Mac OS Big Sur: Is It Too Big to Upgrade?

Mac OS X Big Sur

(Update 12/14/20 – Apple released their Big Sur 11.1 update, and we now give this a thumbs-up, after you have read the entire article below.)

Apple this week finally released their latest operating system for the Mac, Mac OS Big Sur.

We’ll start with the hardest decision—when should you upgrade to macOS 11 Big Sur? Last year, macOS 10.15 Catalina shipped with quite a few problems. We recommended holding off on the upgrade for most people for at least several months. For many of our clients, we’ve recommended staying on 10.14 Mojave for the time being. It’s too early to have a sense of how stable Big Sur will be. But we hope that Apple will have learned its lesson with Catalina and will have shipped a more stable release. 

Note that Big Sur requires a Mac released in 2013 or later; some 2012 models that were compatible with Catalina won’t be able to make the trip to Big Sur.

Apple has put a lot of design effort into the user interface of Big Sur. Windows, menus, dialogs, sidebars, and even icons have all received design updates. You may or may not like the new look more than the old, but again, it’s not a big reason to upgrade quickly for most people.

On the plus side, Apple has worked on smaller features that might improve your everyday user experience. It features a new Control Center, similar to what you’re accustomed to on the iPhone and iPad. It also provides quick access to controls from System Preferences in a single place. Notifications are now grouped by thread or app, and interactive notifications let you do more without opening the associated app.

There’s an App for That…

Safari receives a new start page, shows more tabs at once, displays a preview of a site when you hover over a tab, translates pages into seven languages, provides more privacy details, and checks if your passwords have been involved in a data breach. Messages lets you pin important conversations, thread messages in group conversations, and direct messages to individuals in a group conversation with an @name. Apps such as Photos, Reminders, and Notes also get enhancements, and your AirPods will switch between your devices more seamlessly.

So our advice is to stick with your current version of macOS for now, while Apple, Mac developers, and the Mac community figure out how to sand down the rough edges in everyday Big Sur use.

We recommend waiting until at least version 11.0.1 or even 11.0.2 before upgrading. That allows time for Apple to resolve any unanticipated problems. However, if you are determined to install Apple’s latest “new and shiny,” make sure you have a solid backup of all your data first. RoaringApps has a full listing of which apps are compatible with Big Sur and which are not. Also note that the installer download is over 12Gb huge, and you will need plenty of hard drive space for the install to complete.

Just like it is in Catalina, 32-bit apps such as Microsoft Office 2011 will not work in Big Sur. You will need a functional alternative to open your Office documents. Fortunately, we have an article about that.

Apple has their own page that will tell you everything they want you to know about it.

Want Some Help With That?

Contact Us if you would like some help with making your transition to Big Sur as smooth and as safe as possible. We will get it done!

How to Enable COVID-19 Exposure Notifications on iPhone

(Update10/30/20: Half a million Colorado residents have already enabled notifications.) Apple and Google have joined forces to help governments and health authorities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They have released the first version of their exposure notification software for both iOS and Android devices. The State of Colorado just announced their participation as of today, Sunday October 25, 2020.

The tech giants want to assist developers who’re working for health authorities in creating apps that can alert users if they’ve been in contact with an infected person. This is made possible by using Bluetooth to securely share your random ID with nearby devices. These IDs are then deleted after 14 days, which is the above-average incubation period for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease.

It’s up to you to decide if you want to opt-in to this anonymous logging and notification system (we recommend that you do). This article will show you how to enable COVID-19 exposure logging and notifications on your iPhone.

How to Enable COVID-19 Exposure Logging & Notifications on iPhone

This feature is only available to iPhones with iOS 13.5 and later; earlier phones will not have this functionality. Note that availability depends on many factors including regional support. Go to Settings > Exposure Notifications > United States > Colorado (or your country/state).

Open the “Settings” app on your iPhone or iPad

Once enabled, public health agencies can quickly inform users if they’ve been in contact with an infected person. With this, they can determine how long the users were in proximity and the approximate distance between their devices using Bluetooth signal strength.

Not all states, countries, and health authorities are using this yet. Here is a page with a current listing of all participating countries.

If you wish to learn more about this feature, the State of Colorado has a very informative page here. This page also includes instructions for enabling this functionality on Android devices. Apple and Google have created an excellent explainer video, viewable here. You can also learn more in general about what Apple is doing regarding COVID-19 on their COVID-19 page.

Wait, what?

Want some help with that? Contact Us and together, we can get it done!

iOS 14: Is It Time to Upgrade Yet?

Autumn has arrived in the northern hemisphere. That means it’s time again for Apple to release the latest version of iOS for iPhone and iPad, which they have: iOS 14. Last year’s iOS 13 was scandalously buggy on its initial release. Apple committed to changing their processes to make sure that a similarly buggy mess wouldn’t be released in the future, and that seems to have worked. As always, the smaller point releases (14.1, 14.2, etc.) will include bug fixes later on this year and the next, but this release is stable and we recommend upgrading to it now.

iOS 14 includes hundreds, if not thousands, of small but significant changes to the user interface. The result is buttons and screens that are easier to read (especially for aging eyes). Overall, it makes the iPhone or iPad feel simpler and easier to understand and use.

How do I get iOS 14?

On your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings:General:Software Update and if your iPhone qualifies, you’ll see the offer to update there. Apple says that iOS 14 can run on the iPhone 6s and later, which is the exact same compatibility as iOS 13. Updating typically takes about 15 minutes to download, and another 15 minutes to install.

What’s New and Noteworthy?

The number one best change with iOS 14 is that when a phone call comes in, it no longer takes over your entire screen. Instead, you get a notification-style window at the top of your phone, so that you can easily accept or dismiss the call without losing whatever you were doing before the call.

Similarly, Siri no longer takes over the entire screen when you engage with it.

Green Dot, Orange Dot

A new security feature included in iOS 14 will display an orange dot at the top of your iPhone or iPad when an app is actively using your microphone. A green dot indicates an app is using your camera. The dots also display in the control center.

Translate

A new translate app in iOS 14 is designed for conversations and works completely offline. All you have to do is tap on the microphone icon and the app will translate to your chosen language. 11 languages are currently supported.

translate

Voice Memos

With the Voice Memo app, the most exciting feature this year is the new Enhance Recording functionality. This reduces background noise and room reverberation with a single tap. Once you create a recording, you’ll see a small icon similar to the Auto adjustment feature in the Photos app. (9 to 5 Mac has an article describing this feature here.)

Exposure Notifications

Apple has introduced an Exposure Notifications System, which lets public health authorities and governments worldwide help people figure out if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, and if so, what steps to take next to minimize the spread of the virus. Your state or country may or may not yet support this. You can see which US States support this technology here and which countries around the world support it here.

MacRumors wrote an excellent article, describing this new confidential system (developed in conjunction with Google for their Android devices) in great detail.

Where Can I Learn More about iOS14?

Lots of companies have put out their “best-of” iOS 14 lists and tutorials; here are a few:

9 to 5 Mac

Macrumors

MacWorld

Renee Amberg

Can’t You Make It Any Easier?

Why, yes! Contact Us and we can do the upgrade for you and get you high-flying with this new iOS update in no time!

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