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#953: macOS; Other Space Part 2; Netflix Throttling; Quibbles and Bytes

 
     
 

Hello Fellow Technophiles,

As expected, Apple unveiled their new operating systems at this week’s Apple World Wide Developer Conference. There were also rumors that we would see hardware announcements, but this was not the case. The biggest change is that Apple will no longer be referring to the OS on the Mac as OS X. It will now be called macOS. This makes it conform with the other operating systems in the Apple family: iOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

The version of macOS that will be released in the the fall, 10.12, is nicknamed Sierra. The major change is that Siri, Apple’s voice activated assistant, is coming to the Mac for the first time. Siri will be able to find files, search the web, add items to your calendar and much more.

The next most interesting feature to me is the ability for the OS to automatically optimize your storage by automatically moving rarely used files to your iCloud drive. You will also have the option of setting your Desktop and Documents folders to automatically sync with iCloud. Additionally, it will remind you to delete installer files once a program is installed and will automatically remove “duplicate downloads, caches, logs, and other unnecessary stuff.” If you do upgrade to Sierra when it is first released, be sure to make local backups often. I am worried that something on my machine that Sierra decides is “unnecessary” is actually something that I will need. We will see how this goes in the fall.

See more details about all of the new features in Sierra here.

Apple also announced iOS 10, as well as updates to watchOS and tvOS, which we will cover in more detail in this Friday’s Kibbles & Bytes. If you just can’t wait, you can see all of the details at apple.com.

Thanks for reading!

Mike
michaeld@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Other Space in OS X: Part 2  
   
 

Welcome to part 2 of last issue’s exploration of Other space from the Storage tab in About This Mac. If you followed all the directions from last time, and are still seeing lots and lots of Other space, there are a few more things you can do.

One of the things I do on a semi-regular basis on my own Mac is to use a third party app called DaisyDisk. DaisyDisk is a very elegant-looking app that helps you explore the Hierarchical File System that OS X uses. It does cost $9.99, but if you end up using it a fair amount, it is totally worth it. There is also a free trial, so you can download it and try it out! Get DaisyDisk from the Mac App Store here.

Recently, on my Mac at home, I used DaisyDisk and found out that I had about 1.5GB of Mail data. After navigating to the location of said data, I was able to remove it and free up a decent amount of storage, all of which was in the Other section of the storage snapshot.

Another really nice app, that also happens to be free, is called Disk Inventory X. This app is similar to Daisy Disk in that it lays out all of the data on your hard drive in a nice, easy to see format. Disk Inventory X gives you a colorful grid-like format, with data organized by type, instead of hierarchically like Daisy Disk. Another advantage to Disk Inventory X (as well as the cost) is that it will work on any Mac that has OS X 10.3 or later installed. If you have an older Mac with an older version of OS X, then this may be the better option. You can download Disk Inventory X here.

Now for some final thoughts. My go-to app for eliminating Other space (and also just for cleaning up a full hard drive in general) is DaisyDisk. Really the only thing to worry about is that DaisyDisk will report any and all data on your disk, and so one needs to be careful on what they delete. If in doubt, leave it out! As in, don’t delete it from your Mac. It can be tempting to free up lots and lots of space using this app, but make sure you are not deleting any important system files or apps.

As always, before you make any changes to your system, BACK UP!

 
   
     
  Are You Being Throttled?  
   
 

Whether you watch Netflix on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, or gasp a Windows PC, the quality of the video, how long it takes to load, and whether it stutters or skips is primarily determined by the bandwidth of your Internet connection. Netflix recommends 25 megabits per second (Mbps) of download speed for Ultra HD quality, 5 Mbps for HD, and 3 Mbps for SD. Netflix says that 1.5 Mbps is the lowest recommendation for a broadband connection, and notes that 0.5 Mbps is the minimum required, though I have generally found that it doesn’t really work on anything less than 1 Mbps.

So how do you tell what your real-world download speed is? Up to now, I would have recommended speedtest.net and for general testing of your speed, this is still a good option. It does require Flash, so please make sure that your player is up-to-date by checking System Preferences > Flash Player > Updates > Check Now or by going to adobe.com for a first time install on your Mac. If you are checking from a mobile device, you can get the SpeedTest.net app here.

The problem is that allegedly certain ISPs, despite the supposed protections of net neutrality, throttle Netflix traffic because it is the number one user of the internet in the US. In 2015, Netflix accounted for 37% of all internet traffic. If you want to find out if your ISP is throttling, check Netflix’s new fast.com Web site, which is a quick and easy way to determine how much bandwidth you get. This test uses Netflix servers as it source, so if your ISP is throttling Netflix, it will show up here. And if what you see doesn’t match with what you think you’re paying your Internet service provider for, call the ISP and make sure your connection is working properly. In my test, I got 8.1 Mbps at fast.com and 13.99 Mbps at speedtest.net, so there is a possibility that my Netflix is being throttled. I will be running additional tests and contacting my ISP if the speeds continue to diverge this much.

 
   
     
  Quibbles & Bytes  
   
 

Storage capacity is one of the more confusing topics in the technology world. I have had many frustrated people ask me why their new 500-gigabyte external hard drive is actually only stores 465 gigabytes. It can be confusing, but there are actually different definitions of digital storage units depending on who you are asking. There also other factors, such as firmware and operating system data, that serve to obfuscate digital storage terminology.

The smallest unit of digital storage is called a bit. A bit is a single 0 or 1, represented usually as a stored magnetic or electric charge, depending on the storage medium. There are 8 bits in one byte. It is after this point that the numbers start to change depending on whether the terminology is used with its decimal definition or its binary definition.

The prefixes for large quantities of bytes are assigned by the International System of Units. In the decimal definitions, a kilobyte is made up of 1,000 bytes, a megabyte of 1,000 kilobytes, a gigabyte of 1,000 megabytes, and so on. The decimal definition is commonly used by storage device manufacturers to measure capacity, along with data throughput and various other performance specifications. Since computer software uses the base-2 numeral system, each level of the binary definition is made up of 1,024 of the previous level. This is because 1,024 is the closest power of 2 to 1,000. Computer software expects one gigabyte to be made up of 1,073,741,824 bytes, instead of 1,000,000,000. This is why computers will usually display the storage of a device as less than was advertised for the device, even though the advertised storage was technically correct according to the decimal definition.

If an operating system is stored on a device, the usable capacity will be further limited. For instance, on a 128-gigabyte MacBook, after binary conversions and system software, about 120 gigabytes is typically available for the user. For these reasons, it is always a good idea to budget a little more storage than you think you will use.

 
   
     
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