The Mac OS X Lion Conspiracy


POSTED ON WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2012 AT 12:11 PM

By now, you obviously know that we're Mac fanatics here at MW Web Design and MW Mac Consulting. As much as we've loved Apple over the years, through web design and through servicing and supporting Macs, there's a disturbing trend at Apple which is beginning to drive us crazy. Since 1992, our motto has always been "call us if your Mac is driving you crazy". Lately, I've felt like changing that motto to "call Tim Cook if your Mac is driving you crazy".

Much of the information here isn't exactly "breaking" news — we're a little late with posting this article but our tardiness comes with a valid (and unfortunate) excuse. A broken ankle complete with three pins and a steel plate after a four day stay at the Lions Gate Hilton (hospital). It wasn't my ankle, it was my wife's ankle. It never dawned on me until just now — the hospital name actually contains the word "Lion". How ironic. Needless to say, I'm not the happiest camper in Vancouver right now so "bear" with me.

It's become very apparent over the last few years that Apple appears to have very little interest in supporting software which is older than about six months. Whether it's an application or an entire operating system. The company appears to have no desire to gracefully support Mac users who still run what the company considers to be an "old" operating system. Don't get me wrong here — I'm not saying that Apple doesn't support us at all. It's the way they support users of "older" software which ticks me off.

Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) was released on July 20th, 2011 and here we are now — six and a half months later as Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) users like myself already appear to be getting the shaft. On December 13th, 2011, Microsoft issued its last update for Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac which is almost eight years old.[1] Compare the policies of Apple and Microsoft and you'll clearly see that something isn't quite right. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Apple still issued updates for software they released back in 2004?

Why are we so reluctant to upgrade to Lion? There are plenty of reasons why but the main reason is due to the fact that Apple eliminated Rosetta from Mac OS X 10.7. Why all the fuss again? The recent Apple Security Update 2012-001 for Snow Leopard which was released on February 1st, 2012 actually broke Rosetta. Within hours, thousands of Mac users began reporting that Rosetta was broken on their Macs after installing the update. Their PowerPC applications wouldn't function properly. Naturally, the public cried "it's a conspiracy" in order to get users to upgrade to Lion. Conspiracy? Kennedy and Roswell? Yes. But Apple? No. Nevertheless, I think most Snow Leopard users are beginning to catch the drift. Upgrade or else.

On February 3rd, 2012, Apple quietly (as usual) issued a version 1.1 update to address the problem. The post date for the revised update still shows February 1st, 2012. The problem was apparently caused by a new System Library Application Services Framework named ImageIO.Framework which many users were replacing with a previous copy from their Time Machine backup as a temporary workaround (the ImageIO security fixes were apparently removed from the 1.1 update — how this affects the overall "security factor" now, only Apple knows).

One reader on MacInTouch (our favorite Mac troubleshooting site) wrote in to say:

"A trip to the genius bar ended up with a clean install as the only fix..." [2]

And another wrote:

"...the company's growing apathy towards non-Lion users. Snow Leopard, after all, is last year's operating system..."

Yet another wrote:

"...the first AppleCare rep I spoke with did not even know what Rosetta was..."

And finally, a reader quite aptly named "James Earl" wrote:

"...Trust is hard to earn. Easy to lose. Once lost, it's gone. Security update 2012-001 Rosetta Assassin..."

I haven't seen this many angry Mac users in a long, long time. The excellent MacInTouch coverage of this Apple blunder is definitely worth a read. You'll be able to learn a lot from it, too. Speaking of conspiracies — any relation to James Earl Ray in that last quote above (my apologies if that's a real moniker)?

How much testing could Apple have possibly done before releasing this update to the general public? Did it even matter since it was "just" another update for an "older" operating system? When I finish working on someone's computer, I test absolutely everything. I fire up every application. I do print jobs and test all of the peripherals. I test the network connections and restart the machine three or four times to make sure there are no hidden surprises before I leave. You can't take anything for granted when it comes to software updates. Having been a computer consultant for over twenty years, I can't help but wonder what's going on. Is Apple really that rushed and that focused on Lion and iOS?

To add insult to injury, Apple also released a somewhat questionable Mac OS X 10.7.3 Delta Update on February 1st, 2012 which produced a whole whack of crashing problems and cryptic error messages for Lion users. Like the security update above, it was also pulled shortly afterward. Experienced users in Apple Support Communities were advising other users to apply the Mac OS X 10.7.3 Combo Update instead of the Delta update (which, by the way, you should always do — instead of using Software Update on your Mac, manually download the appropriate Combo Updater from Apple's website to avoid problems such as this one).[3]

You've just gotta love the generic descriptions which Apple always uses to introduce these "latest and greatest" software updates:

"The 10.7.3 update is recommended for all OS X Lion users and includes general operating system fixes that improve the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac..."

How did this all slip by the "wizards" on Apple Campus — the geniuses who can write Objective C in their sleep? Perhaps that's exactly what they were doing. Writing code while half asleep (my software's up to date but my programmer was up too late).

Included in the Mac OS X 10.7.3 Update was Safari 5.1.3. And you guessed it. It's for Lion users only. Snow Leopard users are stuck with the buggy version 5.1.2 at the time of writing (see update below). And the brand new, long-overdue, completely re-designed and overhauled Airport Utility 6 was released for — you guessed it again — Lion (version 10.7.2 or later). But not for Snow Leopard.

Look around the Mac App Store to see how much software already has a minimum requirement of Mac OS X 10.7. Us Snow Leopard users are all on the "backburner" now. Just six and a half months after Lion made its roaring debut. Shafted, shafted, shafted.

What about the outstanding bugs which were introduced in the last few updates for Snow Leopard? Forget it. I doubt very much if Apple will bother fixing any of them in the near future. One of the most annoying bugs I've ever encountered (which was apparently "introduced" with Mac OS X 10.6.7) is the fact that my Magic Mouse battery level constantly shows 100% now regardless of its true level. There are third-party fixes available for this problem but where is Apple's fix? This problem wasn't fixed in 10.6.8 and it's highly doubtful that we'll ever see a 10.6.9 update to address the problem (along with many others).

Of worthy mention — I stayed at Mac OS X 10.6.6. for the longest time which, in my opinion, was the most stable Snow Leopard update out of all. At the beginning of this year, I finally had to bite the bullet and install 10.6.8 (mainly for reasons related to my iPhone) and it's the most unstable Snow Leopard update out of all. I skipped 10.6.7 but many of my clients had fewer problems with 10.6.7 than they did with 10.6.8 (with the exception of the font problem which Apple had to issue yet another fix for). I get unexpected Finder quits when manually backing up certain files and folders from my Libraries to my external drives along with all sorts of unexpected behavior which has proven to be impossible to fix without reverting back to 10.6.6 which I can't do. What's my recourse? Upgrade to Lion? No thanks. Once again, when you look at the description for the Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update Combo v1.1, here's what you'll read:

"The 10.6.8 update is recommended for all users running Mac OS X Snow Leopard and includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac..."

Along with many other die-hard Mac users, I poked a lot of fun at Microsoft back in our Apple Reseller days. But after seeing how Microsoft supported Office 2004 for Mac for almost eight years, I'm eating my "word(s)" right now. It really appears as though we're dealing with a forced upgrade policy and it's becoming a little too much. Frustrating when I click on a download link only to realize that the software I wanted to install won't work on my "old" operating system, requiring an upgrade to Lion instead. Conspiracy? No. But come on, Apple — we still love 'ya and we know you can do better than this.

[Updated 02.16.12] With Apple's Developer Preview of OS X Mountain Lion [10.8] having been released today, I'd have to say that us 10.6 users might as well just run down to the bank right now and apply for that loan to upgrade all of our software. As of today, we're not just feeling old, we're starting to feel ancient. The "new" OS is coming this summer. Silly me — I thought 10.7 was new. Maybe Apple will consider including a new version of Rosetta and re-naming it to El Castillo. Great timing for all of this since the world might end on December 21st, 2012 depending on how you interpret the Mayan calendar.

[Updated 03.12.12] Apple released Safari 5.1.4 for Snow Leopard today.

References And Footnotes

[1] Originally released on May 11th, 2004, Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac just reached official unsupported status last month on January 10th, 2012.

[2] This is becoming a real problem with the people who answer the phones for Apple's Award-Winning Telephone Technical Support system. Far too often, their first recourse is to advise the customer to re-install their operating system. We've seen dozens of cases over the years where this was completely unnecessary.

[3] You may wish to consider unchecking the "Download Updates Automatically" function in Software Update so that updates such as these don't make their way onto your Mac without your full attention first.

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