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You don’t need to update your operating system right away

7 min read

We published reviews of iPadOS and macOS Catalina yesterday. Despite the fact that the first four paragraphs of my Catalina review were an argument that you should hold off on updating your Mac until you know for sure your apps will work, I still don’t feel I was strenuous enough.

Some users missed the memo that 32-bit apps are finally getting left behind. Others didn’t realize that Apple transition from iTunes to Apple Music would burn off a critical backend file format that other DJ apps depended on.

Yet more people didn’t realize that they would need to set aside a solid hour to click approval boxes for apps requesting access to newly-restricted parts of your computer. Many people made jokes about the bad old days of Windows Vista and its pop-up boxes. I’m just going to indulge myself and include one here:

This tweet brings to mind a classic Mac vs PC commercial making fun of Windows for nearly the same issue. It’s worth a watch if only because it’s really nice to remember a time when Apple didn’t take itself so damn seriously:

At this point, you are probably tempted to rail at Apple for screwing this up. I could see a case that it hasn’t handled the transition to the new security model in Catalina very elegantly, for sure. But when it comes to app compatibility, I don’t think it’s a good idea to blame Apple, but I have a maybe surprising reason: I don’t want us to be quite so dependent.

At the risk of being an I-told-you-so kind of person, I’m just going to repeat what I said in the Catalina review again. You probably depend on your Mac or PC for “real work,” and so updating on day one could threaten that real work — literally threaten your livelihood. It’s better to wait and see how things shake out, to let other people experience the problems and report them.

Telling people not to upgrade to the new OS for a few weeks used to be so common that it sounds weird to emphasize it so much. But somewhere in the past decade the yearly updates for both iOS (and, to a lesser extent, Android) lulled us into a false sense of complacency.

On mobile platforms, you wanted to update right away because the new updates were generally stable, got you access to cool new features, and many of your favorite apps took advantage of those new features fairly early on. It was low risk, high reward.

But this year, iOS 13 has proven to be pretty buggy. Heck, everything has been pretty buggy this year. Windows 10 had a “May update” that is still not ready for prime time as of October. iPadOS is still sending my keyboard to random corners of the screen. And Catalina, as I have said, isn’t a great day-one update.

With iOS, I think that it’s fair to expect more stability — Apple exerts so much control over the platform that the likelihood of apps breaking on a new update is relatively small. The more locked down an OS is, the more you should have a expectation that it works like an appliance and the more annoyed you have a right to be when it doesn’t.

But the Mac is different. So is Windows. These are open platforms, where anybody is free to make and distribute software what works on them without asking permission from the companies that create the operating systems (except, well, that’s changing a bit with notarization on the Mac, but stay with me).

For these more open platforms to progress, they are going to have to break things from time to time. Eternal backwards compatibility is a recipe for stagnation and confusion — a lesson Microsoft seems determined to try to relearn every four or five years. Apple was right to leave 32-bit apps behind. It was right to tighten up security a bit on the Mac. It was right to put iTunes out to pasture — though on that last one it could have probably done a better job giving developers a heads up on the unintended consequences.

What I’m arguing is that one of the prices of using a powerful, relatively open platform is that sometimes things break and that’s okay. The alternatives are worse: you end up with something completely managed, something complete stagnant, or something completely boring.

So don’t yell at Apple or Microsoft or Google when apps break on new versions of their OS. Doing so just reifies the idea that they are our benevolent overlords and takes away some of our own power. Yell at them when their own software breaks — trust me, it happens often enough that you’ll never lack for moments of catharsis.

I recently turned off auto-updates for apps on my phones. It has forced me to actually look at what these apps are doing and promising — and in some cases made me realize I don’t want them installed on my phone at all.

This is the part where I say that you should also turn off auto-updates for your operating system, but I’m balking. Because there are some auto-updates that are critical, the kind that fix security holes and improve your privacy. The world is a better place when more people have the latest, most secure software installed. I think of it a little like herd immunity.

I’m torn. This is the part where I’m supposed to make sense of it all and give you some advice, but I can’t do that. I am turning off auto-updates myself because I want to know more what’s working, what’s not, and what’s new across my computers and apps. But I’m also the kind of person who pays attention to such things. I don’t think everybody should have to.

More from The Verge

+ Spotify rolls out Siri support and new Apple TV app

Pro tip: instead of appending “on Spotify” to your request, you can lead with it. As in “Hey Siri, Spotify The Ramones.” It turns Spotify into a verb, like Googling for something. I’m frankly shocked Spotify hasn’t figured out this was a marketing move it could have made years ago.

Even so, the extra word grates. You can set Spotify as the default on both Alexa and the Google Assistant (and Bixby!). Apple’s olive branch here is not very much. Call me when I’m allowed to set another email app as the default.

+ iPadOS review: 50 percent more computer

Apple finally had the courage to make iPadOS a little complicated. In some places I think it succeeded, in others I think it failed. The most disappointing part was text editing, where Apple’s attempts to make things more intuitive just made them worse.

And I can’t get over how punitive it is for Apple to refuse to include multi-user support. Lots of families share iPads!

+ macOS Catalina review: transition period

I’ve said this on Twitter but couldn’t find a good way to really work it into the review: in the future, I think we’ll look at Catalina as the foundation of a new era for the Mac. I just don’t know what that era looks like. Renaissance? Shift to iPad apps? Beginning of a long, slow decline?

It’s setting up for the next chapter, but we don’t know where the plot is going.

+ Apple confirms macOS Catalina update is a big problem for DJs who relied on iTunes

Here’s one reason why it’s a good idea to wait, at least if you depend on the iTunes library. Also, a lot of people are running into problems with 32-bit apps, which are no longer supported.

+ Oops: Apple may have accidentally revealed a Sleep app for the Apple Watch

+ PS4 Remote Play will fully support Android this week

Legit “finally” on this, the longest-running, silliest exclusive of the modern mobile era. Instead of only working on Xperia phones, it will work on any Android phone. It already did so on iPhones and iPads.

+ Amazon updates the Fire HD 10 with a faster processor and USB-C

These are a pretty darn good deal for $149, even though you should know going in that it won’t have easy access to every single app you probably want but it should have most. If you can afford more than twice the price, the new iPad is more than twice as good. If you can’t or don’t want to spend too much on a knock-around tablet keep a close eye for reviews of this one.

+ The Kindle is getting a Kids Edition bundle for younger readers

A Kindle with full access to kid-friendly content is a way better idea than a cheap, disposable tablet with the same. Or at least as good. Too bad it’s only the basic one for now a future software update will bring it to better ones in January:

Given that a far superior Paperwhite with a far better display and kid-friendly waterproofing costs just $129 (and usually far less considering Amazons frequent sales), you might be better off waiting to pick up the more premium hardware instead. Thats especially true given the lifespan of a Kindle, which tends to be measured in years, not months.

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