Mac OS X Lion And Rosetta


Remember that old weather saying "March comes in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb?" Let's change that phrase around a bit and call this article "Out Like A Lion" because this certainly isn't an article about the weather. This is an article (a long one) about Apple's new Mac OS X Lion operating system (version 10.7) which is due this summer. Coincidentally — if you do want to talk about the weather, considering the fact that this is the month of March, it does kind of look like it's getting ready to rain on us Mac users once again.

We've been extremely loyal Mac users at MW Web Design for almost 20 years. We spent a good part of those 20 years working as an Apple Authorized Reseller and Service Provider, offering Macintosh computer sales, service and support to quite a large client base up here in North Vancouver. We became an Authorized Apple Specialist in late 1996. This is how we got started in the web design business. But as much as we love Apple, we have a real concern about the upcoming release of Mac OS X 10.7 — an operating system which isn't going to be installed on our own Macs anytime soon if what we've been reading is true. This article is about Rosetta, "the most amazing software you'll never see" (this is how Apple announced the technology in 2005 and little did we know at the time just how ironic that statement could very well turn out to be).

There's quite a discussion about Apple's elimination of Rosetta happening at MacInTouch right now, one of the finest Mac troubleshooting sites on the web. We've read reports and comments on a number of other reputable websites all over the Internet about Apple possibly dropping Rosetta in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion (reports on which Apple has yet made no public statement). For those of you who don't know what Rosetta is, it's the dynamic translator (or "translation bridge") built into Mac OS X which enables software designed for PowerPC to run on Apple computers which use Intel processors. To make a long story short, Rosetta allows us to keep using most of our existing software without having to spend a fortune upgrading all of it.

When Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was released, Rosetta was installed by default, allowing us to continue using our PowerPC applications except for certain versions of PhotoShop which threw the graphic design, web design and desktop publishing communities into a frenzy. An automatic eight-hundred dollar Adobe Creative Suite Premium software upgrade was required because PhotoShop 7 (and some functionality in CS1) didn't work with Rosetta.[1] When Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard arrived, Rosetta nonchalantly became an optional install (and CS2 wouldn't work properly — yet another upgrade was required). Now that Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is on the horizon, a number of websites have already reported that "Lion won't include Rosetta and it won't offer an optional install either." If this is true, it's pretty sad.

We went through this once before when the very first version of Mac OS X was officially released almost 10 years ago on March 24th, 2001 (version 10.0 codenamed "Cheetah"). The new UNIX-based operating system, based upon the Mach kernel (called XNU), introduced some very welcome but dramatic changes to the Macintosh user experience. Mac OS 9 became known as "Classic" which we were able to run in a separate environment of its own. This allowed us to continue using much of our software which we paid thousands of dollars for over the years. But by the time Apple officially confirmed the rumors about the transition to Intel processors on June 6th, 2005 and especially, with the release of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard on October 26th, 2007, Classic was dead in the water. Gone for good.[2]

Who cares? We do. All of our accounting is still done using Simply Accounting (better known as ACCPAC) which needs to run in the Classic environment. This means that the computer it runs on has to be a PowerPC (in our case, a Power Mac G5 Dual 2GHz Tower which can't be upgraded past Mac OS X 10.4.11 Tiger because of the Classic factor). "Well, go get a new Mac and a new accounting package!" you say? Okay — perhaps Apple Canada wouldn't mind sending us a cheque for the cost of all the hours required in order to transfer 20 years worth of accounting data over to a new accounting system along with the cost of the training required in order to transfer the data, let alone learning how to use the new system (never mind the cost of the software itself)?

We're not at all interested in migrating to AccountEdge (MYOB) which has changed names and changed hands numerous times over the past decade. Intuit's support department provides us with no incentive to consider QuickBooks. We'd gladly upgrade to a new Mac version of Simply Accounting but it was discontinued years ago, thanks in part to the fact that Macs just aren't all that popular in the accounting world. Unfortunately, this is a real shame because Apple would gain even more ground if they could fill in this "blank".

So now you say, "use BootCamp!" Sorry, it won't work. If you look closely at the SAGE website (who took over Simply Accounting in 2004), you'll see that Sage Simply Accounting Pro 2011 for Windows "converts all data from previous versions of [Sage] Simply Accounting, excluding DOS and Macintosh versions."[3] We rest our case. We also have thousands of AppleWorks files, many of which are drawing documents, so iWork isn't quite the solution (AppleWorks runs just fine with Rosetta, though). For now, we'll have to keep our G5 up and running somehow to handle our accounting. We'll just keep holding out for as long as we possibly can.

From the looks of it, the same thing may now happen with Rosetta — in a much faster timeframe than it took for Classic to get dumped. If this is true, we're once again going to have to fork out a lot of money to upgrade our software (with the exception of Simply Accounting) because we still use a lot of applications which require Rosetta. Like many others, we just don't have the funds in our budget to pay for these continual, and unnecessary software upgrades (unnecessary meaning that if Apple could just slow down a bit and listen to their customers, we wouldn't be in this predicament). On the MacInTouch website, Mac users have expressed their concerns with one comment (among many others) really standing out:

"I will send Apple some feedback, along the lines of putting longtime loyal customers on a forced march in an impoverished economy. Thanks, Apple. I used to like Adobe, too, before they, too, put sales ahead of developing wares for creative functionality, and you both began killing off some great apps and hardware in pursuit of quarterly profits."

Is it possible that this has become the new philosophy at Apple? As Apple's market share continues to grow and the quarterly financial results get better and better (which we commend Apple for), the customer ends up taking a back seat to "profitability"? Is Apple forcing its loyal customer base to upgrade their hardware and their software? We'll have to leave the answers to these questions up to you. But if you haven't yet noticed, many of the smaller incremental Apple application software updates which have been released over the past year refuse to install unless you have the very latest version of Mac OS X already installed on your Mac (it doesn't make sense to have to update your entire operating system to version 10.6.6 in order to be able to install just one small application update like iDVD 7.1.1). Add to that, the lack of support and the absence of security updates for older operating system versions which really aren't all that "old" by any means (systems which many people still use to this day) and this leads us to question just exactly what's happening to the way of thinking at 1 Infinite Loop these days. Perhaps you can think a little too different?

In all fairness, there are some great new features coming in the summer of 2011 — features which we're really looking forward to. Lion will introduce Launchpad, Mission Control, Auto Save, Versions, Resume, Mail 5, AirDrop, gestures and animations, full-screen apps and lots more. Safari 6 will probably be touted as a "new feature" long before Lion hits the shelves (following in the footsteps of Safari 5 when Snow Leopard was released). Apple's ongoing tradition of software excellence guarantees us that Lion will be a fantastic new system software upgrade but unfortunately, an upgrade which could quite possibly take away one very important technology which saves us hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in application software upgrades — Rosetta. Granted, we've already spent a small fortune on upgrading our Adobe software as you can see above but Rosetta has helped us to hold on to a lot of our other software.

No doubt, some of you will think that we're way behind the times, too darned cheap to upgrade or just looking for a place to rant. Hey — as Certified Mac Technicians, we still see a lot of people running Rosetta (and even Classic)! So please don't read us the wrong way. We love Apple. We always have and always will. But it's time for someone to speak up. If you feel the same way we do about these changes which could very well take place when Lion is released, be sure to send your feedback to Apple:

Let Apple know that you're not happy about the possible elimination of Rosetta. It could be a costly mistake if this happens — not only for us but for Apple as well. Especially if fewer people buy Lion than Apple anticipated due to the additional cost of having to upgrade their existing software applications.

Change is inevitable. There's no doubt about it. But why is it that you can still drive a 55-year old vehicle down the street effortlessly yet you can barely run 4-year old software on your Mac? Is it just us or does anyone else feel that it's costing more and more to be a Mac user these days?

[Updated 07.13.11] With the release of Lion just days away (from what we've been told), we're sure you're already aware of the news but here it is just in case you missed it — Mac OS X Lion will not include or support Rosetta. Support for PowerPC applications is gone in Mac OS X 10.7.

References And Footnotes

[1] There were actually a number of other software applications which wouldn't work with Rosetta — namely, the "pro apps" (especially for users running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and higher). Our copy of Logic Express 7 was one of them and we were just a little too late to qualify for the version 7.2 universal upgrade in order to test it. You can refer to the excellent MacInTouch Rosetta Compatibility list for more information.

[2] On January 10th, 2006, Apple released its first Intel-based Macs along with a Mac OS X 10.4.4 Tiger update. Support for the Classic environment was gone with the Intel release of 10.4.4. And it's important to note that Apple didn't acknowledge the complete elimination of Classic from Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard until the week after the new operating system had officially been released.

[3] Macintosh and DOS conversion references were removed from the SAGE website not long after this article was posted.

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