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Apple Releases macOS 10.15.4 Catalina, watchOS 6.2, tvOS 13.4, and iOS 13.4 for HomePod

When it comes to operating system updates from Apple these days, it’s one for all and all for one. The company’s mobile operating systems—particularly iPadOS 13.4—received the most attention this time around (see “iOS 13.4 and iPadOS 13.4: Trackpad Support, iCloud Drive Folder Sharing, and More,” 24 March 2020), but Apple also updated all of its other operating systems. macOS 10.15.4 Catalina is the most notable, but you’ll probably want to install the other three sooner.

macOS Catalina 10.15.4

The macOS 10.15.4 Catalina update weighs in at 2.97 GB via Software Update, or you can download the 4.73 GB combo update. Its primary new feature is the ecosystem support for iCloud Drive folder sharing, and there are a few other helpful changes.

On the downside, 10.15.4’s release notes say nothing about resolving the data loss bugs in Mail (“Beware Mail Data Loss in Catalina,” 11 October 2019). That’s not to say that Apple didn’t fix those bugs, but we’ll have to wait for the community to test.

iCloud Drive Folder Sharing

Assuming that other reasons you’ve held off upgrading to Catalina have been resolved, such as working around 32-bit apps that will no longer launch, getting essential apps upgraded, and so on, iCloud Drive folder sharing might be the reason to make the jump.

That’s because Dropbox has become increasingly hard to use without paying $9.99 per month, mostly thanks to its year-old limit of three devices for free accounts (see “Dropbox Limits Free Accounts to Three Devices,” 14 March 2019). Could iCloud Drive folder sharing replace Dropbox, at least for Apple-centric users? We’ll be putting it through its paces.

To share an iCloud Drive folder in 10.15.4, Control-click it in the Finder and choose Share > Add People. macOS’s odd modal dialog appears, letting you set who can access the folder (invitees or anyone with the link) and what permissions they have (view only or make changes). Select a sharing mechanism at the top and enter the name of the person with whom you want to share, click Share, and you’re done.

Sharing an iCloud Drive folder in Catalina

Let us know how it works for you.

Other Features and Fixes

None of the other changes in 10.15.4 are compelling, though some may be welcome.

  • App Store with Apple Arcade: Recently played Apple Arcade games now appear in the Arcade tab, making it easier to continue playing across platforms.
  • Music: Catalina’s version of Music gains the iOS feature of time-synced lyrics for Apple Music, and you can even move around in a song by clicking a line in lyrics view.
  • Screen Time: Apple’s usage tracking and parental controls feature now offers communication limits for controlling who your children can communicate with and be contacted by, either during the day or during downtime. A release note also says “Playback control of music videos for your children,” which we don’t entirely understand.
  • Safari: Those who have used Chrome may appreciate Safari’s new capability to import Chrome passwords into iCloud Keychain. Safari also now provides controls for duplicating a tab and closing all tabs to the right of the current tab. Finally, it resolves an issue where CAPTCHA tiles could display incorrectly.
  • Universal Purchase: Developers can now let customers buy once and get an app across Apple’s entire ecosystem.

Minor Tweaks and Bug Fixes

Of course, there are always bug fixes and tweaks that fewer users may notice or appreciate.

  • Dark Mode: Apple resolved a bug that caused pasted text to turn invisible when Dark Mode was active. Oops.
  • Displays: macOS 10.15.4 adds customized reference modes for the Pro Display XDR, allows output of HDR content to HDR10-compatible external displays, and fixes a screen brightness issue when waking the LG UltraFine 5K display.
  • Mail: Those who use accounts can now log into them in Mail using OAuth authentication.
  • Reminders: Apple fixed a bug that caused Reminders to send reminders for completed items and added CalDav migration support when upgrading to iCloud reminders on a secondary device.
  • Security: macOS 10.15.4 includes 20 security fixes.

Legacy System Extension Warnings

Last but not least, when Adam updated to 10.15.4, he received two notifications about legacy system extensions. Apple has said that Catalina will be the last version of macOS to support legacy system extensions, so the company is starting to warn users ahead of time, as it did with 32-bit apps.

The 10.15.4 legacy system extension warning.

Unfortunately, since the dialogs give only the developers’ names, not the names of their apps, it’s difficult to know who I might contact. A Google search revealed that Ludovic Leger is the dev lead on TripMode, a useful utility I recommend for managing bandwidth use while away from high-speed networks; see “TripMode Prevents Unwanted Internet Data Usage on a Tethered Mac” (22 July 2015). I’m still not sure who Steven Yan is, or what app of his I might be using. That’s not a problem now, but it might be in a few months once the beta of whatever macOS version follows Catalina comes out.

Upgrade Decisions

So is this it? Is macOS 10.15.4 the release you’ve been waiting for to upgrade from 10.14 Mojave? It’s too soon to say for sure, but after a few days to make sure the release doesn’t leave unsightly stains in regular usage, I personally plan to upgrade my main Mac.

I can do that with less worry than many people because I don’t use Mail much. If you do, continue to hold off—Michael Tsai’s followers are still reporting problems with dragged messages disappearing. Apart from that, though, Catalina feels as baked as it’s going to get. There may be another one or two updates to fix minor bugs or security holes, but nothing more. Come WWDC, Apple will undoubtedly be talking up yet another version of macOS, and we’ll be right back on the train again.

watchOS 6.2

Once you’ve updated to iOS 13.4 on your iPhone, you can get to watchOS 6.2 in Watch > General > Software Update. The update introduces in-app purchases for Apple Watch apps and fixes a bug that paused music playback when switching from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth connectivity. There’s seldom any reason to put off watchOS updates.

Apple Watch users in Chile, New Zealand, and Turkey can now get the ECG app on the Apple Watch Series 4 and later, and all watchOS 6 users in those countries can get irregular heart rhythm notifications.

watchOS 6.2 includes 15 security fixes.

tvOS 13.4

As usual, the tvOS 13.4 update notes are sparse, promising only “general performance and stability improvements.” The update includes 18 security updates, largely shared with the other operating systems.

If automatic updates aren’t on, you can update your Apple TV HD or Apple TV 4K by going to Settings > System > Software Updates. We just let ours update automatically when they get around to it. Let us know if you notice any changes.

iOS 13.4 for HomePod

The 1.63 GB iOS 13.4 update for the HomePod has minimal release notes despite its large download size: “general improvements for stability and quality.”

To update the HomePod manually (it should update itself soon enough), open the Home app, touch and hold the HomePod’s tile, tap the gear icon to bring up HomePod settings, and then tap Install. We see no reason not to install this update soon.

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Comments About Apple Releases macOS 10.15.4 Catalina, watchOS 6.2, tvOS 13.4, and iOS 13.4 for HomePod

Notable Replies

  1. Warning: I am feeling grumpy…
    iCloud Folder sharing
    Sounds like a feature similar to MobileMe many years ago. A pity Apple seems to be restricting this “new” feature to Catalina. Surely it can be easily implemented for earlier macOS.

    Catalina 32-bit extensions
    This is insidious. It looks like you need to “upgrade” to Catalina in order to get warnings that precious apps (despite being 64-bit) have 32-bit extensions. Although I think there has been talk on this forum, about Mojave apps that will search for these problems.

    One more reason to stick with Mojave!

    For now I think I will hold off on the other OS updates (iOS, Watch & ATV) and see if they cause problems for others.

  2. I might be blind, but in 10.15.4, when I type command+F to perform a search, I don’t see a box into which I type the search term.

    This seems different than all previous versions of 10.15 and 10.14.

    Does anybody have a fix?

    Of course I can change the default “kind” to “name” and the default “matches” to “contains” then type my search term in the search box, but that’s user unfriendly.

  3. Are you saying the Finder window toolbar can no longer be configured to show a search field? I have had my OS X Finder set up that way for as long as I can remember.

  4. The warning you get with 10.15.4 about Extensions is not related to their being 32-bit, rather all Kernel Extensions will trigger that warning every 30-days.

    But there are a few 32-bit Extensions around that Go64 will identify for you.

  5. Yes, iCloud Drive Folder Sharing is limited to iOS 13.4, iPadOS 13.4, and macOS 10.15.4. But Apple has never had anything like it before—it’s most equivalent to Dropbox sharing among different people, albeit only within the Apple ecosystem.

  6. The remaining Mail data loss bugs are not limited to local “On My Mac” mailboxes. The most common issue I’m hearing about with macOS 10.15.4 is dragging and dropping a message to a mailbox on an iCloud server. More info here and here.

  7. Bad Apple! Thanks for the details, @mjtsai. It’s mind-boggling that bugs that are getting as much play as these aren’t being addressed.

  8. Ah, yes, that feature sort of morphed into the Mail Drop feature in iCloud.

  9. The missing Finder “Search for:” line in the “Searching ‘This Mac’” window of 10.15.4 persists.

    However a one-step workaround is to change the height or width of the “Searching ‘This Mac’” window, and then the “Search for:” line (with “Search” box) ‘magically’ appears at the top.

  10. MR

    I upgraded to 10.15.4 (I have a new 16-inch MBP, so I’ve been running Catalina since I got it), and now I can’t send images via iMessage. I’ve tried logging out of iMessage and restarting, then logging back in, but that did not solve the problem I had this problem before with Catalina, and as I recall the fix involved deleting my entire message history. Not an ideal solution! Still working on solving the problem, but I’m curious to know if others have run into this.

  11. @matt3 and I have been chatting about the legacy system extensions separately, in the sense of “how in heck is anyone supposed to know who to contact, if the developer name is seemingly unrelated to any particular app.”

    What we discovered is that third-party kernel extensions tend to be in one of two places (any others?):

    /Library/Application Support

    So if you’re trying to figure out what software is associated with a developer name in one of those Legacy System Extension dialogs, open Terminal, navigate to one of those directories

    cd /Library/Extensions
    cd "/Library/Application Support"

    and then use a command like this to search all the files inside, recurring through folders as necessary:

    grep -r "Developer Name" *

    For my two examples in the article, Ludovic Leger and Steven Yan, that approach revealed their involvement with TripMode and the Keyspan USB adapter driver.

    Binary file TripMode/TripModeNKE.kext/Contents/MacOS/TripModeNKE matches
    Binary file KeyspanUSAdriver.kext/Contents/MacOS/KeyspanUSAdriver matches
  12. I have downloaded the new Mac OS X. 15.4 seven times. It downloads the 2.97 GB and then just sits there until finally I get a message that said download failed — any suggestions?

    I’ve also tried auto update and selected all the possible options so it does it on its own and it still fails each time. I did check and my computer is eligible for the upgrade. I am currently running to Catalina 10.15.3 with no issues.

  13. A caveat if you use the 10.15.4 Combo Updater. Perhaps you won’t have this happen, but for me the update took 2 hours or more to complete, so don’t abort thinking it’s hung up - give it a good long wait. Fortunately I did give it a good long wait, and it seems to work fine after the lengthy update.

  14. Adam

    I am still using macOS Mojave 10.14.6 and consider updating to macOS Catalina 10.15.4, but do not dare to do so because of the Apple Mail problems mentioned by you and others. What actually are these problems?

    Would you advise me to update now, or should I rather wait?

    Best regards.

    — nef

  15. @mjtsai’s post above links to the specifics. It seems to be related to moving messages between mailboxes. And to be clear, not everyone is experiencing these problems, so there’s no guarantee in either direction.

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