diglloyd Mac Performance Guide
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

iPhone 6s Plus: can it work Like a Real GPS Unit?

There is GPS functionality in an iPhone, but I’ve had trouble with it in various ways:

  • I have not found a satisfactory app that makes the iPhone into a GPS unit, that is, something that replicates the best and useful functionality of a dedicated GPS device (my Garmin GPS was ruined by a leaky AA battery so I no longer have a dedicated GPS device). I want UTC coordinates, the ability to mark waypoints and head to them, sunset/sunrise and moonset/moonrise, etc. Not in a scattering of multiple apps ideally.
  • The apps I’ve tried with some GPS functionality pretty much suck for the basic functions above.
  • For GPS to work, iOS seems to insist that Airplane Mode be off (e.g. cell service must be enabled). But if cell service is enabled, then the battery drains rapidly looking for a signal it will never find! When I want to use GPS to navigate, the nearest cell tower is behind some mountain! But if cell service is disabled, then the iPhone refuses to use GPS.

Maybe there is a solution out there to these challenges.

Joshua S writes:

It is possible to use the iPhone GPS "without cellular" by setting a SIM Pin, rebooting the device and not entering the SIM Pin.

That enables the GPS, but with no cellular data.(And you don't have to use Airplane mode. The bad news is that you might need a 'reboot' to re-enable cellular so you can input your PIN again. Here's two articles to move you forward:

Understanding the IOS SIM PIN: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201529

As a heads-up: the 'Default AT&T SIM Pin is 1111' : http://www.att.com/esupport/article.jsp?sid=KB95665&cv=820

I don't know if that will keep it from killing the battery, but it was great when traveling overseas and trying to avoid data overage charges, and still geotag my photos with the onboard GPS.

MPG: Good to know. Some GPS apps seem to claim they can work in Airplane Mode. I bought Gaia GPS for its topo maps, and I’ll find out. It’s terribly confusing to be confronted with 100 or more GPS apps on the iTunes store; the App Store surely has room for a lot of improvement.

Dieder B writes:

GPS & iOS — two possible solutions re: hardware & iOS… both involve a ‘dongle’ … I’ve used both and am reasonably happy with the results. Both can be used with an iPhone and in quasi-airplane mode, i.e. with Airplane mode but Bluetooth turned on.

Garmin GLO — most painless version is the Garmin GLO. Good battery life, can be charged by miniUSB. Bluetooth. No configuration needed. 12 hour battery life. User replaceable Lithium battery.

BadElf GPS products

I bought the ‘Pro’ (for much less than their list price… a little google searching will get a much more reasonable price than their list) but it mates quickly with iOS, can record for 36+ hours at 1Hz without bluetooth or 24+ hours with Bluetooth. MiniUSB chargeable. Sealed unit. Can do POI from the unit itself. Sunset/whatnot via iOS apps etc. Can display UTC, coordinates etc in whatever format you want on the display’s LCD panel. It does not display GFX though on the display, purely text. Reasonable iOS support app and export features. http://bad-elf.com/collections/bluetooth-gps

They also have a Lightning plugin version — with passthrough USB charging connection.

Sunset/Sunrise Whatnot on iOSThe Photographer’s Ephemeris seems to work well for this: Author seems to be responsive to queries.

MPG: Eyesight in dim light precludes small GPS units any more (presbyopia with contact lenses at close range); this is why I went with the 6s Plus form factor—for larger type, etc. These products worth knowing, but I am loathe to carry another unit, even a small one, since my pack is stuffed to bursting usually, particularly in colder times of year (clothing).

I bought Gaia GPS last night for its topo maps for this weekend's trip to a remote lake. I think I can get there without any GPS (my preference), but my last attempt failed to find the lake, and it is an arduous hike, so I may take the “assist”.

My wilderness ethic is generally “no GPS” recording or reporting (explore and discover, not repeat what others have done). And I am strongly against posting GPS coordinates for images in wilderness areas and such.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

iPhone 6s Plus: Dubious Cell Reception

Yesterday, my lemon of an iPhone 6s Plus went off the cell network entirely, requiring reboot to regain cell service.

Today, the iPhone 6s Plus is showing only 3/5 dots for reception, versus 5/5 dots for the iPhone 5s. This is with line of sight about 1/2 mile to the cell tower. Reception is a big deal for me: for starters when I travel the iPhone is my internet connection. Already many areas are iffy for reception, so even slightly impaired reception is a serious problem the areas I travel.

This is unacceptable. So I called Apple. We wasted half an hour resetting the phone, restoring from backup, etc. After all that, the phone sill shows 3/5 bars. It did show LTE for a short while, then that disappeared with net result is same behavior as prior to the support call. I asked that into the records be put a note that I reserve the right to ask for a refund or replacement. I’ll see how the 6s Plus behaves on an upcoming trip.

Reception: iPhone 6s Plus has poor cell signal reception
(iOS 9.0.2 for both phones)


Apple Kills Off RAID Support in OS X El Capitan, Leaving Users Dangling in the Wind: SoftRAID is the Solution Now

Apple has destroyed Disk Utility functionality with the release of OS X El Capitan.

Users utilizing RAID via Disk Utility have been hung out to dry by Apple, dangling in the wind.

No warning, no support, just fait accompli. Disk Utility RAID volumes work for the time being, but there is no support in Disk Utility for Apple RAID any more.

MPG editorial view: this is not just a technical issue. The way this has been handled is a failure of integrity and judgment (“ethical lapse” might not be too strong a term), notwithstanding the hot air emitted by CEO Tim Cook on respecting users. How can an abrupt ripping out of core functionality in any way be respectful of users?

Such actions generate a deep mistrust of Apple competence and judgment by professional users. Commented upon for years here at MPG with growing unease, this latest fiasco is a logical escalation in line with Apple Core Rot. The steady decline in software quality control in both iOS and OS X is its evil twin. There are no adults in charge of OS X development any more, with iPhone bugs and breaking of critical iOS features on the menu for iOS users. MPG does not consider these things (and many more) as random events, but rather signs of dangerous cracks to Apple’s future.

MPG recommends that RAID users turn to SoftRAID.

MPG recommends that all users utilizing Disk Utility RAID volumes migrate to SoftRAID. A solution is near at hand.

Tim Standing, developer of SoftRAID, writes:

With El Capitan, Apple has finally killed off Apple RAID.

While Apple RAID volumes still mount, DiskUtility no longer recognizes them and there is no easy way to configure an Apple RAID volume or determine if it is working correctly. This is a fitting end to a product which Apple last worked on over 6 years ago.

When SoftRAID realized that Apple was going to abandon Apple RAID with the release of El Capitan, they decided to offer a simpler, lower cost version of SoftRAID called SoftRAID Lite. This version will offer a seamless transition for current Apple RAID users allowing them to convert their Apple RAID volumes to SoftRAID and gain all of the exceptional drive monitoring and volume reliability features that SoftRAID has been shipping for the past 12 years.

With SoftRAID Lite, you can certify a disk before use to ensure that the entire disk is reliable and able to store your files without error. SoftRAID Lite also includes SoftRAID's legendary disk monitoring feature which can notifies you when a disk about to fail.

Like Apple RAID, SoftRAID Lite will support stripe and mirror volumes (RAID 0 and RAID 1). Unlike Apple RAID, SoftRAID is actively supported and constantly being refined and improved.

SoftRAID Lite will ship before the end of October at a price of $49.00.

For more information, contact support@softraid.com.

MPG: SoftRAID Lite is a welcome solution for transitioning basic software RAID volumes like a RAID-0 stripe or RAID-1 mirror.

MPG recommends the full version for any user of a 4-bay unit like the OWC Thunderbay, so that fault tolerance can be enjoyed via RAID-4 or RAID-5. The use of RAID-5 is highly flexible in addition to being fault tolerant; see RAID-5 / RAID-4 Can be Partitioned to Suit.

OS X El Capitan: Disk Utility “designed by morons” design ethic + RAID Support Removed + Wanton Bugs

Apple has destroyed Disk Utility functionality with the release of OS X El Capitan. MPG recommends that RAID users turn to SoftRAID.

The most important thing of all in an OS is not losing your data. Can we count on that from Apple any more? The changes in OS X El Capitan to the crucial Disk Utility application are troubling.

Make it garish, dumb it down, don’t add useful functionality, and make sure the window cannot be resized, since everyone has just one drive anyway, right? Oh, and scare the heck out of your users for good measure, by removing RAID support and inserting obvious bugs.

Memo to Apple: Disk Utility is not an iPhone; it’s a technical tool, a crucial one.

I can’t see most of my drives and volumes any more without scrolling. This makes getting any view of what is there quite difficult (let alone relationships between drives/volumes/partitions), but worse it increases the risks of making a mistake (data destruction) by selecting the wrong disk. But there are gratuitous bugs also, not just crippled visuals.

Disk Utility has always been a tool to format disks, make a RAID, etc. Now it’s a lobotomized garish display of space usage conflated with highly technical info that casual users neither need nor understand. Remember, all but one drive are not the boot drive. There generally won’t be any Apps on those volumes, so how is this helpful? And anyone using 2/3/4 or more volumes is not going to be a novice. So how exactly will non-novice user have any use for the lobotimized hard-coded space-usage graph?

Disk Utility in OS X El Capitan is the worst piece of garbage yet to appear in OS X. MPG even rates the kitchen-sink mess that is iTunes higher.

The judgment shown here is scary. But not a suprise—Apple has been working up to this level of malpractice for years now, making ill-conceived workflow-destroying changes steadily for years. I’ve suffered every day with OS X Yosemite bugs for many months that impair my work. But wait, it gets worse, so keep reading.

Disk Utility window: cannot be resizes to see volumes

RAID be-gone, 14 “Untitled” something

There are 14 “Untitled” somethings listed under one “Untitled” something — huh?

This is scary incompetence taken to putrid new Apple Core Rot levels.

There is no RAID tab any more, and look at the wonderful display of all these Untitled volumes (none of my volumes are called Untitled).

Clearly, this software was not even tested. Rip out RAID support, and hope for the best? This is not just incompetence, it is malpractice, perhaps by a summer intern learning XCode in his/her spare time?

MPG recommends that RAID users turn to SoftRAID.

Disk Utility window: 14 “Untitled” volumes listed one one “Untitled” drive — huh?

Scrolling way down past the 15 “Untitled” nuisances, I find my RAID volumes. Disk Utility does not see fit to indicate the type of RAID (stripe or mirror), or its status (say, a failed mirror drive).

Disk Utility window: RAID-0 stripe volume selected
(DU does not show the type of RAID, or which drives/partitions, or status)

diglloydTools: Working Fine on El Capitan


The current release of diglloydTools is version diglloydTools 2.2.11.

Both the command line and GUI apps for DiskTester, IntegrityChecker and MemoryTester are working as-is, no update needed for OS X El Capitan (barring some obscure issue not yet found).

See the diglloydTools release notes page and download page.

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

OS X El Capitan: Installed

I downloaded OS X El Capitan via an iPhone personal hotspot high in the mountains, just to prove out the viability of internet via iPhone. But I deferred installation until I returned home and could make backups of everything.

For anyone getting work done day in and day out, MPG advice remains the same: WAIT at least a month after a major new OS X release in order to let things settle out, and professional users that depend on specific hardware or software that might not have solutions as yet (or ever) should wait three months or so—what’s the hurry? Nothing important is in El Capitan.


Overview dialogs from OS X El Capitan shown below. The 3.3 GHz 8-core CPU is a custom upgrade from OWC. The NEC PA302W is my workhorse display, and the NEC PA322UHD is used as a 2nd display for viewing large images and web pages.

OS X El Capitan overview

Apple needlessly removes things. Download Java for OS X 2015-001 to fix.

OS X El Capitan removes legacy Java SE 6 runtime
(required by Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5)

Storage summary

I suppose this godawful mess (below) helps someone with a single drive/volume, but exactly what information is there to work with for any meaningful course of action?

The “other” category is probably most useful for novice users (since photos and music and videos are likely to be in one place), yet there is nothing there to help explain what “other” means, or what to do about it.

For that matter, “Apps” might gives no help in seeing apps never used in the past X days or anything like that. So MPG sees this as mainly visual clutter, and of exceptionally visually distracting color palette at that. It does not bear up to scrutiny as more than eye candy, more like bad tasting medicine.

OS X El Capitan storage summary


The first thing I noticed with El Capitan was very poor performance with Adobe Dreamweaver, as in taking 3-4 seconds to open a 2 kilobyte html file along with the new childish looking rainbow-beachball spinning cursor*. It seems to be related to fonts; an entire CPU goes 100% busy for that time period before the file will open. Another step backwards—will Apple ever stop making things worse? Since I use DW many hours each day, this is an ugly problem, and I hope that no others crop up. Later versions of DW are the same old anal-cut sausage.

UPDATE: I disabled or removed 40 fonts or so, rebooted and tried again—the performance issue has not returned. Good!

* Whose juvenile tastes are responsible for the godawful icons in iOS and now OS X? Now we get to be annoyed by performance issues with a “made for children” look.


Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ MPG consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Brand-New iPhone 6s Plus with iOS 9.0.2: “No Service” Bug Takes Phone Offline

Today, at home with line of sight to the cell tower, my brand-new iPhone 6s Plus shows No Service. This never happened with my iPhone 5s in over two years, regardless of where I went. The phone has seen less than 12 hours use. It is running iOS 9.0.2, all freshly setup.

Apple Core Rot runs amok. The breaking of the Personal Hotspot feature was outrageous enough, but now breaking the core feature of voice calls too?! I rely on my iPhone for business phone calls. This is grossly sloppy work on Apple’s part.

The only fix seems to be rebooting this $950 iLemon. I tried entering/exiting Airplane Mode, but that did not regain cell service.

Clearly Apple has some critical bugs still extant. Apple’s penchant for releasing software updates by calendar instead of by quality is unacceptable.

Downloading OS X El Capitan via iPhone personal hotspot from high in the mountains


Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Downloading the 6GB OS X El Capitan Release via an iPhone High in the Mountains

I don’t dare install OS X El Capitan* out in the field high in the mountains at 10,600' in a snowstorm, but I was curious whether my “unlimited” iPhone (which I have kept for years, paying extra for the grandfathered unlimited plan)—well, I was wondering if AT&T would throttle the speed after some amount of bandwidth utilization, thus making a fraudulent mockery of “unlimited”.

At the 4.5GB mark, the download speed ranged from 1.4 to 2.1 MB/sec, which is 13-16 megabits per second—faster than the speed of many home internet connections. Not bad. If that speed continues, it will be satisfying.

Update: at around the 4.8GB mark, average speed is dropping to about 1.1 - 1.5MB/sec. Given the storm, it’s hard to state with certainty that AT&T is throttling the speed, or something else. But it sure looks like dishonest/fraudulent “unlimited”, given the consistent performance for an hour or so. After paying for years and hardly using any bandwidth, that sure is a lousy thing to do (if true but it's now very consistently down to about 1.2 MB/sec as I write this). When I paid for unlimited (for 3-4 years now), I took AT&T at their word. Maybe this is just normal variability, but it seems to have steadily been declining in speed, and I have line-of-sight to the cell tower.

Update 2: perhaps the cynicism was unwarranted: speed recovered to ~2MB/sec towards the 6GB mark, and the entire download succeeded.

* Given Apple’s shoddy quality control, I cannot take the chance on losing functionality until I return home from my trip.

Downloading OS X El Capitan via iPhone personal hotspot from high in the mountains


Upgrade Your Mac Memory
At much lower cost than Apple, with more options!

OS X El Capitan Out Soon (next major OS release)

MPG advice remains the same as with all other major OS X releases: if things are working well now, do yourself a favor and at least wait a week or so to upgrade, checking the various web sites for issues.

For professionals, waiting longer—1 to 3 months—is well advised, particularly those that rely on special hardware, printing support that is specialized, any special software or hardware, etc.

Currently on the road, I'll be upgrading in violation of my own rule—first on my laptop—because of course issues found are worth reporting on—so I’ll have to bite the bullet next week or so.

Michael S writes:

I’m writing this based on your “Apple Core Rot” columns that I’ve participated in before (reference USB connectivity under Yosemite, and Display issues). I’ve been working with Apple over the last 10 or so months to resolve the issues.

I ended up replacing my perfectly good (as it turns out) 27” HP dream color monitor because it would no longer work and switching to mostly thunderbolt drives due to the fact the system kept dropping usb drives off the system, which led to corruption.

This led to replacing my iMac as well, but the display issues continued, I must note at this point that all of the problems started with the Yosemite update. This has been extremely time consuming, between talking with apple support and a couple of trips to the apple store for genius support (it’ is a 70 min drive round trip to the nearest apple store). Replacing a perfectly good monitor and switching over to thunderbolt drives has also been extremely costly.

Then the 10.10.4 update comes out, basically stating that they have had issues with external monitors… Hmmm. I called Apple asking about restitution, they said they can’t do that (I’m sure they don’t want to set a precedent). They said they could offer me something… what it was never clear, I was supposed make suggestions, since then there has been no emails or phone calls. I’ve tried to contact them but to avail, someone else returns the call and says she will get back to me. Yep. Sure.

Now on to el capitan. Currently my midi controller isn’t working, my Home Drive SSD which is in a bus-powered USB3 enclosure , (the only USB drive on the system full time) is giving me an error message as the system wakes that it wasn’t ejected properly (same as before with 10.10) and iTunes is continually trying to download a movie purchase despite having the auto download turned off. I can’t find the download folder to delete movies.

I just finished a lengthy session with applecare and they are now aware of the issues and it took 20 minutes to find the movie download folder.

Thankfully I have a working clone of Yosemite on a SSD and I’m up and running. Core rot at its best, so disappointing.

MPG: the USB3 unmount bug is nothing new, and I’ve seen it also with Thunderbolt. Fortunately it is rare for me. But Apple quality control is declining. Will El Capitan be any better? I’m dubious, but when home from the mountains soon, I’ll find out.

Note well that bugs causing big costs in hardware replacement are no laughing matter. Class action lawsuit anyone? I'm no fan of such lawyering, but Apple is building a deep reservoir of ill will out there. I hear from other readers too, with issues clearly caused by new bugs due to changes to the OS that formerly worked fine, and it’s clear that the trend is all downhill on software quality. Not to mention the bugs that to this day impair my work. Mainly little ones, but they exert a cost each and every day. I won’t take Tim Cook at his (dubious) word that El Capitan is intended to improve quality, not until El Capitan proves out.

Apple iPhone Core Rot: Apple Breaks Personal Hotspot in iOS 9.0.1 + HOW TO FIX

I updated both of my iPhones to iOS 9.0.1. Now the personal hotspot feature will not function on either iPhone.

This is a major disaster for me: here it is nearly midnight, and I planned to leave at 5:00 AM tomorrow for a 10 day trip. I rely heavily on internet via the Personal Hotspot feature. I even carry two phones just in case one fails.

I've rebooted both phones, swapped cables, etc. All software including iTunes is up to date (version No go.

I'm furious. Apple Core Rot in OS X has been bad enough. But when traveling, I have to take care of my business needs every day. Remote areas I visit have cell service here and there, but do not have WiFi hotspots without hours of round-trip driving. It's a disaster. I don’t know what to do at this point; I have commitments and cannot abort my trip. Yet I need internet access while there.

These days, the Apple gestalt seems to be “entertainment and leisure” and it shows in product quality for getting useful work done—Apple shovels out new releases on a schedule (not for value or quality reasons), while adding new bugs at a rapid pace. Maturity and judgment at Apple seem to be sadly lacking in terms of ensuring that products upon which professionals rely maintain their integrity.

SOLUTION found, about 1 AM

Consider that if I had not pre-tested before leaving, I’d have had no way to download the fix! Chicken and egg problem.

I figured out a solution just after 1 AM, which left me 3.5 hours of sleep for my 4:30 wake-up time, for which I am grateful to Google search (but not to Apple which had no official solution to this problem anywhere that I could find, though discussion boards show that many others are suffering from the same issue).

Solution: download iTunes 12.3* and install it on your Mac**. Yes, even though the correct version is already installed. The version number will be identical to before, but it makes the iPhone Personal Hotspot feature work. The iTunes install (or some side effect of the installation) must contain some kind of support for the Personal Hotspot. I hope that it continues to work over the next 10 days while traveling.

* iTunes exemplifies everything that is bad on OS X today: a riot of confusing modal areas that anyone on the iTunes team should be personally embarrassed with. Old friend Dave H, are you still in charge of this dreck? You never had such low standards years ago.

** Maybe the latest iTunes upgrad/install was the issue and not iOS 9.0.1? Not sure, but discussion boards suggest that something in iOS is involved. I never had issues with iOS 8 however, so I think it is an iOS 9 issue.

Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ MPG consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Save About $830 on a 6-Core Mac Pro + Special Additional Discount on Pro Bundle

OWC Larry writes:

We have a handful of brand new, open box units with full 1 Year Apple Warranty -

3.5GHz 6-Core, 16GB/512GB SSD/D300x2 at $3059.00 (vs Apple $3899)

And like before, we have the Pro Config/Enhancement package for 2013 Mac Pro bundle up at a special MPG / diglloyd price PLUS $100 instant savings through 9/30 when purchased with a Mac Pro 2013.

MPG worked with OWC to set up the Pro Config/Enhancement package for 2013 Mac Pro a month or so again—highly recommended for Mac Pro users, particularly for photographers/videographers.


NewerTech NuGuard KX Case for iPhone 6s, 6s Plus

Get NewerTech NuGuard KX Case for iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus at OWC.

At this was written, OWC was including the Impact X-orbing Screen Armor for iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus with the case FREE.

I’ve been using the NewerTech NuGuard KX for iPhone 5s on my iPhone 5s for over two years. It uses a “Orbing gel technology to absorb and evenly distribute kinetic energy drop test certified to STD-810G U.S. Military Standard”. See my review of the NewerTech NuGuard KX Case for iPhone.

After over two years of use, my iPhone 5s is still humming along, yet I’ve dropped it many a time on hard surfaces. The case has done its job well, and it has (even better) kept me from dropping the phone in the first place, by dint of a better grip surface for my largish hands. This is a particular concern for me when cycling at 20 mph or so, and pulling the phone out of my jersey pocket to check an incoming call.

With a larger form factor of the 6s Plus*, I suspect that drop protection will be even more important, so for my new iPhone 6s Plus, so I ordered the NewerTech NuGuard KX Case for iPhone 6s or 6s Plus to go with it.

* See also iPhone Viewing Tips for Presbyopia and Vision Issues.

NewerTech NuGuard KX Case for Apple iPhone6s and 6s Plus (and older models)

Will Apple Core Rot Trend be Reversed?

Apple has been adding bugs and destroying usability at a rapid clip for several years now, the worst offender being OS X Yosemite, whos bugs continue to add small burdends to my work every single day. There are just too many issue to report on, so I sigh and just 'deal'.

But this one is obvious so why not show it. It’s one example of a litany of behaviors that have mushroomed in OS X; areas that worked for years going wonky.

Note the zero-sized files. But they are not zero in size as the Finder’s own Get Info window shows! Local file system (not a network volume). In a similar vein, a Finder 'move' operation leaves files behind about one time in 10, and sometime doesn’t work properly at all (reverts to a copy instead of a move), due to performance bug (since 10.10.4) that delays interactive use by the better part of a second.

OS X Yosemite Finder bug: file size shows as zero (after file copy)

Apple XCode Ghost Compromises some Apps in the Apple App Store

View all articles and blog posts on security.

The recent Apple XCode Ghost fiasco speaks to a lapse in the security chain, which is the key point: all security mechanisms are as weak as the weakest link in the chain. To wit, if the front door is barred and locked, crawl in through the unlocked window. This failure in in part an Apple process failure, though MPG has no particular answer as to how Apple can fix this sort of problem.

This quote from Validating Your Version of Xcode (for developers with XCode) hits the nail on the head, and not just for developers: it is a huge risk to download any software from anywhere other than the entity that develops/sells it.

We recently removed apps from the App Store that were built with a counterfeit version of Xcode which had the potential to cause harm to customers. You should always download Xcode directly from the Mac App Store, or from the Apple Developer website, and leave Gatekeeper enabled on all your systems to protect against tampered software.


To verify the identity of your copy of Xcode run the following command in Terminal on a system with Gatekeeper enabled:
     spctl --assess --verbose /Applications/Xcode.app
... Any result other than ‘accepted’ or any source other than ‘Mac App Store’, ‘Apple System’ or ‘Apple’ indicates that the application signature is not valid for Xcode. You should download a clean copy of Xcode and recompile your apps before submitting them for review.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Two Products MPG Uses Every Day

Here are two products I use daily, on special at OWC:

While I use the 20TB capacity Thunderbay 4, not everyone needs that much space and 12TB is a lot for most users. The TB4 can be run as 4 single drives or as a RAID-5 edition. The RAID-5 edition comes with SoftRAID, and can always revert to single drive usage if desired—entirely flexible.

The Tripp Lite 7+1 port USB3 hub I use every single day on my Mac Pro, ditto for the OWC Thunderbay 4 (five of 'em, though not all at once).

Reviews: Expanding USB3 Ports: TRIPP LITE 7+1 USB3 Hub and OWC Thunderbay 4.

NOTE: The $179 price on the TRIPP LITE is list price. It usually sells for $62, so the price is modestly lower. This hub has worked flawlessly for me for nearly a year.


Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ MPG consulting starts you out on solid footing.

A Big Privacy Lie: Anonymization

In public discussions and the media, the worn-out trope-bromide is that there are no privacy issues with anonymization. As I used to engineer security and have followed many areas over the ensuing years, this always really annoyed me to see yet another Big Lie repeated over and over—such things have a way of becoming accepted by repetition.

So how many credit card transactions does it take to identify a person more accurately than fingerprints? Well, a whopping eleven (11). Which you might make in a few days, easily.

In other words, there is no such thing as anonymous shopping data. At least not without using good ’ol cash, or some new form of encryption-based money (but the government will never allow that, and even today BitCoin transactions are not fully anonymous, and the authorities are clamping down on it in regulatory fashion, so as to stomp out such offenses).

Similar results are found in other security research in other venues. So the next time you’re told your data will be shared “anonymously”, OPT OUT.

RFID Blocking Sleeves for Passport, Credit Cards

Theft of personal information can be as easy as some dirt bag with an RFID scanner/reader in his/her pocket or backpack.

A Threat Analysis of RFID Passports: Do RFID passports make us vulnerable to identity theft?

So when I went to Germany with my passport and credit cards, I put my passport and all credit cards into RFID Blocking Sleeves.

NuGard KX Case for iPhone 6s, 6s Plus!
Advanced impact protection against drops and impact!

Sony 4K Television: Wow!

See all discounted 4K televisions.

Sony: XBR-55X800B 55" Class 4K Smart LED TV -- 56% OFF, $1098 was $2498
Sony: X850B 69.5" 4K Ultra HD Smart 3D TV -- 45% OFF, $2998 was $5498
Sony: X900B 78.6" 4K Ultra HD Smart 3D TV -- 44% OFF, $4998 was $8998
Sony: X950B 65" Class 4K Ultra HD Smart 3D TV -- 31% OFF, $5498 was $7998
Sony: X900B 64.5" 4K Ultra HD Smart 3D TV -- 24% OFF, $3798 was $4998

NOTE: a few days after I posted this, I learned about the new H.265 standard. I don't know if each of these TVs support that standard. HOWEVER, Netflix 4K streaming works fine and this article states that Netflix streams in H.265; therefore the XBR-55X800B must already be supporting H.265. Also, Amazon Prime 4K streaming works as well. Note that for older 4K TVs (2013 models), a separate box (Sony FMP-X5 or other) can do the H.265 conversion.

Testing the Sony XBR-55X800B 55" Class 4K Smart LED TV

Usage note: many current Macs have HDMI output that can drive a 4K TV. At the least this can be a nice way to run a slide show or similar.

I did not want to spend a lot of money on a 4K TV (and I’m way too busy to watch TV or movies other than rarely, preferably with a good glass of red stuff), but I did want to be able to evaluate 4K video from the Sony A7R II and A7S II on a real television.

So, having a picky eye, I took a chance on the Sony XBR-55X800B 55" Class 4K Smart LED TV. It’s a 55-inch 4K TV with a list price of $2498. But it is discounted by $1400 to $1098, and with a B&H $50 gift card and free shipping it comes to $1048. I know that there are better and bigger 4K televisions out there, but at higher prices*.

* Of course I’d love to have the Sony X900B 78.6" 4K Ultra HD Smart 3D TV ($4000 off). But it’s a little more expensive! And it won’t fit into my office for watching 4K video from cameras. And even 4K won’t look all that sharp if one sits too close to a 78-inch TV.

Sony XBR-55X800B 55" Class 4K Smart LED TV


I watched 5-10 minutes snippets of Netflix 4K streaming stuff: House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Mind of Chef, various nature shows (these nature shows are not well done IMO, using grossly oversaturated postcard-like color), and a few others.

I also tried some regular HD snippets and the Sony TV scaling is excellent, though HD text looks wavy and not so nice, since it is blown up 2X—but regular video looks great. Narcos was not in 4K, but nonetheless looked great, with the TV doing a great job of upscaling. So fear-not if most material you watch is still in regular HD, such as a BluRay disk or higher quality show in HD. But do note that many broadcast and cable TV and similar channels are heavily compressed and of very poor image quality, showing ugly compression artifacts even with a regular HD TV—all those defects will be more obvious.

The funny thing is that my highly tuned photographic eyes kicked in, noticing every flaw of sharpness and lens bokeh (yes even cine lenses have SLOCA!). And that pulling focus must be quite a challenge on 4K—and sometimes there are errors: 4K shows them while HD (2K) gets away with it.

4K streaming from Netflix is quite good, but it shows quality limits, especially for moving/panning and fine details. Dark interior scenes can show digital noise, and the resolution is overlaid by a graininess (noise). You really do not want to see aging politicians without a heavy layer of makeup. Even with Netflix House of Cards which is streamed at reasonably good quality, tonal transitions can be abrupt—and this makes things like the nose on a face look quite strange at times.

But here’s the bottom line: the 4K experience is awesome, and I don’t think going back could ever be tolerable. It’s just a major step up in quality that is very enjoyable. As for color, I made no effort to tune it, but I was thrilled with the color rendition, blacks and contrast (I know it can be better, but there’s that price thing). Interior scenes with artificial lighting looked as such. Outdoors looked like outdoors. It all looked realistic. The picture was immensely satisfying to watch, and I see absolutely no reason to nitpick anything I saw: it’s way beyond the enjoyment level to see anything in 4K versus 2K “Full HD” (half res).

Upgrading to an iPhone 6s Plus: all AT&T “deals” are the same bitter pill with a bit more or less sugar coating

A year ago I wrote What does an iPhone 6 Plus cost?, in which I showed how no matter what you do, AT&T will nick you. There exists no good deal; all deals are variations on the same pricing in which you end up paying in full for the phone (or more), one way or another.

Your options boil down to three cases:

  • Buy the phone outright. I bought an iPhone 6s Plus 128GB from Apple for $949 (plus tax). I will replace the 5s with the 6s Plus and keep exactly the same data plan, then sell the 5s after I get AT&T to unlock it. No commitment since I bought the phone outright.
  • Buy the 128GB iPhone 6s Plus from AT&T at $500 (if eligible) with a 2-year commitment. In this case, AT&T jacks up the monthly data rate to the tune of $600 over two years, which makes the total cost $1100, or $150 higher than buying the phone outright! Plus that 2-year commitment. So this option makes no sense at all.
  • Buy the phone on the installment plan, which is called AT&T Next. Do the math: you pay the full price of the phone and have a commitment until it is paid off. You do get the upgrade benefit periodically, and that may be worth it for those wishing for relentless upgrades. But each such upgrade locks you into the same ongoing payment system (rental essentially).

So now that Apple now will sell you a phone outright or on the installment plan with no commitment to any particular carrier, there is no reason to spend your money at AT&T on a new phone. Take your business to Apple, and help send AT&T a message that they suck: make-believe deals that require extensive study to grok in effect are disrespect to customers.

Note also that you will be charged sales tax on the full price of the phone no matter what (in states with sales tax, like in California). The State wants its cut.

As a decade+ customer at AT&T, having never gotten a deal I could understand at a glance, and thus having wasted many hours sorting through the misleading and convoluted pricing schemes, I’m grumpy that I cannot get any kind of loyalty deal—ever and never. My cynicism about AT&T is a long-term liability for them, since I am hardly alone. I tire of gimmicks and games and being forced into or out of data plans. Push on one side of the balloon, it bulges out on another side. So I bought my phone from Apple outright.

Note that the text below is at best misleading (MPG sees it as fraudulent) when you run the numbers: “switch to AT&T next and Save $25 per Month”. In reality, there is no real savings: you pay the full cost of the phone in installments versus a discounted phone with higher data plan rates. That said, once the phone is paid off, then the lower data plan rates will start saving money, and that is indeed a benefit if you plan to keep the phone after it is fully paid off. In this regard, paying off the phone on the shortest term is the most attractive option if going with the rental plan (AT&T Next), noting that the shortest rental period is a whopping 20 months. All these figures are designed to tightly constrain the customer—to get maximum dollars—no real deals at all.

AT&T Phone Upgrade Options = pay up with no deals anywhere

Erik P writes:

I read your comment about the ridiculous options for upgrading your iPhone with ATT.
I share your opinion. I am not sure if you are also aware or the recent revelations by the New York Times that AT&T also was eagerly willing to participate VOLUNTARILY in helping the NSA spy on US citizens on a vast scale:

That and their inflated prices and lack of any decent affordable international coverage made me switch to T-Mobile and I am very happy with the decision. I felt that I just had to act on such horrible corporate practices.

There is also an interesting bit about the new iPhone being able to access a much farther-reaching band in the LTE spectrum which T-mobile covers and which should allow better reception in a lot of areas now:

MPG: Yet another reason to love AT&T. Alas, everyone loses in the end when the Constitution is pushed into a corner as an anachronism. The Rule of Law is under siege in so many areas. Always there are rationalizations to nibble-off things at all edges.

The remote areas to which I travel have taken some years to learn all the spots with good coverage (tiny slices or gaps in mountain areas), so it’s hard for me to just switch. But I suppose what could work is a 30-day trial, timed just right to see if an alternative carrier would work.

As for international, a recent 3-day trip to Germany cost me a whopping $120 at AT&T for a meager 300MB of data—all of which I used. And on top of that I had to pay for internet at my hotel so I could push half a gigabyte to my server for my photography publications.


Security is only as good as its implementation (or as bad as its incompetent implementation)

See also Don’t Get Phished by Ashley Madison Scams!

It turns out that not only were the accounts of millions of Ashley Madison compromised, the site was incompetently implemented (in security terms) above and beyond the breach itself, making the majority of passwords crackable in short order. ArsTechnica has a writeup on the the programming blunder in Once seen as bulletproof, 11 million+ Ashley Madison passwords already cracked.

Who’s to say that any particular institution or business has not made similar blunders?

The bottom line is simple: the Cloud is not a safe place, period. And it won’t ever be. It doesn’t matter which company is involved, or whether 99/100 sites are secure 99% of the time. All it takes is one compromised site (people re-use password, login with FaceBook, etc), one backdoor, one programming mistake and *poof* — bye bye money. It is the classic when-not-if scenario.

If you have substantial financial assets, MPG advice is to look with skepticism upon any bank or brokerage or similar that does not offer some kind of two-factor authentication (password + hardware token or similar), limits on withdrawals, etc. And turn on account alerts. For example, within seconds of making a purchase, deposit, transfer, etc, my phone gets an SMS message from my bank. If I have not actually done so, such alerts give me immediate warning of trouble. I also place daily limits on payments and transfers.

Nothing is foolproof and all conveniences have risks. Minimize the risks, don’t keep all assets in one place, and never, ever re-use passwords or similar ones. More on password security.

View all articles and blog posts on security.

Use a 4K Display on MacBook Pro Retina: Vertical Orientation

This (screen shot below) is how I use my NEC EA244UHD 4K display on my late 2013 MacBook Pro Retina, which I use as a 2nd workstation for processing multi-minute jobs while I contine work on my Mac Pro*. I like the vertical orientation for reading web pages, and it keeps the desk area quite small.

The NEC EA244UHD 4K display is available at a moderate price and can be calibrated with the Spectra View II software and hardware that its siblings use (included in this SKU). Like all the NEC displays, can be rotated vertically in a few seconds (and back to landscape orientation just as easily). And it has a 3-year warranty, versus the crummy 1-year warranty with the rumored 21.5" iMac 4K (and the iMac display cannot be calibrated).

See also Reader Question: NEC Displays vs Apple.

* My 8-core 3.3 GHz 2013 Mac Pro has ample CPU power, but Photoshop keeps forcing itself to the front while I try to work on another task, so it effectively locks me out of any use of the machine while the job (script) runs. This behavior is wantonly destructive to making use of my time, but there is no workaround for its idiotic behavior. And it’s buggy too—the job can abort if Photoshop is not in front at certain junctures. So I run such jobs on the MacBook Pro, which sits just to my right on the same desk and I use file sharing to open the PSD or PSB file from the MBP.

diglloyd image

James A writes:

Would putting photoshop on its own desktop and then do other tasks on another desktop solve the problem of it coming to the foreground when you don’t want it to?

I use multiple desktops and switch between using FN:Arrow key combos. After awhile it is in the muscle memory and very easy to use.

DIGLLOYD: If by “another destktop” James means the “Spaces” feature, that might work. I constantly shuttle between 3 or 4 programs, and having Photoshop in a separate space might take extra keypresses and might be OK. Still it looks promising and I’m going to try it out.

Results with this approach

  • Photoshop does not come to the front (good!)
  • Photoshop changes the cursor to a busy cursor even if it is out of sight in another space (distracting).
  • Show stopper: Photoshop aborts the script by bringing itself to the front with the error dialog “The command Duplicate is not currently available.”. Bummer.
diglloyd image
Setting up behavior for Spaces in Apple Mission Control
diglloyd image
Two “Spaces” via Apple Mission Control
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Testing Multiple Drives for Consistency for a RAID , or just Finding Dud or Flaky Drives in a Batch


New hard drives are generally not media tested and might have issues that show up only when used, e.g., some areas of the drive are bad, and possibly too-large a chunk for more than a short lifespan. For a RAID-0 stripe or RAID-5 or even a RAID-1 mirror, one laggard can drag down performance (in the “old days”, drives used synchronized spindles).

Or, if one is buying 2/3/4 or more hard drives, why keep the one (or two) duds? Individual drives can vary by 10% or more; few drives of any model are media tested before sale and behavior (including bad blocks) is best flushed out using DiskTester fill-volume.

Following up on last month’s discussion in Testing Multiple Drives for Consistency for a RAID or Similar, here is another related discussion with a case study:

Validating a Hard Drive or SSD or RAID (DiskTester fill-volume)

DiglloydTools DiskTester can test any number of drives independently and simultaneously (as single drives), the only speed constraing being whether the drive enclosure has the bandwidth to support that much simultaneous disk I/O. See details in the above article.

Purchase diglloydTools

Two newly-initialized drives that will become RAID-1 mirror volume DataMirror
Two newly-initialized drives that will become RAID-1 mirror volume DataMirror

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:

Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ MPG consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Reader Question: NEC Displays vs Apple

Serko A (videographer) writes:

Apple is purportedly going to include higher spec displays in the new 4K iMac and 5K iMac revision later this year. Very happy with my 2K NEC display nonetheless.

How does the color accuracy and quality of Apple's 5K iMac display compared to NEC's 2K and 4K displays? The rumored 4K 21.5" iMac looks tempting.

MPG: the color gamut of the iMac 5K is marginal for serious use (its gamut is greatly truncated compared to the NEC PA302W, which has an outstanding color gamut). But most users will find the iMac 5K very pleasing in general (since most users don’t even know what color gamut means). And the mirror-like iMac 5K display is a poor match for making fine prints, even if the marginal gamut is deemed acceptable.

Another troubling issue for pros is that Apple iMac and other displays cannot be calibrated; only faux calibration is possible, a much inferior solution. Combined with the restricted gamut, Apple displays of any kind to date have not been a good choice for any professional. The problem is, to make the call on which display, one has to understand color gamut and calibration well, and thus the wrong decision is often made. This will matter little and to few for personal work or low-end videography, but it’s critical for quality professional work.

See all MPG/DIGLLOYD display reviews.

OWC: Drive Deals, Labor Day Weekend Specials

Drive specials at OWC. MPG favors the 6TB NAS drives, but the 5TB models are a terrific deal, and plenty of space for most users. Put them into a Thunderbay 4.

All Labor Day specials at OWC.

Three 5TB RAID-5 volumes using four 5TB drives
Drive specials at OWC

OWC Thunderbay can be Partitioned into Multiple RAID-5 Volumes

RAID-5 is fault-tolerant meaning it can survive the failure of one of the drives: swap it for the spare and keep working—no downtime (keep a cold spare on hand, so buy one with the device, e.g. a 5th drive for a 4-drive unit).

MPG regularly receives emails on whether RAID-5 or RAID-4 can be partitioned into multiple volumes (or how to set up a Thunderbay 4 unit): a Thunderbay 4 can be used as a single huge RAID-5 volume, or (recommended approach) partition it into three separate RAID-5 volumes.

For example, instead of one 15TB volume, make three 5TB volumes. Or not use RAID at all, and use the drives as single non-RAID drives if fault tolerance is not needed (use a disciplined backup strategy). The MPG recommendation when using RAID-5 for most users is to NOT use one large 12/15/18TB volume, but to “chunk” it (partition it) into 4/5/6TB volumes that thus match the 4/5/6TB capacity of single-drive external backup volumes. This has the operational advantage of simplicity when making backup clones.

See the MPG review of the OWC Thunderbay 4. MPG has five of these units—favorite storage device ever.

RAID-5 or RAID-4 Can be Partitioned to Suit

See aso Using Cloning as a Backup Strategy.

Three 5TB RAID-5 volumes using four 5TB drives
Three 5TB RAID-5 volumes using four 5TB drives

DEAL: 2013 Mac Pro + SPECIAL BUNDLE DISCOUNT (“sweet spot” for photography )

OWC has some new or nearly new (some sealed box) 2013 Mac Pro deals, 6 core. Savings are $400 to $580, depending on the model.

The 6-core is the “sweet spot” model for photographers that I’ve been recommending since the 2013 model debuted. See review of the 2013 Mac Pro.

+++ Special additional discount for MPG readers

MPG has arranged a special reader discount of an additional $100 off over and above the other discounts when purchased this set of peripherals (every Mac Pro user looking for a robust system should have this setup):

If you need a 1TB or 2TB SSD, then also get the OWC Aura SSD for Mac Pro upgrade also.

To take advantage of the total package: (1) add the Mac Pro of choice to your shopping carty, then (2) add the above memory / Thunderbay / Dock bundle to your cart. The cart should look something like this:

Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ MPG consulting starts you out on solid footing.

OWC Fall Garage Sale

OWC has its September GarageSale/Clearance is up and running!

Some of these below are sorted from high price to low, so resort if need be, and use the links at the left of the page to tunnel in on desired products.


Finding Deals on Macs or anything else at B&H

Recently this site added a new feature: a deals page that is updated every half hour.

It’s a very handy way to search. With just a click or two:

The percent discount cutoff can be changed to another value, so if you’re looking for the deepest discount click the change... link found right under the brand or category name.

Deals are updated every half our or so, although B&H pricing may actually change only 2 or 3 times per day. Still, what is shown is “live” to within a short time period.

Tip: bookmark the deals page or several variants of it, put them into a browser tab group, and thus in one click all your favorite areas can be viewed rapid-fire.

EXAMPLE: Apple deals of at least 8% off.

Image below is a screen shot. Click to go to the deals page.

Deals page excerpt for Apple deals
Upgrade Your Mac Memory
At much lower cost than Apple, with more options!

Back to School Time: a Used Mac for The Kids?

See also Making an Old Dog of a Laptop Run Like a New One: Wow!.

OWC has a good article on saving money for parents: Back to School: Using a Vintage MacBook as an Inexpensive Student Computer.

Macs aren’t cheap and any parent with more than one child knows just how fast costs can add up, just for food and shoes and clothes! Let alone computers.

As for new models, B&H Photo has the Apple 13.3" MacBook Air (Early 2014) 1.7 GHz / 8GB / 512GB for $600 off at $1249.


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