|October 2019 Newsletter
iOS & tvOS approved, WatchOS & iPadOS ok with caveat, macOS a no go
As predicted Apple has issued multiple revisions and bug fixes since they released iOS 13 (and iPadOS 13) on September 19. As of this writing, we're at iOS/iPadOS 13.1.2. We've been testing both since release, and we believe the current iteration on iPhone is good enough for general use. That is to say, if you want to upgrade your iPhone to 13.1.2 we think it's safe to do so.
Will there be issues? Probably. We're not even a month in at this point—but millions of folks have downloaded and installed version 13.1.2, and we've not heard of anything burning down. Personally, we had some spotty Bluetooth connectivity with an iPhone X, but again, everything seems to be okay in the essentials.
We were all set to recommend the same thing for iPadOS 13.1.2. Then our cellular connectivity stopped working. So far no manner of reset has restored that functionality, though wifi connectivity continues to work fine. So...if you have a wifi-only iPad—meaning you don't pay a monthly fee to your cell phone provider to connect to your iPad to the internet—an upgrade to iPadOS 13.1.2 should be okay. If you do use cell to connect your iPad, we'd highly recommend waiting to upgrade as thus far we don't see a solution other than waiting for Apple to issue another update.
Similarly, there is a problem with the current version (6.0.1) of WatchOS for Series 4 and Series 5 watches with cellular connections. Apparently there's an enormous battery drain—to the point many users are reportedly unable to make it through the day without charging up the watch. For Apple Watches (of any series) without cellular, battery life seem to be as good or slightly better than the previous operating system. For those users, we advise an upgrade; Apple Watch cellular users should wait.
Our AppleTV was set to automatically update its software so it did. We're not thrilled that it did. We're having some wake from sleep issues, for starters, but by and large everything seems to be working fine otherwise. We'd say it's okay to upgrade to the new tvOS.
As for macOS 10.15 Catalina our advice remains the same as it does for every new Mac operating system: No. Do not upgrade. Wait. More on this in a moment.
As always, you can see all our current hardware and software recommendations at the end of this newsletter.
Do NOT upgrade to macOS 10.15 Catalina
macOS 10.15 Catalina has been released, and it has some cool features, including new Music, TV, and Podcasts apps to replace iTunes. A new Mac Catalyst technology will make it easier for developers to make their iPad apps available for the Mac. Photos, Reminders, and Notes all get major upgrades. Screen Time has migrated over from iOS. And Sidecar lets you use an iPad as a second screen or graphics tablet with an Apple Pencil.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? It will be…eventually. We are upgrading non-essential machines right away so we can become more familiar with the ins and outs of Catalina, but our recommendation to you, right now, is simple:
Do not upgrade to Catalina until we give you the go-ahead.
You may want to play with all the new features, but Catalina, even more than previous major macOS upgrades, is not something you should install right away. The reason is that Apple changed Catalina in some fundamental ways that could break your essential apps or workflows.
Here are the issues that cause us to recommend delaying your upgrade:
32-bit apps don’t run anymore:
Macs have had 64-bit processors since 2006, macOS has been gaining 64-bit support since 10.6 Snow Leopard, and Apple has been warning developers for years that old 32-bit apps would stop being supported at some point. With Catalina, that time has come. To identify which 32-bit apps—and portions of apps—won’t work in Catalina, download and run the free Go64 utility
from St. Clair Software. If you rely on any of the software it calls out—pay special attention to Adobe apps—you’ll need to update (which might be expensive), find an alternative (which could be expensive and requires learning a new app), or run the app in a virtualization environment like Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion (which adds cost and complexity).
Catalina runs in its own read-only volume:
To increase security and ensure that an attacker cannot subvert macOS itself, Apple changed the disk structures under Catalina. Now, instead of having one main volume that contains both macOS and your apps and documents, Catalina runs in its own read-only volume. Some behind-the-scenes magic makes the Catalina boot volume and the main volume look like a single volume. This may cause scripts that access files stored in newly changed parts of the directory hierarchy to break. It will also likely mean that backup apps like SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner will require updating to be able to backup and restore data properly. Never upgrade before your backup app is 100% compatible! (Time Machine, of course, continues to work fine.)
Newly installed apps must be notarized by Apple:
Notarization is an automated process that Apple uses to verify that an app distributed outside the Mac App Store is free of malware. It’s not optional—in one statement, Apple said, “Mac software distributed outside the Mac App Store must be notarized by Apple in order to run on macOS Catalina.” However, the company has also said that notarization requirements don’t apply to previously distributed software. It’s likely that older apps already on your Mac when you upgrade it will continue to work fine, but if you try to install an older, unnotarized app on a Mac running Catalina, that may not work.
Apps require more permissions than before:
In the last few versions of macOS, you’ve probably seen apps asking for permission to do things like access data in Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and Photos, or be able to use the camera or microphone. In Catalina, apps will have to ask for permission to access files in your Desktop and Documents folders, iCloud Drive, and external volumes. Plus, you’ll be prompted before any app can capture keyboard activity or a screenshot or screen recording. That’s good for security, but it’s possible that older software won’t know how to ask or won’t work properly if you deny its request.
Kernel extension installs require restarts:
Kernel extensions are often necessary for third-party hardware peripherals or for apps that need particularly low-level access to the operating system. Installing one requires giving it permission in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General even now in Mojave, and in Catalina, you’ll also have to restart your Mac. Call us suspicious, but we won’t be surprised if problems ensue from these new security requirements, coupled with the read-only boot volume forcing kernel extensions to run from a new location.
Unanticipated backward-compatibility issues:
Here’s the scenario. You upgrade to Catalina, which requires an update to some app you rely on, call it WhizzyWriter. Unbeknownst to you, the new version of WhizzyWriter requires a new file format for its documents, and older versions can’t read it. But since you can’t upgrade all the Macs in your office because some still require 32-bit apps, you end up in a situation where you can’t easily share WhizzyWriter documents within the office anymore. Yes, we’re paranoid, but we’ve seen this sort of thing happen before.
Apple’s OS release schedule has been troubled this year:
There’s one final reason that Catalina doesn’t give us warm fuzzy feelings. In recent years, Apple has shipped all its operating systems on the same day, or at least without significant delay. This year, in less than two weeks, Apple has released iOS 13.0, 13.1, 13.1.1, and 13.1.2; iPadOS 13.1, 13.1.1, and 13.1.2; and watchOS 6.0 and 6.0.1 for the Apple Watch Series 3, Series 4, and Series 5; along with tvOS 13. For devices that can’t update to iOS 13, Apple also pushed out iOS 12.4.2, and for the Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2, which won’t get watchOS 6 until later this fall, Apple released watchOS 5.3.2. Plus, HomePods are still using iOS 12.4 and even iOS 13.1.2 and iPadOS 13.1.2 still lack some promised features. Finally, the new Reminders app can’t share data with older versions after you upgrade its database, which means that you can’t take advantage of its new features until you upgrade everything to iOS 13 or later and Catalina or later. Frankly, it has been a mess.
Traditionally, we’ve recommended waiting until the .3 update of macOS before you consider upgrading. However, with all the trouble Apple has had shipping this year’s crop of operating systems, and all the problems that Catalina’s changes could cause for you, we might be waiting for the 10.15.4 update in 2020. By then, Apple should have a stable release, and we’ll have a good handle on how to work around whatever of these issues you might encounter.
iOS/iPadOS 13 makes editing text easier
Which is great, because text editing on iPhone and iPad has historically been the stuff of nightmares.
Let’s be honest—text editing in iOS has never been anywhere near as good as it is on the Mac. We may be more accustomed to our mice and keyboards, but the Multi-Touch interface has always been clumsy when it comes to text. Apple keeps trying to improve iOS’s text editing features, and iOS 13 (and iPadOS 13) brings some welcome changes in how we go about positioning the text insertion point, selecting text, and performing the familiar options in the Mac’s Edit menu: Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo/Redo.
Note that these changes apply only to spots in iOS where you’re entering and editing text, not selecting and copying static, read-only text such as a Web page in Safari. And even when you are working on a Web page where you can enter and edit text, the site may override iOS’s text handling.
Insertion Point Positioning
Positioning the insertion point on the Mac is easy—you move the cursor to the right spot and click. In previous versions of iOS, you could tap to put the insertion point at the start or end of a word, or press and hold briefly to bring up a magnifying glass that let you put the insertion point anywhere, including within a word. It was slow and awkward, and made better mostly by trackpad mode, which you could invoke by long-pressing the Space bar.
iOS 13 improves positioning by letting you press and hold the insertion point to pick it up and then drag it to where you want it. This approach is much easier and more sensible than the previous method.
On the Mac, you can select text with multiple clicks, by clicking and dragging, or by using the keyboard. In iOS, however, text selection has always been tough—and that's being charitable. You could double-tap to select a word, but anything else required subsequent moving of start and end markers. (On an iPad with a keyboard, you could hold Shift and use the arrow keys too.)
Happily, iOS 13 improves text selection. To start, you can still double-tap to select a word, but you can also triple-tap to select a sentence and even tap four times in quick succession to select an entire paragraph. Unfortunately, these selection shortcuts may not work in all apps, but you can always fall back on the previous approach.
For selections of an arbitrary length, just press, pause ever so briefly to start selecting, and then drag to extend the selection. In other words, it’s as close to the Mac approach as is possible with the Multi-Touch interface. If the selection isn’t quite right, you can adjust the start and end markers.
Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo Gestures
Everyone knows Command-X for Cut, Command-C for Copy, Command-V for Paste, and Command-Z for Undo on the Mac. In previous versions of iOS, those commands were available only from a popover that appeared when text was selected, or (for Paste) when you pressed and held in a text area. The only command with a gesture, so to speak, was Undo. At the risk of dropping it, you could shake your iOS device to undo your last action. Not good.
iOS 13 introduces a variety of three-finger gestures to make these commands quick and easy to invoke. Note that you can use the entire screen for these gestures—it’s OK to make them with one finger over the keyboard.
- Copy: To copy selected text, pinch in with three fingers, or, more likely, your thumb, index finger, and middle finger.
- Cut: To cut (copy and then delete) selected text, perform the copy gesture twice in quick succession.
- Paste: To paste the text you’ve copied at the insertion point, reverse the action—pinching out (spreading) with three fingers.
- Undo: To undo a mistake, immediately swipe left or tap twice with three fingers. You can keep swiping or double-tapping to undo more actions.
- Redo: To redo the action that you just undid, swipe right with three fingers.
Whenever you use one of these gestures, a little feedback badge appears at the top of the screen to reinforce what you just did.
If you can’t remember which direction to pinch or swipe, press and hold with three fingers anywhere for a second to see a shortcut bar at the top of the screen with icons for Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Redo.
Finally, instead of using Cut and Paste to move a swath of selected text, try dragging it to the new position.
Slide to Type
Various third-party keyboards have provided “slide-to-type” over the years, letting you type a word by sliding your finger from letter to letter on the keyboard without lifting it up in between. But switching to a third-party keyboard meant that you often gave up useful other features, like Siri dictation, so most people stuck with Apple’s default keyboard.
On the iPhone, iOS 13 now lets you slide to type on its default keyboard, and it works surprisingly well. In iPadOS 13, slide-to-type works only on the new floating keyboard you can get by pinching with two fingers on the default keyboard (pinch out with two fingers to restore the default keyboard). When you get to the end of a word, lift your finger to insert it, and then start sliding again for the next word. If you make a mistake, the suggestions above the keyboard often provide the word you want. You can switch between tapping (best for unusual words) and sliding on a word-by-word basis.
Make a mistake with sliding? By default, tap Delete after inserting a slide-to-type word to delete the whole word, not just the final letter. If you don’t like that behavior, turn off Delete Slide-to-Type by Word in Settings > General > Keyboard.
macOS 10.14.6 Mojave
. macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra is acceptable. Earlier versions should be upgraded ASAP. You can see your Mac's operating system version by going to the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen and choosing "About This Mac."
iOS 12.4.1 (or 12.4.2 for some models) acceptable. Any device that can run iOS 11 should be upgraded to 12.4.2 or 13.2.1. You can see your iPhone or iPad's operating system version by going to Settings > General > About > Version.
(12.4.2 for some models.) Non-cellular iPads probably okay to upgrade to iPadOS 13.2.1. Cell models having connectivity issues and should wait.
. watchOS 6.0.1 okay for non-cellular Apple Watches. Series 4 and Series 5 cellular models should wait to upgrade because of battery life issues. Older versions of WatchOS acceptable if necessary; upgrade if your devices (iPhone and Apple Watch) support it. You can see your Apple Watch's operating system version by going to Settings > General > About > Version.
. tvOS 12 also acceptable. Note that earlier models of Apple TV do not run tvOS and are fine for what they do. You can see if there's a software update available for your Apple TV by going to Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software.
- iMac: iMac10,1 (Late 2009) or newer
- Mac mini: Macmini4,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
- Mac Pro: MacPro5,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
- MacBook: MacBook6,1 (Late 2009) or newer
- MacBook Air: MacBookAir3,1 (Late 2010) or newer
- MacBook Pro: MacBookPro7,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
- Note that 2016-2018 MacBook Pro models have a higher than usual keyboard failure rate. Used 2015 models, which use a different style keyboard, may be a more reliable option.
These are minimum
hardware recommendations based on what is necessary to run a secure operating system (macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra).
The following are the macOS 10.14 Mojave/10.15 Catalina system requirements. If your Mac does not meet these specifications, it will need to be replaced by fall of 2020, when High Sierra will no longer be secure.
macOS 10.14 Mojave/10.15 Catalina system requirements
- MacBook (Early 2015 or later)
- MacBook Air (Mid-2012 or later)
- MacBook Pro (Mid-2012 or later)
- Mac mini (Late 2012 or later)
- iMac (Late 2012 or later)
- iMac Pro (all models)
- Mac Pro (Late 2013 or newer)
macOS 10.15 Catalina was released in October 2019 and has the same system requirements as Mojave.
iPhone and iPad
- iPhone 6S or newer. Older iPhones cannot run iOS 13.
- iPhone 7 models have a higher than normal failure rate over time. Given the choice, we would recommend iPhone 8 models as a strong alternative to iPhone 7 models.
- iPad Air 2 or newer will be needed for the new iPadOS coming this fall
- iPad mini 4 or newer will be needed for the new iPadOS coming this fall
- iPad Pro (all models)
- iPad 5th generation or newer
The iPad line is made confusing by the multitude of model names and types (Air, mini, Pro, and just plain iPad). Generally speaking, devices introduced in October 2014 and later will run iPadOS. iPads that will not run iPadOS and should be replaced unless they will not be used on the internet.
- Apple Watch Series 5 is highly recommended.
- All versions are secure and acceptable though Apple Watch Series 0 will not run the latest version of WatchOS and therefore lacks both the speed and features of later Apple Watches.
- Apple TV 4K is recommended. Apple TV (4th generation) is fine as well.
- Older models of Apple TV do not support tvOS and cannot run Apple TV Store apps, though we are unaware of any major security issues.