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Alan Zisman on the Mac

Preparing for the End of PowerPC Support When Lion Arrives

- 2011.05.17 - Tip Jar

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While waiting for Lion, the upcoming 10.7 release of Apple's OS X, word has spread that - at least in the Developer's Preview Releases making the rounds - there is no support for Rosetta.

Rosetta, offered by Apple to accompany its first Intel-powered Macs, allows those models to run OS X software compiled for use on its older PowerPC (PPC) Macs - in other words, any Mac released prior to 2006. Much of the software created after that date was compiled for both PPC and Intel Macs; more recently, software is being compiled that will only run on Intel models.

If Apple follows through with not including Rosetta in the release version of Lion, this won't be a big surprise; in Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6), the first version of OS X to only run on Intel Macs, Rosetta wasn't installed by default, though the first time a user attempted to run an application that required it, a dialogue box popped up offering to download it. (There is an option for installing Rosetta buried deep in the Snow Leopard installer's options).

About This MacDepending on the software you have on your Mac, a lack of Rosetta will be more or less of an issue. But how to know what's installed that needs it?

Here's how to tell.

  • Open the System Profiler, either by looking in your /Applications/Utilities folder or by clicking the Apple menu, choosing About This Mac, and then clicking the More info... button
  • In System Profiler, scroll down the Contents list on the left until you see Software. If needed, click the flippy triangle to show the various subsections under Software; click on Applications and be prepared to wait for several minutes while System Profiler polls your system's software.
  • Eventually, you'll see a list of installed programs, with information about each. By default, the list is in alphabetical order by application name. You may want to click on the word Kind along the top, relisting them by how they were compiled.

Applications information

Here are the various 'kinds' of applications:

  • Classic: these were compiled to run under OS 9 or older Mac 'classic' operating system versions. If you have an Intel Mac, they don't run, since those Macs lack any ability to run classic programs. (I'm surprised to see that I still have several of these listed on my MacBook!)
  • Intel: these have been compiled to only run on the newer Intel Macs.
  • PowerPC: as the name suggests, these are the ones that were compiled for older, PowerPC Macs - and are the ones that require Rosetta to run on newer Intel Macs - in other words, if Rosetta is not included with Lion, you may need to start looking for alternatives
  • Universal: these were compiled to run on both PPC and Intel Macs, no Rosetta required.

Applications information

On my Late 2008 Aluminum MacBook, I have quite a few applications that are listed as requiring Rosetta. Many of them are things I probably won't miss:

  • AppleWorks 6. I don't know when I last used this, though some of you may still be AppleWorks users
  • DropStuff, DropTar, Stuffit Expander, and other formerly popular archiving/unarchiving utilities
  • Epson scanner utilities from an all-in-one that is no longer in use with my system
  • Internet Explorer
  • Klondike Forever solitaire
  • Nvu webpage editor, replaced with the newer KompoZer*

Some, though, I use regularly. Among them:

  • An older version of GraphicConverter. I guess it's time I upgraded this classic shareware graphics utility.
  • MacTheRipper. Is there a replacement for this freebie DVD ripper?
  • Quicken 2005. This came bundled with a PPC iMac, and I've used it ever since. In order to migrate my financial data, I'm going to have to convert it to Quicken 2007 format, and then convert that to the current format. Sigh.

Some I may not use regularly but I'll miss:

  • SheepShaver: a virtual classic Mac environment that I've written about on Low End Mac; the actual SheepShaver virtual environment may continue to work, but the SheepShaver GUI utility, for easier management of settings, is a PPC application. Maybe the developer will create an updated version. (Or maybe he already has!)

In any event, if you're running an Intel Mac and if you have a mix of older and newer software, take a few moments and see for yourself, so you can start planning in case Lion drops support for any PPC-era software that's installed on your system. LEM

* Editor's note: There's a new app in town, BlueGriffon, which is a promising replacement for Nvu and KompoZer.

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Alan Zisman is Mac-using teacher and technology writer based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Many of his articles are available on his website, www.zisman.ca. If you find Alan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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