here.

It looks like Spotlight is involved, because every time I click on a folder, I see CPU usage in the 'mds' and 'mds_stores' processes spike. And with no disk I/O (probably all cached), so it looks to be a pure algorithmic bug in OS X Yosemite with no caching and with no regard for responsiveness to the user.

MPG suspects the performance issues run deeper, and are possibly associated with GPU usage, meaning many, many new bugs.

  Typical File Open dialog glitch in OS X Yosemite (happens twice in succession while drawing)
Typical File Open dialog glitch in OS X Yosemite
(happens twice in succession while drawing)

Matej P writes:

MPG can’t speak to all of this but can summarize simply as “professionals should proceed cautiously to Yosemite”.

I have a 6-core, 32GB RAM with dual D500’s and 512GB SSD and after upgrading to Yosemite I have noticed a big “lag” in graphical performance.
I tried stuff in multiple applications I work with:

• Photoshop CC 2014.2 - more than 1 second of “lag” when I do strokes with my pen (intuos drawing tablet), which makes photoshop pretty useless now. I tried disabling GPU assistance and openGL in photoshop, but nothing helps, it seems this low graphic performance is system tied.
• Autodesk sketchbook pro, this one is actually the only application that works fine (strange isn’t it?)
• Maya 2014 - low FPS while having loaded a model with around 2000 polygons or more. Can’t work with that too :(
• Unity - same as maya, load up a level and there is like 10-35FPS.
• I also tried World of warcraft (yeah I also play some games time to time on my mac even if it isn’t made for that) - I have enabled vertical sync on 60Hz, if I don’t do anything in game (not even move), FPS is around 60, but when I move camera or character FPS drops, sometimes even down to 15FPS.

Programs mentioned here works perfectly normal in windows 8.1 64-bit under bootcamp.

I also tried doing CineBench test and here are the results:

OS X: openGL: under 70FPS, CPU: around 940 score
windows 8.1 64-bit: openGL: over 100FPS, CPU: around 930 score

It seems like we got a drop of more than 25% performance on graphics compared to windows (openGL) even though windows do not natively run openGL applications or commands so there is little overhead there.

And even more findings: after reading some things around I opened “openGL driver monitor” application that is a part of xCode developer suite and checked out what are my two GPU’s doing in OS X yosemite.

Well computing GPU has 0bytes free VRAM, while rendering GPU is jumping from 4MB - 2GB free VRAM while not doing anything graphical intensive on computer (safari, mail,…). Sometimes I start up computer and there is almost no free VRAM without any application being open at all!

There must be some bugs with GPU’s in yosemite, I tried a lot of things to fix this: -clear PRAM and reset SMC -verify and fix permissions -verify disk

Nothing helped so far. There is even one more interesting thing: when I try to start OS X Yosemite in safe mode I only get black screen with mouse cursor and nothing more, while in normal boot system boots up normally.

Sorry for long mail and bad English -> not my native language :)

Please when you get new iMac 5K test out graphics performance as I’m really considering switching my mac pro for new iMac because I can’t stand this low GPU performance any more, and Apple does nothing to fix anything and it seems like I wasted a lot of money on this computer for nothing.

MPG: MPG doubts that an iMac GPU will solve anything. The issues look to be horrific new bugs introduced by Apple.

As for GPU performance, it has long been the case that Windows runs faster than OS X; that is not new. It is the sluggish response time in stuff that used to work that is the issue.

OS X Yosemite: Full Screen Mode Continues to be Anti-Functional for Dual Displays

I had hoped that OS X Yosemite would fix full screen mode, which has been unusable for me with dual displays since its first debut years ago.

Unfortunately, it is worse than ever:

  • Full screen mode will not cycle between windows even in the same program: one has to exit full screen mode, choose a different window, then enter full screen mode. This is idiotic at best.
  • Full screen mode completely blanks off the other display. So it’s not possible, say, to work in one window while at least viewing another window on the other display. UPDATE (thanks Frank V): set Displays have separate Spaces (see screen shot futher below).
  • Full screen mode precludes, say, having dual side-by-side windows, such as dual browser windows or dual Terminal windows. With my work, a single window is a non-starter. Far more useful would be a mode in which all an application’s windows were available, just blank off every other app.
  • The escape key is non-functional, at least in Terminal; only by mousing can one exit full screen mode. This has got to be terribly confusing for someone stuck in full screen mode who formerly used to see the window zoom. I can see people pulling the power plug to fix it.
  • The window zoom control now defaults to full screen mode system-wide. But since full screen mode is non-functional, the window zoom control is now a useless adornment (without using option-click.)
  • Full screen mode kills keyboard input to my Terminal window under some circumstances (nothing but beeps). And it did so even when I exit full screen mode. I had to kill that window and start over.
  Dual displays
Dual displays

Blanking-out of other screens in full screen mode can be fixed by configuring Displays have separate Spaces. However, this causes other confusing issues and bugs: the menu bar appears on separate screens (confusing), and window positions are not remembered correctly for Safair and Mail (very annoying). So this is not a clean solution.

  With 2 or more displays, full screen mode is best with Displays have separate Spaces
With 2 or more displays, full screen mode is best with Displays have separate Spaces

MPG iMac 5K Arrives Soon

I’ll be setting up this puppy next to my 2013 Mac Pro and putting both through their paces. I expect the iMac to outperform in CPU speed, but its screen is both a wonder and a problem (too dense for critical image assessment).

The Mac Pro uses dual displays, the NEC PA302W and the NEC PA301W (both 30-inch), 64GB memory and so on—my “production” workhorse.

The iMac will have its built-in display and the NEC EA244UHD and will get 32GB memory from OWC.

  iMac 5K should soon be enroute to MPG
iMac 5K should soon be enroute to MPG
  iMac 5K should soon be enroute to MPG
iMac 5K enroute

OS X Yosemite: Switched to it on my Main Machine

My experience with OS X Yosemite on my laptop was fairly seamless (with one headache), so I installed it on my main “production” machine (2013 Mac Pro with dual screens).

There are some points of confusion like having to go dig up java and install it (I develop using JDK 6—why does Apple erase a perfectly good installed java?). Also, Remote Desktop would not update normally (and posted an erroneous alert about using Software Update in the Apple menu, which no longer exists). Safari reset its window positions. And a few other nigglers.

The biggest problem so far is extremely sluggish File Open dialog performance to the point of it seriously impairing its use. And that’s on a fast SSD. This worries me because I use the File Open dialog all day along. It looks like it involves 'quicklookd', as if it were opening every file in the window before one can interact (hundreds of images in a folder). Or maybe hitting every mounted volume (I have 10). And this persists with use. Something is broken. Delays are visibly sluggish, multi-second long affairs. Very frustrating.

Still, so far OS X Yosemite looks to not have been rushed out the door like the Mavericks fiasco. Time will tell but this OS X release looks much cleaner.
UPDATE: OOOPS! Problems are there all right.

Activity Monitor still shows a CPU history with virtual cores (16 graphs for an 8 core), and has no option for 8 history graphs for an 8 CPU box. A minor point, but it would be nice someday.

I haven’t found much that really helps my work efficiency yet, but I do like the much better space utilization for mailboxes in Apple Mail.

On the flip side, Safari hides the URL and this is a constant time-wasting nuisance, because now instead of just seeing it there, I have to click to see it (as a web developer, I need to see that URL all the time). Or I thought I did. Turns out there is a preference for this (is it “advanced” to want to know where one is these days?): Show full website address. Except that the new OS X Yosemite design clips off the URL, so that it cannot be seen.

How to show the full URL in Apple Safari
How to show the full URL in Apple Safari

Update: crash

Within hours of installing Yosemite, my first crash, with a dead/inoperable OS. Oh Goody.

Capacity Utilization vs Speed: that 5th Terabyte on 5TB and 6TB Hard Drives

Finishing up the MPG analysis of real world drive speed:

For 5TB and 6TB drives, what happens when the drives contain 4TB of data so that a 5th terabyte is now being stored?

Hard drives at OWC with the 90 day DOA replacement guarantee: Toshiba 4TB, Toshiba 5TB, Seagate 6TB.

  Hard drive performance vs capacity utilization over 4TB partition (4/5/6TB hard drives)
Hard drive performance vs capacity utilization over 4TB partition (4/5/6TB hard drives)

Apple iMac 5K Memory Kits at OWC

I’m crossing my fingers that 64GB might be possible in the new iMac.

But for now OWC has 8GB, 16GB and 32GB memory kits for the iMac 5K and the existing memory can be sent in for a OWC memory rebate. This nets out the cost of 32GB to about $358 (versus $600 at Apple, which pays for the faster CPU option!).

Capacity Utilization vs Speed, which is faster, 4TB, 5TB or 6TB Hard Drive?

Running out of space and you have 1TB or 2TB or 3TB of data to store—

Which drive capacity should be used for best performance?

What is the best way to actually realize that performance for new work?

Following up, another graph is presented, this one comparing a 4TB partition on 4TB, 5TB, 6TB hard drives.

Hard drives at OWC with the 90 day DOA replacement guarantee: Toshiba 4TB, Toshiba 5TB, Seagate 6TB.

  Hard drive performance vs capacity utilization over 4TB partition (4/5/6TB hard drives)
Hard drive performance vs capacity utilization over 4TB partition (4/5/6TB hard drives)

Apple iMac 5K Color Gamut?

Glenn K writes:

It's remarkable that none of the media covering the release of this machine have thought to open the ColorSync Utility and take a look at the gamut.

MPG: cheerleaders are preferred by 11 out of 10 marketing people at Apple. So far, MPG has never gotten an early look at Apple hardware.

Yes, the gamut is a key question for anyone looking to do high quality photography, but calibration is even more important (and it’s true calibration of iMac is not possible). I expect that it will be very good, but how good is unclear. MPG did look for a color profile for the iMac 5K in /Library/ColorSync/Profiles/Displays but nothing there yet for the iMac 5K.

OS X Yosemite: Disable Transparency

Transparency can cause all sorts of issues, like this and like this.

Reduced Transparency
Reduced Transparency

OS X Yosemite: Screen Bleed-Through for Images Impairs Perception

In Yosemite, images now bleed through the user interface in Safari, as shown.

Click for larger image.

Image bleeding through user interface (Safari, OS X Yosemite)
Image bleeding through user interface (Safari, OS X Yosemite)

The neutral gray surround is discolored, interfering with perceptual evaluation of an image. Moreover, it feels unstable, because the amount of “bleed” changes with scrolling the image; the colors and intensity continually vary, which means that perception of color and density varies continually.

If you’ve ever seen a display about to fail, it can look like this smeared mess—it gave me quite a 'start' when I first saw it, thinking my 4K display had gone bad. Good interface design should not be surprising, or feel unstable or broken. Feels like core rot to me.

The user interface changes on OS X Yosemite feel gratuitous and arbitrary; they do not improve the usability in any way I can detect; rather I find that elements are rather merged in feel—less discrete, less solid. If the changes make the cut of true visual and usability improvements, why does every OS X release redo it all?

As John Siracusa at ArsTechnica writes (spot on):

Though I’ve tiptoed around it thus far, the friction point in Yosemite’s new visual design is its pervasive use of transparency. (Technically, “translucency” is more accurate, but please indulge my idiomatic usage.) Allowing what’s behind to influence the appearance of what’s in front is problematic in a couple of ways. From a purely aesthetic perspective, transparency is unpredictable. Designers can decide which aspects of the background will influence the foreground image, but they can’t control the content of that background. Will its contribution make the final image more pleasing, or will things turn ugly?

In terms of usability, transparency risks impairing readability and recognition. Colors bleeding through from other content can undermine the intended contrast between text and its background. Symbols and shading meant to subdivide an interface can be sabotaged by the influence of unrelated background images. The content as designed by the application developer is the signal; any background content that shows through is noise.

... Inevitably, I find myself searching for a reason. Why is it important for me to see any aspect of what’s behind the front-most active window? Why risk reducing both the usability and attractiveness of the UI? To what end?

... As much as I may support any of these lines of reasoning, my tolerance for any instance of impaired readability due to background “leakage” is very low.

Ditto. OS X Yosemite is gratuitous. But even that is not right, it is damaging to usability in too many scenarios. And MPG might summarize this more bluntly: “one designers’s maniacal ego trip is another person’s visual pollution”. It reminds MPG of the godawful shadow and outline fonts in the original Mac. They didn’t last, and for good reason. This “vibrancy” (bleeding) is the same sort of dreck when it is applied willy-nilly. The idea tha blurred colors are somehow less distracting because there is no detail includes a tacit and ignorant presumptuous of what content might be present, and what might matter to the user.

On the other hand, I completely support the “Yosemite” approach as applied to women’s clothing, at least for young attractive women. :; But please top only and not for hairy men.

I accept that software needs to evolve, but I also feel that a sense of stability and continuity should be given due deference: as another example, window zoom dispenses with 30 years of behavior and now goes to full screen mode instead of zooming. And it also blanks out my 2nd display entirely, rendering it useless. How can it be good design to destroy use of a 2nd display, I ask. Only by option-clicking can the window zoom as before. Well, at least that one is manageable; I can unlearn longstanding habit. But I cannot turn off my vision and not see color smearing, just as I cannot close my ears.

I am a photographer with strong color discrimination (vision), and a stable and neutral visual environment matters to me (and to many who view my images).

A mitigation

So I went hunting, and found this control in Preferences => Accessibility.

So there is still a faint color cast, but it is much less disturbing. Still, it impairs the ability to evaluate an image against a neutral surround in Safari is what I am after (color perception is very much dependent on surrounding colors). Google Chrome does not suffer from this issue, at least not yet.

Reduced Transparency
Reduced Transparency

Oct 2014 Mac Mini (new one): is the Memory Upgradeable?

The October 2014 MacMini is a study in compromise, which could be frustrating for some users:

  • The memory is not user-upgradeable (soldered on).
  • Dual-core CPU options only (no quad core). Base model has extremely slow 1.4 GHz CPU.
  • Internal drives are limited also, versus two in prior models.

So this MacMini downgrade upgrade that kills the cult appeal of the MacMini. it’s now just a “toaster” with no inferio upgradeability and no quad-core option, which is a major issue for some uses. It even might be slower than the 2012 model. Which is not to say it is a bad machine, just more of a “toaster” now (so to speak).

By the time the 3 GHz CPU and 16GB memory and 256GB SSD are specified, it’s a $1400 machine. This makes little sense to me; refurbished quad-core laptops can be had for about that price.

One reader suggests that memory in the new MacMini might not be upgradeable (e.g., soldered on). Caution advised until the situation is clarified, otherwise be sure to order with 16GB memory (+$200 is a steep premium to bump up to 16GB from 8GB, as per usual Apple practice).

Apple MacMini memory configuration choices
MacPerformanceGuide recommendation for MacMini memory

Apple makes no mention of such a critical consideration, but that would not be a first. MPG sure hopes that that the late 2014 Apple MacMini memory is upgradeable as always has been.

Note that the new iMac 5K is described as having “four SO-DIMM slots, user accessible”, and that the MacMini is not so-described, which does not bode well.

UPDATE: all indications are that the memory in the MacMini is soldered-on, so be sure to order it with 16GB, or at the least no less than 8GB. The knowledge base MacMini memory page has not been updated for the 2014 model, so no clarity there.

Update 2: confirmed that MacMini has soldered-on memory and thus cannot be upgraded after purchase.

Apple MacMini memory configuration choices

Why There is no New 5K External Display to Match the iMac 5K

The late 2014 iMac 5K has a 5120 X 2880 retina display.

But don’t expect to see an external 5K display any time soon: even Thunderbolt 2 cannot deliver the bandwidth needed for 5K, and that’s even 8 bit color (vs 10 bit color, for which OS X still has no graphics drivers).

Bandwidth: 5120 X 2880 X 3 bytes = ~44MB/frame @ 60 Hz = 2.654 GB/sec, versus 3840 X 2160 X 3 bytes = ~25MB/frame = 1.49 GB/sec for a 4K UltraHD display. Thunderbolt 2 can handle a 4K display but that’s where it maxes out.

As far as MPG understands, Thundebolt 2 is limited to 20 Gbps bandwidth, or 2.5GB/sec, so 5K video is a bit too much.

Hard Drives: Capacity Utilization vs Speed aka “4TB or 5TB or 6TB Hard Drives?”

Running out of space and you have 1TB or 2TB or 3TB of data to store—

Which drive capacity should be used for best performance?

What is the best way to actually realize that performance for new work?

Hard drives at OWC with the 90 day DOA replacement guarantee: Toshiba 4TB, Toshiba 5TB, Seagate 6TB.

  Hard drive performance vs capacity utilization
Hard drive performance vs capacity utilization

How Much Resolution in a 5K Display?

The late 2014 5K iMac offers an incredible 5K resolution display: 5120 X 2880, which is 14.7 megapixels, or nearly the entire resolution of many of today’s popular APS-C digital cameras.

This compares to still-emerging 4K UltraHD diplays which are typically 3840 X 2160 = 8.3 million pixels, and to HD (BluRay) which is a paltry 1920 X 1080 2.07 million pixels. Kinda funny how “HD” is now “low resolution”.

Diglloyd photography publications and guides have included the viewing pleasure of UltraHD images for about 18 months now (3840 wide, 8.3 million pixels).

A 4K UltraHD image at 3840 X 2560 image will easily fit onto an iMac 5K display. The 8.3 million pixels will leave another 6.4 million pixels unused! Click for larger.

  4K UltraHD 3840 X 2560 image as it fits onto an iMac 5K display
4K UltraHD 3840 X 2560 image as it fits onto an iMac 5K display

Game Changer: MacMini with Dual Thunderbolt 2 Ports

The MacMini’s main limitation has been a single Thunderbolt v1 port. Attaching a display used that port, even if in some cases daisy-chaining could be done—and it was Thunderbolt v1.

Today’s announcement that the new MacMini now has dual Thunderbolt 2 ports brings the MacMini into far more useful territory for expansion, and it might be a good choice for some users.

Be sure to order the MacMini with 16GB, because the memory is soldered-on and cannot be upgraded.

Bleep42 writes:

I would like to point out that Apple Decided to cripple the MacMini this time around to only a Dual Core i7 from a Quad Core i7, in the previous iteration (MacMini 2012).

I have been using My MacMini 2.6Ghz / 16gb / 2x 1TB SSD, since the release of the Quad Core, and was hoping to Upgrade, but after seeing it was only a Dual core decided not to.

I love the fact that if I need more storage space I can add a MiniStack to it and build a mini tower that way. I currently have both the MiniStack & MiniStack with BluRay drive. Also Thunderbolt has been pretty useless to me. I have found USB3 to work better for my need, and easier to find drives for it.

Love your reviews!

MPG: (real names preferred). In practice a fast CPU clock on a dual core can outperform a slower quad core on most all tasks, because most tasks for most users never use more than two CPU cores except briefly. So a 3 GHz Intel Core i7 with TurboBoost to 3.5 GHz can perform very well, including Photoshop.

But it all depends on workload, and if one CPU core is being sucked up by a background task, one remaining core is sometimes not much to work on.

The main limiting factor for photographers and similar is the 16GB memory limit. While 16GB is plenty for ordinary tasks, it does exert a top bound on some tasks, just as with the Macbook Pro. That said, compressed virtual memory on a fast internal SSD helps greatly should memory get low, so the MPG advice is to go with a straight SSD (“flash storage”) for the internal drive, and add (as needed) external hard drive storage with Thunderbolt (preferred) or USB3.

WOW! Apple iMac with 5K Display

Readers know I am not a fan of the iMac for professional use for a variety of reasons having to do with workflow, ports, color matching, etc. But....

Apple’s announcement of a 5K iMac (5120 X 2880, 14.7 million pixels) stops me in my tracks and makes me lust over the screen, for the screen is how we see things on a computer. The 5120 X 2880 resolution behaves like a 2560 X 1440 display (pixel doubling) in user interface terms, but can be scaled to other sizes.

Apple probably had to do some custom work to support a 5K display because even Thunderbolt 2 falls well short on bandwidth (cannot drive a 5K display, which needs ~45 MB/sec bandwidth). But in the all-in-one iMac, custom is fine; no standards need to be followed for connectors and so on. The iMac can only drive 4K for external (additional) displays.

But here’s the kicker: the 5K iMac starts at $2499. So it’s like buying a groundbreaking display and getting a computer for free: the professional-grade NEC PA322UHD 4K display will list at $2999 ($3249 for BK-SV model), and while that is my intended screen on my 2013 Mac Pro for color matching and image evaluation, for sheer viewing pleasure the iMac 5K offers a far larger number of viewable pixels.

With up to a 4 GHz quad-core CPU, it’s gonna be fast, but what a shame it can’t go to 64GB memory (32GB seems to be the limit).

iMac limitations

The iMac 5K has clear limits which make the 2013 Mac Pro a better choice for high-end users:

  • 32GB memory limit (64GB or 128GB with Mac Pro).
  • No 6/8/12 core variants.
  • Single high performance GPU with 4GB max memory (Mac Pro can have two GPUS each with 6GB).
  • Two Thunderbolt port, presumably on a single Thunderbolt bus (versus 6 ports on 3 busses for Mac Pro).
  • More likely to fail with rigorous usage, if for no other reason that less robust cooling and built-in display.

Ordering suggestions:

  • MPG ordered the iMac with 8GB so as to get 32GB of memory at OWC, saving several hundred dollars.
  • The internal 1TB SSD (“flash storage”) is the way to go for power users; add the OWC Thunderbay for extra storage.
  • Get the fastest CPU, which compensates in part for other factors. It should outperform all 2013 Mac Pro models for many if not most common tasks, because most tasks use only a few CPU cores.
  • The fastest GPU is less important than getting a large SSD and faster CPU for most users and uses.
iMac 5K as ordered by MPG
iMac 5K as ordered by MPG

Bruce Z writes:

Do you think the iMac 5K screen will be able to be profiled as readily as the NEC screens are famous for?

5K images will look great, but we will still need to have the monitor tweak-able with a display calibration system to get the most out of those pixels.

MPG: Any display can be profiled, the question is whether true calibration can be done, or just crummy faux calibration.

Calibration is designating a target output, then adjusting the display itself to match that target as closely as possible, ideally with < 1 delta E accuracy using 14-bit adjustments internal to the display. Contrast that with 8-bit numbers on a video card which are adjusted (mangled) to achieve something “sorta accurate”—that is faux calibration. Ask yourself how 2/3/4/5-bit numbers (dark tones) could ever be properly adjusted: there is no dark gray having value 13.7, only a choice of 13 or 14 (crudely stepped/rounded). OS X graphics drivers are still only 8 bit, not even 10 bit, which makes matters worse.

Once a display is calibrated properly (or faux-calibrated), its actual performance—what it actually produces for the designated target (gamma, grayscale, color, etc)—is characterized with a display profile (profiling).

All iMacs including the new iMac 5K can be profiled, but cannot be calibrated. So the iMac will still have faux calibration along with a shiny screen which is not good for print matching. Beautiful to behold, but not a professional-grade tool, especially over time and temperature changes. For professionals doing work where color accuracy matters (and consistency over time matters), the NEC PA322UHD is a far superior choice.

But there is an “out” by adding a 4K display externally:

Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 3840 by 2160 pixels on an external display

Unlovely: Password Negligence at Financial Institutions

Password restrictions at Schwab.com requiring low-security password
Click to read more

For bank and brokerage and other financial accounts, MPG strongly advises using a long and complex password .

Making a Strong (Highly Secure) Password

The stupefying situation is that some financial institutions places strict limits on password quality.

Don writes:

Between myself and a family member, I have to manage many separate financial accounts (i.e. accounts with real money at stake, easily taken if the account is compromised). The restrictions preventing strong passwords across them runs from mildly-frastrating to serious risks, such as your example with Schwab.

I’ve been asking reporters, such as those at Ars Technica who follow this stuff, to compile a list of password restrictions from all the top financial institutions and publishing them as a ‘name and shame’ piece to spur better practices. Unfortunately, no one has taken this on that I’m aware of. It seems like the sort of thing that would be an instant hit among the security conscious, but alas that seems to be an all-too-small audience.

This is like watching a chain-smoker puffing away right after having a lung removed. The problem is obvious, but denial is a tough thing to overcome.

MPG: seems like a good article for the Wall Street Journal.

Lovely: Long Ugly Passwords

DIGLOYD signed up for Coinbase.com today, a service that accepts bitcoin payments, e.g. for diglloyd publications and diglloydTools.

This is a perfect use case for a long ugly password—long and ugly for hackers and long and ugly for remembering (no way)! A perfect way to use 1Password.

The main issue I ran into at Coinbase.com was an apparent incompatibility with Apple Safari web browser: entering the code for 2-factor authentication hangs (the web site never finishes and accepts). I’ve reported this bug to them, but they do not offer any notification or ETA on fixes. Google Chrome works fine however.

The 'Cloud' Remains a Huge and Tempting Target for Hackers

MPG has long distrusted using the “cloud” for any data storage for a variety of reasons, but namely security (certainly for nude selfies!). It doesn’t matter how conscientious a provider is, because between sophisticated hackers and the NSA and foreign governments, everything can be compromised somehow—including a personal computer, but one single computer is not in general a tempting target for hackers, like a service used by millions.

The unwavering recommendation from MPG is to distrust cloud storage for any sensitive data. Because it is not “if” but “when”.

Any site with millions of users is a huge prize, hence considerable effort is expended to crack into large web sites. This modest web site suffers many times a day probes from hackers, yet it is hardly a prize (nothing sensitive is stored on it). Ditto for any web site.

One more of many incidents

Dropbox was not hacked, but very apropos in terms of password managers and password risks is this Oct 13 2014 news at ArsTechnica which represents just one of many such incidents that occur many times each year. Right or wrong, it speaks t the concerns and risks with major services.

On Friday evening we began a routine server upgrade. Unfortunately, a bug installed this upgrade on several active servers, which brought down the entire service. Your files were always safe, and despite some reports, no hacking or DDOS attack was involved.

1Password: web site logins
1Password: web site logins

The particulars of this case are not relevant; it’s the ongoing risk and commonplace occurrence of this type of issue. Sometimes there has been no hacking, but too often the news reads otherwise.

With 1Password, a high quality master password is key, which protects the vault even if the vault is stolen.

Never use a password for more than one purpose. Use a unique password for each and every web site or service. This is why a password manager is so valuable: strong and obscure passwords unique to each web site that one does not have to type in or memorize.

In short, MPG strongly recommends using a password manager.

Recommended: 1Password for Both Higher Security and Convenience

I’ve been using Agile Bits 1Password for about 6 weeks now, taking a conservative viewpoint on adding any new software to my system, particularly something involving security.

I am now persuaded that 1Password is a keeper, and it is now a permanent part of my computing. It’s not just better security, it’s actually started saving me a lot of time and hassle. 1Password is available for OS X and iOS and can sync up between all your devices (for my specific useage, I use 'git' to do the sync, but iCloud or Dropbox can be used).

Using 1Password for Password and Logins

1Password: enter master password to unlock the vault
1Password: enter master password to unlock the vault

Up to 960GB of Storage!

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