Adobe CS2 breaks Intel Apple Macs

Matthew Magain

Last week, I realized that we needed an Apple Mac for SitePoint’s upcoming Photoshop Anthology book.

Being a PC-centric office, the poor old G3 that we use for browser testing was looking more like it belonged in an antique shop than up for the challenge of rendering a 300 page full-colour book, so we purchased a brand new Intel Core Duo Mac Mini for the task instead. It was all very exciting — the package was so tiny and exquisite, the instructions minimal and simplified, the design of the tiny white box so refined and sleek. My mind began picturing all sorts of geeky scenarios, mostly involving Boot Camp, and I immediately became the envy of the office.

Unfortunately it wasn’t long-lived. You see, basic functionality is not related in any way to how sexy your computer looks.

Here’s the thing that really surprised me though: it wasn’t any under-the-hood meddling that got me into trouble, it was basic conflicts with run-of-the-mill standard software. What’s one of the very first things you would do when purchasing an Intel Mac Mini? That’s right, you would install the latest software updates from Apple, as well as the Adobe CS2 suite. Unfortunately, that combination of software (in particular, the May 11 update from Apple and Adobe Version Cue CS2) will cripple any Intel-based Mac (I experienced all manner of freezing, horizontal bars across my screen and random characters being echoed to my screen). The Quicktime 7.1 update also seems suspect, for which a patch exists. But Adobe don’t plan on releasing CS3 until next year, so what is one to do?

Of course, I didn’t discover this until I had wasted far too much time installing, uninstalling, reinstalling, booting, rebooting, running hardware diagnostics, resetting firmware, booting from CD and swearing a lot in between.

Now, I’m lucky enough to have access to a second computer that I was able to use to trawl the support forums to locate the source of my problems. But all along I just kept thinking “there must be thousands of people wasting hours of time scratching their head wondering why this doesn’t work, without a second computer on hand to search for a resolution”.

Indeed, this is an issue that is affecting a good number of people. Frustrated customers have posted their experiences with trying to get support from both Adobe and Apple on this issue, with the outcome always the same: one insists it’s the other’s problem.

After two days of frustration, I ended up reinstalling OS X (without the updates) and Adobe CS2 (without Version Cue). The problem disappeared, and I was finally able to begin work on my book… that is, until I came into work the next morning and discovered that my new Mac now no longer wanted to boot. It just made that cute little chime sound over and over in an endless loop, without starting the operating system.

In a classic situation that Apple’s marketing executives must drool over (long-term PC user trials Mac for work-related tasks, with an open mind about possibly making “the switch”) I was enormously disappointed and have become extremely skeptical. Instead of purchasing an Apple, I was lumped with a Lemon, and my machine’s woes (faulty RAM?) were compounded by basic software that just didn’t work. Alex summed the whole experience up well:

Never trust a computer that looks like a handbag.

Fair point.

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  • hyperkik

    Sometimes I wonder if PC users are just inured to the problems of their machines, or don’t notice them because they can borrow a neighboring computer to track down the problem. I had lots of fun with the Dell I recently retired, including having to reinstall XP after an automatic update trashed the system, several encounters with the infamous “blue screen of death” (even though XP had been touted as having eliminated that, um, feature), having to use other computers to debug Internet connectivity problems, the system locking up, unexpected automatic reboots, anti-virus software grinding the system down to a crawl, software registrations being lost after using a system restore (with a restore point long after the software was registered)…. But that’s to be expected, right, because it’s a PC. You buy a Mac, install a beta release of BootCamp, and everything should be flawless.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    Hi hyperkik. I certainly wasn’t suggesting Windows boxes don’t have their fair share of problems — I’ve been through all those things you mention with Windows, and had even more puzzling frustrations with various distributions of Linux.

    I’m more disappointed than anything — I was hoping that moving to a Mac I wouldn’t encounter the same annoyances that I’ve endured on other platforms, largely because according to Apple’s marketing, the Mac “just works”. I was wrong.

  • please

    Isn’t there an aol chat room where you can post articles about how bad MACs suck?

  • jonese

    we had this problem with my wife’s imac intel. apple support told us to simple remove version cue from the start up menu and everything worked fine. We had to do this in safe mode (which is achieved by holding down the shift key during boot up). once we did it though she’s had little to no problems.

    But i’ve also heard that the mac mini while nice isn’t really made for photoshop etc.

  • dave

    The incredibly S-L-O-W performance of Intel Macs is, quite frankly, criminal. You sure don’t hear any warnings from Apple about how every program you currently run is going to take a huge performance hit on their new machines, do you? Of course, in Appleland, any of the myriad number of problems with their machines are the fault of evil Bill Gates…

  • http://www.lowter.com charmedlover

    I think in many ways this is partially incorrect. I have never experienced such a problem with my iMac Core Duo. I run Photoshop, but an older version I believe, as graphics are not my area.

    Dave, most good software (excluding pro-apps) have already been ported to the Intel platform, and the resources used are very little. Right now I am running twenty-one apps and my CPU usage is 3%. The only app that is slow is Photoshop, and that is understandable being run with an emulation system. Therefore, I really do not understand from where you are getting this “huge performance hit”?

    However, Matthew, better luck next time with Macs! I certainly think you should have gone for an iMac instead, especially for using Photoshop! :)

  • Sicloan

    The only reason its bogged down is becuase its using an emulation layer. When Adobe CS3 comes out, in universal binary, it will run smooth as butter on these machines (more smoothly on the pro ones). I can’t wait until i get mine…

  • Dangermouse

    This is what you get for buying first generation products.

  • roger macbook

    I’ve got a macbook pro (2Ghz, 12th week of production) and it’s flawless. The first thing I did was install CS2 and, taking rosetta into the equation, the speed is more than fine. I certainly haven’t had any locking issues and I’ve installed all of the updates…

    I work for a printing company and am a freelance designer. This macbook pro is my daily workhorse and I love it. I’m constantly dealing with large, complex files and it’s bulletproof.

    I’m not saying that you (or others) aren’t having problems, but I do have problems with statements like “will cripple any Intel-based Mac” – it’s simply not true.

    As for the mac/windows debate, I am equally fluent on both systems and there is no contest: macs are amazing and windows punishes you every step of the way.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    I do have problems with statements like “will cripple any Intel-based Mac”—it’s simply not true

    Apologies roger, I was of the impression based on the number of complaints and tech support queries that it was every Intel-based Mac that was affected. You did install Version Cue, right? Glad to hear some avoided the time-wasting this has caused me.

    On a brighter note: with a fresh set of RAM (and auto-update disabled), the mini is finally up and running. InDesign is performing just fine–not as speedy as the G5 Tower I had on loan for a couple of days, but that’s to be expected and it’s certainly usable. Now, where did I put that Boot Camp CD…

  • http://www.eleytech.com beley

    Apple and Adobe have said time and time again that the Adobe apps do not support new Intel based macs (yet). I’m sorry you’ve had trouble – it’s probably due to the fact that you were trying to use Version Cue, which doesn’t work *at all* on a new Intel Mac.

    Photoshop itself runs pretty well, though in emulation. If you’re doing mostly web work, it’s fine. If you need to open 300 MB print files you’re going to be waiting for a while.

    Adobe and Microsoft are working on Universal versions of their software, which are to be released with the next major version. Apple has recommended that people buy a PowerPC based Mac if they need professional software like Photoshop and Version Cue though.

    There are still PowerPC based Macs available, and you could probably find a PowerPC Mini on eBay for a lot less than you paid for your brand new one, if you really need Version Cue.

  • jobr700

    But it seems really strange to have to buy a PowerPC based Mac now since noone knows how long the support for that architecture will be equal or better to the support for the Intel-version. This means support for both the main system, os, and all applications I could run on the system.
    And the 2hand price will not be good on those systems.

  • JamieJelly

    I am a long term PC user, and I was looking to make the switch. I did a bit of homework, i.e half an hour looking on forums and found these problems well in advance.

    There is no end of useful information out there regarding Intel macs and the lack of support for Photoshop CS2.

    No biggy, bought one anyway and will use my PC for photoshop until CS3 reaches us.

    Very pleased with my mac, great web dev platform, lots of power via terminal… the lesson is, do your homework! :P

  • Oliver Dueck

    Apart from a few older apps crashing, my Intel iMac has been flawless, and I run a fair share of apps in emulation (Office, Photoshop, Dreamweaver). Yes, they aren’t as fast as they were on my G5, but overall, the machine is much speedier.

  • Ole Olson

    It can get worse. Try taking the machine in for service to an Apple store. After you wait in line behind a dozen Nano users, if you’ve chosen to add anything beyond the core Mac solutions “it’s a 3rd party issue” the “geniuses” can’t help you with. I bought a G4 in 2002 that hummed for a couple of years but all I use it for now is iTunes. For me OS X 10.4 and iLife 5/6 have been unstable. That’s after paying $1000 to the lone Apple consultant I could find in Springfield MO to rebuild it to ensure my photo/video business would have a reliable platform. No bed of roses, Apple.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    There is no end of useful information out there regarding Intel macs and the lack of support for Photoshop CS2.

    Thanks JJ. It’s actually InDesign I’m using it for, but I was well aware that CS2 apps don’t run on an Intel Mac natively, and happy enough to take a speed hit in the interim. As I mentioned, the issue I was referring to relates to a recent software update from Apple that actually freezes the machine on startup.

    Incidentally, both InDesign and Photoshop are running just fine now, and I don’t plan on installing the updates any time soon for fear of that changing.

  • http://www.eleytech.com beley

    I don’t want this to turn into a Mac debate, but I’m always astounded at how many people think that Mac’s are completely error-free machines, like they dropped out of the heavens or something. They’re just computers, now on the exact same architecture as PCs. They have problems too.

    Personally, as both an avid Mac and PC user, I believe Macs have far less problems but many of their strengths are in their size. They don’t get attacked with viruses because they only make up 5% of computer users. There isn’t a lot of hardware/software conflicts because the hardware is set in stone and there isn’t nearly as much software out there for Mac.

    In the end, Macs will have some problems too. However, IMHO the productivity gains I get from a mac make it worth it. Just having a unix machine with shell prompt at my command, TextMate to program in and all the iLife and iWork apps makes it worth it for me to have a few errors and even an uppety Genius Bar idiot from time to time.

  • Dr. Borracho

    I feel exactly the same Matthew. Mac’s are so expensive, I had to go through all of this with my wife’s new $3k macbook pro. I ended up installing bootcamp and well things seem nice and dandy that way now, but it took a lot of wasted time and frustration. I don’t defend neither PC’s nor Macs, just don’t make the innocent mistake of thinking that because a machine “looks” nicer and is more expensive is not going do the dirty deeds that computers put us all through. My personal bottom line remains true:

    “There is pain and suffering for the users in both the Windows and Mac worlds”

    No way around it. You are all free to choose where to go and suffer.

  • Fritz

    I would not buy a Mac until Rosetta is no longer used. As a graphic designer, I whethered the pain of the Mac OS9 to OSX transition using Mac “Classic” until all apps became coca compliant. I don’t recommend the hassle to anyone

  • [SELES]

    That’s after paying $1000 to the lone Apple consultant I could find in Springfield MO to rebuild it to ensure my photo/video business would have a reliable platform. No bed of roses, Apple.

    Perhaps a three or four year old mac isnt worth spending $1000 to rebuild. I wouldn’t blame mac for your spending $1000 on such an old computer. I also hoope that others will be more savvy than to blame mac or chalk up another pc victory based on your comment.
    No computer from 2002 would be a bed of roses after being used so heavily.

  • www.compulsivedesign.ca

    I never stops to amaze me how computer users complain about their computers but NEVER read the INSTRUCTIONS.

    ADOBE has clearly stated that CS2 is not supported on the intel platform, so what did you do?

    so we purchased a brand new Intel Core Duo Mac Mini for the task instead

    HMMMMM?

  • Intel Macbook user

    Haha good point compulsivedesign. roger macbook has the same laptop as me so I’m going to give it a try with CS2.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    No, it’s not a good point. It’s the same point that JamieJelly already made previously, and that I’ve already responded to.

  • youngblood

    “touchwood” i have just bought an intel mac, 4 months ago, hve i stopped drooling? …n..yes.. for one day guess what i was installing… you got it, my old version of cs2.. one day i wanted my pc back… i even told the apple support enginer “could i get a refund… i know why pc’s fall over…” however when i look back, and think one program (yes, a program that i wanted to use the intel mac for) it’s one program… how long have i disliked windows cos nothing works? hell i will live with it as long as the next version works with it!

  • Jeff

    I am running Adobe CS 2 on a new MacBook and it runs flawlessly, even under Rosetta. This Mac is the fastest machine I have ever owned. I also work with a maxed out Dell workstation running XP, and the MacBook kills it.

    Wait until CS3 comes out, then you will be VERY happy with your mini.

  • graphreak

    This mac vs pc battle will obviously never end. I’ve been a pc user for like 12 years before i started using mac when i started as a graphic designer three years ago. Macs have their strong sides and weak sides, but so does pc’s.
    As a daily dual-platform user and administrator i see both the goods and bads of both platforms and must admit that macs are a bit special to work with at times, but try looking at it – i have 15 years of pc experience and 3 years of mac experience so what system feels most logical to me do you think?

    I think many users being attracted to macs these days due to the intel platform are a bit too fast to blame apple when things go wrong. Perhaps people should face that mac IS still a different platform and because it’s intel based it doesn’t mean that it works like a pc.

  • http://www.magikgraphics.com Micheil

    Doesn’t the new Mac commercial say how great out of the box and how you don’t need to update anything just get right to work? Seems a bit odd that all their systems have magical update fairies to ensure the latest patches etc.

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  • DB

    If you read the note that Adobe published regarding issues with CS2 on MacTel, Adobe clearly states that Version Cue will NOT run on the MacTel platform and to not try it. RTFM.

  • Lorenz

    Having to switch constantly between Macs and PC’s (depending on which firm I’m in that day) I have to admit that the PC is a much more rounded computer. It is mired by problems, true, but runs extremely more smoother than an Apple.
    In fact, I am surprised to no end that the design industry still uses Mac’s. The switch from OS9 to OSX was a real night mare for all the companies I worked for, and every new Mac release creates very serious compatibility issues (not being able to run Photoshop is about as serious as you can get! I don’t care if their website mentions problems, I shouldn’t even have to assume that basic software or updates might give me problems!)
    It makes no economic sense to work on a Mac.
    At least with a PC, if you choose your manufacturer carefully, and you steer away from those activities that will give you viruses, you’ll never have to worry. Not even during an upgrade…

  • Upravdom

    I’m a pro photographer and used both PCs and Macs, and have to deal with both systems on daily basis. I absolutely agree with Lorenz in terms of PC reliability. If there is brain in your head and you’ve got hands you can use wisely – your PC will work flawlessly. And the debate has to be not Apple vs PC, but MacOS vs Windows, since you can get a 500-bucks workstation, pop Linux into it and it will just keep rolling and rolling. Same stuff with MacOS – since it’s Unix-based, it’s more stable, uses hardware resources more wisely and is much better for multitasking. On the other hand – look at new Core 2 Duo PCs – blazing fast. Still not sure if Vista is going to be worth moving to, but hope so (especially with the announcement of the new file system). I love Macs for their OS. I love Macs for their design. I love Macs for the “luxury” of owning one. And that’s probably it. PCs bring more bang for the buck, in terms of performance and compatibility. Everything is IMHO, of course.

  • Chris

    So….you spent $600.00 on a MINI, and expected it to run photoshop in rosetta WELL? And then you complain about how macs are the devil and they don’t work and apple doesn’t say anything about it. And, apparently, their marketing firm is in on this too! Adobe has basically always said “yeah, it runs…..we don’t know how well…so good luck!” Know why? Because they DON’T. Photoshop is not a small program, and optimizing it to run on in a unix environment, on a different architecture, testing it, retesting it, seeing how it works with all those gazillions of file formats, how it works with OSX graphics engine, all the while keeping up with apples new hardware and software updates. Thats for one program in the suite. Since adobe purchased macromedia, they have to do all that for dreamweaver, flash, fireworks(if they keep it). But you know what, CS3 is going to be amazing.

    My big beef with this article though is the fact that they purchased a freakin mini to do heavy graphics work. Lets go spend $600.00 on a dell, put photoshop on it, design a 2GB graphics piece on it and see how long it takes. No matter how you slice it, XP is 6 years old. No significant updates since (well, ok so 300million security updates…and service pack 2, which apparently crashed most systems, and caused my friends Alienware to go completely down, and embark on his Odyssey to India, the land of Dells technical support, where he was told that they no longer serviced that model and couldn’t help him). Of course their are exceptions to the rule, but most of the time apple creates a product with excellent quality, and while some of them may be lemons (which the mini in this article may very well be).

    I have had a powerbook G4 from 2002 (the first with the superdrive!) that I have used exhaustively through design school, for thousands of hours, and hundreds of projects, taken to europe and crossed 16 countries with, dropped and cracked the case, but miraculously survived. And I finally replaced it with a brand new 17″ MBP, which is very, very aluminum. I am hoping that it lasts me just as long as the other one did.

    Yes, the intel thing sucks. Photoshop is mostly bulletproof, but the big problem is illustrator CS2. That thing crashes for me everytime the program thinks at all! Its really really wierd. It sucks too because I do primarily heavy heavy photoshop work and the performance isn’t very good, not much better than my little powerbook. But all the programs that are UB’s work FABULOUSLY. Garageband is so fast. CS3 is going to be amazing. Use a PC or something until then. But not a dell. Chin up mac users. We still get to sit back and watch the PC world switch to an operating system with ‘transparent windows’ and ‘animations.’ Vista is going to turn the mac world on its…..uh…..well I’ll go get the popcorn.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    Yawn. Comments closed.