Egg Freckles
Notes from my Newton

Wed 4/19 | Free iApps

Free iApps

Yesterday Apple updated several of its Mac and iOS apps, making them available for free on Mac OS and iOS.

MacRumors has the story:

iMovie, Numbers, Keynote, Pages, and GarageBand for both Mac and iOS devices have been updated and are now listed in the App Store for free.

Previously, all of these apps were provided for free to customers who purchased a new Mac or iOS device, but now that purchase is not required to get the software. Many Apple customers were already likely eligible to download the software at no cost if they had made a device purchase in the last few years.

Hackintosh users will no doubt take advantage of Apple's generosity even if using these apps on commodity PC hardware is against the terms of the license agreement. The real winners though are schools and business who won't have to worry about managing these essential iApps using apple's confusing Volume Purchase Program.

Sat 4/ 8 | New Pascal Drivers for Mac OS

New Pascal Drivers for Mac OS

Yesterday NVIDIA revealed they would be releasing Mac OS drivers for their Pascal microarchitecture GPUs. "This comes despite the fact that Apple hasn’t sold a Mac Pro that can officially accept a PCIe video card in almost half a decade."

So why is NVIDIA releasing a Mac driver to a market that, officially speaking, is essentially dead? Ryan Smith writing for AnandTech explains:

Instead it’s the off-label use that makes this announcement interesting, and indeed gives NVIDIA any reason whatsoever to make a Pascal driver release. Within the Mac community there are small but none the less vocal user groups based around both unsupported external GPUs and not-even-Apple-hardware Hackintoshes. In the case of the former, while macOS doesn’t support external GPUs (and isn’t certified as eGFX complaint by Intel), it’s possible to use Macs with Thunderbolt eGFX chassis with a bit of OS patching. Meanwhile with a bit more hacking, it’s entirely possible to get macOS running on a custom-built PC, leading to the now long-running Hackintosh space.

As a Hackintosh user I am surprised by this announcement. Hackintosh and eGPU users are a small but vocal percentage of the Mac OS user base. I honestly didn't think NVIDIA would commit to supporting their latest GPU architecture on unsupported systems, but then again maybe my line of thinking has been clouded by an Apple state of mind.

Before NVIDIA's announcement I was in process of selling my main Hackintosh with a Pascal-based GTX 1060 installed. Now I might consider changing my plans, unless someone makes me a decent offer first.

Wed 4/ 5 | Modular Mac

Modular Mac

John Gruber broke the news, the next Mac Pro will be a modular system.

Apple is currently hard at work on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They’re also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them.

Phil Schiller elaborates:

With regards to the Mac Pro, we are in the process of what we call “completely rethinking the Mac Pro”. We’re working on it. We have a team working hard on it right now, and we want to architect it so that we can keep it fresh with regular improvements, and we’re committed to making it our highest-end, high-throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding pro customers.

As part of doing a new Mac Pro — it is, by definition, a modular system — we will be doing a pro display as well. Now you won’t see any of those products this year; we’re in the process of that. We think it’s really important to create something great for our pro customers who want a Mac Pro modular system, and that’ll take longer than this year to do.

As a past Power Mac customer I am excited about Apple's future "modular Mac," but I have questions about what modular means to Apple and its customers.

  1. Does modular mean the future Mac Pro can be upgraded with off-the-shelf PC components?
  2. Does modular mean the future Mac Pro is a collection of proprietary parts that can only be procured from Apple?
  3. Does modular mean the future Mac Pro is a series of separate modules connected via high-speed I/O?
  4. Does modular mean the future Mac Pro is a single self-contained computer designed to anticipate the tolerances of demanding professional components.

As life long Apple observer I can say option number one is unlikely. I would welcome a future Mac Pro that can be upgraded with off-the-shelf PC components, but I don't think Apple would support — let alone provide the connectivity to make it happen. I don't expect a future modular Mac Pro to include full-length industry-standard PCIe slots.

As a ex-Mac Genius option two seems more plausible. Apple has rarely offered upgrade components outside of additional RAM and a optional wireless card. Sure, there have been upgradable graphics cards available in the past from Apple retail stores, but they were quickly outdated and rarely updated. Selling modular upgrade components for the one percent of professional Mac users is not a business I can see Apple getting into.

Option three is not that far from the 2013 Mac Pro we have today. If a series of separate modules connected via high-speed I/O is Apple's strategy, I doubt they would have held a press briefing to expose a future modular Mac system.

Finally we have option four, a single self-contained computer designed to anticipate the tolerances of demanding professional components. The parts in this modular Mac Pro would not be user upgradable or available at retail. Instead the system as whole would be designed in such a way so as make more powerful models possible in the future without a drastic redesign.

Option four is the modular Mac I think Apple will build, but as a current Hackintosh owner I would like to be wrong.

Thu 3/30 | Internet Recovery

Internet Recovery

Since the release of Mac OS X Lion:

  • Holding down Command + R at startup told your Mac to boot from the local Recovery Partition, allowing you to restore your Mac's installed operating system.
  • Holding down Command + Option + R at startup told your Mac to NetBoot from Apple's Internet Recovery, allowing you to restore your Mac to its original operating system.1

This all changed on Tuesday when Apple released macOS


macOS Recovery installs different versions of macOS depending on the key combination you press while starting up. Hold down one of these combinations immediately after pressing the power button to turn on your Mac. Release when you see the Apple logo or a spinning globe.

Michael Tsai:

The new Option-Command-R keyboard shortcut lets you do an Internet recovery of latest macOS that is compatible with your Mac. So, rather than boot from a slow hard drive, wrangle the Mac App Store, download the installer, and then launch it, I just held down the keys and let it download and install all at once. The time estimate was way off (under), but other than that it worked smoothly and got my Mac booting again.

Internet Recovery is now a convenient time-saver, skipping the unpatched versions of system software and restoring the latest Mac OS. I am a fan just as long restoring older versions of Mac OS are still an option. One of my least favorite aspects of iOS is that you cannot install the version of system software that originally shipped with your device.

  1. If you're selling or giving away a Mac that is using OS X El Capitan or earlier, use Option-Command-R to make sure that the installation isn't associated with your Apple ID. 

  2. If you haven't already installed macOS Sierra 10.12.4 or later, Option-Command-R reinstalls the macOS that came with your Mac, or the version closest to it that is still available. 

Fri 3/24 | FreeHand for Free

FreeHand for Free

I became a FreeHand fan during the Macromedia era after the release Freehand 5.5. Despite its falling popularity, I have always found Freehand's powerful page layout tools and unique approach to vector illustration appealing. Even after FreeHand's untimely demise in 2005, you could still find a copy of FreeHand MX in my Dock until the release of Mac OS Lion and the end of PowerPC support on the Mac. Even today with modern vector drawing options like Adobe Illustrator CC available to me, I still long for the days when FreeHand was never more than a click away.

Fortunately for me, and the many FreeHand fans like me, all is not lost. The FreeHand Forum provides links to the once freely distributed trial version of FreeHand MX. And Adobe of all companies provides the serial numbers that can keep FreeHand MX launching past its first 30 days.

You will still need a Mac, a Hackintosh, or a virtual machine running Snow Leopard or earlier if you want to run FreeHand MX under Mac OS X. Personally I prefer to run FreeHand MX under a Windows VM or Wine. Both are easy to setup and promise to remain compatible well into the future.