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Catalina, Mellel 4.2.5 and other beasts

Catalina, Mellel 4.2.5 and other beasts

Apple have just released (October 7) Catalina, AKA MacOS 10.15, and already encounters criticism from all flanks. Which is understandable: any new OS version Apple releases encounters a bit of flak. Some even say the best time to update to the current OS is when Apple announces the next OS version at the Apple’s Developers convention.

But this time, it seems that there’s something more then mere hiccups and minor inconveniences. Users complain about system hangs, and many incompatibilities. Apple will probably release a dot point fix version to start handling those.

But not all problems are actually problems. Some are “Features” — things that are intended to work this way. And this is the worrying part.

macOS 10.15 vista

The following image, posted on Twitter, illustrate the problem with a sight that no Apple user would like to see: an avalanche of Microsoftian dumb questions such as inquiring your opinion on the fact that “this application would like to access files on your desktop” — when you specifically requested that this is exactly what you wish to do.

It’s all well meant, of course. Apple have an excellent record in security, but it’s always good to keep on your toes here, especially with the recent rise in malware development on the Mac. But the problem is not with the idea to tackle the problem but, rather, with the way the problem is tackled.

To wit, Apple decided to stiffen the conditions under which an application can run on its OS, and report the user on any action with a harmful potential by any application. The problem with that, apart from the Windows-like aesthetics, is that many warnings usually equals no warnings at all. That is, users tend not to tend to every warning, but to quickly Okay every action without thinking about it — much like it is with terms and conditions contracts online.

The end result is, that instead of raising the bar and making it more difficult for malware to infiltrate a user’s machine, the constant warnings actually lower the bar, and make it easier for malware to get into Macs — worse, it’s all done with the user’s permission!

The Future is Here

Another thing with Catalina is that 32bit applications are now officially gone. We’re old enough to remember the times when a “clean” 32bit was the hottest game in town (Ah, but to go back to those wonderful, choke-full of system restarts with the Mac CI with a super-fast 28,000 baud Modem). But time has a nasty habit of marching on, and now 64bit is not only the new game in town (if you can call something from 2005 “new”) it is the only game in town. Every Mac sold since 2007 supports 64bit, but Apple also always supported 32bit applications.

Catalina is doing off with this tradition. This wouldn’t change much with most users, but there are a few apps that did not switch from 32bit along the years, and will no longer run with Catalina. Some of those are older versions of apps that have a 64bit version. Others may be updated soon. Some will be lost forever.

In most cases, the difficulty is not with the 64bit support itself, but that that with the death of 32bit support Apple also effectively ceased supporting APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that Apple did not transfer to 64bit, like Carbon and QuickTime. In some cases Apple introduced replacement APIs, but those do not always offer the same functionality. In some cases, this means that some applications cannot continue to operate under Catalina, or will have to undergo a major overhaul that does not make sense from an economic point of view.

Unexpected changes

Elsewhere with Catalina there are minor but ‘deadly’ changes “under the hood.” Certain things, that worked fine with previous OS versions, suddenly start to function differently, and applications that worked smoothly with macOS Mojave (OS 10.14) crash on every turn, just like a toddler just learning to walk — but distinctly less cute!

One such deadly change affected Mellel, and required us to release version 4.2.5. In Mellel’s case, the change related to adjustment (shape change) of the mouse cursor when you hover above certain places in the document. The regular cursor may change to an I beam over text, like two arrows over a table line, and so on. Traditionally, the cursor-change was done by reporting to the OS which areas in a document need what cursor shape — which is how Mellel did it until Catalina came. With Catalina, this continued to work, but Catalina have created (unexpectedly and without documentation) a limit over the number of areas that can be defined. And, to be sure, following this unexpected behaviour, trying to define more areas than allowed did not meet an elegant disregard by Catalina but a crash. Luckily this only happened rarely (e.g., in documents with long and elaborate tables) so most of the daredevils that upgraded to Catalina did not know about this at all.

Just out, Mellel 4.2.5 solves the problem by changing the method of adjusting the cursor. By that way, we’ve also improved the responsiveness of the adjustment and made it more accurate, taller and with a nicer haircut.

What Needs to be Done

First, if you’re with Catalina, mourn your fate and update to Mellel 4.2.5 now. If you’ve purchased Mellel directly from us, Choose Check for Updates from the Mellel menu. If you’ve purchased Mellel via the App Store, open the App Store application and press Update.

If you have not updated to Catalina, we recommend you let this one stew for a few months. That is, let others enjoy finding out the bugs, and Apple fixing them, and enter the fray when the bug-fix din has calmed. Mojave is your home, for now.


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