Archive for July 21, 2020

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Big Sur Is Both 10.16 and 11.0

Howard Oakley (Hacker News):

For apps built with Xcode, the version returned depends on which version of its SDK they were built with. SDK 10.15 and earlier will consistently respond that Big Sur is major version 10 and minor version 16. This ensures that all existing apps should see Big Sur as simply an incremented minor version, as we had expected before WWDC this year.

Build an app with a new release of Xcode which features the macOS 11 SDK, and the major version will be 11 and the minor version 0.

Update (2020-08-19): Howard Oakley:

One method commonly used to look up the macOS version number is to obtain the string value for the ProductVersion key in /System/Library/CoreServices/SystemVersion.plist. However, depending on the environment of the caller, Big Sur plays tricks with that file, which should return a version of 11.0. If the caller has set SYSTEM_VERSION_COMPAT=1, then the version number returned isn’t obtained from that property list at all, but its companion SystemVersionCompat.plist, which is 10.16.

He says that reading the contents of that file actually returns different results depending on the value of the environment variable. That’s wild. So, if you clone your drive using a backup app that hasn’t been recompiled, the SystemVersion.plist in the backup will have the wrong version number.

Update (2020-09-11): See also: Armin Briegel.


Update (2021-05-03): Alexandre Colucci:

When using the 10.15 SDK, macOS Big Sur reports itself as 10.16.0 even when parsing the file /System/Library/CoreServices/SystemVersion.plist. Turns out that Apple checks for this specific path in the open() function in xnu 🤯

Return and Enter Are Two Different Keys

John Gruber (tweet):

If your keyboard doesn’t have a dedicated Enter key, you can type the Enter key by pressing Fn-Return. That’s why some Return keys have “Enter” printed in small type above the word “Return”. If your keyboard has neither a dedicated Enter key nor an Fn modifier key, I don’t think you can type Enter.

Unfortunately, my experience is that fn-Return only works properly on Apple keyboards. On third-party ones, it just generates a Return. Similarly, the fn key is often implemented as a modifier within the keyboard, so that fn-Down Arrow will send an actual Page Down but pressing fn by itself does nothing. With an Apple keyboard, you can see on-screen that the fn and arrow keys were pressed, and you can use fn by itself to trigger Mission Control, Siri, or Dictation.

As a general rule, when they differ, Return is simply the key for typing a newline character (which, on classic Mac OS, was literally a return character, but let’s not get into that here), whereas Enter enters what you’ve already typed without adding a new line.


Windows 10X As a Web-first OS

Zac Bowden (tweet):

VAIL, the technology Microsoft uses to virtualize legacy Win32 programs on Windows 10X via containers, has been removed from the latest internal builds of the OS. I’m told that this is a deliberate change as the company moves to reposition Windows 10X as a platform designed to compete at the low-end, head-to-head with Chromebooks with web apps front and center.

The pivot to single-screen PCs is what drives this change. Originally planned as an OS for flagship premium PCs in the foldable space, Windows 10X will now be launching at the very other end of the spectrum, on low-cost tablets and laptops designed for the education and enterprise markets.

Microsoft’s local Win32 app layer will not be present when these low-cost PCs launch with Windows 10X next year. Users will be able to run UWP apps and web apps powered by Microsoft Edge, but not legacy Win32 programs.

Mary Jo Foley (tweet):

For years, many of us Microsoft watchers have expected Microsoft to create a true virtualized Windows PC experience. Well, it’s happening, likely as soon as spring 2021.

Microsoft is currently calling the coming virtualization service “Cloud PC.” Cloud PC won’t replace locally installed Windows (and Office) -- for the foreseeable future, anyway. It will be an option for customers who want to use their own Windows PCs made by Microsoft and/or other PC makers basically like thin clients, with Windows, Office and potentially other software delivered virtually by Microsoft.

How macOS 11 Will Sound

Chance Miller:

In addition to the visual redesign, however, macOS Big Sur completely overhauls the sound effects.

A pair of new videos on YouTube from channel Pomamitia offer a detailed walkthrough of the new system and alert sounds in macOS 11 Big Sur, compared side-by-side with the sound effects from macOS 10.15 Catalina. Some of the changes are more subtle, while others are completely new.


Update (2020-07-23): See also: Upgrade.

Two Weeks With iPadOS 14

Federico Viticci:

A trait of iPadOS 14 that immediately stands out is how this year’s changes to the iPad experience do not come in the form of shiny new pro apps or reimagined multitasking. Apple didn’t showcase iPad-specific versions of Xcode, Final Cut, or Logic at WWDC, nor did they address longstanding criticisms related to how the iPad operates in multitasking and multiwindowing contexts. They didn’t, for instance, rethink the role of drag and drop as the sole mechanism to activate Split View or introduce new menus to manage multitasking. Instead, iPadOS 14 is all about refinements to the core iPad experience, with changes in the design department aimed at increasing information density, speeding up interactions by reducing taps and modality in apps, and taking better advantage of the iPad’s large canvas.


By itself, a three-column layout with a sidebar is not a groundbreaking invention: desktop apps (and several third-party iPad apps) have offeredone for years now. What’s important in the context of iPadOS 14, however, is how Apple, by endorsing a specific approach to laying out and interacting with iPad apps, is signifying a shift in the platform’s role that’s now more tipped toward the Mac end of the computing spectrum rather than the iPhone’s – something we saw coming after last year’s iPadOS 13 and which was further highlighted by the introduction of the Magic Keyboard and system pointer a few months ago.

Benjamin Mayo:

Whilst Siri is active, if you touch the screen, Siri is dismissed. This behaviour is befitting of the compact phone screen, but it also applies to the iPad. Any attempt to interact with the foreground app dismisses Siri completely. On the big iPad canvas, not being able to use the app and interact with Siri simultaneously feels like it is defeating the point of the redesign altogether.