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New Deals on MacBook Pro, Mac Mini

See my review of the late 2016 MacBook Pro Retina.

See also OWC deals on used Macs.

B&H Photo has just posted a batch of steeper discounts on MacBook Pro models from 2015 and 2016 as well as Mac Mini.

These discounts are greater than have generally been available so far. Discounts not shown on some items—click through to see savings.

 

Cycling

Caution on macOS 10.2.4: sudo is broken

See also About the macOS Sierra 10.12.4 Update.

This bug has totally destroyed my daily workflow; I use 'sudo' dozens if not hundreds of times a day. I don’t know what I’m going to do—I may have to clone macOS 10.12.3 back over the “upgraded” system — and I cannot do that on two machines because I keep no clones (they're secondaries but I use them nonetheless).

In Terminal, using sudo hangs on all 3 Macs I was foolish enough to update to 10.12.4:

sudo ls

The process just hangs, rendering sudo useless. It doesn't matter what comes after sudo; any and all uses of sudo hangs. Using control-C does not recover either; the Terminal window becomes unusable. Eventually the command executes, with a 4 minute and 39 second delay:

diglloydMP:DIGLLOYD lloyd$ date; sudo date
Tue Mar 28 13:44:57 PDT 2017
Tue Mar 28 13:49:36 PDT 2017  = 4 minute 39 seconds delay

Since reports of a problem surfaced two months ago, I have to wonder how a bug like this can be shipped to customers. I found a link to an alleged fix, but I am not familiar with that site, and the suggested fix is non-Apple software for 'sudo'—the idea of downloading a sudo replacement to give root access to my system makes me blanche.

In About the security content of macOS Sierra 10.12.4, Apple lists this “fix”. The alleged fix is not relevant to my usage; I am not using network directories.

sudo

Available for: macOS Sierra 10.12.3

Impact: A user in an group named "admin" on a network directory server may be able to unexpectedly escalate privileges using sudo

Description: An access issue existed in sudo. This issue was addressed through improved permissions checking.

CVE-2017-2381

Fixes tried

  1. On 2013 Mac Pro, rebooted into recovery mode and ran Disk Utility First Aid—no issues found. Problem remains.
  2. Reinstalled macOS on the iMac 5K (did not wipe out drive first, did an “install over”). Problem remains.
  3. Downloaded 10.12.3 combo installer; attempted to install over 10.12.4; this is not permitted.
  4. On iMac 5K and MacBook Pro, made a brand-new admin account and brand-new standard account, logged into each of those accounts. Problem remains, proving that it is not an account-specific or machine-specific issue.

So I went to some hours of effort to clone back macOS 10.12.3 on the Mac Pro then do a reinstall on top of that, it being my critical machine.

Only to find that macOS 10.12.4 had mangled my mail data to a new format (and what other data did it mangle?). So even now running macOS 10.12.3, Mail is now unusable. I could whack my mail with a backup from yesterday, losing an entire day’s mail. There is no way to merge easily. But what else did macOS 10.12.4 mangle? Or I can somehow put up with macOS 10.12.4. Shame on Apple for having a minor OS update mangle user data. Photos libraries are also mangled. Perhaps other things too, but by luck I used only Mail and Photos after the install.

I opted to lose a day’s mail. But to do so, I could not use Finder copy; the Finder generated errors copying, as is its wont with any large copy. I had to use Carbon Copy Cloner folder-to-folder cloning.

macOS minor updates mangle mail data

Other user reports

As of 29 March, two readers report no issues with sudo.

As with all bugs, there must be a cause for it to happen on all three of my Macs (Mac Pro, iMac 5K, MacBook Pro), even after a system reinstall and after creating a new user account (see what I tried, above).

Two Bonus bugs!

Bug #1 (shown below): Rebooting made this one go away, but it indicates something additional may be broken as well. This error never happened previously, only with 10.12.4.

Bug #2: Creating a new user does not show it in Users & Groups. I created a new admin user, and this user is not shown, yet the folder is right there in /Users. Nor could the new user be used to login. I had to remove it using 'sudo', which of course took 5 minutes!

macOS 10.12.4: System Preferences => Users & Groups will not load

Apple BugReporter filed

The last bug that I filed at Apple, it took 6 weeks to get a response. I am hoping for something quicker this time. Apple Bug Report #31307973.

Status +1 days: Apple has not even looked at the bug.

macOS 10.12.4: System Preferences => Users & Groups will not load

OWC Accelsior Pro Q Speed vs Transfer Size

The OWC Accelsior Pro Q is a PCIe-based solid state drive (SSD) for the 2010/2012 Apple Mac Pro (or for PCs) and is also compatible with the Thunderbolt Macs of all kinds via the OWC Helios enclosure.

Sustained transfer speed is a strong indicator for judging performance for real-world tasks that need high bandwidth. While peak speeds are obtained with large transfers, in the Real World many programs tend to use transfer sizes that are too small... read more:

Speed vs Transfer Size, Single and Striped (2013 Mac Pro)

Performance of the OWC Accelsior Pro Q is outstanding, but software programs have to cooperate by using large transfer sizes. See the comments on Photoshop and its tile size.

OWC Accelsior Pro Q sustained transfer speed vs transfer size in OWC Helios enclosure on 2013 Mac Pro

TESTED: OWC Accelsior Pro Q PCIe SSD for 2010/2012 Mac Pro or any Thunderbolt Mac (via Helios Enclosure)

OWC Mercury Accelsior Pro Q PCIe SSD

The OWC Accelsior Pro Q is a PCIe-based solid state drive (SSD) for the 2010/2012 Apple Mac Pro (or for PCs) and is also compatible with the Thunderbolt Macs of all kinds via the OWC Helios enclosure.

The Accelsior Pro Q can be used in any 2010 or 2012 Mac Pro, or by installing in the OWC Mercury Helios enclosure on any Mac with Thunderbolt.

  • Up to 1293MB/s sustained speeds
  • PCIe 2.0 x 8 SSD
  • 480GB or 1TB or 2TB capacities
  • 3 Year limited warranty
  • Compatible with Thunderbolt Macs via OWC Helios enclosure.

The Accelsior Pro Q nearly doubles the performance of its OWC Mercury Accelsior predecessor.

Performance

Kicking off my review of the OWC Accelsior Pro Q:

Performance as Photoshop Scratch Drive (diglloydHuge Benchmark)

Sustained Transfer Speed, Single and Striped (2013 Mac Pro)

diglloydHuge Photoshop benchmark
OWC Accelsior Pro Q vs internal SSD of 2013 Mac Pro
Deals Updated Daily at B&H Photo

Security: Another Phishing Example (plus Apple Junk Mail Bug)

This phishing email (very dangerous) purports to be an Amazon gift award. The idea is that you will click the link, login to a page that looks like Amazon, then the hackers will have your login info to exploit in every possible way, including trying that login on the accounts you might have (which is why one should NEVER use the same login info on multiple sites, certainly not the password, and ideally not the username either).

Continues below with recommended email hygiene.

Secondary issue: the longstanding Apple Mail bug is also seen: junk mail filter is off (as shown), has been off for years, and yet Apple Mail still invokes junk mail filtering. Apple Mail junk mail works in a half-assed sort of way (better than nothing, but barely); I strongly recommend Spam Sieve instead.

Phishing Email Purporting to be Amazon Gift

Email security hygiene

If the above is not scary enough, here’s a good summary of a gmail phishing approach that is highly effective.

It just amazes me that corporations allow anyone using email to auto-load remote content, or to have links within emails clickable, since both are security hazards. Apple provides for disabling remote content, but has no “disable web links in email” option or option to warn first after running against a highly skeptical pre-flight check (which could even live-test the site for SSL and so on)—shame on Apple, for this is a major security risk vector.

  • Always disable loading of remote content by default. Failure to do so gives a ping back to a spammer indicating that the email is a “live one”. You might as well reply stating “thank you, please keep me on your spam list and sell it to everyone you can”.
  • Avoid clicking links in emails. This is a major vector for compromising a system. Clicking on links in email should the rare exception. If you really really want to, then right/control click to copy the URL, paste into a plain text empty window and see if the URL looks valid (and is https). If so, then paste it into the web browser. “Yes I’m smart enough” = no one is smart enough. It’s just too easy to make one mistake ever—I’m not. Don’t do it by default. The only exceptions I make are when I am expecting an email and/or for a part I am sure I trust and the headers all look good.
  • Have more than one email for sensitive accounts. Do not use an email address for banks, brokerage, or anything sensitive that is the same email as your regular one.
  • Use disposable email addresses for shopping, etc. Get rid of them every 3 months or so, moving to a new disposable one. The nasty thing here is so many sites require an email for a login instead of a username—poor security hygiene—making it tempting to use the email address as a username. This defeats the “disposable” idea and it also means an attacker can run that email against thousands of web sites to which you might belong. When possible, use disposable username and emails, to limit the damage. And never use the same password for more than one site—use 1Password to help, possibly leaving out critical logins for financial sites.

When Will a new iMac and Mac Pro Arrive?

If a new iMac is coming, it ought to be announced by mid-April, which would still make it one of the longest “droughts” for an iMac update in a long time. Otherwise, think June or August. The bad news is the rumor of using AMD graphics chips, which 80% of pros do NOT want.

Tim Cook’s assurances of “great new desktops” don’t assure any pro users I know of, but MPG thinks there ought to at least be a new iMac soon, and, hoping against years of disappointment, a new Mac Pro, but perhaps one to be put off for up to another six months. But... never rule out good luck.

And maybe Apple would even diverge from its anti-functional approach with the MacMini towards a design that works more like an Intel NUC, which would be far more elegant than the current marginalized design that serves mainly to kill interest in the MacMini.

With desktop CPU performance at a standstill and software quality often a bottleneck , the areas for progress on performance come down to hoping for improving the support areas around the CPU:

  • Thunderbolt / USB-C support.
  • 8K display support (iMac 8K, special support on Mac Pro).
  • Optional 2nd internal SSD.
  • Two or three 16X PCIe slots (Mac Pro), although users might get by with Thunderbolt 3 on multiple busses.
  • 8 memory slots instead of 4 (Mac Pro)
  • 2 internal hard drives (Mac Pro).
  • Up to 18 CPU cores (Mac Pro).
  • Mild processor speed bump.

In other words, features that make actual computing work go a lot faster and/or be more productive and/or make for a lower cost of entry while affording future capability.

MPG does not expect that Tim Cook’s idea of what constitutes a “great desktop” has much to do with the list above, all past indications suggestions that “great” means thinner with fewer ports and less functionality. But at least Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C would be a nice bump forward.

* Such as Apple Mail being incompetently implemented and rife with bugs.

See also:

Manage That Keyboard: How to Disable Caps Lock

A friend of mine calls me every few months because he cannot login into his computer. It’s always the same reason: the caps lock key is pressed.

Setting aside the dubious idea of allowing caps lock to function at all for a login dialog (why encourage poor passwords?), how does one disable the caps lock key entirely? Simple:

  1. Open System Preferences => Keyboard
  2. Click Modifiers Keys…
  3. Choose Caps Lock = No Action
macOS: disable caps lock key in System Preferences => Keyboard => Modifier Keys

Michael K writes:

Not sure if you're aware of the 'Modifier Keys' bug introduced in Sierra or not. In case you're not – Sierra resets all Modifier Keys back to their factory defaults upon restart, meaning you have change them back to what you want every time you start the computer.

This has survived through all four releases of Sierra – 10.12 through 10.12.3. One of the first things I've always done any new OS is set Caps Lock to No Action, however, since Sierra the option has to set by the user every single time the computer boots up. The Mac Pro (5,1) and MacBook Pro (10,1) are doing this but the Mac mini (6,2) is not.

I've filed two seperate bug reports with Apple, clear and concise, I've heard nothing back.

MPG: yes, I’ve seen the bug myself on multiple machines. I had forgotten the cause... indeed I had fixed my friend’s machine and the geniuses at Apple unfixed it, so to speak.

Just now, I rebooted my iMac 5K and I see that the modifier keys have been reset. Ditto for the 2015 MacBook Pro. OTOH, the 2013 Mac Pro does not suffer from the issue from what I have seen.

When will Apple incompetence end? Do we have to wait years now to have Tim Cook assure us that “we have great macOS software coming”? Their are hundreds of crappy little things like this that have accumulated all over macOS (don’t get me started on the clusterf*** that is iCloud).

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.
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Apple Core Rot: Logging Spew

My 2013 Mac Pro was running a bit noisy and hot for some hours yesterday even while idle. It is normally whisper quiet and all but inaudible. I have seen that behavior before, and it is always caused by some runaway process doing something useless in the background.

MacOS Sierra has been filled with new bugs, too numerous to contemplate. But the one discussed here is what I call the “logging spew” bug: a continuous stream of logging visible in the Console application, and steadily growing the size on disk of the numerous logging files, all of which are 100% useless to 99.999% of users.

As it turns out, Activity Monitor (in it, View => All Processes) it was logd chewing up a steady 10% of a CPU doing nothing but logging, a few hundred messages per second spewing out. It was some bash process running even after I had quite all Terminal windows. I had to 'kill -9' the process by its process number, but so steady was the logging onslaught that it took a few seconds for console to finish displaying the output. I then rebooted to hope for some sanity.

Yes, you do really need 296 or 3845 CoreSync or whatever update logs in ~/Library/Logs. And thousands of other log files from dozens of processes like that. You will never want to look at these files, nor do you have any use for them, but Apple makes sure to pollute your user folder with them. Don’t get me started on system Logs, which you cannot easily delete, and just build up forever over time, like dental plaque.

Opening Console, you’ll see the ceaseless spew from a cornucopia of processes, including many I never want, and will never use. It might be 'quiet' at times, but what I’ve found is that a number of Apple services get triggered from time to time to go into a state of endless bitching and moaning, often with messages that equate to “fix this bug someday”.

For example, here is this lovely new Apple bug involving touchui. On a Mac Pro no touch user interface exists, but the engineers at Apple don’t bother to test much any more, so the com.apple.nowplayingtouchui apparently is just going to fail forever. The word “idiots” comes to mind. What triggers it I don’t know. Rebooting made this one go away until the next morning—it’s baaaaack, failing every 2 seconds again today. The “0 seconds... respawn” message means that the process is crashing or failing—an obvious bug that should never ship to customers.

Mar  9 21:26:06 diglloydMP com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (com.apple.nowplayingtouchui): Service only ran for 0 seconds. Pushing respawn out by 10 seconds.
Mar  9 21:26:36 --- last message repeated 2 times ---
Mar  9 21:26:36 diglloydMP com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (com.apple.nowplayingtouchui): Service only ran for 0 seconds. Pushing respawn out by 10 seconds.
Mar  9 21:26:45 diglloydMP syslogd[51]: ASL Sender Statistics
Mar  9 21:26:46 diglloydMP com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (com.apple.nowplayingtouchui): Service only ran for 0 seconds. Pushing respawn out by 10 seconds.
Mar  9 21:27:16 --- last message repeated 2 times ---
Mar  9 21:27:16 diglloydMP com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (com.apple.nowplayingtouchui): Service only ran for 0 seconds. Pushing respawn out by 10 seconds.
Mar  9 21:27:46 --- last message repeated 2 times ---
Mar  9 21:27:46 diglloydMP com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (com.apple.nowplayingtouchui): Service only ran for 0 seconds. Pushing respawn out by 10 seconds.
Mar  9 21:28:16 --- last message repeated 2 times ---
Mar  9 21:28:16 diglloydMP com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (com.apple.nowplayingtouchui): Service only ran for 0 seconds. Pushing respawn out by 10 seconds.
Mar  9 21:28:46 --- last message repeated 2 times ---
Mar  9 21:28:46 diglloydMP com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (com.apple.nowplayingtouchui): Service only ran for 0 seconds. Pushing respawn out by 10 seconds.
Mar  9 21:29:16 --- last message repeated 2 times ---
Mar  9 21:29:16 diglloydMP com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (com.apple.nowplayingtouchui): Service only ran for 0 seconds. Pushing respawn out by 10 seconds.
Mar  9 21:29:46 --- last message repeated 2 times ---
Mar  9 21:29:46 diglloydMP com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (com.apple.nowplayingtouchui): Service only ran for 0 seconds. Pushing respawn out by 10 seconds.
Mar  9 21:30:16 --- last message repeated 2 times ---
Mar  9 21:30:16 diglloydMP com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (com.apple.nowplayingtouchui): Service only ran for 0 seconds. Pushing respawn out by 10 seconds.          
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.
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Wikileaks Reveals Many Things... like Televisions as Covert Listening Devices

The internet is not safe and probably never will be. But most people do not suspect that their television can be a covert listening device, even when turned off. Unplugging it when not in use is the only safe bet.

Please read George Orwell’s visionary 1984.

Today’s Wikileaks treasure trove “Vault 7” is a 500GB download, for those who have time to read it. Here’s a 'fun' one from the NYT:

Some of the details of the C.I.A. programs might have come from the plot of a spy novel for the cyberage, revealing numerous highly classified — and in some cases, exotic — hacking programs. One, code-named Weeping Angel, uses Samsung “smart” televisions as covert listening devices. According to the WikiLeaks press release, even when it appears to be turned off, the television “operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.”

...

In early 2015, Samsung appeared to acknowledge the TVs posed a risk to privacy. The fine print terms of service included with its smart TVs said that the television sets could capture background conversations, and that they could be passed on to third parties.

The company also provided a remarkably blunt warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

There are enormous privacy and legal implications here, and MPG is not singling out Samsung For example, law enforcement is already demanding Amazon Echo records shows that you probably have no legal protection even inside your own home. Today, the law has very weak protections for email, let alone your data in the cloud at Apple or Amazon and doesn’t even contemplate televisions inside a home. You have zero privacy rights in essence, all in the context of hysteria about cookies—security theatre and the joke is on you.

Anything with a speaker or camera or blinking light or GPS or internet connection or wireless connection is a vector, and both the CIA and organized hackers are enormously creative and well funded.

Cell phones, iPads, computers, televisions, smart watches, etc all form the infrastructure for a police state as per George Orwell’s visionary 1984, let alone organized and very well funded cyber crime organizations. The technology has arrived—hardware and software. What will happen? What might today’s campus thugs (aka students and professors), unable to tolerate other viewpoints without resorting to physical violence, might do with such power in a decade or two while holding office?

OWC Nearly Doubles PCIe SSD Performance with Accelsior Q

MPG Lloyd still runs dual OWC Accelsior 960GB PCIe SSDs in an OWC Helios 2 Thunderbolt 2 enclosure—a stalwart performer for years now. There is also the single-slot OWC Helios.

OWC has just started shipping the Accelsior Q PCIe SSD:

  • Mac Pro (2008 to 2012)
  • Other Macs with Thunderbolt via OWC Helios enclosure or OWC Helios 2 enclosure
  • Available in 480GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities
  • Blazing-Fast PCIe Storage with up to 1,293MB/s sustained speeds
  • PCIe 2.0 x8 SSD

Blazing-Fast PCIe Storage

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Tim Cook and Support for Pro Users

More interesting than the bromides Tim Cook has to offer are the comments on the post, over at MacRumors.com in Apple CEO Tim Cook: 'You Will See Us Do More in the Pro Area'.

It’s shocking (well, not really) that no one believes him). The frustration is palpable.

MPG doesn’t think Tim Cook actually understands what pro users want (there is strong evidence of that from his past comments). So it seems unlikely that Apple can build to a need they don’t even grok.

See also:

“Our digital fingerprints are everywhere. How do we protect ourselves?” — Stanford Engineering

Worth a listen.

Keeping out private information away from hackers and spies is a growing concern for many Americans. In the Future of Everything radio show, Stanford bioengineering Professor Russ Altman discusses how to keep our data safe with Jennifer Granick, Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

Our digital fingerprints are everywhere. How do we protect ourselves?

Separately, TidBits has an article on privacy with televisions in What to Know About Smart TVs and Your Privacy.

OWC Weekender specials

OWC has some great deals on iMac 5K models as well as various other goodies as part of their OWC Weekender Specials.

Check out the iMac 5K deals and the MacBook Pro too.

See all OWC Weekender Specials.

Hand-Picked OWC Weekender Specials
USB-C Dock for MacBook

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

Caution on Upgraded Apple Remote Desktop

Apple recently issued a minor bug fix upgrade for Apple Remote Desktop (client and server portions). MPG recommends caution in upgrading ARD for this update.

With the usual Apple Core Rot software incompetence, the “upgrade” destroyed my ability to get to one server, made getting to a 2nd server flaky, and the 3rd server has lucked out somehow—but I suspect problems will crop up just when I need to use ARD, a scary thought. But there seems to be a fix, see further below.

For the problem server on 10.8, I rebooted twice and reinstalled the latest applicable client—no go, that server is now unreachable. The built-in firewall is disabled. Searching the web, I see that Apple has been breaking things like this for some years now—pure incompetence.

This is stuff that until the update has worked for 7 years. The nitwits at Apple seem to think everyone runs only the latest OS; my servers run 10.8, 10.10, and 10.11. Apple does not respect its users enough to actually test its “upgrades”, a pattern worsening year by year.

Update: my iMac with Apple Remote Desktop 3.8 works fine with the problem server. But as soon as I updated to Apple Remote Desktop 3.9, the iMac also fails to be able to connect. Clearly Apple has BROKEN Apple Remote Desktop 3.9.

Update 2: the user comments on the App Store confirm these problems in spades.

The fix — check a box

Found by scanning the numerous complaints. Why does Apple Remote Desktop make no effort to warn of older clients and inform the user of this change, rather than mysteriously hanging on any/all attempts to connect? ARD darn well knows the OS version from the configuration and/or prior connection. Two hours of my time wasted due to Apple’s contemptible contempt for its users.

The weird thing is that this fix was not needed for one of the servers also running 10.8. It suggests yet more bugs.

Check the box to connect to older versions of macOS clients such as 10.8

Will the next Apple Mac Pro (if any) be the Final Straw that Puts the Nail in the 'Pro' Coffin?

Pro users need pro machines:

  • An option for at least 128GB memory.
  • Ability to use the latest and greatest PCIe video cards.
  • Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.
  • Rock solid reliability.

Of the above, the PCIe slot issue is the #1 issue that makes the 2013 Apple Mac Pro an overpriced laughingstock for video professionals. This has been building as an issue for years now.

Quotes below from Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media in NVIDIA’s GTX 1080: The Tip Of The Iceberg?. The NVIDIA announcement referred to was May 2016; video cards are only going to become more powerful, already vastly outpacing the CPU for many tasks, at least when the GPU works properly (Apple’s GPU choice of AMD is hugely unpopular among pros). Emphasis added.

The announcement of the GTX 1080 is so big, that this card alone will most likely cause a shift in computer workstation ownership. Last year I wrote an article about how I upgraded our Mac Pro Tower with new CPUs, RAM, flash-based boot drives, and of course, the Titan X. The system still churns through heavy tasks, including working with 4.6K RAW footage, edited in real-time in DaVinci Resolve in 4K UHD timelines (even basic node structures play in real-time without the need for rendering).

But as good as that juiced up Mac Pro Tower is today, I know at some point, the time will have to come to an end, simply because Apple hasn’t built a PCIe-based system in many years now. As my article described, the alternative Mac Pro trashcan is simply not a solution for our needs, imposing too many limitations combined with a very high price tag.

The NVidia GTX 1080 might be the final nail in the coffin. I can guarantee at this point, we will have to move to a Windows-based workstation for our main edit suite and one that supports multiple PCIe slots specifically for the GTX 1080 (I’ll most likely get two 1080s that that new price-point).

I’m no stranger to working on Windows systems (I’ve built my own Windows boxes since Windows 3/NT) and have Windows systems running now in our facility. But with that said, I do prefer Apple OS X when possible. But with no support of a modern PCIe-based workstation from Apple, our hands are tied to move to Windows (we may get an HP Z840 system, something similar, or a custom build we’ll do in-house). Even if the GTX 1080 could be flashed for OSX, we wouldn’t be able to take full advantage of what the 1080 has to offer, due to The Mac Pro Tower’s older PCIe bus technology.

... With all that said, I see (and have already seen) a huge migration of longtime Apple users (such as me) going to Windows systems for their main workstation needs. The sheer power and lower cost is just too huge at this point. The NVidia GTX 1080 just compounded that point exponentially stronger.

...

The “juiced up Mac Pro” referred to is not a 2013 Mac Pro, but its predecessor. That is why used 2010/2012 Mac Pros are still strong sellers at OWC / MacSales.com.

The choice to embed non-upgradeable video cards in the 2013 Mac Pro and to omit PCIe slots spells the death knell for pro users looking to work with 4K/6K/8K video, 3D modeling and rendering, etc. A future Mac Pro (if any) that takes that same approach means that Apple has abandoned any pretense of offering pro machines.

Does Apple (Tim Cook) even “get” that the entire high-end pro market is going to abandon Apple over the next year because of a failure to meet the fundamental needs of professionals? His public statement that “great desktops” are coming must be seen as coming from the CEO of a phone and gadget company. MPG doubts that there is any 'pro' left in Apple, but hopes to be proven wrong.

Thunderbolt 3 Dock
Must-have expansion for 2016 MacBook Pro
Thunderbolt 3 • USB 3 • Gigabit Ethernet • 4K Support • Firewire 800 • Sound Ports

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Cables Now Shipping

macOS Sierra 10.12.3.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 cable

OWC Thunderbolt 3 cables are now available, and shipping within a day or two.

OWC Premium Thunderbolt 3 USB-C cables are the perfect choice for your Thunderbolt 3 workflow. These premium quality cables are manufactured to the highest standard to deliver the incredible power of Thunderbolt technology, with models supporting data transfer speeds up to 40Gb/s and power delivery up to 60W and long cable runs.

That's enough throughput to drive two 4K displays simultaneously, or one 5K display. Experience the full high-performance capabilities of your Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C devices.

The cables come in two speeds, with the 40 Gb/sec cables substantially more expensive thn the 20 Gb/sec ones.

Thus it makes sense to use the 0.5 meter 40 Gb/sec cable if the devices is very close to the Mac. If the devices are to be daisy-chained and lack the need for more than 20 Gb/sec (few devices can even approach that speed), then place these last in a daisy-chain, and use the 20 Gb/sec cables.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 cable pricing

Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Infographic

Intel has done a fine job of making USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 massively confusing (limitations based on cable length, cables that run at full speed or half speed, etc).

The infographic from OWC shown below might help in some ways, but there are various “gotchas”. MPG recommends generally buying full-speed Thunderbolt 3 cables, for maximum interoperability. However, lower speed cables intended for use with USB-C have their place also.

Missing/not noted in graphic: Thunderbolt 3 can drive one 5K display which supports Thunderbolt 3, or two 4K displays via Mini DisplayPort.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C Infographic
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

SoftRAID Updated to Version 5.5.6

SoftRAID, which is what makes RAID work for the OWC Thunderbay 4 RAID-5 edition, has been updated to version 5.5.6.

Known Bugs:

  • In the first release of Mac OS 10.12, the First Aid function in Apple’s Disk Utility application has a bug which prevents it from working on SoftRAID volumes. You can use a command in a Terminal window to perform this same function (Disk Utility calls this same command). For more information, see our compatibility page: https:// softraid.com/pages/support/compatibility_notes.html
  • There is a bug reported in Parallels Desktop 10 software which can cause data corruption in your Windows virtual machines whether running on SoftRAID or AppleRAID volumes. You must install Parallels Desktop 11 or later if you are running on a SoftRAID or AppleRAID volume.

New features in version 5.5.6:

  • Sometimes, when email notifications are sent through a yahoo.com mail account, the subject line gets garbled. This is the result of some, but not all, yahoo email servers being able to handle Q-encoded UTF-8 text. The work around in version 5.5.6 is to detect when the outgoing email account is on yahoo.com and then convert the subject to straight ascii text.
  • SoftRAID Lite and SoftRAID Lite for ThunderBay now allow you to delete all volumes created by SoftRAID and SoftRAID for ThunderBay including volumes with RAID levels 4, 5 and 1+0.

Bugs fixed in version 5.5.6:

  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID Monitor which prevented it from reliably sending email notifications.
  • Fixed a bug in SoftRAID driver which could cause mirror volumes to rebuild instantly, leaving secondary disks with invalid data. This would only happen if more than one secondary disk was missing or out of sync. (SR-305).
  • Fix a bug in the SoftRAID driver which causes disk errors in mirror and RAID 1+0 volumes (SR-416).
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID driver which could cause some RAID 1+0 volumes to fail early in the rebuild process with a disk error (SR-381).
  • Fixed problem which caused certifying 4 Kn disks (disks with 4 KB sectors).
  • The SoftRAID application no longer crashes when you attempt to create a volume with more than 16 disks (SR-399).
  • The volume tile now updates immediately when the user enables or disables the volume’s safeguard (SR-320).
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID Monitor which could cause log entries to be corrupted or incomplete. This primarily affected the SoftRAID_Email.log file when SMTP logging was enabled.
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID application which caused big pipes connected to the volume tiles to be missing 2 pixels on their left side when displayed on Macs with Retina displays (SR-374).
  • Fixed a problem with the filename of the Japanese QuickStart Guide. The filename was causing DiskWarrior to say that the file was incorrectly encoded (SR-415).
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID Monitor which caused it to display the “Disk is missing from a mirror volume” dialog even when this preference was disabled (SR-413).
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID driver which caused the SoftRAID Monitor status indicator in the menu bar to go yellow whenever a mirror read-only secondary volume was attached.
  • Fixed several broken links in the SoftRAID On-line help (SR-386).
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID Monitor which caused it to sometimes skip the SMART test on startup. This would happen if you configured email notification to send an email on reboot. (SR-303 & SR-299).
  • Fixed a bug which caused Tech Support Reports to sometimes be missing volume headers (SR-238).
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID driver which prevented it from warning users if a volume was missing a disk. Older versions of SoftRAID would only warn a user once. This version warns a user every time the startup or restart (SR-68).
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID Monitor which caused some log entries to be truncated. This especially affected the log entries for disks which are predicted to fail (SR-407).
  • Fixed a bug which caused mirror read-only secondary volumes to be identified as mirror volumes in the SoftRAID log (SR-262).
  • Fixed a bug which allowed users to attempt to convert AppleRAID RAID 1+0 volumes (SR-406).
  • Fixed several bugs which caused incorrect error messages to be displayed when sending test emails in the Email Notification window.
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID application which made the error count text in disk and volume tiles display incorrectly if there are 1 or more errors (SR-360).
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID Monitor which caused the incorrect IPv4 address to be listed in email notifications (SR-392).
  • Fixed a bug in the SoftRAID applications which causes clipping of the text for the “Log SMT commands” preference button in the Servers tab of the Email Notification window. This clipping only occurs when the user is running with German as the chosen language.
  • Fixed two bugs in the SoftRAID application where the incorrect text was being displayed when the chosen language was Japanese. The incorrect text was displayed in the Preference and Quit menu items.
  • Fixed problem with the title of the Certify Disks dialog (SR-378).
  • Fixed a problem with the warning dialog which gets displayed if the user starts certifying an SSD with only 1 pass. The buttons were not translated (SR-379).
  • Fixed a typos in mirror dialogs (SR-362 and SR-349).
  • Fixed a bug in SoftRAID application which caused disconnected mirror secondary disks to become new volumes when reconnected. This occurred if an additional secondary disks was added to the volume while the first secondary disk was disconnected. (SES-348).
  • Fixed a bug which indicated that TRIM was enabled on an SSD when it was actually disabled in the SoftRAID preferences (SR-290).
  • Fixed a bug which caused the SoftRAID Monitor indicator to not appear in the menu bar if no SoftRAID formatted disks were attached (SR-386).
  • Fixed a bug which caused the SoftRAID Monitor to use a lot of CPU time when it first started up. This was accompanied by warning messages in the system.log file which said that SoftRAID Monitor was “inherently inefficient” (SR-318).
  • Improved the capture of volume headers in Tech Support Reports (SR-238).
Thunderbolt 3 Dock
Must-have expansion for 2016 MacBook Pro
Thunderbolt 3 • USB 3 • Gigabit Ethernet • 4K Support • Firewire 800 • Sound Ports

Big Discounts on *Current Model* iMac 5K at OWC

If the iMac 5K display were offered as a display only, say at $1629, it would be worth it. So why not get one, and with a free iMac computer included?

I consider the late 2015 iMac 5K the best display on the market today at any price for viewing images. In this sense, consider it a fantastic display that includes a free computer.

See also the diglloyd DealFinder for iMac 5K as well as all 2015 iMac 5K. Or search for more used Macs.

Note that these Macs are factory sealed Apple refurbished with 1 year warranty.

B&H Photo WPPI deals

Thru Feb 12. Certain specials require promo code BHWPPI17.

 

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

OWC Now Has Thunderbolt 3 Cables

macOS Sierra 10.12.3.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 cable

Thunderbolt 3 cables are now for sale at OWC.

OWC Premium Thunderbolt 3 USB-C cables are the perfect choice for your Thunderbolt 3 workflow. These premium quality cables are manufactured to the highest standard to deliver the incredible power of Thunderbolt technology, with models supporting data transfer speeds up to 40Gb/s and power delivery up to 60W and long cable runs.

That's enough throughput to drive two 4K displays simultaneously, or one 5K display. Experience the full high-performance capabilities of your Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C devices.

The cables come in two speeds, with the 40 Gb/sec cables substantially more expensive thn the 20 Gb/sec ones.

Thus it makes sense to use the 0.5 meter 40 Gb/sec cable if the devices is very close to the Mac. If the devices are to be daisy-chained and lack the need for more than 20 Gb/sec (few devices can even approach that speed), then place these last in a daisy-chain, and use the 20 Gb/sec cables.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 cable pricing

Missing/not noted in graphic: Thunderbolt 3 can drive one 5K display which supports Thunderbolt 3, or two 4K displays via Mini DisplayPort.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C Infographic
NuGard KX Case for iPhones and iPads
Outstanding protection against drops and impact!
Excellent grip for wet hands, cycling, etc!

Macular Degeneration Linked to Blue Light (sunlight and most forms of LED lights)

Love that iPhone or iPad or other phone or tablet or computer display? Long term, the blue light from cell phones and tablets and computer displays might have serious implications, and that’s no laughing matter, even if it takes 50 years for it to happen. It is particularly concerning since children from a very young age stare at cell phone or tablet screens for many hours. Excessive blue light is also linked to eyestrain and various health problems.

Observation: the iMac 5K display can be run extremely bright, and looks to contain a lot of blue light.

Macular degeneration (retinal cell death) has been linked to blue light (380nm to 500nm). The term HEV (high energy visible) might also be heard. A sampler:

To be clear, there is no scientific evidence yet that blue LED light will cause macular degeneration (leading to loss of vision) the same way sunlight does. It is a matter of intensity, duration of exposure, and almost certainly a complex interplay of personal factors (overall health, diet, genetics, etc).

From White Light–Emitting Diodes (LEDs) at Domestic Lighting Levels and Retinal Injury in a Rat Model (emphasis added):

LED (or solid-state) lighting sources are designed to emit all energy within the wavelength range of human vision, making LEDs the most energy-efficient commercially manufactured light. However, many current “white-light” LED designs emit much more blue light than conventional lamps, which has a number of health implications, including disruption of circadian rhythms (Holzman 2010).

The most popular LED lighting product, a phosphor-conversion (PC) LED, is an LED chip that emits blue light, which passes through a yellow phosphor-coating layer to generate the ultimate white light (Spivey 2011). Although the white light generated from LEDs appears normal to human vision, a strong peak of blue light ranging from 460 to 500 nm is also emitted within the white light spectrum; this blue light corresponds to a known spectrum for retinal hazards (Behar-Cohen et al. 2011). Some epidemiological studies have suggested that short-wavelength light exposure is a predisposing cause for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (Wu et al. 2006). Animal models have also been used to determine that excessive exposure to blue light is a critical factor in photochemical retinal injury targeting photoreceptors and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) (Hafezi et al. 1997).

Things are often more complicated; tangled up in all this is the age factor: too little blue light can also be a problem, and age can be a mitigating factor of sorts because the lens of the eye yellows with age (yellow filters out blue). But if the damage accrues from youth to middle age, the yellowing lens is not of much help:

With age, the lens becomes more yellowish, and thus, the spectrum of blue light transmission dramatically decreases through the years. It is suspected that one reason older individuals experience sleep problems is the lack of blue light during the daytime.

Spectral transmission graphs

The closer the light wavelength is to ultraviolet (UV), the more damaging it becomes in general. This is true in general for skin cancer or killing viruses in water or degradation of plastics or paint or anything over time (just find any can or bottle that has been sitting in the sun for a long time). That’s because shorter wavelengths contain much higher energy levels (go beyond UV to X-Rays and killer gamma rays).

To assess UV/violet/blue exposure with a sunglass or contact lens, one would need a spectral transmission chart. Yet when I request spectral transmission charts no vendor has them, even first-class sunglass vendors like REVO. Statements like “blocks blue light” are presumably true, but ought to be backed up by hard 3rd-party evidence, that is, a spectral transmission chart showing just what is blocked—and this varies by the tint and coating of the lens used. Accordingly, I hope to actually measure the spectral transmission of sunglasses that I actually wear sometime soon.

Spectral transmission graph

The link between blue light and macular degeneration

In Macular Degeneration Linked to Sunlight and Low Antioxidants:

Some cases of age-related macular degeneration may arise from a combination of low plasma levels of antioxidants and exposure to blue light from the sun, a multinational European study suggested.

The combination more than tripled the risk of the eye disease among individuals with the lowest combined levels of antioxidants, Astrid E. Fletcher, Ph.D., of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues reported in the October issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

...

I’ve also spoken to an optometrist who regularly snapshots the retinas as part of eye exams, and he states (for my eyes and in general) that he has not observed any change in retina health in recent years. Thus theoretical lab tests are no subsitute for real-world scientific evidence as per retinal cells in human eyes, particularly given outdoor light exposure. That said, many of us spend many hours staring at bluish LED displays (cell phones, tablets, computer displays) and/or under LED or CFL lighting in the home or office.

The blue light from LEDs is now associated with retinal cell death. How much is too much is as yet unknown, but the evidence leaves little doubt that blue light kills retinal cells:

The relation between macular degeneration-retinal damage and exposure to light has been known since the middle of the 20th century. Nevertheless, in the last 5 years, the advent of new technology LED along with its massive use in screens of electronic devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops…) has made phototoxicity the main field of our research.

The studies conducted by the Complutense University of Madrid have shown that LED devices emit 5 times more toxic light than light reflected by paper or emitted by the older-style CRT monitors.

In-vitro experiments in which human donated retinal pigmentary epithelium cells were exposed to 36-hour circadian cycles of direct LED light of different intensities have been forceful: without protection, cell death amounted to 93%. However, when a protective element was placed between the cells and LED light, the survival rate of cells increased by 90%... Dr Sánchez-Ramos acknowledges that it may take another 10-15 years for research to demonstrate conclusively that LED light causes macular degeneration in the same way that sunlight does.

See also The Lowdown on Blue Light: Good vs. Bad, and Its Connection to AMD.

Nowadays, there's an increase in the use of digital devices and modern lighting—such as LED lights and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)—most of which emit a high level of blue light. CFLs contain about 25% of harmful blue light and LEDs contain about 35% of harmful blue light. Interestingly, the cooler the white LED, the higher the blue proportion. And by 2020, 90% of all of our light sources are estimated to be LED lighting. So, our exposure to blue light is everywhere and only increasing... Who's going to need the most protection? Those who have high exposure to white LED or fluorescent light bulbs in offices and homes, frequent users of LED computer monitors, tablets, or smart phones, and those at risk for AMD, particularly those at high risk, (those with family history, smokers, etc.).

UV-blocking contact lens

Assessing the risks, protection

Given the lack of nailed-down scientific evidence, one has to make a personal assessment weighing the factors. But there are reasonable precautions to take, even ignoring the macular degeneration theory—sunglasses and blue-light-cut eyeglasses in particular.

Many companies are pushing solutions such as eyeglasses with blue-light-cut coatings, so the vested interests involved need to be considered. That said, blue light filtering eyeglasses might reduce eyestrain and this is easy enough to assess for anyone working at a computer for hours every day. Such solutions are thus appropriate to try, particularly if there is any evaluation period offered.

In my personal case, 10-12 hours daily computer usage seems to put me at high risk, which concerns me greatly. However, I don’t know how much blue light my LED computer displays emit, and I have no basis for knowing whether the risk is zero or something very significant.

Nor do I understand if configuring my NEC professional displays to run slightly warm (yellow) would reduce the risk (I would expect it would).

While I wear UV-blocking contact lenses* as well as sunglasses when outdoors, it’s not clear to me that my contact lenses block blue/violet light at all as when using a computer display. If they did so effectively, it would interfere with my assessment of color balance for photographs. So I suspect that I have no protection for computer work using just contact lenses.

* The Accuvue web site states that “UV-absorbing contact lenses are NOT substitutes for protective UV-absorbing eyewear such as UV-absorbing goggles or sunglasses because they do not completely cover the eye and surrounding area”.

I do a lot of cycling, and high quality sunglasses are very important to me. Hiking at extreme altitude is also considerations. At the least, high quality sunglasses are no-brainer for both comfort and eye protection. See my experience report with the Revo Guide S sunglasses at WindInMyFace.com.

Revo Guide S polarized sunglasses, Open Road lens

Change the display

Professional displays offer the option of custom calibration, so that a display can be set to, say, 5000°K instead of the typical 6500°K. This is one solution that should greatly reduce the amount of blue light.

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

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