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Home automation Personal Computing

It’s a New Dawn?

It’s a new dawn in Apple Land. Apple Silicon and MacOS 11 Big Sur have arrived. All in all, convergence of iPadOS and MacOS and continuous refinement.

Thanks to Apple for use of its Apple Silicon banner image. It’s a new dawn in Apple Land.

MacOS 11 Big Sur arrived at Dismal Manor. Its arrival was mostly uneventful after troubles with installation media download were resolved. Reference 1 gives an excellent guided tour (geeky) of Big Sur. Here, I’ll hit some first impressions.

References

  1. https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/11/macos-11-0-big-sur-the-ars-technica-review/

Installation

Its the usual download the release kit, run the installer, go to bed, get up in the morning to a new machine. I was having trouble with the kit downloading. I suspect my anti-virus defenses were getting in the way so I parked ClamAV and Clean My Mac for the duration and rebooted to be sure the machine was clean of meddlesome assistants. Once this was done, the download went normally.

With the advent of Apple File System, a copy on write file system, the old OS environment is kept as a snapshot. The new Big Sur environment installs into a new snapshot. This is important because Big Sur changes the way recovery works. If, for some reason, you need to do a recovery startup, the Recovery process gives you the opportunity to revert to the previous boot environment snapshot to take a mulligan. This is way cool. I’ve had to use it once when a FreeNAS update went wrong. This feature is a life-saver.

Once the Big Sur media kit is aboard, you start the installer and let it work. Several reboots later, the machine is pretty much ready to go but has a slightly brighter (well like a sunny day on new-fallen snow) look as a result of upbeat colors, similar but nicer type faces, etc. and a lighter less weighty and pretentious look than before.

First Impressions

Once logged in, you’ll note that everything is familiar and that the updated capabilities work in the accustomed manner. The Big Sur OS seems less troublesome using shares. Time Machine found its target directory on my TrueNAS box

Time Machine Updates

There are some huge updates to Time Machine.

  • Time Machine uses Apple File System, a copy on write file system with snapshots. Each Time Machine save set is a APFS snapshot.
  • Time Machine is CIFS capable. AFP is no longer supported so you’ll need to change Time Machine shares from AFP shares to CIFS shares. The procedures for doing so are server-specific.
  • Time Machine no longer gets wrapped around the axel trying to connect to a share. CIFS shares reliably mount for backup.
  • Time Machine makes a snapshot of the local file system and syncs the differences to the Time Machine target disk.
  • Other than being bright and shiny, the Time Machine recovery interface is unchanged.

Apple Watch Authentication

Once logged in, your Apple Watch can communicate authentication to MacOS. If MacOS starts squawking about unable to communicate with your Apple Watch, confirm that both are on the same WiFi network, that BlueTooth is on, etc. If all this is ok and the problem persists, use MacOS Big Sur preferences to change your Apple ID password and sort all your portable stuff out. Apple will invalidate any App Passwords given out to clients of Apple Services. You’ll need to renew these.

Photos

Photos is largely unchanged on the surface but works well. When using an external editor like Luminar 4, select the Live Photo frame first in Photos and save. Then open the external editor. Photos creates a TIFF working copy to pass to the external editor. Once external editing is finished, the external editor will return an updated TIFF.

For small hobby photo volumes, I prefer to use Photos App as my asset manager and use the external editing interface. I find that Photos, in its current incarnation, makes it easy to locate photos by approximate date with browsing to the desired image.

Calendars and Mail

They’re no longer butt ugly. But I still prefer Fantastical Calendar and Spark Mail. They are just more polished. My big rap against mail is that the editor was just plain clumsy working with paragraphs. Oh, and promiscuous harvesting of wrong Email addresses from messages. And hiding them in a secret place. But Spark is free and trouble-free in the form I use, so reverting is hard to justify.

Spotlight

Spotlight is reported to be improved in what it can index and retrieve. Time will tell here. 2020 Spotlight is my primary tool for finding things and launching programs. Its that good. All those menu bar fragile tools like Quicksilver are irrelevant now that Spotlight is actually good and accessible almost everywhere. Spotlight only organizes the system disk. Material on shares is not indexed.

Apple Music

New look, same lossy AAC compressed media. Roon, Qobuz, and Tidal for Dismal Manor lossless music. Sorry Tim.

Home App

Home App is making steady progress. It is our go to beast watching application at Dismal Manor in preference to Ubiquity Protect. Protect is a straight-up surveillance system. Good for records to show the authorities and your insurer but not particularly useful as an aid to day to day life. HomeKit and Home fill this gap.

Home is the user interface to Apple Secure Video. ASV is event oriented. When it detects motion or a person or a critter, it records a video clip.

Two cameras watch the greyhound gallop and landing. When dogs come up on the landing, they are recognized and announced. The notification goes round and round and comes out on Dismal Wizard’s wrist as an Apple Watch haptic tap. The watch shows a thumbnail of the landing so I can identify the creature and won’t let in the neighborhood foxes or coyotes. This capability has really evolved over the past year and Apple has rolled out HomeKit and Home App capabilities as they were ready.

Apple TV and Apple HomePod do most of the processing associated with HomeKit and secure video. For some things, you still need the accessory maker’s app. For example, Eve Home door sensor logs and temperature log still require using the iPad EveHome app.

EveHome temperature plot from the porch sensor.

Having the door log in Eve Home is useful. I can use a door event as a starting point for a video search in either HomeKit Secure Video or Protect video.

EveHome event log for the garden door.

As you can see, the garden door is quite busy.

Eve Home Stuff

A shameless plug here. Dismal Wizard likes Eve Home kit. We have a water leak sensor, two temperature sensors (inside and outside), and door sensors. We find these comparable in quality to those by others and quick. Everything stays within the lifelines. No Eve Cloud. They learned from the Democratic Peoples Republic days. Nothing for the man to snoop on as Blue Tooth links and data at rest are encrypted.

EUFY Stuff

We also like the EUFY Life cameras for the same reason. Good value, no EUFY Cloud, encrypted links, encrypted images at rest in HomeKit Secure Video. And prices are reasonable. Our garden cameras are $150 or so. Our RockyCam is $50 or so. All are WiFi with the RockyCam USB powered. The garden cameras are battery powered and run for about 3 months. Ours are on magnetic stick-on mounts (screw mounted keystone secures the magnetic hemisphere). Ours are positioned and told to ignore vehicle traffic. They are good about recording and sounding off only for moving animate objects. They reject vehicle movement and vehicle lights very well unlike our Ubiquity wired cameras.