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El Capitan (2016 edition)

2016 January 25

I bit the bullet weekend before last and upgraded my production Mac to OS X 10.11, i.e. OS X v11, i.e. “El Capitan.”

I’ve been around long enough that this is my second Apple “El Capitan” product. A bit over 13 years ago* I purchased a G4 PowerMac with the El Capitan case design, which had been introduced a few years earlier in more colorful form. (That particular model was, I notice, codenamed “Yosemite,” so apparently Apple has been on this whole Yosemite National Park kick before… cue mutterings about the company immediately getting stuck in the past since Steve Jobs powered down…)

The El Capitan case was a pretty great design, aside from the fact that it was a giant boat-anchor, like many computers before 2005 or so. How about the El Capitan operating system?

It’s okay. In truth, I think my biggest complaint may be the redesigned Finder icon (which took place in 10.10, actually). It could be that I’ll appreciate this with time, but right now it just seems ugly and stupid:


On the left, my old friend. On the right, ugh.

Seriously, though, that’s my main complaint after a week.

Thinking back, my biggest complaint may have to do with fonts, though I’ve mostly resolved that. After what had appeared a relatively pain-free upgrade, I began working on something in InDesign and discovered the inevitable 100-some garbage fonts that Apple had installed. This is not really new, and Adobe software installations tend to do the same thing. When I went to begin removing them, however, I found that not only were Apple-installed fonts password-protected as I recalled from my last system upgrade, but now some of them are practically nailed down. The rigamarole necessary to get absolutely unnecessary fonts—entirely separate from the fonts that are necessary, although treated the same way—out of my font menus was completely absurd. I’m enormously grateful to Kurt Lang, who maintains an incredibly detailed guide to Apple’s increasingly frustrating practices in this area. With his help, I did eventually de-crap my fonts folders.

Between the effort required, the general feeling of control over my Mac being transferred away from me little by little, the dumb Finder icon redesign and the fact that Comic Sans is among the fonts Apple installs for you… I’ve got to say, El Capitan has an unpleasant hint of Microsoft.

Still, my overwhelming assessment of what moving to El Capitan has changed is… nothing much. Which is on balance a positive. To some extent, if hints of Microsoft are seeping into OS X, at least one of them is actually welcome: continuity.

Upgrading to El Capitan has broken, essentially, nothing. All Some of my hardware works, including my now-venerable inkjet printer, for which Canon stopped releasing driver updates years ago. [Update, one whole day laterugh. My printer works, but the utility—which controls cleaning, etc.—seems not to. Also I somehow entirely overlooked my scanner, also from Canon, also EOL’d, and in this case broken under 10.10 and later. Fortunately, VueScan brought it back to life for a price, and cheers to them for keeping old hardware working rather than go to the e-waste heap.] Pretty much all of my software seems to work fine, including all of my Adobe Creative Suite programs…

…which was, in truth, my biggest hope in upgrading to El Capitan. There’s nothing in particular in this version of OS X that I need, compared with Mavericks. But, realistically, it’s a treadmill and falling too far behind is problematic, particularly on a production system. Now, though, I’ve got the latest operating system on a Mac with plenty of scope for hardware upgrades, and could well be perfectly snug for the next few years. Which means that I can keep using Creative Suite programs for which I own a perpetual license, so ha ha, F-U Adobe! 🙂

Admittedly, I am already signed up to Creative Cloud (a.k.a. Adobe Extortion), but only the single-program version for InDesign which costs less. I only use that to open newer files that I receive. I do all of my work in good old CS programs that I can’t be locked out of for failing to pay my Adobe tax, or simply to report in to the mother ship. Given that Creative Cloud remains a piece of garbage—after installing El Capitan I had to strip out the CC application and reinstall it because that was the only way to restore its connection to Adobe’s servers—my plan is to have as little involvement with it as possible for as long as possible. InDesign CC also seems like an utter slug, whenever I open it, too.

I was a bit concerned that El Capitan seemed similarly lethargic, when first installed, but happily that has improved. I read something about the most recent point-update improving “memory management” in some way, and whatever it did everything seems to drag notably less now. I still hope to add some more RAM at some point, this year, but it no longer feels urgent.

Anyway. Hardly an ars technica review, here, but then as much as I respect those guys’ thoroughness it does seem like glorious overkill. Right now Mac OS X feels pretty mature, and I’m fine with that. I don’t need Apple to change all kinds of crap around just to look new and exciting, and now that they release OS upgrades for free, presumably they feel less need to do so as well.

Fair enough. I should probably still update this blog at some point, though, huh?

* Oh, my god.

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