Adventures With the macOS High Sierra Install

4 minute read
| Analysis

Back in September, I wrote about how to get ready for this upgrade. “Preparation Guide For macOS High Sierra Installation.” However, despite my eagerness, I was waiting for one mission critical app to get updated. More on that below. Finally, I decided to forge ahead when both a quiet Saturday and macOS version 10.13.1 arrived at the same time.

macOS High Sierra on iMac

macOS High Sierra

I followed my guidelines. I checked off my app compatibility list first. It was a good time to upgrade to some mission critical apps: Audio Hijack (3.3.5), BBEdit (12.0.1), Carbon Copy Cloner (5.0.3), Loopback (1.1.5). Along the way, I cleaned out some crufty 32-bit apps tha aren’t going to work in macOS 10.14 next year.

Left behind, however, was Data Backup 4. It’s not yet ready for High Sierra. I have been in contact with Prosoft Engineering, and they’re going to notify me when it’s ready. I decided to live on the edge and use only Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner for a short time.

Speaking of backups, I did some research on CCC. I had suspected that I needed CCC 5 to continue making backups of my newly formatted APFS internal drive. That’s not the case. Mike Bombich has provided a very helpful FAQ. “Everything you need to know about Carbon Copy Cloner and APFS.” Notable was this section.

Can CCC make a bootable backup of an APFS volume?

Yes. Both CCC 4 and CCC 5 can make bootable backups of APFS-formatted startup disks, however there is a limited amount of support for APFS in CCC 4. CCC 4 can make a bootable backup from an APFS-formatted volume to an HFS+ formatted volume, and can even create a recovery volume on that HFS+ backup disk. CCC 5 can make a bootable backup from an APFS-formatted volume to an HFS+ formatted volume or to an APFS-formatted volume. CCC 5 also supports APFS encryption (e.g. CCC 5 can unlock and mount APFS-encrypted volumes during a backup task). Naturally any additional support that we can provide for APFS will be made within CCC 5; new features and functionality will not be added to CCC 4.

Finally, I did my system integrity checks, and double checked to make sure I was fully backed up using Time Machine, CCC, and Data Backup. I started the upgrade.

General Quarters

The install took about an hour. The first thing I checked when the Mac Pro came back up was a Get Info on the boot volume to make sure it was upgraded to APFS. It was. Cool.

Then I started launching some of my mission critical Apps. I noticed that High Sierra seemed snappier, as is usually the case with a new macOS. One of the first apps I tested was email.

That’s when I had serious cause for alarm.

All the email text was scrambled. And I mean all. Both the message list and the message body looked as if it had become encrypted. But it was really just an undefined font, a sea of random unicode graphics characters. OMG.

My first reaction was alarm. (In my agitation, I failed to get a screen shot of this mess.) Was the H.S. upgrade corrupted? Would I have to do a restore to Sierra?

Remain calm.

I did a Google search to see if anyone else had this problem. Apparently not. So I tried a simple restart. No joy. Then I tried a safe boot, and while that didn’t improve the mail fonts, during the boot, it occurred to me to try something simple.

Think about straightforward fixes.

macOS is so complex and opaque in many ways, it’s tempting to conclude that something very bad and unrecoverable has happened behind the scenes. Instead, it’s often helpful to sit and think for a bit. Maybe there’s a user-level fix. No other app experienced this problem, and that was a major clue.

In this case, it occurred to me that perhaps only the Mail app had simply lost track of the assigned fonts. So I went into the Mail App preferences and reassigned new fonts like this:

High Sierra Mail App preferences.

High Sierra Mail App preferences.

As I did that, the message list and message bodies snapped into proper legibility. To say that I was relieved that my entire email database was not completely scrambled is putting it mildly.

The lesson, as always, is to 1) Don’t overreact. 2) Do a Google search for that problem (and a solution). It may have happened to someone else. 3) Investigate and experiment. Remain calm. 4) Look for clues. 5) Think about user-level fixes. The core of macOS is unlikely to be the culprit these days.

Next page: Unexpected GUI lockups.

5 Comments Add a comment

  1. Jeff Butts

    Wow, John, that’s pretty intense! I’m not sure I would have thought to check and reset the fonts as quickly as you did. Something for me to keep in my back pocket for a rainy day. Thanks for sharing.

  2. John Martellaro

    Jeff – indeed the visual appearance was so scary and the concern about something really deep and really bad going on can mess with one’s composure.

  3. Mike Weasner

    My only issue in 10.13, which is not fixed in 10.13.1, is that the Mail app randomly reverts to turning off Classic Layout. Quitting and relaunching Mail gets the layout back to Classic but the divider line between the list at the top and the message is moved near the bottom. I keep it near the top (to show about 10 messages in the list). So each time this happens I not only have to quit/relaunch, but I also have to keep repositioning the divider. I’ve seen many reports that others are having this same issue with the Classic Layout selection.

  4. John Martellaro

    Mike: That’s a problem I haven’t experienced. It’s very concerning that, once set, the app randomly reverts.

  5. aardman

    My problem with High Sierra, which came in a 5 day old 27″ iMac, is that Safari eats up memory at the rate of about 30GB an hour, sometimes faster with cooling fans spinning loudly. Though on rare occasions, probably depending on the site displayed, it’s quite well behaved. Haven’t had to time to search for solutions yet so in the meantime I cope by limiting my browsing to abbreviated Safari sessions. Which is a good thing, in a way.

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