Switching to Linux instead of upgrading to Catalina

Of course I was warned that the 32-bit epoch would end. But I wasn’t aware just how many applications I use every day that are 32 bit, that function as they should, and haven’t been updated in years and almost certainly will never be. Moving on to Catalina now would just implode my Mac, no question about it. Apple have their reasons for imposing this update no doubt, but it confronts me with the question: what now?

Updating to Catalina would force me to start anew in many ways. As I do not want to give up my old ways right away, I have decided to keep my current laptop frozen and buy another computer to keep up with the times. Since I will lose most of my coveted Mac applications anyway, there is no reason to stay with Apple. So I’ve decided to try a Linux machine to start with. I’ll continue using my iPad, and my MacBook Air for as long as they will last, but I discover that I’m no longer as committed to Apple as I once was.

I’m curious to know which apps these are, because I don’t think I have any 32-bit apps that I care about (other than QuickTime 7, I guess) and my ScanSnap app.

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I’m also staying at Mojave for the foreseeable future. The question that rises in my mind, then, is when does my system become unviable, and for what reason? Is it the end of announced security upgrade support (which appears to usually be for two succeeding system updates, meaning High Sierra is now in its last year)?

There doesn’t seem to be much of a limit on the hardware; my 2009 Mac Pro is still going strong, especially since I employed the simple, available hack to update the firmware to accept a High Sierra upgrade. I expect my new 2019 iMac to last at least ten years as well.

It’s been a long time since Apple updated the system software with features that I actually cared about (beyond security upgrades). Forced annual upgrades are a major annoyance. So should my concerns be limited to future vulnerability to threats from the internet?

Is anyone aware of organized discussions on extending life of old Macs with respect to being online (assumption being there are no limitations on Macs that are isolated from outside threats)?

I can understand that…but moving to Linux (or Windows) means that you’re having to start all over again anyway so I’m not sure how switching is a win in that case.

Sure…we’re losing 32 bit apps…and some of them may be ‘coveted apps’…but if they’ve not been upgraded in years then you’ve seen no new features or bug fixes either…and it just might be time to move on. I had to do this with Aperture a couple of years back…at the time I didn’t like the way Lightroom worked but after a bit one gets used to the new interface and paradigm and moves on. We’ve been using Office 2011…which is also not 64 bit…so it was either update or switch. Neither my wife or I likes the Office interface past 2011 and we no longer need the higher end features that it provided over older versions of Apple’s office suite…so we switched. It was a pain in the butt for a few weeks since we had to re-figure out how to do all the things we already knew how to do in Excel…but again you get past that minor pain.

One option is to run a virtual older MacOS (via Parallels or something like it) and keep that for 32bit compatibility. The 32bit apps will then run nicely inside your 64bit-only environment.
I had this planned, but… I have deleted all my 32bit apps from Catalina, thinking I’d be running them virtually. I never got to that stage though. All my coveted 32bit apps are now a distant memory as it turns out I don’t need them. I’ll be running Parallels for Windows only (need it for work, barf). Of course I am in the luxurious position of not having to maintain any legacy apps that cannot be replaced. But if you do, then virtualisation may be the ticket.

Yep, we published a full article on virtualizing Mojave in Catalina.

Personally, I think switching operating systems would require a vast amount of learning new background material that you don’t realize you already know about the Mac. But that might be fun too!

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One of the reasons for staying 32 bit is that my System 9 emulator doesn’t work under 64 bit, I’m almost sure. And sometimes I really do need to go so far back in time as I have data and files in obscure formats that I only can access that way. Maybe someone will update vMac or come up with something equivalent but I don’t count on it.
Furthermore, even though my vintage sound system has been abandoned long ago, it still works fine so why sacrifice that?
And then I use a whole cloud of miniapplications and thingies that I’ve accumulated over the years. No doubt there will be alternatives, but just looking for them will be a pain.
And finally, an important application I use, Mathematica, apart from suffering from MS Word-like incompatible format disease, has gone to a yearly renewable subscription mode (which my employer pays at the moment but at some time in the future I will not be able access my own work) so I want to be able to keep using the 32 bit version as a reference. (A part from a few stupid bug fixes there is really no reason for me to use the newer versions!)
Of course, virtualisation may be an option. But if we are forced to move with the times and start anew, it may be better to really start anew, and then the question for me is what are really the reasons for sticking with Apple?

I’m not sure we can answer that for you. Personally, every time I use some other operating system, I find even basic operations awkward and time-consuming because I have so much implicit Mac knowledge. Where do you go to twiddle settings? How do you transfer something to your computer from your phone? What app do you use to replicate this feature you’re accustomed to in macOS? And so on… For instance, I rely heavily on Keyboard Maestro for macros. Other operating systems probably have similar apps, but it would take vast amounts of time to research, test, configure, and learn what I already know with Keyboard Maestro on the Mac. (And when I have done that sort of thing in the past, I’ve often been disappointed by the results—Mac apps really are often the best in class.)

So the test for you is to install Linux on your Mac and see if you can be productive enough with it to justify the investment in time you’ll need to make the switch.

It’s actually easier than that. Buy yourself a RaspberryPi. The last one I bought, the latest revision, cost me about $80 including a case with a fan. Toss in an old USB keyboard and mouse and connect it to a flat screen using HDMI and you can try out Linux for yourself. No need to tie up a Mac for this.

Personally I’m very comfortable using Linux, but a lot of my time on my Macs is spent in Terminal (I use my 4 Pi’s headless). I’m always going to have a Mac around primarily because of iTunes. It’d be difficult to impossible to do something like rip a CD and have the tracks get Matched or uploaded into iTunes on Linux alone. Other things like responding to Messages on a laptop (with a real keyboard!) or sending audio or video to an Apple TV are just bonuses. But like I said, it’s very easy and low cost to try Linux. You almost certainly will find yourself not liking the experience if all you’ve ever used is Macs.

I use Linux at work a lot and I love it. But to be honest, I’m not sure I’d like it at home. Many things I do on my own time are just more cumbersome to do on Linux. Sure, in theory you can do everything and that puts you in charge, but in practice that’s a) just overwhelming so most users will end up relying on a certain distro and WM which already reigns in things a lot (making them more Mac-like in a sense) and b) when you want to do something simple like rip a few tracks or enter your running time into your own home brew database, you just don’t want to have to fuzz around with a whole bunch of stuff. You just want to get it done. Fiddling and tinkering can be a lot of fun if you want to do it and you can take the time for it, but when you’re forced to do it, it always happens at the worst possible moment and that’s just no fun. The Mac I’m afraid is not at its best right now, but overall I believe for most of my home tasks it is just the plain easiest and most hassle-free setup.

Plus, usually the hardware is quite good (let’s ignore the butterfly keyboards for now). There is no doubt good PC hardware, but honestly, most of the PC stuff being sold is junk designed to just be cheaper. And of course often it actually is up front, but when I factor in all the time I waste hunting down the right driver to get it to do what I want it to do when I close the lid, or when I have to get a special driver installed and configured to make the cheap a** trackpad work halfway decent, well that time is a huge amount of wasted money, let alone time i could have spent doing something actually enjoyable.

@ace is right that a lot of it is muscle memory and we just are most efficient at what we know best and have been doing for the longest. I bet that’s a significant part of what makes somebody like me very efficient on a Mac compared to let’s say Windows. But truth be told, Apple has been moving typical Mac behavior around a lot lately in the name of iOS interoperability (just ask yourself when the last time was Apple added a significant feature to macOS that you truly enjoy and that’s not related to iOS?) or just for the heck of it, whatever. These days we seem to keep hearing “you’re not doing it right, you should now be doing it this or that way now”. That breaks all that built up muscle memory advantage. If I have zero control or understanding over where stuff gets littered in /Library or /System and yet I still need to screw around in there because once again iTunes has decided to stop properly syncing my iPhone, well then heck, that’s not a whole lot different than figuring out what went into /usr/bin vs. /usr/local/bin or how to modify my configure arguments to get make install to do what I want it to.

IMHO macOS has seen better days. And I sincerely hope we return to that. I still wouldn’t give up my Mac. Not even for Linux on really good hardware. But that’s just my 2¢.

Just a quick note, about this moving to only 64 bit apps. It does force you to kind of clean house, install as you go, and just install the apps you’re still using as you need them, get new versions, and all those old apps/extensions no longer used and long forgotten are no longer installed, taking up room, ram, or a few cpu cycles now and then. It’s kind of a good thing really. The other side is I don’t see us going to 128 bit only for quite a long time.
I still have many old computers, that I still use now and then. Recently I needed a database program for a project I said I’d do for free overnight, but found out at about 10pm FileMaker no longer sells the cheaper ‘interpreter’ version for ~$150, but only the full development version for $500. So I fired up the G4 PowerBook with FM ver 6, and got her done! I’d put a lot of money on a bet that 99% of the projects we’d like to do around the house only require the horsepower of a 68000 cpu based Mac. My grand kids use the Mac II si (with 68040 board) with the Miracle piano.

Thank you for your 2¢. I wasn’t seriously considering switching to Linux; now I won’t give it another thought, even though I agree completely with “macOS has seen better days.”

Sigh. I wish I had never disposed of my Mac IIci.

Thanks all for your thoughts! I do intend to keep using my 32-bit system as long as its capacitors do not blow up. I won’t be travelling much with it and it will be living in a firewalled environment, so that missing security updates is hopefully not critical. Most web interactions will be going through my iPad anyway (that I indeed intend to keep updated!). I am in the process of setting up a Raspberry Pi, just as someone suggested here, just to see how far one can get. The thing that worries me most is how to be able to continue backing up my iPad (l’ve already lost a perfectly serviceable iMac that I cannot use anymore after an iOS update).

For what it’s worth, I’ve decided that there’s no pressing reason for me to move to macOS Catalina right now.

I’ve been trying out Linux Mint inside a virtual machine using Parallels Desktop, and I’m really liking it so far. I’m even considering using it to run my Steam games instead of Windows 10, since games compatibility has come along in leaps and bounds the last few years.

For what it’s worth: if it’s Mac OS 9 you want to run, I’m pretty certain that SheepShaver is 64-bit compatible. And if it really is vMac you want, it looks like Mini vMac has 64-bit builds available.

You should, of course, use the OS of your choice. I think that anyone who can contemplate switching from Mac to Linux does not need a Mac, anyway. The switch wouldn’t work for me; Adobe CC gone, Microsoft Office gone, and no professional-level replacements extant or on the horizon for Linux.

If you still have data that you need to run Mac OS 9 to access you should have migrated that data to modern formats or plain text more than a decade ago.But if you think things will be better in Linux I wish you luck. My experience with Desktop Linux its that it is still terrible, but YMMV.

I mean, I spend most of my time in Terminal.app logged in to remote servers over ssh and I would never consider switching my desktop machines to Linux.

I bought an old ThinkPad T420 to use as a Linux machine. I love the hardware, which is almost exactly of what Apple makes these days. I run Arch on it, and it’s all good, but I’m too dependent on Messages, Photos, Notes, and iCloud to get too far from the Mac, at least without a lot of big workflow changes.

MS Word and other Office components I haven’t been using since alternatives stabilised. Latex has many disadavantages but at least there are no tsunamis that force you to to give up everything and start anew every so often… Many of my old Word documents, if they open at all, have now big red Xs in them where I pasted graphics or even used their original equation editor. Latex documents from the same era print just fine!
But I’m not giving up on Apple! Just not ready to brick my Macbook Air which now functions just fine with all the sometimes minute functionalities that it acquired over time. Perhaps in the future I will purchase an additional dedicated Catalina machine, but for the moment I’ll continue exploring the Linux world.

Just a minor example: If you buy a Raspberry Pi and install Raspbian, you’ll discover you’ve got Mathematica bundled with it. It does seem to have a tendency to melt the board if you make it do complicated things, but all the same…