Beware of Catalina


Some of you may have noticed that I did not post anything yesterday. That was because on Monday evening, I decided to upgrade the operating system of my MAC computer to the latest version called Catalina that was released in October 2019 and had got some pretty good reviews. Since the OS I had been using (El Capitan) was pretty old, I felt that I should upgrade since older software is more vulnerable to hacks.

It is a rule of thumb that any upgrade of an operating system will cause some disruptions and I was ready for that. What I did not expect was that the next 24 hours would be a nightmare. Lots of applications no longer worked, the email folders all disappeared, the calendar was wiped out, it would not sync with the phone or the iPad, and so on and so on. For someone like me who uses the computer during most of my waking hours, this was a real mess and I spent much of my time trying to fix things and recover some semblance of normalcy.

What was most troubling was that I had full backups on an external hard disk but when I tried to restore the old system using Apple’s proprietary backup system called Time Machine (something that I have done before and is usually simple and easy to do), Catalina would not let me even do that.

I finally had to take the computer to the Genius Bar in the Apple store to get out of Catalina, install an OS (Sierra) that was not as old as my former one and get all my stuff back. The Genius Bar woman said that they have had to deal with tons of issues like this because of Catalina.

I finally got all my stuff back late last evening.

So this is a warning in case any of you were thinking of upgrading to Catalina. Be very careful.

Comments

  1. says

    Mano, maybe the next time a major upgrade is on the horizon, you might consider switching to a reliable, non-proprietary operating system that does not cage you in.

    My latest upgrade was to “Tricia”. It took a few minutes, and -- as expected -- it has been running smoothly.

    -- Wikipedia: Linux Mint
    -- Clément Lefèbvre:Linux Mint 19.3 “Tricia” Cinnamon released!
    -- Lucy Hattersley: How to install & set up Linux on a Mac
    -- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Linux Mint 19.3 is here and better than ever

  2. mastmaker says

    It looks like just as Microsoft is learning (how to dumb down operating systems) from Apple, Apple seems to be learning (how to mess up upgrades and destroy customers’ data) from Microsoft. Hope both of them end up in the dumpster fire.

  3. says

    I tried to restore the old system using Apple’s proprietary backup system called Time Machine

    I am not trying to criticize you, here, Mano -- this is more in the nature of a bit of philosophy that has puzzled me for a long time, and which I have been unable to resolve.

    Given that most failures of a system will be a result of software, particularly software flaws, it seems to me that one of the things nobody should trust from their OS vendor is the backup software. After all, the premise is that Apple fucks up so badly that you need your backup, you should assume they fuck up so badly that their backup process is unreliable.

    A serious IT strategist would test their business resumption process periodically to make sure their backups were good. That’s an additional expense although you could have a hot/cold set of machines and swap them back and forth. That is practically what I do though the cold machine is my former travel laptop. The data on them is synchronized using a process of my own devising, which is encapsulated behind clicking a single desktop icon and watching some lights blink. The synchronization and checking is done using nothing from Microsoft at all other than the desktop shortcut. Partly that is because, once upon a time, I saw someone try to use Microsoft’s backup utility and I nearly shot them to put them out of their misery. (“Insert disk 33 of 34… insert disk 34 of 34… restore FAILED due to disk read error.”)

    What’s funny is that people assume the data management in the sausage factory AWS is really good when in fact it’s layers of kludges. Still better than Microsoft backup, which is worse than Apple’s time machine. Anyone who cares would run a home ZFS server but even I do not care that much. (Seriously, the idea that file systems are not versioned is ridiculous!)

  4. Dunc says

    Marcus, @ #2

    Given that most failures of a system will be a result of software, particularly software flaws, it seems to me that one of the things nobody should trust from their OS vendor is the backup software. After all, the premise is that Apple fucks up so badly that you need your backup, you should assume they fuck up so badly that their backup process is unreliable.

    Well, yeah, but… In practice, their solution works, say, 80 -- 90% of the time and requires absolutely no effort on the part of the user. That trade-off is in a pretty sweet spot for most people.

    Anyone who cares would run a home ZFS server but even I do not care that much.

    There you go then. It’s all a question of “how much do you care?” and “how good is good enough?”

  5. says

    #3 Marcus wrote:

    Anyone who cares would run a home ZFS server

    Good admins are lazy. I have been running Ext4 for > 10 years on all machines. It runs, and runs, and runs …

  6. fentex says

    If you are going use a large corporations Operating System you should upgrade regularly -- they operate on the assumption you will (not intentionally, it’s just they way it works out).

    Do not skip upgrades and expect to be able to catch up easily, not matter how well intentioned your supplier is.

  7. lanir says

    This seems a particularly bad time to pitch Linux. A switch now would repeat many of the problems he just had with Catalina, plus Linux on Mac hardware has some nuisance factors involved in my experience.

  8. says

    #9 lanir:

    This seems a particularly bad time to pitch Linux. A switch now would repeat many of the problems he just had with Catalina

    Nobody suggested Mano should switch now.
    A methodical approach would avoid previous problems, when the next major upgrade is on the horizon. E.g. with dual-booting Linux from an additional SSD, potential roadblocks can bet tested. …

  9. Moggy says

    Catalina is strictly an 64-bit operating system and Apple has dropped support for all 32-bit apps.

    When I upgraded to 10.15.X a lot of my favorite apps got shit-canned because they would no longer
    run on Catalina and I had to find alternatives or go without.

    Homebrew, The Missing Package Manager for macOS, was a great help in finding and replacing
    stock macOS packages with their Gnu alternatives. https://brew.sh/. will get you started