End of the World 7.0

I am perhaps a little overly susceptible to end-of-the-world scenarios, despite having lived through a few that came to nothing. But I’m a little freaked out about this, and hope that someone knows more than I do.

My laptop went dysfunctional from a rare condition two weeks ago – the screen simply went blank and would no longer transmit light, though happily the hard drive, logic board, and desktop remain operational. When I considered the possibility of buying a new laptop (the ill one is less than two years old), I was warned that I would have to get a Mac with OS 10.7 or 10.8, namely (if not respectively) Lion or Mountain Lion. Two computer repairmen, one of whom I’ve been going to for many years, told me that many people (including even accountants) buy a Lion or Mountain Lion Mac, and then find that virtually none of their software works on it. Apparently much of the professional software used by specialists in various disciplines is not updatable, or not being updated, for these operating systems, which, following the lowest common denominator, are being designed only for the most generic programs. I know this particularly affects my microtonal software such as Li’l Miss Scale Oven, which forms the basis of much of my career. My trusty computer guy told me, “I’m afraid we may be coming to the end of the personal computer as we know it, and that what we’re going to have instead is an appliance.” Boy, did he say that word with a sneer. The other guy told me that if anyone suggests 10.7 or 10.8, “Look them in the eye and respond: ‘Over. My. Dead. Body.'”

Is anyone on this? It became apparent that, no matter what my laptop repairs cost, I have to keep that machine alive for as many years as possible. Buying a new computer may no longer be an option. Both computer guys tell me they spend a lot of time reinstalling Snow Leopard for people who tried the higher OS’s and lost everything. Is this mainly a Mac problem? Is there a counter movement in place anywhere? Are we all doomed, doomed, I tell you?



  1. Steve Hamann says

    It’s a bigger problem on Macs. Unfortunately, the way Apple has chosen to upgrade OSX, software’s lifespan is five-years-or-less short. While not entirely immune to the problem, so far keeping old software running on Windows is a lot easier, often stuff from the 90s still works.

    Sadly, it looks like you’re out of luck with Li’l Miss Scale Oven, chances are it won’t work and it doesn’t look like it’s updated any longer.

  2. Virginia Anderson says

    Hi Kyle,

    I’ve run Macs since 1985; will email you privately. But it’s somewhere between what the Windoze fanboys and the Mac cultists tell you.

  3. says

    According to the developer, LMSO is compatible at least with 10.7… It’s only really complicated software, things like old versions of Sibelius, that may fail to work on an updated OS. And in the event that some REALLY old software you use ceases to be compatible, you can usually find a way to run it in virtualization.

  4. says

    Kyle, I beta-tested Lion, Mountain Lion and now 10.9. All my music software (Finale, Reason 4.0.3, Fission, Audacity, etc) has run fine on all of them. The only thing that was an issue when going from Snow Leopard (10.6) to Lion was Quicken, and Quicken now works fine with Lion and beyond. When Lion first came out, sure, some things didn’t work on it because it had been compiled for the PowerPC processor family, not Intel, and Lion ditched the Rosetta emulation layer. But it’s now two generations later (as 10.9 is well underway) and it’s rare that software that is relevant hasn’t yet been recompiled for Intel processors. I wouldn’t worry too much unless a specific critical application you use is known to not have been updated for the last two years. And when I found a few things like that a few years ago (none of which were music apps), it was pretty easy to find better and often free alternatives. Don’t sweat it; get a new machine. I will also be way faster; I’d love to replace my two-year-old MacBook Pro from 2011 if I could, just for more speed.

  5. says

    I only use Macs (as does my wife) and I have to say that the improvements in the Mac OS over the years are well worth the minor inconveniences. The solution seems to be to keep an old Mac for software that is unlikely to be upgraded and a new Mac for software that is continually being recompiled. There are also good reasons to have one computer for music and one for other uses. I use a laptop for electronic music and a desktop for everything else – word processing, internet, email, Finale, Photoshop Elements etc. I am not being frivolous when I say you would not buy a grand piano that doubles as a writing desk or dining room table.

    It may be possible to put the word about and see if someone is upgrading their laptop and selling their old one. Second-hand Mac laptops sell for very little. This would be the best of both worlds, a new one for general use, and an old one for micro-tonal music. However with so many software samplers and keyboards that allow the tuning of individual notes it should not be the end of the world.

    My brother is a digital software engineer and he keeps an old PC that runs the very old DOS system as occasionally he needs to read files, or use software, that runs on that old system.

    However this is the contemporary world of frequent changes, often for the worse. I regret the loss of studios with analogue tape, real electronic organs rather than software based equivalents, software or digital compressors/voice channels/equalisers instead of analogue outboard. And I also regret equal temperament but that is another, and controversial, discussion.

  6. James Pritchett says

    Kyle, virtualization is your friend here. I made the jump from Windows to Mac a year or so ago. I made a virtual clone of my old Windows system that runs happily under Parallels in my Mac. Now it’s ageless, sort of like Dorian Gray, while its physical version gets dusty and decrepit in the closet. Anyway, you should be able to do the same with your old Mac.

  7. says

    LMSO working here on 10.8. There’s a rather recent update that you can get from Jeff.

    KG replies: Hallelujah. Thanks for letting me know. Jeff Scott is a saint.

  8. mclaren says

    This has been a long-time problem with Apple computers. Every 3 or 4 years they’d update their OS and change their hardware and you had to throw all your software and hardware in the dumpster and buy new stuff. I own more Apples than PCs, going back to a Mac Plus I got in 1989, then a Mac Quadra 650, then a G3 beige Minitower running OS 9, then a white powerbook with OS X 10.3.9, and so on, so I’ve been through this wringer for decades now.

    My solution? Get the older hardware once it goes obsolete by buying used Apple hardware on ebay. You can pick up a nice G4 laptop, same model as your current one, with OS X 10.4.11 Tiger or 10.5.8 Leopard, for a couple hundred bucks. And it’ll probably have more RAM and a bigger hard drive than your current laptop.

    There’s a lot of software out there that just doesn’t run on more recent Macs. The old Encore won’t run after System 6.0.8, the sample editing software Infinity won’t run after OS 9, Opcode VIsion DSP won’t run after OS 9, and so on. So it’s really worth keeping that old Mac hardware going. I’ve even got the old Mac Plus running System 6.0.3 because some of early polyrhythmic xenharmonic pieces were done in Professional Composer from 1987, and it only exports to Mark of the Unicorn Professional Performer version 2.0 from 1988.

    David Toub says all his music software runs great on 10.6.8. Bet you’re not running the old Encore that lets you enter broken tuplets, are ya, Dave? Or Vision DSP? Or Wordperfect 3.5? Or Professional Composer? Try running those on OS X 10.6.8. Just try.

    • says

      Mcclaren: why, in 2013, would I care to run WordPerfect 3.5? Hell, I had no serious interest in running that crap word processor in 1997, let alone today.

      You lament that old software doesn’t run on today’s Macs. Truth be told, software longevity on Macs has always been way superior to that of PC’s. Regardless, stuff that ran on System 7 could not possibly run on a Unix-based system like OS X without crippling the OS to try to accommodate legacy software. Speak to Microsoft; they’ll admit that many versions of Windows were hobbled because they also had to run older applications, so their code became convoluted as hell, and also had security flaws in a big way.

      And quote me correctly; I didn’t say that all my music software runs on 10.6.8. I ditched snow leopard two years ago and am running 10.8.5 (beta) on my MacBook Pro and test 10.9 using a cloned drive right now. All my stuff runs perfectly fine on all of those.

      I also do not use or buy CDs, LPs and the like. I remember the 60’s and 90’s well but have moved on to better and faster software and hardware.

    • says

      Ah, Professional Composer…. I miss my Mac Classic 512K. I wrote well and thought well with it and with my 512K Amstrad, which in some ways was a much more sophisticated writing machine. I processed things on the Mac for Barney Childs, including several of his compositions and his poetry book (that on MacWrite). Barney used a lot of partial beats with beaming hanging over nothing, which I had to fool the program into producing. But I still had to fool a recent version of Finale into the same thing. I was told never to try Sibelius because it thought that partial beats were a sin (given how ultra-conservative most British music scholars are, this may be true). I left the Mac and Amstrad in about 1995 for a Mac II running OS 7 (colour), and an array of various Mac ever since on every OS 8, 9, and X. These were probably less loved — and I resent the time taken from my life to move from one system to the next.

      But I wouldn’t want to go back to the early Mac, as slow and stiff as it proved to be in hindsight. mclaren is offering a halfway measure that is sensible. I have an old Powerbook running Tiger that is kept for these old programs (it had OS9 as well, but I wiped that when I replaced everything in that system). And with 2000+ LPs, a bunch of cassettes, and other old technology, we have a turntable, a cassette machine, a video player, and a reel-to-reel tape machine. If a recording is needed, it is converted. If it is still in general circulation and needed fast, it is downloaded. The LPs, tapes and such are archives and often objects of beauty and are never thrown away or given away.

      I’ve lost a few items in the changes (mostly email that I was too lazy to move when the hardware was so slow). The only things that are impossible to convert at home are the 78s and my original interview transcripts on Amstrad 3-in disks. But they were mostly converted from typescript, and I still have those. Thinking back, I worked really well when writing on yellow legal pads and finalizing the work on my electric typewriter. Such a highly stable technology, but I wouldn’t wish to go back there, either.