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Apple Releases macOS 10.12.4, watchOS 3.2, and tvOS 10.2

For Apple’s four operating systems, updates have become a one for all, and all for one proposition. As is often the case, iOS received the most attention with the iOS 10.3 release (see “iOS 10.3 Adds New File System, Find My AirPods, and More,” 27 March 2017), but Apple also pushed out macOS 10.12.4, watchOS 3.2, and tvOS 10.2.

macOS 10.12.4 -- macOS 10.12.4 Sierra is available via Software Update, where it’s a roughly 2 GB download. Alternatively, you can instead download a delta updater (for 10.12.3, 1.79 GB) or combo updater (from any version of 10.12, 2.04 GB).

The most significant change in 10.12.4 is the addition of Night Shift, a feature previously available only in iOS that automatically shifts the colors of the screen to the warmer end of the spectrum after dark. Night Shift, much like the independent f.lux utility, is designed to help you sleep better by reducing the amount of blue light that tricks your body into thinking it’s earlier than it is. Look for it in System Preferences > Displays and Notification Center.

Beyond the addition of Night Shift, macOS 10.12.4 brings with it a few international improvements. For those who follow cricket, Siri can now provide scores, schedules, and player rosters from the Indian Premier League and the International Cricket Council. Apple added dictation support for Shanghainese. And the update improves right-to-left language support (such as for Arabic and Hebrew) for the Touch Bar, toolbar, and visual tab picker in Safari.

Although we don’t know the full extent of the changes, Apple promises that 10.12.4 resolves several PDF rendering and annotation issues in Preview. Those fixes are likely in the troubled rewrite to PDFKit that debuted in Sierra; we can hope the improvements will make life easier for developers who work with PDF (see “Sierra PDF Problems Get Worse in 10.12.2,” 2 January 2017, and “Apple Releases macOS Sierra 10.12.3, iOS 10.2.1, tvOS 10.1.1, and watchOS 3.1.1,” 23 January 2017). Another fix claims to resolve a bug that prevented content from appearing in Mail messages.

Finally, Apple added support for more digital camera raw formats and a whopping 65 security fixes.

On the enterprise side, 10.12.4 provides a handful of improvements and fixes. Apple says that the update:

  • Adds the tethered-caching command, which optimizes certain downloads for iOS devices tethered via USB. For details, enter man tethered-caching in Terminal.

  • Updates the security command to include the delete-identity option, which deletes both a certificate and its private key from a keychain. For details, enter man security in Terminal.

  • Updates the profiles command to include the -N flag, which displays a device-enrollment notification that prompts the user to complete Mobile Device Management (MDM) enrollment. For details, enter man profiles in Terminal.

  • Fixes an issue that causes notebook computers connected to certain docking stations to display a blank screen instead of the macOS login window on the built-in display.

  • Fixes an issue that causes a newly changed user-account password to be rejected at the macOS login window, if FileVault is turned on.

  • Adds the ability to automatically renew certain certificates delivered via a configuration profile.

  • Includes numerous Xsan fixes.

watchOS 3.2 -- Less exciting is watchOS 3.2, which is a 225 MB update that you install via the Watch app on your iPhone (in Watch > Settings > General > Software Update). Remember that the Apple Watch must be on its charger, charged to at least 50 percent, and within range of your iPhone, which itself must be on Wi-Fi. Don’t start installing if you’ll want to use the watch again within an hour or so — watchOS updates take surprisingly long to load.

The main addition in watchOS 3.2 is Theater Mode, which you toggle via a new button in Control Center (swipe up from the bottom of the screen). When enabled, Theater Mode turns on silent mode and disables the standard Raise to Wake behavior, leaving the screen off until you tap it. That prevents the Apple Watch from lighting up in a dark theater if you raise your wrist for any reason.

Apple also expanded the Apple Watch’s support for Siri to include independent apps, so you can now theoretically use Siri to start workouts, send messages, make payments, book rides, and more. Siri support in non-Apple apps extends only to a few categories of apps, and developers have to support it, so don’t expect that you’ll be able to talk to every app.

On the international side of things, Scribble is now available in French, Spanish, and Italian. And, for those who have been frustrated by the lack of feedback when syncing music to the Apple Watch (which seems to take forever!), music playlist sync progress now appears in the Watch app on the iPhone.

As with every operating system update these days, there are a slew — 31 all told — of security fixes worked into watchOS 3.2.

tvOS 10.2 and Apple TV Remote app -- Finally, Apple released tvOS 10.2, which mostly provides things of interest to developers (and 39 security fixes), but does offer one nice refinement for users. You can get the tvOS 10.2 update on your fourth-generation Apple TV via Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software.

tvOS 10.2 now provides what Apple calls “Accelerated Scrolling support” for apps. In practice, this means that you can swipe up or down on the far-right side of the Siri Remote’s touchpad to navigate quickly through long lists. In the screenshot below, the jump points appear as dots, each one representing a page in the list.

Most of the user-facing improvements to the Apple TV are found in the Apple TV Remote app, which Apple updated to version 1.1. It has now been optimized for iPad support, though don’t get too excited: it seems to be essentially the same as the iPhone version, just larger (that’s a whole lot of black in the screenshot below). When I downloaded the app on my iPad, I still had to filter the App Store search results for “iPhone only” apps to be able to see it.

Another improvement in the Remote app is an enhanced Now Playing screen. While playing media, you can tap Details in the upper right to view the currently playing media, along with direct media controls, such as pause and rewind. If you swipe up on that screen now, you can see additional detail. For instance, doing so when playing music shows your Up Next queue.

And swiping up on Now Playing while watching a movie shows additional movie information and a chapter list.

The Update Question -- As always, the question we’re asked after one of these mega-release days is if users should jump on the updates or not. We’ve installed them all and haven’t noticed any serious problems in initial use, but that’s relatively meaningless. Our take is that there’s no real reason to install any of these updates immediately unless you’re suffering from a problem expressly addressed by them. However, given the number of security fixes involved in each one, we do strongly recommend that you update within a few weeks.


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Comments about Apple Releases macOS 10.12.4, watchOS 3.2, and tvOS 10.2
(Comments are closed.)

It seems like Apple purposely excluded 'tower' Mac Pro's from Night Watch, which I believe validates my impression that Apple has a policy of force obsoleting older machines in order to coerce users to buy new ones in order to maintain security and keep current with software releases including 3rd party updates. In my opinion the only conceivable reason they are doing this is due to greed. In my case I cannot fathom a hardware reason while my MacPro 2010, with a 3.5 Mhz processor, an Apple Cinema display, and 16 Gig of RAM should not be able to run an app that is essentially a copy of f.lux. But in fact, this is the case as Night Watch does not appear in my Display Prefs and is excluded in the Spec List for 10.12.4.

My answer to Apple's seeming policy of forced obsolesce: I am now seriously considering that my next machine may be a Linix or Windows machine as Apple no longer makes a user hardware configurable machine other than to add RAM.
barefootguru  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-03-27 23:32
Yeah couldn't possibly be a technical issue. Good luck getting regular OS updates and 100% feature support on 7 year old hardware when you switch to Windows or Unix.
Tower non-Macs don't cost $4K-7K either
Saraswati  2017-03-27 21:59
Here is the link to the Combo Update for Sierra 10.12.4:
hjtromp  2017-03-28 07:49
Same as with jweil:
No Night Shift available in my Macbook Pro (Mid 2010) running 10.12.4, same for my iMac 27" (Mid 2011)
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-03-28 14:39
Apple has posted a support article that clarifies the tech specs for using Night Shift in Sierra, listing both the set of supported Macs and the set of supported displays. Nothing on that list of Macs is older than 2012, so various desktop and laptop models are excluded.

(the specs are near the bottom of the article)
Paul Ellis  2017-03-28 15:09
Good job Flux exists, eh? And it's more flexible and configurable.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-03-29 00:18
And f.lux is freeware. The current version is compatible with OS X back to OS X 10.7 Lion. And there are older versions available that go back as far as OS X 10.4 Tiger. As well, there are versions for iOS and Android devices, and for Windows and Linux. A true gem. So don't fret if NightShift doesn't work on your Mac. It's certainly no reason to abandon you expensive Mac Pro. I used f.lux on my old Mac Pro tower in Lion.
Robyn Weisman  2017-03-28 13:38
Any word whether this update fixes problem with Time Machine? Time Machine hasn't worked for me since I updated to 10.12.3...
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-03-28 13:46
I'm not aware of any widespread Time Machine issues. What problems are you experiencing?
Robyn Weisman  2017-03-28 18:54
It just no longer works unless it's in safe mode. I realize a third-party app is probably causing it, but I hadn't added anything since before the update, so it's a problem for me...
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-03-30 11:10
If Time Machine is not working, you should probably erase the drive and start over. Time Machine is very complex. It's rather fragile and subject to corruption from time to time. That's not a function of the operating system but rather the vagaries of the hardware and software involved.
10.12.4 broke the pdf's my CPA sends for taxes. They are password protected, and entering the password leaves then blank. The wrong password gives an error.

Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-03-28 19:11
Interesting (and depressing) that there are new bugs too. Encrypted PDFs are relatively uncommon, so it's possible that Apple isn't paying close attention there. :-(
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-03-29 00:22
I hope you backed up your 10.12.3 system before you updated. Blind faith in Apple updates is the hight of foolishness. You should always leave yourself a path to restore your system when an update doesn't work for you, for whatever reason.
Andrew Malis  2017-03-29 11:22
Have you tried using Acrobat Reader DC to display the encrypted PDFs?
Steve Nicholson  2017-03-29 23:22
I've been holding off on upgrading to Sierra mostly because of the PDF issues. Since the TidBITS crew uses them so extensively I'm waiting until I hear you say that the PDF implementation is working well enough before making the switch.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-03-30 10:41
We've been using Sierra since day one with no trouble, but a lot of our PDF production process relies on Acrobat and PDFpen, neither of which use Sierra's PDFKit.

Nor have the problems (which are real, don't get me wrong!) caused a lot of customer support problems for us.

And finally, developers tell me that they have mostly worked around all the problems in their apps. I'll have more on that shortly.

So I wouldn't avoid Sierra because of the PDF problems. It may not give you enough benefit otherwise, but that's a different issue.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-03-30 11:21
It might be advisable to stick with El Capitan until the PDFkit issues have been resolved if that's important to you. There are a lot of features in Sierra, like Siri, that most people don't even use. I'd be interested to know, Adam, what new features in macOS 10.12 you actually use. Of course Sierra is more secure than any previous Mac OS and depending on the circumstances, that alone might be a reason to upgrade.

Personally I've found Sierra to be quite stable but I don't do a lot with PDFs beyond reading them. Except that Siri doesn't work; I haven't been able to figure out why. But I don't need her anyway. It seems to me that Siri may be more useful on an iPhone where using the keyboard is more challenging than on a computer. My Apple Bluetooth keyboard is the best keyboard I've ever used.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-03-30 12:00
I don't think I rely on much that's specific in the operating system. I upgrade mostly because of the dependencies, such as for the latest version of Photos.

My take is largely that the operating system exists to support the apps I use to get my work done.
Nicholas Croft  2017-04-01 01:04
I've found the ONLY way to GUARANTEE a problem-free Sierra is to do a clean build. (I support nearly 1000 Macs, across several companies of varying size and complexity).
By all means, do a CCC backup of your current system (to an external drive).
The main 'consequence' of a CLEAN build (non migration assistant) is not having access to any previous keychain items, so you'll have to do a pre-flight check of your important passwords. (Or boot into the clone to retrieve). And, have all your app installer(s) to hand.
Doing a drag and drop of your "big" folders - music, pics, desktop, documents is easy.
I *suspect* the culprit of 'bad' Sierra installs is previous migration assistant(s), you may have gone from 10.5 to 10.6x, to another (several?) mac(s), all the way through to 10.10.11 .
Somewhere along the way you've 'inherited' some pre-haswell code - like, say, Perian - which does not 'understand' how to get along with aggressive c/p-states - deep sleep and so on.
But that's speculation.