Archive for July 26, 2021

Monday, July 26, 2021

macOS 11.5.1

Juli Clover:

According to Apple, macOS Big Sur 11.5.1 brings important security updates and is recommended for all users.


Impact: An application may be able to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges. Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.

Description: A memory corruption issue was addressed with improved memory handling.

I encountered some problems applying this update (on top of 11.5). Software Update repeatedly stopped the download midway. After the download had completed, clicking the button to install it would try to download it again instead of restarting the Mac to begin installation.

See also: Mr. Macintosh (tweet, standalone download link), Howard Oakley.


Update (2021-07-26): See also: Pierre Igot.

Update (2021-08-04): Howard Oakley:

Updating macOS has never been more painful and fraught than in Big Sur. What had previously been a periodic distraction has changed in the last eight months into an unreliable and inefficient mess, which all too often consumes time when I can least afford it.


Last weeks’ security patch was an excellent example, in that it brought one small but very important fix for a bug, which didn’t apparently require a new kernel, firmware revision, or any discernible changes in the build or version numbers of the contents of /System/Library. Yet for M1 Macs it required the download of over 3 GB, fifteen minutes ‘preparation’, and a further 20-30 minutes to install.

Even if you’ve followed Apple’s advice and set up a Content Caching Server, each M1 Mac to be updated requires just under 1 GB of that update to be freshly downloaded direct from Apple’s servers rather than the local cache.


Rumors About the Next Pro Macs

Tim Hardwick:

On Twitter, Dylandkt claimed that Apple’s “high end iMac” is not expected to release in the fourth quarter of 2021 alongside Apple’s “M1X Macs” – a reference to Apple’s redesigned MacBook Pro models – because “Apple simply does not want their devices to compete for attention and delays in product releases have led to this timetable.”

In previous claims, Dylandkt has remained adamant that an “M1X” Apple silicon processor is destined for high-end “Pro” Macs, which could include the upcoming MacBook Pro models and a larger, more powerful iMac model. Apple is expected to release 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models at some point between September and November.

I’ve been waiting for the new iMac (27-inch or Pro) to use my DTK coupon that expires at the end of this year, though I might be persuaded to get a 16-inch MacBook Pro (which hasn’t been updated since its release in 2019) if there’s an external display available.

Juli Clover:

A new Mac Pro that’s coming in 2022 is set to use Intel’s Ice Lake Xeon W-3300 workstation chips, according to an Intel leaker that WCCFtech says has offered reliable information on Intel Xeon chips in the past.

I’ve not heard anything about timing for the Apple Silicon Mac Pro, except that Apple announced in June 2020 that the full product line would transition within two years.


Apple Business Model: A Naive Nostalgic Look

Jean-Louis Gassée:

At first, the App Store looked like another product in charge of propping up sales volume and profit margin for the main act, the iPhone. That didn’t last. The App Store became more than an iPhone support function, it became a gigantic business in itself. One that Apple doesn’t disclose but bundles into the Services category. The Services number includes much more than the undisclosed App Store revenue, it encompasses services such as iCloud and Music revenue, Apple Care, and the more visible Apple TV activities.

In the company’s latest SEC filing for the quarter ended in March 2021, Apple’s Services reached $16.9B, exactly as much as the $16.9B number for the combined Mac and iPad revenue, although still far form the $48B iPhone revenue for that quarter.


What happens to priorities, to company culture? What will be sacrificed and what will be preserved? For example, if budgetary restrictions are needed, what will be prioritized: the next Ted Lasso or the next Apple Silicon processor?


I don’t have immediate worries for Apple’s culture. But I’m old enough to have seen strong companies lose their way as their priorities changed and they lost sight of their strengths.

I think we’ve been seeing tradeoffs favoring services over customer interests for a while now. Today, I was trying to play a song in Monterey’s Music app. It was stored locally, but I couldn’t get to the Library section of the app. The main part of the window was entirely devoted to an ad for Apple Music, and there seemed to be no way to dismiss it except to subscribe. There was no “x” or “Later” button, even on hover. Clicking outside of the border or in the sidebar didn’t close it. Eventually, I figured out that it would go away if I pressed Esc.


Update (2021-07-27): Nick Heer:

But this new focus on recurring services revenue — predictable monthly payments from as many buyers as possible — has created plenty of opportunities for Apple to degrade its existing product offerings. As the iTunes Store gave way to the Apple Music streaming model, iTunes was replaced with the much worse Music app, which feels like an old <frame>-based website given the façade of a desktop application. Applications across MacOS and iOS now interrupt users with advertisements in a nagging reminder that your multi-thousand-dollar purchase of a hardware product is merely the beginning of your financial relationship with Apple.


One thing not mentioned by either Gassée or Apple is that about one-fifth to one-quarter of Apple’s services revenue is from Google for making it the default search engine across Apple’s ecosystem. I mentally subtract $3 billion from this category in the quarterly earnings report to create a truer estimation of how Apple’s own-brand services are performing.

Update (2021-08-18): Nick Heer:

I subscribe to Apple Music for the premium experience.

Subscribing to Apple Music is not enough to silence the big red ads; now Apple wants you to subscribe to Apple One.

Ryan Jones:

On the fucking album screen!?

Hi to everyone that said Services incentives wouldn’t change Apple.

Smaller Preferences Tab Icons in Big Sur

Marc Edwards:

I believe macOS Big Sur changed the prefs tab icon size, and because of that, most Mac apps now have blurry icons. I was unable to find a size in the macOS Human Interface Guidelines, but dropping a solid image into your Xcode project reveals the full image area for the asset. In this case, it’s 54×54 pixels on a Retina display, which means prefs tab icon assets need to be exactly 27×27pt to render sharply. Please note that the icons themselves are only around 22×22pt, with the additional space just being padding.

I found it tricky to make a custom icon look right next to an SF Symbol. Vectors help it look sharp at different resolutions, but they don’t help with scaling. It really has to be drawn at the desired size or the stroke widths will be off. And this applies recursively: you can’t just draw a sub-element and then scale it to the right size, or its strokes won’t match the rest of the icon. Naive scaling of a vector icon actually looks worse than scaling down a bitmap.