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by Tom Nelson

One of the first steps in installing macOS Mojave is acquiring the Mojave installer from the App Store. While this is generally an easy process, it can have a few twists and turns that can leave you frustrated.

In this guide, we take a look at:

  • How to download the macOS Mojave installer
  • Problems you may encounter, including how to convert from beta testing to using the release version
  • Other issues you may experience

Before you start downloading, you should check to see if your Mac is able to run Mojave. You will find all the information you need in the Rocket Yard Guide: How to Get Ready for macOS Mojave.

How to Download Mojave

The Mac App Store is the primary host for macOS Mojave, and it’s likely that the new OS will be prominently displayed under the Featured tab. But finding the macOS Mojave tile at the top of the Mac App Store window isn’t guaranteed, especially immediately after Mojave is launched or down the road, when the release of macOS Mojave is yesterday’s news.

You’re much more likely to find macOS Mojave listed in the Quick Links area of the Featured section, either with its own link to the download page, or by using the Apps Made by Apple link. And of course, you can always use the App Store’s Search field if Mojave isn’t showing up in the expected places.

To find macOS Mojave, launch the Mac App Store by selecting the App Store icon in the Dock, or by selecting it from the /Applications folder.

The App Store window will open. Click or tap the Featured button in the toolbar if it isn’t already highlighted.

There’s a good chance that macOS Mojave will be the featured item, displaying prominently at the top of the window. You may also see a button labeled Download directly on the tile; if so, clicking or tapping the button will start the download process.

If you don’t see the download link on the tile featuring macOS Mojave, click or tap the tile to bring up the description page. You’ll find the Download button near the top left. Click or tap the button to start the download process.

When the downloading process is complete, a file called Install macOS Mojave will be present in your /Applications folder. The Mojave installer will also automatically start up once the download is completed. At this point, we suggest you quit the installer in order to perform some housekeeping chores before you start the installation of macOS Mojave.

macOS Mojave may be the featured item, showing up as soon as you launch the App Store. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

How to Download From the New Mac App Store

If you’ve been testing the Mojave beta on your Mac, you’ve probably already discovered the Mac App Store has undergone a substantial update. If you haven’t peeked at the Mac App Store lately, go ahead and launch it, just to get your feet wet.

Because you’re already running macOS Mojave (in the beta form), you won’t see the new OS as a download option in the new Mac App Store. Instead, you’ll be able to update your beta copy to the Gold Master (GM) version using System Preferences. We’ll touch on how to download the GM version in a bit, but first a bit more about the new App Store.

The App Store interface may have changed in macOS Mojave, but the sidebar and its categories are very easy to work with. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The new App Store uses a two-pane interface, with a sidebar on the left and a larger pane on the right. The sidebar contains seven primary categories into which all apps in the store are sorted. When a new macOS version becomes available, you’ll see it promoted in the Discover category. This also happens to be the default category that’s displayed when you launch the App Store.

When you see an app such as a new version of macOS displayed, you can click or tap on its tile to bring up the description page. The Download button has been replaced with one that either shows the price for the app or, if it’s a free app such as the macOS, displays the word Get. Clicking or tapping the price button will change the button text to Buy App; clicking or tapping the Get button will change the button text to Install.

You’ll need to click or tap the Buy App or Install button to start the download process.

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by Tom Nelson

The summer is drawing to a close, which means macOS Mojave is about to be released. It may also mean a few other things, but we’re going to concentrate on the release of Mojave and what you’ll need to do to your Mac to get it ready for the new operating system from Apple.

Mojave has a number of new features that you may be excited to try out, but it also has quite a few upgrades under the hood, which mean it’s especially important to ensure your Mac and its software are ready for macOS Mojave.

Upgrading to macOS Mojave

For this article, we’re going to concentrate on steps you should take to ensure your Mac is capable of running macOS Mojave, as well as make sure there are no hidden issues that could adversely impact installing or using the new operating system. We won’t be looking at the various ways you can install Mojave; we’ll cover that in the weeks ahead. So, let’s start by checking if your Mac is compatible.

Check Hardware Compatibility with macOS Mojave

The first step is to check to see if your Mac meets the minimum guidelines for running macOS Mojave. You can find details in OWC’s Complete List of Mojave Compatible Macs.

The main takeaway from the compatibility list is that Apple has dropped support for most Macs older than 2012. The main exception is 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro models that have Metal-capable graphics cards. The original graphics cards offered with the early Mac Pros weren’t Metal compatible, but it’s possible to upgrade the graphics card with a new Metal-compatible model.

Apple recommends the following Metal-compatible cards:

  • MSI Gaming Radeon RX 560
  • Sapphire Radeon PULSE RX 580

But there are a number of other graphics cards available that will work with your Mac Pro and support Metal:

  • AMD: Radeon HD 7000 and HD 8000, as well as the 200, 400 and 500 series of cards.
  • NVIDIA: Most GeForce 600, 700 and 800 series.

XFX AMD Radeon RX 580 GTS is one of the Metal-capable graphics cards you can use with a 2010-2012 Mac Pro.

One issue you may encounter with a new Metal-capable graphics card is that it likely won’t contain a Mac-compatible boot ROM on the card. Without the boot ROM that supports the Mac, the graphics card won’t be initialized until after the Mac loads the graphics drivers. This can prevent boot up information from being displayed, including running firmware updates (should any become available) or using boot options that require any type of interaction.

To overcome the boot ROM issue, you can either attempt to locate a graphics card with an Apple boot ROM or keep the original graphics card installed and connected to a second monitor.

One last note on Metal graphics cards: AMD models come with Apple graphics drivers built in, while NVIDIA models do not. This means you’ll need to download and install the Mac graphics drivers from the NVIDIA website before the card will work correctly.

You may also need to update NVIDIA drivers before you upgrade to any new version of the macOS, such as Mojave.

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by Tom Nelson

With every new release of the Mac operating system, there always seems to be a few installation errors that are encountered by enough people to make us wonder how the OS managed to get through the beta process. The answer can usually be attributed to the difference in the relatively small number of beta users versus the large number of users downloading and installing a new official release of the macOS. When all those new users start to install the OS, the sheer number of Mac hardware, peripherals, and software makes it very likely that some bug that managed to sneak through the beta process will rear its ugly head in the release version.

No matter which version of the macOS you’re installing, including 10.14 Mojave, there’s a slight chance you may run into one of the problems in this guide.

In this guide, we’re going to look at some of the installation problems that tend to occur with new releases of the Mac operating system. With any luck, you may be able to either correct the issue, allowing you to finish the installation, or prevent the issue from occurring in the first place.

Installation Issues Commonly Seen with macOS
Before we get too far along, I want to point out the obvious: don’t install a new version of the Mac operating system without having a current backup. Some of the installation issues we’re going to mention can cause loss of data. Having a Time Machine backup or a clone of your current system can be a lifesaver. If you don’t have a backup system in place, I highly recommend investing in one before you install a new version of macOS.

You can find a large number of external enclosures, drives, and SSDs, as well as a portable and easily-carried-with-you Envoy Pro EX high performance USB 3 or Thunderbolt bus-powered SSD storage.

With the backup recommendation out of the way, let’s get started with the error messages.

Could Not Write Installation Information to Disk
This message usually shows up as a sheet that drops down from the macOS or OS X installer shortly after you start the install process. It may seem odd but the usual cause is a corrupt installer, and simply deleting the installer app and downloading a new copy will likely fix the issue. The error message seems to occur most often when the Mac installer is downloaded from a third-party site. This is a good reason to download the official copy from the Mac App Store, or join the free public beta program if you want to try out a new version of the Mac OS early.

You can use Disk Utility to repair common boot drive errors that may be keeping you from successfully finishing an installation. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Other possible causes include a damaged boot drive. Try using Disk Utility’s First Aid capabilities to test and repair your disk, as outlined in: First Aid: Verify and Repair HFS+, APFS Drives with Disk Utility.

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by Tom Nelson

Your Mac is probably pretty trouble free, at least most of the time. But occasionally you may experience a system, process, or app crash that stops you in your tracks, and prevents you from continuing to work. These crashes are usually fleeting in nature, and resolved by simply relaunching the app or restarting your Mac.

And while an occasional crash can be frustrating, it’s generally not something to worry too much about. Stuff happens, and you can think of it as one of the many reasons you have a good backup system in place. (You do, don’t you?)

Now, when a crash starts occurring on a more regular basis, or you notice it always happens when x event occurs, it may be time to start delving into the crash and discover what may be causing the problem.

In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to take a look at using the Console app to track down the cause of a system or app crash. With any luck, the Console app will be able to help you resolve the problem that’s causing the crash, or at least give you a good idea of what’s going on.

What is the Console App?
Back in the early years of computing, the console was a terminal that was attached to a computer to monitor the status of the system. If you go back even further, the console may have been a bank of meters, lights, and switches that indicated how well the computer was operating.

The Console app from macOS High Sierra. The sidebar shows devices reporting to the Console, as well as reports organized by category. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Console app included with the Mac is a modern-day version of the old computer console; its primary job is to help you monitor how well your Mac is operating. It can do this because of its ability to display logs, status, and error files your Mac’s operating system and individual apps generate as they’re running.

Log Files
There are a number of different types of files that apps, processes, and the system generate as they work; you can think of them as a journal or diary of what’s going on at any point in time. While there are diagnostic files, crash files, log files, and a few other types, we’re going to refer to them collectively as log files. And for the most part, they can all be read by the Console app.

OS X Yosemite’s Console app displaying the crash log from when a system preference terminated unexpectedly. Turns out the preference pane is from an old version of an app, and is no longer supported. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Console app can also look at process messages, and a few other real-time events, but we’re going to concentrate on looking at log files to discover what happened in the past, such as when the system or an app crashed.

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by Tom Nelson

If your Mac seems to suddenly be running hot, with the fans making more noise than usual, your battery runtime has taken a nosedive, or you’ve noticed that your Mac seems to be slowing down, you may be experiencing the effects of cryptojacking.

Of course, there are plenty of other reasons why your Mac could be misbehaving as outlined above; hot summer days can make your Mac run its fans at a higher rate, battery runtime can be affected by the type of processes you’re running, such as video or audio processing, and the Mac’s processors may simply be engaged in running multiple threads from multiple apps, keeping things a bit tied up.

But you could also be a victim of cryptojacking. In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to take a look at cryptocurrency, how it’s mined, and how it may be affecting your Mac.

What Is Cryptojacking? The New, Friendlier Malware
Cryptojacking is a somewhat new way for nefarious individuals to make use of your Mac’s processing power for their own gain. With cryptojacking, the gain is in the acquisition of cryptocurrency coins by having your Mac solve complex mathematical problems. Each solved problem is worth some number of coins or fractions of coins in the cryptocurrency being mined.

Mining for money using your Mac’s hardware without your consent is commonly referred to as cryptojacking. Coin mining is probably best known as the way to acquire Bitcoins, a popular cryptocurrency that has been in use for a number of years. In the early days of coin mining, the tasks a computer had to perform to generate a coin were easy enough that a moderately outfitted personal computer could perform the tasks in a reasonable amount of time. As cryptocurrency become more popular, the difficulty of the problems that needed to be solved increased dramatically, to the point where multiple specially designed computer rigs were being used together to solve the problems and generate cryptocoins in a reasonable timeframe.

As the various cryptocurrencies gained support, the mining of the coins became more and more difficult, so that the days of someone using an average personal computer to solve problems and generate coins went by the wayside. Nowadays, the mining, a common term for solving the problems and generating the coins, is being performed by highly advanced, dedicated mining rigs, or through distributed computing systems that use a large number of individual computers, each working on a piece of the puzzle.

It’s this last mining rig type that has spawned the growth of cryptojacking, using computers that have had mining software installed without the consent of the owner to hijack the computer’s processing power to mine for coins.

Types of Cryptojacking
Cryptojackers use two common methods of manipulating a computer to run mining software. The first, and somewhat less common at the moment, is the old standard malware approach of using a Trojan app to install the mining app on an unsuspecting system. This usually takes the form of a mining app masquerading as another, more popular application. Once the app is downloaded and the installer run, the crypto miner is installed and starts mining for coins.

However, the most likely way for a Mac to run into cryptojacking is through a web browser. The software for mining cryptocurrency has been developed using JavaScript, which every web browser can run. Cryptojackers can insert the JavaScript code into a hacked website, or they can embed the JavaScript mining code within ads which are then placed on many websites.

All you need to do is visit one of these websites, and your Mac will start happily running the cryptocurrency mining code.

For the cryptojacker, using web-based infection has many advantages. It’s easy to do; while they can hack a website and insert the code, they can also just create an ad and place it with an ad service to have it distributed to many websites. Web-based cryptojacking also doesn’t require any type of enticement to get you to download and install a cryptojacking app; instead, the browser runs the mining code for as long as the webpage is open; no installation of code required.

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by Tom Nelson

Originally introduced with OS X El Capitan, System Integrity Protection, usually referred to as SIP, is a security feature built into the Mac operating system that’s designed to protect most system locations, system processes, and Kernel extensions from being written to, modified, or replaced.

SIP and related security protections in the Mac operating system have undergone changes with each release of the OS, but the basics of how the SIP system works have remained the same, including how SIP can be enabled, disabled, and have its current status checked on.

Rootless, More or Less
OS X El Capitan was the first version of the Mac operating system to incorporate SIP, as well as the idea that the Mac operating system was now rootless; that is, there was no longer a root account, the all-powerful primary account that had access to almost the entire system. But it turns out the concept of the Mac being rootless was more of a security marketing gimmick than actual fact. There was still a root account; the difference is that when enabled, SIP poses additional restrictions on the root account, walling off certain portions of the system from access by an account with root level privileges.

The additional isolation of system components from accounts with root privileges helps to prevent malware from being able to gain access to the system, where it could embed itself and take advantage of all of the system services running on a Mac.

System Integrity Protection (SIP)
While “rootless” was mostly marketing, SIP actually hardened the Mac by preventing modifications to the following locations:

  • /System
  • /usr
  • /bin
  • /sbin
  • All apps preinstalled by Apple

The exceptions to the rule are apps or processes that have been signed by Apple and have special entitlement to write to system files. This includes Apple installers and Apple software update services.

SIP is effective at stopping system locations from being written to by third-party apps and services. Only Apple-signed system processes can write to system locations.

System processes can’t be attached to. This prevents code injection or runtime attachment to system processes, techniques often used by malware to force privileged processes to run the malware code.

Kernel extensions must be signed with an Apple Developer ID that specifically allows for signed Kext (kernel extensions) certificates. This can prevent kernel extensions from being replaced or modified by malware, as well as prevent new unsigned kernel extensions from being installed.

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac, and for that matter most computing platforms, are just chock full of daemons. Daemons, not to be confused with demons, are usually small programs that run in the background with no direct interaction with the computer user. They are often used to implement or help provide a service that operating systems or applications need.

The word daemon comes from an ancient Greek belief, and is used to describe a supernatural being that works on tasks between the gods and man. If we replace man with computer user, and gods with the operating system or applications, we get a reasonable idea of what all these Mac daemons are doing: performing repetitive tasks that provide a service to the operating system, an app, or the user.

Activity Monitor and Daemons
Daemons have no visible interface; they run in the background and are usually independent of other apps and programs. That makes them hard for the user to directly interact with, or even know they’re present. But without them, your Mac would likely grind to a halt or freeze up, possibly without even displaying the usual spinning beach ball of doom.

For the most part, daemons should be left alone; they’re perfectly happy performing their assigned tasks. But if you’re curious, you can use Activity Monitor, an app included with the Mac, to see how the various daemons, and other programs that are running, are making use of your Mac’s resources.

In this example, we’re going to use Activity Monitor to look at what two common Mac daemons are up to: “cfprefsd” and “cloudd.” We chose these two daemons because there have been a few questions floating around the Internet about what they do, as well as questions about these daemons using excessive resources.

You may notice that our two daemons have names that end with a “d.” This is a developer convention, where all daemons’ names should end with a “d.” Just as important, the rest of the daemon name should loosely describe its function. If we apply this developer logic to our two example daemons we come up with:

cfprefsd: A background process (a daemon because of the d at the end of the name) having something to do with cfprefs. Scratching our heads a bit, we can guess that this daemon has something to do with preferences, and if we knew a bit more about Mac development, we could guess the cf stood for Core Foundation.

Using the “man” command in Terminal allows you to see a description of what the daemon’s function is. [Press the “q” key to quit from the man page.] Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Actually, we cheated a bit and used the Terminal app to tell us what cfprefsd was. You can use this trick with most of the daemons that are spawned by the operating system to discover what function they serve.

Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities, and enter the following at the Terminal prompt:

man cfprefsd

Terminal will tell us that, “cfprefsd provides preference services for the CFPreferences and NSUserDefaults APIs.” If we wanted to find out more, we could look up CFPreferences and NSUserDefaults in Apple Developer documentation. Essentially, cfprefsd helps an app or the system to read or write to preference files. When you open an app and change one of its preferences, it’s likely that cfprefsd is the daemon being asked to make the changes to the app’s preference file.

cloudd: A daemon having something to do with macOS cloud services. A little more investigating using Terminal and the technique we outlined above tells us that this is the daemon used by CloudKit, a developer’s API used to transfer data between an app and Apple’s iCloud service.

To check on this daemon’s activity, launch Activity Monitor, located at /Applications/Utilities.

When the Activity Monitor window opens, we’re going to be interested in the resources each daemon is making use of.

In the Activity Monitor window, select the CPU button in the toolbar.

You’ll see a long list of processes running on your Mac. You may notice a few daemons, processes whose names end with d, present in the list. But you probably won’t see cfprefsd or cloudd unless you scroll around a bit to find them. An easy way to see each daemon is to enter one of their names in the Search field in the top right corner of the Activity Monitor window.

For this example, enter cfprefsd in the search field.

Activity Monitor will list any matching process names that are running. You may see multiple daemons with the same name, indicating that multiple users (system, user, or other apps and processes) are making use of the daemon. In my case, I have three copies of the cfprefsd daemon running; one that my logged-in user is using, one the root user is using, and one that locationd (another daemon) is using.

Use the Activity Monitor search field to isolate the daemon you are looking for. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The most important columns in Activity Monitor to examine are the %CPU and Threads columns. In this example, there is 0 CPU being used by any of the cfprefsd daemons, and only two threads in use.

If the %CPU or Threads count were high, and stayed high for a long period, that could indicate a problem with the daemon, or more likely, the app or process that is using it.

Select the Memory button in the Activity Monitor window.

Daemons generally do not use a great deal of memory for long periods of time. They can certainly need memory resources while actively performing their tasks, but usually for short durations. If you see a large amount of memory in use by a daemon, and it stays that way for a long period of time, you may have an issue with the app or process that is using the daemon.

Clear Activity Monitor’s search field to see the full list of active processes. Or, you can enter the name cloudd to view the resources being used to support iCloud.

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by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility, the macOS Swiss Army knife for working with disks and storage volumes, may have a few blades missing, especially when it comes to working with unformatted drives and unused space on a disk or storage volume.

In versions of Disk Utility that came with OS X Yosemite and earlier, you could enable hidden debug modes in the Disk Utility app that allowed you to see and interact with all the space on a disk, including hidden elements, such as the Recovery volume or the secret EFI partitions.

In this Rocket Yard article, we’re going to look at how to enable Disk Utility to view and work with the types of disk spaces you’re likely to encounter, including:

We’ll also demonstrate how to use Terminal to access the remaining hidden disk structures that Disk Utility can’t view directly, including:

  • Recovery volumes
  • EFI volumes
  • Preboot and Boot volumes

Selecting the Initialize button will open Disk Utility, but the disk may not show up if the apps view settings are in the default settings. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Using Disk Utility to Access All Devices
Disk Utility is configured by default to only show formatted volumes. This makes using Disk Utility with existing volumes an easy task since there are only a few, and sometimes only one, volumes displayed, cutting down on what could be an overwhelming list of disks, containers, volumes, RAID slices, etc.

The disadvantage, however, is that it can make it difficult to work with new unformatted disks you may be using for the first time. This includes working with unformatted drives as well as unformatted USB flash drives.

Tip: When we speak of unformatted drives, we’re including any disk that uses a format that your Mac can’t natively work with.

Disk Utility lets you pick which display mode to work in: Volumes only, All Devices, or only a selected drive. You can switch between them at any time, and Disk Utility will update the display immediately; no need to close and reopen the Disk Utility app or restart your Mac.

Show All Devices
This setting will display all storage devices connected directly to your Mac. In addition to each device being displayed, a hierarchical listing will show how each device is organized, i.e., how many containers, partitions, or volumes each device contains. Absent from the hierarchical view will be any of the items Apple has decided to hide from the end user, such as EFI volumes and Recovery volumes.

When Disk Utility’s view option is set to Show All Devices even unformatted devices will be present in the sidebar, such as the highlighted USB flash drive that needs to be formatted. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

From the Disk Utility toolbar, click the View button, and then select the Show All Devices item from the dropdown menu. You can also select Show All Devices from Disk Utility’s View menu.

The Sidebar will change to display all locally connected devices, presented in a hierarchical view starting with the physical device, than any containers and volumes the device may have been partitioned into.

Hide the Sidebar
For the ultimate in simplicity, you can choose to hide the sidebar and remove any listings of devices or volumes from view.

From the Disk Utility toolbar, click the View button and select the Hide Sidebar item in the dropdown menu. You can also select Hide Sidebar from Disk Utility’s View menu.

The sidebar will close, and the last selected item in the sidebar will become the only item listed in the Disk Utility window.

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by Tom Nelson

In a bit of a surprise move, Apple unveiled new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros on Thursday, July 12. The surprising bit is the hush-hush update occurring just over a month after the annual WWDC event, where new products aimed at developers and pro users are usually revealed. This has us wondering why the new 2018 MacBook Pros weren’t part of the WWDC keynote event.

While they didn’t make the keynote, they do pack quite a wallop over earlier models of the MacBook Pro, especially the 15-inch model, which we’ll look at in detail here.

15-inch MacBook Pro (2018)
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I want to point out that this isn’t an in-depth review of the 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro. Instead, we’re looking at the specs and how they compare, and what kind of improvements and changes the new MacBook Pro models bring.

First off, the 2018 MacBook Pro isn’t a typical speed bump update. Instead, it brings new features and benefits to those lucky enough to be upgrading at this time. Instead of just dropping in a slightly faster processor, or perhaps a different battery, Apple added a number of new features and capabilities.

Eighth-generation Intel Core i7 and i9 Processors
The 15-inch MacBook Pro leaps from quad-core i7 processors to new six-core i7 and i9 Intel processors in the Coffee Lake family. The Coffee Lake processors have a good deal going for them beyond just two extra cores. Both the i7 and i9 processors support hyper-threading, allowing two threads to run concurrently on each core for a total of 12 active threads. Level 3 caches have also been increased to 9 MB for i7-equipped MacBook Pros, and 12 MB for i9-equipped MacBook Pros.

Eighth generation Intel Core i5, i7, and i9 processors used in the new MacBook Pro product family. Image courtesy of Intel.

The increase in level 3 caches should speed up overall performance, especially when instructions or data are being shared between cores.

The Coffee Lake processor equipped MacBook Pros are offered in speeds of:

  • i7: 2.2 GHz with Turbo Boost speed of 4.1 GHz
  • I7: 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost speed of 4.3 GHz
  • i9: 2.9 GHz processor with Turbo Boost speed of 4.8 GHz

Sharp-eyed readers may notice that the 2017 models of the 15-inch MacBook Pro had slightly faster base processor speeds, clocking in at 2.8 GHz and 2.9 GHz. But the earlier generation i7 Kaby Lake processors had smaller level 3 caches, two fewer cores, and slower memory architecture than what is present in the new Coffee Lake models.

With the processor and memory architecture upgrades in the new 2018 MacBook Pro, Apple claims a 70 percent increase in performance. We haven’t been able to put the new MacBook Pros through any benchmarks, but a quick perusal of the GeekBench Benchmarks shows an i9-equipped 2018 MacBook Pro with a 5289 Single-Core score and a 22201 Multi-Core score. Compared to a 2017 2.9 Ghz i7 model with a Multi-Core score of 15252, that works out to just a bit more than a 68.69 percent improvement, at least in artificial benchmarks. Real-world usage will be quite a bit different, but the performance increases in the benchmarks are impressive.

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by Tom Nelson

You may not have heard of rsync; it’s a file transfer and synchronization program that’s often used to create elaborate and complex backup systems.

Written for Unix operating systems, rsync is included with the Mac and can be accessed directly from Terminal, or used within a number of scripting languages.

The rsync program has a number of features that make it a good candidate for building local, as well as remote, backup, archiving, and synchronization systems. It can also be used for basic file copying, and for maintaining file synchronization between one or more folders, either locally or with a remote system (think cloud-based storage, as an example).

In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to concentrate on using rsync locally. If you wish to use rsync with a remote system, you’ll need to ensure that both the local system and the remote system have rsync installed.

If you’re looking for a copy of rsync to install on a system other than a Mac, or you’re just interested in discovering more about this versatile app, you can check out the rsync website.

Before we get into details about using rsync on the Mac, a note about versions. The version of rsync that’s distributed with the Mac tends to lag behind the current version available on the rsync website. The Mac version has been at 2.6.9 for a number of years, while the current version is at 3.1.3 (as of January, 2018). You should have no problems using the older Mac version with remote platforms that have one of the newer versions installed, but going the other direction could have unexpected results. Always check version compatibility when using rsync with remote systems.

Using Rsync
The Terminal app is used to invoke rsync and its various commands. If you’re new to using the Terminal app, check out the Rocket Yard series Tech 101: Introduction to the Mac’s Terminal App.

Rsync uses a simple structure for issuing commands:

rsync -options theSourceDirectory theDestinationDirectory
While the number of options can get long, the format is always the same; the rsync command followed by any optional switches, then the source directory followed by the destination directory.

The rsync -r command copied all the files on my Desktop to my USB flash drive named DocsBackup. Notice that the time stamp on all the copied files is set to the current date. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Let’s look at a basic rsync command that will copy a directory and all sub-directories it may contain. To tell rsync we want all the files and folders, including everything in subdirectories, we include the -r option. In the Terminal app, enter:

rsync -r /Users/tnelson/Desktop /Volumes/DocsBackup

(Replace tnelson with your user name, and DocsBackup with your desired target for the copy.)

In this example, my messy Desktop folderand its contents will be copied to a USB flash drivenamed DocsBackup. After the command is executed by hitting the return or enter key, the DocsBackup flash drive will have a new folder named Desktop, with all of my Desktop content.

If you want to copy only the contents of the Desktop, and not the parent folder named Desktop, you would add a forward slash after the directory named Desktop, like this:

rsync -r /Users/tnelson/Desktop/ /Volumes/DocsBackup

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