Sierra Features & Recommendations

Today, Apple releases the 13th major revision of what began life as Mac OS X, turned into OS X, and is now macOS. Sierra, macOS 12, will appear in the App Store this morning for free. The tentpole features this time out are subdued, and Sierra represents a refinement of the changes that began in OS X Yosemite in 2014, and continued in OS X El Capitan last year.

Our advice, as in previous years, is that discretion is the better part of valor, and waiting until you have a convenient time to be without your computer for an hour or so, after you’ve determined if your working application load is functional in Sierra, is the best way to proceed. This basically means we don’t recommend updating today unless you enjoy pushing the boundaries of the future. We will, of course, support you as best we are able, but our general advice is:

  1. Don’t update without a backup. If you’re not sure if you have a backup, you need to be 100% sure before proceeding.
  2. Don’t update without checking the compatibility of your applications with the new OS. Our management and monitoring systems are compatible at this time, and our tools will work with Sierra. If you’re not sure your tools are compatible, please check. We’re happy to help.
  3. Don’t update without being aware of the new iCloud features listed below, and understanding the consequences of turning them on could include data loss, or being without your data offline.

As always, we take the advice of Salah from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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Please note that we don’t mean you should go first, but rather other intrepid OS explorers, who have the correct safety apparatus and a willingness to explore knowing that loss is possible.

While Sierra is a refinement release, there are a couple of interesting tentpole features for Apple to hang its hat on. The first is the arrival of Siri to the Mac platform. Long a mainstay of iOS, Siri now has access to many of the pieces of your Mac’s environment, including your files, your calendar and your personal information. If you have internet access, Siri can perform tasks for you related to your operating system such as “Create an Appointment tomorrow at 9am to call Tom” or “Find all my emails from Tom Bridge” or “Show me all the pictures of Charlie”, and Siri can do those things. Siri can move files, send messages, and other activities.

I find Siri’s inclusion to be a novelty, and a bit of a disappointment, if only because I can’t imagine myself ever speaking to my computer in an open-plan office, or in a coffee shop, or even my home if others were around. I find the idea a talking interface to your computer to be a bit bizarre, but I recognize I may an outlier. I don’t talk to machines in public, I save my talking to people. Is that weird? Maybe. It is straight up humanist discrimination? Well, yes, it is. This is where the computers come for me, isn’t it?

The second tentpole of Sierra is one that I find both intriguing and horrifying all at once. Apple wants you to trust your Documents folder and Desktop to iCloud, and allow your local operating system to figure out what needs to be stored locally, and what can be stored in the Cloud instead. They’ve prepared us for this reality, of course, and this is just iCloud Photo Library, but applied to your Desktop and Documents folder. This is a great concept, designed to save space on your SSD-based Macs that are very definitely space constrained, but there are pitfalls. I am glad that Rich Trouton has made available his configuration profile that blocks this setting for organizations to use on their computers. I’m not interested in turning this feature on any time soon.

There is one convenience feature that I am enjoying so far, and that is unlocking the phone with my Apple Watch. This feature relies on Apple’s Wi-Fi proximity check scripts, as well as access to your iCloud account, which must be set to use the new Apple Two-Factor Authentication for security purposes. This means you’ll have trusted devices that are capable of providing a 6-digit one-time passcode for granting access to your AppleID. If your Watch and Mac are set to use the same (2FA-enabled) AppleID, the presence of the watch (in an unlocked state, on your wrist) will unlock your Mac.

If you want to learn more about the security of macOS and iOS, I strongly recommend watching Ivan Krstic’s Blackhat talk, which goes into depth about the security behind this unlock procedure (Starts at 24 minutes in). The amount of thought that has gone into this process is staggering, but I would absolutely watch the heist flick, or Mr. Robot season, that takes on trying to break it (and failing).

There are some additional features in Sierra that are of interest, but you’re likely already exposed to their arrival, as they’re in iOS 10. Photos’ Memories features and new search capabilities are on your Mac, the Apple Music experience is now available in iTunes, with enhanced capabilities, and the new iMessage types, responses and animations are available in Messages for view.

There are some additional under-the-hood changes in Sierra that are interesting, including changes to the SIP directories, locking down further portions of the underlying OS-facing file system, and the inclusion of APFS as a disk type that the OS can understand, but neither of these concern users at large, who this guidance is for.

As always, we are happy to answer your questions.

iOS 10 Features & Recommendations

Later today, Apple will release the first fully public distribution of the next version of their mobile operating system, iOS 10. We’ve been using iOS 10 since the early part of the beta period, and it’s been on my “daily driver” phone for a little more than a month at this point. Apple has made a lot of behavioral refinements in this release, but they’ve also made some wholesale changes to the way your iPhone operates.

Our advice: Wait a few days for all your apps to become compatible, but then upgrade if you have an iPhone 5S or later. Maybe Friday?

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Something Siri Should Know: Baseball Magic Numbers

I’ve been trying to use Siri more for tasks in the Sierra Beta, and I finally had an obvious one to go looking for tonight. I asked her what the Nationals Magic Number is. This was her response:

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 7.15.57 PM

Well, that’s not ideal. Why doesn’t Siri know how to make this calculation? The magic number to win the division in baseball is a known formula. That formula is

(163 - (leading team's wins + second place team's losses))

. As I type this, the Nationals have 75 wins, and the 2nd place Mets have 64 losses. This makes the Nationals’ magic number 24 (163 – (75+64)). This number should be easily calculable for Siri.

Alternatively, for teams in the Wild Card race, there is an alternate formula, that involves removing the division leaders from the standings tree, and combining the rest of the teams into a single table, and subtracting the wins of the leading team and the losses of the third place team to get the result.

Why isn’t this the sort of thing Siri knows about? Given MLBAM’s tight relationship with Apple (and MLBAM’s use of their data throughout various keynotes over the years!), why isn’t this something Siri knows how to do?

Think of the opportunities for fun things to say. You could ask Siri what the Yankees magic number is, and instead of this, you might get something funny like “Well, I’m sorry to tell you John, they’re not getting their 28th this year.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 7.24.54 PM

I mean, how great would it be if Siri was an inveterate Red Sox fan and just spent the whole time needling Yankees fans?

Anyway, I’ve filed a bug, and if you’d like to dupe it, it’s number 28066166, and it follows here:

Summary:
Currently, if you ask Siri what the Nationals’ magic number is, she isn’t sure. The magic number to win the division in baseball is a known formula. That formula is 163 – (leading team’s wins + second place team’s losses).

As I type this, the Nationals have 75 wins, and the 2nd place Mets have 64 losses. This makes the Nationals’ magic number 24 (163 – (75+64)). This number should be easily calculable for Siri.

Alternatively, for teams in the Wild Card race, there is an alternate formula, that involves removing the division leaders from the standings tree, and combining the rest of the teams into a single table, and subtracting the wins of the leading team and the losses of the third place team to get the result.

Steps to Reproduce:
1. Ask Siri for the Nationals magic number
2. Be denied.

Expected Results:
1. Ask Siri for the Nationals magic number
2. Be displayed the division standings (good!) and get the correct answer for their magic number for the playoffs.

Actual Results:
1. Ask Siri for the Nationals magic number
2. Be displayed the division standings (good!) and get a noncommittal answer (bad.)

Version:
10.12 Beta (16A313a)

Notes:
Major League Baseball should also be able to furnish this data directly.

Testing iOS 10 & Sierra in Your Environment

Testing Sierra & iOS 10 Slide

Last night, I presented at MacDMV on the importance of Testing iOS 10 and Sierra in your environment. The slides and presenters notes are available as a PDF Download. You can also watch the presentation below via Facebook video. The presentation begins about 3:30.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmacdmv%2Fvideos%2F1808220239413548%2F&show_text=0&width=400

Testing Sierra and iOS 10 is incredibly important, because you need to be ready on Day 1 in case your users update ahead of your wishes. You need to know whether you can make your existing systems work, or if you’re going to have to expend the political capital to roll them back. Do you have a testing setup? Do you have a testing plan? Do you know how to submit good feedback to Apple? This presentation will help.

I’ve also built a Sample Testing Checklist for your environment, available as a PDF below, and also as an editable OmniOutliner file so you can make your own editable list.

Helpful Links:

Maslow’s Wi-Fi
Mike Boylan’s 2014 Presentation: Getting Your Issue on Apple’s Radar
Sample Testing Checklist PDF
Testing Checklist OO3 File

Link

Techno Bits vol. 74: Technical Debt

This Week’s Newsletter has a doozy:

Conferences also show you exactly how much work you have left to do. And that’s okay, work isn’t a bad thing. It just sometimes puts that workload in stark relief and that can feel a little bad sometimes. Technical Debt is difficult to overcome because it requires a change in understanding – and often times training – but it serves to make your organization stronger.

Read on, or better yet, subscribe!