Spring 2020 computer catchup, part 1

May 21, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 21, 2020

I got my current computer, a 13-inch MacBook Pro with retina display, in September 2015. It features a 250-gigabyte hard drive, which seemed rather spacious at the time. Not anymore, my friends.

For perhaps the past year, and certainly the past nine or so months, I have been living dangerously when it comes to hard-drive space. MacOS Catalina, the most current Macintosh operating system, came out in early October 2019, but I put off upgrading from Mojave for a long time because I just didn’t have enough free hard drive space.

Did I try to open capacity on my drive? Yes sir, you bet I did! I offloaded old, little-used documents, photos and audio recordings. But all my efforts barely made a dent in available space. The biggest bugbear by far was my photo library, the main file associated with Photos, Apple’s native image-viewing application. With a lot of work, I winnowed it down from about 96 gigabytes to 88 GB. Even then, it remained by far the largest single item on my machine.

I did purchase a network-attached storage device — a hard drive that my computer can access wirelessly — and got it running. However, I haven’t been able to keep my photo library there for two reasons.

The first is that the photo library isn’t designed to be stored on networked drives due to formatting issues that I don’t fully understand. The second is that my NAS drive is only available on the local wireless network, meaning that if I’m away from home (or wherever the NAS drive is plugged in), the files aren’t accessible. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand this before I got the drive, and it left me at square one when it comes to my laptop suffering from a cramped internal hard drive.

Storage space wasn’t the only reason I put off making the move from Mojave to Catalina. In November 2011, I purchased a Canon DR-2010M scanner with an automatic sheet feeder and two-sided scanning; this has been my main scanner ever since. (I also have a multifunction printer with a flatbed scanner, but it’s been years since I used it to scan anything.) The DR-2010M worked pretty well for me for a long time.

But the DR-2010M came out in September 2009, and its software is 32-bit, meaning that it was designed to work on older chipsets. By contrast, 64-bit software utilizes the much more capacious processors and memory featured in modern computers.

A bit is a value that can be either zero or one. The number of possible values for one bit is two; for two bits, four; for three, eight. It’s an exponential function: two (the number of possible values for a single bit) to the power of however many bits you have. 32 bits have just shy of 4.3 billion different possible values. 64 bits have more than 18.4 quintillion possible values, which is bigger by a factor of more than four billion.

This matters because modern systems no longer support 32-bit software. Apple released its first 64-bit operating system, Snow Leopard, in 2009; this began a long process of phasing out support for the older standard. Catalina is the first Macintosh operating system that won’t run older 32-bit programs.

I like keeping my operating system current because it generally means that my device is more secure. But between a hard drive starved for free space and a scanner that would be rendered obsolete by an OS upgrade, I found reasons to delay the move to Catalina for quite a while.

Until this month. And it worked out fine… mostly. There have been some wrinkles, which I’ll get to in a bit.

To be continued

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: