Hope and Change vs Fear and Loathing - going from OSX 10.6.8 to OSX 10.9
October 27, 2013 3:31 PM   Subscribe

What to expect, what to watch out for, does upgrading make sense at this iteration, is it going to be a disappointing hassle or a marvelous new world?

I'm on a late 2009 iMac i7 2.8GHz, 8GB RAM. My operating system of choice is Snow Leopard 10.6.8. What I use it for (other than wasting time on the internet), is word processing, a bit of Lightroom processing, as a media center to stream music from and watch movies/TV on, FCPX, and miscellaneous minor stuff (f.ex. displaying 77 million paintings).

Snow Leopard does everything I need it for. As an OS, 10.6.8 has been extremely stable for me, very efficient, with minimum of bugs and the bugs that bug I have reliable work-arounds for.

Meanwhile, there's been nothing in Lion or Mountain Lion - on paper - that enticed me. The very idea of "the cloud" enervates me. In general, I tend to be a very slow adopter - I waited for Tiger before I got off OS 9, and then stuck with Tiger until I bought my late 2009 iMac in early 2010 with SL installed on it. I've been stuck on it ever since.

I use my computer as a tool, and I'm not particularly interested in fiddling with programming or excessive maintenance. I like the OS to get out of the way and simply let me work with minimum of fuss.

So, I'm happy with SL. However. More and more apps no longer support or run on SL, and some of them I need (new Dragon Naturally Speaking). Others which are super important to my work, I fear any day now are going to drop SL, and I cannot afford that - example FCPX (still supports SL, though I fear just barely, what with optimizing for the MacPro and Mavericks). I therefore think the time may be approaching when I have to make another OS move - I've managed to sit out Lion and Mountain Lion, but don't know how much longer I can hold out.

I know I'll lose some legacy apps (f.ex. 77 million paintings needs Rosetta), but I'm more interested in other things, hence my questions. Assume that I've read Apple's Mavericks page and Siracusa's review, and glanced at the commentary on the zoo of early Mavericks adoption on Macrumors.

My questions for anyone who can compare 10.6.8 to 10.9 - because I have ZERO experience with Lion and Mountain Lion:

1)SL is very fast and efficient for me most of the time. Is 10.9 going to be a rainbow beachball spinning lagfest in comparison? I know people say 10.9 is fast compared to 10.8 or 10.7, but I'm interested in 10.6.8 ---> 10.9.

2)Are many apps broken or doing worse running under 10.9?

3)Is the transition from 10.6.8 going to be frustrating? Here's what I mean - I find some "upgrades" really downgrades in UI - as an example the time-wasting graphics behavior of opening/closing apps etc. in ios 7 compared to ios 6. Eyecandy is fine, until it interferes with getting work done.

4)Any gotchas I should watch out for?

5)Do you find 10.9 a "must have" or at least a worthy upgrade from 10.6.8

6)Is the water OK? Can I jump in now? I'd still like to probably wait until .3 or .1 at least, but how's it hanging so far?
posted by VikingSword to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you run VMWare under Snow Leopard, say goodbye to it under Mavericks. That was the big gotcha for me when I upgraded to Mountain 10.6 to 10.7
I skipped 10.8
When I upgraded to Mavericks, as soon as it came out, I received a little notification that VMWare was still incompatible - this may be worth noting for you.
posted by seawallrunner at 3:37 PM on October 27, 2013

VMWare Fusion works fine under Mavericks for me.

fwiw, I just upgraded a Mac Pro (2008ish) to Mavericks & it's fine. I don't notice any particular UI annoyances, but then I spend most of my time in a Linux VM & running emacs in an OSX terminal so I'm probably not your average Mac user.
posted by pharm at 3:41 PM on October 27, 2013

Do you use an email account provided by GMail in Apple's Mail app? That seems to be a sticking point for more than a few people.

I recommend running your must-have apps through Roaring Apps to see how many might need an update. ArchDetect is another one you might try, to make sure that none of them are expecting to be run with Rosetta support.

10.6.8, in my opinion as a Mac-Focused Consultant, was a very stable OS. If you can afford to wait for the first or second bug-fix, that would be my recommendation.

If you decide to do it anyway, please please PLEASE do yourself a favor and use a tool like CarbonCopyCloner to make a clone of your drive as it is now to an external drive. Should you get to 10.9-land and decide that it's not going to work out, you can always boot from the clone and get back to work (or clone the external drive back to the internal one).
posted by Wild_Eep at 3:44 PM on October 27, 2013

NB. If you want to try it out, there's nothing stopping you from installing Mavericks on a USB or Firewire disk & booting from that - you can run the migration app to transfer everything from the iMac disc and see what works and what doesn't before committing yourself.

It's probably a good idea to have a recent backup as well of course, just in case.

Instructions for creating a Mavericks installer USB stick here: http://osxdaily.com/2013/10/23/create-os-x-mavericks-install-drive/
posted by pharm at 3:44 PM on October 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Juniper's NetworkConnect VPN doesn't work with mavericks. Juniper expects a fix in a few months(!!!!).
posted by rmd1023 at 3:45 PM on October 27, 2013

My 2011 Macbook Pro has comparable specs - 2.7ghz i7 dual-core processor - and while it's not quite the same, I'm really quite thrilled with performance under Mavericks. Still zippy, still fast, and zero of the new-and-slow animations that irritate both of us about iOS7.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:46 PM on October 27, 2013

An example of the kind of loss I see: Dashboard. From my understanding, dashboard is for all intents and purposes a zombie on anything past SL. I'm this guy when it comes to dashboard. With one button, or one swipe, I've got a dozen widgets with critical functionality or information pop up immediately. Nothing - nothing - beats the speed and convenience of that solution compared to anything like that functionality equivalent in other parts of OS X or ios - and no, some corner in message center doesn't cut it. I realize that it may not be fashionable atm, but I only care about real world efficiency and ease of work - for that, I have not found anything better than dashboard, and I use it at least a hundred times a day - and for whatever reason, Apple has decided to steadily deprive dashboard of oxygen and generally deteriorate and deprecate. That's going backwards. That's making the next OS worse as far as getting work done from my point of view. That's just an example. But that's the kind of thing I'm talking about - I don't want to lose stuff. Change is fine, but change for the worse is regrettable.
posted by VikingSword at 4:11 PM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dashboard still exists in Mavericks, and I can still create web clips from Safari. I guess the level of widget support depends on what you use daily.

But one of the points in the article you link to is that some Dashboard widgets are going to stop working no matter what OS X version you run. Weather.com changing their feed (and Apple not updating the widget) affects 10.6 just as much as it does 10.9.
posted by sbutler at 4:35 PM on October 27, 2013

I went from 10.6.8 to 10.9 and have noticed very little change, though I am not a Dashboard user at all. I typically run Chrome, iTunes, Lightroom, CS3, and Evernote. The only downside I noticed is that the wheel mouse I've been using for 13 years now started scrolling in the opposite direction, and that was nixed with a visit to System Preferences. I have noticed a slight slowdown when I open Chrome + Lightroom + iTunes and try to switch between all three at one while each is actually doing something.

It also told me during install, "Hey, programs Y and Z won't work anymore" but since I couldn't even remember what they were or why I'd installed them it didn't bother me. You will probably get a similar list so at least you'll know which ones to expect to die on you.
posted by komara at 5:35 PM on October 27, 2013

If you run VMWare under Snow Leopard, say goodbye to it under Mavericks.

I assume you just mean that the version that came out around the same time as Snow Leopard doesn't work in Mavericks. That may be true, but the working of this makes it sound like VMWare doesn't work at all. Recent versions work perfectly fine (I used VMWare Fusion 5 under Mavericks for a couple of days before upgrading to 6, and I saw no issues).
posted by primethyme at 5:55 PM on October 27, 2013

You'll run into higher security settings on Mavericks compared to Snow Leopard. For example you'll have to tweak some settings if you want to be able to open webarchive files on Mavericks.
posted by alms at 8:04 PM on October 27, 2013

Is 10.9 going to be a rainbow beachball spinning lagfest in comparison? I know people say 10.9 is fast compared to 10.8 or 10.7, but I'm interested in 10.6.8 ---> 10.9.

I have a 2007 iMac, the very first metal one. It's getting a little elderly but has maxed out ram and the up-spec 2.4ghz CPU. Your computer is likely something wacky like 5x the performance of mine.

"Seat of the pants" it's the fastest this system has ever felt running anything. I would say that mountain lion was about the same speed as snow leopard finally. Mavericks, when it's working right(i'll get to this in a minute) is noticeably awesome. Everything opens really freaking fast, everything scrolls really smoothly, the new safari is noticeably fast(and even chrome seems faster).

2)Are many apps broken or doing worse running under 10.9?

I have yet to run in to anything that didn't work yet. And yes, i have vmware fusion.

The only thing that seems slower on both of the macs i have(the other one is a 2009 macbook pro) is playing online video, whether it's html5 or flash and whether it's in safari or chrome. It plays like shit, noticeably. Just quite a bit lower framerates which on the macbook is sort of "b-" but on the imac is utterly d-f range like 5fps slideshow crap if it's HD. Oddly enough this seems to have gotten a bit better on its own after a few days(and no, spotlight wasn't indexing). The iMac still can't handle HD vimeo though. I've gotten a bunch of "well hurr durr your mac is old" type replies but even on mountain lion it handled this fine.

3)Is the transition from 10.6.8 going to be frustrating? Here's what I mean - I find some "upgrades" really downgrades in UI - as an example the time-wasting graphics behavior of opening/closing apps etc. in ios 7 compared to ios 6. Eyecandy is fine, until it interferes with getting work done.

There's none of this, if anything the trend has reversed with mavericks. All the animations like minimizing/maximizing windows seem faster. Everything about the UI feels faster. kinda like that jailbreak tweak "%hookslaw" on the iphone/ipad that speeds up the UI animations.

4)Any gotchas I should watch out for?

Google around about the weird random freezing/hanging for a couple seconds glitch. I've noticed it on both machines. Basically, you'll just be typing in safari/chrome/anything and then POP the ENTIRE UI locks up for 4-5 seconds. This seems to happen about once or twice a day to me. I've seen a lot of posts on reddit mentioning this.

There's also been issues on both systems with random disk thrashing for a similar period of time. Guaranteed, 100% of the time i get activity monitor open it stops right when i go look at the disk activity part of it. I can never track this down, and dammit it's not spotlight. It will just cause major enormous slowdown and sometimes even any video playing to stutter(!) for a couple seconds. This once again, never happened on mountain lion or snow leopard.

And of course, the video playback issue i mentioned above. I have a feeling that all of these(and probably a couple other minor ones i'm forgetting) will be wiped out with point releases just like similar weird bugs were in SL, lion, and ML.

5)Do you find 10.9 a "must have" or at least a worthy upgrade from 10.6.8

6)Is the water OK? Can I jump in now? I'd still like to probably wait until .3 or .1 at least, but how's it hanging so far?

I would say yes. It's a noticeable performance boost just like leopard>snow leopard and lion>mountain lion were, but seeing as how mountain lion was about the same as snow leopard.. it's actually a bit of speed boost. Not some crazy vista>windows 7 kinda thing, but a noticeable one. I'd liken it to running proper high octane gas in a turbo car like a volvo that can handle running on regular gas, but does so with significantly reduced power. It feels like my macs were supposed to be this fast in the first place. It's a bit subtle, but you'll notice it regularly. Some apps open like twice as fast and i have no idea how the hell they did that.

On the "should i do it now?" point, i kinda regret it a bit. There's no super-ugh showstoppers although the vimeo thing really pissed me off for a few minutes. There's definitely some blatant bugs, but they're fairly minor as far as that sort of stuff goes. Nothing actually seems broken, it's just not 100% star trek flawlessly smooth. There's definitely no minor bugs like this in snow leopard now. If i could text myself back in time i would have stayed on mountain lion for a couple months.

I think the most praise i can give it though is that i wish my 2007 black macbook could run it, which i kept on snow leopard because fuck lion.

It basically feels like snow leopard, but with a more minimal version of the newer stuff like the lion/mountain lion style login screen(MINUS the stupid grey linen!) and the snazzy "about this mac" that shows the ram sticks and a cute little drawing of your computer. Nothing is really removed, and there's no stupid pointless shit, although fuck launchpad, but mavericks didn't start that fire. It definitely feels more "back to basics" than either 10.7 or 10.8, and runs like it too.
posted by emptythought at 8:14 PM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did the same upgrade, but on a 2010 Macbook Pro. For the most part, haven't had any issues, and in fact have gained back about 8Gb of hard drive space, and the machine feels a little zippier (due probably to App Nap). However, one issue is gestures on Safari and Chrome seem to work a bit inconsistently. Other than that I had to upgrade iWork (for free) and I have read that some functionality has actually been removed from the latest versions to make them more consistent with the iOS versions - this I guess could be an issue for some users.
posted by piyushnz at 9:45 PM on October 27, 2013

One problem I've had with my mid-09 MBP is that my battery life is half of what it was before the upgrade (and no, it's not Spotlight indexing or running any resource-hogging background process). This has been reported by some other users on Apple Support forums and Reddit, and it doesn't seem to be limited to a certain model year. I'm sure it will get fixed, but it's an annoyance nonetheless. I don't know if there's any way to predict whether you'll see that or not--most people report better battery life.

I've also noticed the bizarre 5 second OS lockups that emptythought mentioned, but it's only happened about 3 or 4 times.
posted by TrialByMedia at 10:54 PM on October 27, 2013

Thank you everybody so far, it's hard to pick a best answer there are so many good ones, but I'm going to leave this open for a while in case somebody else wants to chime in as the adoption of Mavericks continues.

In any case, from the answers so far, it seems Mavericks is an OK entry point for this diehard Snow Leopard fan. I'll give it some time for more bugs to appear and be hopefully resolved and for more apps to catch up, and then with a deep breath I'll plunge in. Maybe early next year. Thank you again everybody, and feel free to keep adding to this thread as you come across stuff.
posted by VikingSword at 3:45 PM on October 30, 2013

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