Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Getting ready for Gatekeeper, episode two

Stonegate Walk

A couple of months back, I wrote about how few of the apps on my Mac were ready for OS X Mountain Lion, which is due to be released in two and a half weeks time on July 19th. Specifically, many of the apps I had did not carry a digital signature from Apple, and would therefore not run under Gatekeeper, which only allows signed apps to run, and is enabled by default. Whilst it’s likely that most of these apps will run if Gatekeeper is disabled, it’s an extra step to take and may put off consumers who don’t know about it.

So, two months on, has the situation improved? Are more apps now digitally signed and ready to run on Mountain Lion? I decided to find out.

A quick note about methodology

Like last time, I’m running each app through RB App Checker Lite, which verifies if the app is signed. I’m then making a note of the response. Apps that come with Mac OS X are counted separately, as we assume that they will work, and I also discount any apps bought from the Mac App Store as these are already signed by Apple as part of the approval process. The apps we’re interested in are those that are not obtained via Apple, i.e. downloaded directly from developers’ web sites or bought in actual shops.

I’ve ensured that, to the best of my knowledge, I have the latest version of each app before checking. Also, because I use this computer on a day-to-day basis, there are some apps that have been removed or replaced in the intermediate time. This is therefore not a very scientific test.

The results from last time

Last time, I had 30 apps that were part of OS X, and another 23 apps from the Mac App Store. That left 78 apps, and only 5 of them had that all important Apple Developer ID signature. So, had I installed Mountain Lion at that point, and not disabled Gatekeeper, 73 of my apps would not work, or 56%. Not good.

Today’s results

I still have the 30 apps from OS X, and haven’t bought any additional apps from the Mac App Store, so I’ve skipped those. I then checked 77 other apps in my Applications folder – as I mentioned earlier, some apps have been changed slightly from last time. I’m now up to 15 apps that are signed with Apple Developer ID – a gain of 10 over last time. This includes some apps that I use everyday, like Firefox, and means that 52% of my apps will work in Mountain Lion – a slight majority, rather than a minority as before.

A further 15 apps were digitally signed, but not by Apple (down from 22 last time); it’s unlikely, however, that these will work. That leaves the remaining 47 apps with no signature whatsoever, which won’t work. I should also point out that 10 of those apps had new versions released since my last check in May, so they are in active development but have not yet received that all important Apple Developer ID signature and so will fall foul of Gatekeeper’s rules.

In terms of how this would impact my every day usage of my Mac, three apps (Dropbox, OpenDNS Updater BOINC Manager) run when my Mac boots up, and are not yet Gatekeeper compatible. I also use Cyberduck, VLC and Spotify regularly, which also lack the relevant Apple Developer ID signature (Cyberduck is available from the Mac App Store, but costs £17; I use the identical donationware version which isn’t signed). Consequently, I’ll probably have to disable Gatekeeper until these apps have been updated.

As for the apps I called out last time, I’ve already mentioned that Firefox is now signed; Microsoft has also updated SkyDrive to carry a digital signature. Google hasn’t updated Picasa, Google Drive or Google Earth with signatures yet, and Microsoft’s other apps like Messenger are also yet to be updated, although Skype has been. I also use NeoOffice which isn’t signed, but a beta version is and will be ready soon.


So, in all, the situation is better, but there’s still a way to go. I’ll have to see which of my really important apps have been updated later this month when Mountain Lion is released, and then make a judgement as to whether it’s worth upgrading immediately, or waiting a little while for my apps to catch up. Thankfully, the majority of apps that won’t work are not ones that I use regularly, but there are some exceptions and not having Dropbox working with Gatekeeper is something of a deal-breaker (an experimental build is available though).

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