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How APFS in Mojave Affects Digital Storage Choices

Just as the file system under macOS works quietly, without fanfare, so do the preparations for the next update to Take Control of Your Digital Storage. We’re working on fleshing out the book for an update later this year, but in the meantime, I want to note a few areas where the march of technology has surpassed what’s in the current edition.

AFPS Everywhere

With the release of macOS Mojave in late 2018, APFS (Apple File System) is now the default file system for all Macs running the latest system, regardless of what type of storage the computer runs. Previously, APFS kicked in only for Macs running solid-state memory, like current laptop models. The exception was Fusion drives, which combine a traditional mechanical (spinning magnetic platters) drive for mass storage and SSD memory for caching frequently used files and the system itself to improve performance. (See the sidebar on page 57, “Which Filesystem for Which Drive?”)

This change has resulted in mixed performance—many people with iMacs and other computers with mechanical drives are seeing worse performance following the update. I’m hoping Apple is working through these issues, and we’ll see performance parity with whichever macOS update is announced at WWDC in June.

I still recommend formatting external mechanical drives as Mac OS Extended instead of APFS. Time Machine drives must still be Mac OS Extended, too.

APFS is a fascinating, deep change to macOS that should be invisible for most people, and I think it mostly succeeds at that. But when things go sideways, that can do so in weird ways. For example, the way it treats free space differently than before, leading to situations where your Mac reports a lot of available storage but an application sees far less. I wrote about this in a recent Seattle Times column, where the culprit was several invisible snapshots: Try these strategies to free storage on your Mac.

If you don’t yet own the book and are curious about just what I’m talking about, I recommend (a) buying the book!, or (b) read this TidBITS article: What APFS Does for You, and What You Can Do with APFS (and then buy the book!).

As I get further along with the book update, we’ll post more information here.

Posted by Jeff Carlson (Permalink)

What’s New with Apple TV

The Apple TV world had been pretty quiet until Apple’s March 25, 2019 special event that announced some major new things coming to the Apple TV:

  • A redesigned TV app, redubbed Apple TV, that’s built around services, integrates live TV, and will even be available on most popular smart TV platforms, such as Roku
  • Apple TV Channels, which will let you subscribe to à la carte cable channels and streaming services inside the Apple TV app
  • A new streaming service called Apple TV+, which has the backing of big-name celebrities like director Steven Spielberg, media queen Oprah Winfrey, and director J.J. Abrams
  • A new subscription game service called Apple Arcade

The new Apple TV app will be available in May, with Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade due later in the year. We’re currently evaluating the best way to update Take Control of Apple TV to best cover Apple’s strategic shift. In the meantime, you can read the TidBITS articles Apple Reveals Its Vision for TV and Apple Announces Apple Arcade Gaming Service.

In the here and now, iOS 12.2 has added some major Apple TV-related improvements:

  • You can now control an Apple TV via iOS Siri using commands like “Pause the bedroom Apple TV.”
  • AirPlay has been improved to play more nicely with multitasking.
  • When AirPlaying content from iOS to an Apple TV, playback controls show in Control Center and on the Lock screen.

Also, Apple has changed the Apple TV remote logo in Control Center and the Remote app to show a small Siri Remote instead of the Apple TV logo, undoubtedly to prevent confusion with the new Apple TV app.

To learn more, see the TidBITS article Apple Releases iOS 12.1.1, macOS 10.14.2, and tvOS 12.1.1.

Posted by Josh Centers (Permalink)

What’s New with iOS

There have been some welcome improvements in iOS 12 since the version 1.1 update of Take Control of iOS 12, but none that warrant a new edition of the book just yet.

iOS 12.1.1, released in December 2018, made it so that you no longer have to press the ellipsis button to swap cameras during a FaceTime call. It also allows for Live Photo capture during FaceTime calls. To learn more, see the TidBITS article Apple Releases iOS 12.1.1, macOS 10.14.2, and tvOS 12.1.1.

iOS 12.2, released in March 2019, included a number of substantial changes, such as:

  • The new Apple News+ service, which offers a variety of publications for $9.99 per month. See the TidBITS article Apple News+ Debuts With Magazines, Newspapers, and Web Sites.
  • The capability to control an Apple TV via iOS Siri using commands like “Pause the bedroom Apple TV.”
  • Customizable Downtime schedules in Screen Time.
  • You can now customize Safari’s Smart Search suggestions.
  • AirPlay has been improved to play more nicely with multitasking.
  • When AirPlaying content from iOS to an Apple TV, playback controls show in Control Center and on the Lock screen.
  • The Apple TV Control Center icon now looks like a Siri Remote instead of showing the Apple TV logo.

For more, see the TidBITS article iOS 12.2 and macOS 10.14.4 Add Apple News+ and Enhance Apps.

Posted by Josh Centers (Permalink)

Slack Changes Desktop Login

In macOS and Windows, Slack offers both native desktop apps and a robust web app that works across major browsers. The native apps have a few distinct advantages I mention in the book over using the web app. However, Slack just removed a feature from the native desktop apps, that you would think makes the desktop app worse—but, in fact, makes it better.

You can no longer log into a workspace from a native desktop app. Previously, you could click the big + at the bottom of the native desktop app’s Workspaces sidebar, and you’d be prompted within the desktop app to enter a workspace subdomain name, and proceed through a log in or generate a magic link sent via email. (The magic link is a URL that, when clicked, opens the web app, which in turn triggers the Slack native desktop app and adds the team.)

As of March 11, 2019, however, the native desktop apps no longer allow a direct login. Click the + in the Workspaces sidebar, and the Slack desktop app opens a browser window that’s related to all workspaces for which you use the same email address. From there, you can either click on any workspace listed that you’re already logged into, saving time and effort, and the web app requests opening the native desktop app, which then adds the workspace with no further effort. You can also enter the Slack subdomain in the web app’s login page, and then proceed through a normal password (and second-factor) login entry or use a magic link.

You’d think this would be a worse experience because of the round trip. However, because the web app populates the login page with all your active workspaces, it actually reduces effort—it’s better than the native desktop login approach. Now, in the future, I would hope Slack could provide that same ease within a native app, but for now it’s a weird but positive step forward.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman (Permalink)

Josh Centers and Adam Engst Join Chuck Joiner on MacVoices

Take Control of Preview authors Josh Centers and Adam Engst joined Chuck Joiner of MacVoices for a discussion of their updated book and a bit of griping about Apple’s slipping software quality.

Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

MacVoices Interviews Scholle McFarland About Her Book on Siri

Chuck Joiner of MacVoices interviewed Scholle McFarland about Take Control of Siri. Scholle and Chuck discuss her book, including some of Siri’s lesser-known features and how it can help in your home, car, and elsewhere.

Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

Take Control of Siri—Videos

These videos illustrate techniques for using Siri, based on Take Control of Siri by Scholle McFarland:

How to Change Siri’s Voice


How to Use Siri with Reminders


10 Types of Questions You Can Ask Siri


How to Use Siri in the Kitchen


10 Ways to Use Siri on the Mac


How to Get Help with Siri in an Emergency


How to Use Siri in the Car


Joking Around with Siri


6 Cool Things You Can Do with Siri


How to Control Your Music with Siri


Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

Apple Developers Told 2FA for Apple ID Soon Required

Apple recently told software developers that two-factor authentication (2FA) will be required as of February 27, 2019, for Apple ID accounts used to log in to the company’s developer website, and which are used for other purposes to create identification and encryption documents. That’s a concern for some developers who haven’t enabled 2FA on the account or accounts they use for development purposes.

Apple requires that you use macOS or iOS to enable 2FA for an Apple ID, as I describe in Take Control of Your Apple ID in some detail (along with how to take steps so that you set up 2FA with the right recovery details in case you have a problem with the account or someone tries to hack into it). That requires a given Mac or iOS device has that Apple ID used as its iCloud login account.

But some developers use one or more Apple IDs for development that they don’t employ with iCloud on any device. They were left wondering how they could possibly enable 2FA, even though they can use telephone-based SMS or automated-voice codes to confirm logins after setting it up.

Fortunately, Take Control of Your Apple ID has the answer (in the section “Set up 2FA Without a Device”). Here’s a brief rundown:

  1. Set up a separate login account on a Mac, even one you don’t routinely use.
  2. Log in to iCloud via the iCloud preference pane using the Apple ID you want to upgrade to 2FA.
  3. Make sure to set at least a couple phone numbers to use as verification codes in the process of set up.

Now, whenever you log into a developer resource or any Apple site or service that requires that Apple ID, Apple will attempt to send a verification code to the macOS account you logged in with, which won’t do anything. Instead, click or tap “Didn’t get a verification code” and then you can choose to receive an SMS or voice-based code to complete the login (as explained in depth in the section “Log In with 2FA by SMS or Voice Call”).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman (Permalink)