Last Week on My Mac: Apple’s Cloud of Unknowing

If you have been using Back to My Mac (BTMM), you should have received a notification from Apple this week that you won’t be able to do so when you upgrade to macOS Mojave. Although it’s a little cute that Apple has gone to the trouble of informing you personally, there’s a bit more to it than that.

A few sites have claimed that Apple announced this when it released the first developer beta of Mojave. I have checked in its release notes, and in those for every beta up to and including beta 8, and there is no mention in any of them that BTMM is not supported by Mojave. Nor was it announced at WWDC, which was extensively reported.

The first trace that I can find was in Apple’s Support Note published, it claims, on 9 August 2018 – a full two months after WWDC, and over ten days before Apple pushed out those notifications. Neither is it mentioned on Apple’s Get ready for macOS Mojave page, which seems rather remiss. Similarly, look at Apple’s article detailing how to set up BTMM, which hasn’t been updated since March 2016, and you’ll find no mention of its imminent death.

Like its changed procedures for resetting the SMC in T2-equipped Macs, Apple presumes that by publishing a Support Note, it has somehow informed all Mac users. Funnily enough, those changes were published on 10 August 2018, but slipped everyone’s attention for ten days until we stumbled across the change by accident.

I suspect that Apple is probably one of the largest employers of professionals with a good grounding in information and communication theory, which is largely built on Shannon and Weaver’s model of sender and receiver. Any one of those professionals would recognise that simply publishing support articles is insufficient if the receiver is oblivious to that communication. It is more silent than the sound of one hand clapping, less noticeable than the felling of a tree in the middle of a vast forest hundreds of miles from the nearest observer.

Years ago, Apple used to maintain a list of recently published and updated support notes, but discontinued it for no apparent reason. I have been unable to find any method of discovering new and updated support notes, other than hoping that someone will bump into them and tweet about the change, or by typing in almost random numbers and hoping to get lucky. Apple doesn’t even number its notes consecutively, and leaves pseudo-random gaps in their numbering. It’s as if it doesn’t want you to find them.

There is an excellent utility which can watch websites for changes: Dejal Simon. I was prepared to buy a licence and run it here, but it doesn’t seem intended for quite this purpose, and I haven’t been able to get it to watch for Apple’s changed postings.

Even more shocking is that Apple’s own support staff are often as ignorant of changes to macOS and iOS, and its corporate inability to communicate is costing it money.

This week, I received a reader question about a malfunctioning Smart Keyboard from an iPad Pro user. They had already complained about these problems to Apple, whose response was to replace the keyboard. When that misbehaved identically, the user gave up with Apple Support and turned to MacLife, where I became involved.

Searching Apple’s Support Communities, I was quickly able to confirm my suspicion that these problems were not a hardware matter at all, but the result of a poorly-designed ‘feature’ in iOS and a long-standing bug. Had Apple’s support staff ready access to that information from Apple’s own website, they would have been able to solve the problems without the expense of a replacement Smart Keyboard.

In but a few days, Apple Support and others who support Apple products will face the onslaught of major new releases of macOS, iOS, etc. Dozens of new support articles and thousands of other tidbits of information will start appearing.

What chance do any of us have of finding accurate answers?


From the comments below, Apple informed some developers that BTMM was removed from Mojave as long ago as 26 June. That is almost two months before Apple went to the trouble of informing those already using BTMM, on 21 August.