Rosetta Support Disappearing in Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion)

Just a heads up for those Mac OS X users out there that may be using older applications from the PowerPC days (so those G3 and G4 CPUs that powered the Powerbooks and other Apple machines of that generation) – Rosetta support is being removed from the upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) operating system.

Before I go any further, what is Rosetta?

To put it simply, it was a piece of translation software to turn PowerPC instructions into Intel instructions. This was undertaken to allow legacy PowerPC software to run on new Intel Macs whilst software publishers got around to releasing native applications for the new platform (or “universal binaries” that would work on both PowerPC and Intel Macs). Whilst it worked, there was a penalty in performance meaning that the PowerPC software would run slower due to overheads associated with this layer of translation.

For most people, the removal of Rosetta won’t be a big deal particularly if you have only made the move to Macintosh in the last few years but for others who have been clinging on to older software that perhaps was too expensive to upgrade then you are going to face a decision, specifically:

  1. Stay on Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or whatever version you are on,
  2. Dual boot the existing version of Mac OS X and Max OS X 10.7.

The first option is going to be the easiest and whilst you are going to miss out on some of the bells and whistles coming in Mac OS X 10.7 you’re not going to find support being withdrawn any time soon. However, you might consider upgrading to 10.6 if you aren’t already on it to give yourself more runway if you need more time to consider your options. The second option, whilst it would work, can become time consuming very quickly perhaps to the point of negating the benefit of installing 10.7 in the first place. You would have to keep two copies of Mac OS X patched (and you’d have to do it separately by booting into each one) and the downtime associated with rebooting could become tiresome (particularly if you forget to hold down the Option key at boot).

Given that the end of financial year is upon us in Australia, this could be a good opportunity to investigate the costs of upgrading your software if you can rightfully claim it. At the very least, you can give yourself some breathing room while you work out your options.

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