May 30 update below, post originally published May 27.
Apple has released the fourth major update to the sixteenth version of MacOS. With the virtual WWDC just around the corner and the expected announcement of the seventieth version. this release comes as somewhat of a surprise. Nevertheless it is welcome
Problems With Backups
Update: Following the release of MacOS 10.15.5, the team behind Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) has published details around a bug in the operating system, which limits the creation of bootable back-ups of the MacOS system volume. This impacts third-party backup applications, such as the aforementioned CCC. Founder Mike Bombich on the bug:
“Early last week we discovered an APFS filesystem bug in a beta of macOS 10.15.5. …we’re no longer able to use our own file copier to establish an initial bootable backup of a macOS Catalina System volume. To be very clear – existing backups are unaffected, and this has no effect on CCC’s ability to preserve your data, nor any effect on the integrity of the filesystems on your startup disk or your backup disk.”
While it is a rather focused bug that will not have an immediate impact on users, it is a new bug introduced in this update… a bug that Apple was alerted to in the beta release. This is exactly the sort of bugs that a beta release is designed to catch, notes Bimbich:
“It’s hard to find kind words to express my feelings towards Apple right now. Suffice it to say, though, I’m extremely disappointed that Apple would introduce this kind of bug in a dot-release OS update. We’ve seen 5 major updates to Catalina now, we should expect to see higher quality than this from an operating system.”
The question now is if Apple will release a small tweak to Catalina, bring out a 10.15.6 update ager WWDC, or simply push the fix into MacOS 10.16 later this year.
Pushing The Update
May 30 update: One of the curious changes in the latest MacOS update is tucked away in the developer notes, and it’s a typically aggressive move from Apple towards keeping as many Mac products on the absolute latest version of the operating system. Specifically it is the change rolled into the security updates available to users of older versions of MacOS, specifically Mojave and High Sierra. This change also applies to them:
“Major new releases of macOS are no longer hidden when using the softwareupdate(8) command with the —ignore flag.”In
In practice this means that older version of MacOS will always have a red notification dot on the system preferences icon and a prominent ‘Upgrade To Catalina’ button. Previously a user could have decided they did not want their very expensive computer to hassle them into an upgrade. Now, through a security patch, the operating system will always be nagging.
There may be valid reasons for running an older version of MacOS; older hardware amy not have the same ‘oomph’ for the updated applications, a user may want to stay with a software suite that is ‘paid for life’ on an older version of MacOS but only has a ‘subscription’ version available for Catalina, or a smaller organisation may have a critical piece of software coded in 32-bit that will never be updated.
Keeping the operating system up to date is one way to stay secure, but as noted this is not always an option. The risk and reward choice should belong to the user. Apple is rightly providing security updates to older platforms, but to sneak in what is essentially a permanent advert feels awkward. If Catalina is as strong and useful as Apple believes, maybe use that to encourage the upgrade, rather than sledgehammer signage.
Three key features are included in the update. Following its inclusion in the beta of MacOS 10.15.5, Apple has now made the MacOS Battery Health Management software available for all. It controls the charging process, ensuring that the the chemical age of the battery progresses as slowly as possible. Apple’s support documents detail how it works.
“Based on the measurements it collects, battery health management may reduce your battery’s maximum charge when in this mode. This happens as needed to ensure that your battery charges to a level that’s optimised for your usage – reducing wear on the battery and slowing its chemical ageing.”
This feature makes a strong argument that everyone running Catalina updates to gain the long-term benefits
In a world where video calling and conferencing has become ever more important, the update includes tweaks to Group FaceTime calls made under MacOS, allowing you to turn off the automatic portrait resizing during a call.
Finally, controls to calibrate the ProDisplay XDR are also included, which will be welcomed by those needing as close to perfect color reproduction.
MacOS Catalina 10.15 supports all machines that would run Mojave (MacOS 10.14) with the exception of those that required a GPU upgrade. Therefore Catalina is compatible with the following machines:
- Mac Pro: Late 2013 models and onwards.
- iMac Pro: All models.
- iMac: Late 2012 models and onwards.
- Mac Mini: Late 2012 models and onwards.
- MacBook Pro: Mid 2012 models and onwards.
- MacBook Air: Mid 2012 models and onwards.
- MacBook: Early 2015 models and onwards.
You should be prompted to upgrade your computer to Catalina, but if you are looking to start the install, you can go to the Apple Menu > Software Update. More details can be found at Apple’s support page.
Apple’s change log for 10.15.5 notes the following updates and new features in MacOS:
Battery Health Management
- Battery health management to help maximise battery lifespan for Mac notebooks
- Energy Saver preference pane now displays battery condition and recommends if the battery needs to be serviced
- Option to disable battery health management
- For more information, please visit https://support.apple.com/kb/HT211094
FaceTime Prominence Preference
- New option to control automatic prominence on Group FaceTime calls, so video tiles do not change size when a participant speaks
Calibration Fine-Tuning for Pro Display XDR
- Controls to fine-tune the built-in calibration of your Pro Display XDR by adjusting the white point and luminance for a precise match to your own display-calibration target
This update also includes bug fixes and other improvements:
- Fixes an issue that may prevent Reminders from sending notifications for recurring reminders
- Addresses an issue that may prevent password entry on the login screen
- Fixes an issue where System Preferences would continue to show a notification badge even after installing an update
- Resolves an issue where the built-in camera may not be detected when trying to use it after using a video conferencing app
- Addresses an issue for Mac computers with the Apple T2 Security Chip where internal speakers may not appear as a sound output device in Sound preferences
- Fixes a stability issue with uploading and downloading media files from iCloud Photo Library while your Mac is asleep
- Resolves a stability issue when transferring large amounts of data to RAID volumes
- Fixes an issue where the Reduced Motion Accessibility preference did not reduce the speed of animations in a Group FaceTime call
- Improves performance on certain Mac models when enabling hardware acceleration in GPU-intensive apps such as those used for video conferencing
- Addresses an issue where Microsoft Exchange accounts were unable to sign in during account setup when using Conditional Access
- Apple Push Notification Service traffic now uses a web proxy when specified in a PAC file via the Proxies payload
- Resolves an issue that prevented some displays connected to MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) from waking from sleep when the Mac wakes
- Major new releases of macOS are no longer hidden when using the softwareupdate(8) command with the —ignore flag
Will this be the last point update to MacOS Catalina? It certainly feels it. Although 10.15.4 update felt like a final flourish for Catalina, the improved battery management software is going to be something that everyone will (eventually) appreciate.
With Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference happening next month not only is the successor to Catalina is expected to be launched, but it’s also likely to be the first MacOS release to developers specifically geared towards running both Intel- and ARM-based processors.