July 11, 2017

High Sierra – the new macOS

On June 5 Apple announced the beta version of their latest operating system for their Macintosh computers, the macOS High Sierra beta 1. And only two weeks after it released the beta 2 for developers to download and properly get attuned with the new OS; allowing their apps to work perfectly with the OS before the final version eventually hits the market. Scheduled to succeed Sierra, the final version is poised to make it to the market sometime in autumn this year.

High Sierra will bring in some exciting new features that will definitely resonate with millions of Mac users worldwide. The most revolutionary of these changes is Apple’s new file system APFS (Apple File System) which replaces the HFS+ aiming to fix core problems with the 18 year old relic and refine some of its perfected features. More specifically it brings in the advanced 64-bit architecture, stronger encryption and overhauling optimization for flash and SDD storage. As a result moving and searching for files will be a lot faster than with HFS+.

Apple also intends to phase out support for 32-bit software, and any new apps developed in 2018 must be based on 64-bit architecture. Developers will get enough time before to get used to the changes brought about High Sierra.

Duplication and space optimization

A noteworthy tool of APFS is cloning and snapshots. Over a period of time most operating systems duplicate files, this duplication consumes a lot of space and resources of your system slowing it down. Instead, APFS simply clones these files without creating physical copies anywhere on the storage space. Not only is this much faster but consumes zero extra space.

Snapshot – powerful businesses and enterprises
Arguably the most powerful feature of APFS is Snapshot. This will allow users to create an entire snapshot of their hard disk which would allow them to create backups at a certain point in time without actually consuming a lot more space. It will allow users to revert to a previous, more stable point of time in their system. The example that Apple demonstrated onstage involved kids in a classroom. As the teacher sets up apps and documents to prepare a lesson for the kids, their inexperienced curiosities tinker around with the system making it  unstable.

The teacher no longer has to go through the cumbersome process of making physical backups of the system every time a major change is made and can avail the snapshot feature with just the press of a button.

The most important user base which benefits from Snapshot is businesses and enterprises, allowing them to make frequent changes to a document or an app they’re developing and quickly revert to the older system without delving into major backups.

However, Snapshot isn’t  a comprehensive replacement for a full physical backup. Snapshots are stored on your physical drive along with the rest of the file system, which means if the drive goes corrupt, then snapshot will be of little use. The use of Time Machine hasn’t not been completely phased out it seems, backups will always be relevant.

An exciting addition for users who love their pictures, Photos is going to prove even more addicting because of the major overhauls brought about by High Sierra. These include the addition of a new sidebar that makes it a loss less cumbersome for users to access important editing tools.

Professional tools such as Curves and Selective color will be brought along to Photos, which means you won’t have to look at dedicated graphic editing tools such as Photoshop for your picture editing needs. Photos will suffice. And if you do use Photoshop and Pixelmator, any changes you make there will also be read by Photos.

Safer and faster Safari experience
It boasts an 80% faster browsing speed than Google Chrome, and brings a lot more features to the table such as Autoplay Blocking and Intelligent Tracking Prevention. The former deals with preventing unwanted videos from playing in the background, imagine you browse a news channel which is notorious for playing videos in the background without your permission, High Sierra will kill the tab where the video is playing.

The latter is more than just a glorified vaporware gimmick; it takes advantage of machine learning technology to protect a user’s privacy by identifying websites that track their online behavior and then sells it for a premium to advertisers.

Metal 2 developer kit
Metal 2 is Apple’s version of the Direct X API which grants developers access to low level hardware graphics acceleration. Metal 2 brings access to virtual reality support and Apple even partnered with Valve’s Steam VR. It will also work with external GPUs. Apple is also bringing the Thunderbolt 3 external graphics kit for programmers to use. Compared to its predecessor, Metal 2 will also have 10 times the draw call output.

Hopefully this will bring in the level playing field for Mac computers compared to their PC counterparts.

High efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) and High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF)
Apple finally brings in support for H.265, the new industry standard for high quality videos, to Macintosh computers. This would enable video streaming and playback of resolutions of up to 4K. In addition videos with H.265 are also smaller than H.264 counterparts, while maintaining the same standards in image quality.

HEIF will be the future industry standard for still images, replacing both JPEG and GIF in one fell swoop. In addition it also supports videos that also contain images. Just like HEVC, the image format packs in more data in a shorter file size.

While High Sierra will bring HEVC to all Mac computers, only select models can take advantage of hardware acceleration. This is important for video streaming and playback at high resolutions. Some of the models that take advantage of HEVC hardware acceleration are 5K iMacs from 2015 and 2017, MacBooks from 2016 and 2017— Basically any Mac computer that contains Skylake or Kaby Lake processors.

by Bobby J Davidson

As the President of Percento Technologies, I provide day-to-day leadership to the company’s senior management and I am personally involved in the strategy, business development and sales activities of the company.

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