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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Opinion: OS X El Capitan -- Upgrade or Not?

Opinion: OS X El Capitan -- Upgrade or Not?
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Oct 6, 2015, 03:54 PM
 
It's been a week since OS X El Capitan was released, and still we're arguing over whether to upgrade or not. We're not saying it's the Jets and the Sharks here, not exactly, but opinions are strong -- and if voices aren't raised, then it's because we're chiefly typing at each other. Still, it's seven days in, and we've got some staff proposing Five Reasons to Upgrade while others stand behind Five Reasons to Skip El Capitan for Now. It's time to call it before Apple announces OS X Alcatraz.

This isn't a Presidential debate, though, where we all stick to our original opinions. Both the for and against MacNN articles have persuasive arguments, and we are all now this week into using the software. We should know that we were right or wrong to upgrade -- if we upgraded at all.

There is one thing we are all in agreement about: the fact that we're arguing over OS X El Capitan is not some sign that it's a poor release, or that it's worse than previous releases of operating systems. These releases are usually much the same, though we do all remember the disastrous Windows Vista, and we have all somehow forgotten that OS X Mavericks had its big problems.

William Gallagher, writer

Original position: Upgrade

William wrote the Five Reasons to Upgrade, and based it on the fact that he did upgrade on Day One.

Strictly speaking, I upgraded on Night One, as the update dropped around 7pm or 8pm UK time, and I needed my iMac all day. That's just about the sole complaint I can muster about El Capitan: I lost more time than I imagined the next day when watching that progress bar count down 30 minutes, and take about 90 in which to do it. Though to be truthful, I barely noticed because I was working on my iPad.

Since then, I've come to like Split Screen more and more. As I said in my original piece, coming back out of it is chaos, but it's so handy when you're in it that I use it far more than I imagined I would. I'm also just heading out of the new-toy stage with the data detectors that spot phone numbers, addresses, and events in emails. I'm heading from new toy to unthinkingly assuming OS X always did this.

The feature on reasons to skip the upgrade did give me pause, and if I hadn't already pulled the trigger, I think I would've waited. Right now, I don't want to go back to Yosemite, and on the few times I've had to use a Mac on it in the last week, it has felt very old. Yet you don't know what you haven't tried, so if I still had Split Screen and data detectors ahead of me, that would be fine.

My chief reason to hesitate, after reading the article, is one that I should've thought of for myself: the fact that some software will break. There will always be something, and usually it will be fixed within a short while, but you often don't have a short while. If I were an Outlook user, in particular, I'd have held off though the reports of Microsoft Word crashing don't feel like El Capitan to me. They feel like standard-issue Microsoft Word crashes, like we've always had, and while I've not been timing or testing it, I believe I've had fewer since moving to El Capitan. Plus, Microsoft has presumably had the beta for at least as long as anyone else, so it's peculiar that there could be any serious problems.

I'd also have held off if I used many obscure apps. I do use many obscure apps, but none that are especially important to my work, so once I knew OmniFocus and OmniOutliner were fine with El Capitan, I was good to go.

Charles Martin, editor

Original position: Upgrade

Charles is the only one amongst us who used the beta version of El Capitan.

A week in, I'm convinced this is a very solid upgrade, a refinement of the best of Yosemite. I had a spare (spinning) HD volume I could use for the beta, and as I often do I looked for the productivity boosters first and foremost. The improved data detectors are exactly one such feature, and as William notes you wonder why OS X hasn't always had that, it seems so obvious. Along with gestures in Mail, these feel like features that have always -- or should have always -- been in there.

Safari -- wow! This is the fastest browser I've ever used, and yes I do keep the others around for testing and troubleshooting (and getting a chance to complain every couple of days when Firefox or Chrome want to update yet again). Speaking of speed, El Capitan overall is just more responsive. Way more responsive. In everything -- and this is before you jump back to your SSD volume. Now my test machine has 16GB of RAM which could be adding to my results, but I think most users are going to notice that everything is, to borrow a phrase, snappier.

I actually never got a chance to use Split Screen in OS X until today: I didn't have time to test it, and then when I wanted to I couldn't make it work. Turns out that one must have the "Displays have separate Spaces" preference in Mission Control's System Preferences panel checked in order to make this work -- I had turned that off earlier. Now that I've had a chance to use it, I can definitely rank this as another productivity booster -- being able to have a word processor open and a web browser with, say, Wikipedia information, or have a list of airfare options from a travel site on the right and Notes open on the left, is pure gold.

When you add in the fact that Apple has fixed up the botched iTunes 12.2 with the new 12.3 (which seems to be working fine), and throw in that great Apple Music service and the accompanying similar updates in iOS 9, this is actually shaping up to be one of Cupertino's best round of upgrades in many a year. Sure, there are still some broken apps (looking at you, Microsoft -- that was pretty inexcusable) that aren't Apple's fault, there's some pain over in the land of pro audio plug-ins (again, Apple gave lots of warning about the changes): this always happens when Apple makes under-the-hood changes and deprecates API cheats.

So there remain good reasons for some people not to upgrade, but if you're a typical user, these aren't concerns, and I think most everyone can move on up (after making a backup of your present system and running maintenance as would be standard practice) -- but if you want to wait for 10.11.1, that's fine too. I'm just saying that this one is all good out of the gate for typical users on Mavericks or Yosemite who have been keeping their software up-to-date, and while El Capitan is not especially rich on big new features, the wealth of little touches -- from Photos' improvements to a better mail to the wicked-fast Safari and more -- add up to a great release.

Mike Wuerthele, managing editor

Original position: Wait.

Mike wrote both the pre-upgrade checklist for El Capitan and the Five Reasons to Skip the update for now features.

I've mentioned in the podcast it took me three full years after the release of OS X to migrate, and held out until OS X 10.2 before moving at all. This is not new for me -- the only Apple migration I jumped into with both feet nearly immediately was the move to Intel processors.

While 20 years ago I bled in six colors, I now have an assortment of OS X and Windows gear in the house and office. I use both. None of it is super-current, as I like the bugs to be squashed out before I move my data, which is the only aspect of computing I consider mine. I like this data to be protected, and unreliable software or hardware imperils my data. New OS revisions make otherwise stable hardware unstable, and can inject problems where there were none.

I spoke about "Flaming Data" in my pre-upgrade checklist. I have had my share of this in my past, and I wish to never have it again. I assessed my workflow before updating, found no impact, and still updated a secondary computer first. I've finally moved today to the new OS on my main work computer, after running the secondary hardware for work for nearly a week. Also, as the chief lunatic running the MacNN asylum, I have minions I can direct to get the flaming data for me, so thanks, William and Charles -- you've done the Empire a great service.

So, given my collation of data pre-update, I'm pretty confident that I'm okay. The more I look at it issues surrounding the update, though, the less certain that I am that our regular readership should jump into it right now, if they haven't already. Ma and Pa America are probably good to go, though.

Malcolm Owen, writer

Original position: Upgrade

Malcolm recently switched over to OS X after a long absence.

For the vast majority of Mac users, upgrading to the latest version is a no-brainer. Much like the changing versions of Windows, I feel getting a new version of an operating system can give your system a performance boost, new features, and potentially make it more secure. The only real reasons not to upgrade quickly after launch are if the hardware cannot accept it, the Mac needs to be kept on for an extended period of time, or if there is mission-critical software installed that will break post-update.

The night of the upgrade, I noticed it was a hefty download that would make my Internet connection weep, so I left that to download overnight, with the plan of getting up early the next day to perform the install. The process itself is something Microsoft could probably learn from, as while the Windows 10 update was simple, I barely had anything to actually do to get El Capitan running after starting it off. The only issue I had was discovering how inaccurate the "minutes remaining" notice was compared to reality.

Post install, I was greeted by an extremely familiar system that had barely changed. Even now, a few days later, everything seems to have gone through fine with no issues bubbling up. Split View is fairly straightforward, following my similar experience in Windows, minor graphical errors from before have seemingly disappeared, and the system as a whole feels a little bit nippier.

Based on the experience I've had, I can only recommend upgrading your operating system. It's free, it will most likely work, and you get a few new toys to play with. Just remember to back up your files beforehand, and have an alternative working system available if the worst happens to your Mac.

Bradley McBurney, reviewer

Original Position: Undeclared.

This is always a tough question to tackle, as the answer comes down to a mixture of personal tastes and what machine you are planning to install the update on. Modern Macs will not only get instant access to any new features Apple has cooked up, but will also get to take advantage of all of the behind-the-scenes system cleanup and optimizations. While on the flip side of this coin, older Macs may find some of the new fit and finish will actually cause some slowdowns around their system.

Each time a new OS X release has been launched, I have gone back and forth on the debate, but with El Capitan I opted for a day-one update. There are a few reasons I chose to go this route this time around, but one of the biggest reasons has to do with Apple's move to fairly lengthy public betas ahead of the official launch. While I am not one to personally use the betas, as I only have a single Mac that acts as my day-to-day workhorse, I gain confidence in the new OS knowing that people, especially developers, are working with it long before I download it myself.

This transparency between Apple and customer makes it easy to head to your favorite Mac news site, aka MacNN, and find any necessary information that may impact your upgrading experience. Inevitably, some developers won't be on top of the OS X release, resulting in apps that will no longer work on the new OS, but stories like our daily App Updates help point out everything that will continue to work as expected.

Leading up to the El Capitan's release, I saw each of the apps I use daily gain compatibility with the new OS, and knew that my workflow could continue on without interruption. In addition, these public betas also flesh out most -- I say most and not all, which is a very important distinction -- of the system-level bugs that can really cause a headache.

Seven days in, I have had zero issues with the El Capitan, and to be honest haven't noticed a ton of differences, minus the small UI adjustment to the new San Francisco font. None of the new features have impacted my daily workflow yet, so if they don't seem like world changers to you, then you can feel safe waiting out later releases knowing you aren't missing much.


Bottom line: Go or no go?

If you've already upgraded, you already know if you're going to regret it. If you've just bought a new Mac then it has El Capitan on it, and you've got no choice. On balance, we recommend users should update, with caveats -- research your work flow's compatibility first! If something critical is broken, then you absolutely have to wait. However, security improvements, speed, and new productivity features in the latest version of Cupertino's operating system are pretty compelling for everybody.
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Oct 6, 2015 at 04:18 PM. )
     
aroxnicadi
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Oct 6, 2015, 04:33 PM
 
Well now that I upgraded which was painfully slow to download. Two and half days. I look at this way, since more hackers are starting to target the OSX I figured that SIP would delay them for the interim and if Apple gets the other gapping hole patched, then some of the stress will be released. Windows is still patching all the gapping holes in Windows 10 that they forgot to file before releasing it and I have stopped using it via Parallels. It was butt ugly.
     
justme1212
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Oct 6, 2015, 04:42 PM
 
Upgrade or not?

Yes all should upgrade.
     
NickChapin
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Oct 6, 2015, 04:48 PM
 
For any users of FileMaker Pro 14 you should defiantly NOT upgrade. FMI is aware of the serious problems and are working on a fix, but those who upgrade could see bad things happen to their data.
     
jpellino
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Oct 6, 2015, 04:58 PM
 
Only issue so far has been Office 2016. Finally cured it with a scorched-earth uninstall (manually for some parts) of everything 2016 and 2011, then a clean install of W E and P - I don't use Outlook, so perhaps that's where the biggest issues lie. OneNote which was originally a very promising simple notebook app is now basically Word-Not-Word so adios.
Just sayin'
     
Charles Martin
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Oct 6, 2015, 05:01 PM
 
Nick: thanks for that report: we will add it to our (surprisingly short) list of "if this is a core program for you, don't update yet" list.
Charles Martin
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Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 6, 2015, 05:06 PM
 
Originally Posted by jpellino View Post
Only issue so far has been Office 2016. Finally cured it with a scorched-earth uninstall (manually for some parts) of everything 2016 and 2011, then a clean install of W E and P - I don't use Outlook, so perhaps that's where the biggest issues lie. OneNote which was originally a very promising simple notebook app is now basically Word-Not-Word so adios.
Interestingly, it seems that Outlook crashing will damage the "core" of Office. Yours is an interesting solution, I haven't seen it in my admittedly limited delving.
     
eric.vanbeest
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Oct 6, 2015, 05:23 PM
 
This is quite possibly the worst upgrade experience I've had with Mac OS X in 15 years... I had upgraded both a MacBook Air and a iMac 21.5 - but both are now back to 10.10, where my Mini and other Air remain...

The upgrade of the MacBook Air froze somewhere near the end. Rebooting would go through the partial El Capitain boot process but then get stuck. Fortunately, I could boot in Recovery Mode and re-install El Capitan from there. Although slightly disappointed some utilities are now broken, I found Outlook to be broken completely by the upgrade, so I have no choice but to restore 10.10 from a Time Machine.

Similarly, the upgrade on the iMac got stuck near the end. I was able to return to Recovery Mode, but the re-installation process would not complete. I then opted to restore the disk (a Fusion drive) from a Time Machine backup which resulted in the Fusion drive being nuked by the OS - it disappeared completely. 1.5 hours with Apple Support got the disk working again, using diskutil CS to destroy then re-create the logical volume. Here also I ended up restoring the disk from a Time Machine backup.

Both machine have File Vault enabled... which may explain the disappearing Fusion drive...

Restoring from a Time Machine backup has the inconvenience of Photos hammering the disks and the network in trying to update/re-create/re-upload the photo libraries - irrespective of whether they were full or optimised libraries. We have two of 120 and 150 GB respectively - so enjoyed a weekend of network Armageddon.

There's still a Mac Mini and the other Air to do in the house - but I will be skipping this until issues with Office amongst others are resolved...
     
Charles Martin
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Oct 6, 2015, 06:30 PM
 
Eric: ALWAYS disable Filevault before doing a system update. While that doesn't cover the delivery issues you saw, it could account for most of your other issues (apart from Office 2016, that is).
Charles Martin
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Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 6, 2015, 07:15 PM
 
Yeahhhh, I didn't say that in the checklist, did I?

There's always next year, I guess. My worst was 10.7 to 10.8. Much insanity.
     
pairof9s
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Oct 6, 2015, 08:20 PM
 
I have to counter Eric in that my experience with El Capitan from beta to this current release has been 90% fault-free. I did have some app crashes and window anomalies during the first betas, but none remain now. This includes using Office 2016 for Mac, Adobe CC 2015, Quicken 2015, and a variety of design & editing apps like Affinity, Pixelmatr, Hype3, Coda, OmniFocus, as well as 3 different browsers (Safari, Chromium, Firefox). Now iTunes is a different story and beast, but really not an El Capitan issue, in my opinion.

I can't say anything close to "the worst upgrade experience" of Mac OS X. (Yes, X.7 > X.8 was much more frustrating.)
     
Ron Goodman
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Oct 6, 2015, 08:33 PM
 
It's seems odd to see this even discussed, as I've running the Public Beta of 10.9.1(and 10.9 before it) since the day it was released, with no issues at all.
     
jpellino
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Oct 6, 2015, 08:47 PM
 
"Interestingly, it seems that Outlook crashing will damage the "core" of Office. Yours is an interesting solution, I haven't seen it in my admittedly limited delving."

Once upon a time you drag-and-dropped Office (or just the bits you wanted) for installation. No more. Worst part about the crashing is that the reporting app is "inside" each of the main apps - one copy in Word, one in Excel, one in PP. When the main apps crashed, they would call the crash reporting app which apparently could no longer respond since the main app had crashed... not sure if this is standard behavior for non-flat packages (which each major office app is...) since I don't recall seeing an app-inside-an-app before.
Just sayin'
     
MitchIves
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Oct 6, 2015, 09:23 PM
 
I upgraded the MacBook Air, but have not upgraded the MacPro's yet. For the most part, I need a number of FCP X plugins to be updated first, and by then the .1 release should be out, Office patched, etc. The real reason I'm not upgrading the new MacPro's is because there are too many stories about Metal not running properly on the new MacPro's. Until I can determine that El Capitan doesn't seriously slow down the graphics speed on the nMP's I'm holding off. Apple needs to fix whatever has everyone spooked on the nMP...
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 6, 2015, 09:48 PM
 
I've done some very basic testing on the Mac Pro, and I think the issue isn't Metal itself, but I do think it is bad graphics card drivers. Still working on it.
     
bobolicious
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Oct 6, 2015, 10:38 PM
 
...a 2nd iMac clean El install attempt today was flawless, with SSD server cached apps at truly blinding speed (highly recommended!) perhaps round one ghosts in the machine... A W10 VM install also flawless... Ahhh that pesky bleeding edge...
     
Paulrm
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Oct 7, 2015, 01:03 AM
 
Nary a problem!
     
billearl
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Oct 7, 2015, 03:04 AM
 
From what I've experienced of El Capitan in Finder, Safari, Mail, Preview, etc, it's not ready for prime time. Maybe I just haven't deleted the right pref files... I'm now running the next beta instead of the release version in hopes of better times. I thought El Capitan was supposed to be to Yosemite what Snow Leopard was to Leopard. Too much hurry, not enough care.

I've been a Mac user for over 31 years (and an MS Excel user for almost 30 years, which is even worse in the current version), but feel like we're entering a new and unwelcome paradigm.
     
MitchIves
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Oct 7, 2015, 12:59 PM
 
Mike said: "I've done some very basic testing on the Mac Pro, and I think the issue isn't Metal itself, but I do think it is bad graphics card drivers. Still working on it."

Thanks Mike...
     
lsochrin
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Oct 7, 2015, 12:59 PM
 
I should have waited for 10.11.1. Although people here say that there have been no reported problems other than Office 2016 compatibility, they haven't been on the Apple discussion boards. Today is the first day in a week where I'm able to send email (so far, anyway), without resetting SMTP preferences over and over again. And others, including a friend, found all empty mailboxes, although rebuilding them brought the mail back. I haven't found much in the way of new features that I use. And by the way, I've owned Macs since they first came out, have upgraded over and over again, and mostly had no problems, but email is just such a basic and important application, that this problem led me to conclude that I should have waited.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 7, 2015, 03:07 PM
 
Isochrin, that's not what we're saying at all.

Feature: Five reasons to skip El Capitan for now | MacNN

Linked above.
     
Flying Meat
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Oct 7, 2015, 03:29 PM
 
I would advise against upgrading on mission critical machines until at least 10.11.1 comes out.
While I have not experienced the specific issues reported about email and the Office Suites or FileMaker, I don't use FileMaker or Outlook, or local mail groups.
I already miss the 10.11 incompatible Menu Meters, and I'm experiencing a display bug at startup of GeekTool.

So, given the possibility that your day/weeks might be consumed by trying to get your email or other apps to work as expected (or at all), my recommendation is, do not upgrade your mission critical machine/s to El Capitan (OS X 10.11) at this time.
     
eric.vanbeest
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Oct 10, 2015, 02:15 PM
 
i disagree. even on FileVault - upgrading from 10.8 to 10.9 was no problem and upgrading from 10.9 from 10.10 was no problem. the problem is with 10.11 - no bones about it...
     
   
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