Archive for November 23, 2021

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Black Friday 2021

My apps are on sale for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and here are some other good deals that I found:




Photos and Video:

Lists of Deals:


Dropbox and Maestral

Hartley Charlton:

An official Dropbox support thread, shared by Mitchell Hashimoto on Twitter, reveals a fiasco around native support for Apple silicon Macs. Dropbox is seemingly insisting that a significant number of community members will have to vote for native Apple silicon support for it to be implemented. There are also multiple repetitious requests with different phrasing, fragmenting users’ votes for support.


In a reply on Twitter, Dropbox founder and CEO Drew Houston apologized for the confusion sparked by the “not ideal” support responses and said that Dropbox is “certainly supporting Apple silicon” with a native Apple silicon build planned for release in the first half of next year.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Not the full story, at all. There are technical issues & negotiations at play. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that Apple doesn’t really want companies making kexts anymore

Apple wants apps to use the new File Provider extension API instead, but from what I’ve heard it’s limited and unreliable.

Ryan Jones:

Exploring Dropbox alternatives?

I did ~6 months ago. Fully installed Box, G Drive, One Drive, and tried iCloud Drive.

I ran back to Dropbox and paid for Plus. For speed, simplicity, and less bullshit.

Marco Arment:

Had enough with the Dropbox Mac app? Me too.

I switched to a few weeks back and couldn’t be happier. ~7x less RAM, ~10x less disk space, doesn’t burn 100% CPU during Xcode unzips.

Only drawback is it doesn’t sync xattrs, which doesn’t affect my usage.


Maestral is an open-source Dropbox client written in Python. The project’s main goal is to provide a client for platforms and file systems that are no longer directly supported by Dropbox.

Maestral currently does not support Dropbox Paper, the management of Dropbox teams, and the management of shared folder settings.


The focus on “simple” file syncing does come with advantages: on macOS, the Maestral App bundle is significantly smaller than the official Dropbox app and uses less memory.

Maestral uses the public Dropbox API which, unlike the official client, does not support transferring only those parts of a file which changed (“binary diff”). Maestral may therefore use more bandwidth that the official client.

Max Seelemann:

🏎 Ulysses clean build on M1 Max: ~65s.

🚀 Same but with Dropbox app NOT running: ~55s.

Quitting Dropbox saves 10s or ~15% for me! Reproduced multiple times.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.


Update (2021-12-03): Tim Hardwick:

If you’ve had your share of frustrations with the Dropbox app, you can always switch to another rival cloud storage service like iCloud, or you can try one of the following alternative Mac clients to sync with your existing Dropbox account.

Booting an M1 Mac From an External Disk With Monterey

Howard Oakley:

One of the stumbling blocks to using an external boot disk with an M1 Mac is that it may not cope if you update macOS on the internal SSD, then try booting from the external disk to update that. You may be prompted to assign an authorised user to that external disk, only to be informed that the version of macOS on that disk isn’t bootable and needs to be replaced.


If you’re unable to boot from a bootable disk using an older (non-current) version of macOS, change its boot policy to Reduced Security and it should then become bootable again.

Use Reduced Security to update bootable external disks, and to maintain older bootable versions of macOS.

If you’ve updated a bootable disk to the current version of macOS, change its boot policy back to Full Security.

This is done in the Recovery Assistant.

Howard Oakley:

Unlike a T2 Mac, M1 Macs don’t set one boot security policy for the Mac, but a policy for each bootable disk. This is attractive, as it means that you can still ensure that, when it boots from its internal SSD it does so in Full Security, but your M1 Mac can be more relaxed when it boots from an external disk instead.


At present, the odd situation is when LocalPolicy is set to Full Security and the macOS versions don’t match, but the external disk is connected via USB-A rather than USB-C or Thunderbolt. In that circumstance, it appears that booting continues despite the conflict in macOS versions. This could be a simple bug, but I suspect that it’s a limitation of the USB-A bus (I recall historical issues in which USB-A had problems with security systems which could be related).


The final piece in this jigsaw puzzle is the macOS full installer app. In response to user outcry when it removed the macOS 11.2 installer as soon as 11.2.1 was released, Apple now leaves full installers available for each version of Big Sur. However, they don’t appear to be of much use to those with M1 Macs, as all attempts to install an older version of macOS on an external disk appear to fail.

Howard Oakley:

On M1 Macs:

  • Carbon Copy Cloner 6 can now create full clones of bootable system volume groups in containers on an external disk;
  • making a full clone of the internal SSD works, but it can’t readily be booted, and is strange in other ways too. Unless you have a compelling reason for doing so, avoid this;
  • booting from a full clone of the internal SSD is to be avoided;
  • making a full clone of an external SSD works, but has little or no advantage over performing a full install of macOS on that disk.

Howard Oakley:

I’m delighted to report that five months after I wrote that M1 Macs had problems starting up from external disks, Apple has finally fixed Big Sur 11.4 so that they now work fully.


Changing between external boot disks is normally simple and direct using the Startup Disk pane. Changing back to the internal SSD when booted from an external disk usually requires a visit to recoveryOS, where you need to authenticate in Recovery Assistant. After a long pause, once that has been accepted as successful, select the Restart button.


Check LocalPolicy for your bootable systems using sudo bputil -d, which should then list available macOS installations by the UUID of their boot volume group[…]


If your external disk connects by USB-C rather than Thunderbolt and you experience problems, try connecting it using a USB-C data cable rather than a certified Thunderbolt cable. If that doesn’t help, and you have a USB-A port available, use a USB-C to USB-A cable instead, which appears to be the most reliable.

Howard Oakley:

When Apple released Big Sur 11.4 update, nothing in its release notes indicated that any change had taken place in support for bootable external disks. Indeed, as far as I can tell, Apple hasn’t mentioned these problems, and anyone considering buying an M1 Mac would probably be completely unaware of their gross unreliability with bootable external disks.


There’s an obvious explanation which I came across when looking at what had changed in the 11.4 update: a brand new kernel extension AppleVPBootPolicy.kext which is concerned with the management of LocalPolicy, which determines security level on boot disks.


The evidence is that these problems were the result of bugs in managing and implementing LocalPolicy, which were fixed by that new extension, and other changes in macOS 11.4. In other words, M1 Macs didn’t work properly for a period of six months because their Secure Boot system was broken.

Howard Oakley:

As Apple doesn’t yet appear to provide complete instructions for the creation of a bootable external disk in recent versions of macOS, and the information which it does provide is at best misleading in places, this article attempts to remedy this for both Intel and M1 Macs.

Howard Oakley:

I hope this has dispelled some of the rumours about using external boot disks with M1 series Macs, which seem still to be based on Big Sur before 11.4. Installing, configuring and using them is now highly reliable, quick and simple. I’m sure that someone will be able to find a model of SSD which doesn’t yet work perfectly, but this demonstration is based on a regular retail Samsung SSD fitted inside an anonymous case bought cheaply from Amazon, and a regular Thunderbolt 3 cable. No witchcraft or incantations were involved.