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  • Living with Leopard: Book I — Ignore the Fear Merchants!

    October 29th, 2007

    You just knew it had to happen. Within a day or two after Apple releases a major product or product enhancement, all bets are off. The ugly face of whatever it is they delivered comes to the surface, and, before long, you begin to wonder how such an abject failure can actually succeed — until you begin to separate facts from fiction of course.

    Now most of you know that I have written several fiction books with my son, Grayson, and a lot of factual books and articles too. So I think I know how to separate one from the other, but I sometimes wonder if others have the same set of values.

    Take a headline I read this week from Jason O’Grady’s PowerPage site, where he points his readers to an article he co-authored with David Morgenstern over at ZDNet, a CNET affiliate, entitled “Apple says to Archive and Install Leopard.”

    Now, if you take the statement at face value, which I expect most readers might do until they read the fine print, it clearly asserts that Apple is admitting that the standard Upgrade Mac OS X installation scenario for Leopard won’t work, so you must use the semi-clean “Archive & Install” method instead.

    But when you read the actual details, you find that it’s just not so. In its Knowledge Base document on the subject, Apple is actually addressing a small minority of installations where a third-party system enhancement, probably an older version of Unsanity’s Application Enhancer, may cause a blue screen of death when you restart your Mac after performing an Upgrade installation of Leopard.

    The solutions include reinstalling Leopard with the Archive & Install method, or using the Terminal to zap the offending system extender. But that’s mostly a case of closing the barn door after the cows have departed. The real solution is just to remove your third party system goodies before you install Leopard. Some of these utilities have uninstallers. Others, mostly the ones that fiddle with Mac OS X’s hidden settings, such as TinkerTool, include the capability of restoring your system to its default settings, and you should definitely take that step if you don’t find an obvious removal method of the software itself. That is, besides just throwing out the application, of course.

    Either way, that should remove the the most obvious threat of a startup failure. So the headline for that article from O’Grady and Morgenstern is not just misleading, but dead wrong except in cases where you forgot to remove the third-party system enhancement.

    In fact, other than defective hardware or a corrupted hard drive, you can probably blame most Mac OS X update troubles on a system that’s been manipulated via Terminal trickery, or by adding a third-party toy. It’s a word to the wise, and should be considered before you throw caution to the wind and proceed with your installation as if nothing could possibly go wrong.

    To be sure, Apple has clearly tested Leopard installations on all of their hardware, so they do — or at least should — know all about the potential downsides. In saying that, the two Leopard installations I performed for a client this weekend were simple upgrades. Nothing special, because I knew he hadn’t done any nasty things to his operating system’s guts. As I expected, it was flawless in every respect, as I suspect most Leopard installations of that sort will be.

    The other concerns I have concern the recent instructions about installing Leopard on unsupported hardware. Yes, perhaps your Power Mac with a pair of 800MHz processors will work as well or better than a single 867MHz chip after you install Leopard. But for whatever reason — and certainly selling new hardware has to be a part of it — Apple chose that specific line of demarcation.

    If you dare to cross it in some fashion, such as accessing that Mac’s startup drive via FireWire Target Disk mode from a Mac that’s certified for Leopard, the installation may succeed without any problems. If the specs of that Mac are close enough to the minimum requirements — and you have lots of RAM available — you maybe perfectly happy with your Mac’s performance. Indeed, for most of you, and my own experience bears this out, Leopard is quite a slick and snappy beast.

    But what happens when Apple releases the inevitable slew of system updates. For example, Login & Keychain Update 1.0 appeared the day after Leopard’s official release. I’ve little doubt that those updates will show up in the Software Update screen on one of those officially unsupported Macs. However, when you try to run the installer, don’t be surprised if you get the message that the hardware isn’t compatible.

    So what do you do then? Why of course you can probably return to the method you used to induce installation in the first place, and do all your updates manually as they show up, by downloading the files direct from Apple. I suppose that clever scheme will succeed in most cases, so perhaps there’s nothing to worry about.

    But what if the Mac you used to force the original installation is not available? What if you just borrowed it from a friend to get Leopard to work on your aging Mac? What if that update fixes a critical system bug and you try to beg your friend to use his machine again, only to find he’s on a one-month vacation in Spain?

    Yes, some folks will delight in telling you how to do things that you’re not supposed to be able to do. But if you depend on your Mac for your business, I would be extremely cautious about whose advice you listen to. If something goes wrong, it’s not as if you can make them pay you for the lost production.



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    17 Responses to “Living with Leopard: Book I — Ignore the Fear Merchants!”

    1. John Fallon says:

      When I installed Stuffit Deluxe on my G5, it installed the Unsanity product without asking me. I believe the Logitech mouse software does the same. Maybe that’s a small minority of Mac users, but I’d not expect most of them to know that APE was installed, or to have a clue that it could cause an upgrade to hang if they did know that.

    2. Jon says:

      Application enhancer is not the only issue. There is also a major conflict with older DIVX software
      that prevents the Finder from launching or mounting any drives and another issue that results in
      your user account losing administrator status so you can’t make any changes. I don’t know how
      frequent these issues are but I struggled with both last night. From my perspective this is the worst
      upgrade experience I have had from Apple in 20 years.

      Finder issue: http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1197076&tstart=15
      Accounts issue: http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1202129&tstart=0

    3. When I installed Stuffit Deluxe on my G5, it installed the Unsanity product without asking me. I believe the Logitech mouse software does the same. Maybe that’s a small minority of Mac users, but I’d not expect most of them to know that APE was installed, or to have a clue that it could cause an upgrade to hang if they did know that.

      No, Logitech’s software doesn’t use Application Enhancer. I haven’t installed StuffIt in several years. Don’t need it anymore.

      Peace,
      Gene

    4. Application enhancer is not the only issue. There is also a major conflict with older DIVX software
      that prevents the Finder from launching or mounting any drives and another issue that results in
      your user account losing administrator status so you can’t make any changes. I don’t know how
      frequent these issues are but I struggled with both last night. From my perspective this is the worst
      upgrade experience I have had from Apple in 20 years.

      Finder issue: http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1197076&tstart=15
      Accounts issue: http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1202129&tstart=0

      Indeed, the problems, as usual, are with third-party software. The best I can suggest is that you just check as carefully as possible before you jump in, and always look for updates.

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. John Fallon says:

      Stuffit is more trouble and expense than it’s worth. Stuffit 11 installed the Application Preference Enhancer on my G5 so they could do some fancy menus; you could avoid it if you did a custom install.

    6. Kathe Wittenberg says:

      I find it ironic that you begin your article instructing folks to ignore the fear merchants re. Leopard installation. Then you close your article with your own fear-based statements for those running older Mac hardware. What’s it going to be, follow your fears or someone else’s?

      Most of us running older Mac hardware that are also interested in installing Leopard are ready to live on the edge and dive in with Leopard, despite the FUD. If we’re willing to tinker with Leopard on our older Macs, we’re most likely going to know how to deal with the results, what ever they may be.

      I am beginning to feel there may well be some elitism going on from the newer Intel-based Mac camp. For many of us, part of the draw to use Macs is how they just keep working long beyond being designated as obsolete. And being able to keep them working is part of the joy in using them as well.

      Namaste,

      Kathe

    7. I find it ironic that you begin your article instructing folks to ignore the fear merchants re. Leopard installation. Then you close your article with your own fear-based statements for those running older Mac hardware. What’s it going to be, follow your fears or someone else’s?

      Most of us running older Mac hardware that are also interested in installing Leopard are ready to live on the edge and dive in with Leopard, despite the FUD. If we’re willing to tinker with Leopard on our older Macs, we’re most likely going to know how to deal with the results, what ever they may be.

      I am beginning to feel there may well be some elitism going on from the newer Intel-based Mac camp. For many of us, part of the draw to use Macs is how they just keep working long beyond being designated as obsolete. And being able to keep them working is part of the joy in using them as well.

      Namaste,

      Kathe

      I think we have to be clear about the differences here. My complaint at the start of the article was about a headline that indicates that Apple is recommending against Leopard Upgrade installations, when this is just not true. They are simply addressing a subset of systems, where certain enhancement utilities might cause trouble.

      As to installing any version of Mac OS X on unsupported hardware: I’m not being a fear merchant. I’m giving you a reality check. In addition to the considerations that I address, you have to realize that Apple isn’t obliged to provide technical support either. Do what you want — but you’re on your own.

      Peace,
      Gene

    8. Ivo Wiesner says:

      When I installed Stuffit Deluxe on my G5, it installed the Unsanity product without asking me. I believe the Logitech mouse software does the same. Maybe that’s a small minority of Mac users, but I’d not expect most of them to know that APE was installed, or to have a clue that it could cause an upgrade to hang if they did know that.

      No, Logitech’s software doesn’t use Application Enhancer. I haven’t installed StuffIt in several years. Don’t need it anymore.

      Peace,
      Gene

      Actually, Logitech Control Center does install Application Enhancer. See also discussion here:

      http://www.unsanity.org/archives/haxies/leopard.php#comments

    9. When I installed Stuffit Deluxe on my G5, it installed the Unsanity product without asking me. I believe the Logitech mouse software does the same. Maybe that’s a small minority of Mac users, but I’d not expect most of them to know that APE was installed, or to have a clue that it could cause an upgrade to hang if they did know that.

      No, Logitech’s software doesn’t use Application Enhancer. I haven’t installed StuffIt in several years. Don’t need it anymore.

      Peace,
      Gene

      Actually, Logitech Control Center does install Application Enhancer. See also discussion here:

      http://www.unsanity.org/archives/haxies/leopard.php#comments

      With an old version, I see it does. But not at all with any current versions. My desktop Mac always uses a recent Logitech device, and recent Logitech software (2.3.1), and I don’t have Application Enhancer.

      Peace,
      Gene

    10. Jon says:

      I’m sorry Gene, I agree with Kathe. You don’t make any sense.
      I think an information-based approach would be much more
      useful to other users than your own version of FUD.

      Whatever,
      Jon

    11. I’m sorry Gene, I agree with Kathe. You don’t make any sense.
      I think an information-based approach would be much more
      useful to other users than your own version of FUD.

      Whatever,
      Jon

      OK, I had two main points in the article above:

      1. I cited an article that contained a misleading headline, implying Apple was recommending against doing Upgrade installs. The information I provided was absolutely correct.

      2. I then pointed out that articles recommending unsupported installations of Leopard were putting the Mac user at risk, because of potential incompatibilities and lack of support from Apple.

      Now are you saying you do not understand either of those issues, or the information I used to reach those conclusions?

      How about some details, please?

      Peace,
      Gene

    12. Kathe Wittenberg says:

      Stating that a headline is misleading is very subjective, not necessarily based on fact. I think you jumped on the FUD bandwagon, quite frankly. On one hand, you criticize an article for a misleading headline, creating one of our own. Felt more like quibbling re. Jason O’Grady’s article and headline. Seems like that headline struck a nerve in you somehow, and you went with it.

      In effect, Apple *has* recommended against installing Leopard on older Macs when they come out and say certain machines are unsupported. Then you jump in and join the circus, advising those with “unsupported” Macs to avoid installing Leopard at our own peril and in your flip response to my post, it’s “Do what you want — but you’re on your own”? Don’t bother waiting for a few days or weeks to see how things sift out with Leopard installations. Don’t give the owners of older Macs a hair’s breadth of credit for being able to troubleshoot and keep their Macs running just fine, thank you.

      You’re speaking out of both sides of your mouth, Gene. So we’re instructed *not* to heed Jason O’Grady’s article, but to heed yours? Is the fact that I can’t call Apple if I run into problems with my unsupported G4 Digital Audio (with 1.25BG of RAM, 1.8ghz Sonnet upgrade processor, Nvidia Geforce 6200 w/256mb of RAM with Quartz Extreme and Core Image) support supposed to strike fear and trembling in my heart? BTW… all those upgrades on my G4 I’ve somehow managed to do myself without picking up the phone to Apple. Can you imagine such a thing?

      I belong to the PPC603 Mac troubleshooting list, among others. You can imagine how old it is, with that name. When I bought my Performa 6220 in the 90s, I had to find somewhere to learn how to make the thing stop doing what I didn’t want it to do. Phone calls to Apple were fruitless at that time. That troubleshooting list still exists to this day, and we’ve all moved on to other, newer machines, helping each other along the way, which is one of the things I love most about the Mac Community: users helping users. Quite a concept; allowing others to find their own way and learning/teaching through the experience.

      Please leave the spreading of FUD in your fiction writing where people might enjoy it. As things have transpired over the week since Leopard’s release, there are many reports of incompatibilities with “supported” machines. I’ll hang with both my G4 1.5ghz PowerBook (supported) as well as my unsupported G4 Digital Audio mini-tower and find my way through anything that comes. The fact that I can’t run to the phone and call Apple for help is the least of my concerns. I stopped calling Apple for help in the mid-90s with that old Performa. Much more satisfying to see things as a challenge and continue on, rather then see things as too risky and stop dead in my tracks, quaking in fear.

      No one says you have to be willing to do it too. Just don’t spread FUD to stop others from stepping into ventures you may not want to risk yourself. One of my favorite quotes paraphrased, “A teacher can only take you as far as they’re willing to go.” Sorry I don’t have the author of that quote on hand, but feels apt in this case.

      Namaste,

      Kathe

    13. I’m sorry, Kathe, but there’s nothing incorrect in what I wrote, although you’re free to disagree. And please dispense with your own brand of FUD, OK? And please try not to distort what I wrote either.

      The headline I objected to stated, unequivocally, that Apple recommended against using the Upgrade installation method, but the actual Knowledge Base document makes it very clear they are referring to a specific situation where a third-party system hack could cause problems. You can say you don’t like it, but that, my friend, is the truth.

      I also said that if you did an unsupported installation of Leopard, you would get no help from Apple. That’s also true. Sure you might do it anyway and succeed admirably, but just be aware of the potential problems should something go wrong.

      And that, too, is a fact.

      Now can we now argue about something without one party finding meanings that don’t exist?

      As to your decision not to call Apple in case of a problem, that’s fine and dandy. But most Mac users would prefer to talk to the mother ship if something goes wrong, and it’s what makes the Genius Bar at the Apple Stores so popular. Do you wish to dispute that too? Sorry, but it won’t wash.

      Peace,
      Gene

    14. Ilgaz says:

      I am user of Stuffit Deluxe (for years) and APE/ Enhancers. Trust me on this, Stuffit have NEVER used APE. If they used it, it would be lot safer to have “archive by rename” (remember?) and they wouldn’t have to abandon that excellent invention just because it uses kernel extension.

      Sadly, Allume decided to code a kernel extension to it and by the time they realized the possible horrible consequences after a major system upgrade, they gave it up.

      APE was coded for the basic reason: Never force user to install kernel extensions or modify system binaries to gain functionality. Sadly, one older APE version was installed by Logitech Inc. totally irresponsibly caused all this chaos.

      Unsanity recommends installation of latest APE from their site, not removing it by force. They don’t do it for evil reasons, they do it for the simple fact that there would be stuff linking to that framework and they may create real big deal of chaos if framework they links to is removed. APE is freeware.

      Also thanks to Gene Steinberg for the balanced article not showing APE as root of all evil. Hope one day, those FUD mongers will learn and one day, I really hope Apple starts testing their OS upgrades with popular (e.g. vt top 20) software. The developers and advanced users, regardless of how much they paid to Apple, didn’t get Leopard final version before end users.

    15. Ilgaz says:

      I find it ironic that you begin your article instructing folks to ignore the fear merchants re. Leopard installation. Then you close your article with your own fear-based statements for those running older Mac hardware. What’s it going to be, follow your fears or someone else’s?

      Most of us running older Mac hardware that are also interested in installing Leopard are ready to live on the edge and dive in with Leopard, despite the FUD. If we’re willing to tinker with Leopard on our older Macs, we’re most likely going to know how to deal with the results, what ever they may be.

      I am beginning to feel there may well be some elitism going on from the newer Intel-based Mac camp. For many of us, part of the draw to use Macs is how they just keep working long beyond being designated as obsolete. And being able to keep them working is part of the joy in using them as well.

      Namaste,

      Kathe

      I think we have to be clear about the differences here. My complaint at the start of the article was about a headline that indicates that Apple is recommending against Leopard Upgrade installations, when this is just not true. They are simply addressing a subset of systems, where certain enhancement utilities might cause trouble.

      As to installing any version of Mac OS X on unsupported hardware: I’m not being a fear merchant. I’m giving you a reality check. In addition to the considerations that I address, you have to realize that Apple isn’t obliged to provide technical support either. Do what you want — but you’re on your own.

      Peace,
      Gene

      If everyone is paranoid today, I suggest thinking about something else. There is one professional Mac support site which is owned by CNET Networks who started Leopard FUD BEFORE it was released to public. Their suggestion was “Archive and Install” or “Erase or Install”.

      One wonders if this is a CNET policy which is not related to technical reasons.

      Also, I think it is related to paranoid people who jumps up and down when anything they install connects to net.. APE Framework should have auto-update feature which should really, seriously warn user of consequences if they don’t update their installation of APE.

    16. John Fallon says:

      I’ve always done upgrades with Archive and Install, preserving network settings and users. It gives me a solid usable system right away. It’s always worked for me.

      Then I reinstall things like USB Overdrive and (usually but not yet with Leopard) Missing Sync, and any other programs that might need Leopard-specific versions (Little Snitch), and I’m back to normal.

      I’d agree that MacFixit is paranoid (sometimes to the point of lunacy); but their approach does seem likeliest to produce a successful upgrade. They’ve taken this approach since before CNET bought them.

    17. Stuffit Expander? Ah, those were the days! 😉

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