Setting Up (and Quickly Reverting) a Hackintosh

The screenshot at the top of this post doesn’t make a lot of sense. Look as hard as you like, but you will not find an iMac with those specs. The reason for this is that I tried to “Hackintosh” a PC yesterday to see how that whole process works. I successfully created a Hackintosh boot media, installed macOS High Sierra on an HP machine, and had many things working, but ultimately reverted back to Linux. Let’s explore what happened.

Getting a PC

Many people in the Hackintosh community will build their own PC from scratch. They do this so that they maximize hardware compatibility. Drivers are not something we ever really have to think about in the Mac community, but they certainly are when you’re installing macOS on something not made by Apple. Things like CPUs and graphics cards may not work if macOS doesn;t know how to talk to them.

I did not build my own PC for this, and am instead using a 2 year old HP desktop that I got for free1. The machine has an Intel Core i5 3.2GHz (4 core, Haswell) as well as 12GB RAM on board. There is space for a graphics card, but I don’t have one installed at the moment. It also has a 1TB spinning disk, which is not ideal for 2018, but cost me $50 and seemed right for a “maybe I’ll keep this, maybe I won’t” computer.

Why macOS?

It was stupid easy to install Linux on this machine, and everything works as you would expect, so why do the extra work to use macOS? Well, outside of me liking macOS a hell of a lot more than any flavor of Linux, I was tempted by the quad core processor, which has more bandwidth than my dual core 2015 MacBook Pro. Geekbench showed 18% better single core and 80% faster multi-core performance and I thought this might be useful as an Xcode/Final Cut rig. The MacBook Pro is good at both of those, but I’ll take anything that gets my compile times down in Xcode or my render times down in Final Cut Pro X.

Installing macOS

This went surprisingly smoothly. I used Lifehacker’s Always Up-to-Date Guide to Building a Hackintosh guide to create a bootable USB drive in about 20 minutes. You should read their guide, but essentially I had to download macOS High Sierra from the Mac App Store on my Mac and then run the UniBeast app on that Mac to flash the macOS installer onto the flash drive.

The guide says you need a 16GB or larger drive to use as the install media, but I was able to do it with an 8GB one.

After that, the process will be shockingly similar to anyone who has installed macOS on a Mac from a USB drive. You essentially boot the computer with the drive plugged in, select the macOS installer, use Disk Utility to wipe the internal hard drive, and then walk through the installer like normal. It was incredibly easy!

Once the installer was done, I walked through the macOS setup process, and there it was, the macOS desktop running on this HP workstation.

Using macOS

This is truly a mixed bag, and thus was the reason I had to revert my machine back to Ubuntu.

First, the good. I was able to install the current version of macOS on my computer. Not an old version, and not some hacky version I had to torrent from somewhere, but the real deal.

Also, things mostly worked on first boot. Apps seemed to launch fine, my iCloud account knew what was going on and started syncing my files, and even iMessage worked just fine. As far as I could tell, this was the full Masc experience just as it should be.

Sadly, there were some quirks. First, there were noticeable graphical errors in numerous places in the OS. Transparencies seemed to be an issue, as many icons and images on the web displayed with black, flickering backgrounds. This was clearly a GPU driver issue, but none of the provided drivers (or ones I could find online) fixed this. For a computer to be used for video editing, this was not good. Additionally, when I tried rebooting, it booted successfully, but I lost internet and my settings said the ethernet cable was unplugged when it certainly was not. Numerous reboots, reinstalling drivers, and re-p[lugging in the cable did not fix the issue. No internet is a deal-breaker.

I could have spent more time looking for solutions to these problems, and maybe I will one day, but it really hit me that what I want from this computer is not something that's hanging on by a thread. A faster editing/coding rig would be nice, but I'd rather have a reliable computer that's a little slower than one that's faster, but can't be trusted.

And thus, here I am, back on Linux (Ubuntu 17.10). And while I don't like using Linux for anything full time, it seems like the best option for a computer like this. I've moved my Plex library onto it and plan to do some more server-style things with it in the near future. I'm glad I tried this, and I may try it again one day, but for now it's not the right thing for me.

  1. DM me on Twitter if you want details, but it’s not very exciting. 

Neither of my Macs are the newest models, but they’re the Macs everyone wants

There has been a lot of grumpiness in the Apple community over the past year or two that we haven’t seen in a long time. First it was long upgrade cycles as Mac Pros hit 1,000 days without an update, Mac minis were all but forgotten, old MacBook Airs were still in the lineup, and even the illustrious MacBook Pros were getting long in the tooth. Then in late 2016 it got worse as the new MacBook Pros were greeted with the most tepid response from Mac fans I’ve seen in years. Were they terrible machines? No, but they didn’t represent the sort of upgrade many people were looking for.

So here we are in late 2017 and this grumpiness continues. People are upset with the confusion around the supposedly “universal” USB-C standard, and the keyboard is more than a little problematic. This put me, as someone who has 2 Macs to my name, in a weird position. Both of my Macs are the ones everyone seems to want, although they are not the current models Apple sells.

My current Mac is the early-2015 13” MacBook Pro1. It’s a mid-tier model and is incredibly fast at just about anything I throw at it (4K 60fps animations in Apple Motion are the main exception). But it’s crazy to hear many Apple commentators talk about how much they miss this model of the MacBook Pro. I have 7 ports plus a MagSafe power plug on here and a keyboard that (while a little mushy) is more reliable than what is on the newer model. People want the power of the new MacBook Pros but in the body of my old Pro.

Meanwhile, my old Mac, a late-2012 Mac mini with a quad-core Core i7 is still faster than an Mac mini Apple sells, at least when it comes to multi-core performance. Let’s say I want to throw tons of money at a Mac mini today, here’s what I can get:

Yup, that’s $1,199 for a computer that benchmarks 14% faster in single-core and 33% slower in multi-core performance than my 2012 model. That’s insane! So in the case of my mini, it’s not even the body and ports situation that gives it the edge, it’s the performance too!

Apple is fortunate that the only real competitor in the PC space is Windows, which is simply uninspiring at best and miserable at worst. There are plenty of issues with Windows computers as well (the Surface line in particular has had more than its fair share of issues, sadly), but not all of them do, and Apple has traditionally stood above the fray. Casey Johnson’s article for The Outline asks the simple question:

If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don't you think that's kind of a problem?

Yeah, that’s kind of a problem, and it’s not the sort of problem we’re used to dealing with in the Mac community.

  1. Which I bought in late 2016, ironically. 

Skating to where the puck is going to…aw crap!

“Skate to where the puck is going to be.”

That’s a classic line Apple fans like to quote when talking about the company. I’m sure it induces epic eye rolls from Apple detractors, but I think it is an accurate representation of what the company aspires to achieve. Looking at the critical response some have had to the new MacBook Pro (USB-C is coming, but it’s not everywhere yet…#DongleLife) and to the iPhone 7 (wireless is clearly the future, but we’re not there yet), you can see Apple is still thinking like this. Apple has been doing this forever, and it’s one of the reasons they continue to be seen largely as a forward-looking company.

But sometimes skating ahead is riskier, and sometimes you just misjudge where that pesky puck is going to be. The 2013 Mac Pro is a clear example of Apple seeing where they thought the puck would be, but completely missing the mark. They gambled on external Thunderbolt-connected GPUs and other hardware to be a bigger deal than it ended up being. They foresaw a future where software would talk more advantage of multiple GPUs, meanwhile the rest of the industry got really good at making extremely fast single GPUs.

Whether the puck was going somewhere else and Apple was blind, or the puck got deflected and changed course in 2014-2015 is irrelevant, and frankly stretches the metaphor a bit. Apple missed the mark on this one, and their professional users have felt the pain.

I do 4K video and graphics editing on a 2015 MacBook Pro, and it gets the job done admirably, although I wish Motion could render out video a lot faster. I do web development on it and I never feel like my computer is has any bottlenecks in the process. I edit 18MP images in Lightroom and while the app is a bit choppy, I can mostly get my work done without feeling like I’m being held back by my computer. I am a “pro user” who is not impacted by the frustrations we’re hearing from high end users.

But like I said on a previous episode of The BirchTree Podcast, there are absolutely people who are suffering from the lack of updates to the Mac Pro, and just because I’m generally fine with the power available today, that doesn’t mean everyone is.

The updates to the Mac Pro today seem to be aimed at lessening the pain for someone who needs to buy a new desktop computer now and can’t wait for next year’s update. This is not the update people have been waiting for, but it’s at least throwing a bone to those who need to upgrade today. I hope 2018’s Mac Pro is a wonderful machine that makes everyone happy, but we’re going to have to wait a bit longer to see if that is even possible.

The apps keeping me on macOS

There is talk in the industry right now of people switching to Windows because Apple has “given up on the Mac” and I wanted to look at the apps that are keeping me on the Mac at this point. I just opened my Applications folder and noted each app that I love and/or can’t live without that was not on Windows as well.

The list ended up being longer than I expected, and my gut reaction to this is that much like with iOS vs Android, the software pushed out by third parties on macOS is just something that I find unrivaled on competing platforms. I know there are a lot of major tools like Photoshop, Office, and the like that are on both platforms and are mostly identical, and that’s okay. My concern is more with what apps I use regularly that require me to have a Mac. Here’s my list.

  • Alfred is a stellar app for launching apps faster than the system search, and for running scripts, and managing my clipboard, and controlling music, and much more
  • Audio Hijack is a beautiful, intuitive app for creating complex audio workflows
  • Automator, old and busted as it might be, gives me the ability to create simple tools for myself that automate significant portions of my Mac
  • BetterTouchTool lets me control my Mac and perform elaborate tasks with just a swipe or tap on my trackpad
  • Deliveries lets me track packages with ease
  • Due is a great reminders app that syncs with my iPhone
  • Fantastical is bar none the best calendaring app I’ve ever used on any platform
  • Final Cut Pro X is a wonderful video editing app (come at me, haters) that simply does not exist on other platforms. It’s pure performance makes your $1000 computer render video like a $3000 one using Premier
  • iStat Menus is an app that lets me monitor my Mac easily, and more beautifully than any app I’ve ever seen
  • Logic Pro X is fantastic for audio editing
  • Pastebot is a world class clipboard manager
  • Pixelmator is not as good as Photoshop, but it’s better in a couple ways and is a hell of a lot faster overall. Few apps take advantage of every new feature Apple puts into macOS, but this one is a winner
  • Reeder is the best RSS reader on every platform it exists on, and nothing even comes close on Windows
  • Rocket gives me a Slack-style emoji picker across my entire Mac
  • Transmit is the best FTP client I’ve ever used, and unlike all the Windows clients I’ve tried, doesn’t feel like it was designed in 1997
  • Tweetbot is the epitome of what a third party Twitter app should do, and I could not use Twitter on my Mac without it
  • Ulysses is the best writing app I have ever used, and is a wonderful example of an app that scales from incredibly simple for people who just want to write, to something incredibly powerful for those who want to write, publish, and do much more.
  • 1Password is the best password manager I’ve used, and this is on Windows too, but is not nearly as good

For the sake of fairness I performed the same review of my Windows apps on my work PC. I should be clear here that my employer has a very good software policy that allows me to install just about anything I need to do my job better. Here are my favorite apps:

  • ShareX is a very nice app for taking screenshots and recording screencasts
  • PhraseExpress is a good text expansion app, but I should look into getting TextExpander as that is much more powerful for my needs

And that’s kind of it right now. I spend most of my day in Chrome, Sublime Text, Excel, Slack, and a few other apps that we use for work. Not exactly an inspiring array of software.

My Mac History

I just bought a new Mac a few weeks ago and was thinking back on my personal Mac history. I've been a Mac user since I was 9 years old, and I have been almost completely loyal since then (I did own an HP for a year or so, but that was a horrible mistake). After over 20 years as a Mac user, I thought it was about time to go back and reminisce on each step along the way.

Below is as accurate as I could be. I don't have any of these old machines handy, so I tried to get the models as accurate as possible. As for the specs, I relied on the awesome Mactracker app. Enjoy!

Performa 630 (1995)

Memory 4MB
Hard Drive 250MB

The Performa 630 was my family's first computer. My dad saw an infomercial for it on TV and he was sold on the spot. I don't know what was in that ad, but it had a profound impact on my father. Whatever it was, we were in the car and went to Sears to buy this beast of a machine.

The computer is not held in high regard in the Apple community, as the Performas were never the best at anything. They were underpowered and overpriced. Perhaps it's no accident that this is the Mac that I remember being the most unexcited about. This machine represents the epitome of Apple incompatibility. It didn't have Microsoft Office, so moving documents between home and school (via floppy dick) was a nightmare. And games, oh the games were simply not there. As a 10 year old, that was tough to swallow.

This was also my first and last experience with eWorld, a disaster of an online interface. It's comical now, but it was the first time I got to experience the web.

My fondest memory of this machine is using it to play the built in Monopoly game. My brother and I would play each other, and it was a blast. The game's Real staying power was the ability to play against CPU controlled players. You could even let them play against each other and see who won. We would name each player after sports teams and celebrities we liked and pitted them against each other. As Monopoly tends to take a while to play, we would set the characters, set the rules, and let it run overnight. It was stupid fun, and a wildly wasteful use of a computer, but what can you do?

iMac (1999, Blue)

CPU 266MHz
Memory 32MB
Hard Drive 6GB

This was a serious upgrade. Our yellow-grey computer was gone, and this blue beauty was a welcome addition to the home office.

The most immediately notable thing about this new computer was its setup. Computers used to be a nightmare to set up with wires and software installations taking hours sometimes. The iMac had a 3 step guide that walked you through what to do. If I remember this correctly, these were the 3 steps:

  1. Plug in the power cable
  2. Press the power button
  3. There is no step 3

It was snarky in that delightfully Apple way. It was also a little simplified, as there was work to do after you powered it on, but it was overall so much easier to get going.

For all its good features, this is also the Mac that shipped with the worst mouse ever. What. Were. They. Thinking?

iMac (2003)

CPU 700MHz
Memory 512MB
Hard Drive 80GB

This is the Mac I have the fewest memories of. With that said, how good does that thing look? Damn!

It came around sooner after the gap between the first 2 Macs, but even still it felt like a huge upgrade. The 80GB hard drive felt like an expanse of storage that we could never fill.

This was also the first computer to run OS X in our house. It came with Mac OS X 10.1 Puma, and later got upgraded to 10.4 Tiger. It came with Mac OS 9 installed on a separate partition and you could boot between the two versions.

I may have accidentally erased the Mac OS 9 partition while messing around one day and then tried to boot to it. This threw the computer into disarray and we could not get it to boot into OS X again for days. My dad spent many days and many hours on the phone with Apple support trying to get it fixed. I recall one fateful day where I woke up to my dad screaming from downstairs in frustration as another day's call with Apple did not get anywhere. In retrospect, these were 1-2 hour support calls every day before work, so I don't blame him for getting a little out of sorts.

Eventually everything was fixed, and we carried on, but man was that an embarrassing week for me!

Powerbook G4 (2004)

CPU 1.5GHz
Memory 1GB
Hard Drive 80GB

This computer holds a special place for me in this list as it is the first computer I bought with my own money. It was ridiculously expensive at $2,499, and I saved up the entire year before my freshman year of college to get it.

Its PowerPC G4 CPU and dedicated GPU made it a powerhouse by any measure. It zipped through everything I threw at it like nothing I'd seen before. Even games like Unreal Tournament 2004 ran like butter on this beefy machine. And it had a DVD burner, so I could burn copies of my Netflix rentals record home videos to disk.

I took it to college and it was a great machine for a college student. It had great battery life for taking notes (3-4 hours, which was good at the time), so I could take it with me all day and usually get through 3 full class periods with it. You know, as long as I turned off Wifi and dimmed the screen.

The PowerBook ran for a solid 4 years before I felt it needed to be replaced. The big bottleneck long term was that PowerPC CPU, which seemed good at the time, but did not age gracefully. Besides, Intel Macs were the new hotness, and after going to OS X Leopard, my machine was no longer able to upgrade to Apple's new Intel-only versions of macOS.

As a side note, I recently held this thing again, and it's freaking massive! The 15 inch screen is ludacrisly big for someone used to working on a 10 inch iPad, and you get your workout hoisting its 5.7 pound body around.

MacBook Unibody (2008)

Memory 2GB
Hard Drive 160GB

This was the best MacBook I think Apple ever made. It was a one off machine, as it was all plastic before and after this model (until you get to the new MacBook, which is a whole different class even though it shares the same name). It looked and felt just like the MacBook Pros on the market at the time with its unibody design and new keyboard.

And it was more than on the surface that the MacBook compared well to the Pro line. The Intel Core 2 Duo was the same line that was in the Pros, but it started at 2.0 GHz while the Pro was 2.4GHz. You also got more RAM in the Pro model (4GB vs 2GB), but the GPU was actually the same in each entry level model, they each had the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M. And again you were paying $700 less for this model.

This was a very nice machine, and it got replaced after 4 solid years of use.

Mac mini (2012)

Mac mini
CPU 2.5GHz
Memory 4GB
Hard Drive 500GB

This was my first desktop in many years, and one that I got out of necessity more than anything else. Money was tight in last 2012 and I had to get something, and the $599 Mac mini fit my budget. I was also a few years into the iPad and was pretty happy doing my mobile computing on that, so I dove in and bought the mini.

Going back to the desktop was weird, but ultimately successful. Because the Mac was stationary, it became a tool I really only used for work. It was at my desk, and my desk was for work.

Because of that mental positioning, this became more of a strictly work machine than ever before. I didn't use it to play games (not that it could play anything released in the last 10 years well), nor was it what I used to watch videos or even listen to music. This was for Xcode, Atom, the the Terminal. It was for things that iOS simply did not do as well yet.

I used this machine up until a few weeks ago and it is still running, but now as a headless server (running macOS Server) to serve my media files to Plex. It is also a little odd that this 4 year old computer is still basically just as good as the current mini you can buy from Apple.

MacBook Pro (2015)

MacBook Pro
CPU 2.7GHz
Memory 8GB
Hard Drive 256GB

We finally get to my latest Mac. This is the first "Pro" Mac I've owned since 2004's PowerBook, and it's good to be back in front of a high end Mac. Yes, this is last year's model and signs point to Apple possibly releasing its successor soon, but I don't care. This is a beast of a machine, and it has everything I think I will ever need from a Mac. As I said last week, this could be the last Mac I ever own.

The best thing about this thing is its screen. This is old news to many, but mother of god this screen looks amazing! I have a retina iPhone and iPad, but there's something special about seeing macOS in this resolution. Wow!

Apple Could Learn Something from Windows 10's Multiple Desktops

I finally upgraded my work PC to Windows 10 a few weeks ago (from Win8, shudder) and the move has been a success overall. Outside of taking almost 4 hours to complete the upgrade, everything is running smoothly. The new operating system has a few features I like, but the thing that stands out the most is how it handles multiple desktops.

Multiple desktops have been a part of Mac OS X since 2009's Leopard release, and they have been an integral part of how I organize my digital life. My Mac setup is a single 23 inch monitor with 2 desktops for windows to live in (one for design, one for development) and a few full screen apps (Ulysses, and a few that cycle in and out)1. This organization system works well for me and helps me keep my work organized. Because this makes my side work so efficient, it's always bugged me that Windows didn't have a comparable feature that I could use at my day job.

Microsoft has not only answered my prayers for having multiple desktops on Windows, but they've actually done it a little better than Apple. Shocking, I know! To explain why Windows' solution is nicer, let's talk about why Apple's is a little frustrating.

Say I have 2 desktops running on my Mac. The first desktop has a Chrome window open with a couple tabs open. When I switch over to my second desktop, I realize that I want to search for something online, so I click Chrome in my dock to open a new window on this desktop. What macOS does is shoot me back to my first desktop because that's where Chrome currently lives. While I clicked Chrome to open a new window here, the Mac interpreted that as take me to the desktop with Chrome open. It's a simple disagreement of what my intention is.

In this same scenario on Windows, I would get the result I expect: a new Chrome window would open on the second desktop, having no impact on the already open windows on desktop one.

This problem is partially solved by right clicking on the Chrome icon in my dock and selecting "open a new window" which will do exactly what I want, but it's an extra click for something that should be easier. I would say 95% of the time when I click an icon, I want the computer to open that for me where I am, not to take me to where it is elsewhere.

Windows goes a step farther by changing the status of each app in the task bar. Going back to the Chrome example from above, if I have a Chrome window open on desktop 1, but not desktop 2:

macOS shows a dot next to Chrome no matter what desktop I'm on.

Windows shows Chrome as active on desktop 1, but not on desktop 2.

It's a subtle difference, but one that exemplifies how each OS maker thinks about multiple desktops. There is a harder separation between desktops on Windows than there are on macOS. Maybe Apple prefers it this way, but I don't.

As a side note, the Mac is infinitely better when it comes to navigating between desktops than Windows. The keyboard shortcut to switch between desktops on Windows is Ctrl+Alt+left/right arrow, which it's Ctrl+right/left arrow on the Mac. Even easier is the two finger swipe you can do on the Magic Mouse or Trackpad. And all these animations are butter smooth on my 2012 Mac mini while my high end PC stutters when animating the desktop changes on Windows 10.

Another note, you can tell macOS to not switch immediately to the desktop that has the open window, but it still doesn't open a new window for you, it just waits for one more click on the icon to bring you to the other space. It's a medium solution, but isn't ideal.

  1. There is no desktop for "fun" because all that has moved to my iPad. I really only use my Mac for things my iPad just can't do yet. 

How to Max out All CPUs on a Mac (from the Terminal)

Have you ever needed to max out all your CPU cores? You landed on this page, so I suspect you have a good reason! Let’s just get right to it.

You want to open up the Terminal app (found in Applications>Utilities, or just use Spotlight) and paste this text into the console and hit return:

yes > /dev/null &

This will max out one of your CPU cores. Repeat the process again for each core you would like to max. My computer has 4 cores, so I ran it 4 times. If all has gone well, your Terminal should look something like this:

You won’t see anything there, so in order to verify everything is working, open up Activity Monitor (also in the Utilities folder) and you should see a few processes called “yes” at the top inside the CPU tab.

These processes will run forever if you don’t do anything, which I’m guessing is not what you want. Simply run this command to stop each process immediately:

killall yes

That’s it, you’re Mac will be back to normal.

Should You Install the iOS and OS X Public Betas?

I'll once again open this post like I always do: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

However, my "NOOOO…" is a little more mild this time compared to my suggestions for the first 2 iOS and Os X betas. Below I lost my recommendations for whether you should install each beta for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. No matter which beta you use, make sure you do a backup beforehand just in case things go bad.

Also, consider yourself banned from leaving App Store reviews until September. You're running a beta OS, if something is broken, email the developer and don't dis them on their store page.

So you've heard all my warnings and you still want to jump on the beta train? Keep reading.

iOS 9 on iPhone

Recommendation: Go for it!

iOS 9 was a complete mess in the first 2 betas. Beta 1 let the processor run out of control and burned a hole in your jeans pocket, while beta 2 was a buggy, crashy, laggy mess. The public beta released today (as well as beta 3 for developers) is much more stable.

Battery issues have also been addressed, as my iPhone has finally started to get the excellent battery life I had gotten used to on iOS 8. 2 days of use is too little to say for sure, but my battery was at 70% at the end of work today, which is pretty damn solid.

I am having issues with Spotlight simply not displaying results, but I that doesn't seem to be a universal issue.

iOS 9 on iPad

Recommendation: Go for it!

This beta has been the best for me overall and has very few issues. I have a single app that crash on launch (Wheel of Fortune, don't judge), but everythibg that does launch is fast and reliable.

I also think you get the most benefit from using iOS 9 on the iPad. Split screen mode is a revelation and works wonderfully across all of Apple's apps. It flat-out does not work with any 3rd party apps though, so don't expect to have Twitter on the side while you surf the web in Chrome.

OS X El Capitan

Recommendation: Hold off

The OS X beta has proven to be pretty reliable so far, but I also find the least reason to use this update in its current form. Yes, some improvements like Spotlight and the enhanced Notes app are nice to have, but they are far from essential. Your Mac is typically your workhorse, you don't want it to go down or have weird issues you can't get around because "it's a beta".

Save yourself any potential headaches and stick with Yosemite for now. You'll get to enjoy El Capitan's small but mighty improvements in a couple months anyway. You can make it.

So You Want to Be a Dummy and Install the OS X El Capitan Beta

The new version of OS X is called El Capitan and is coming out this fall for every Mac that can run OS X Yosemite. If you’re a paid Apple developer (or a clever kid who knows their way around a good torrent site) you can install the beta version of the operating system today. The big question is this: should you do it?

Short answer: no

As always, it’s a bad idea to install any beta software on your daily driver (i.e. a computer you rely on to do real work). Bugs are more prevelent than at any other time and features are getting added and removed all the time.

In addition, you don’t even get access to a lot of the cool things you saw in the on-stage demos at WWDC. New features don’t come for free, and developers need time to implement the new hotness into their apps. Be prepared for some weirdness with apps that have no idea how to respond to new features.

So you want to be a dummy anyway

If you want to throw caution to the wind and install El Capitan on your main Mac, then here’s what you can expect.

What apps don’t work?

Pixelmator is the only app I have tried that is unusable on El Capitan. I’m getting very weird glitches that make manipulating images completely impossible.

Besides that one app, I have not gotten any unexpected crashes or apps that simply fail to launch. Critical apps like Photoshop, Google Chrome, Final Cut, Logic, Garageband, OmniFocus, Things, as well as all of Apple’s apps seem to run just fine.

I have seen some issues in the Microsoft Office 2015 beta suite (I’m all in on beta right now, I guess) where I had the UI get “funky” when editing a document with checkboxes. The entire document would go black when making something as checked, but simply clicking elsewhere in the UI returned everything to normal.

There is a visual bug in the printing interface that makes print dialog boxes look pretty ugly, but they work just fine. Considering how little I print anything, it’s amaing I even came across this issue at all!

Overall, my stability is quite solid, and besides Pizelmator, everything works well.

It’s not all here yet

Many things shown off in the keynote are not in the beta yet. Mail and Notes have both been updated and both function well. Notes in particular is really quite good, and has become an app that I might actually use regularly. Spotlight has also gained some smarts and does all the natural language searches you saw on stage, and Safari is new and is the best it’s ever been.

But sadly the highly touted News app and new iTunes are not in this build. You also don’t get any new feautes in Photos since no 3rd party apps have been written to take advange of the new extensions functionality.

Finally, while the split view mode is active in this early beta, it only works well with Apple’s built in apps. I have had a pretty rough time getting any thrid party app to behave well in this mode; they all get terribly confused.

Wrap up

It’s your decision whether you want to get in on the El Capitan beta, but I would reccommend against it. You’re simply not getting much value here for the risk you’re running.

But hey, I’m not taking my own advice. I know it’s not smart, but I couldn’t help myself. Venture forth, but know what you’re getting in to.