Kirk McElhearn answers your Mac questions
How to resurrect a Fusion drive from a destroyed Mac
Q: A very long story short, but I’ve an iMac that suffered catastrophic damage in shipment. I’ve extracted the 1TB hard drive and the 128GB SSD from the carcass of the machine, but the rest of it (save the RAM and processor) is rubbish. In the end, I simply want to pull the files off the hard drive, but none of the local computer-repair shops seem to know what to do. Any suggestions
A: Apple’s Fusion system is a combination of a high-capacity hard disk drive and a low-capacity but superfast SSD. You can uncouple them and
reformat them, but this problem was new to me. He tried mounting the hard drive, but it’s unrecoverable separate from the SSD.
Fusion Drive is a hardware-locked solution, so we suggested he beg, borrow or rent any Fusion-capable Mac of a vintage that could run his version of OS X, stick the drives in and boot, and then clone onto a plain drive.
Without an Apple Store nearby, he was ultimately able to get one of the local shops to open up a computer they had on hand, drop the drives in, run an OS update, and recover the data.
You can’t play most protected digital video on an external monitor
Many years ago, High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) was born because the film industry freaked out over releasing digital movies that would flow digitally – rather than through analogue conversion – across a cable to a monitor or television. The standard requires a cryptographic handshake between the software in a dedicated player or on a computer or mobile device and the display. Without that handshake, no video would flow.
We wrote about HDCP earlier this year, offering a variety of troubleshooting advice for people trying to sort out why their software on a Mac wouldn’t allow them to playback any video on a connected display, or why they received a warning about degraded content because an HDCP handshake wasn’t happening.
We’ve received a spate of additional emails since then, and we’ve been researching the issue
further. We discovered that we were wrong about a fundamental part of the question. We’ve provided a corrected explanation below.
We also looked at a cheap hardware bypass for streaming video to an external monitor, and whether it works for OS X. (Sorry, it doesn’t.)
Finally, we summarise what each major streaming service notes about requirements and troubleshooting, and finish up with how to fix DRM errors even with a built-in display by resetting or removing Silverlight.
Only iTunes in OS X supports external monitors
The accurate answer to HDCP and externally connected Mac monitors has three parts:
iTunes can detect the connection correctly, and play the highest-resolution video on HDCP-capable monitors Non-Apple firms offering digital streaming or other digital playback options through browser
plug-ins, HTML5 video, or freestanding OS X apps will always report an HDCP or other error for an external display Apple doesn’t expose the required information to third parties (via an API that developers can use) to determine whether HDCP is in place, according to Adobe
This also prevents using HDCP over AirPlay, because AirPlay-supporting devices apparently also don’t expose to third-party developers whether the associated device is an authorised device. The Apple TV works fine with HDCP and external displays, and in what should be bitter irony, fourth-generation Apple TV apps from Netflix, Hulu, and others, firms that can’t stream DRM-protected video in OS X to an external monitor are perfectly able to while wrapped in the embrace of tvOS.
Oddly, Apple doesn’t provide information about HDCP, OS X, and external displays on its site. Macworld asked Apple for more details, and we’re still waiting to for more insight.
Macworld reader Kevin Kelly wrote in recently to report that he couldn’t get Flixster software to play on an Apple Thunderbolt Display, and that Apple customer support had told him that the Apple monitor wasn’t HDCP certified, and that one needed to have a certified display. It’s possible it’s not HDCP certified, but it doesn’t seem like the second part of that statement is correct.
We contacted the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organisation that works on securing digital rights for individuals, whether anyone on staff knew about this issue, as EFF has issued opinions on and
litigated about digital-rights management (DRM) control of media playback. They had none.
This writer recently encountered this on a recent cold day, when our family retreated into a room in the house with a roaring fire and we set up a 2015 MacBook with an HDMI output adaptor to connect to an external 1080p computer monitor. Amazon’s software wouldn’t let us watch the first Harry Potter movie in high definition.
We also tested various methods with a Mac mini and external displays of different types, and it failed consistently, as now expected.
It’s the end
One area of exploration was using a powered HDMI splitter, an inexpensive small box that takes HDMI input and then allows the output to be fed out
through two or more HDMI ports. These splitters aren’t designed to bypass HDCP, nor would we suggest you buy a box designed for piracy.
However, some (not all) apparently terminate HDCP handshaking within the box, satisfying the DRM software on the host device, and then output unencrypted video, so that a monitor or other HDMI-capable hardware doesn’t balk. Those who want to record themselves playing video games have turned to these splitters with PlayStations and other gaming systems.
We tested this with one recommended splitter that can handle up to 4K displays, and it didn’t work. We weren’t precisely expecting it to, because OS X seems to simply not allow HDCP via external monitors at all (as noted previously), but we wondered if third-party software might somehow recognise the box differently than a monitor. No luck. We could try more splitter boxes, but it’s likely the problem remains the same.
Each streaming service has unique requirements
Here’s some of the services claim about Macs and playback errors; most of the details relate to playing in a browser, not using a connected monitor.
Amazon: Recommends (tinyurl.com/q5ayuf4) use of HTML5 video with Chrome (version M42 or newer), Firefox (version 47 or newer), and Opera (version 31 or newer). Safari isn’t in this list, as the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in is required to watch in Safari.
Flixster: Claims complete compatibility through browsers using Flash. Also offers its own desktop
software, which reader Kevin (cited before) couldn’t get to recognise HDCP playback recently from his Mac to an external monitor. iTunes: Apple has no documentation about HDCP or troubleshooting, except with the Apple TV. However, in the past five years, there are almost no forum posts about Mac-related HDCP playback problems, only with Windows.
Netflix: No specific browser or plug-in recommendations, but it notes that: “Apple only supports playback on internal monitors or through HDCP… compatible monitors.”
Some people report problems using an integral monitor in a laptop or iMac and across many services and many forums, have found that disabling screen-sharing software fixed their problem. This includes third-party sharing options, like AirParrot and iTeleport, and Apple’s built-in screen-sharing (Sharing system preference pane). It apparently doesn’t have to be in active use for it to be problem; disabling the option or quitting the app running in the background or via its system menu did the trick for many people.
For many people, removing the third-party DisplayLink software sometimes required for certain external Mac monitor combinations helped, too. There’s no on/off switch, but you can use an uninstaller to remove it by downloading the full package from DisplayLink (tinyurl.com/ jrusLgm), which includes the removal software. Then reinstall it after you’re done with the video content; it’s not ideal at all.
Switch off Silverlight
Silverlight is often the common denominator for problems with internal displays that should otherwise allow playback. It’s an older Microsoft technology that must have advantages relative to Flash for playing video, because many streaming services adopted it. It’s no longer necessary in many circumstances, as noted.
If you want to continue to use Silverlight, try emptying the Silverlight cache for the site. Amazon
has detailed instructions under Resolve Silverlight Issues heading (tinyurl.com/gnt7q2k).
Alternatively, dump a cached DRM error. Silverlight apparently logs and caches any DRM problems. If you set something up the plugin didn’t like or there was a transient HDCP handshaking problem – which is extremely common – you might just need to delete a file, through the following steps:
1. Quit the browser
2. In the Finder, choose Go > Go To Folder
4. Delete the file and empty the trash
5. Relaunch the browser You can also delete Silverlight altogether, though that means not using Amazon Video with Safari.
1. Quit the active browser
2. In the Finder, choose Go > Go To Folder
4. Delete the files Silverlight.plugin and WPFe. plugin (either or both may appear) and empty the trash
5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 with
6. Relaunch the browser
Is Apple to blame?
Yes, seemingly, although it’s maddening as a technology writer and consumer to not have a definitive answer about a basic piece of protective
software from the maker of the operating system and hardware that interacts with it.
It would seem that OS X supports HDCP for integral monitors, and, with iTunes, for external ones to meet licensing requirements. There’s no excuse we can see for not exposing the API to third parties. And, even if it were a browser issue, it seemingly extends to Safari, which can’t handle HTML5, Flash, or Silverlight protected streaming to external monitors.
Apple could easily rectify this problem. Failing that,the firm could clearly document it.
More ways to convert rich text to plain text on the clipboard
Recently, we explained how to use special paste options (tinyurl.com/h6snfnr) in several programs to remove rich-text formatting when you just want to paste the actual letters and symbols you’ve copied from one place to another, rather than preserve the font choice, type size, and other parameters. Readers had a load of suggestions for more ways to make this simple.
Create an AppleScript and assign a keystroke Sage Humphries wrote in with this AppleScript that converts text after being copied to the clipboard into plain text. If you’re not using a program to trigger AppleScripts, here’s the easiest way to get started: install FastScripts, which allows free use for up to 10 script keystrokes. It costs £7.99 from the Mac App Store.
1. Install FastScripts
2. Select FastScripts from the system menu bar, and select FastScripts > Open Scripts Folder > Open /Users/[account name]/Library/Scripts
3. Launch Script Editor (from Applications > Utilities
4. Paste in the exactly:
5. Save the script in the FastScripts user folder you opened in Step 2
6. Select FastScripts > Preferences from the FastScripts menu, and click Script Shortcut
7. Double-click the ‘(none)’ to the right of your script name, and type a keystroke combination to assign. We’re using Cmd-Ctrl-Alt-V
8. Close FastScripts
Now whenever you want convert the clipboard, press that key combination, and you can paste plain text into any app. (We tried to get Apple’s Automator to handle this AppleScript by creating it as a Service and then assigning a keystroke in the Keyboard system preference pane’s Shortcuts tab to make it available to all apps that handle text. But text services in OS X apparently only apply when you have a range of text selected.)
Trigger Plain Clip with a macro The free Plain Clip (tinyurl.com/zL6hto8) has the sole function of stripping formatting from text, but it doesn’t do anything else. The developer created it for people to be triggered via launching and macro apps such as QuickSilver (used by Sage), Keyboard Maestro, and the like.
Use TextExpander If you’re already using this (textexpander. com), it’s easy to convert the clipboard to text and paste in a single step, and one that reader Guy Scott uses all the time.
1. Open TextExpander 2. Click New Snippet (+) 3. In the Content area, make sure Plain Text is selected from the pop-up menu 4. Type in the field
5. Set a label such as ‘Paste plain text’, and an abbreviation – Guy uses ‘ppp’
TextExpander can also launch AppleScripts, but this built-in approach is superior.
Use a clipboard utility
Readers use various clipboard utilities, some of which offer buttons, preferences or menu items that strip formatting. If you use LaunchBar (tinyurl.com/ ovtwfty), one of its preferences lets you enable a clipboard history with an option to paste via a keystroke; this can be set to convert to plain text.
Print an email to PDF in iOS 10
iOS added print support years ago, and Printopia and then other software rose to meet a challenge: supporting printers that didn’t use Apple’s AirPrint. But they also added a nifty workaround to the missing ability to create PDFs from email and other software that supported print via a Share button, but didn’t have a workflow that led to a PDF.
Printopia had to be hosted on a Mac, and it let you share any printer a Mac could access, as well as add printer and file-storage devices as printers. You could print to PDF on the attached computer or print to Dropbox. iOS 10 adds a subtle way to get the same effect without needing extra software.
1. In Mail, View a message 2. Tap the Share button 3. Select Print 4. In the Printer Options screen, you’ll see a preview. You can either pinch and expand
it or poke it (the harder 3D Touch). A PDF preview window opens 5. Tap the Share button at the bottom of that window 6. You can choose any Share option, including Copy to switch to an app that supports PDFs into which you can paste, share it Dropbox, add it to iCloud Drive, and the like 7. Once it’s shared, tap the back arrow (upper left), and then tap Cancel
In our testing, images on a page don’t always load. With two images from Apple, one from TestFlight and one from its beta program, the TestFlight images previewed and the beta message didn’t. The beta message had a whole lot of CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) formatting, and it’s possible that affected how images were loaded. The same email previewed fine in OS X, though.
FastScripts let you assign keystrokes to trigger AppleScripts
The TextExpander shortcut is easy to use
In a mail view, tap Share, choose Print, then expand or drag the PDF preview. It opens in a separate view