Mac OS X Archive

Hidden sheep and typography archaeology

Because a typeface is not just its pixels, but also its spacing, I wanted to look at the authentic source material for Chicago. That required some technical archaeology: the original Macintosh, released in 1984, was the first widely available computer that used proportional typography on screen and it had an entirely unique way of storing and managing fonts. (Standards like TrueType didn’t appear until later.)

I have some software background in typography, so I managed to extract the genuine 1984 font data using my 2018 computer. (The details of that part are a bit beside the point but are in the footnote at the bottom if you're interested). Having got the font, bitmap and spacing data for Chicago, I used the same little program to extract all the other Macintosh bitmap fonts.

Fun little bit of typography archeology on the old Macintosh.

299 macOS apps are so buggy, Apple fixes them in AppKit

What do Photoshop, Matlab, Panic Transmit, and Eclipse have in common? They are among the 299 apps for which macOS applies compatibility fixes.

Here's the full list of bundle IDs, along with the functions that checks for them, and the first caller to those functions. It's also available in CSV format.

Note that this is just a list of apps Apple has developed compatibility tweaks to make them run on newer macOS versions. As the list demonstrates, even the best apps often needs some tweaks on newer macOS. In addition, most of these patches are only applied to older versions of apps.

Here's how I extracted the list, and some interesting things I found in it.

This is absolutely fascinating, and provides some amazing insight into which applications Apple considers crucial to the macOS user experience and platform. We all know Windows performs various tricks to maintain backwards compatibility, but I had no idea Apple went to decent lengths too for the same reasons.

Using the old Mac OS is pure zen

But I do believe that the old Mac makes for a timely reminder that the digital age hasn't always felt so frantic, or urgent, or overwhelming. And maybe, even if an old Mac interface isn't the solution, we can view it as a subtle north star for its sensibilities, and how much it was able to accomplish with so little.

This story is far too light on details and quite fluffy, and the final sentence quoted above is far too simplistic - "how much it was able to accomplish" was, in fact, quite little compared to today's machines - but it's interesting to see people discovering the classic Macintosh operating system for the first time, and recognizing its many fun little affordances that made using it so pleasant.

Personally, I consider Mac OS 9 to have one of the most pleasant and usable graphical user interfaces ever designed. Sure, the underlying operating system was a grossly outdated technical mess by that point, but the many subtle animations, the spatial Finder, the consistent and elegantly understated Platinum looks made the UI a pleasure to use, to this very day. And considering I never used the classic Mac OS back when it was current, this isn't a case of rose-tinted nostalgia; I didn't get to try out OS 9 until 2005 or so.

I wish Apple's current software designers were forced to use the classic Platinum UI for a month or two, just to experience what it was like. Maybe they'd step up their game, because as it stands today, macOS' UI is mere shadow of OS 9.

MacOS monitoring the open source way

Let's say a machine in your corporate fleet gets infected with malware. How would you detect it? How could you find out what happened on the machine? What did the malware do? Did it steal your browser's passwords? What network connections did the malware make? Was it looking for crypto currency? By having good telemetry and a good host monitoring solution for your machines you can collect the context necessary to answer these important questions.

Proper host monitoring on macOS can be very difficult for some organizations. It can be hard to find mature tools that proactively detect security incidents. Even when you do find a tool that fits all your needs, you may run into unexpected performance issues that make the machine nearly unusable by your employees. You might also experience issues like having hosts unexpectedly shut down due to a kernel panic. Even if you are able to pinpoint the cause of these issues you may still be unable to configure the tool to prevent the issue from recurring. Due to difficulties like these at Dropbox, we set out to find an alternative solution.

Exactly what it says on the tin.

Are external GPUs for Macs viable in macOS 10.13.4?

It's perplexing that this flagship feature of macOS 10.13.4 feels so incomplete. Sure, we've come a long way since enthusiasts were hacking it together with help from online forums, but more work needs to be done to ensure a consistent experience. We wouldn't advise going out and buying an enclosure just yet, but we nevertheless see reasons in the performance gains to be hopeful that we could recommend it at some point in the future.

It seems strange to me that switching GPUs - even external ones - is such an arduous process. It seems this process is more seemless on Windows. On macOS it seems each and every applications needs to be modified to add support for it, whereas on Windows, the operating system itself takes care of it.

macOS 10.13.4 adds external GPU support

macOS 10.13.4, released to the public yesterday afternoon, introduces official support for eGPUs (external graphics processors) on Thunderbolt 3 Macs. Alongside the release, Apple has published a detailed support document that outlines how eGPU support works and provides graphic card and chassis recommendations for use with your Mac.

External GPUs seem like an incredibly clunky solution to a problem I doubt many people actually have. If your workload relies heavily on GPU power, you're probably not using Apple laptops anyway.

Apple prepares macOS for discontinuation of 32-bit app support

When users attempt to launch a 32-bit app in 10.13.4, it will still launch, but it will do so with a warning message notifying the user that the app will eventually not be compatible with the operating system unless it is updated. This follows the same approach that Apple took with iOS, which completed its sunset of 32-bit app support with iOS 11 last fall.

This is good. I would prefer other companies, too, take a more aggressive approach towards deprecating outdated technology in consumer technology.

Apple Addresses Meltdown and Spectre in macOS

Along with macOS High Sierra 10.13.3, Apple this morning released two new security updates that are designed to address the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities on machines that continue to run macOS Sierra and OS X El Capitan.

As outlined in Apple's security support document, Security Update 2018-001 available for macOS Sierra 10.12.6 and OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 offers several mitigations for both Meltdown and Spectre, along with fixes for other security issues, and the updates should be installed immediately.

Together with last week's update, this means the last three major revisions of macOS are now protected from the processor bugs.

Reading disks from 1988 in 2018

I used an Apple IIe computer throughout high school and into my second year in college, before I bought a Mac SE. That following summer I sold the Apple IIe and everything that came with it - the monitor, floppy drives, and dot-matrix printer - and pocketed the cash. What I was left with were two boxes containing two dozen 5.25-inch floppy disks.

I could've thrown the disks away - I had already transferred all the files I cared about to the Mac. But for some reason I saved them instead. And the two dozen floppy disks stayed in two battered boxes for the next 27 years.

Apple quickly fixes severe security flaw in macOS

So there's been a big security flaw in Apple's macOS that the company fixed in 24 hours. I rarely cover security issues because where do you draw the line, right? Anyhow, the manner of disclosure of this specific flaw is drawing some ire.

Obviously, this isn't great, and the manner of disclosure didn't help much either. Usually it's advisable to disclose these vulnerabilities privately to the vendor, so that it can patch any holes before malicious parties attempt to use them for their own gains. But that ship has sailed.

I've never quite understood this concept of "responsible disclosure", where you give a multi-billion dollar company a few months to fix a severe security flaw before you go public. First, unless you're on that company's payroll, you have zero legal or moral responsibility to help that company protect its products or good name. Second, if the software I'm using has a severe security flaw, I'd rather very damn well please would like to know so I can do whatever I can to temporarily fix the issue, stop using the software, or take other mitigating steps.

I readily admit I'm not hugely experienced with this particular aspect of the technology sector, so I'm open to arguments to the contrary.

Reverse engineering the macOS High Sierra supplemental update

Reported by Matheus Mariano, a Brazilian software developer, a programming error was discovered in Apple’s most recent operating system, High Sierra, that exposed passwords of encrypted volumes as password hints. A serious bug that quickly made the headlines in technology websites everywhere.

Apple was prompt to provide macOS High Sierra Supplemental Update to customers via the App Store, and ensured that every distribution of High Sierra in their servers included this update.

I decided to apply a binary diffing technique to the update to learn more about the root cause of this bug and hypothesize about how the defect could have been prevented.

Apple open-sourced iOS and macOS kernel for ARM

Apple has always shared the kernel of macOS after each major release. This kernel also runs on iOS devices as both macOS and iOS are built on the same foundation. This year, Apple also shared the most recent version of the kernel on GitHub. And you can also find ARM versions of the kernel for the first time.

The code was pushed to Apple's open source site, as well as to their official GitHub mirror.

Apple releases macOS High Sierra

Apple has released macOS High Sierra.

macOS High Sierra is designed to improve on the previous macOS Sierra operating system with some major under-the-hood upgrades and a handful of outward-facing changes.

Apple File System (APFS), a file system designed for solid state drives, is the new default for these drives in macOS High Sierra. APFS is safe, secure, and optimized for modern storage systems. It features native encryption, safe document saves, stable snapshots, and crash protection, plus it brings performance improvements.

An interesting new feature in high Sierra that was only recently unveiled: the new version of macOS checks your Mac's firmware against Apple's own database once a week to see if it's been tampered with.

Apple sets release dates for macOS High Sierra, iOS 11

Aside from new iPhones, theres more Apple news - the company has set release dates for iOS 11 - 19 September - and macOS High Sierra - 25 September. I can't say much about High Sierra - I don't have a Mac - but iOS 11 is an absolute must, especially for iPad users. I've been using it for a long time now on my 2017 iPad Pro 12.9", and I haven't looked back to my laptop since buying it and installing iOS 11 on it.

iOS 11 is a huge leap forward for the iPad, and it'll make your tablet feel like a new, and much more capable device.

“We need to document macOS”

I spend an inordinate amount of time searching for information about macOS. Whether I am researching the answers for my section in MacFormat magazine, or trying to solve my own problems here, I am also daily reminded of Apple's wholesale failure to provide consistent and complete documentation of its flagship product.

The idea you would donate an inordinate amount of time and effort for free to the richest company in the world to perform work they ought to be doing is wholly and completely baffling to me.

Building the XNU kernel on Mac OS X Sierra

From version to version, I always love to play around with the kernel. And it has always been a great lack in guides and documentation on how to build Mac OSX's kernel, XNU. For those of you that already have tried compiling XNU for Mac OSX 10.12 (Sierra), you probably noticed that earlier build guides like ssen's blog - Building xnu for OS X 10.11 El Capitan don't work anymore. However, many thanks to ssen to put in time to write a guide.

The problem is that Apple introduced something named Circular dependency with the libdispatch library and the kernel headers. So the order of the build process just got really important.

Apple showcases macOS High Sierra

macOS High Sierra will deliver new video and graphics technologies that will lay the groundwork for even more improvements to macOS down the line, according to Apple. The big additions in High Sierra include Apple File System (APFS), support for High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), and an all-new version of Metal - simply called Metal 2 - which will allow Apple's advanced graphics tech to power even more Mac apps, including machine learning and VR-based content.

Apple also mentioned that macOS' window manager will run on Metal 2. As always, be sure to take a peek at Apple's official High Sierra page.

Hackintoshes show that Apple should just build a Mac tower

Apple is working on new desktop Macs, including a ground-up redesign of the tiny-but-controversial 2013 Mac Pro. We're also due for some new iMacs, which Apple says will include some features that will make less-demanding pro users happy.

But we don't know when they're coming, and the Mac Pro in particular is going to take at least a year to get here. Apple's reassurances are nice, but it's a small comfort to anyone who wants high-end processing power in a Mac right now. Apple hasn't put out a new desktop since it refreshed the iMacs in October of 2015, and the older, slower components in these computers keeps Apple out of new high-end fields like VR.

This is a problem for people who prefer or need macOS, since Apple's operating system is only really designed to work on Apple’s hardware. But for the truly adventurous and desperate, there's another place to turn: fake Macs built with standard PC components, popularly known as "Hackintoshes". They've been around for a long time, but the state of Apple's desktop lineup is making them feel newly relevant these days. So we spoke with people who currently rely on Hackintoshes to see how the computers are being used - and what they'd like to see from Apple.

My 2009 article on building a hackintosh is still one of the most popular articles on OSNews. This movement is anything but new, and has always been far more popular than people seem to think - it's only been brought to the forefront again lately due to Apple's abysmal Mac product line-up.

Darwin 0.1 and Rhapsody DR 2 booted

So the recently recovered source code to Darwin 0.1 corresponds with the release of the PowerPC only OS X Server 1.0. However as we all found out, Darwin will still built and maintained on Intel, as it was a very secretive plan B, in case something went wrong with the PowerPC platform. Being portable had saved NeXT before, and now it would save Apple.

So with this little background, and a lot of stumbling around in the dark, I came up with some steps, that have permitted me to build the Darwin 0.1 kernel under DR2.

This is beyond awesome.