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Apple’s Frequent Update Experiment Has Failed – It’s Time for Another Snow Leopard

Posted by Jim Tanous on January 15, 2015

As many of you have by now heard and experienced, OS X Yosemite has its fair share of problems. Some of them are minor (not preserving non-native scaling at boot or wake on Retina Displays which causes saved user windows to open at the wrong size and position) and some of them are major (UI slowdowns and system freezes that require daily reboots to clear, or Wi-Fi connectivity issues). But the fact is that the list of bugs as of 10.10.1 (many of which are still present in the latest preview build of 10.10.2) is long and troubling, leading me to a realization this week: I no longer trust OS X. In fact, OS X Yosemite on both my 2013 Mac Pro and 2014 MacBook Pro is unusable in its current state.

Unusable

osx-yosemite-bugs

ArtFamily / Shutterstock

With the word unusable, I don’t mean that I can’t boot into the operating system (oh, that’s another thing: Yosemite takes 8 to 10 seconds longer to boot than Mavericks on the same hardware; not sure what that’s all about) or use it in a general sense. I mean that for productive work, I can’t trust it. I’ve had too many crashes, too many freezes, too many reboots to rely on the operating system to get my work done in a timely and efficient manner, and for me, that’s all that really matters in the end.

No new feature, technology, or interface tweak is worth diverting resources away from proper testing and quality control

I’ve long used both Windows and OS X, although I primarily rely on my Windows PCs for gaming and I generally prefer OS X for day-to-day work like writing, research, and video editing. But since Yosemite’s launch in October, a funny thing has happened: Windows 8.1 has become more enjoyable to use. I realized this week after working with my Windows PC from home for a few days due to illness that I didn’t have any of the frustrations or anxiety about work-destroying bugs that I’ve felt with Yosemite for the past three months. I’m not concerned with issues like the controversy over Metro, or the ability to easily create a video montage of my family in OS X. I’m talking about getting work done with apps like Chrome, Word, and Photoshop. In Windows, those apps and the overall operating system run great. In Yosemite, the entire experience is littered with bugs, slowdowns, and outright system lockups.

When I first started experiencing these issues with Yosemite, I feared they were hardware related. But some extensive testing with my old Mavericks volume revealed that it was Yosemite, not my hardware, that was the issue. I’m sure that Apple will eventually sort out most of the issues with Yosemite, but I’m also reminded that Mavericks had its fair share of quirks, too, even up to the very end.

The problem, I think, stems from Apple’s adoption of the yearly release cycle for operating system updates. The company adopted this approach in 2012, by releasing Mountain Lion just one year after Lion, and continued the practice with Mavericks (released about 15 months after Mountain Lion) and Yosemite (12 months). This was after Tiger, Leopard, and Snow Leopard all enjoyed runs of 20 to 30 months each.

All of Apple’s products and software suffer from bugs of some kind, but the company’s missteps with Yosemite (not to mention iOS 8, which has its own share of problems) suggest that it can’t keep up with this new yearly cycle for major releases. I understand that technology is moving forward at an exponential pace, and that consumers are constantly eager for new features and new designs, but Apple has proven that it simply can’t handle this yearly pace. To release Yosemite in its current state is unacceptable, but the solution is easy: it’s time for another Snow Leopard.

No New Features

snow-leopard-no-new-features

John Siracusa / Ars Technica

At WWDC 2009, Apple’s then-Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Bertrand Serlet, took the stage and announced something that he called “unprecedented” in the computing industry: the upcoming OS X Snow Leopard would have “no new features.” That wasn’t technically true, of course, but his point was that Apple was focusing on refining Leopard — fixing bugs, introducing under-the-hood improvements, and providing performance boosts across the board — rather than rolling out yet another set of end-user interface and functionality changes. It was indeed a bold move, but it paid off, and Snow Leopard is generally viewed as one of the best operating systems ever released by Apple.

It’s time to do that again. When Tim Cook and company convene this summer for WWDC 2015, I want nothing more than for current Software Engineering chief Craig Federighi to channel his French predecessor and promise to dedicate another year of Apple’s resources to making Yosemite as stable as possible. I know that the Mac contributes a relatively small amount to Apple’s overall bottom line, but the company’s most ardent supporters and developers rely on the platform. No new feature, technology, or interface tweak is worth diverting resources away from proper testing and quality control. That’s an important mindset that made Snow Leopard a great operating system, and it’s something Apple desperately needs right now.

Although Snow Leopard was a new operating system meant to replace Leopard, Yosemite’s short life thus far means we don’t even need a new operating system this year. Perhaps the best scenario is for Apple to announce that they’ve reached the pinnacle of desktop operating system design and just pledge to keep refining Yosemite with point updates for another 12 to 18 months.

Of course, Apple has its own pipeline with products and services that we aren’t yet privy to, and it’s unlikely that the company anticipated the poor performance and reliability of Yosemite (which itself speaks volumes). But if Apple announces this summer a brand new operating system filled with new features, they might as well name it “OS X Death Valley” and be done with it, because the company’s track record shows that they simply won’t be able to pull it off without a host of bugs and issues.

As for me, I still need to use Yosemite to keep up with TekRevue, but I’ll be sticking with my Mavericks boot volume for a bit longer for personal work. And when I’m looking for a stable and reliable computing platform, I’ll turn to Windows 8.1, an operating system that may not come close to OS X’s feature set, but one that has yet to ever crash or freeze on me. Oh, how the tables have turned.

30 thoughts on “Apple’s Frequent Update Experiment Has Failed – It’s Time for Another Snow Leopard”

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tom rose says:
When I saw how much good stuff was being removed with Lion, and how much annoying junk was being introduced, I decided to stay with Snow Leopard (10.6.8) and am very glad that I did. One day it will no longer be usable. If, by then, Apple has not restored the powerful interface (e.g. Spaces) and solid reliability of Snow Leopard I’ll be switching to Linux.

Shame on you Apple, for the way you have treated the Unix guys that rescued Apple in the early 2000’s when we saw how great the early versions of OS X were. Unix underneath, but with easy admin, a nice GUI, and applications like Photoshop available. It was the answer to our dreams.

If I want an iPhone I will buy one. If I want a tablet I will buy one. But for a personal computer I want something much more powerful than either of those. They are different machines for different purposes. So why, Apple, are you so determined to dumb down the Mac, make OS X look like iOS, and turn my once powerful and ultra-versatile desktop system into an overgrown iPhone?

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Bojan Marsetic says:
I still use Snow Leoprad :)))))))))))))))) beside Internet all apps works just fine.
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Jherson Lopez says:
looks like apple just likes to put out new operating systems, instead of solidifying and stabilizing their current ones
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Tom Bombadil says:
I’m still using Mac OS X at my home business. I also use Snow Leopard Server, Apple’s last “business class” server. Lion Server is a joke. I bet the other releases (Mountain Lion Server, Mavericks Server, et cetera) are no better.

One thing about Snow Leopard is that it is the last OS that has Rosetta (which lets me run old PPC apps). I have several PPC apps that work just fine, and would cost a bundle to “upgrade”. For example, Adobe Illustrator, Quark XPress. I also have one mission-critical PPC app that is not even made anymore, Mac Links Plus, so I couldn’t upgrade that if I wanted to. “If it isn’t broken, DON’T FIX IT.”

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David Krmpotic says:
I think we may be bashing Apple too much… I think they are really trying and El Capitan is actually awesome.

The problem, I think, is that they move quickly and so people using their very old hardware start having problems after about 5 years. My MacBook pro is now 5 years old but still going strong, but this is because it’s last 5 years when Moore’s law stopped working more or less… so if you have 10 years or so old laptop, new OS-es will be extremely slow.

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ull says:
My main os is windows 10 on my thinkpad. Secondary os are linux and osx. So i don’t often read mac news and i don’t know how new macs and osx evolved. i guess there is more macusers but with less apple culture

I still have an old macbook 13 i use sometimes. (the white color design was very nice, i really like the vintage look of macs)
Today, i decided to put back snow leopard instead of lion. Lion was slow, especially when it comes to graphical. There is more overheating too.
i’m not surprised to enjoy the new macbook again. Snow leopard is really nice, rather quick. You feel you come back to what osx should be.
Even the UI interraction is better as it doesn’t try to do any compromise with ios.
Snow leopard is probably the best apple os of the decade.

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Ota Otaria says:
I have to say, Apple should understand that NOT all the Mac user have a damn iPhone!!!! I’m happy with my Android and I couldn’t care less about connectivity between an iPhone that I don’t have and my laptop. Why not just use a special app for this that manages the phone, so I would not install it? This crazy integration of devices is a big problem!
I bought a used 2011 Mac book pro and I was so happy it was so smooth and fast (I’ve always had windows).
Then Mavericks came! The first release worked fine, then between software updates and is updates something went wrong… the laptop took ages to do anything, I couldn’t have 2 or 3 desktops working at the same time as I had before etc. Then I decided to update to Yosemite to see if it would improve. Big mistake. After 6 months I couldn’t take it anymore. I was wondering why I spent so much for an apple product to have waiting times of a windows 98!!!!
And the Bluetooth was a pain in the ass, working one time out of 10…I was using Bluetooth speakers so you can imagine!

God bless time machine! I spent half a day going back to mavericks and I was doing fine until last week, when something went wrong (maybe new app I installed could be the culprit). The HD had serious problems and I decided to format it (had last backup from 23th November in case).

So I did internet recovery (couldn’t start my system at all!) And I made a fresh reinstall of lion.
Then I wondered what went wrong… I like the lion graphics so much more…!

I’m afraid that lion would have too much compatibility issues with apps rather than mavericks but I wanted to try it out. The Mac is fast as when I bought it!
I saw the new El Capitan update and I decided to give it a try. Works great at the moment, but the Mac is empty. Now I’m trying to migrate my info and see how it goes.
I hope that the El Capitan is the new snow leopard!

I think in the last 3 years Apple screw it up. If using your Mac makes you want to switch to Microsoft I would say it’s very dangerous for the company!
We paid a lot more for our mac and in return we expect a higher quality that should come from a company that manufactures both the hard drive and the OS! The past 2 years I saw lots of frustrations. Not trusting your laptop it’s really uncomfortable.

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Karl Grosvenor says:
I have a mac mini 4.1 that’s the first aluminium model and am still using Snow Leopard.I am more than happy with it I did try mountain Lion but it slowed down my computer too much and I lost front Row so went back.I also have an emac and a 2001 imac running tiger which still work well.
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Dan Meyers says:
I still run my 8 employee marketing company on 10.6.8. Rock solid in every way. Haven’t rebooted in months.
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CharlesLittle2 says:
I couldn’t agree more! This is a great article. Thanks for writing.
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Gibson355 says:
Perhaps Apple would explain why we wait 4 seconds before anything happens when clicking on a button since upgrading. My laptop was fine on Snow Leopard and then upgraded to Yosemite….dreadful, black screen problems and incredibly slow. Good job that we have a desktop on 10.6.8 version. Someone should sue Apple for screwing up their macs, we rarely are able to use the MacBook Pro…£1700 down the drain since upgrade, bar stewards!
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Lisa says:
Whew read heaps of this.. just now using beta of El Capitan… not too bad…
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DanielKM says:
Second that. I got a brand spanking new Air at my new job, and from day one it was crashing and locking up on Yosemite. My CTO was running Capitan beta 5 and said there were no real problems, so I installed it as well. It’s so much more stable than Yosemite, and blazing fast. The _real_ beta here is Yosemite, and it has always been.

It’s fantastic that what this blog post called for — another Snow Leopard — is actually what we’re getting!

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Pier says:
I can only agree. Yosemite is the worst OSX I have ever used. As usual, Apple is either ignoring it’s users or pretending like there is no problem. With 10.11 they keep working on gimmicks like cursor location, fullscreen split, new typography, etc, instead of focusing on what matters: performance and stability.

I switched to Apple almost a decade ago running away from Windows blue screens, and now Windows 10 is faster and more stable than OSX has ever been.

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Pam Buckshon says:
I have an idea! Let’s wait until we have something of value to offer before releasing a new ANYTHING 🙂
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Максим Буньков says:
Absolutely agree ‪#‎Apple‬ it’s Sucks!!! Let’s go sell ur Apple devices! Really i need Snow Leopard more and more after each new ‪#‎facking‬ ‪#‎update‬ from ‪#‎FackingApple‬. WindowService always 200% CPU usage….
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Pakk1969 says:
Funny, I haven’t experienced even one of the major issues you described on any of the three Yosemite boxes we run at home. Then again, we clean-installed all of them, and made sure they each had the prerequisite amount of memory installed before upgrading. Maybe I jumped in after Apple addressed these issues, but I find Yosemite to be far-and-away the best and most stable user experience on the market. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a filmmaker and graphic designer, so the tools I use aren’t available on Linux and usually run better on a Mac than a Windows box … damn Microsoft refuses to play nice with Pantone and all but ignores proper font metrics. So, there’s that. )
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Sacha says:
I totally agree, I also think that Apple should have provided an option to switch back to old interface. I really hope Apple don’t do what they did wiith Yosemite with the next release. Good article.
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Dan Meyers says:
I still run my entire business on 10.6.8. Amazing, rock solid, runs Power PC programs (would cost me $6,000 to upgrade). Sorry apple but 10.6.8 is the top of your arch and I look forward to the day you surpass it.
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cmorris says:
I’ll second the weird performance issues with Yosemite… I’ve not had stability problems as such, but the login time performance is abysmal! (By login time I mean that the time it takes to get from my username/password login screen to a desktop with all the applications ready to work sometimes is pushing two minutes. And I don’t start up any applications other than a terminal where I wrote a command script to record the login times so that I /know/ how long it takes to complete the login cycle!) I’m a professional UNIX engineer — I understand the details of how these things work — but I’ve been unable to find a clear cause for this performance issue.
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Chest Rockwell says:
Yosemite is Apple’s Vista. But actually, Vista was useable. Maybe Yosemite is a hybrid of Windows Vista and 8. Either way it’s awful and I have gone back to Mavericks.
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David Krmpotic says:
I’m happy I never upgraded and obviously my friends don’t know what they are talking about (?!) … I asked repeadetly if Yosemite is good or not… “Yes, quite ok for me”/// bleh. Happy I didn’t give in… hopefully I can skip that version alltogether.
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Abraham Girt says:
Well done, good… GREAT!
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Daniëlle Zana says:
With a Mac, its always best to keep the OS X it came shipped with. Mine I got with mavericks on, and not upgrading because I would know I would have endless issues. Even with Mavericks one of the updates caused the VRAM to be reduced causing photoshop and other art programs, and 3D editing programs to spaz out. So I had stopped updating to the point up to this specific update, thought still update with other things like video codecs , safari etc. I still prefer mountain lion with a number of things, but since my computer came with Mavericks I leave it with Mavericks for its life.
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RainmakerRaw says:
Which would be great… if Apple didn’t consistently refuse to release critical security patches for anything but the latest OS. Everything prior (including Mavericks, ML and Lion) is therefore left wide open. For example the Rootpipe vulnerability was only patched in 10.10.3 and everything earlier has been left vulnerable. There are many other examples even just in the last 12 months. I’d wager you’d be safer running Windows XP than an older version of OS X.
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Karl Grosvenor says:
Yes Microsoft do treat their computer users much better than Apple do!
robbie says:
The joys of having an SSD 2010 Macbook Pro with Snow Leopard 🙂
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scott fiddis says:
You upgraded to quickly mate, you never upgrade to the first edition of the OS, you need to wait till the bugs have been smoothed out and patches made for faults discovered. It seems sometimes that they beta test the software and fix/patch from errors discovered from a mass user base. Does seem cost effective in a sense, you’re not going to get such a result from a paid beta test group which would be smaller.
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KWL says:
Not ready to give up Mac yet, and I am a recent Windows covert, but very, very seriously thinking of reinstalling back to previous version before Yosemite, Mountain Lion, Snow Leopard, whichever, as those two were the ones that cemented my move to Mac, made a lot of everything I need to do, so much better. But, Yosemite? Really, severely, irritatingly testing my patience. Hopefully Apple will come up with another release that’s back to the quality of those previous OSs.

And, those that are having no issues and then have no problem blaming users? Congratulations, you’re just as irritating and useless as Yosemite.

KWL

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Gibson355 says:
ps what is with all these adverts that pop up for BT wi fi ffs! This is the 10.10.3 version of yosiwash!
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Gibson355 says:
I only upgraded because the hardware did not recognise 10.6.8 (Novation 25MKii) so now what do we do with Yositrash! Have to transfer our files and start again, haven’t they stopped downloading snow lep and lion? Where has my other listing gone? I just upgraded from 10.6.8 to the free yositrash and it hangs for 8 seconds each time we try and open a file, thought April the first had passed. We are running a MacBook Pro 2.2GHz intel core i7…absolute rubbish and now we are screwed!
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Gibson355 says:
to add that we had just ordered the focusrite and novation 25sl Mkii to run logic but it will have to be returned there is no way it is going to run if it hangs on clicking a file to open it.
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esolesek says:
I don’t know about Yosemite, but this doesn’t make me want to go there. I was fine in Snow Leopard land, then I bought the last good mac mini i7s (because the new ones are POS). Most things are ok in Mountain Lion, but a few things are not – the finder is an atrocity that finds nothing, and now I’m discovering problems in my audio interfaces. I may be a PC person in a couple of years. I’m done with this nonsense about promoting gadgetry over functionaility for the people that actually do real things with computers.
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Will Killyou says:
Jobs dies quick then apple dies slowly…
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