Apple has released macOS Catalina; the latest version of its desktop operating system for millions of iMacs, Macs, MacBooks and MacBook Pro machines. Unfortunately Apple has also confirmed that there are some major issues, and affected consumers should refrain from updating the OS until these issues are addressed.
Employees use Apple Inc. MacBook laptop computers for check in ahead of an event. Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg
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The Mac platform is especially popular with DJs, who cart around MacBook Pro machines jam-packed with music, playlists, mixes and specialist software to allow them to perform every evening. These have been tied to iTunes’ underlying XML database. But after nearly 20 years, iTunes has been discontinued in macOS Catalina, and the XML file no longer exists to index a local music collection.
The Verge reports that Apple has confirmed the issue is down to its removal of the XML file, but is handing responsibility to the third-party developers behind each app. Unfortunately for Apple’s reputation, those developers have been expecting the ability for the new standalone Music app to explore an XML file, a feature Apple suggested would be available until they could code around the lack of XML. Scott Wilson reports for Fact Mag:
This news contradicts Apple’s earlier assertion that there would be a way to manually export the XML file from the new Music app, though Catalina’s launch yesterday now proves this isn’t the case at all.
Apple’s advice, if you rely on DJ software that needs this XML file to function, is not to update to Catalina until individual developers have issued compatibility updates for the new operating system.
Since iTunes 11 Apple has offered an SDK to access the iTunes library without going through the iTunes XML file, and this sandboxed approach continues to work on Catalina. Yes there should be a cut-off point, but that should be communicated well in advance and any mitigating action is promised should be delivered.
Taco Bennett (with his MacBook Pro) performs at O2 Academy Brixton on September 18, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Venla Shalin/Redferns)
It’s not just music applications that are suffering under the public roll-out of software that has been in public beta since shortly after WWDC. A number of creative tools—including Apple Aperture, Microsoft Office 2011 and Adobe CS6—are experiencing issues.
Catalina also drops support for 32-bit applications. They simply will not run under the new system, this version of macOS is a 64-bit only world. If you are a Mac user that is reliant on a 32-bit app, then you have just a single dialog on installation that warns of the loss of support. Without looking, would you know which of your apps are 32-bit and which are 64-bit? If they are mission critical in your role? Is a 64-bit alternative is available?
Although you can step back from Catalina to the previous version of macOS (Mojave), that is a destructive process that requires you to erase your hard drive and have a back-up from before the upgrade to Catalina. Again, it’s something that is possible at a technical level but not communicated clearly during the upgrade process.
Apple Macbook Pro logo seen on a laptop product in an Apple store in Shanghai. (Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Apple cannot test every application available for a platform as open as macOS (the walled garden of iOS and routing everything through the App Store is a slightly different ballgame), but it should surely be able to test its own applications and have the confidence that they work. This is clearly not the case.
As reported by Forbes’ Gordon Kelly, Apple’s own ‘Reminders’ app is iOS 13 is not compatible with older versions of the app in either iOS or in macOS. If you want reminders to be synced over your devices, they all need to be running the latest versions of the respective operating systems—for some reason there’s no mix and match of platforms. And it’s not just sync that’s the issue, user data is being lost as well:
While companies break backwards compatibility with old software all the time, it is not usually with software that was current just a few weeks ago. Moreover, the fact that users face data loss just because they haven’t upgraded to a bug-filled iOS 13 or what still remains the current version of macOS, is absurd.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple unveils new products during a launch event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Apple wants to push forward with its platforms, and to diminish them so that subscription based services lead the hardware and software choices. But that plan is a goal for the future. Apple needs to remember that their hardware needs to work in the real world today. Apple should be consistent in what features it offers, it should provide clear and accurate information to developers and users, and it should ensure at the very least that its own house is in order.