Lion: What's the hurry to upgrade?

Summary:Mac developers are only now uncovering new bugs in Lion and even more surprising support for entire APIs. The Lion software compatibility picture is unclear and users of old and even recently updated third-party software should be very careful before taking on the new OS version.

From the eager and ofttimes frantic posts on discussion boards, it appears that Mac users have an intense yearning for the new and fresh when it comes to OS upgrades. On the other hand, they sound outraged with any report of third-party software incompatibilities with the just-released Lion, Mac OS X 10.7.

Mac developers are only now uncovering new bugs in Lion and even more surprising support for entire APIs. The Lion software compatibility picture is unclear and users of old and even recently updated third-party software should be very careful before taking on the new OS version.

The warnings keep coming for popular programs that require the Rosetta library, such as Quicken for Mac. I received today a warning message about Rosetta requirements for the Gorilla screenplay software (the new Lion-savvy version is coming in the fall). However, this PowerPC-emulation technology has been on the developer's orphan list for a long time.

Aside from Rosetta, what is and isn't under the hood of Lion's initial release was only finalized recently and could have implications for your favorite program's compatibility. And developers trying to keep customers informed and manage expectations may be caught in a bit of a Catch-22 situation.

For example, Karelia, the maker of Sandvox, an excellent CSS site development tool, has been dealing with complaints by longtime customers. A month or so ago, the company released a major Version 2 upgrade, which is long on great new features, but riled some users settled in their workflows. Growing pains. Then the company said that the older, simpler Version 1.x software wouldn't run on Lion.

On Tuesday, co-founder Terrence Talbot told readers of the Sandvox discussion list that this Version 1.x vs. Lion situation will likely change.

Sandvox 1.6.8 relies on a very specific library, from Apple, being available on the system. This library was not available on any developer builds of Lion that I saw since WWDC. This meant that our initial evaluation is that Sandvox 1.6.8 would not run on Lion.

In the latest GM release of Lion sent to developers last week, this library is suddenly now present. So far all of my preliminary tests indicate that Sandvox 1.6.8 works fine in this GM version of Lion, though I have not exhaustively tested every last feature.

We cannot make a final statement on Lion compatibility until Apple officially releases Lion to the public and we can see what's in and what's out. We'll know more tomorrow, we will do more tests, and we will update our official statement when we know more.

At this point, there is indication that everything might just work. But we don't know for sure until there is an official end-user release of Lion and we have had sufficient time to test.

The library in question is libcrypto, which has been a problem child to a number of developers. I understand that recently Xcode 4 did not provide the 10.5 SDK, which was needed for backwards compatibility with some libraries, including libcrypto. From Talbot's report, that situation seems to have changed.

For Mac users, it is clear is that if a workflow is working under Snow Leopard, there's no hurry to upgrade to Lion. And unless you have a clear need for Lion, then there's also no hurry to upgrade.

Topics: Apps, Apple, Hardware, IT Employment, Operating Systems, Software, Software Development

About

David Morgenstern has covered the Mac market and other technology segments for 20 years. In the recent past, he founded Ziff-Davis' Storage Supersite, served as news editor for Ziff Davis Internet and held several executive editorial positions at eWEEK. In the 1990s, David was editor of Ziff Davis' award-winning MacWEEK news publication a... Full Bio

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