Hidden features in Apples macOS Sierra

While running the brand new version 6.9.3 of the amazing Digital Asset Manager NeoFinder for Mac through our extensive and complex testing plan, we have discovered a couple of strange bugs and secret hidden features in Apples new operating system macOS Sierra.

neofinder-sierra

But the really good news first:

NeoFinder Mac 6.9.3 runs really nice and smooth in macOS Sierra, and was successfully released on Monday, September 26, 2016!

Should you upgrade to Sierra?

After what we saw during our testing, it is far too early to upgrade any productive Mac to macOS Sierra today. Please wait at least until 10.12.3 comes out, and Apple has fixed many of these bugs.

And if you decide to upgrade, make 100% sure you have a full backup of your entire statup disk and all data on it. Really.

macOS Sierra is slow?

After we had upgraded our test machine to macOS Sierra, we found that the MacBook Pro was extremely slow, all input was lagging, and everything took ages.

A quick visit to the Activity Monitor revealed that there was some process named “secd” running amok, and eating up almost 100% CPU time. This is a process from Apple, undocumented, which seems to have something to do with their security concept.

Fortunately enough, there is a way to solve this problem. It seems to be related to some problems in Keychains, when you upgrade an existing system. To solve it, delete the folder “Keychains” in your personal Library folder (not the global /Library folder!). Then run these three lines in Terminal.app:

launchctl stop com.apple.secd
killall secd
launchctl start com.apple.secd

In our testing, that has solved the CPU hogging of Apples secd immediately and permanently.

Another issue we saw is that another strange process, called com.app.appkit.xpc.openAndSavePanelService was eating up almost 100% CPU time. This one is also not documented, and it is unclear what purpose this process has.

We were able to solve that second problem by quitting Apples Photos.app. It seems that they are somehow connected.

The huge CPU load of a “photoanalysisd” process, after importing photos into Apples Photos.app, was to be expected. They are now automatically analyzing your photos for scenes and objects, to improve the search feature of Photos.app.

Unfortunately, this take a LOT of processing time, our test Mac ran for almost 20 hours on full power after importing only 17000 pictures into Photos.app. We will see if and when this stops…

Fonts

NeoFinder is able to catalog text excerpts from RTF and Microsoft Word documents, among others. macOS Sierra adds a very interesting new twist to that.

If your document contains one of the Apple standard fonts that seems to be no longer automatically installed (probably to save space and download time, who knows), macOS Sierra now offers to download and activate that font for you:

missing-font

While that is an interesting and possibly nice feature for some users, this really is a problem when you catalog a disk with thousands or millions of text files in NeoFinder. In that case, cataloging will pause until you have replied to that dialog.

And if you select “Skip”, that exact same dialog will show up seconds later for that exact same font in another document. Bummer.

Most unfortunately, there is completely zero official documentation from Apple about this unexpected behaviour, and so far no way to turn off this disruptive feature during cataloging.

We have posted a bug report with Apple, and hope to get a reply from them soon.

Until then, you have two options:

  1. Turn off the option to catalog the text contents of files. That will prevent NeoFinder of cataloging all text files, though. You can have a finer grained exclusion of only .RTF text files, as described in the NeoFinder Users Guide.
  2. Download and activate the required fonts from Apple once, and be done with it.

Visual glitches

As with most new operating system versions in the past 6 years, macOS Sierra has some strange visual glitches. We saw them during testing of NeoFinder in NeoFinder itself, but also in Apples Finder and other applications. Things like the blue background of selected items in an outline view sometimes disappearing, and such.

So far, none of these have caused any real problems, and we expect Apple for fix them in 10.12.1 or 10.12.2, as they did in the previous five major OS releases.

The HFS Standard filesystem is no longer supported

This short sentence in the official technical documentation about macOS Sierra from Apple (https://developer.apple.com/library/content/releasenotes/MacOSX/WhatsNewInOSX/Articles/OSXv10.html) should start to make you nervous.

It means that Apple no longer cares about their original file system.

But that is so long ago, who cares?

You may care a great deal!

If you have a large archive of data CDs or DVDs, those created prior to 1998, you may not be able to actually read them in macOS Sierra, even if these disks are still perfectly OK.

So go and check your digital data archive. If there are files on these older disks that you may still want to use, now is really the time to copy them to a new device!

Mail.app. Beware!

One massive problem we have encountered during the upgrade from Mac OS X 10.10.5 to macOS Sierra was the complete disappearance of every single mail in Apples Mail.app!

So far it is unclear what caused this, but even though Mail was able to use all existing mail accounts, it has simply deleted every single mail in our massive mail folder.

Good thing we always try these upgrades only on our test machines with a copy of the real data, so in our case, no real data was lost.

In a second attempt, Mail was even able to read most of the mails, but kept our Inbox empty and even write protected, so we were not able to use the app at all.

So if you like to keep your mail, make sure you have a valid and current backup, if you really think about upgrading to macOS Sierra today.

We will postpone upgrading our work machines to macOS Sierra until Apple at least fixes the problems in Mail.