Back when macOS High Sierra was released (Sep 25), I published an article on how to get ready.
There, I outlined the mindful steps one can and should take before undertaking a major macOS upgrade.
- Make sure all important, “mission critical” apps have been updated to support the new macOS. Especially important are the apps used to back up macOS itself.
- Check System integrity with the Disk Utility.
- Make sure one has several, verifiable backups. Preferable a bootable clone so that one can return to the pre-install state if necessary.
- Be mindful that, in this release, SSDs will be force-updated from the HFS+ file system to APFS. And all that that implies.
Following these steps will help ensure a good experience and allow for a graceful recovery if something goes wrong.
Apple’s Pushy Push
You can imagine my dismay when I read Adam Engst’s article from November 15.
The issue here is that Apple has started the process of downloading High Sierra in the background and then inviting the user in a notification offering to start the install. Author Engst explains:
What happens is that Apple’s Software Update automatically downloads High Sierra in the background and then presents the notification shown at the top of this article to the user, offering just two choices: Install and Details.
Because the installer is already downloaded, if the user clicks the wrong button, the install starts immediately. This may not be what the user wants, being possibly caught unprepared. Author Engst explains how to bail out immediately.
The Mac App Store has made macOS banner invitations before, but the user typically had to initiate a download. That is, if he/she was careful to click the “more…” button and not fall for the “Update all” gimmick.
A Better Way
I can fully understand Apple’s enthusiasm to get its many users to the latest version of macOS. Important security fixes come with every major (and many minor) macOS upgrades. And yet, the simple minded idea that the user is still running Sierra is not a sound basis on which to encourage an update with a UI/UX that isn’t bullet-proof in its clarity and facility for backing out easily.
Another issue is the severity of the security fixes. Apple takes a happy-go-lucky approach. All’s well. Just upgrade! You’ll be happy. Any discussion of the gravity of security issues would be seen, in my experience, as alarming to the user.
And yet, if the customer, it is argued, needs to take responsibility for maintaining apps and backing up, why can’t they also take responsibility for assessing their security posture? It seems Apple just wants to ignore all these details for the sake of boasting about how popular its new macOS is and cite very good adoption statistics. Or else there are urgent but unspoken security issues.
The tech community is currently rich with discussions about artificial intelligence and machine learning. And yet, macOS is crippled in its ability to partner with the user and intelligently advise the user about the seriousness of a pending upgrade.
There are lots of ways to do this. One way might be to develop a hierarchy of urgencies. If the user is on, say, macOS Yosemite, drop out of simple notifications and bring up an information window that describes how vulnerable this old macOS is on the internet. Later versions of macOS can be described appropriately.
Another idea involves full-featured apps that can’t be in the Mac App Store—and hence cannot show up as update candidates there. For example, Carbon Copy Cloner, the full GraphicConverter and MS Office. A macOS autoscan of the Applications folder can probably tell a story about how wise it is to pressure the user into a major macOS upgrade at that very moment.
This is going to be even more critical in macOS 10.14 where, so far as we know now, 32-bit apps just won’t launch after the upgrade. Users will have to be even more prepared.
End of Rant
In summary, I find it less than tactful and overly simple-minded for Apple to assume that, at any random moment, the user should be invited in a popup notification, out of the blue, to make a major upgrade decision. Care, advice and consent are welcome here.
Just as the password analyzer shows a bar displaying the strength of the password, Apple’s macOS could periodically warn the user, in a pleasant and formal way, that an upgrade is more and more urgent as time goes on. The user then has complete control, with no confusion, as to when to make preparations and conduct a mindful upgrade. Near trickery is not needed.