Last Week on My Mac: The worst macOS upgrade ever?

Every major upgrade to macOS brings howls of complaint. It’s the worst upgrade yet, many Macs are bricked by it, it’s full of bugs, and so on. But are those claims really true? What’s the evidence?

Last week I was surprised to see two main threads of complaint: one that Apple was advising internally that the latest Mac mini shouldn’t be upgraded to 10.15 at all because of serious issues, the other that 10.15 made an unholy mess of iCloud Drive for many users. These both appeared a little puzzling, because there were plenty of users who seemed able to run Catalina beta-releases on new Mac minis without them falling apart, and problems with iCloud which had appeared early in the beta phase had resolved once Apple wisely postponed plans for its changes.

The case of the Mac mini seems to have stemmed from two causes: one was an ongoing issue over HDMI output which has troubled various users since this new model was released, and doesn’t appear particularly specific to Catalina. The other was a discussion forum posting which attached a document claiming to have been distributed internally within Apple, admitting that Catalina shouldn’t currently be installed on the new Mac mini.

The document in question was a PDF, and its every aspect made obvious that it was fake. You didn’t even have to look at it closely to notice that it had no signs of traceability within Apple, no contact name or number, and that it combined an essentially unstyled Word document with a cutting from Apple’s customer support website inviting the reader to take part in a short user survey – complete with non-functional response buttons. It was a forged piece of deliberate disinformation, no less.

Yet a dozen people had posted supportive responses before a single person questioned its authenticity. Others tweeted it with glee, without a moment’s thought as to how true it wasn’t, or its effect on those using Mac minis.

Drilling down on the iCloud Drive problems, I noticed that quite a few of those reporting them mentioned using Catalina betas, and it occurred to me that, although some had clearly never let a beta near their Mac, a significant proportion of those now complaining of iCloud problems in 10.15 release hadn’t cleared up the mess which earlier betas had produced. I spent several sessions doing this before installing the release version, and consider that to have been time and effort well invested.

There were even a few who posted comments to the effect that they hadn’t tried installing Catalina, as it was obviously the worst version of macOS yet, as each new release of macOS always gets worse. And nothing can ever be as good as Mac OS X 10.x, where x is a number significantly less than 10.

What can we conclude about Catalina from cruising discussion forums and websites? Much the same as we could conclude at this stage about most previous major releases of macOS – precious little. Yes, there are a few users who do have serious problems, and some who have had to make the hard journey back to safer ground. There always are, and sometimes we never understand why. There are some more general issues, and (however clumsily titled) macOS 10.15 update or Supplemental Update has certainly been both timely and helpful.

Beyond that, you’d need to find a well-administered site with several hundred Macs which have all been upgraded in order to form any meaningful opinion. Or Apple itself, monitoring support contacts and remotely-collected data from millions of our Macs.

It never ceases to amaze me how gullible we have become. Despite the lessons of recent political events, most of us appear unable to apply critical principles or objectivity to what we read on the Internet. See a dozen vociferous people – who in some cases could even just be one or two with a grudge and several different usernames – and we’re convinced that their problems are widespread. And to believe a scurrilous forgery with not the slightest whiff of authenticity about it. Yet we fall for it every time, and from then on we’re convinced that macOS is crap. Even if we haven’t personally experienced any of the problems which others claim.

As with politics and so much else, the problem is not fake news. It’s that we’ve lost the ability to think critically and objectively.