The sixteenth version of Apple’s MacOS, MacOS Catalina 10.15 was released earlier this month on October 7th. Following the expected path of being announced in the summer at WWDC before entering a developer beta program.
It has not had an easy launch, with a ‘hot fix’ supplementary update issued, key third-party applications struggling to support the new code, and many customers feeling bereft as support for their favorite apps has been dropped. But it has also brought a number of benefits, including tighter integration to Apple’s online services, support for running iPad apps, and debuting Activation Lock on the platform.
Should you be upgrading?
It is expected that Apple will be shipping all new Mac machines with MacOS Catalina 10.15. In terms of support, Catalina will run on all machines that ran Mojave (the previous named version), except for Mac Pros released between 2010 and 2012. These could run Mojave using a GPU upgrade, but will not run Catalina.
Catalina is compatible with the following machines.
- Mac Pro: Late 2013 models and onwards.
- iMac Pro: All models.
- iMac: Late 2012 models and onwards.
- Mac Mini: Late 2012 models and onwards.
- MacBook Pro: Mid 2012 models and onwards.
- MacBook Air: Mid 2012 models and onwards.
- MacBook: Early 2015 models and onwards.
You should be prompted to upgrade your computer to Catalina, but if you are looking to start the install, you can go to the Apple Menu > Software Update. More details can be found at Apple’s support page.
For many, MacOS Catalina 10.15 is a buggy release and has caused a number of issues. There are sync issues to the cloud (especially in the Reminders app), problems with signing back into iCloud, BlueTooth issues requiring you to delete and reconnect peripherals, and applications that need tweaked to run in the new environment.
New security procedures mean that you will be asked to ‘re-authorise’ access to files, and applications distributed outside of the Mac Store will need to be ‘notarised’ by Apple to run out of the box. While you can still give non-notarised apps access to your system, this is no longer an option shown on the dialogs – you need to kano to dig into the system preferences to give an app permission. This is part of the new Gatekeeper software and while it does keep the computer more securer, it also makes users more reliant on Apple.
A number of installation issues have beed addressed with two supplemental updates, but as always it is recommend you do a full backup of your machine before you upgrade the operating system so you can roll back the changes if needed.
The biggest issue with MacOS Catalina is the removal of support or 32-bit applications. Previously both 32-bit and 64-bit applications would run under Mojave. Although Apple has signalled this change to developers and users, those not as connected to Apple’s new direction have been caught out when installing Catalina as old apps will no longer run, some are not being ported to 64-bit, and others are ported to 64-bit but have switched to a subscription model.
Those who are reliant on 32-bit apps or specific apps that are not yet updated should avoid Catalina until they have a workable solution for Apple’s brave new world. You can check which of your existing apps are 32-bit by clicking on Apple Menu > About This Mac > System Report > Software > Application and check if they are 64-bit or 32-bit.
As a major release of MacOS, Catalina has a huge number of changes, both small and large. The key points worth noting are as follows.
The aforementioned Gatekeeper (which checks new apps for known security issues) is part of a new suite of security changes that work with the T2 security chip, that automatically encrypts data and allows trusted software more access to your data.
The T2 chip also supports Activation Lock in the same way as your iPhone or iPad, which allows you to remotely lock a misplaced or stolen computer, as well as remotely erasing the data, or reactivating it as needed.
Catalyst allows developers to easily port iPad applications coded under iPadOS to run on MacOS. One example of this in use is the return of a Twitter app from Twitter to the Mac desktop – by using Catalyst the iPadOS Twitter app can be run.
Apple has also tied MacOS closer to iPadOS with Sidecar – this allows your iPad to act as a second screen to your Mac machine either as an extended or a mirrored display, and that opens up the Mac platform to the Apple Pencil. Note that your Mac machine must be using an Intel Skylake based processor at a minimum, which in broad terms means a late 2015 model and onwards.
The other major change is the removal of iTunes and splitting out the media functions to better represent Apple’s cloud-based services, so get ready to use Music, Video, and Podcasts as standalone apps.
Wait For The Bugs To Be Found
As a new major release of an operating system, the general rule of not upgrading in the first wave should really apply. Developers who are in need of the new tools, or those with a second Mac machine that can be used as a testbed, are going to be adept at dealing with many issues that a regular consumer is going to troubled with.
Those users comfortable with Mojave and who have a work-critical machine running third-party software should be especially wary on what they will lose in any upgrade.
Right now, unless you have a business critical reason to upgrade to Catalina, I would recommend staying on Mojave until the major issues are addressed and tested.
Catalina certainly brings the Mac platform closer to your iPhone and iPad, and the features that allow the iPad to be used as a ‘second station’ and some iPad apps to run on your desktop are attractive. Apple has taken this moment to bring the platform closer to the cloud.
With so many small issues cropping up, these all add up to a frustrating experience for those updating to Catalina. Two supplemental updates have addressed some of the installation issues, but the vast majority of problems are still awaiting repair.
There’s no reason for most to update to Catalina just now. Mojave 10.14 is mature, works well, and third-party developers have worked on their apps under Mojave.
The next ‘point’ release of MacOS Catalina, 10.15.1, is currently in beta. The third developer beta was released on Thursday 24th October, and I would suggest that everyone wait for 10.15.1 to see Apple’s progress in dealing with the numerous issues.