Science on the Mac →

Filed under “webpages Apple forgot were published:”

The Mac platform is the simple solution for complex scientific research. It lets you leverage all the power and utility of UNIX, even if you never look at a line of code.

Run anything and everything your work depends on, including scripts, open source and commercial software, and even Windows. Program in any language from C++ to Python. And publish and present your work with easy-to-use multimedia tools. The Mac is intuitive, so you’re free to focus on your research. And top-performing Intel processors let that research happen faster than ever.

RIP, Thunderbolt Display 

Apple's Thunderbolt Display

It seems that Apple has discontinued the Thunderbolt Display. Here’s Matthew Panzarino:

The current Mac’s display is 5k and can be extended (in lower res) to the existing Thunderbolt Display which runs at 2560×1440 but I can tell you from personal experience that the difference in resolution sucks from a usability standpoint.

“We’re discontinuing the Apple Thunderbolt Display. It will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last. There are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users,” said an Apple spokesperson.

Apple introduced the Thunderbolt Display way back in 2011:

With just a single cable, users can connect a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac to the 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display and access its FaceTime camera, high quality audio, and Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt ports. Designed specifically for Mac notebooks, the new display features an elegant, thin, aluminum and glass enclosure, and includes a MagSafe connector that charges your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.

“The Apple Thunderbolt Display is the ultimate docking station for your Mac notebook,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “With just one cable, users can dock with their new display and connect to high performance peripherals, network connections and audio devices.”

The display never saw a hardware update, even after MagSafe 2 replaced the old charging standard, not to mention when Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0 started showing up on Macs of all sizes.

I gotta say, there’s nothing so sad in the entirety of the Apple universe as using a $10 MagSafe adaptor with a $1,000 display.1

The real question here is what happens next. Clearly, the external display business is not one Apple is super excited about, but I can see Apple wanting to offer a nice 5K external display to users who want it. My guess is that more Thunderbolt Displays have sold than one might think, and those users are often the most demanding of their hardware.

I really do hope there’s a Thunderbolt 3/USB C/Magic Unicorn Tears external 5K display on its way. While it’d require a new MacBook Pro, living in an all-Retina world sounds really appealing.2

If that’s still a few months out on the horizon, why pull the plug on the non-Retina Thunderbolt Display now? Or is this a sign that Apple’s packing up their desktop display business?


  1. Trust me on that; I have a Thunderbolt Display on my desk. 
  2. Seriously, Apple. Take. My. Money. 

Snell, on macOS Sierra →

Jason Snell at Six Colors:

The X is dead—long live macOS. With this fall’s release of macOS Sierra, Apple is bringing some familiar iOS features to the Mac, along with interesting interactions with iOS hardware, a dramatic expansion of iCloud, a major update to Photos, and a lot more. I’ve spent the past few days using an early beta, and here are some first thoughts about where Apple is taking the Mac in 2016.

There are a lot of previews of macOS Sierra floating around today, but this is the one you should read. Lots of nerdy little details.

‘Can you take our picture?’ 

Visiting the Apple Campus

During WWDC last week, I took a drive down to Apple’s campus with CGP Grey, Federico Viticci and Myke Hurley. Ticci needed to pick up an iPad for his iOS 10 review and everyone wanted to get a photo in front of 1 Infinite Loop before Campus 2 opens.

Once we were in front of the sign, we asked two Chinese men who were there as well to take the photo you see above. They didn’t speak much English, but they were willing to help us out, taking several photos of our field trip.

I offered to take their photo to return the favor. When the older man handed me his iPhone 6, I couldn’t help but notice it was set in Chinese. While that in and of itself isn’t remarkable, it’s the first time I’ve used an iOS device set in any language other than English. I snapped a few photos of them, smiling under the flags just as we had. They reviewed the photos, thanking me for giving them a hand.

Our entire interaction took place in just a couple of minutes, but it’s really stuck with me. It’s easy to think about the community surrounding Apple being our favorite group of writers and podcasters, but it’s far bigger than that. I don’t know if those guys were attending WWDC, or lived in the area and were just checking Apple’s campus out, but clearly they were excited to be there. Had we been able to communicate any more deeply, I’m sure we could have compared thoughts on the keynote and shared our hopes for Apple’s platforms in the future. We probably aren’t all that different when it comes to our interests and obsessions. That’s pretty cool, and I enjoyed the reminder that all around the world, people are nerdy about the same things.

Sierra’s new system requirements 

Since Mountain Lion, Apple hasn’t changed the system requirements for its desktop operating system. Since 2012, these Macs could run the current OS:

  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)

With macOS Sierra, that list has changed:

  • iMac (Late 2009 and later)
  • MacBook (Late 2009 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (2010 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2010 and later)
  • Mac Mini (2010 and later)
  • Mac Pro (2010 and later)

It was initially though that Sierra requires Intel chips with the SSE4.1 instruction set, removing machines with silicon older than the 45nm Penryn Core 2 Duo family of processors.

However, if SSE4.1 was the hard cutoff, some older Mac Pros — that Apple has cut off — would be able to run macOS Sierra that Apple, so there may be other factors like GPU support in play as well.

Apple’s been really good about supporting old machines longer and longer, but some users are understandably upset that their machines are being left behind this time around. If you’re one of those users, I’ll just leave this link here, but something like this should is definitely not supported by Apple.

The post-WWDC glow →

Myke Hurley:

On the last day or two of WWDC, there are lots of blog posts written. Some people talk about the more technical things that they have seen during the week, and some post about how their WWDC experience has made them feel.

This post is the latter.

This. Just all of this.

Thoughts on macOS Sierra 

macOS Sierra

macOS Sierra was not be the flashiest thing Apple previewed this week. watchOS and iOS saw big updates, and even tvOS promises fewer hassles with things like Single Sign-on and a dark mode.

However, since there’s an old Mac in the corner of this website, and I’ve written several OS X reviews over the past few years, Sierra is what I’m focusing on out of WWDC.

There’s a lot to this release beyond the new old name.

I haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time with macOS Sierra yet. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t share some early thoughts on where the Mac is headed for its 2016-2017 cycle.

Siri

The major feature this year for the Mac is Siri. It dominates the preview page on Apple.com and took up the bulk of the on-stage demo time during the keynote.

While new desktop Siri has a lot in common with its mobile sibling, it can do a lot with files now, too. It can be used to find files based on dates, names, file type, tags and more.

To be fair, a lot of this has been in Spotlight for a while, but talking to the computer to execute complicated searches will probably prove easier than remembering how Spotlight wants those searches entered.

Like Spotlight, Siri can search the web, and now images and other results can be dropped right into documents or email drafts. Saved searches can be pinned to Notification Center where they will auto-update with new information from the web for quick access in the future.

I still think Spotlight and Siri should probably merge at this point.

Siri can do some other macOS-specific things like report back on free disk space, but for the most part, this is iOS Siri bolted onto the Mac.

Sadly, right into the already-clunky Notification Center.

Auto Unlock & Apple Pay

With Touch ID-enabled Macs still a few months off, macOS Sierra provides a way for Apple Watch owners to unlock their Macs with their wrists. Here’s how Apple describes it:

Get instant access to your Mac when you’re wearing Apple Watch. Just wake up your Mac and you’re ready to go. Take a quick call or step away, then get right back to work. No password typing required.

The Watch has to be on the wrist and unlocked via PIN or Touch ID on the iPhone. If the Watch is taken off, authentication is broken. These are the same requirements needed for Apple Pay to work on the Watch, so I’m comfortable that Apple’s made this secure enough.

While this will save us a little time when waking up our MacBooks, I want to live in a world where I can use Touch ID on the Mac for things like 1Password as well.

In addition to Auto Unlock, macOS Sierra is bringing Apple Pay to the web. It is important to note that this seems to be Safari only:

OS X v10.12 introduces the ApplePay JavaScript framework, which helps you incorporate Apple Pay directly into iOS and OS X [sic] Safari-based websites. When you support Apple Pay in your website, users can authorize payments using their iPhone or Apple Watch. To learn more, see ApplePay JS Framework Reference.

I may be incorrect, but I don’t think this is coming to Chrome, let alone Windows, at this time.

iCloud Stuff

As with most recent versions of everything, macOS Sierra promises many iCloud-related improvements.

Universal Clipboard will allow for easy sharing of the clipboard between Macs and iOS devices. Copy some text on the Mac and pasting it on the iPhone promises to be dead simple. There are some things in place like a two-minute time out to keep it from doing anything too surprising, but I’m still a little hesitant in trusting this. If snippets from my iPhone or iPad can be sucked into my clipboard manager, I will be much more comfortable.

iCloud Drive can now be set up to automatically sync ~/Desktop and ~/Documents. If a user has more than one Mac, this means these two directories would be mirrored. On iOS, these files would be available via iCloud’s Document Provider interface.

As I work currently, almost everything important on my MacBook Pro is saved to ~/Dropbox. I don’t see that changing with this feature, as I honestly trust Dropbox with this type of task far more than I do Apple.

Optimized Storage is a new low-level change to macOS, but involves iCloud Drive. Just read this and tell me if it sounds like something you would want to do:

Storage space maxed out? No problem. macOS Sierra can help make more room by automatically storing rarely used files in the cloud and keeping them available on demand. It can also help you find and remove old files you no longer use. So there’s always room on your Mac for new files and the ones you’ve used most recently.

Nope.

Miscellaneous Updates

macOS Sierra includes some other oddball features, like Picture in Picture, tabs in almost every app, a new Apple Music experience in iTunes, a subset of the new iOS Messages features and the fancy Photos.app COMPUTER VISION Memories feature.

Importantly, Apple has changed its policy on using iCloud features in apps sold outside of the Mac App Store. Now, apps that can’t be in the Mac App Store due to other policies or for business reasons can harness things like CloudKit. That’s a big deal, as iCloud was one of the few carrots Apple had to attract developers to the Store. I like it.

Looking Forward

As it stands today, I’m excited to see the Mac staying mostly in-step with iOS features. All in all, macOS Sierra is not going to go down as the most exciting update to the Mac operating system ever, but that is okay with me. The Mac is a mature, stable platform. Things like Siri and Photos give developers new ways to work on the Mac, and that is a good thing.

Sierra is its own OS →

Dan Moren, on the next version of macOS:

No longer burdened by its increasingly dated X-laden moniker, the rebranded macOS got a major addition in the form of Siri, as well as some more minor improvements sprinkled throughout the OS.

But to me, the big message to take away from Monday’s presentation is that Apple is all too happy for the Mac to share features and technologies where it makes sense, but to still let it stand on its own two legs and be the best version of itself.