Saturday, October 12, 2019

Waiting to Update to Catalina

As a developer, there are a bunch of new APIs that I want to be able to use. And, of course, I’ve been using it for a few months on a couple of auxiliary Macs for testing. But as a user, I see very little to tempt me to upgrade anytime soon. As ATP put it, there’s not enough carrot and too much stick, not to mention early bugs.

Dieter Bohn:

At the risk of being an I-told-you-so kind of person, I’m just going to repeat what I said in the Catalina review again. You probably depend on your Mac or PC for “real work,” and so updating on day one could threaten that real work — literally threaten your livelihood. It’s better to wait and see how things shake out, to let other people experience the problems and report them.

Telling people not to upgrade to the new OS for a few weeks used to be so common that it sounds weird to emphasize it so much. But somewhere in the past decade the yearly updates for both iOS (and, to a lesser extent, Android) lulled us into a false sense of complacency.

Adam Engst:

Nevertheless, for most people, we recommend delaying your upgrade for a while for a variety of reasons[…]

Jason Snell:

If there’s a must-have app that only runs on Catalina, or you want to use Voice Control or Screen Time or Find My or Apple Arcade, and all your go-to software checks out, then by all means, make the jump to Catalina. (I’ve been using it for the last month with only a few minor app incompatibilities that I expect to be resolved as updates roll out alongside the new release.) But if you can wait, you should. Let other people discover the early bugs and suffer the app incompatibilities. Catalina will still be there for you when you’re ready for it.

Mike Rundle:

It’s blowing my mind how many folks are upgrading to Catalina immediately. Unless you absolutely need to upgrade for development testing, macOS releases have been buggy as hell in recent years. I always wait 6+ months just to be safe 👻

John Voorhees:

A lot of the cautionary advice about upgrading to Catalina conflates the risk of installing the new version of macOS with the risk of relying on unmaintained 32-bit apps. Not doing the former doesn’t eliminate the risk of the later.

Robert Hammen (Rich Trouton):

Want to block macOS Catalina from showing up in Software Update preferences on macOS Mojave? sudo /usr/sbin/softwareupdate --ignore "macOS Catalina" prevents it from appearing!

Jeff Johnson:

I temporarily removed the Dock badge with defaults delete AttentionPrefBundleIDs, but then it came back after checking again. :-(

When you’re ready to update:

sudo /usr/sbin/softwareupdate --reset-ignored should do the trick

You can create a bootable install disk using DropDMG.

Glenn Fleishman:

But maybe you’d like to hedge your bets. In the past, you’d need to partition your startup drive, which could turn into a lot of effort, or get an external drive—preferably SSD—and install and boot from that.


The way this works to your advantage with Catalina is that if you have enough spare in your main container to handle Catalina—a few tens of gigabytes, but preferably more—you use Disk Utility to add a value into your main container, then install Catalina into that volume. You can then use the Startup Disk preference pane to swap among your volumes without involving an external drive at all.

This can continue to be useful after Catalina is released if you want to keep a Mojave volume active for 32-bit apps that no longer run in Catalina.


Update (2019-10-13): Rob Griffiths:

(Note: You may have to restart the Dock for the red dot to vanish; you can do that with killall Dock in Terminal.)

I decided to tackle this by creating a launchd agent—which is just the technical name for scheduled tasks in macOS’ Unix core.

Peter Maurer:

As a user, Catalina is the worst macOS update I’ve ever seen. Worse than 10.7, worse than 10.10.

It’s unfortunate that it also happens to be the first macOS update that Apple pushes this aggressively.

Please slow down.

Update (2019-10-15): Bombich Software:

If you’re thinking about upgrading a Mac that you depend on for productivity, maybe wait a few weeks for the dust to settle. And of course, make a CCC bootable backup before you make the upgrade[…]

Update (2020-06-01): Howard Oakley:

Now’s the time that those who’ve been cautious, and let the early adopters find all the bugs in Catalina, consider whether to upgrade. Is it safe to go ahead, in readiness for macOS 10.16, or are there still showstoppers which will make you regret it?

With Catalina, there can’t be a clear answer.

Howard Oakley:

From the outset, Apple’s abandonment of 32-bit support was inevitably going to leave many users unable to upgrade, unless 10.15 had included some form of compatibility mode. Another change which was bound to cause problems was the enforcement of hardening and notarization. Only last week I looked at buying the superb graphing and analysis software Igor Pro, which I last used many years ago. Because it supports extensions containing executable code, it remains essentially incompatible with Catalina. I’ve also been contacted by a developer of another major software system which has similar problems with app extensions, who’s still struggling to meet hardening and notarization requirements.

See also: macOS 10.15.5.

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> A lot of the cautionary advice about upgrading to Catalina conflates the risk of installing the new version of macOS with the risk of relying on unmaintained 32-bit apps. Not doing the former doesn’t eliminate the risk of the later.

No, the key risk of and to the latter is the former.

@vintner Right, the forcing function is Catalina. But the point is that unmaintained software is not like an old book that you can keep reading, though the pages may yellow. It’s more like a time bomb that is going to stop working some day, and unless it relies on no outside services at all, you can’t even necessarily contain it in a VM.

I don't agree with that as a given. Old software generally doesn't magically stop working on its own, it gets broken by careless or uncaring OS vendors. That Apple is so overtly hostile to maintaining compatibility that it regularly breaks programs not just at hard architecture transitions but from release to release is a state of affairs that should not be taken as acceptable stewardship.

The "time bomb" here is Apple, and forcing developers to perpetually update long-finished but still-useful software just to periodically defuse that bomb feels like another step towards app serfdom.

Did anyone find out how to permanently get rid of the red notification badge?

The real issue here is not the loss of 32 bit apps, we were well warned by Apple. There are so many other deal breakers with Catalina that it might as well be named Vista.

- iOSification of /System, putting it on its own partition away from other things.
- Shuffling of the Unix directory structures, but new 'hard links' are supposed to alleviate that (fink is already broken)
- "Notarization" seems more for Apple trying to exert control outside the MAS than real security ATP.
- Shipping with DATA LOSS bugs like the one found in Mail. There will likely be more. Professionals losing years of work thru Mail or iCloud drive doesn't sound like a good time to me.
- Breaking of DJ- and Pro tools, in fact almost like Apple doesn't care about legacy or compatibility for professionals.

Why would I OVERPAY to buy a "new Mac" with any of these "features?" The answer is that I wouldn't, I'll stick with OWC and Mojave for at least another year. I can have all of the benefits of a Pro operating system in Mojave (and HIgh Sierra) and non of the nonsense of Tim Cook's "pivot to consumer" which it seems Vista, sorry, Catalina seems to be. Even Catalyst for all the promise seems to be fizzling out.

I don't need trinket features "SideCar" (when 3rd party does it better), I don't need broken (up) iTunes. I need a stable operating system, and (for at least a year I'm betting) Catalina just isn't it. I'm hoping this post won't age well but my gut says otherwise.

After a lot of reading about the changes in Catalina (and previously stating that there was no way I would upgrade) I backed up everything and prepared for a downgrade just in case. But after doing a fresh install, re-registering all my apps etc, I have been pleasantly surprised in general. I haven't seen as many of the annoying "Do you want to allow App X to do Operation Y?" pop-ups as I had expected. Every app I use seems to work fine, including stuff I've installed via Homebrew. So far, no regrets.

The only issue I have seen is that for some weird reason the Songs view in has a non-standard scrollbar. The bar (pill?) itself is about 50% thinner and darker than every other view (Artists, Albums, For You, etc), and doesn't respond to clicks in the gutter. You can only grab and drag it with the pointer. It's not a dealbreaker, but it is just one more small example of the horrible state of Apple software and QA these days. I can't imagine 1) why they gave Songs view a nonstandard scroll to begin with and 2) how QA didn't catch it -- it's so obvious, both visually and operationally.

@Ben Hasn’t the Songs list in iTunes been a custom view with non-standard scrolling for the entire history of the app?

I'll also add that Catalyst seems to be a failure so far. I downloaded PDF Viewer which Steve Troughton-Smith said was the best example of a Catalyst app, and it's not any better than any other PDF apps on the Mac (and Preview is a really low bar). What's really unbelievable is if you close PDF Viewer with documents open, the app doesn't re-open them the next time you launch it. Almost every other Mac document app (with the unsurprising exception of MS Office) does this. That's a core feature these days.

"Hasn’t the Songs list in iTunes been a custom view with non-standard scrolling for the entire history of the app?"

I can't check now that iTunes is gone. Though I'm sure I would have noticed if I couldn't click-to-scroll in the Songs gutter since I do it all the time. Taking a quick glance at some iTunes screenshots of Songs view on Google Images shows the scroll bar looks exactly the same as in all of the other views -- proper full width, proper shade of grey... unlike

Can you check on your system?

Slight amendment of point 2 of my screed, Apple calls these new directory aliases “firm links”

Howard Oakley goes into them in this post;

I’m watching his blog like a hawk, he seems very much on top of what’s going on with Catalina.

@Ben Not a surprise since the document architecture doesn’t exist in UIKit. I think the gutter-click scrolling worked before, but that view in iTunes has had various odd column headers and colored scroll thumbs that were totally different from the reset of the system (sometimes a preview of what was to come).

@Leo Yeah, great blog. The firmlinks and/or reorganization seem to have messed up LaunchBar for me. It’s now offering suggestions for files that don’t exist.

@Anonymous Please see the Griffiths post linked above.

@Ben G
I just checked and yes, in iTunes you can click on the scroll gutter to scroll page-at-a-time.


MacRumors Forum member bogdanw found the complete fix:

sudo softwareupdate --ignore 'macOS Catalina'
defaults delete AttentionPrefBundleIDs
defaults delete DidShowPrefBundleIDs
defaults write LatestMajorOSSeenByUserBundleIdentifier
defaults write ProductKeysLastSeenByUser 061-21551
killall Dock
Sören Nils Kuklau

The only issue I have seen is that for some weird reason the Songs view in has a non-standard scrollbar. The bar (pill?) itself is about 50% thinner and darker than every other view (Artists, Albums, For You, etc), and doesn’t respond to clicks in the gutter.

The gutter does respond for me, including respecting the preference “Jump to the next page” vs. “Jump to the spot that’s clicked” (which you can temporarily toggle by holding opt). So other than being hella slow, it actually seems fairly standard.

I can’t imagine 1) why they gave Songs view a nonstandard scroll to begin with and 2) how QA didn’t catch it — it’s so obvious, both visually and operationally.

It does seem slightly thinner when in the non-default “always show scroll bars” mode. But I can’t find any behavioral issues.

@steve taylor - That Macrumors fix didn't work for me. It did clear all the badges etc, and cleared the Update to Catilna in Preferences -> Software Updates but only until the next time I opened Software Updates and it checked for updates - then just like the measles up popped the Upgrade to Catalina ad ... until I unenrolled from the beta program, then it finally disappeared.

>Old software generally doesn't magically stop working
>on its own, it gets broken by careless or uncaring OS

I think this is a little bit unfair towards Apple. Providing stable APIs is incredibly difficult. Providing stable APIs at the scope of an operating system, with the inevitable real-world consequence that people will do weird things you did not foresee, is practically impossible. Even Microsoft, which does an incredibly good job maintaining compatibility (and invests a lot of resources into doing so) breaks things from time to time.

I don't disagree with the general feeling that Apple is screwing up here, and that we should demand more investment into long-term backwards-compatibility, but it's just not true that things don't stop working on their own. If you continue developing an operating system, then applications that depend on its APIs will break, unless you consciously invest a lot of effort into preventing them from breaking.

The problem is that Apple is completely unwilling to invest the effort required in maintaining support for old applications, both on macOS and on iOS. Remember all of the applications and games that initially came out in 2008 and defined the iPhone? Yeah, you're never seeing those again.

Wow upon further investigation, scroll bar behavior is REALLY screwed up. In the "Show scroll bar" "When scrolling" or "Automatically..." modes, the Artists tab also has a skinnier scroll bar -- but it's correct in "Show always" mode. I also saw a few times where a really fat scroll bar appeared, something like 125% normal width... almost as if it was some sort of Accessibility feature. Another bug showed the scroll bar in the Artists view kind of "lighting up" when I did a two finger scroll on my trackpad -- not the normal "fade into view"... it became brighter. Lastly, when in "Automatically..." mode, all views will show the scroll gutter if your mouse is hovering over that area of the window -- except the Songs view, it only shows the bar itself. And now, after testing all of this out and changing my settings back to "Show always" mode, the Artists view now permanently has a skinny scroll bar too (not just the Songs view). This is crazy town.

@Mike Rundle has a good point. In fact I used to wait months if not years to update as an end user. I decided to become an aggressive early adopter with 10.5 Leopard.

Me, speaking on, my 10.5 woes:

My upgrade schedule for the next few years was set, as I steadfastly stayed behind the curve until Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was released. Now remind me about kernel panics and Internet access being blocked with parental controls enabled on 10.5 and I will tell you my choice to become an early adopter proved unwise. Enough so, I actually went back to using Tiger for a few months!

With Snow Leopard, I stayed an early adopter as I found Leopard to still be a bit buggy* and I was actually pleasantly surprised with how well Snow Leopard functioned out of the box. Lion found me holding off again for a couple years and when I updated to it, I was not impressed. Everything felt slower than previous versions of OS X on the same hardware, even with SSD upgrades on my old MacBooks. Even the aesthetics were particularly ugly. Leather? Woodgrain? Torn pages? Time Machine certainly had some nice updates (specifically tmutil, the command line app). My "lightest of user" family members could get by, but for myself, nah, it was a downgrade from Snow Leopard. In fact, even a 2019 build of Antergos, Arch based Linux distro (RIP), felt better on the same hardware. Shrug

Why non power users rush to update, I'm not sure, but Apple sure is pushing things when they release ecosystem companions, such as the new iPhones where you will be required to update your Macs to keep everything working with your new phones.

*Apple broke HDMI output in 10.5.7. So very frustrating. Apple's tone deaf response was "We don't support adapters," as no Mac had HDMI built in, so passive DVI to HDMI adapters were busted. Again, these were just passive take the signal and pass it through to another connector dongles.

@Peter Maurer
Interesting thoughts he has on buggiest OS X build. While I never used 10.10, or anything beyond 10.7*, I will give you 10.5 as a run for his money when comparing to 10.7. Buggy at release, many apps I needed were not compatible with it to boot, and it stayed buggy until 10.5.7. The last release, 10.5.8 was definitely much better than the prior builds to be fair, while 10.7's problems were never really ironed out.

People kept telling me I could/should upgrade non supported Macs to 10.8 (and apparently beyond), but the writing was on the wall for me and I simply removed myself from OS X entirely. Sadly. I really could not understand where Apple was going with their product line. Not just software, but after a few years, hardware as well.

@Leo M
I agree wholeheartedly on the biggest problem not being the loss of the 32 bit apps, which, while frustrating, we were all given prior notice E.g. I have been 32bit free on Linux for four years and yes, I have lost some old games and such, but my system is certainly easier to maintain this way. I do think a VM/container/whatever that is built to run 32bit apps would be great.

More importantly, as you eloquently stated, data loss after upgrading is completely unacceptable. Between problems with Mail and Reminders… simply yuck. Likewise, notarization, as Apple implements it, certainly seems like more of a power grab for non app store software, but we will see.

The last release of Lion broke WiFi drivers for the mid-2007 MacBook (which couldn't use anything newer so users were just left with WiFi that would drop packets every few seconds). The Genius Bar replaced everything short of the LCD to no avail. Then I installed Windows 8 and the problem went away...

That stinks! I wonder if that was why there were issues on one of my older MacBooks with Lion. Some of the 802.11n Airport Extreme Cards used Broadcom chips and some used Atheros chips and I cannot remember which chip on which MacBook. I think Broadcom, but I just cannot remember.

Funny thing, as with your switching the MacBook to Windows to solve the problem example, I went with Linux for the same reason. Gained another year or two of life on each system. I have one late 2008 MacBook that is still alive and kicking! Not really thanks to their own support, but let me credit Apple for building hardware that keep on ticking.

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