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Archive for December, 2018

by Tom Nelson

Safari Technology Preview, often referred to as STP, is a web browser for the Mac. STP was designed as a testbed to evaluate new browser technology that Apple is considering using in future releases of Safari. Think of it as a public beta for the next generation of the Safari browser, but with a few important differences over conventional beta software.

First off, STP is amazingly stable, which is a pretty amazing thing to say for an app that is, at its heart, a framework for Apple to plug in modules to test out various concepts. At any time, STP may be running an updated version of WebKit, the rendering engine that powers Safari. It could also have a new or updated JavaScript engine, updated CSS technology, new features, developer tools, and security measures. With all these new or updated components, you would think STP would be prone to errors and crashes, but in actual use, Safari Technology Preview remains very stable, a testament to the developers and the testing process being used with this beta browser.

Second, frequent updates ensure that bugs, once found, are quickly fixed. Likewise, new technologies that are being developed are likely going to be first publicly seen in STP, at least for Mac users, and updated frequently with each STP release.

What Are STP’s Features?
A better question would be, what are the recent features since STP is updated so frequently. In the two most recent updates (STP 71 and STP 72), Safari Technology Preview has seen new additions to its list of experimental features:

Web animation can be used to bring life to a web page, or simply to animate a galaxy of swirling points of lights. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

  • Web animation: STP gained support for Web animation, part of the W3C standard. In addition, STP can translate older CSS animation to the newer and faster web animation standard.
  • Web authentication using USB security devices: This set of programming APIs allows USB-based security devices to be used for authenticating login credentials. Apple is testing the Client-to-Authenticator protocol part of the FIDO2 standard that would allow a hardware key, in this case in the form of a USB stick, to be used in place of passwords as a login credential for web services.
  • Dark Mode support: Safari gained support for Dark Mode in Mojave.
  • WebGPU: A future standard, still being worked on, that allows a computer’s GPU to be used to accelerate rendering of both 2D and 3D graphics images within the browser.
  • WebMetal: Similar to WebGPU but specific to the Metal-enabled GPUs used in some Macs (mostly 2012 and later models).
  • WebRTC: Web Real-Time Communication is an open-source standard that allows audio and video communications to work within a web page using direct peer-to-peer communications.

Safari Technology Preview contains many additional features and capabilities, way too many to list here. You can discover more by stopping by the Safari Technology Preview developer’s page (developer membership is not required).

General features of STP include:

  • It allows you to try out the latest web technology.
  • If you’re a web developer, STP contains a wide collection of developer tools.
  • Independent of the standard version of Safari, you can run STB and Safari side-by-side, with no interaction between them.
  • STP Bug Reporter not only allows you to report bugs you encounter, but you can also make enhancement and feature requests.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The release of macOS Mojave on Sept. 24, 2018, marked the 15th major release of the OS X/macOS operating system. Mojave is the first version of macOS that doesn’t have its moniker based in the mountains of California; instead, it’s one of the hot deserts of California that lends its name to the OS.

It’s been roughly three months since the release of Mojave, and in that time, Apple has delivered two minor updates and is working on the beta of the third update.

September 24, 2018: Public release of macOS 10.14.0
Apple originally announced macOS Mojave at WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) on June 4, which was quickly followed by the original developers release. The public beta of Mojave was made available in July, followed by the public release of macOS 10.14.0 on Sept. 24, 2018.

Unlike macOS High Sierra and Sierra, which shared equivalent minimum requirements, Mojave made changes that meant many Macs older than 2012 would not be compatible. The exception being the 2010 and 2012 models of the Mac Pro, which could be upgraded with a Metal-compatible GPU that would allow Mojave to be successfully installed, and put both Macs on an even footing with the 2013 Mac Pro.

Mojave brought significant changes and improvements, including new security and privacy protections, improvements to the Safari web browser, and UI changes, such as Stacks on the Desktop and Dark Mode.

Improved security and privacy are one of the many improvements in macOS Mojave.  Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Mojave introduced many new features, but it also removed or disabled some features users have been enjoying for quite a while. Additionally, Mojave marks the last version of the Mac OS that will allow 32-bit apps to run.

Although 10.14.0 has seemed to be remarkably free of major bugs, there have been a number of complaints about installation, performance, and app compatibility. We’ll look at those issues a bit later, after the Mojave overview.

October 30, 2018: macOS 10.14.1 released
When macOS 10.14.1 was released, it included support for Group FaceTime, a new video conferencing capability that allows up to 32 participants to take part in a secure, encrypted video messaging system. Group FaceTime was demonstrated at WWDC in June, but disappeared as a Mojave feature during the beta process, and did not appear in the official release version.

Along with the theme of upgrades to communications, 10.14.1 added over 70 new emojis that can be used in Mail, Messages, or with just about any app that has some form of text entry.

Mojave 10.14.1 added lots of new emojis to help you express yourself. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Mojave 10.14.1 also includes a number of security updates in various Mac OS core components, as well as apps, such as Safari.

APFS also saw an update, bumping the version from 945.200.129 to 945.220.38. Apple provided no documentation on the changes to APFS, though we should note there have been no widespread issues reported with APFS in Mojave 10.14.0. So, the changes may be the result of routine maintenance to the APFS system, and not the result of bug fixes.

APFS is not the only app or service that was updated; Mail and Safari received updates that bumped up their version numbers; there may also have been changes to other apps and core services that were not noted in public documents.

There was also a supplemental update of 10.14.1 that was created specifically for the MacBook Pro, to support the Vega GPUs that are now available.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

macOS Mojave has many new features and capabilities that make it a compelling upgrade. And while we’ve covered many of the marquee features of Mojave, sometimes it’s the lesser-known features that can have a big impact on how your use your Mac.

Now that we’ve had a chance to work with Mojave, and tried out almost all of its features, it’s time to take a closer look at lesser-known capabilities that could fundamentally change how you use your Mac.

OK, that last part may be a stretch, but give them a shot anyway. In no particular order, here are my favorite six features that are often overlooked in Mojave, but turned out to be very helpful.

Favicons in Safari
Safari has long supported favicons, those itty-bitty icons that show up within Safari’s URL field and represent the website you’re viewing. With Mojave, favicons finally are allowed to exist outside of the main URL field, and can now populate Safari’s tab bar.

This can make it much easier to scan across the tab bar, and pick a loaded website to bring to the front for viewing.

Favicons in Safari tabs make it easier to spot the tabbed website you wish to view. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To turn your Safari tab bar into a favicon-rich environment, launch Safari.

From the Safari menu item, select Preferences.

From the Preferences toolbar, select Tabs.

Place a checkmark in the “Show website icons in tabs” box.

Now whenever you open a website in a tab, its favicon will be part of the tab.

Safari has a number of new features introduced with Mojave. Check out: A Guide to New Features in the macOS Mojave Safari Browser.

Emoji Selector in Mail
It’s likely that you’re used to using emojis in your messaging apps; with macOS Mojave and Mail 12, you can use the same emojis available in iOS and the Messages app within the Mac’s Mail app.

With just the click of the mouse, or the tap of a finger, you can embed an emoji in your Mail message, and convey a bit of emotion that may be hard to put into words, but easy to display in a graphical shortcut.

Want to add an emoji or two to your email? Just click the Emoji & Symbols button in the toolbar. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To add emojis, start by opening a new message in the Mail app.

Place the insertion cursor within the body of your email, where you would like the emoji to appear.

The message window’s toolbar includes a new entry in the top right corner: a button that looks like a smiley face.

Click or tap the smiley face button to bring up a character viewer palette that shows the available emojis and symbols you can include in your email message.

Browse through the character viewer until you come across the emoji or symbol you wish to add to your message.

Double-click or tap the emoji to have it appear at the cursor location in your message.

You can make the emoji bigger by selecting Format, Style, Bigger from the Mail menu bar, or by using the keyboard shortcut ⌘ +. You can also use the font viewer shortcut Format, Show Fonts to adjust the size of an emoji. This last method is quicker for making large changes to an emoji’s size.

Note: Emojis in Mail aren’t new, but Mojave makes adding one a much easier task by including the Emoji and Symbol palettes directly in the Mail message toolbar.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

RAM upgrades can be both the simplest and least expensive ways to extend the productive life of your Mac. They can also improve general performance by allowing you to have more windows open, have more “stuff” on your desktop, and run more apps concurrently, without taxing your Mac significantly.

Increasing memory can also be advantageous to specific apps that are either known as memory hogs or simply will perform better with more memory available to them. Video editing apps, such as Final Cut Pro, as well as image editing tools, such as Photoshop, are good examples of how adding more memory can affect an app’s performance. By default, Photoshop will use up to 70% of available RAM. There are many tricks to make the best use of available RAM, such as closing unused windows, decreasing the number of patterns and brushes loaded by Photoshop, and preventing the loading of fonts that aren’t needed, all tricks to keep the app’s performance up with available RAM.

Increasing the installed RAM in Photoshop will not only process images faster, but let you load more brushes, fonts, and add-ons to allow you to more effectively work with your images.

Video editing apps generally do well with additional RAM to allow for larger frame buffers, to help increase real-time editing performance, or to move some cache files from disk to RAM for better performance.

And it’s not just pro tools like Photoshop that benefit from additional RAM. Apps such as GarageBandPhotos, web browsers, and mail apps can all benefit from more memory if the apps load a lot of libraries, plug-ins, or add-ons. Even your word processor could be slowing down if you’re working with large documents, images, and a few add-ons.

Apps like Photoshop can perform poorly when available RAM is limited. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Even if you’re not using an app that needs lots of RAM, you may benefit from additional memory if you’re the type of user who likes to leave apps and windows open as you flit from one task to another. Or perhaps you’ve toned down the visual effects your Mac uses or refrained from using some of the new Mojave features, such as dynamic desktop because you often run low on free memory. These are all good reasons to consider increasing the amount of RAM installed on your Mac.

How to Know When Your Mac Needs More RAM
There are a number of ways to tell when more RAM is needed; one of the most common is the sluggish performance you encounter as free RAM space becomes smaller and smaller. This can show up as spinning cursors, jumpy scrolling, jumpy cursors, and tasks taking a longer time than usual to perform.

You can also use one of the many performance and troubleshooting utilities available to actually see how RAM is being used. You can view not only how much memory is in use, but also which apps or services are using the most RAM. This can help you see how the amount of RAM in your Mac is affecting performance.

Activity Monitor can show not only which apps are using RAM, but also how much memory compression is occurring. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

You can use Activity Monitor, a utility that comes with your Mac, to monitor your Mac’s performance, including how memory is being used. I highly recommend keeping the Activity Monitor app open as you use your Mac during a typical day. You can find details about using Activity Monitor, as well as other memory monitoring tools, in the Rocket Yard guide: Tech Tip: How to Monitor Your Mac’s Memory Usage.

After monitoring your memory use, you may come to the conclusion that adding memory is just the thing to do to see an increase in performance and productivity, which brings us to the next question:

Which Macs Support User Upgradeable RAM?
In the early days of the Mac, most models had memory slots that allowed users to upgrade RAM as needed. This allowed buyers to bypass the more expensive RAM prices Apple charged, and purchase a Mac with the minimum memory installed. You could then upgrade the RAM yourself, at a considerable discount.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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