El Capitan Fear Mongering

October 15th, 2015

The other day I read an article from someone who was basically warning us off OS X El Capitan. While he hadn’t actually installed the new OS, he cited threads on Apple’s discussions forums describing a litany of problems that included incompatible apps and the inability to access external drives.

On the surface, I’d be scared off right away. Based on the blogger’s claims, Apple only posted public betas for marketing reasons, and didn’t do its job to make sure El Capitan was reliable. So he’s going to wait, which implies you should too.

Well, let’s set aside my personal experiences for a moment. For now, I did check the Apple discussions and found lots of problems, precisely as the blogger stated. But not all of them had large numbers of participants  reporting similar problems. Unless a problem is fairly consistent, it may be the result of a system oddity with a few installations. It takes more than that to take it seriously, but the article makes no attempt to weigh the importance of those complaints.

I did check the reviews at the App Store and found that El Capitan gets four stars. That’s not a bad start; Yosemite settled in around three stars. Yes, I did see reasons for lower ratings, but some were mostly about the fact that El Capitan doesn’t add a lot of compelling new features. I ran across a complaint about Mail, and that’s nothing new. Long and short of it, however, the buzz is quite positive at this early stage.

When it comes to incompatibilities with third-party software, I suppose you can blame Apple. But you can also blame the independent developer who needs to fix some problems. It’s possible system changes are responsible, but that doesn’t mean those changes are necessarily bad. El Capitan’s System Integrity Protection (SIP or rootless) is clearly causing problems for some developers. Jon Gotow of St. Clair Software has to do a lot of reengineering to make Default Folder X compatible. But that’s not Jon’s fault, nor is it necessarily Apple. SIP is designed to eliminate what is regarded as a potential risk factor in OS X’s security. In the interests of making OS X safer, Apple took steps that protects certain files, folders and processes from being modified or tampered with.

A change of that sort means that things developers depended on are no longer there. There are disruptions, but compatible apps are already showing up, and more are coming. That’s nothing unusual, but it’s not that Apple or developers should be faulted. You want security, there may be tradeoffs, although it is actually possible to disable SIP with a Terminal command. But I wouldn’t recommend it unless doing so is required to get your mission critical app to run.

My personal experience with El Capitan at this early stage is mostly solid. Mail has a tendency to briefly stall, but will resume normal operation in less than 30 seconds. Maybe it’s about background processing of large message folders, but I’m shooting from the hip. The other problem is Microsoft Word 2016. If a document is open and idle for an hour or two, I can no longer save it after making changes. Each attempt brings up a Save As dialog, but it won’t Save. My usual solution is to copy the text, quit Word (not saving the changes), reopen the document and paste the changed text. Then it works.

But when Word launches, I do see a curious prompt about a problem with a backup file the app creates. But maybe it’s fixed already. This week Microsoft released an update for Office 2016 for Mac. While El Capitan issues, such as crashing, were reportedly not addressed in the update, I didn’t see a recurrence of my particular problem — so far at least. In contrast, I’ve had no crashes at all in any of the Microsoft apps I use regularly. Regardless, there are published reports that a fix will come when El Capitan 10.11.1 is released, which is expected soon.

My other problem is far more arcane, and there’s a solution. I use The Levelator for post-processing of files created for my radio shows. It’s a free app, available for Mac, Windows and Linux, which provides a sophisticated form of normalization to an audio file. It does it a whole lot more efficiently than most audio apps I’ve used. But it’s not compatible with El Capitan because a system file on which it depends appears to be unavailable. There is information posted online on how to copy that file from the app bundle and put it in the appropriate system folder. A restart, and it works, though you’d have to follow this process for each Mac you own, or when restoring a Mac.

Since development of The Levelator halted in 2012, you will never see any change unless someone wants to acquire the app and do it. But they’d probably want to charge for it, for otherwise where’s the incentive other than giving back to the audio community?

In any case, as operating systems go, El Capitan strikes me as a pretty solid release. It’s possible the forthcoming 10.11.1 update will address a number of concerns. But with any new version of OS X, some people will have a positively miserable experience, and it may take more than one fixer-upper to address that.

| Print This Article Print This Article

9 Responses to “El Capitan Fear Mongering”

  1. Boris says:

    The problem with Office 2016 for Mac is real. In my case I can not even get to the activation screen, Word pops up and becomes unresponsive after a few seconds.
    Maybe the problem is that I was already migrated to El Capitan, but then can’t we expect Microsoft and/or Apple to be able to get this suit working ? Even if the fault would be at Microsoft, Apple should offer some help in order to get it running in there own interest..

  2. jazz1 says:

    I think I read the same blog. While I’m surprised that El Capitan borked Office (both 2011 & 2016) the blogger you refer to was really over the top with his/her admonition to avoid El Capitan like the plague.

    I work at an institution of higher education that relies on ExamSoft for giving exams in a secure environment. I was surprised that SofTest was not ready for El Capitan. The problem is people seem to adopt new OS X versions pretty quickly and I guess end users are going to have to be more conservative about quick adoption.

    The fact is if you rely on software, and can’t afford to be without the functionality the software brings, don’t be quick to update to the latest greatest. I’m not lecturing, just reminding even myself I’m to quick to upgrade.

    On the bright side El Capitan has made my 12″ Macbook Pro and late 2008 Macbook Pro far less balky. Plus the recent Office 2011 fix worked well.

  3. Don says:

    Ditto on the crashes.
    Erased and backed up twice.
    Too many apps including “Feedback Assistant” crashed on command.
    Will wait for .1

    8G ram
    750g SSD/7200 rpm hybrid storage

    Flawless until this release.

  4. degrees_of_truth says:

    I’m not installing El Cap yet. In addition to what seems like a lot of publicly reported problems, I had an Apple first-line phone support rep advise not to install it because of bug fixes in progress. (I’m sure that is not the official Apple position.) Some have expressed the opinion that El Cap is to Yosemite as Snow Leopard was to Leopard. My memory of early Snow Leopard may be too rosy, but I don’t recall the same degree of issues.

  5. germ says:

    You have gotta be kidding me, right? Please read the long list of egregious issues on macintouch.com.

    I had originally planned to “upgrade” to 10.11 soon-ish, but after initial feedback, I will postpone my “upgrade” for at least 9 months. Note that I skipped Yosemite altogether.

    It may well be that Mavericks is the last version of OS X that I can tolerate.

  6. You forget. I have run El Capitan since the early betas. I am aware of Macintouch. But that’s just a message board and not research. Or journalism.


  7. AdamC says:

    Kind of strange to find folks thinking el cap is bad when they haven’t tried it.

    I ran the betas and found them to be pretty good but maybe because I don’t run the apps these good folks are running.

    Get a separate HDD and use it as a boot up disk to install el cap for a tried out and the best thing about a mac is it will boot up from any external HDD.

  8. Don says:

    Good idea Adam……That’s just what I did, First.
    The trouble must be with the apps, as you said, but with so many of them, which ones to shut down?
    And why should we have to when the previous new OSX’s did not have these issues? Just this one has the problems.
    As I said before, everything BEFORE this release was flawless in execution, (well….almost) but this one definitely has issues.

Leave Your Comment