Update on MacOS Sierra

At this time we have installed Sierra on about 50% of the Macs we maintain, and so far it is going well.  Performance and reliability seems on-par with El Capitan:
  • No kernel panics
  • No significant bugs/failures or "first party" app crashes
  • No app compatibility issues
  • No performance issues
  • No data migration issues (we use Migration Assistant)
 Here is our hardware minimum:

4 GB of RAM.  We have Sierra running well on machines with 4 GB of RAM.   Although the majority of our Macs have 8 GB, 4 GB is totally acceptable.  We haven't had a machine with less than 4 GB of memory for several years.

As we've said earlier, if you're upgrading from less than 4 GB of RAM and need to buy new RAM, we suggest buying 8 GB.

Amount Today Advice Rough Price
Less than 4 GB Go to 8 GB $40
4GB + Do nothing $0

Non-Traditional Drive.  As of earlier this year, we no longer have any traditional hard drives in our Macs.  All of them have been upgraded to either a hybrid drive ("SSHD"), or a straight-up SSD.

Hybrids are much less expensive per GB, so they're a good option for those with a lot of storage needs on a budget.  SSHDs are not as speedy as a good, low-cost "full" SSD, but they're less than half the price.  And an SSHD is a tremendous boost over a traditional quality hard drive... and only about $25 more expensive.

Here's a matrix summing up my thoughts on storage:

Storage Type Rough Price Storage Performance Reliability Battery Use
Traditional HD $55 1 TB Too Slow!!! Very Good Higher
SSHD $80 1 TB Very Good Very Good Medium
SSD (low-cost) $240 1 TB Excellent Excellent Lower

Age.   We have no concerns about running Sierra on any Sierra-capable Mac.   Even our oldest eligible Macs - models over 5 years old - run Sierra well.

Bugs and Stuff: Broken Keyboard Driver with Bootable Sierra Installer

The only bug we've seen is when performing a clean install from USB boot media.  The keyboard driver of the bootable installer seems to be broken on particular Macs.  A keyboard is required to use Terminal, or to perform some Disk Utility actions.

Our work-around is to use an older bootable OS X installer (from El Capitan, Yosemite, or whatever) to prepare the machine, and then boot with the Sierra Installer to do the actual OS installation - no keyboard required.


Faster Internet and the Bullshit of Cable Modem Marketing

People assume that a blazing fast 340 Mbit/second cable modem will give them better performance than an 80 Mbit/second modem.  "4 times faster!  8 times faster!"

All of that talk is simple marketing garbage, a hold-over sales pitch from the days of dialup modems.

The fact is that the Internet doesn't work like that.  You will likely get the same exact performance with a low-cost standard cable modem versus an expensive fast modem.

The reason?  Internet bottlenecks.  The Internet is a vast, shared network, and there are plenty of bottlenecks on every network path. With your 340 Mbit/second modem, you'll know that your modem is no longer a bottleneck.  But there are more than a dozen network devices between your computer and Google and so your cable modem is likely never the slowest device on the network.

What other devices are slowing things down?  First, there is your home WIFI.  Then there is bandwidth that your ISP provides to you.  Then there is the network equipment at your ISP, which is shared among perhaps hundreds of thousands of users.  Then there is all of the shared networking equipment between your ISP and Google's ISP, which is used by millions of users.  And then there are all of the network devices at Google - which is used by hundreds of millions of users.

Save your money.  Get a normal, reasonably priced modem, like this TP-Link DOCSIS-3 Modem, or this Netgear DOCSIS-3 Modem. Your performance experience will likely be identical to a "blazing fast high performance" modem, and you'll save a ton of money.


Apple's Self-Driving Car

Today it was reported that Apple's Self-Driving Car project is going through some significant challenges - with some layoffs, reorganization, and perhaps a change in focus.

But let's be realistic here: Self-driving cars are very hard, on the order of magnitude of the Manhattan project... or maybe harder.  An incredible amount of new science, AI, and associated engineering needs to be solved.  It isn't a "simple" hardware/software engineering exercise like creating the first iPhone, or implementing the Android OS from scratch, or implementing Twitter.

It took about 40 years for the helicopter to go from concept to production, as a lot of science and engineering had to happen before a helicopter could be a reasonably safe way to travel.

The idea that a self-driving car project wouldn't go through significant struggles and major changes in direction is fantasy, as that even happens with simple projects, such as the creation of another new fighter aircraft.

Kudos to Apple, Tesla, SpaceX, and others for taking on tremendously challenging projects.

MacBook: burnt out magsafe connector repair

My MacBook (A1342 model from 2009-2010) stopped working, thanks to a cheap knockoff magsafe charger. The magsafe connector looked burnt with heat-distorted melted plastic and some black carbon surfaces.  Plugging in the charger resulted in no lights and no action.  My MacBook was dead.

First I tried to clean up the connector with some Q-Tips, tooth picks and solvent, but that did little, as seen in this "after" picture (below).   The heat generated by the aftermarket charger permanently deformed and distorted the MacBook's magsafe connector.  Clearly the damage was significant.

Burnt Magsafe Connector - Replacement Required!
Looking at iFixIt, I determined that it would not be difficult to replace only the magsafe connector with the right tools.  I hoped and prayed that the problem was isolated to the connector assembly and not the logic board.

I bought a replacement magsafe connector assembly (available from Amazon) for under $20 and started to replace it by following the instructions on iFixIt, using a proper tool kit like this one.

When I pulled out the old Magsafe, and boy did it look nasty.

My removed Melted Magsafe Connector, thanks to a crappy 3rd party charger.
While I was in there, I also cleaned out a lot of dust that accumulated inside of the MacBook.  I cleaned up the following locations:
  • Fan, heat sink, and vents
  • Logic board (front and back)
  • Case
  • Battery
  • DVD Drive
To remove the dust, I first quickly vacuumed up the big blobs.  Then I used a dry, unused paintbrush and lightly brushed dust off of all the surfaces.  This was followed by more vacuuming.

Also, while I was in there, I carefully cleaned out any scum that developed around the port openings, using some Q-tips and some solvent.

After re-assembly, my MacBook fired right back up and I was back in business.  Success!  I'm very happy, and will certainly never use a cheap aftermarket charger ever again.

My new Magsafe connector allows charging once again!

Now that this MacBook is again in operation, I have since updated its memory and the hard drive, as seen in my other articles.


The Trick to Properly Fixing the Rubber Feet of a MacBook Pro

A black rubber foot of my trusty old MacBook Pro finally broke off, and I didn't like how it made the laptop wobbly.  A fix was needed, and quick!

First I bought some replacement feet, the kind that just stick on.   These feet are nice because there is no need open up the machine to fix a broken foot.  They're very inexpensive, and the ones I bought have adhesive tape already applied - just peal and stick.  I bought feet like the ones found here.

I have read many complaints about how the adhesive doesn't stick, but I think that's because people don't know the two tricks required to get the new feet to stick properly.

New Feet to replace a lost Foot

Important Trick 1: Make sure to remove all remnants of the old foot - including the pieces in the hole.   My factory-installed foot was attached both mechanically and with adhesive, but when the old foot sheared off, some pieces of the old foot remained in the hole.  Those plastic bits would have prevented the new foot from seating properly.  I used tweezers to carefully break up and extract the remnants of the old foot.  Of course, never dig too deep - there are sensitive electronics under there!

Photo 1: Be sure to fully remove the old foot.

Important Trick 2: I used some solvent to soften and release the old clear adhesive tape.  I didn't even know that this adhesive tape was on the laptop body until I managed to loosen it up with some nail polish remover.  The tape is in the shape of a small transparent disk, and will prevent the new adhesive from sticking well unless the disk and all the old transparent adhesive is completely removed.  Of course, again, never let anything get into the hole.  That could do some damage.

Clean the recess very well

Whoa!  A little transparent piece of old adhesive tape appears!  Tweezers help me pull it away

Remove the old tape, and finish cleaning out the old adhesive from the recess

Once the recess was completely clean and dry, I properly aligned the new foot and stuck it in place.

Now my MacBook Pro is steady on its feet and ready for more years of computing bliss.