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iMac Pro: Downclocked CPUs

Recently I bought a 2017 iMac 5K for solid reasons and yesterday I discussed the switchover and the gear I’m using.

See also Wither the iMac Pro? and 4-Core CPUs do not Leave Much Grunt for Other Tasks and Will the iMac Pro Be Worth The Cost?.

Any photographer using a Mac is surely thinking “what about that new iMac Pro?”.

I hope that I am quite mistaken about what follows. That would be wonderful. But so far all the evidence I’ve seen suggests that assuming that the iMac Pro is the best choice is a bad idea. It comes down to specific types of work with specific tasks in specific software. In other words:

Question: is the iMac Pro faster or slower than the 2017 iMac 5K?
Answer: yes.

I will be testing the iMac Pro against the 2017 iMac 5K as soon as I can get one. But I can’t outlay $8K to buy one, so it will have to be a loaner, which means I won’t be able to do it immediately.

From a reader (and I’ve received other info too):

If you look at how the hexacore i7-8700K performs (and that's the CPU slated for the next iMac 5K refresh,) you'll see that it's faster than the 8-core iMac Pro.

In fact, the 2017 iMac 5K is faster than the 8-core iMac Pro in single-threaded performance, and is about very close in terms of multi-threaded performance.

So looks like come 2018, one will be able to choose between a $5K 8-core iMac Pro with non-user-upgradable, crazy expensive RAM, scoring about 23,500 on Geekbench, and a $3k 6-core 27" iMac, with user-upgradable RAM, scoring about 30,000.

If you configure the iMac Pro with 64GB of RAM, I'll bet it'll cost at least $5.5k, and the iMac will be about $3.5k with 64GB of OWC RAM. So you'll be getting 20% lower multi-threaded CPU performance for nearly 60% more money. Unless you really need the faster graphics, ECC memory, or more TB3 ports, choosing the iMac 5K will be a no-brainer.

MPG: based on what I’ve seen, I concur, except on price: it may well but significantly higher than stated above for the iMac Pro.

Those who use specialized applications will see superior performance with a small set of applications on a subset of tasks in those applications, by virtue of more cores and faster GPU. If these are long running tasks that use all CPU cores, then it’s a huge win and the iMac Pro offers huge value.

If brief spikes using multi-core or single threaded (as with my own work), it has nil benefit with very poor value. Most people, including me with heavy duty Photoshop work, will on average see no benefit because Photoshop uses few 1 or 2 CPU cores for most everything I do. So the iMac Pro might even slow down my work, though one task I am sure it will speed up. Is that worth $4000 more?

What Apple has done is to 'spin' form over function as top-notch engineering for heat management. By designing too small an enclosure (very poor decision for heat removal) it then became necessary to use top-notch engineering to deal with the heat problem which would not exist if a proper-sized case had been used. And that would make the iMac Pro less svelte—and form takes precedence over function. The disappointing kicker is to realize that Apple is using downclocked (slower) CPUs because the faster ones would generate too much heat because the decision was made to make a too-small enclosure for the iMac Pro and/or not to size up the venting and fans. Gorgeous engineering visually (!), but impaired performance and non-upgradeable memory.

It’s a shame to have to choose faster for tasks A/B/C but slower for tasks X/Y/Z. Compromising the fundamental purpose of a tool is not elegance, and never can be.

Gaping hole in respect for professionals who want to plan around the iMac Pro along with
impaired performance to stay within a form-over-function case design

 

 

Cycling

One Example Among Many of Things that Suck with macOS: Continual Breakdown in Quality Control

Small problems which are not so small when added by the dozens add up to wasted time, and in this case, quite a scare: for about a minute it looked like my files were toast, having been truncated to zero bytes.

I had to stop and check—doing a File => Get Info showed zero bytes also. That’s scary stuff having your files be toast, at least for me.

About a minute later, the file sizes showed up. I call it unacceptable to not show the correct size immediately after copying the files—c'mon how hard is this to get right, Apple? And dozens of other problems that never get fixed.

Apple puts in all sorts of “improvements” based on their cool new technology (cool to Apple, and not necessarily for users). Then performance goes to crap with things like this, also file open and save dialogs and all sorts of things.

Files shows as having zero bytes for up to a minute or so
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Wither the iMac Pro?

Recently I bought a 2017 iMac 5K for solid reasons and yesterday I discussed the switchover and the gear I’m using.

See yesterday’s 4-Core CPUs do not Leave Much Grunt for Other Tasks and Will the iMac Pro Be Worth The Cost?.

There are hints out there that the iMac Pro will be SLOWER than the 2017 iMac 5K, due to downclocked CPUs. And even if not downclocked, the Intel XEON lineup shows clock speeds well below the 4.2 GHz of the 2017 iMac 5K.. I’d like to present the table here, but its copyrighted, so look at the "Intel® Xeon® W Processors for Mainstream Workstations” sections.

The most likely CPU for the base iMac Pro is the W-2145, which runs at 3.7 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.5 GHz. It has quad-channel memory which ought to help close the gap to the base clock of the 4.2 GHz iMac 5K, which also turbos to 4.5 GHz. But my guess is that the iMac Pro be slower than the 2017 iMac 5K on most all tasks excepting those tasks that use 8/10/18 CPU cores efficiently and/or heavy use of the fast GPU.

It’s also lame that these CPUs support up to 512GB memory, but Apple allows for a maximum of 1/4 that. How exactly is a pro machine that can use at most 1/4 of the supported memory a pro machine? I guess the case wouldn’t have been as pretty for presentation or something. 8 slots instead of 4 would at least have allowed 256GB.

There is a huge gaping hole in Apple’s design: memory bandwidth. To “feed the beast”, e.g., a 8/10/18 core CPU, memory access can be a major performance bottleneck. While that same limitation applies to the 2013 Mac Pro, going to 18 CPU cores generates a lot of contention for access to memory. Not every task is memory intensive, but many tasks are. It might be wise for those who need a 10 or 18 core CPU to put off the iMac Pro until the Mac Pro, which might use a higher grade chip with 6-channel memory and a dual CPUs option. Also, very few programs use 8 cores efficiently, let alone 10 or 18. Know your own workflow.

Continues below...

Gaping hole in respect for professionals who want to plan around the iMac Pro along with
impaired performance to stay within a form-over-function case design

Planning ahead courtesy ≠ Apple

I for one (speaking as a professional) am very unhappy about Apple keeping mum on the release date and especially the pricing for the iMac Pro. The only vague information is $4999 for some unspecified base configuration.

The tax year ends in 27 days, and to write off for this year requires that gear be put into service in this year. It’s offensive of Apple to announce it 6 months ago and now leave buyers twisting in the wind, unable to plan.

Alexey V writes:

Thank you for your for your thorough, well-written reviews and opinions – I have read most of your Mac articles, and have found them to be very helpful.

I cannot wait for Apple to finally release the new Mac Pro, but like you, lean towards a top of the line iMac 5K (with OWC RAM) for my needs, since I mainly use Lightroom, Photoshop, and AutoPano Giga. I am, of course, also curious about the iMac Pro, and have been reading about it both on your website as well as on multiple other resources.

You may have already heard about this, but the 8-core iMac Pro may ship with a custom "W-2140B" Xeon CPU, clocked at 3.2GHz, as opposed to the W-2145, clocked at 3.7GHz. I am afraid that if the Geekbench results below are real, that model will barely edge out the current 8-core Mac Pro (and may not be any faster than your machine with its 3.3GHz 8-core CPU):

https://www.macrumors.com/2017/10/16/imac-pro-geekbench-benchmarks/

I realize this is a rumor, but this website is frequently accurate (I've been reading it for over a decade) and if past Geekbench score leaks are any indication, these results are real. Additionally, I realize that Geekbench scores do not equate to performance in your specific tasks, but they do provide a glimpse of a machine's performance

So I am not holding my breath for the iMac Pro – as much as want it to be a modern version of the 8-core-plus 2013 Mac Pro in the iMac 5K enclosure (with improved thermals,) I think it will be more of the 2017 iMac 5K with extra lower-clocked cores for twice/thrice/n times the money. Sure, it'll benefit people rendering video in HandBrake and the like, but it won't help me with Ps/Lr.

What I am holding my breath for is the next revision of the iMac with 8th or 9th generation CPUs (the i7-8700K, which is already out and is a 6 core/12 thread SKU, or i7-9700K, which was recently rumored to have 8 cores and 16 threads – both having the same 95W TDP as the i7-7700K in your 2017 iMac 5K). And yes, a 32" 8K "Super Retina" panel (with 3x, as opposed to 2x scaling, a-la iPhone X) would be amazing, but likely won't happen until panels with that pixel density first trickle down to iPads and MacBooks, or ever.

That said, I realize that waiting for Apple to update a machine is an ungrateful task, so I may break down and get the 2017 iMac – that is one heck of a machine for a photographer.

MPG: it’s a shame to have to choose faster for tasks A/B/C but slower for tasks X/Y/Z. Compromising the fundamentals is not elegance, never can be, and Apple ought to know better.

Methinks that a pretty computer case that looks good in marketing promotions has killed the iMac Pro for not just expansion (memory seems to be built-in and non-upgradeable), but also substantially reduced its numerous professional tasks, turning it into a very very expensive machine that is optimal for only very specific workloads.

Form over function triumphs again at Apple. I’m a bit sick of hearing how great a designer Jonathan Ive is (as clearly he is). But I consider it as a sort of idiot-savant designing to not have expandable memory, and to have to downclock the CPU speed (and then to brag about the awesome thermal management: “we designed it badly for thermal, so we worked extra hard to make it work”). I would not say this or mind so much if Apple were honest about their goal of “pretty design” as a priority over functional design, but when the promotion of the iMac Pro talks all about its awesome computing capabilities, it’s a little nauseating to see a half-the-truth story promulgated with such fecklessness.

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FOR SALE: 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-Core + NEC PA322UHD 4K Display

See my mac wish list.

This system has been 'bulletproof'. Bought around March 2014.

  • 2013 Mac Pro with 8-core 3.3 GHz CPU (custom upgrade 3.5 year ago, nothing faster for most all work).
  • 1TB internal Apple SSD
  • D700 GPUs
  • 64GB memory
  • NEC PA322UHD 4K professional display (see review)

$4500 or best offer. Local pickup preferred. Contact Lloyd.

Willing to sell the NEC display separately.

SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina
Internal SSD Wishlist…

4-Core CPUs are Easily Maxed-Out with a Few Simple Tasks

Recently I bought a 2017 iMac 5K for solid reasons and yesterday I discussed the switchover and the gear I’m using.

See yesterday’s 4-Core CPUs do not Leave Much Grunt for Other Tasks.

This post shows how high CPU loads max-out an iMac 5K and why 6/8/10 cores can be valuable even for non-video work. That is why I am generally reluctant to use a 4-core machine: my work often involves getting work done while other stuff happens, like clone backups and my local web server starting up and a Photoshop script running. There just isn’t much CPU power to go around. The cost is human time (my time)—getting things done, and since I usually work 12 hour a day 7 days a week (I’ve slowed down from 14-16 hour days 5 or 6 years ago), I care a lot about the Mac wasting my time.

The mitigating factor for the 2017 iMac 5K is that is a far faster CPU than what one can buy in the aging 2013 Mac Pro. Whether the new iMac Pro will suffer the slow-CPU fate of utilizing downclocked Intel Xeon chips is as yet unclear since Apple has not even said which CPUs are to be used.

The 2017 iMac 5K has four (4) real CPU cores and 4 virtual cores (hyperthreading), which is why there are 8 CPU history graphs (red/green stuff at left).

In my experience, virtually all tasks not only do not benefit from virtual cores, but can be slower, due to additional threading overhead. At any rate, 400% CPU usage total (add up all the usage) is full utilization.

The other point here is memory usage: CPU cores can run efficiently only when disk I/O is minimized. This is why I always go right to 64GB OWC memory for my work, and why Apple’s MacBook Pro line sucks—it is still stuck at a pathetic 16GB maximum memory, even though the chipset supports 32GB or more.

Below, an overloaded iMac 5K where the 'java' process is using 3.57 CPU cores versus just a heavily loaded iMac 5K. If I added cloning into this mix, the iMac 5K would be overloaded by a factor of 2X or so—8 CPU cores would be a lot better.

Apple ought to fix the Activity Monitor mess with CPU history for real cores only (what good will 36 graphs be for an 18 core CPU?)—that is, show 4 CPU core histories, collapsing the (useless) virtual CPU cores into its real and virtual sum.

This 4-core 2017 iMac 5K is overloaded: 400% is full CPU utilization and it is well beyond that (4 more virtual cores)
Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

4-Core CPUs do not Leave Much Grunt for Other Tasks

Recently I bought a 2017 iMac 5K for solid reasons and yesterday I discussed the switchover and the gear I’m using.

I am generally reluctant to use a 4-core machine, because my work often involves getting work done while other stuff happens, like clone backups—and cloning takes a lot of CPU power—see the rsync processes below. On a 4-core iMac 5K, about 60% of the computing power is being used for these in-progress clones and while there are several at once, the I/O speeds are relatively low, which reduces the CPU load.

Bottom line: a 6-core or more machine is much better for workloads where background tasks are chewing up CPU time. It is one reason among several that I might end up with an iMac Pro instead of the 2017 iMac 5K. The only mitigating factor with the about $3699 top-end 2017 iMac 5K is that its 4.2 GHz CPU is the fastest available, matching or even outrunning my 8-core 3.3 GHz 2013 Mac Pro on some tasks.

Cloning takes substantial CPU time, disadvantage of a 4-core CPU
Rigorously lab tested and OWC certified.

Cabling up the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock in my Mercedes Sprinter Photography Adventure Van

Recently I bought a 2017 iMac 5K for solid reasons and yesterday I discussed the switchover and the gear I’m using.

Using an OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock installed permanently in my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van, I started connecting things. I realized with pleasure that I could cable everything into the Dock, even the keyboard and mouse, at least if I can fix-down the keyboard and mouse while driving so they don’t go flying off the desk.

Then I need plug in only two things to the iMac 5K: power cable and Thunderbolt 3 cable.

Shown below, the Mini DisplayPort cable for the NEC PA302W wide gamut display is near the left, a charging cable for flashlights (green) is on a USB port at right the keyboard next to it, an XQD card reader next to that, and a cable for the iPhone next to that. And there is still a high power USB port on the front of the unit and an SD card reader. Plus the USB ports on the iMac itself. The headphone jack... well I’ll just blast the built-in stereo system.

Slick setup, it seems to me. That 12V socket is for other stuff and is unrelated to the Dock.

The image below is a testament to the atrocious quality of the iPhone 7 Plus camera—worse than any 10-year-old point and shoot camera. And it is at ISO 30 here! So awful.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock wired up for travel in my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van
f1.8 @ 1/30 sec, ISO 32; 2017-12-01 12:14:44
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back dual camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 63mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina
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Reader Question: Testing More than One New Drive with DiskTester

See Drive Capacity and Speed for why drives slow down across the capacity.

diglloydTools is compatible with macOS High Sierra (no update needed, see version history).

John L writes:

Performance across capacity of Seagate 12TB Helium

I just bought two new HGST 8TB NAS drives from OWC.  I want to run fill-volume on both of them as new drives.  This will be done using NewerTech Docks from OWC.

I assume that in order to run both of them at the same time, I will need to use the command line as I don’t see an option for multiple instances in the application.

Is that correct?

Will I still get the output in a format to put into the Excel spreadsheet for graphing?

I have one running in Terminal now:  it’s writing 7.41 GB files!  It is running about 200 MiB/s right now and a Voyager Q connected by eSATA.

MPG: drives can be tested across their capacity using the fill-volume command of diglloydTools DiskTester. The output pastes into the supplied spreadsheet to show drive performance (read and write) over the entire capacity. Testing is trivially invoked in Terminal, for a drive named Drive1:

disktester fill-volume Drive1

Many drives can be done simultaneously using one invocation per Terminal window. The only caveat is that if the drives are on the same bus, testing can only show full speed if the bus over which the testing is done has enough bandwidth to support all the drives at the same time (such as in an OWC Thunderbay 4). So for proper results, be sure not to overload the bus bandwidth while testing (also disable Spotlight and TimeMachine, at least on the drives to be tested). If the bus is overloaded, bus bandwidth will throttle/flatline performance on a hard drive, which is “wrong” (see the graph below for what it should look like).

With Thunderbolt 3 and suitable 6-bay enclosures which MPG hopes will arrive this year, as many as 13 fast hard drives could be simultaneously tested on just one TB3 bus.

The Voyager Q takes only one drive so that’s not an issue unless something else is using the bus—then the bus might limit performance—but in this case eSATA is one dedicated channel. If it were USB3, two hard drives might work, depending on the dock in use and whether other things were using bus bandwidth. The OWC Thunderbolt 2 Drive Dock is sufficient for full speed with two fast hard drives.

Particularly for RAID, it is wise to test all the drives and then overlay the graphs as seen below—one bad apple (so to speak) can bring the whole RAID performance down. Below, there is a tight grouping, though clearly there is one standout performer a little faster than the others. But MPG has seen up to 15% variance and that is not good if performance is a goal. Also, a drive with bad blocks may remap them, creating canyons and peaks of performance at inappropriate places.

Performance across capacity of Seagate 12TB Helium
Seagate 12.0TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5-inch HDD (Helium): speed vs transfer size
Seagate 12.0TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5-inch HDD (Helium): speed vs transfer size

Switched to 2017 iMac 5K as Primary Machine: Details on Gear I’m Using

Recently I bought a 2017 iMac 5K for solid reasons.

I have now switched to it as my primary workhorse machine. The 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8 core is for sale, along with the NEC PA322W and one OWC Thunderbay 4 (5TB drives optional).

Switching was uneventful, which is all one can hope for when changing computers:

NEC PA302W wide gamut display

The 2017 iMac 5K flies—you can run all the tests you like, but it rocks for what I do.

I am looking forward to using this setup in my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van very soon,with 3 hot cameras to work with.

If the new iMac Pro is faster (cannot assume), I will probably go with it instead (and return the 2017 iMac 5K, for the iMac Pro has 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports on two Thunderbolt 3 busses, 3X faster GPU (claimed), and 8 CPU cores.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock port layout
Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

iPhone: Blurred Screen Requires Rebooting Phone

Apple iOS 11 is chock full of problems and bugs—here’s another one, and see the app download bug. I think iOS 11 was rushed out the door by calendar schedule (as usual) foisting manure-grade software on hapless customers. See for example Surprise! Apple Releases iOS 11.2 to Combat Reset Loop Bug.

As shown below, the entire screen is blurred. This is app specific, for example, the camera or Contacts or whatever. When it happens, that app become unusable and the only solution that I’ve found to restore functionality is to power down the phone and reboot it.

iPhone: blurred screen requires rebooting phone

NewerTech cases have saved my iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone 7s Plus many times from damage.

Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

iPhone: App Store Downloads Never Finish

Apple iOS 11 is chock full of problems and bugs—here’s one.

Recently, I wanted to download the Audible.com app. After two days, the app is not downloaded in spite of the iPhone being 7 feet from a WiFi router with full strength signal.

Today, I tried the Google Earth app—same problem.

So:

  • Apple has removed the ability to see, download or install apps in iTunes on the computer (or at least I can no longer find any such feature—seems to have been ripped out). Who thought that up? You cannot count on anything but quicksand software with Apple—features and functionality arbitrarily removed—professionals beware.
  • Apple has seen fit to force downloads on the iPhone, which is hard enough with presbyopia, entering passwords, etc—tedious and error prone and very frustrating.
  • Apple app downloads on the iPhone don’t work properly.

Or is the iPhone now a Windoze '98 box, which has to be rebooted twice a day? More and more it seems to be the case: today I thought “what if I reboot the phone?” and sure enough—I rebooted the iPhone and voila—the apps downloaded in under a minute. I’ve also had other problems with iOS 11 that forced me to reboot the phone (iPhone 7 Plus).

Apple is the new Emperor (no clothes). This design and bug-ridden iOS and macOS Apple Core Rot are getting oh so tiresome. It baffles me how anyone can use Apple products without being blessed with good luck and being an expert and even then some bugs are insurmountable.

Colin P writes with a tip, albeit one that is short term only and not sustainable in . Hate iTunes 12.7 and want to be able to install and manage iOS apps in iTunes? Install iTunes 12.6.3

iOS: app downloads never finish even on high-speed WiFi

NewerTech cases have saved my iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone 7s Plus many times from damage.

This bug below with visual voicemail in iOS 11 plagued me for nearly 2 weeks and no amount of rebooting the phone would fix it. Rushed calendar-based releases hurt people by wasting their time and disabling functionality. I expect far better from Apple.

iOS: app downloads never finish even on high-speed WiFi
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Apple Mail: Cannot Configure ToolBar as Desired

Apple keeps breaking things.

In Apple Mail, I like either the smallest icons with text labels, or just plain text. But all I am able to get is small icons. I despise user interfaces that force me to study an icon to figure out what it is supposed to be—it is absolutely terrible UI design.

Looks like I might be stuck with this annoyance in High Sierra. But maybe there is some hidden trick that I have not found in any menu.

Curiously, the configuration dialog *does* show icons with labels, but when dragged into the toolbar, the labels disappear. It shows a inattention to detail: if the icons need labels in the configuration dialog, why not in the toolbar? Thinking/designing at Apple seems to be either presumptuous, incompetent or blinders-on-skin-deep these days—no depth or insight into the range of utility or customer base. A conceptual faculty seems entirely absent throughout much of the software stack.

Apple Mail: unable to get small icons with text labels, or text-only
Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

Perspective on Apple Core Rot Over Some Years

Blemishes turns to internal rot,
sooner or later

Given the recent worst-ever security flaw Apple has ever delivered along with severe performance problems with APFS in macOS High Sierra, I thought it appropriate to add context on Apple software quality.

In 2011, security expert Bruce Schneier in his 2011-09-27 blog references as “dumb mistakes” the page Cracking OS X Lion Passwords. That’s 6 years ago. The character of men doesn’t change over time with rare exception (dubious), but does a software development organization led by the wrong folks? Seems unlikely. The reader comments in Schneier’s blog are interesting too. So Apple’s feckless approach to passwords goes back at lest 6+ years.

More perspective:

Below, some non-cliché High Sierra. View more...

Lenticular Clouds Rising over Saddlebag Lake East Mountains
f9 @ 1/40 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-10 14:01:39 [focus stack 3 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]
Round Hole in Tenaya Bowl
f11 @ 6.0 sec, ISO 31; 2017-10-21 18:23:10 [focus stack 2 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]
Glacial Polish at Lake Dusk, view to Half Dome
f9 @ 4.0 sec, ISO 31; 2017-10-21 18:35:02 [focus stack 2 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]

 

OWC Easy SSD Upgrade Guide
MacBook Pro and MacBook Air
iMac, Mac Pro, MacMini, more!

The Most Serious Apple Software Quality Failure Yet: Logging-in 'root' without any password

Update 29 Nov: Apple has issued a patch for this bug (gotta give 'em credit for acting fast, but a bug of this massive severity should NEVER ship and speaks to very poor quality control practices). More info in About the security content of Security Update 2017-001.

Update 30 Nov: Apple issues a fix for the fix. Cute—Apple botches the first fix and has to issue a 2nd fix the next day. Speaks volumes. Note the lack of a version number for the fix—why? This generates even more doubt as to whether the fix fixes it.

It is critical to install the patch RIGHT NOW. To do so, open App Store and click on Updates. If the security patch has been installed, you’ll something like this, below. If not, click Update to install the patch.

Apple botches the first fix, issues a 2nd fix a day later

Disturbing: after the update, About this Mac does not display the new build number in About this Mac as per the technote. Another bug it seems, but as I see it: more sloppy work.

I also found that on my father’s Mac, even though “Install System Data Files and Security Updates” was enabled in App Store Preferences, the patch had NOT been installed—incredibly, yet another bug. A comedy of errors that ought to be intensely embarrasing to Apple.

Installing macOS security update 2017-001
Installing macOS security update 2017-001: build number not shown in About this Mac as per the technote

Security Update 2017-001

Released November 29, 2017

Directory Utility

Available for: macOS High Sierra 10.13.1
Not impacted: macOS Sierra 10.12.6 and earlier
Impact: An attacker may be able to bypass administrator authentication without supplying the administrator’s password Description: A logic error existed in the validation of credentials. This was addressed with improved credential validation.

CVE-2017-13872

When you install Security Update 2017-001 on your Mac, the build number of macOS will be 17B1002. Learn how to find the macOS version and build number on your Mac.

If you require the root user account on your Mac, you will need to re-enable the root user and change the root user's password after this update.

Cyber Busters fun stuff at OWC

Original post...

Apple Core Rot is alive and well. MPG reiterates its advice to hold off at least 6 months before installing High Sierra. See also How to Disable Downloading of macOS High Sierra.

For a temporary fix/workaround until Apple issues a patch, see How to enable the root user on your Mac or change your root password.

I blame incompetence high up the management chain: undisciplined, no planning, arbitrary changes and generally poor judgment on everything that has appeared in the past 4-5 years. All on a calendar scheduled with a damn-the-quality-ship-it-now attitude.

I was able to reproduce the root login with no password in System Preferences as well as at the startup login prompt. macOS even nicely set up an all new user desktop for 'root' for me. User 'root' has unfettered access to everything, as show in in the image below with all processes in Activity Monitor.

Rather than repeat a well-written article I refer readers to ArsTechnica: macOS bug lets you log in as admin with no password required.

In one of Apple's biggest security blunders in years, a bug in macOS High Sierra allows untrusted users to gain unfettered administrative control without any password.

The bypass works by putting the word "root" (without the quotes) in the user name field of a login window, moving the cursor into the password field, and then hitting enter button with the password field empty. With that—after a few tries in some cases—the latest version of Apple's operating system logs the user in with root privileges. Ars reporters were able to replicate the behavior multiple times on three Macs. The flaw isn't present on previous macOS versions.

This is not a “blunder”: it is the direct result of longstanding issues in software development—issues like this being inevitable in my view. Note also that the Disk Utility password exposure bug makes this NOT a one-off issue. Not to mention breaking sudo.

Why the hell don’t high level heads roll when something like this happens? It is not excusable in any way shape or form.

The downside for users is potentially horrific: loss of all bank accounts (think keyboard sniffer malware), impersonation, downloading child porn and then calling the cops, whatever—someone’s life could be ruined in many ways, financially, criminally and so on.

Apple’s software quality is manure-grade these days and this latest fiasco calls for Tim Cook to either step down as having failed in the most fundamental way, or direct a few billion at fixing the software incompetence he seems intent on never fixing. All that self-serving drool about respecting user privacy amounts to a city-size pile of compost in this context. Start by letting heads roll, with Craig Federighi being a good start.

Below, logged in as root, every process and application has unfettered root access to macOS.

Severe security bug: root login into macOS HIghSierra without a password!

Kevin B writes:

I agree with you about the fact that someone very high up in management at Apple needs to lose their job over the High Sierra root bug … but why Tim Cook or Eddie Cue?

Not that they don’t have their faults, but Tim’s no techie and Eddie Cue has nothing to do with this issue. To me the person who needs to go is Craig Federighi. He is the one in charge of software development at Apple. I’ve never understood why so many people seem to have a man crush on Craig … the decline in software quality at Apple that you (rightly) complain about began when Bertrand Serlet left and Craig took over. It’s time to ignore the fact that he is a good presenter and does have great hair and judge him on the quality of the work the people he supervises produces … which would result in his dismissal.

MPG: my mistake, yes it’s Craig Federighi at issue methinks (corrected above).

In my book the buck stops with the CEO (Tim Cook) and so I hold him accountable . He is the one to right the ship and if he does not, then he bears the failure first and foremost, not his underlings. The Apple ship has been listing for at least 5 years; I first started the Apple Core Rot section back in February of 2013.

Top level executive are paid dumptruck-full piles of $100 bills and ought to be held to standards far higher than rank and file employees as to performance. But Tim Cook keeps bringing in world’s-best profits, which is what makes ignoble software quality ignorable.

Sony A7R III NEW!
With pixel shift, higher-res EVF, much more.
Please use this link to buy.
ends in 2 days

Gobsmacked: Power Efficiency of the 2017 iMac 5K vs 2015 iMac 5K, Particularly on the Road in Sprinter Van

Recently I bought a 2017 iMac 5K for solid reasons.

See also Using Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports to Build Out a System and Options for Connecting a Display with Mini DisplayPort or DisplayPort input to a Mac with Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C.

One significant concern was an increased power budget including the need to use an OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock in order to connect my NEC PA302W wide gamut display (the Dock supplies the necessary Mini DisplayPort port).

My thinking was that if the Dock chewed up another 10-20 watts, this would reduce on-the-road battery life in my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van (see the desk layout in my Sprinter van).

I need not have worried, in fact I was gobsmackked by a power savings with the 2017 iMac 5K, even with adding the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock, which consumes power of its own. The results were stunningly favorable: my runtime has increased*, not decreased:

2015 iMac 5K alone, idle with lit screen: 60 watts AC
2017 iMac 5K alone, idle with lit screen: 48 watts AC

2015 iMac 5K + NEC PA302W 142 watts AC
2017 iMac 5K + Thunderbolt 3 Dock + NEC PA302W = 122 watts AC

OWC Thunderbay 4 TB3: 24 watts AC with 4 idle but spinning 12TB drives

Wow! Even adding the Dock, the configuration with the 2017 iMac 5K draw 20 watts less power. Sweet.

Presumably the 2017 iMac 5K not only draws less power overall (CPU, memory, etc), its GPU must be more efficient also, taking less power to drive the external display. I’m psyched.

Assuming average power consumption (idle + active usage) of 200 watts @ 12V DC draw on the battery, and drawing the battery down by 90% (10% reserve), I can run for 23 hours without any idling alternator charging (5120 watt hours X .9 / 200 watts = 23 hours). Not bad! See RV Electrical: Calculating Realistic Electric Load.

* All figures above are AC power; add 30 watts for power inverter overhead for DC power draw, which is what really matters to how long the 5 kW battery will last.

Configuring the 2017 iMac 5K as a system

See Switched to 2017 iMac 5K as Primary Machine: Details on Gear I’m Using.

Below, the storage for home and travel:

The iMac 5K along with the NEC PA302W and the Apple Thunderbolt 3 Male to Thunderbolt 2 Female Adapter.

Rigorously lab tested and OWC certified.

Using Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports to Build Out a System

Thunderbolt 3 has twice the bandwidth of Thunderbolt 2—terrific. But it cannot connect to most displays without an adapter of some kind; see Options for Connecting a Display with Mini DisplayPort or DisplayPort input to a Mac with Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C.

There is also the issue of using existing Thunderbolt 2 devices, such as (in my case) five Thunderbolt 2 OWC Thunderbay 4 units containing hard drives. There is no point to upgrading them for performance; the speed won’t change since hard drives don’t come close to maxing-out Thunderbolt 2.

Display connectivity is a particular thorn, because it terminates the Thunderbolt chain. The OWC Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 SSD is another such case (terminates the chain, as any bus-powered Thunderbolt peripheral must).

In other words, I have two devices that will terminate the Thunderbolt chain, and only 2 ports on the 2017 iMac 5K. This is one strong point in favor of the iMac Pro, which has 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports on two Thunderbolt 3 busses.

How am I going to manage this with the 2017 iMac 5K? Here’s how.

Thunderbolt 3 Port #1

Connect to OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock, which has its own Mini DisplayPort port; this allows my NEC PA302W wide gamut display to operate.

Pug my main storage, a Thunderbolt 3 version of the OWC Thunderbay 4, into the Dock. It in turn has a Thunderbolt 3 port into which I can plug an Apple Thunderbolt 3 Male to Thunderbolt 2 Female Adapter, then hang my existing Thunderbolt 2 OWC Thunderbay 4 units off that.

Thunderbolt 3 Port #2

This port could serve the OWC Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 SSD or any other Thunderbolt 3 peripheral with that SSD at the end of the chain.

All of this feels quite limiting, which is why the iMac Pro with its four Thunderbolt 3 ports on two Thunderbolt 3 busses is appealing.

Below, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock has a mini DisplayPort for connecting an external display.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock port layout

Configuring my 2017 iMac 5K

See Switched to 2017 iMac 5K as Primary Machine: Details on Gear I’m Using.

Below, the storage for home and travel:

The iMac 5K along with the NEC PA302W and the Apple Thunderbolt 3 Male to Thunderbolt 2 Female Adapter.

Time Machine and APFS: Local Backups

I was gobsmacked to see that Apple is now backing up a drive to itself.

With the internal SSD being highly reliable, this has a modicum of merit, but it does nothing to protect against the worst risks: theft or destruction or loss.

Apple’s approach deals with lazy users who do not backup their data: Apple is backing-up the startup drive data... to the startup drive! Ingenious. But I’ll deem this approach half-assed backups—when the poop stuff hits the fan, the data is GONE.

In About Time Machine local snapshots, Apple states:

Your Time Machine backup disk might not always be available, so Time Machine also stores some of its backups to your built-in startup drive and other local drives. These backups are called local snapshots.

  • A daily snapshot is saved every 24 hours, beginning from the time you start or restart your computer.
  • A weekly snapshot is saved every week.
  • Starting with macOS High Sierra, an additional snapsnot is saved before installing any macOS update.

...

Time Machine in macOS High Sierra stores snapshots on every APFS-formatted, all-flash storage device in your Mac or directly connected to your Mac. Time Machine in earlier macOS versions stores snapshots only on the internal startup disk of Mac notebook computers.

To make sure that you have storage space when you need it, snapshots are stored only on disks that have plenty of free space. When storage space gets low, snapshots are automatically deleted, starting with the oldest. That's why Finder and Get Info windows don't include local snapshots in their calculations of the storage space available on a disk.

Too bad it doesn’t work right, at least according to one reader, whoe found that these local snapshots filled up the entire boot drive, almost, and failed to delete them when needed. All while the Time Machine backup drive was attached and available.

These are not backups, but they have value in helping out users who have no concept of backup. Does this approach have merit? A little:

  • If the machine is stolen, the data is gone.
  • If a fire/flood/lightning strike whack the computer, the data is gone.
  • If the user deletes or overwrites a file, then there is value.

Stephen H writes:

I enjoy reading your blog, and appreciate the level of detail and rigour in your comparative tests. It really has helped me in important buying decisions.

I'd like to comment on your article about Time Machine backing up to a drive itself. Time Machine does this too on Sierra on HFS+, and possibly before that even.

It might seem half-assed, though I believe Apple's approach here is sensible. The local backups in this case aren't for backup, but for versioning. While on the move, I'm unlikely to have my external drive plugged in. But I still want Time Machine to provide the ability to well, go back in time to older versions.

When I get back and plug in the external drive, Time Machine dumps the local backup to the external drive. If I don't plug in the external drive, eventually TIme Machine pops up nagging notifications saying it hasn't backed up in XX days.

I feel this gives the best balance between Time Machine's key features: easy backup, easy versioning. That said, I can't answer for Time Machine going awry and filling up a drive, or other stories about its (un)reliability.

Personally, I use Time Machine for ease and Chronosync for scheduled clones. You can't have too many means of backing up for when restores fail.

MPG: Time Machine has a history of very serious bugs, like not backing up a volume. Accordingly.

If the above does not persuade the reader, there is nothing I can say that might. I don’t drive a car without a seat belt, counting on the exploding airbag.

I agree there is some quite limited value in terms of versioning, but it ought to be under user control, and it ought to actually work right; I am inclined to accept the report from one reader of TM filling up his internal SSD in a matter of an hour or two even with the TM backup drive on and attached. As a professional I cannot have TM filling up my SSD that I need for my own image files and such, and I carry backup drives.

Feeling good because it is simple and automatic is a rationalization that I reject as foolish. The fact is, anyone who does not backup to a separate drive is taking a huge risk “on the move”, if only for theft reasons, which I would suggest are at least 10X higher when “on the move”. (and what about sensitive data, financials and company info and such?) So I see not using a real backup drive as extremely risky relative to home/office use, unless the data/files involved have little value. Because the risks of theft or destruction are normally low on a day to day basis, but NOT when traveling—those risks rise considerably.

Want a single 12TB drive? Get the empty OWC Mercury Elite Pro enclosure and install the 12TB drive yourself.

SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina
Internal SSD Wishlist…

Computers Are not Getting Faster in a Meaningful Way, GPU is Half-Baked Tech, Too Many Software Developers Suck

See also: Reader Comment: “Bloomberg piece goes hand-in-hand with today’s article that you posted”.

I happened to be thinking about how well my 2013 Mac Pro serves my needs—very well now for nearly three years, edging out the late 2015 iMac 5K most of the time, or being edged out slightly some of the time.

On the other hand, my most frequent task of creating lens rendering aperture series takes up to 5 minutes at a go, and I do that a lot. I would really like to see that process run 2X to 3X faster. (well, 10X faster). But after three years, the improvement in CPU speed is little better than a rounding error, laptop or desktop (and Apple has made zero speed improvement on the Mac Pro, not even bothering to offer the incrementally faster CPUs).

SSD speed now exceeds the needs of virtually all programs, memory capacity is rarely a real limitation on most all tasks, and memory speed is not a constraining factor for most tasks. The CPU is too often the limit.

Which brings me to two general points.

First, CPU performance is maxed out with little sign of any major gains on the horizon. While incremental gains are seen in dribs and drabs in the laptop and desktop space, performance has hit a wall and it sure doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. Gone are the days of a 25% boost in speed when a new Mac comes out. While the GPU has contributed some benefits, those benefits range from non-existent to spotty and sporadic (certain specialty programs excepted). And programs using the GPU tend to crash; GPU support is too often a science fair project that cannot be used reliably*. The lack of speed gains are not just a Mac thing; PCs might be overclocked for some incremental gain (4.4 GHz vs 4 GHz is a yawner), there are no 10GHz or 20GHz CPUs in any Mac or Windows PC.

* Photoshop crashes with GPU enabled, unable to complete recent MPG testing, Sigma Photo Pro crashes 100% of the time with GPU support enabled, for several years now, display quality is degraded with GPU enabled at certain scaling factors. Ad nauseum: the GPU is a half-baked technology.

Second, many if not most programs could run much faster if software developers did not suck. Some don’t suck, but many do. For example, why can’t I sharpen 10 layers in parallel in Photoshop with one command? Instead, the sharpening has to be invoked layer by layer, which is even worse: the effort is serialized by human-driven actions (even my scripts cannot run in parallel given Photoshop’s serialized operational design). There is something irritating about highly intelligent people being dumb as hell when it comes to obvious things.

15-year-old inertial thinking is killing software performance. In at least some cases.

In other cases, it’s just design by nitwits—taking a more mundane example, why does Apple Mail lock me out with no response and/or a rainbow beachball while using one CPU going at 100% for 3 to 20 seconds, or prevent typing for 3-5 seconds while searching? It’s brain-dead incompetence in software engineering.

There is a whole range of poorly done software out there (in performance terms), but it all boils down to a failure to see what’s right in front of them. A curious blindness. So maybe it is a Russian plot!

OWC Cyber Busters — Many Just about gone

Get 'em while they last.

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A few Macs still left with special drops. Some only 1 or two left.

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Anything with the cyber buster tag has got extra savings tagged on.

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USB-C Dock for MacBook

4 USB3 ports, 1 USB-C port, SD card reader, gigabit ethernet, audio ports, HDMK 4K port!

HOT! OWC Envoy Pro EX 2TB Thunderbolt 3 SSD Now In Stock

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

Bought a 2017 iMac 5K or 2016/2017 MacBook Pro with too small an internal SSD? The 2TB OWC Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 SSD takes care of that problem with blazingly fast speed.

OWC Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 2.0TB External Solid-state Drive
OWC Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 2.0TB External Solid-state Drive

Roy P writes:

Does it still make sense to get the Envoy Pro EX 2TB Thunderbolt 3 drive, given that I have a 2TB internal SSD in the 2017 MacBook Pro?

I want to get a couple of Thunderbolt 3 drives, but that’s for archival / backup, not for using as “almost” local drive. What would you suggest?

MPG: Roy P bought a top-end 2017 MacBook Pro and wants backups.

For archiving/backup, there is no need for Thunderbolt 3; it just raises the cost considerably, as does a very high performance SSD.

A good plan for travel is one fast SSD (need not be Thunderbolt 3), ideally one that is easily and conveniently stored separately from the laptop (in case the laptop is stolen). For that the regular USB Envoy Pro EX is my top pick, though it is limited to 1TB capacity.

The Envoy Pro EX 2TB Thunderbolt 3 SSD is overkill for backup (price and performance), but it is very fast, matches a 2TB internal SSD, can be kept in a pocket or backpack or purse, and plugs in directly to a Thunderbolt 3 port on a 2017 iMac 5K or 2016/2017 MacBook Pro—no adapters needed. If the best solution is the goal, it’s the real deal.

Rigorously lab tested and OWC certified.

Tips on Using Apple Time Machine, Tips on Backup

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

Marco S writes about his Time Machine backup filling up and failing to erase old backups and thus failing to be able to backup any more.

Time Machine has a history of bugs (very bad bugs like dropping volumes out of the backup list), so it is extremely unwise to rely on Time Machine as the only backup.

Tip #1 Always keep AT LEAST two clone backups away from the computer

See Using Cloning as a Backup Strategy and the Backup section.

Relying on Time Machine as a sole backup is risky indeed. For starters, if the machine is stolen or is destroyed (fire, flood, lightning strike surge), an attached Time Machine backup is also gone. So at least 2 backups that are stored away from the computer are mandatory.

I personally go much further: I have several always attached backups for daily usage (no excuse to not backup), as well as numerous backups stored away from the computer. The always-attached backups are best done with the OWC Thunderbay 4: 4 bays some of which can be main storage and some backup.

How many and where is a decision that relates directly to the value of the data being backed-up. For example, I carry critical business data like source code on my person when traveling, even in the mountains (in my backpack), because it would take years to rewrite that code—I’d be out of business. An SD card or thumb drive can serve this purpose.

I also carry my ongoing new work in my backpack when hiking in the mountains—I don’t want to return at the end of the day and find a broken window in my photography adventure van with my computer gear gone and with it 1/2/3 weeks of images and other work.

Tip #2 Erase the Time Machine backup volume every 3 to 6 months

Time Machine accumulates deleted files and versions of files. The last thing I need or want is 18 versions of a 4GB Photoshop file, or 73 versions of a Lightroom catalog file, etc.

Really big files can chew up enormous amounts of space over time, if edited regularly: Time Machine makes hourly, then daily, then weekly versions, which can lead to dozens of versions.

The easiest way to clean up the detritus is to erase the Time Machine backup volume every 3 to 6 months (using Disk Utility). Then let Time Machine start over (make sure it continues to use that volume, generally it should prompt/ask, but double check to be sure). Don’t do this erasure unless you also have those clone backups discussed above!

Tip #3 Don’t waste drive space—partition overly large drives

If following tip #2 and the drive is large enough, partition the drive into one volume for Time Machine use, and one volume for a clone backup. For example if there is only about 1TB of data to be backed up, partition a 4TB drive into two 2TB volumes.

Upgrade Your Mac Memory
At much lower cost than Apple, with more options.
Lloyd recommends 64GB for iMac or Mac Pro for photography/videography.

Advice for those Considering the 2016 MacBook Pro Deals

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

Apple claimed the 2016 MacBook Pro sold like gangbusters. I believe it. But for pro users, it left a bitter taste. For those considering the huge savings now in play for the 2016 MacBook Pro, I did extensive commentary and testing about a year ago:

I am still using the 2015 Mac Book Pro and it’s perfect—built-in USB ports and SD card slot along with uilt-in Mini Display Port for connecting an external display are a big deal versus having to use adapters at extra cost and hassle.

The top-end 2015 MacBook Pro is the same speed as the 2017 MacBook Pro for all my work and the top-end 2015 MacBook Pro can still be purchased brand-new for $2649 at B&H Photo . Interesting that it is discounted only $250 while its 2016 successors get up to $1000 off.

Still: for web/email and light duty work, saving $500 to $1000 on the 2016 MacBook Pro has a lot of appeal over the 2017 model, which has all the same annoyances as the 2016 model. The 2017 model is faster and with a smidgen better battery life. Both have the same useless touchbar; the only 2016/2017 model I’d consider would be the 13" non-touchbar model, which actually has the best battery life.

Thunderbolt 3 Dock
Must-have expansion for 2017 iMac/ MacBook Pro
Thunderbolt 3 • USB 3 • Gigabit Ethernet • 4K Support • Firewire 800 • Sound Ports

Hand-Picked CyberMonday Deals at OWC

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

Below, a few hand-picked DoorBusters at OWC.

Deals good while supplies last.

Handpicked Black Friday / Cyber Monday DoorBuster Deals
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

How to Disable Downloading of macOS High Sierra

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

See also Upgrading to High Sierra without APFS.

Open a Terminal window, and paste in the following (all of it including the trailing quote character):

cd /Applications; sudo echo "placeholderFileDisablesDownloading" > "Install macOS High Sierra.app"; sudo chflags uchg "Install macOS High Sierra.app"

cd /Applications; sudo echo "placeholderFileDisablesDownloading" > "Install macOS High Sierra.appdownload"; sudo chflags uchg "Install macOS High Sierra.appdownload"

What this does is create two small locked files with the same name as the installer and the temporary download filename, thus preventing macOS from downloading the installer into that location. There should be two locked files that look like this:

Dummied-out placeholders forestalling download or install of macOS HighSierra

When and if the time comes to upgrade to High Sierra, simply throw these two files in the trash, then proceed with the upgrade.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

How to not Waste/Lose a Huge Chunk of Cellular Data for Personal Hotspot : Disable Background Downloading

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

In October I went on a photography trip for about 2 weeks in the mountains. On such trips I rely on cellular data (personal hotspot) to conduct business: email and web of course, but mainly for pushing gigabytes of images to my web servers for various things published on my photography web site.

Before leaving, I always test that personal hotspot is working, since Apple screwed up in 2015 with an iOS update that broke personal hotspot functionality, keeping me up to the wee hours of the morning in order to fix it. So I never leave home without verifying that Apple has not inserted new problems with an iOS update.

This time in October 2017, it was even worse, with no fix: while testing personal hotspot, the Apple App Store on my laptop saw fit to download about 5GB of useless garbage (an update to XCode) over my cellular connection—stuff I neither needed nor wanted. That used up half my monthly cellular data allocation, on top of what was already used.

The financial cost to me ended up being about $450 per year because while on the road I had no choice but to upgrade to the milk-the-customer AT&T plan that would not charge me $15/GB for being over my monthly data allocation. It was an infuriating lose/lose choice—and there was no going back to the prior plan, since AT&T prohibits that. Rock and a hard place, so to speak. AT&T’s policies show why people despise cell phone companies that see customers as animals to be fleeced.

The real fault here lies with Apple: is it to be taken seriously that people want to download 1/2/2/5 gigabytes over a cell phone connection for routine and possibly unwanted updates? There exists no option in the AppStore to say “never download using cellular data”. It speaks to the myopic mentality on all user interface design challenges these days, an illness running rampant in all areas of macOS today another form of Apple Core Rot which has cost me a lot of real money.

Clearly, Apple has not given any thought to laptop users using personal hotspot on a cell phone as per the gung-ho enthusiastic ignorance of the issue in How to download macOS High Sierra:

If you're using OS X El Capitan v10.11.5 or later, High Sierra conveniently downloads in the background, making it even easier to upgrade your Mac. When the download has completed, you receive a notification indicating that High Sierra is ready to be installed. Click Install in the notification to get started.

I don’t find spending $450 per year very convenient. I’d like Apple to pay for the cost of this negligence, this year and every following year I’ll be hit with that $450/year cost.

Solution

Disable (uncheck) the Download newly available updates in the background option in the App Store preferences on any Apple laptop.

Save data on mobile devices: DISABLE (uncheck) “Download newly available updates in the background”
Rigorously lab tested and OWC certified.

Hand-Picked CyberMonday Deals at OWC

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

Below, a few hand-picked DoorBusters at OWC.

Deals good while supplies last.

Handpicked Black Friday / Cyber Monday DoorBuster Deals
Rigorously lab tested and OWC certified.

My Hand-Picked Cyber Monday Deals at B&H Photo

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

See all Cyber Monday deals.

Below, a few hand-picked DoorBusters at B&H Photo.

 

Deals good while supplies last.

Handpicked Black Friday / Cyber Monday Deals
$2099 SAVE $700 = 25.0% Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR in Cameras: DSLR
$797 SAVE $300 = 27.0% Nikon D7200 DSLR in Cameras: DSLR
$1497 SAVE $829 = 35.0% Nikon D750 DSLR in Cameras: DSLR
$798 SAVE $200 = 20.0% Sony a7 Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless
$1799 SAVE $1151 = 39.0% Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE in Lenses: DSLR
Thunderbolt 3 Dock
Must-have expansion for 2017 iMac/ MacBook Pro
Thunderbolt 3 • USB 3 • Gigabit Ethernet • 4K Support • Firewire 800 • Sound Ports

My Plain Text Editor of Choice: BBEdit

I edit a lot of plain text in the course of my work: source code, HTML, etc. I also regularly use regular expressions to massage plain text and HTML into shape, search/replace, etc. And sometimes dealing with Microsoft Excel, Apple Mail or other programs demands converting to plain text in a way those programs can’t handle. And then there is high speed performance both while editing and for search and replace stuff.

Thus a good plain text editor is essential for what I do.

My plain-text editor of choice is BBEdit. They are among my most-used tools, every day, day in and day out. Both have a free 30 day trial. And for real geeks, they even have optional command line tools in addition to the superbly useful app.

BareBones BBEdit
Rigorously lab tested and OWC certified.

Testing Seagate 12TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5-inch (Helium) Hard Drives

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

I’ve been running the 8TB Seagate helium drives for over 2 years now. After about 1.1 years, one drive of 8 failed and was replaced by OWC.

...

See below—testing in progress of the Seagate 12.0TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5-inch HDD (Helium). For starters, testing 4 of them simultaneously using diglloydTools DiskTester, one in each Terminal window using a nifty new Thunderbolt 3 version of the OWC Thunderbay 4. The fill-volume test will deliver data for graphs to compare the performance of all four.

See also: Reader Question: Testing More than One New Drive with DiskTester

These drives are the fastest hard drives I’ve ever tested, doing about 250+ MB/sec. Four of them together hit about 1040 MB/sec simultaneously.

Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD (Helium) supports enterprise-class nearline workloads of 550TB/yr and is backed by a 2.5M-hour MTBF and 5-year limited warranty, helping to meet all of your bulk storage SLAs.

IT Pros Rate Seagate Enterprise HDDs as Best-In-Class for a 5th Consecutive Year

Seagate was again selected by IT professionals as the 2017 Market Leader for Enterprise HDDs...

These awesome 12TB drives are on sale at MacSales.com this weekend for about $450 after instant rebates (limit 4). They are also used in the products below.

Alternately, you can get the 12TB drives in the following:

For Thunderbolt 3 users looking for a 4 bay enclosure, I’d recommend holding off just a bit longer, as there will be a Thunderbolt 3 version of the OWC Thunderbay 4 soon. I have five (5) Thunderbay units—love 'em. For the 4-bay units, I recommend getting the pre-tested and burned in RAID edition, which includes SoftRAID, as of this year the ONLY acceptable solution for RAID on Macs.

SoftRAID view of four 12TB hard drives

Performance

Below, 4 samples were tested (write speed shown for 4 samples, read results pending).

The deviation from slowest to fastest sample is less than 3%, which is fantastic—some drives vary up to 11% between samples. As with all hard drives, performance drops across capacity. See also:

The dropoff in speed across the capacity is unavoidable as per the articles above. Uses looking for an extremely fast 6TB drive should buy 12TB and partition into a 6TB fast partition and a 6TB slow partition, or similar setup. A 6TB partition would end at the 500 mark, thus guaranteeing speeds no slower than about 190 MiB/sec = ~199 MB/sec.

Speeds in MiB/sec. Multiply by 1.048576 for MB/sec.

Performance across drive capacity (read and write) of four Seagate 12.0TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5-inch HDD (Helium)
Seagate 12.0TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5-inch HDD (Helium): speed vs transfer size

When looked at in terms of iops, the Seagate 12TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5-inch (Helium) delivers the best performance MPG has ever seen from a hard drive, and one approaching what SSDs were doing only a few years ago. Crucial transfer sizes in the 32K to 1MB range are already near peak speed—amazingly fast. This must be due to the very large onboard cache memory.

Seagate 12.0TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5-inch HDD (Helium): speed vs transfer size

James W writes:

Concerned about the possible longevity of "awesome" Helium disk drives because helium is so small and diffuses easily through materials. Are these helium drives only good for the duration of the warranty period? A helium filled rubber balloon loses its helium in about 2-3 days.

A helium filled metal coated mylar balloon loses its helium after about 2-3 months. How long will the required concentration of helium be maintained in these hard drives?

The longevity of archival magnetic hard drives is especially important now as we increasing use leaky electric charge on SSD's as the primary file copy. The capacitance storage of SSD's, USB thumb drives, and camera cards likely will not endure long term. Nor will fading and UV sensitive organic dyes on writeable DVD's, etc. (Hopefully inorganic storage on M-discs will last, but who knows?)

So, what happens if the helium is lost? Does the drive degrade gracefully or damage the surface permanently, losing the data? Is there a helium recharge port, with helium canisters, hoses, etc., and instructions available? Will the ability to recharge helium be available in 5, 10, or 20 years should you need to retrieve old files?

It is a good idea to keep hard drives forever as backups, in case you find out years later that there was bit rot introduced into later copies, so the only good copy is on a years old long obsolete and out-of-service archived hard drive.

Really upset with Apple for abandoning their ZFS project and then making it worse by not including data error detection/correction in their new file system.

Have a collection of wonderful 19th century photographs relating to a great great grandfather. Without thoughtful engineering, it is just too easy for our cherished digital photographs to become lost to our great grandchildren.

MPG: hard drives are not balloons. If you examine a helium filled drive, its case is solid. Clearly some design thought went into the issue. I would think that hydrogen might be even better, but it is not inert and it’s an even smaller atom.

all hard drives fail. I consider using any hard drive past 3 years as spinning 8 hours a day or more for main storage a dubious idea, enterprise drive or not. Lubricants can dry out, among other things (has happened to me personally). Drives fail and that’s life.

As for the helium filled interior: the drive will fail very quickly if it is lost because the rarefied internal atmosphere are what make the drive feasible. Without it, friction and thus heat will kill the drive more or less instantly. Given the 5 year warranty, it seems dubious that this is a serious concern. Consider that Apple offers a pathetic one-year warranty on everything it sells, and even with AppleCare nothing beyond a total of 3 years.

As for 5/10/20 year archiving: that’s a joke with *any* medium. Even gold BluRay rated archival is a joke: the drives and computers might not be around to read them! My advice is to refresh archival files every 3-5 years on multiple duplicate copies with the latest and most robust storage.

Checking for bit rot is essential as well, e.g., with diglloydTools IntegrityChecker, available for Mac or PC or Linux (Java version). See How to Safely Transfer Data or Verify Backups (IntegrityChecker).

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Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Upgrading to macOS High Sierra Without the Forcible “Upgrade” to APFS

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

Anecdote: a few weeks ago, my father complained that after upgrading to macOS HighSierra, he was seeing rainbow beachball delays just using Microsoft Excel. These never happened before. I suspect APFS as the culprit. When file copying can be 100 times slower, you know that APFS is a science fair project.

...

The MacSales.com has some excellent tips for upgrading to macOS High Sierra without the forcible “upgrade” to APFS in Is It Possible Not to Convert to APFS When Upgrading to High Sierra?.

With either of these methods, install High Sierra on the same machine it is to be used on, because Apple rolls in firmware updates into the installer.

Safest way to upgrade to macOS High Sierra without APFS

The way that I strongly suggest doing this is the safest and easiest. Safest because if something goes awry, the upgrade can be dropped without changing what you already have:

  1. Clone the boot drive to any spare external drive.
  2. Boot off the spare/clone.
  3. Upgrade the spare/clone. The updater will leave the file system alone—it won’t be converted to APFS.
  4. Boot off the now updated spare/clone. Check things out and verify that things are working to your satisfaction—and don’t rush this. Make sure everything is acting right and that everything you normally do is OK as well.
  5. Satisfied? Clone the now updated external to the original boot drive.
  6. Boot from the original boot drive (now updated).

By doing it this way, there is no change to the existing boot drive until you explicitly choose to clone back over it with the updated system.

See also How to upgrade your system/boot drive and How to Safely Transfer Data or Verify Backups (IntegrityChecker).

Upgrading to macOS High Sierra without APFS (less ideal)

This is less good, because if anything goes awry, you’ve been operating directly on the existing boot drive. The method above preserves that boot drive and lets you assess High Sierra first.

1. Let the High Sierra installer download, but when it launches, quit it. This will leave the installer in the /Applications directory.

Open a Terminal window

2. Paste in the following command, including the quotes:

"/Applications/Install macOS High Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/startosinstall" --converttoapfs NO

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How and Why I Partitioned the 2TB SSD in the 2017 iMac 5K

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

Setting aside the wasted time of dealing with Apple’s latest brain-dead operating system, my end game with the new 2017 iMac 5K that I bought was to add a layer of self-protection as I’ve been advising for a decade or so: separate the operating system and applications from user data—the stuff you create and is unique to your work or play and often can never be had again (think images for starters).

Especially in light of the unbridled arrogance of Apple foisting an underperforming and risky new beta quality file system* on users and not even allowing a choice... protect yourself!

* Enough issues as there are, but making a big change a month or so before shipping along with no data recovery in existence surely speaks to arrogance true and blue.

Backups are of course essential no matter how things are set up, but separating system and apps from your Stuff is just plain good hygiene (at least if the SSD is large enough so that space is not wasted unduly).

As shown below, I partitioned the 2TB SSD in the 2017 iMac 5K into a Boot volume of 220GB, and a Master volume of 1780GB. User data (my stuff) almost all goes onto Master (Apple makes it a royal PITA to do otherwise with a few things), thus insulating it from the file system on the boot drive—including unwanted forcible macOS “upgrades” to the boot drive.

Boot volume and Master volume on 2TB SSD

Toggle to see the two partition details as seen in Disk Utility, a buggy mess that with enough tries and errors eventually delivered what I wanted.

Boot volume and Master volume on 2TB SSD
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macOS High Sierra APFS Performance is Inferior to HFS on Apple’s Fastest SSD: all cost, no benefit, at least not yet

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

Read on—but I am going to WIPE OUT the APFS file system and go to HFS Plus on my 2017 iMac 5K. The performance downgrade is unacceptable.

...

I’m trying to figure out what the point is of the new APFS (Apple File System) in macOS HighSierra. I would expect better reliability and higher performance for example. But since I’ve never had reliability issues with the existing Apple HFS file system (it has known issues but I’ve had no trouble and I’ve run many, many drives for years). That leaves performance as the visible feature, and it is with performance that so far I see an abysmal failure.

Folder copy performance is pathetic: I observed it as about 100 times slower versus my Mac Pro. This same folder took about 3 seconds on my 2013 Mac Pro, with its SSD which is about 1/3 as fast as the blazingly fast SSD in the 2017 iMac 5K. Who at Apple thinks this is a win?

macOS High Sierra: can be 100 to 200 times slower copying files
If tuned for SSDs, why is it 100 times slower?

I partitioned my iMac 5K 2TB SSD into a 200GB Boot volume and 1.8TB Master volume, as is my wont, using APFS for Boot and HFS Plus for Master. Some tests are running now which will offer insight into whether APFS offers any performance advantage. But what I already notice is reduced performance with APFS, sometimes massively reduced as above. I am likely to wipe out the boot volume, erasing it to HFS Plus, and reinstall everything.

A marketing blurb on all sorts of cool new features no one needs is a bitter pill to swallow when the design in fact offers no new value (not that I can tell) within the user experience of a Mac. I learned about copy-on-write 30 years or so ago while studying computer science at Stanford. There were good reasons for it then, and few to none now that have demonstrable value what with massive cheap storage getting larger and cheaper every year. The idea that the complexity of copy-on-write in this file system context is idiotic at best, barring some very specific scenarios.

See Tim Standing’s presentation at MacSysAdmin.se, starting about 7:00 in. Tim’s view is that APFS is here so that the code base can be maintained and improved over time—this has real value—but (MPG view) it does nothing for users out of the gate other than to generally cause more problems than it solves. Tim is very diplomatic in painting a picture of just how flawed and limited APFS is in as nice a way as I can imagine. But that cannot hide the stupefyingly poor judgment (MPG view) shown in the APFS behavior and feature set which add very little value while also adding huge anti-value.

Don’t even think about using APFS on hard drives, due to massive fragmentation when using APFS, which is a Bad Idea for SSDs and disastrous for hard drives. Are we really going to go back to the days of “defrag” programs? Apple more and more seems to want to devolve by making macOS more and more like the unpleasant aspects within Windows.

From what I can see so far, APFS is a solution in search of a problem, while adding plenty of problems of its own. It appears to be a change in a long chain of Apple foolishness of change for the sake of change—not demonstrable value. Maybe there will be some value out in the hazy future somewhere, but right now I’d say that this is beta testing foisted on users.

What does the data say?

Disktester (part of diglloydTools) was used with the run-sequential-suite command to generate this data.

The first important note here is that DiskTester is using the old HFS APIs, so this could add some overhead. But no other test data I’ve seen repudiates the results shown here.

Reads with HFS (blue line) are faster than APFS (green line) at all transfer sizes, and sometimes a great deal faster.

Writes with HFS (orange line) are faster than APFS (red line) at all transfer sizes, and significantly faster for small I/O sizes, which are critically important for many tasks.

Bottom line: APFS is a substantial performance downgrade on the fastest SSD that Apple ships, which is the ideal claimed use case for APFS.

macOS High Sierra: APFS slower than HFS for both reads and writes on Apple’s fastest SSD

Andrev V writes:

As much as I like reading your posts, I am getting more afraid to look. It seems that every other day there is a software or hardware issue popping up with Apple that is simply demoralizing.

I switched to Apple back in 2006 with an iMac and have since grown to have owned many more Mac computers, phones, monitors, routers, etc.. I even own Apple stock. I loved the interphace, the design and quality of products and software. But, this is just becoming depressing and I don’t want to go back to Windows.

Where does this leave all of us? My photography is based on PS CC and ON1 Raw. Those programs (plus a bunch more) and its support are tied to the OS and will evolve past what I have if I stay with OS Sierra and don’t upgrade the hardware (2013 Mac Pro).

I cannot believe this falls on deaf ears and would hate to think of its just growing incompetency and thirst for ever growing revenue stream (on iPhones). Now my “depression” over Apple is starting to turn to annoyance and I am getting “P###ed” off. Hopefully someone is listening. Sorry for the rant.

MGP: This is no rant, it is is a legitimate disappointment properly expressed and hardly alone. We don’t have cars that reboot driving down the highway (well, not yet, the Apple car is coming), or whose fuel economy drops to 1 mpg out of the blue—there would be an uproar if we did. So why does Apple get away with the same thing with computers?

Unfortunately, I *do* think it falls not just on deaf ears but we are living in a movie in which the powers that be actually think quality is improving. See Phil Schiller and his Eddie what’s-his-name as the poster executives for these kinds of delusional views. As for iPhone, it drives all Apple’s decision like a narcotic on steady veinal drip.

My advice is to avoid macOS HighSierra and APFS for a year. Bottom line is that you can still buy a new Mac that is good for years to come, and upgrading macOS (an oxymoron) can also be put off for years.

As I write this, I am in the process of installing (for the 5th time), macOS HighSierra. I want to run HighSierra like I want a double root canal, but the iMac Pro almost certainly will require it, and I need to be able to compare the iMac Pro performance to the 2017 iMac 5K. However, I will be using HighSierra on HFS Plus, not using APFS.

macOS High Sierra: Apple Core Rot in Spades: “damaged and can’t be opened” for all pdf, dmg, xml, xsd, properties, jar files, folders also — “damaged and can’t be opened” error message caused by com.apple.quarantine xattr

See the MPG Mac wish list and MPG wishlists for computer gear at OWC.

Update: command line solution for fixing individual files and folders at end of this post.

Just arrived, in setting up the Apple 2017 iMac 5K with macOS High Sierra. I observed problems immediately:

  • Sluggish performance (2TB internal SSD) including rainbow beachballs while installing up to a minute.
  • Unable to open any PDF or DMG file, with erroneous message of “damaged and can't be opened”.
  • Bugs demanding that I sign into iCloud six times in 30 seconds, each time clicking “Later”.
  • Repeated failures and errors in Disk Utility.
  • Command key shortcuts for windows do not work in Terminal (a disaster, I use these hundreds of times a day). Update: Disable the “use cmd-1 through cmd-9 to switch tabs” option in preferences. What nitwits breaking this stuff: the windows have the command-key shortcut in the title bar of each windows, but it does not work.
  • I am unable to get my local web server to run as yet. macOS High Sierra is blocking something, perhaps the ability to open a socket—not sure yet.UPDATE: using a manual IP address fixed it, at least for now. I’ve never seen localhost:8080 fail in years, so High Sierra has screwed that up somehow too. But it gets worse—see next point.
  • Access to major web sites fails (like www.bhphotovideo.com) in Safari and in my java code, yet these work fine on my Mac Pro running macOS Sierra. UPDATE: macOS High Sierra destroyed my DNS settings. I had to manually fix DNS in network settings to get things to work.
  • As seen with every macOS upgrade in past years, the upgrade destroyed my email account setup, particularly the smtp server settings.
  • Folder copy performance is pathetic:
  • macOS High Sierra: can be 100 to 200 times slower copying files

You can’t make this sort of garbage quality up; my hat is off to Apple for shoveling this kind of manure out the door and getting away with it. Apple Core Rot is getting worse with every macOS release.

It gets much worse — file damage

By “file damage” I mean that any non-technical user would be 100% screwed. In my case, I”’m still screwed since manually fixing thousands of files is a disastrous waste of time. So the file data is actually OK, but if you cannot open the file, it is effectively destroyed for most users.

This was a clean install from scratch, followed by using Migration Assistant, so no argument can be made of a flaw in the installation approach.

There is clearly some general bug since every DMG and PDF file I try to open pops up this infuriating “damaged and can’t be opened” falsehood.

Similarly, all xml and xsd and properties files are affected as well. I suppose many others as well. Migration Assistant has screwed up thousands of my files and folders. By comparison, anything I cloned over with Carbon Copy Cloner is just fine.

It appears that thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dmg, pdf, xml, xsd, properties files and probably many more kinds have all been tagged as quarantined, making it impossible to open them. The sheer wanton incompetence demonstrated here by Apple beggars belief.

One form of this bug is presumably in Migration Assistant, which I have long had mixed feelings about. Looks like everything has to be re-done by scratch, starting by wiping out the installed macOS, reinstalling, and not using Migration Assistant. But that does not explain how downloading a dmg file off the Apple web site also gets tagged as quarantined (see the java compatibility download further below). It looks to be a more insidiously general bug.

I can’t use this brand-new iMac 5K due to these problems. I want to wipe it all out and use macOS Sierra, but the new iMac Pro will probably require macOS High Sierra, so to do comparative testing, both have to be on what-were-they-smoking High Sierra.

Examples

The DMG below is fine, since it opens fine on the original machine I copied it from, and the md5 hash matches, so it is bit-for-bit identical. Yet it has been tagged as quarantined, along with thousands of other files.

macOS High Sierra: cannot open PDF — “damaged and can’t be opened”

The problem affects thousands of my files, including all xml, xsd and properties files. The absurdity of this error message is alarming: these are plain text files!

macOS High Sierra: cannot open xml file — “damaged and can’t be opened”

 

These PDFs are fine, since Acrobat Reader works perfectly with no issue. The files are fine on my main machine also. They were copied over by Migration Assistant! Moreover they are PDFs not apps, they are not damaged (so at the least the message is misleading and erroneous).

macOS High Sierra: cannot open PDF — “damaged and can’t be opened”

I can get no work done until java compatibility is installed. But since DMG files cannot be opened, the machine remains unusable.

macOS High Sierra: cannot open PDF — “damaged and can’t be opened”

Solutions

The solution is NOT to do this as so many fools suggest on the internet, because this completely disables GateKeeper, leaving you at serious risk.

sudo spctl --master-disable <=== BAD IDEA

This at first appeared to be a bug in Migration Assistant such that every PDF and DMG files has the com.apple.quarantine flag set. But re-downloading DMG files like java for macOS as shown above (from the Apple support web page!!!) shows the same problem.

Why is the com.apple.quarantine flag set for every PDF and DMG file? A good question that Apple ought to answer.

Command line solution: remove com.apple.quarantine attribute

This isn’t much of a solution since it has to be manually done in every folder.

In terminal, change to the directory containing affected PDF or DMG files and use the xattr command to deleted the the com.apple.quarantine flag, as follows:

xattr -d com.apple.quarantine *.pdf *.dmg

 

Reader comments

Sean K writes:

Apple's code quality continues to degrade (I converted from Windows to Mac at home in 2006) — it's been far too long since there's been adult supervision of the development process at Apple. As you've pointed out, letting marketing set the deadlines and make the ship decisions on software has ALWAYS been a disaster, regardless of the company.

It's been years since I've kept my phones and Mac current on software — it's just too risky (not to mention annoying/frustrating). I'm still fondly remember Snow Leopard which would run for weeks without any crashes. El Capitan has crashes nearly every day! iOS is somewhat better but still a long way from professional quality.

I upgrade OS X ONLY when the version I'm running is no longer getting security patches, and only in August when the worst of the bugs (but FAR from all of them) in the current version have been fixed. I do upgrade iOS yearly, but again ONLY in August, before the next piece of crap version is released.

Please note that I was a professional programmer and manager from the '70's until my recent retirement, so this is an informed opinion. I used to unconditionally recommend Macs over Windows, but now OS X is so buggy and unreliable, I no longer do.

MPG: this kind of comment does not bode well for Apple. I wonder if Apple really gets this message or blows it off given iPhone sales (my iPhone is more unreliable than it has been since the original, due to new bugs in iOS).

 

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