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« Why I Cancelled My New York Times Subscription (and You Should Too) | Main | Broken Watch »

Considering macOS Sierra Public Beta? Not Just Yet

I downloaded and installed the macOS 10.12, Sierra public beta yesterday. I put it on my late 2013 15” MacBook Pro. I’m one of those lucky people with multiple (3) Macs, so I never run the risk of upgrading myself out of production. To be fair, I’ve had pretty good luck installing OS X betas. Even before Apple’s public beta program, my developer status afforded me access to early copies of everything Apple published. I hardly ever install a “Rev 0” version of anything, but Apple has a decent track record of releasing mostly stable versions of their OS by the time it gets to “public” status. I didn’t have that experience yesterday.

So, why would a semi-intelligent person like myself risk the utility of a multi-thousand dollar laptop by installing a half-baked operating system? Well, there was one feature of macOS Sierra I couldn’t wait to try. I wanted my Watch to unlock my MBP by simply coming in proximity. I never got there. More on that in a minute.

First, the install went without a hitch. I went to Apple’s developer site, clicked the “Download” button for macOS Sierra Beta 2. That launched the Mac App Store app where I redeemed a code that started the download. 4.86 GB later, the install screen appeared.


I clicked “Continue”, selected my MBP’s drive and about 30 minutes later the machine had rebooted to my login screen. I entered my password and 5 seconds later my troubles began. Sierra was having trouble logging into my iCloud account. It asked me for my password repeatedly. After three or four entries, it quit asking. Next, I noticed my Bartender app wouldn’t run. Bartender shuffles menu bar items into a second, hidden menu bar that it maintains. It’s really great for tidying up your menu bar and without it mine was overrun. OH well, minor annoyance. I just proceeded to turn off a half-dozen menu bar indicators so there would be room for the actual menus. Next, I launched Messages. Immediately, the iCloud login reappeared. This time it redirected me to the iCloud section of System Preferences. Again, I tried several times to enter my password, but I couldn’t login successfully. My iCloud preferences were grayed out. I would enter my password; the preferences would go active for a couple of seconds then return to gray. This was looking bad. It was a show-stopper. Without iCloud, my world comes to an abrupt halt.

Next, I opened the mail app. To my surprise, everything worked. No errors. All my mail was there and I received new mail via my iCloud account. Weird. I had to be logged into iCloud, else my new mail would never download. Next, I opened my contacts. All my iCloud contacts were there. I added a new contact on my iPhone and a few seconds later it appeared on my Mac. Weirder still. Then, another dialog popped up asking me to login to my iCloud account. Same drill. Multiple password entries, no joy.

Next I opened Safari. I couldn’t login to my Yahoo! Page. Several attempts just kept directing me back to the login screen. I never did login successfully. This was looking grim.

Next I played with Siri. I went through the Siri settings in System Preferences and got things set to my liking. I hit the hotkey I set and Siri slid onto the screen from the upper-right. I said “Open Finder” and poof, Finder launched. I said “Open Messages”, same result. I decided to try something a little more challenging and said, “Call my wife.” Face Time popped up and started a voice call to my wife’s iPhone. Cool.

Then, the iCloud authentication dialog re-appeared. Same drill. Same poor results. This was getting annoying. There is clearly something not quite baked with Sierra’s authentication code. The goofy part is, iCloud appeared to be doing its job but my Mac didn’t think so. Next, the App Store sported a red “2” badge indicating two updates were available. I opened it and the dreaded AppleID login reappeared. When I entered my password, the App Store reported an SSL error and wouldn’t allow updates to download.

That did it. I surrendered. With constant nagging from iCloud and my inability to update anything, I decided it was time to punt. My next move: reboot while holding down <Command><R> to get to the recovery console. Once there, I selected a Time Machine backup from the day before and clicked “Restore”. I’ve done this before for other reasons, but I have to admit to being a bit nervous when the recovery console told me it was erasing “Macintosh HD”. It turns out my trepidation was for naught. Two hours later, my Mac was back.

In all fairness to Apple, this was an upgrade install. From what I've read and heard from others, a clean install of Sierra goes much more smoothly. That's been my experience with other OS X betas in the past also. I simply didn't want to invest the time and energy required for a complete "nuke & pave". I never got to try the feature that intrigued me the most. I’d done all the prerequisites. My iPhone was running iOS 10 and my Watch was running watchOS 3. Both of those betas are very complete and very stable. Too bad I can’t say the same for my experience with Sierra.

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