Apple delivers final non-security Mavericks update

Four weeks before Yosemite's slated to ship, company addresses reliability issues and patches 45 OS X bugs

Apple logo, patched up
Fotolia / Thinkstock / Apple

Apple on Wednesday released OS X 10.9.5, what is most likely the last non-security update for Mavericks, just weeks before the company will ship the successor, Yosemite.

The update, which Apple issued on the same day it released iOS 8 to millions of iPhone and iPad users, included only a few non-security changes, according to the company. Those included reliability improvements to VPNs (virtual private networks) and accessing files on an SMB (server message block) server. The latter is a widely-used file-sharing network protocol, supported primarily by the Windows Server software used by businesses, but also the foundation of OS X's own Mac-to-Mac file sharing.

Apple patched 45 security vulnerabilities in 10.9.5 and a separate update for older editions of OS X. Most of the fixes were for critical flaws, although Apple never ranks bugs, instead preferring the phrase "arbitrary code execution" to label those that hackers could exploit to plant malware on a Mac.

The fixes were included with 10.9.5 for Mavericks users, and bundled into Security Update 2014-004 for those running its predecessors, 2012's Mountain Lion and 2011's Lion.

Among the nearly four dozen fixes were 10 for the Intel graphics driver, five in OpenSSL, the open-source implementation of the Web's cryptographic standards, and one in the part of the OS that parses PDF files.

Sixteen of the bugs -- more than a third -- were reported by just one researcher, Ian Beer, who works on Google's Project Zero, a specialized team of security engineers the search giant said in July would "work to improve the security of any software depended upon by large numbers of people."

Although Apple hasn't said -- it never does -- whether OS X 10.9.5 is, in fact, the final non-security update for Mavericks, it almost certainly is. Both Lion (OS X 10.7) and Mountain Lion (10.8), for example, reached 10.x.5 and no further.

Mavericks will continue to receive security updates -- patches, in other words -- for much longer, probably for at least the next two years.

But Wednesday also marked the probable end to those security updates for Mac owners running 2011's OS X Lion (v. 10.7).

Last year, Apple served the final security update for OS X 10.6, better known as Snow Leopard, on the same day it issued Mountain Lion 10.8.5. Apple also pushed out the last patches for Safari 5, the version that runs on Snow Leopard, on Sept. 12, 2013.

Because Apple now appears to be supporting -- via security updates -- only "n", "n-1" and "n-2," where "n" is the current edition, the debut of Yosemite will tip Lion (which will then be "n-3") into the retirement bin. Under the formula, Yosemite would be "n," Mavericks "n-1" and Mountain Lion "n-2."

Lion shipped in July 2011, cost $29.99 and was the first to be distributed through the Mac App Store.

Apple also updated Safari 6 and Safari 7, which run on Mountain Lion and Mavericks, fixing nine flaws in the browser. Apple bumped up the designation of Safari 6 to v. 6.2, and because the patches were listed as affecting only Mountain Lion (Mavericks runs Safari 7, which was updated to v. 7.1), Lion may have also just seen the last Safari bug repairs.

Relatively few Mac owners run Lion on their machines: At the end of August, just 9% of all Macs were powered by OS X 10.7, according to metrics vendor Net Applications. The majority by a big margin -- 64% -- ran Mavericks.

Mavericks' successor, OS X 10.10 (aka Yosemite), will launch Oct. 21. The free upgrade can be applied not only to all Mavericks Macs, but also most of those running Mountain Lion and Lion.

10.9.5 update

Mavericks 10.9.5, released Wednesday, will in all likelihood be the last update that fixes more than security flaws in the OS.


Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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