By Rick Sutcliffe

With every upgrade of Apple’s OS (Mac and i), the Spy has read with interest tales of crashes and instability, but lacking his own experience with such, has always viewed such reports with a tad of skepticism. However, just as his good opinion of Apple’s hardware has been sorely tested in recent years, so now also his favourable opinion if its software has suffered several bruises.

He has three machines currently running Mojave 10.14.6– one a 2015 MacBook Pro (yes, the same one that had the battery, case, and keyboard replaced under warranty when the battery swelled up and badly damaged the machine), and, as previously noted here, two old MacPro towers equipped with Metal-compatible graphics cards.

Problems on the MacBook Pro began about 10.14.3 or thereabouts and have persisted through three upgrades of the OS. All was well after a boot. However, once the machine had slept, clicking on the WI-FI symbol in the menu bar froze SystemUI and subsequently moving the mouse to any part of Apple’s section of the menu bar beachballed. All else worked, and WI-FI seemed to continue operating on its last setting, but a longer sleep sometimes slowed or killed network connectivity altogether. 

The Terminal command Killall SystemUIServer restarts SystemUIServer and restores Apple’s portion of the menu bar to functionality, except of course for WI-FI which, if clicked, beachballed SystemUI again. The Network preference panel usually (but not always) froze and had to be force quit if run when the computer was in this state. A reboot restored all until the next sleep. Thus, when changing locations to home, a motel, or another part of the campus, or after an overnight sleep a reboot was always required. 

None of the fixes offered on the Internet (where this problem has been discussed for years), whether by Apple’s own or others’ sites could ameliorate the problem–including shutting down various apps, removing WI-FI and other preferences, switching to another user account (including root) cleaning up junk, reinstalling the OS, etc. The only thing the Spy had not yet tried was reverting to High Sierra or re-doing the machine from scratch (days of work). What is more, used disk space was growing without limit on this machine.

Of his two MacPro towers, one (the 2010 model) had so far shown no signs of any problems. However, the 2012 model randomly rebooted once or twice a day, generally while sleeping or at being woken from sleep, though occasionally in the middle of work. Neither had the WI-FI problem (though of course the Spy does not stress this by moving them around and both house and office are CAT-6 wired). Again, none of the “standard” solutions out there seem to resolve either problem even temporarily. However since the 2010 model did not have either problem, the 

One that immediately became apparent was that ProSoft’s Drive Genius was monitoring the disks on the problematic machine, and a check of memory and disk space revealed application memory was being eaten alive by the DriveGenius process, and so was swap space on the disk, which had ballooned to over 400G. The memory problem was apparently causing the reboots. Uninstalling this program and removing its monitoring function seems to have helped–no more reboots the last couple of days. Removing the 32-bit apsupsd also happened in the course of ongoing future proofing of the machine. 

The Spy then wiped the boot volume on the MacBook, copied a clone of the working tower there, booted up, changed the name of the machine and some preferences to match the different environment, and has had now 24 hours with WI-FI working so far, and the used space on the boot volume stabilized in the high 200G range (rather than 600G). BTW, running Parallels necessitates the use of a lot of disk space for its virtual volume, or it would be much less. 

The next morning (today in fact), however, the Update system noted a 10.14.6 supplementary update to fix, among other things, random reboots after sleep in some models of MacBooks. Hmmm. And some others, suggests the Spy. Tentatively then, a possible fix. We’ll see after the next  sleep cycle. The Spy has too much to do in starting up the school year at TWU to leave his computer sleeping.

But that MacBook Pro 2015 model can no longer be flown. In theory, airlines should allow the Spy’s machine on board because he can prove the battery has indeed been replaced. However, several airlines, especially outside North America, have instituted a blanket ban on the affected models, evidently because they can’t be bothered checking or verifying specifics or don’t know how. As far as they are concerned, a machine whose battery has been recalled is banned, even if said battery has been replaced. Tough.

So, the biggest drawing cards the Spy has had for Macs over W*nd*ws machines–that they can and do run reliably for years without crashing, and are far less exploitable, have not only diminished, the tables have begun to turn. The PCs he uses are becoming more reliable (including the virtual W*nd*ws machine he runs in Parallels), and Apple has also lately had numerous security issues, though more particularly with iOS than MacOS. Coupled with the company’s almost total loss of innovative spirit and imagination, its consequent weak and pedestrian products and designs, and the refusal of big software suppliers such as Microsoft to fix bugs on their Mac versions (ones that they have repaired or never allowed to happen on W*ind*ws versions), there’s becoming less to recommend iCook’s products.

Mind you, and to be fair, PC’s are still far less safe or secure, so despite the recent great annoyances, the Spy is not ready to switch. But he notes an item in the financial news saying that Tim Cook has been dumping (their word) his Apple stock. Smart, but the Spy has been all cash for some time awaiting the inevitable crash. When (no longer if) it comes it will be a dilly.

Still being fair fair, the software problems the Spy has experienced appear to be at least in part caused by third party programs that worked in High Sierra but do not in Mojave, so the fault may not be all Apple’s. Plenty to share if allocating blame.

On the brighter side the Spy spotted an ad by OWC (MacSales) for some PCIe cards that could be equipped as SSD drives. He had a larger model of this a few years ago, returned it as unreliable, and the replacement eventually died also. But this was a discontinued 0G and much smaller version called the Mercury Accelsior M PCIe SSD card being offered on clearout for peanuts. The Spy allows students to eat in his class, but taxes the meal if it involves peanuts, so he bit, equipped both towers with the card and an 860 EVO 500G M SSD slug. Works and nice and fast. Recommended if OWC still has any, but do recall that the 860 line of packaged 860 EVOs cannot be used to boot a Mac. This one is strictly for backup.

–The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author’s own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a. k. a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics, Interim Dean of Science, and Chair of the University Senate at Canada’s Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member of or consultant with the boards of several organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and ten alternate history SF novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he’s a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce just celebrated their fiftieth anniversary and have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of B.C. since 1972. 

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe’s Arjay Enterprises: 

The Northern Spy Home Page: http: //www. TheNorthernSpy. com

opundo : http: //opundo. com

Sheaves Christian Resources : http: //sheaves. org

WebNameHost : http: //www. WebNameHost. net

WebNameSource : http: //www. WebNameSource. net

nameman : http: //nameman. net

General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe’s Books: 

Author Site: http: //www. arjay. ca

Publisher’s Site: http: //www. writers-exchange. com/Richard-Sutcliffe. html

The Fourth Civilization–Ethics, Society, and Technology (4th 2003 ed. ): http: //www. arjay. bc. ca/EthTech/Text/index. html

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