If your Mac has been running Big Sur and you’ve tried to use Remote (Internet) Recovery over the last month or so, you were perhaps a little shocked to be delivered macOS 10.15, not macOS 11. According to Mr Macintosh, this is because of another server outage, and some time in the next few days, or maybe a week or two, normal Big Survice should be resumed.
Note that this doesn’t seem to affect M1 Macs trying to reinstall macOS using its different Recovery Mode, who could in any case perform a restore using Configurator 2.
Although not disastrous, the effect of this on Big Sur users is serious. I already have several apps which require Big Sur, of which two rely on System Extensions which are incompatible with Catalina. For a Big Sur user to be forcibly downgraded to 10.15.7 means that they’ll then have to go through all the process of upgrading again, and probably have to re-install System Extensions and much else afresh before they work. If you’re running Time Machine backups to APFS, you’ll be unable to make any more backups – or even to access existing backups – until you’ve restored Big Sur, which may well then perform a full backup. Just what you didn’t want as you’re trying to recover lost time.
My greatest concern though is how we only get to learn this through word of tweet from third-parties like Mr Macintosh and sysadmin chat. When I looked at Apple’s System Status page, and that for Developers, there’s no mention of Remote Recovery services.
There are other critical macOS services which are also missing from those pages, whose outage has devastating effects on large numbers of Mac users. One that springs to mind is Apple’s OCSP service at ocsp.apple.com, which suffered failure on 12 November 2020, preventing millions of Mac users around the world from opening apps. Such a critical service doesn’t appear to merit any mention on the System Status page, and again it was down to tweets from users to keep people informed as to what was going wrong. If you can’t open your Twitter client, that isn’t exactly helpful.
They’re also services which Apple isn’t exactly open about, and when they’re impaired or missing, what we see doesn’t always explain where the problem is, let alone help us identify the fault. It’s only through third-party information that we know, for example, that when ocsp.apple.com is unreachable, apps still open normally, but if it’s impaired that can lead to our Macs rejecting attempts to open existing apps which aren’t even quarantined.
Our Macs increasingly rely on connecting to various of Apple’s services before they can function. It’s time for Apple to improve its reporting of service availability, rather than keeping us in the dark and hoping we don’t notice alterations and problems until our Macs try to use them.