No More Obstacles to Installing El Capitan on My MacBook Pro

December 3rd, 2015

Although I have run OS X El Capitan on my iMac since fairly early in the beta process, I had avoided installing it on my 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro for one key reason. You see, I mostly use the note-book for my rare trips from my home office, and, obviously, for on-the-scene recording. My carrying bag contains a USB mic, and my recording apps are installed on the computer. But one of those apps, The Levelator, wasn’t compatible with OS 10.11.

The Levelator automates the job of optimizing volume levels on a recording. This can become real difficult otherwise when you are recording a group conversation on Skype, with participants presenting different output levels, and adding the input from a USB mic or, in my case an outboard mixer. Some podcasters will ask each participant in a conversation to submit their own recordings of the session, and piece together the separate recordings. That may be the ideal, but it is time-consuming, and it’s not practical for my two commercial radio shows.

But The Levelator made the sound normalizing process as seamless as it could be. Drag and drop the file and, in a short time, a processed duplicate, with “output” appended to the file name, appears.

Unfortunately it was useless with El Capitan, apparently because the app was looking for an external system file that wasn’t there. A few weeks ago, a hack was posted that illustrated how to pull a file from inside the app’s bundle and move it to the system-related folder for which it was searching. That appeared to be the final solution because the developers had opted, back in 2012, not to do any updates.

Fortunately, they have since relented and released an updated version that fixes the problem. Yes, I could have performed the same hack I did on the MacBook Pro. But the change, however minor, could have been wiped out with a system update, so I opted to just stick with Yosemite for the time being. It was mostly out of laziness; I don’t use the MacBook Pro as much as I used to.

Now I realize that this one app has a fairly narrow audience consisting mostly of podcasters. It is the sort of app that does one thing really well, and had survived several years before a system change forced the programmers to fix things. Or at least one thing. It’s also free, and I recommend it to anyone who is going crazy fiddling with audio levels to get the best sound out of a recording. It’s also available for Windows and Linux, and thus most anyone with a desktop computer can install it.

And it’s yet another reason why I cannot duplicate my workflow on an iPad.

As you might have expected, other apps are still being updated for El Capitan. One key change, to “rootless” or System Integrity Protection, removed direct access to certain system files and processes to enhance security. But it also broke some apps. A notable example is Jon Gotow’s Default Folder X. This is the ultimate — and only — Open/Save dialog enhancer and I recommend it for any Mac power user. But the system changes made it incompatible, and Jon is busy developing an all-new version, a full rewrite. It takes time, but it’s available as a pretty stable public beta if you want to try it out.

I’m guessing he’ll have it done by the end of the year. But as with any beta product, be careful about using it on a production Mac. All right, that’s precisely what I’m doing, and I’m reporting back to Jon when I find things that might need fixing to justify my participation.

I also notice that El Capitan isn’t exactly getting the love at the Mac App Store. It receives a 2.5 star rating, worse than Yosemite at this point in time. That may be one reason why the reported adoption rate has fallen several points behind Yosemite two months after release.

Now maybe the forthcoming 10.11.2 update will fix the most serious remaining problems and raise that rating. The sole problem of note that I still encounter, from time to time, is a curious stall or freezing in Mail. For up to 30 seconds, you can’t do anything in the app other than scroll. Nothing can be selected, and you cannot create or edit messages till it clears up, as it always does.

That’s not a serious problem. But you’d think from the online reviews that lot of things have gone wrong in a release that was supposed to be very much about stability and performance. I continue to wonder about the value of public beta testing if the final releases are no more stable than before. Yes, I realize public betas are a good marketing move, to drive interest in a new OS, and perhaps to encourage developers to support the new features. But Apple may need to pay closer attention to user feedback.

The most important thing is to make the final release as stable as possible. For me, it’s been mostly about third-party apps, but that’s not true for everyone. Yes, I realize online reviews tend to be weighted towards the negative, since people without any serious problems aren’t apt to bother. Still, I am troubled by El Capitan’s low rating, and I hope Apple is working real hard to fix the remaining problems so it earns a better score — and a higher adoption rate.

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3 Responses to “No More Obstacles to Installing El Capitan on My MacBook Pro”

  1. DaveD says:

    I am on the wait list for OS X 10.11.3. The great experience with Mavericks on day one did not extend to Yosemite. Still using Yosemite, but requires more hands-on stability management.

    A big tip-of-the-hat to the third-party app developers who have a tougher time when Apple make changes to the OS, come through with compatibility updates.

  2. Guncoder says:

    Time to write your own iOS app, I guess.
    Reminds me of the days computers took up a room, and included an API and Developers guide; and you coded and compiled your own programs. 🙂

  3. David says:

    I’m really concerned that Apple has lost sight of the purpose of an operating system. I really think that OS X has moved way too far from its UNIX roots and is becoming more and more like Windows with deep integration between OS and bundled apps and I think that’s a major reason why we’re seeing more performance and reliability issues. There’s simply too much going on all the time that cannot be turned off, too many things dependent on other things that bug fixing and code optimization are harder than they used to be. Apple re-wrote a major networking component for Yosemite, but were forced to abandon it and go back to the old way because it simply didn’t work. I don’t believe we’ll ever see another tight, efficient OS like Snow Leopard because there are just too many lines of code now.

    Mavericks broke sleep on my external hard drives and broke parts of OpenCL so I’m somewhat upset that I ever left Mountain Lion, but I didn’t want to run a completely unsupported OS and ancient version of Safari. When support for Mavericks is dropped next year I’m not sure what I’ll do. Yosemite was a step backward in too many ways and El Cap isn’t the refinement I was waiting for. If 10.12 is another Yosemite I may have to start looking at other platforms.

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