Archive for November 15, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dive Into APFS

Tim Standing of OWC gave a great presentation about APFS at the MacSysAdmin conference in Göteborg (via St. Clair Software). Topics include previous Apple file system efforts, the fragmentation caused by copy-on-write, reasons to never use APFS on a spinning hard drive, sluggish performance compared with HFS+, making snapshots with tmutil and restoring them using macOS Recovery, and a mysterious 11th hour change to the format.

His SMART Alec app also looks interesting.

Previously: Local Time Machine Uses APFS Snapshots, APFS Benchmarks.

Update (2017-11-16): Edward Marczak:

Funny timing: you posted this an hour after Tim gave an updated version of this talk at @MacTechConf. There were significant updates in that month.

Update (2017-11-20): Howard Oakley:

Tim – an immensely knowledgeable and experienced Mac software engineer, who for more than twenty years has been half of SoftRAID – draws attention to one of the adverse effects of copy-on-write, perhaps the single most important technology behind APFS. Copy-on-write is the heart of snapshots in APFS, its support for versioning, even the increased metadata protection which makes journalling unnecessary.

I have previously shown how copy-on-write works in the context of a single edit, and versioning. Let me illustrate its downside the same way.

Update (2017-11-27): Lloyd Chambers:

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?


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

The Best Laptop Ever Made

Marco Arment (tweet, Hacker News, MacRumors):

Apple has made many great laptops, but the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro (2012–2015) is the epitome of usefulness, elegance, practicality, and power for an overall package that still hasn’t been (and may never be) surpassed.


At its introduction, it was criticized only for ditching the optical drive and Ethernet port, but these were defensible, well-timed removals: neither could’ve even come close to physically fitting in the new design, very few MacBook Pro users were still using either on a regular basis, and almost none of us needed to buy external optical drives or Ethernet adapters to fit the new laptop into our lives. In exchange for those removals, we got substantial reductions in thickness and weight, and a huge new battery.

There were no other downsides. Everything else about this machine was an upgrade: thinner, lighter, faster, better battery life, quieter fans, better speakers, better microphones, a second Thunderbolt port, and a convenient new HDMI port.

Two years ago, I called my 2012 MacBook Pro “possibly the best Mac I’ve owned,” and I’m even more sure of that now. I just wish there had been a 17-inch model. I hope it continues to work, not least because I think I’d be less happy with any of the models in the current lineup, despite advances in some areas.

Marco Arment:

Apple still sells them new (MBP, Buy, 15”, scroll down) with all options except dGPU. $2000–$2900.

B&H sells them new for a bit less.

I got mine on eBay, 2.2/512 with low battery cycles and AppleCare through 2019, for $1600.

Heard from people who got them on Swappa as well.

Update (2017-11-16): Friedrich Markgraf:

I completely agree. I have a Touch Bar 15″ from work now, had a 2012 15″ before. It was the best computer I ever had.

Marco Arment:

Tons of great 2015 MBPs in Apple’s refurbished inventory right now, including some with the dGPU if you need it.

Greg Hurrell:

Yep. That’s why I bought a refurbished mid-2015 MacBook Pro in late 2017. Hoping Apple gets their shit together by the time it expires.

Marco Arment:

It’s almost as if port bandwidth isn’t always as important as practicality and ubiquity for real-world utility, a lesson we apparently didn’t learn with FireWire, FireWire 800, Thunderbolt, or Thunderbolt 2.

(But nobody ever made a computer that had only those ports.)

Josh Centers:

It doesn’t matter how great the port bandwidth is if you can’t reliably plug things into them. Some things don’t work correctly even with adapters.

Jason Snell:

I love Apple’s tendency to make bold design decisions, but as the single hardware vendor on the Mac platform, Apple’s designers have a responsibility to create features that don’t leave users with nowhere to turn. Better to make a keyboard that nobody loves (but everyone can use) than something loved by a quarter of users, met with indifference by half, and despised by the remaining quarter.


When I look at Mac laptop users today, they seem cornered by Apple’s design decisions. I hope that the next generation of MacBook and MacBook Pro models show a little more diversity—designs with their own personalities and strengths and weaknesses. The more diversity in design, the more opportunity Apple has to make bold product-design decisions without cornering its most loyal users.

Update (2017-11-27): Marco Arment (tweet, Hacker News):

If a third-party hub or dongle is flaky, the owner doesn’t blame it — they blame their expensive new Apple computer for needing it.

Apple needs to step up with its own solid offerings to offer more ports for people who need them.


Re-adding HDMI and at least one USB-A port would reduce or eliminate many people’s dongle needs, which I bet would dramatically improve their satisfaction.


The Touch Bar should either be discontinued or made optional for all MacBook Pro sizes and configurations.

Michael Love:

This. Also, at least 32GB RAM, and better thermals even at the cost of making it a tad bit bigger; current version gets too hot too fast.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2017-11-29): Wojtek Pietrusiewicz:

Make the Touch Bar optional, then everyone can order the one they want.

Rob Griffiths (tweet):

The Touch Bar, despite its name, is actually an Eye Bar: It forces your eyes off the screen, down to the Touch Bar, back up to the screen, repeat ad infinitum. There’s nothing physical about interacting with the Touch Bar, aside from using your finger: There are no defined button areas, and there’s no haptic feedback when you tap something. So you absolutely must look at the Touch Bar to interact with it.

Update (2017-11-30): Timothy Buck:

I don’t think Apple will do much of what Marco wants, and here is why.

Zac Cichy:

Timothy does a good job of going through @marcoarment’s grievances with the state of the MacBook and thinking through Apple’s possible justifications.

My issue is this: their possible justifications are not good enough. Particularly on the issue of killing MagSafe.

Apple may have “changed its view” on how it sees charging, but when the reality is that professionals live on their laptops, it’s really hard to swallow the notion that they are just supposed to completely alter the way they use their laptops on Apple’s design whim.


The lack of just one good USB-C hub on the market is infuriating.

Update (2018-01-26): Tim Bray:

At work, those of us who have “classic” MacBook Pros are hanging on fiercely even when we’re entitled to an upgrade. Don’t want a port-starved flimsy-keyboarded device, however thin & light.

Update (2018-04-04): Stephen Hackett (tweet):

The 2015 MacBook Pro is more flexible, more reliable and costs less than its newer Touch Bar siblings. It’s the one to buy.

Update (2018-04-05): Rebecca Slatkin:

not sayin’ there’s a problem with Apple’s product pipeline but seems a littttttttle bizarre that I’m clinging onto a 5 y/o machine because anything on the market right now is a downgrade

Troy Gaul:

When my sister-in-law was looking for a new laptop recently, I found myself in the unusual (uncomfortable?) position based on her needs/desires of having to recommend that she seek out a 2015 model from B&H Photo rather than a current one at an Apple Store.

Update (2018-04-29): Roustem Karimov:

After trying 5 different machines, I just got a refurbished 13" MacBook Pro 2015 from Apple. OMG, I can’t believe how much I love this laptop.

Luc Vandal:

Got rid of my late 2016 MacBook Pro and now rely on a late 2013 MBP when I need one. Great machine.

Update (2018-07-04): Joe Rossignol:

Just over six years after Apple released the Mid 2012 model 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, which is more than a fair amount of time, Apple has officially classified it as “vintage” or “obsolete” depending on the region.

What this means is that at least five years have passed since the model was last manufactured, meaning that Apple and Apple Authorized Service Providers are no longer obligated to provide hardware service or replacement parts, except in the state of California and Turkey, where required by law.

Update (2018-07-06): Dan Frakes:

My “new” laptop is the 2015 15” MacBook Pro that @marcoarment praised here: … After using it for a couple weeks, really happy with it, and I paid only $200 more than an entry-level 13” with Touch Bar.

Update (2019-10-21): ryanmccullagh (via Greg Hurrell):

The MBP is by far the best laptop I’ve used. The graphics are amazing, and the touchpad is ergonomic. However, Apple has demonstrated their inability to be reliable. I bought my MBP in January of this year (2019) and tomorrow I’ll pick it up from its 3rd repair. I’ve grown tired of this repair routine. And after the 3 years runs out, they will start charging me.

Update (2020-06-03): Joe Rossignol:

In an internal memo today, obtained by MacRumors, Apple has indicated that this particular MacBook Pro model will be marked as “obsolete” worldwide on June 30, 2020, just over eight years after its release. In a support document, Apple notes that obsolete products are no longer eligible for hardware service, with “no exceptions.”