eXtensions - Wednesday 20 November 2019


Cassandra - Mid-Week Diversion: Catalina Solution and Unwelcome Frustrations

By Graham K. Rogers


With early and unnecessary problems appearing with Photos, I eventually found a solution, although this was far from straightforward. A further update to iOS failed to cure my difficulties with iCloud and Photos, but added more problems with Bluetooth.

When I went into my office on Monday lunchtime, the spinning wait cursor in Photos was still at work: since Friday. Every time I ask Photos to make the library - created when I first opened Photos after the update to Catalina - the System Library, the same thing occurred. I tried to select the previous library that was on the external disk, and which had worked through the last couple of versions of macOS, but it still wasn't having that either.

Photos on Catalina

In an act of desperation, I tried to copy that library onto the main (250GB) hard disk, but a panel appeared showing, Not enough disk space to copy the library. All of the images are in iCloud so if the entire disk were to be lost, they would be recoverable, although that might take time; but here I am wasting time on what should be basic update functions of an operating system: already several hours lost over a number of days. This is not helping productivity at all. I could at least work with the MacBook Pro running Mojave and the iPad Pro (iPadOS 13.2.2 - see below), but this is rapidly building in me a resistance to updating my workaday Mac to Catalina.

I deleted the library that Photos created when it was started for the first time under Catalina and started again, but with the limited space on the hard disk of the Mac mini, it is in my interests to work from the external drive. With the Create New dialogue, I navigated to the disk, but was told that it was not possible to overwrite an existing library. This was recognized; I just couldn't use it.

Photos on Catalina

I moved that older library to another location on the external disk and tried again, but there was a Switching error. It seems still to be trying to work with the existing library (or libraries). I restarted Photos and read the opening screen. One option was to drag an image into the library, so I grabbed one from the desktop and the library appeared, on the external disk that I had not been able to use initially.

In Photos preferences, I turned On iCloud and saw that "Updating" appeared at the bottom of the screen. It soon recognized that the over 17,000 items existed and began downloading some, while providing place-markers for others back to June 2015. Within an hour, the number to be downloaded was under 10,000. Unlike the problem I have found since the iOS 13.2 update on the iPhone 11 Pro, (now updated to 13.2.3) the recently-taken DSLR images and scans were all available.

iOS update The final transfer number of images was 17,760 with a few more arriving overnight from the iPhone, as well as scans from the MacBook Pro I had done Monday evening. The update to the Photos library was followed by some updating and restructuring of albums and folders. This was done in around 2 hours for the complete library. In comparison the iPhone has been trying to update part of the library for over 12 days and nothing has appeared.

The initial Photos warning after I updated to Catalina that the disk could not be used as it was not macOS Extended, has now been shown to be false in two ways: my initial check using Disk Utility; and the later creation of the new library on the same disk (and in the same folder) as the original library had been. I have wasted a considerable amount of time on what should have been a straightforward update process.

I am wary of any other application or processes that might use iCloud although content used in Keynote, Numbers and Pages does seem to be intact. The content from this file, created in Notes, has also synchronized immediately with the iPhone.

The amount of data on the Mac mini is tiny compared to what I have on the MacBook Pro, which is my main work machine. Even with such a small amount of content, the workaround that I was forced into, because a working Photos Library could not be used - while the eventual replacement is in the same location and easily downloading images from iCloud - has dampened my enthusiasm for the update even more.

On the plus side, as well as the download of the images, content from my MacBook Pro has synchronized (including my website files) which gives me some reassurance that iCloud is doing what I expect. It will still take much to convince me that I should risk the MacBook Pro, when "risk" is not a word I have ever used with updating OS X or macOS in the past. Or iOS come to that.

There is an endnote regarding the latest update to iOS - 13.2.3. The morning after, while checking mail (07:15), the internet failed. I tried restarting the router but this was an external problem and there was no indication when it might return (08:00). There was a flicker of a connection after some 15 minutes or so, but that was a false hope. It went off again. As in all such cases, or when I am working at my office, I went for the Personal Hotspot from the iPhone, but this too failed on the MacBook Pro and on my iPad Pro, which I had updated to iPadOS 13.2.3 the evening before. Neither of these device recognized the iPhone 11 Pro, although both recognized the iPhone X which I am keeping on 13.1.3.

After a number of attempts, I managed to re-pair the iPhone with the iPad Pro and was able to access the internet. As with the update to Catalina, the latest changes to iOS do not seem to be carrying over the settings, and each time I need to change something (Calls, Bluetooth) to return to a normal working state. Photos on the iPhone 11 Pro is still continuing its week-long process of Restoring from iCloud, while the iPhone X (13.1.3) updates immediately.

I accidentally subscribed to the Wall Street Journal a few months back. I registered for a free month, then forgot to cancel. Although I like the content, there is so much available on the Internet that I would normally read only 2 or 3 articles from WSJ in a month. When I realized that the subscription was running, I tried to cancel, but although I had subscribed on an iOS device, this was not shown as one of my subscriptions in the App Store. I checked the Mac App Store in case, but it was not there either.

A look at WSJ online took me down a bit of a rabbit warren until I finally found the Subscriptions section and then a Cancel option. However, I was directed to a chat with a bot and that was not successful: it could not cancel my subscription. I looked further and finally found a list of phone numbers that could be used for this. The number for subscribers in Thailand is 001800 441 8323 and I tried this the next morning. I was connected to a polite young-sounding male and although he tried to sell me a couple of lower-cost options, I finally managed to unsubscribe. When you sign up for a free month, don't forget to cut the cord unless you want to keep paying.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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