macOS Big Sur Announcement

Big Sur Horizon image
macOS Big Sur releases on November 12, 2020

Apple announced they will release macOS Big Sur (11.0.1) today.  As with most new OS releases, we strongly recommend that you wait and not upgrade your University-owned Mac.  Information Technology Services cannot yet support Big Sur on University-owned Macs until it has been sufficiently tested.  Additionally, waiting until the first set of OS updates are released (ex. 11.0.2 or 11.0.3) allows Apple to fix initial stability problems and bugs before the OS even makes it to your machine.  This is a good general rule, even for personal devices.

Why not macOS 10.16?

Big Sur is such a significant OS update, that Apple has moved its versioning number from 10 to 11.  This is the first major versioning number change in almost twenty years!  The big deal is in the hardware changes coming and the new architecture needed to support it.

Apple Silicon chip image
* Apple Silicon doesn’t refer to a specific chipset or processor, but to the company’s custom silicon as a whole.
** ARM is a type of processor that has been powering portable devices for decades. It is the dominant architecture for mobile, with iPads and iPhones using it exclusively.

Big Sur was built for the M1 processor, the first in a new series of Apple Silicon* chips that begin their migration away from Intel processors.  Apple has planned to support their Intel Macs for the next few years, but they have made it clear that custom ARM** processors are their future by paving the way with macOS Big Sur.  Big Sur is optimized for this new system architecture, visibly shrinking the gap between iOS and macOS with its iOS-like icons, widgets, menu bar, and control center.

These are big changes, amplifying our concerns about upgrading before the first round of updates are released and we have had an opportunity to conduct testing and research.  The key areas usually affected during an OS upgrade are software, peripherals, and services, which can behave unexpectedly or stop working altogether.  While many are still working from home and connecting to a wider array of devices (home printers, scanners, etc.), the possibility of experiencing those incompatibility issues increases.

Software Compatibility

Microsoft Office, Zoom, VPN, Adobe software, VLab (Citrix), and SPSS are just some of the applications that ITS needs to test with the new OS. If you have software that you installed on your Mac (not provided or installed by ITS), you should check for compatibility with Big Sur to see if it will still work after upgrading.

If you are a student using ExamSoft’s Examplify, be sure to check with your instructors before upgrading.

Drivers for the docks/port replicators you may have with your MacBook Pro will also need to be updated.  Second monitors, hardwired internet (Ethernet), and even the charging function may not work until the drivers for the dock are updated.

Network printing, local printers, and other peripherals may also be affected.  These may require updated drivers or software to work with Big Sur.

It’s a 64-bit Only World

The previous macOS, Catalina (10.15), dropped support for 32-bit applications. They just won’t run after that version of macOS. This means if you’re going from Mojave (or an older macOS) to Big Sur, you’ll experience this for the first time.  Mojave (10.14) is the last version of macOS that can run 32-bit apps. It isn’t easy to immediately see which apps are 32-bit and which are 64-bit; even some 64-bit software may not be compatible with the new OS.

But you may have already been alerted to your 32-bit applications and not even realized it!

Mojave and High Sierra alert: App is not optimized for your Mac and needs to be updated
Alerts in macOS Mojave and macOS High Sierra for 32-bit applications.

When you open a 32-bit app in macOS Mojave or macOS High Sierra, you receive an alert that the app is “not optimized” for your Mac and needs to be updated.  If you remember seeing this kind of message window when you opened a particular program, it’s a 32-bit application.

We recommend that you take note of any mission-critical software.  If you are unsure your software will run in the new OS because it might be 32-bit, you can check for 32-bit apps on your system.  This will give you some time to decide if you can update that software for Big Sur when the time comes, or if you need to find an alternative for that application.

Undoing a Hasty macOS Upgrade

There’s no easy way to undo the upgrade or simply roll it back. Reverting from Big Sur to a previous version of macOS is an inconvenient process.  At best, this would require taking your computer, erasing your hard drive, reimaging it, reinstall software, and restoring your data and/or reconnecting your OneDrive. Alternatively, it could require restoring your computer to its original factory settings. Of course, this means you won’t be able to use your computer while this is being done.  This can be especially cumbersome now with the pandemic and working remotely.

Once we are confident that Big Sur will work well in our environment, ITS staff will be happy to assist with a safe and workable upgrade process for our faculty and staff.

Meltdown and Spectre

The computing industry has just publicly announced two major vulnerabilities affecting virtually every computer.

The vulnerabilities are being called Meltdown and Spectre, and they are very significant issues. They will require immediate and ongoing attention to secure your computing environment. While Widener ITS is working hard to address the issues with University equipment, everyone that has a personal computer, tablet, or smartphone needs to check with their manufacturer/carrier to find out what updates are available.

For your computer, you’ll first need to update your OS, likely either Windows or Apple (but other OS’s are vulnerable, too). Follow your standard method of patching (Windows Update or Apple AppStore Updates). NOTE FOR MAC USERS: we’re still asking you to avoid updating to High Sierra (version 10.13), so please look for the “Update All” button.

For your IOS device (iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone) you’ll go into Settings > General > Software Update. The AppStore will likely alert you, too.

For Android, this can vary, but should be found in Settings > System Updates. Android is usually good about putting updates in front of users quickly.

Browsers – every major browser (Chrome, Firefox, IE, Safari, and others) is being updated. The quickest way to update is usually through the Help > About section of your browser found using the control icon in the upper right corner.


This is a confusing issue, and that’s because it’s a big issue. Also, please be aware that scams around this will be out there soon. If you have any questions, please contact us at the Helpdesk at x1047 or at

macOS High Sierra Announcement

Apple released macOS High Sierra (10.13) on Monday, September 25th, 2017.  As with most new OS releases, we strongly recommend that you wait and not upgrade your University owned Mac.

Apple released macOS High Sierra (10.13) on Monday, September 25th, 2017.  As with most new OS releases, we strongly recommend that you wait and not upgrade your University owned Mac.  Information Technology Services cannot yet support High Sierra on University owned Macs until it has been sufficiently tested.  Additionally, waiting until the first set of High Sierra updates are released allows Apple to fix initial stability problems and bugs before the OS even makes it to your machine.

Our currently deployed Macs cannot even benefit from the most significant changes in High Sierra – the new Apple file system (AFS).  The enhanced speed, performance, security and reliability that High Sierra advertises is dependent on the new file system, which Apple does not support on our Mac hardware.  In addition to not being able to realize the biggest benefits of the upgrade, the process itself could cause significant issues, making a complete system backup an absolute necessity.  Furthermore, ITS is already aware of a number of issues with network printing and older software programs, including incompatibility with all versions of Microsoft Office released before 2016.  Software compatibility issues resulting from this upgrade are more complex than a basic update can fix.  These compatibility issues are similar to those experienced when Apple moved to Intel processors and Power PC programs no longer worked.  All of this leads us to our recommendation that you wait and not upgrade at this time.

One of the best updates – Safari’s ability to mute autoplayed videos – doesn’t even require High Sierra.  The new “Autoplay Blocking” is part of Safari 11, which is available in the App Store for systems running Sierra (10.12) or El Capitan (10.11).

Once we are confident that High Sierra will work well in our environment, ITS staff will be happy to assist with a safe and coherent upgrade process for our faculty and staff.

Adobe Changes Creative Cloud Licensing Again

Shared device licensing replaces device licensing, while named-user licensing remains unchanged

Adobe has updated its Creative Cloud (CC) licensing model again, this time moving from device licensing to shared device licensing (SDL). This change requires that we migrate all existing university device licenses to the new SDL model in order to access the newest versions of Image result for adobe creative cloud app icon picturesthe Adobe CC apps. Converting from device licenses to SDL is free and automatically available to all device licensed accounts. Named-user licenses remain unchanged and are not affected by this update.

But Why?

You may be wondering what the difference is between the two license models and why we need to do this. Adobe’s response to this question was provided in their presentation “Shared Device License: Why the change to this new licensing type?” In summary, it tells us that SDL provides the following, which is not available with device licenses:

  • The most current version of the Adobe CC apps (device licenses cannot be used to install any apps newer than the 2018 version)
  • Access to Cloud connected Services/Connections like Adobe Sensei, shared libraries, and cloud storage
  • New Cloud First apps: XD, Spark Premium, and Premiere Rush.
  • Complete functionality in Apps like Photoshop and Premiere Pro
  • The ability to sign in to the Creative Cloud desktop on a shared device. (This is a huge benefit to the students that are using these apps in the lab environment; the students are frequently moving back and forth between using the lab computers and their own personal computers.)
  • Resolution for license conflicts when named-users attempt to use computers with a device-based license

Furthermore, all current device licenses will cease functioning by December 31, 2019.

And How?

Signing in to the Adobe CC desktop was discouraged under the old device license model, but will now be required in order to use the Adobe CC apps on a shared device. When you launch an Adobe CC app on a device with SDL, you will be prompted to sign in with your individual Adobe ID (this is not your Widener login ID). The apps can only launch after a successful sign-in. The SDL does not directly entitle you to access any services such as storage, libraries, fonts, stock, etc. However, if you already have these entitlements under your Adobe ID account, these services are now accessible from a shared device.

Another benefit of the SDL model is the protection of students’ work product. Students often forget to sign out after the class or lab session is complete. To protect them and their work/assets, users are periodically prompted with an account confirmation dialog box. This ensures that a subsequent user on a lab computer does not have access to assets that the previous user was working on.

With this periodic license checking and mandatory sign-in process, you may be wondering how you can access the Adobe CC products without an active internet connection. The short answer is that you can’t. The computer must be online so that you can sign in and use the Adobe Cloud services. While you only have to sign in once per session, Adobe continues to check for the license every 90 minutes after the initial sign-in. So, if the machine goes offline, it can only stay offline for 90 minutes before Adobe checks the license again. This is something that Adobe is working to fix.

Named-user licenses

If you have a device license and frequently need to use the Adobe CC apps offline, you may want to consider changing to a named-user license. You should probably consider changing to a named-user license anyway. SDL is ideal for computers in labs or classrooms, but not designed for individual machines with dedicated users. For dedicated users, we recommend named-user licenses. Please contact Linda Peifer (ext. 1037) to request a quote and obtain the current pricing for a named-user license.

If you have any questions or concerns about your Adobe CC device license migration to the SDL, please contact Client Success at or call the HelpDesk for your campus.