Marginally Computer Crazy

Finally decided I’m going to upgrade to the latest version of the Apple operating system on my Mac. This latest operating system is called Catalina. We are quite close to when the final version of the operating system will be released. There have been a good number of updates made available to the beta software. I therefore think it is time to go ahead and put the system onto my computer. There is the possibility that one or two things I have on my computer will not work anymore. I know there are a couple of applications which are only 32 bit and will not work because everything needs to be 64-bit now. I don’t think these applications are vital so not too worried about leaving them behind. There’s a possibility I’ll be able to find apps to take their place.

Why make the upgrade?

It’s always nice to have the new stuff. I’m keen to try out the Voice Control on my Mac. I have been giving it a little try on my iPad and iPhone. Not impressed in the slightest by the capabilities. It’s nowhere near as good as DragonDictate. I’m wondering if Voice Control dictation and editing will be better on a Mac rather than an iOS device. Maybe DragonDictate will not work on my iMac with Catalina. I have seen reports that it does work, but then again some other people have had problems. If this is the case then I might go through the rigmarole of installing Parallels, with Windows operating system and a Windows version of DragonDictate. This is going to cost some money. The parallels is going to cost €49, I think I can get Windows for free and I’m not sure yet how much an upgrade to the Windows version of DragonDictate will cost me. It will possibly be more than €150. The Windows version of DragonDictate is reported to be better than the Mac version. I’m able to dictate on my Mac using Dragon for Mac v6 without too many problems. I like the way it works and I can talk to my computer and have speech turned into text quickly. With the Windows version you have improved transcription services. In the Mac version if you make any changes to transcribed text you don’t get any updates to your personalised vocabulary. With the Windows version anything you may correct will be corrected also in any further dictation you do. Good to have the software learning as it goes in an Artificial Intelligence way.

Music, TV, podcasts are the big intro in Catalina

iTunes is going the way of the dodo. In its place there will be a Music application, plus TV, and Podcast applications. The work of synchronisation with an iOS device is going to be done in Finder and iCloud rather than within iTunes. I’ll still be using iMazing for that job. I don’t tend to listen to podcasts on my Mac. I use the application Pocketcast my iPhone and I am much more likely to listen to podcasts while I am away from my computer. Using iTunes doesn’t really bother me although I’m not sad to see it go. Many other Apple commentators have said iTunes is bloated. I remain to be convinced and wait to see if the new applications give a better user experience.

iOS apps coming to the Mac

Apple made it so it’s easy for developers to create Mac applications from their iOS development. I already have applications which span across the platforms. Applications such as Drafts, Day One, Ulysses as well as the Apple application such as Reminders work this way. I like it than I can pick up whatever device and access all my work and information in one place. There could be more of this type of application coming. It’s going to take a while before we see these available on our desktops.

Updates to main applications

Photos, Notes, Reminders and Safari are all getting updates with added facilities and better design.

Adding another screen to the desktop

We will now be able to connect the iPad to the desktop either with or without a cable. This is what Apple are calling Sidecar. I already have two large screens in front of me and I’m not sure if I will get the benefit out of having an iPad connected as another screen as well. It could be useful to make use of the Apple Pencil to draw on the iPad in an application working on the Mac in Catalina. This could be with Affinity Photo. I already have Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer on my iPad, but it could be useful to pick up the iPad and continue working in the same space. That would save having to push the file out to the iPad, open up the iOS version of the application and use the Apple Pencil. I’d then have to send it back to the Mac afterwards. Using Sidecar instead could be a timesaver. Only know how good when we see how it fits in our workflows.

The other option for extra productivity with Sidecar would be Apple Pencil for drawing and marking up screenshots and PDFs.

Security and privacy improvements

Initially this means getting bugged by the operating system about giving access to applications. Will I allow an application like Day One access to my Photos folder. Can Drafts have access to where the documents are stored? Karabiner wants to do something with my keystrokes. Is that OK? This will be an annoyance to start with, but will get out of the way in time. The security and privacy is more applicable to people working with mobile computers like the MacBook Pro. Less important to me with my iMac on my desk. Good that Apple are beefing up security anyway.

I like the feature that I can approve with Apple watch. If I need to authenticate something on the Mac I’ll be able to double-click the side button on the Apple watch. I could unlock notes which I have locked previously. I could approve app installations or view passwords in Safari preferences without having to insert any password to see them. I already like the feature which I have to unlock my Mac with my watch. So this extra security connection is going to be useful. I’ll need to update the Apple Watch for this to happen. At the moment a double click goes to the last app used on the watch.

Voice Control

For the most part Voice Control is for people with disabilities. I’m not really going to need to zoom into a second display so I can see it better. I won’t make use of Hover Text, where you hover over some text and press control get a large high-resolution text. What I am interested in, is the voice control dictation. Apple says we will get the latest advances in machine learning for audio to text transcription. There is supposed to be an improvement on the existing enhanced dictation feature on Mojave. Voice Control uses the Siri speech recognition engine and we can add custom words. We will have rich text editing to make corrections by saying things like “Replace almost there with I’ve just arrived.” It also will be possible to move the cursor around within the text. There are commands to get to the beginning or to the end, or to move up two lines. We will capitalise words just by telling the dictation software to do the job for us. I suspect this is a work in progress and is not going to be great to start with. I’d like to think it’s going to get better over time though. Hopefully it learns from how I speak and improves the recognition capabilities. I’m looking forward to giving it a try anyway.

The installation file has been downloaded

While I’ve been writing this I’ve downloaded nearly 7 GB of operating system installation. All I have to do now is to click on the continue button and cross my fingers. I do have a backup of my system. I use the application SuperDuper to automatically backup my Mac. I usually have another disk which runs Time Machine. I discovered this morning it hasn’t been working since October. That’s quite a long time to be without Time Machine in action. I’ve ordered a new hard drive which should arrive tomorrow. So let’s go for the upgrade to Catalina and hope for the best.

Catalina up and running

Everything seemed to go really well. DragonDictate is working, this is how I’m writing at this very moment. I had to click on lots of notifications asking me if I wanted to allow an application access to the system. This was all of the applications I have set to open up when the computer starts working. Things like Hazel, Dropbox, Better Touch Tool and Keyboard Maestro had to ask for permission to continue. There were quite a lot of pop-ups to deal with.

Loads of popups like this when you get started with Catalina. Just to keep you safe and out of trouble. I suspect many people will just click on yes to get to the goodies as fast as possible.

Using Hazel to Tidy up

What happened to the second monitor?

The first problem came when the second monitor I have wasn’t working. I tried switching it off and switch it back on again a couple of times. That didn’t make any difference. What did make a difference was doing some housework, taking a trip to the shops and when I got back the monitor was functioning. How weird is that then?

Motorbike but no Sidecar

I wanted to see if Sidecar was working so I could get the iPad set up as an extra display. I can’t really see me using it much, but I thought I’d try it anyway. It said I needed a different version of Mac OS Catalina in order to make that work. It could be this version of the beta software has had Sidecar disabled. Sometimes Apple does that and then brings it back on the next version of the beta. My next trick will be to try plugging in the iPad using the USB 3 cable. I tried that and it still says Sidecar requires a newer version of Mac OS. This is kind of weird because I do have the latest version available. No rush guys, take your time and get it right.

Looks Just the Same

So apart from having a different picture on my desktop now, there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot changed. I can use my DragonDictate so I’ll put off buying the Windows version and Parallels for as long as possible. Why spend the money if I don’t need to!? I will be giving the dictation service in Voice Control a try soon. I am noticing some slightly odd behaviour with DragonDictate. It’s putting in a capitalised word in a couple places where it’s not expected. It is also putting in extra space in between words on occasions. Nothing major at the moment, but I’ll be monitoring it.

32 bit Apps not supported

The other thing I want to do is to check through the system and find out which applications no longer function. There is a way you can do this fairly easily. Go to the Apple Menu in the top left of the screen. Click on About This Mac, then the button for System Report. In the left panel go to Software – Applications. You might have to wait a short while for it to populate if you have a lot of applications. Look for the app which isn’t working and you’ll see – 32-bit (Unsupported) if it’s not compatible with Catalina. I have a couple of apps like that. One of my apps is Yummy FTP Pro which says 32/64-bit and it doesn’t work. Then there’s Yoink which shows the same and it does still work. For the FTP software I have downloaded Transmit. I’ll need a subscription to keep that. Or I could use ForkLift which does the same job. Transmit lets me create a Droplet for a connection. Useful to drag and drop a file to automatically connect and upload to the server. Tested it and it is pretty handy.

Another way to see which apps don’t work is to scroll through the Applications folder. There are icons on top of the no functions apps making it clear they are not going to start.

Happy days with a new operating system

So far I’m pleased I’ve upgraded to Mac OS Catalina. No huge problems and my dictation application is working. The apps which are not going to work are not showstoppers. It all looks good and I’ll find out in the next couple of days how things have changed. I’ll be able to decide if it is for the better or not.