macOS Catalina Released

Hold off on upgrading – Apple’s latest macOS raises concerns.

Apple’s latest release, macOS Catalina (10.15), has what Apple admits are “major issues” and we have a variety of concerns. As with most OS releases, we strongly recommend that you wait and not upgrade your University-owned Mac. Information Technology Services cannot yet support Catalina on University-owned Macs until several issues have been resolved, followed by further testing. (As a general rule, waiting until the first set of OS updates are released allows Apple to fix initial stability problems and bugs before the OS even makes it to your machine.)

While there are some interesting new features in this OS, like SideCar, Catalyst, increased security, and Apple Arcade, there are a number of things that either just won’t work or will present problems.  Here’s the big ones we know so far:

Music Apps and the Death of iTunes

In macOS Catalina, Apple has done away with the iTunes app, splitting its features into three separate apps: Music, Podcasts, and TV (coming later this fall). If you do any kind of audio mixing or heavy music work using iTunes and third-party software, you will likely run into problems. The underlying XML database and associated XML file no longer exists to index a local music collection. This has “broken” a number of music tools, such as Traktor and Rekordbox.

Other Affected Software and Services

It’s not just music applications that are having issues.  A number of creative tools—including Apple Aperture, Microsoft Office 2011 and Adobe CS6—are experiencing issues. Network printing, along with local printing, may also stop working in the new environment.

SPSS Statistics will be affected by several changes in the new OS, some of which could cause it to stop working completely. Version 23 (and all versions prior) will not run at all. Increased data protections will block all versions of SPSS from accessing the following data sources: Documents, Downloads, Desktop, and any connected external disks (this includes USB drives). Mandatory notarized applications and the end of support for 32-bit applications (like the SPSS License Authorization Wizard) are other factors that need to be addressed.

Apple’s own ‘Reminders’ app can behave strangely if you have multiple devices. If you want reminders synced across your devices, they all need to be running the latest versions of their respective operating systems—for some reason there’s no mix and match of platforms. And it’s not just syncing that’s the issue, user data is being lost as well.

It’s a 64-bit Only World

Catalina also drops support for 32-bit applications. They just won’t run on this version of macOS. Most people can’t tell which apps are 32-bit and which are 64-bit. Even some 64-bit software may not be compatible with Catalina.

We recommend that you take note of any mission-critical software so you will have a list ready when the time comes to upgrade. Prior to upgrading in the future, if you are unsure your software will run in Catalina, you can submit a quick ticket with your software details so we can give you compatibility feedback.

Undoing a Hasty macOS Upgrade

There’s no easy way to undo the upgrade or simply roll it back. Reverting from Catalina to a previous version of macOS, is an inconvenient process that requires we take your computer, erase your hard drive, reimage it, reinstall software, and restore your data and/or reconnect your OneDrive. Of course, this means you won’t be able to use your computer while this is being done.

Once we are confident that Catalina 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.