The Robservatory

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A full history of macOS (OS X) release dates and rates

Updated and republished for macOS 11.3.1; skip it unless you really really care about all the macOS releases. Originally published on November 14th, 2005.

Below the break is a table showing all major releases of macOS (previously Mac OS X) from the public beta through the latest public version, which is 11.3.1, as of May 3rd, 2021—the 149rd release in total.

Note: Click the ⓘ symbol to read Apple's release notes for a given update.

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Avoid a text selection bug in Excel

I like Excel. I cover it often here, and I use it in projects where it probably would make more sense not do to so. Like my current task, which is developing a stats tracking package for a billiards training game (yea, obscure, I know).

While working on this workbook, I ran into a problem where I couldn't effectively select text in the formula bar: Whenever I tried, the selection would continually grow back to the left, regardless of what I did with the mouse. I also couldn't click on a location in the formula to place the cursor there; it would instantly start selecting text. It looks like this:

But this didn't always happen—in fact, it didn't happen very often at all. And I didn't seem to see the problem in new workbooks, only this one, and then sometimes seemingly randomly, in others. After way too much troubleshooting, I figured out the cause and the solution:

If you resize the pop-up menu at the left of the screen, that triggers the selection bug. Resizing after that, even back to where it was, won't help. You can either close and reopen the workbook, or drag the slider to remove the box. This video shows the entire process, from working to broken and back again:

I don't know how old this glitch is—it exists at least as far back as Excel 16.33 (16.46 is current). I'm trying to get someone at Microsoft's attention, but if you can help, please do—it's a very annoying bug.

A problem of time with Big Sur screencasts

As part of my job, I occasionally have to make screencasts, usually demonstrating features in our various apps. Sometimes I need to record the entire screen, as I'll be demonstrating things that require activating and selecting menu items. I have a demo account I use for these recordings that lacks all of my usual menu bar add-ons, so the look is quite clean.

And in versions of macOS prior to Big Sur, I also hid the menu bar clock (via System Preferences → Date & Time → Clock, uncheck "Show date and time in menu bar.") But in Big Sur, the menu bar clock is also the button you click to open Notification Center…so there's no way to remove the clock from the menu bar.

Most of the time, this isn't a problem. But when recording screencasts, it's a big issue. I often record segments across days, and at multiple times a day. I then splice those bits together, often times not in a linear fashion. With the default Big Sur settings (displaying the full date and time), this leads to a real annoying time travel experience as the clock jumps around like crazy.

The following two tips help greatly with this problem, though being able to hide the clock entirely would be a much better solution…

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Harry Potter and the Recommended Age Lie

A while back, my wife came home from Costco with something off the list—no shock there, as that's a feature of any Costco trip. What she came home with, though, was a bit of a surprise: A 3D model of the Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle and Astronomy Tower complex.

This thing was surprisingly inexpensive, at only $27 (on sale for $20 when she bought it). I let it sit for a couple weeks, then decided to put it togther—how bad could it be, I figured, with a target age of eight years old? And only four to six hours to assemble? (That's not just Costco's estimate, it's on the back of the box, too.)

As it turns out, it could be bad, really bad. It was still a fun project, but both "four to six hours" and "eight years old is fine" are complete fabrications.

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My impressions of the M1 MacBook Pro

I recently received my Apple M1-powered 13" MacBook Pro, which is primarily going to be used for testing our apps on Apple silicon, and supporting customers using these machines. But that doesn't mean this is a work machine; it's a personal purchase as I'll use it for my own needs as well. (Thankfully, it only had a net cost of $33 after I sold my 16" MacBook Pro.)

By now, you've probably read a slew of stuff about both the MacBook Pro and its slightly-lighter MacBook Air cousin. Between unboxing videos, extensive benchmark suites, and multi-thousand-word reviews, there is no lack of coverage of these machines. (However, I will add that I did make a video of my MacBook Pro—with its 16GB of RAM—opening 75 apps in just over a minute. Not bad for an entry-level machine!)

I'm not going to try to replicate those reviews, because they do an excellent job of covering the new M1-powered Macs in a level of detail that I just don't have time to get into. Instead, here's what I'll be discussing…

  1. Why I chose the 13" MacBook Pro
  2. A few benchmark results of interest
  3. Rosetta and non-native apps
  4. Using iOS apps on macOS
  5. General discussion on performance
  6. The future of Apple silicon Macs

So why a MacBook Pro and not an Air?

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16GB of RAM and 75 open apps…what could go wrong?

I ordered my 13" M1 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM, as I felt buying the most offered was the best bet for future proofing this "entry level" M1 chipped Mac. Later today I'll be posting a detailed writeup of my time so far with the new machine, but for now, here's a little over-the-top demo.

I selected everything in the Applications folder—excluding Time Machine, Siri, Launchpad and a few other similar non-apps—and opened them all at once. I did this with a timer running, while recording the screen, and here's the result…

As you can see at the end of the video, it took one minute and seventeen seconds to open all 75 apps—do the math, and you'll see that's about 1.5 seconds per app (it was notably quicker than that at first, and slower than that at the end). For 75 apps. On a machine with nowhere near enough RAM to fit them all in active memory. I was amazed at how rapidly it was able to complete this task.

These weren't even all native apps, it was a mix of Intel, Apple, and Electron (both native and non-native) apps.

I tried a similar test on my MacBook Air, but as it's an 8GB RAM machine, I limited it to opening 37 apps, which took it well over three minutes (about 5.5 seconds per app). I didn't bother to try on my iMac—it has 40GB of RAM, but it's also got a slower SSD, so I don't know that it would've matched the MacBook Pro's performance.

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Fix a “could not complete your purchase” App Store error

I've been having an odd issue with the Mac App Store app on my Mojave-running iMac: Sometimes the App Store app will fail to install an update for some app. When that happens, I see a dialog with this text as the title:

We could not complete your purchase.

Below that is a single word, "cancelled," and that's all. Searching the web, I came across this thread on stackexchange.

What finally worked for me was a combination of things listed there—none of these steps on their own seem to fix the problem, but all together do, at least until it occurs again.

  1. Quit the App Store app.
  2. Switch my DNS to another provider.
  3. In Terminal, paste this command and press Return:
    open "$TMPDIR/../C/com.apple.appstore/"
  4. Confirm that the Finder opened a window to the com.apple.appstore folder, then drag everything there to the trash.
  5. Back in Terminal, paste this line and press Return: killall -9 appstoreagent
  6. Relaunch the App Store app.

This method has worked for me each time I've had this issue. It's annoying that it keeps recurring, but at least the fix is relatively simple.

How the 2020 iPad Air stacks up to its predecessor

Back in April of 2020, when I replaced my 2016 iPad Pro with a third-generation iPad Air, I wrote about the impressive performance improvements. Fast forward to fall 2020, and I again find myself with a new iPad Air, but this time, it's the fourth generation 2020 edition. Yes, after waiting four years, I now have my second new iPad in seven months.

Why so soon? It was a chain reaction thing, where we wanted to upgrade a relative's very old (think 30-pin connector) iPad with a newer one, and my wife wanted a newer one as well. So my "new" Air went to her, hers went to the relative, and I wound up with the new fourth-generation iPad Air. So I thought I'd take a minute and update a couple of the tables from the prior article…

First up, the specs comparison…

2016 iPad ProiPad Air 3rd GeniPad Air 4th GenAir vs Air
Cost$749$649$749+15%
Screen Size9.7"10.5"10.9"+4%
Resolution2048x15362224x16682360x1640+4%
RAM2GB3GB4GB+33%
Storage128GB256GB256GB--
CPUA9XA12 BionicA14 Bionic

--
Cache64KB + 64KB128KB + 128KB128KB + 64KB--
Cores22 high perf. + 4 high eff.2 high perf. + 4 high eff.--
GraphicsPowerVR 7XT (12 cores)Apple GPU (4 cores)Apple GPU (4 cores)--

The cost went up $100, and for that, it comes with TouchID, a slightly larger screen, and a much faster processor. How much faster? Let's see…

Benchmarks

I re-ran the same two benchmarks I used in the original comparison: Geekbench 5 and 3DMark Sling Shot. Here's how all three iPads compared…

2016 iPad ProiPad Air 3rd GeniPad Air 4th GenAir vs Air
Geekbench 5 CPU Single6561,1141,588+43%
Geekbench 5 CPU Multi1,1982,8924,208+46%
Geekbench 5 Compute (Metal)3,8204,70112,462+165%
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme2,9835,1706,522+26%

There are nice improvements in all the results, but the Geekbench Compute score change is huge—more than double the prior result. I don't know what changed, as both iPads have four-core GPUs. But clearly, something's changed, and for the very much better.

Wrap Up

In day-to-day use, the 2020 Air is quicker than my old one, but it's not like the huge jump I saw moving from the 2016 iPad Pro. I've had it for a few weeks now, and I still don't really like TouchID on the power button instead of on a dedicated button on the front. With the dedicated button, home was one press away, the app switcher was a double-press away.

Now home is a long drag from the bottom of the screen, and the app switcher is a shorter drag with a delay from the bottom of the screen. And then there's the matter of the ugly light (or dark) bar at the bottom of the screen—after dragging from there only a couple times, it becomes automatic and the indiator is merely an annoying visual.

For most anyone except true "power users," I think this new Air is probably more than enough iPad for their needs.

Bookmark both of Apple’s system status pages

I've long known about Apple's general System Status page, which provides a dashboard showing the state of most of Apple's consumer-focused services:

https://www.apple.com/support/systemstatus/

Until yesterday's "why can't I launch any apps?" outage, however, I'd never known that they also have the same type of status page for developer-focused services:

https://developer.apple.com/system-status/

But this page is useful to more than just developers (and it doesn't require a login to view). Had I known about it earlier, yesterday it would've shown that they were having a problem with the Developer ID Notary Service, which is why apps wouldn't launch.

In typical Apple understatement fashion, they've posted the resolved status for that service today:

"Some users were affected" and "Users may have experienced issues with the service" certainly make it sound less painful than what it was, i.e. "A ton of users were unable to use their Macs" and "Mac users could not launch their apps for over two hours." Somehow Apple needs to come up with a better failure mode for the service, as the results yesterday were unacceptable.

Note: If it happens again, simply edit the /etc/hosts file as root, and add this as the last line:

0.0.0.0      ocsp.apple.com

That will prevent your Mac from trying to contact the validation server at all. Note: This seems to break the App Store app, but it let me keep working, which was more important at the time.

A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Six

Today wraps up my deep dive into the Apple Arcade. As a refresher, here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: The part you're reading now; wrapping it all up.

So is the Apple Arcade worth its $5 per month cost?

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