"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Technology
September 19, 2014

Why Pros Don’t Always Upgrade

The last few days have seen the inter webs awash with a flurry of angst, as Apple users rush to download the new iOS8. It’s fascinating so many consumers, year after year, jump on the latest software updates, then proceed to spend the next day or more complaining about every little problem they encounter. This […]

The last few days have seen the inter webs awash with a flurry of angst, as Apple users rush to download the new iOS8. It’s fascinating so many consumers, year after year, jump on the latest software updates, then proceed to spend the next day or more complaining about every little problem they encounter. This is such a contrast with the way professionals who depend on software for creative work approach the same problem.

Professionals Are Cautious About Software Updates

Visit online forums or check the Twitter feed of professional musicians or designers in the days and weeks after a new software patch or major version is released and you’ll see a similar question – is it safe? Professionals are loathe up upgrade, at least until there is verifiable proof the new software is not going to break their existing, reliable system.

Everyone has a horror story, of some small, innocuous upgrade that rendered an essential piece of software or hardware unusable. Mine came back during the OS10.4 years, when a minor update was released and for more than a month, my main Audio Interface was turned into an expensive paperweight. I couldn’t record or listen to music, lost money and vowed never to make the same mistake again.

The Freedom Of Outdated Systems

The first time I noticed this tendency amongst creatives, to be slow to upgrade, was visiting a graphic designer’s home studio in London. This was 2001 and my friend was working for some well known clients, but using software that was at least 3 years old, on a computer that was more than five years old. I asked her why she didn’t upgrade, half expecting the answer to be something about budgets, cost or accounting. But, her answer was simply that the computer and software worked, was reliable and go the job done.

It was clear that upgrading the software, simply because there was a newer version available, made about as much sense to her as upgrading the desk the computer sat on.

Computers As Tools And Machines

Professionals are slow to upgrade because they often see their computers as tools. It doesn’t necessarily matter if your tool lacks the latest bells and whistles, as long as it gets the job done. bear in the mind that the core of many guitarist’s sound is the electronics in their guitar and amplifier, which has it’s roots in Victorian era technology and has remained virtually unchanged since the 50s.

Today I’m running my music studio on 2008 Mac Pro, running OS10.8.5. There is no compelling reason to upgrade from that and assuming the computer doesn’t fail, I could easily be running the same configuration in five years time. I don’t see the computer as a needy, stand alone device that requires constant feeding with the latest updates and upgrades, but as a powerful machine at the heart of an integrated system. I don’t need that Mac to be current and new, I need it to be stable and reliable.

Yes, eventually Apple (or someone else) will release software that won’t run on this setup. But, when that day comes, I won’t have to upgrade to keep making the music I make.

Toni 10 years ago


Which only goes to show how many computer users really ARE hobbyists, rather than workers.

Having said what you just did, I note that Mac Pro is running OSX 10.8.5, so has undergone quite a few OS updates along the way, some of which were distinctly risky, but maybe you were cautious about how those updates were done?

There can be some very pressing reasons to upgrade, particularly of the new tools offer facilities that would be very useful and the old system can’t cope. Otherwise I reckon it worthwhile to invest in kit that should be able to give a long service life without significant updates. Your Mac pro is obviously one example, and I hope this laptop is similar. Apple’s inclination to solder everything in place in many of their machines has a distinctly life-limiting feel, and I wonder if this will encourage professionals who might have otherwise bought Apple to look elsewhere?

Fernando Gros 10 years ago

Toni – My point wasn’t that pros never upgrade software (or hardware), but rather, they tend to be slow and resistant to doing so. With each OS release, I’ve been slow to jump on it. With Sibelius, for example, I actually went backwards, leaving version 7 and going back to version 6.

I would probably still be using OS 10.6.8 if I had decided to stay with Logic 9 and only work in 32bit. As much as I like Logic X, the decision to upgrade there was simply a way to get rid of the 64 bit to 32bit bridge problem, which was the single biggest source of instability in the system.

When Yosemite comes out, I’ll be on a five and a half year old machine running a OS that’s two full versions behind. In comparison to most Apple systems, that’s well back into the living relic category.

Toni 10 years ago

Fern, I wasn’t saying that pros never upgrade, but that using the enthusiasm of jumping on new and untried software as a measure of amateurish attitude suggests there are a lot of people out there who behave like hobbyists, even though they’re paid for that. 🙂

Your upgrade from 10.6.8 had good technical reasons that I’d consider compelling (and after my experience of 10.6, was probably a darn good idea). I do very much regret the upgrade I did to Mavericks on the Macbook, not because I could revert to 10.8, which I did, but because of the firmware updates that went along with it that could not be reverted.

Fernando Gros 10 years ago

Hey Toni – Snow Leopard actually really solid on the Mac Pro, I suspect far more so than on other machines. And, yes, I am comfortable with saying some users behave like amateurs even if they are paying for the privilege. If the fun is is having the latest software, even if it’s buggy, then that’s yum for some, not for me.

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