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13 October 2020

As Apple develops Big Sur, macOS 11 or 10.16 (depending on how you're counting) of the Macintosh operating system, we are starting to see image editing applications cut off support for versions of macOS before Mojave, macOS 10.14.

Mojave. First boot on our 13-inch MacBook Pro (8,1).

There seem to be two factors involved, both involving GPU processing:

  • On the application side, the increasing deployment of artificial intelligence in new tools and processes profits offloading processing from an overburdened CPU to a GPU.
  • On the operating system side, there has been a move toward incorporation of GPU processing in general, which is easier to manage than feeding the multiple cores of a modern CPU.

Mojave is the first macOS version to require GPU processing and that's why so many otherwise competent computers were not supported by the upgrade. That includes the two we've been using since 2010.

That's certainly a long lifespan for any hardware, even if we have upgraded RAM and hard disks along the way so they are more hybrid systems than original equipment.

Among the applications that are now or will soon require Mojave or higher, Elements 2021 was the first. We found that unfortunate because the people it is designed to help generally do not use recent hardware running the latest operating systems.

But the trend is undeniable.


Software is an afterthought for most photographers.

The bellyaching about Adobe's subscription plan, which has been less expensive than annual license upgrades, has been loud and unrelenting. It's been accompanied by the belligerent insistence that the cheapest, least mature image editing applications (and there have been a few) are just as good.

We've tested those applications. We suggest before you invest in them you look at their most recent release notes. You may be shocked to see what they finally fixed. Stuff you take for granted, no doubt.

Some of those fixes reflect problems so basic that we simply didn't put the product on our review radar. We do keep an eye on their development but until we can use them efficiently on real-world projects, we don't review them.

But others are both mature and offer something unique.

We've found Capture One, DxO PhotoLab and Exposure X in that category. They bring something special to the task of editing images that we think you should know about.


Our own struggle has been running current software releases on old hardware. We've been able to upgrade either RAM or our internal drive to maintain performance. As long as we have been able to install the current releases, hardware performance hasn't been an issue.

The issue becomes begin able to install the most current release on an older operating system.

Our hardware did not make the Mojave cut list. High Sierra was the last Apple-approved release it can run. So we're in trouble.

What can we do?

We gave that some thought this weekend. It was not a happy experience. We're not inclined to invest several thousand dollars in an Intel-based Mac just as the company has announced its transition to ARM-based chips that promise significant performance improvements.

And picking up a refurb, which we did last time we needed a machine, isn't much of a deal these days.

After a sleepless night contemplating some less resource intensive profession, we found Collin's macOS Mojave Patcher Tool for Unsupported Macs. He's also got one for Catalina that supports our hardware but we aren't obliged to go there yet.

We didn't really want to disable two nicely-tuned systems with an unsupported hack. And we could find no user experience reports online. So we knew we would have to experiment a bit to see if this approach might work.

We did that by loading it on an external USB drive and booting from that. Considering that the conduit for this was one USB 2.0 port with a USB 2.0 hub, it took several hours to set up.

But we were pleasantly surprised to find Mojave running on our 13-inch MacBook Pro (8,1). Collin's patches replace components of Apple's installation with versions that run on the old hardware. It even includes a helpful updater.

To test the installation, we installed a press preview of new software we're testing for review this month and to our surprise it ran fluidly. It does some very compute-intensive stuff but the old box had no trouble running the code, as the developer had promised during a briefing.

We were ready to install a patched version of Mojave on our backup and travel box.


Our installation of High Sierra was just over a year ago. Our previous macOS runs were over two years for both Sierra and Yosemite. If we make it a year with our patched Mojave, the first professional ARM-based Macs should be available.

Our installation notes were a bit confounded by upgrading an install of Sierra and Sierra-era software on the external drive. But when we installed Mojave on the laptop's internal drive, we had very little to do.

  • Adobe CS5 Support. We still keep CS5 applications installed because they are the last non-subscriber versions of the Creative Suite. We did have to download and run the Java SE6 Runtime installer to provide support, as we have in the past.
  • Enabling PHP. We had to enable PHP in Apache's config file, as usual after any OS upgrade. That simply requires uncommenting one line. And restart the Apache server.
  • Check Apache, MySQL. Both Apache and MySQL are always running on our machines and both Apache and MySQL were activated just as if nothing had changed.
  • ExifTool. We confirmed ExifTool was still functioning. Which would also mean our Perl modules had not been wiped. They've been safe with recent updates, a change in policy from the days when an OS X upgrade would delete any user installs.
  • ImageMagick. We also confirmed ImageMagick was still accessible.

We did do one update:

  • BBEdit. We could now use the current version of BBEdit, so we downloaded and installed that.

We had a few System Preferences to tweak, including adding, deselecting and reselecting Keyboard Maestro, a known issue. In fact, at this point in the development cycle every issue is known and the workaround well documented.


Then we went right back to work on our travel laptop, running our usual software suite. We really couldn't tell a difference after the system spent a little time optimizing the environment.

So after two days, Collin's patches seem to be doing the trick admirably.


We've come to enjoy our reluctance to upgrade. If you are doing real work, a spanking new operating system has a ways to go before becoming mature enough to support what it will eventually be able to handle. You don't want to suffer that.

And a new operating system (at least through the last three updates) offers surprisingly little additional functionality.

By the time the new OS is mature, you can make the move seamlessly with everything that might be supported finally supported and the most glaring bugs squashed. And, as we noted, the workarounds fully documented. So there's no surprises.

We've just upgraded one box and still have one to do. But it's inevitable. If we run into a deal breaker with the patched Mojave, we'll be shopping for a new computer, likely a refurbished iMac.

Meanwhile, we'll keep our toes crossed and keep on typing.

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