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Parallels on SSD & Windows 7 to Windows 10

Windows 10 - Parallels

Introduction

Windows has in the past driven me to distraction and I can honestly say that my computing life improved immeasurably after I migrated to an iMac in 2008. But I kept Windows going for a while, first as a virtual machine in VMFusion, and then in a Bootcamp partition when I acquired a MacBook Pro in 2009. The Windows frustration continued and I shared my feelings back in 2017.

When I upgraded both my iMac and later my MacBook, Windows was jettisoned.

Jump forward to 2020 and against my better judgement Windows is back. The story of how this came about might be of interest

Samsung SSD

When I updated to MacOS Catalina there were some applications that I didn't want to lose, but weren't compatible with the new OS. I decided to buy Parallels and retain a virtual copy of Mojave. As my new iMac has only a 250GB SSD drive and the Mojave VM occupied around 36GB, it represented quite an overhead. All was well until recently when I did some quite heavy video editing in iMovie, resulting in my Mac freezing. I was caught out because my daughter shared an iCloud folder containing all the individual video clips, this being possible with the advent of Catalina 10.15.4 and iOS 13.4. What I didn't realise was that all the files had been downloaded to the Mac. So much for shared 'cloud' storage. This share, combined with the production of a number of completed videos in iMovie, left me unknowingly with minimal remaining disk space.

After tidying up the video files and moving all the shared clips to an external drive, I re-established safe headroom. But I decided it would be better to move the Mojave VM to an external disk. I experimented with a spare SATA hard drive but it was far too slow to allow a decent user experience in the VM. So I bought a Samsung portable 500GB SSD. This worked fine with the VM, there being little discernable difference from when it was on the Mac's SSD.

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Undeletable file in Trash /Bin

A short while ago I was experiencing very slow downloads on my emails in macOS Mail. Following a tip in a forum I moved some system files to a new temporary location, these being automatically recreated by Mail when it was relaunched. The idea was to remove the cached settings. It didn't in fact help and I suspect that it was my email service provider (BT) that was actually the problem.

Once I was sure that Mail was working correctly I deleted the original system files that I had relocated. But when I came to empty the Trash one file remained, generating an error during the delete process. Thus began a long and unsuccessful attempt to get this file out of my Trash.

I found quite a bit of advice on the web, both from Apple itself and various technical web sites. I tried everything: key combinations, Safe Mode; Disk First Aid in Recovery Mode; Terminal commands and the clever idea of moving the file to iCloud and then deleting it on my iPhone after my iMac was powered down. But it just came back. I even moved it to the BT Cloud, which is outside the Apple system, and deleted it there, but it always returned.

Finally I found a web page that explained all. The file, in its orignal location, was:

~/Library/Containers/com.apple.mail/Data/DataVaults

I managed to delete the folders but DataVaults proved to be totally indestructible. The web page linked to another with an explanation of the additional controls that Apple has placed over access to files and folders in macOS Mojave, and of course in Catalina. My problems started when I was running Mojave and persisted after I recently updated to Catalina.

Here is an extract from the article:

DataVaults are folders to which neither the user nor third-party software has any access at all.

The only software which can see and work with their contents are certain Apple-signed products which have a specific entitlement to do so.


The moral, be careful when messing about with system files.


Updated iMac to MacOS Catalina

After much deliberation I today updated from Mojave to Catalina.

The main issue, of course, was the fact that with Catalina Apple discontinued support for 32 bit applications. I had for a while been removing such applications, updating them or finding alternatives. This cost a bit of money along the way. For example, my Adobe Elements 15 (Photoshop & Premier) wasn't guaranteed to be compatible and in the end I broke a long association with this software and went for Pixelmator Pro for photographs and Apple's free iMovie for videos.

The Adobe suite never felt completely at home on the Mac whereas Pixelmator is truly a Mac app as of course is iMovie. My limited use of Pixelmator has so far proved successful although, of course, I have needed to adapt to the different interface. I'm still to see how I get on with iMovie.

Some apps I had rarely used, so they went. The difficult ones were those that I needed but were unlikely ever to be upgraded to 64 bit by the developers. For example, our Withings weighing scales link to the internet and if you ever need to reconfigure the wifi connection there is a Pairing Wizard. It's very rudimentary and will almost certainly never appear as 64 bit since the latest scales don't need it. There's also my Game Golf transfer app, which may in time benefit from an upgrade to 64 bit. And I have the 'Le Petit Robert' French dictionary, which is now available in 64 bit form but at an unacceptable price. At the moment Audacity isn't Catalina compatible although I'm sure that a 64 bit version will eventually be released. And finally there was MacX Video Converter Pro, which again has a new version available but at a price.

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MacOS Time Machine on encrypted external HDD

I've upgraded my ten-year-old MacBook Pro to a MacBook Air. The old one will go to my wife's niece as it still performs well, especially after I replaced the battery and installed an SSD to speed things up a bit. She had taken a shine to it so my upgrade makes two people happy. For my part, the difference in OS between my iMac (Mojave) and the MacBook (El Capitan) was starting to present issues, such as incompatibility between versions of Pages, Numbers etc.

Having somewhat laboriously cleaned the old MacBook of my data so that I didn't lose certain software, such as the old but still serviceable Office 2011, I ended up with a much cleaner computer that I believe will be perfect for her. It's amazing how many personal identifiers exist within the software but I'm sure that I've removed most of them as well, of course, as signing out of all the Apple services.

Note Encrypt backups check box

Next came the the job of backing up my new MacBook to the external HDD that I use for a Time Machine. I encrypted it when it was first formatted and when I tried to delete the old backup I was informed that I didn't have the necessary permissions. I therefore erased the disk and again reformatted as encrypted. Time Machine asked if I wanted to use the disk and at this point I made a mistake. It asked if I wanted the data encrypted. Because I had already encrypted the disk I didn't choose this option. When it then asked for the disk password I wasn't paying attention and entered it. Unfortunately this started a decryption process that after three hours hadn't hardly registered on the progress bar.

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Le Robert Correcteur - time to look elsewhere

A few years ago I bought the Le Robert Correcteur. It is a spelling and grammar checker for French, something that is incredibly useful if one has the intention of writing in French. It's a grammatically complex language and even Le Robert doesn't spot all one's mistakes. But it at least weeds out most of them and will often flag a sentence that it believes to be badly constructed even though it can't pinpoint the precise reason.

It wasn't cheap and came with three licences. I used one on my iMac and one on my MacBook Pro. A while ago I rebuilt the MacBook with an SSD disk and restored from Time Machine. Most things worked but Le Correcteur was having none of it. The licence protection was obviously recognised that something had changed as a result of the upgrade. So I had to use my third and final licence. I've now upgraded to a 2018 MacBook Air. And guess what, I can't even get Le Correcteur to load let alone try to enter a licence key. All attempts to find help on deregistering the app on the old MacBook have failed.

I certainly wasn't going to fork out for another three licences so I decided to consider alternatives. I have used Bon Patron before, a web-based spelling and grammar checker that performs arguably as well as Le Correcteur. I tested a sample piece in both and in fact Bon Patron did slightly better in that case. Although both missed a fairly glaring conjugation error, which might have been because of the way I structured the sentence. Perhaps it wasn't French enough! The only downside to Bon Patron is that is web-based, so without a connection you can't use it. But with almost universal connectivity these days this is perhaps not a major issue.

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Upgraded to Mojave - almost painless

Having been nagged for months with notifications to upgrade to Mojave I finally took the plunge. It wasn't really a plunge, as I considered with release 10.14.3 most of the initial problems would have been ironed out. Also, I spent quite a lot of time preparing to migrate.

I reviewed all 32 bit apps on my iMac and cleared out some little-used stuff, while transferring some other apps that I use occasionally to my 2009 MacBook Pro running El Capitan. I checked all the remaining apps for updates. I cleaned out a lot of files using Disk Doctor Pro, finding in the process a cache of over 8GB associated with my Tom Tom Connect app. Finally I did a First Aid scan with Disk Utility.

The install went without a hitch. I selected dark mode but while it looked great on my 4k iMac screen, it wasn't very good on my now ageing Apple Cinema second screen. So I reverted to light mode. I had to give my Avira Anti-Virus access to the computer, the Avira app prompting this after the upgrade and guiding me through it. Some other apps needed permission to access files, which was simply a matter of agreeing when the pop-up message appeared.



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Tesco mail service closing - nightmare!

I've had a Tesco email account for what seems forever, and I use it for all my online registrations and many other contacts. So when I received a message that the service is to close on 27 June this year my heart sunk. I have subsequently spent many hours going through all my login items in my password manager, visiting the sites concerned, and changing the contact email.


Tesco mail closing

What I found amazing was the difference in trying to achieve this on the various sites. From simply just changing the address, to needing to phone up and organise it verbally (John Lewis!). In between these extremes there were various shades of complexity, from the fairly common need to verify the new address after setting it up, through to needing to add a new address and then delete the original, changing the 'primary' address in the process, or needing to send an email requesting the change. In some cases just finding where on the site you needed to navigate to was a challenge in itself.

While doing all this I was prompted for a Flash update one site, and with my attention distracted by the main job in hand, I fell for a malware download very convincingly masquerading as Flash. This infected all my browsers and rather than trying to clean the files out, I opted to revert the whole computer back a few hours using Time Machine. This cleaned things up, but it took a good couple of hours, and I think I might have lost some archived emails as I tried to work out which of the hundreds of 'Recovered Files' in Mail were indeed recovered, and which were just duplicates of what I already had. I also had to backtrack through the password items I had already updated in my password manager, changing again the login email address. My Apple ID brought with it further complications as the various devices prompted for the Apple password, while still quoting the Tesco email address even though I had changed it. Things have finally settled down but I had to play around a bit to get all my local files back into the iBook application, eventually enabling iCloud storage for iBook to synchronise all devices.

All the password related items are now done, with many deleted as I carried out a bit of housekeeping as I went through the list. Now I need to deal with mailing list items where there are no sign in requirements, and finally all the personal contacts to whom I've given the address over the years. A laborious and very unrewarding exercise that I could well have done without.


High Sierra behaves itself but Chrome doesn't

After holding back for a while I finally updated my iMac to High Sierra this week. I had read about various problems affecting some applications and, of course, the more recent security scare that has been patched in 10.13.2. The update went without a hitch, although it took a while. I think the file had downloaded some time previously, as no sooner I had updated than I received another update message to install the latest version, which also took a while.

High Sierra

In launchpad a few applications were marked with the symbol indicating that they were no longer compatible. Final Cut Express was one such, but this wasn't an issue as I had long since abandoned it in favour of Adobe's Premier Elements. There was an associated application, LiveType, which was also shown as non-compatible, but was equally of no interest to me. Adobe Bridge also had to go, but again I never used it. I had already upgraded to Office Home and Student 2016, expecting problems with my 2011 edition. Luminar prompted for an update, but having installed it I then decided to go for their Holidays' offer and upgraded to the 2018 version.

All seemed well until I updated one of my managed websites using RapidWeaver. I had a minor rendering problem in Safari. This resolved itself after clearing all caches but there was a fair bit of head-scratching before I got to that point. Firefox behaved impeccably but in Google Chrome the navigation symbols were showing visual artifacts. No amount of cache clearing or resetting would clear the problem, and having visited some forums it became clear that there are indeed some issues with Chrome when used with High Sierra. Having effectively given up on this particular problem I downloaded the still 'early adopters' version of Chrome Canary. I don't use Chrome generally and really only wanted to see if the issue persisted in this 'bleeding edge' version. I'm pleased to say it didn't. So for the time being anybody viewing the website using the original Chrome with High Sierra will experience this problem, but my hope is that the number of people in this category will be small.

The only other issue I experienced was with Word. I keep all my data on a network drive and when I attempted to close a document after saving, I received an error relating to permission to access the temporary file that Word had created. These files should be removed when the document is closed, but this wasn't happening. Again, it took a while to find out what was going on, but I eventually found an explanation that suggested that this was a problem associated with network drives with Word on High Sierra. The fix was to uncheck 'Save Autorecovery info' in Word, which of course disables auto-recovery, but it seems to have cured the irritating error messages and the orphan folders that were being created.

There may of course be other issues awaiting me as I use applications that I've not yet launched but, as they say, so far, so good!


New battery for mid-2009 MacBook Pro

Back in May I upgraded my MacBook Pro with an SSD, vastly improving the performance. I've now replaced the battery, which was rapidly discharging under use. Fingers crossed that these two upgrades will now keep the computer going for a while.



I had previously replaced the battery in my wife's MacBook and I again went to The Bookyard for the new battery. I chose the Newertech battery, a new item, which is considerably more expensive, but I had read less than enthusiastic reviews for cheaper alternatives. Delivery was next day by UPS to a drop off point in town, this being the cheapest option. I have been very impressed with The Bookyard on the two occasions that I've shopped with them.

The battery was nicely boxed and came with the two screwdrivers necessary to remove the base of the MacBook and the battery. On this model there are only two screws securing the battery itself, so replacement is extremely straightforward. Following this you are advised to carry out a battery conditioning procedure, which involves fully charging the battery and then completely exhausting it. This calibrates the power management system, allowing:

  • your new battery to achieve its fullest charge capacity.
  • your new battery to reach its full lifespan.
  • the system to accurately display the battery level.

This done, I now have a very capable mid-2009 MacBook Pro that I hope will provide a good few more years of stirling service.


Comments

High Sierra last macOS to support 32 bit apps

With High Sierra now available I made the customary check to see what possible problems may result from installing it. What I found was a bit worrying. Not in respect of High Sierra itself, but the fact that the subsequent update is not going to support 32 bit apps. A quick check on how many 32 bit apps my Mac is running revealed a very long list, and they are not by any means all minor pieces of software. For example, Amazon Music, Audacity, BBC iPlayer, Kindle, Libre Office, MS Office 2011and many more, a lot of which I use regularly. Perhaps the respective developers will be producing updates before the fateful day, but I would imagine that rewriting 32 bit code into 64 bit code is no simple task.


macOS High Sierra


As for MS Office 2011, I further discovered that MS are not going to support it on High Sierra, and in fact all support for this version will end on 10th October this year. With Microsoft limiting its basic Home and Student offering to one computer, replacing the copies on my Mac, my MacBook and my wife's machine would be very expensive. My existing Office 2011 came in a family pack with three licences. I may, therefore, initially only upgrade the copy on my Mac. My MacBook is still running El Capitan, being too old for Sierra, and fortunately my wife rarely uses Office.

Every so often Apple makes a move that renders a lot of legacy software, and sometimes hardware redundant. We are I fear approaching one such paradigm shift. The arrival of Snow Leopard cost me money and it seems that the post-High Sierra world will do likewise. But, on the other hand, this clean-out of arguably less efficient technology at least avoids the situation in which Microsoft finds itself, where the need to continue to support legacy programs has resulted in the Windows operating system containing far more code than it need do.


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