After all this time, how can OS X Mavericks STILL be this bad?

After all this time, how can OS X Mavericks STILL be this bad?

Summary: David Gewirtz took the gamble and decided to upgrade from Mountain Lion. You know what? Mavericks is still buggy as heck.

TOPICS: Apple, Mobility

OS X Mavericks (otherwise known as 10.9) released on October 22, 2013. We're now in July, 251 days later. Yesterday, Apple released 10.9.4, the fourth major bug-fix update to Mavericks.

I took the gamble and decided to upgrade from Mountain Lion. You know what? Mavericks is still buggy as heck.

When I first got my monster iMac, I tried Mavericks and found it broke using most of my critical systems (like, you know, accessing the file server). So I downgraded back to Mountain Lion and I've had a rock-solid, reliable system ever since.

But when 10.9.4 came out, I figured what the heck? I didn't like the idea of running on an OS that didn't get the latest security updates and I figured that if Yosemite was going to come in the fall, perhaps the Apple elves had fixed what made Mavericks such a dog.

And I was also avoiding my to-do list. Doing an OS upgrade is always a good way to avoid what you're really s'posed to be working on.

So I went ahead and installed 10.9.4. I made a full Carbon Copy Cloner clone of my main volume, so I could, theoretically, once again downgrade to Mountain Lion. But the fact is, I want to be running the latest OS. To do otherwise makes me nervous.

But Mavericks is still a pig with lipstick.

The upgrade was easy. It took all of an hour to download and install. I booted back up ... and it hung. Finder was broken. As it turns out, I mount all the network shares I use on boot, which worked fine on Mountain Lion. On Mavericks, it just hung. I had to kill the Finder process. Eventually, I disabled mounting-on-boot and could get into the Finder.

Oh, but you should see how Parallels took to Mavericks. Remember I wrote a great article on getting Parallels to work with four monitors in Coherence mode? Worked fine in Mountain Lion. Mavericks sent Parallels into spasms, literally. The Parallels screen bounced all over the screen, shifted back and forth, and otherwise made me feel like that day when the Master took over the Earth in Doctor Who and remade everyone to look like himself.

It was unpretty. Disabling Coherence did the job, because when it comes to using a Mac with Mavericks, who needs anything that's coherent?

Speaking of wackiness, remember when I wrote an article about how to get four monitors to work nicely on an iMac? That was Mountain Lion also. Now, with Mavericks, my screens just randomly blink on and off. It's random, it's unpredictable, but its constant enough to render the computer virtually unusable.

As it turns out, Mavericks doesn't work well with USB DisplayLink adapters. The DisplayLink folks have done an upgrade to their driver, but apparently aren't getting much support from Apple (does this surprise anyone?) and so things don't work all that well.

When I unplug the fourth monitor (the one using the USB DisplayLink adapter), the blinking stops. I'll probably try to replace that approach with mirroring or extending the display to Apple TV. Stay tuned for a future update on that one.

Now look, I recognize that I'm running a complex system, but that's why I have a Mac and not, say, an iPad. I'm doing real work with this machine. Unlike Jason, who uses the Mac as a prosumer, and therefore can easily replace its functions with Windows, I use both Windows and Mac applications on the Mac.

There are some Mac-based applications that are important to my workflow. So I choose to use a Mac, not because it's an Apple machine, but because the developers of some very slick programs chose to develop for Apple machines.

I also understand that the vast percentage of Apple's income now comes from iDevices and not Macintosh. But as Jason also points out, Macs are not cheap machines, and it's inexcusable for Apple to leave Mavericks in the sad, sick state it apparently still is in.

No wonder people are leaving desktop PCs in droves. Between the wacky interface changes in Windows 8 and the execrable quality control Apple has practiced with Mavericks, desktop computing sure as heck isn't putting its best foot forward these days.

Are you still having problems with Mavericks? Post your notes in the TalkBacks below.

By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at

Topics: Apple, Mobility


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • SMB2 still broken!

    It won't let me share drives properly across my Windows and Mac machines! How hard can that be?
    • Should be a very simple fix

      Apple just needs to go back to using the Unix samba package instead of their buggy implementation of it that's been hit or miss since 10.7
  • After reading Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    article yesterday about the bug fixes in OS X 10.9.4, I thought that I might try it again. Now, not so much. It doesn't bother me to run the next to the latest/greatest version of any software, so I stick with Mtn Lion a while more.
    • Just installed Apple Security Update 2014-003

      See no need to use Mavericks for security reasons and there are no other compelling reasons.
      • I see this security update addresses issues with Lion.

        It looks as if Apple is providing some security updates for their older operating systems. My question is: Are they providing all security updates for them?
        • If you believe Larry Seltzer for Zero Day

          Then yes, it does for Lion and Mtn Lion, except for those possibly introduced in OS X 10.9.x
          • I didn't take Larry's word for it. I read the bulletin.

            However reading the bulletin addresses only the vulnerabilities covered under this patch. It says nothing about other vulnerabilities.
          • I read the bulletin too

            To what other vulnerabilities to you refer? Some of the issues fixed were only OS X 10.9.x issues and obviously aren't addressed by Security Update 2014-003 for older versions.
          • There were a number of vulnerabilities for which the fix was...

   upgrade to Mavericks:


            The question is: Did Apple release patches for prior versions of OS X since this article was written?
  • Remembe folks: It. Just. Works.

    Say it enough time and I'm sure David's problems will disappear.
    • Right. Because citing a ridiculously complex set up that

      perhaps one out of 100,000 users even comes close to using is proof positive of complete and utter failure of the "it just works" catchphrase that Apple hasn't used in years, but that nevertheless still applies to 99.9+ percent of all users.
      • Wait? What? You mean it doesn't always just work?

        Really? Because this would be the first time I've ever heard a Mac fanboi say as much. So do you think maybe, just maybe, the same can be said of Windows issues?
        • Nope. Windows causes

          Headaches in a lot more situations than Mac. See, here is what you are not getting. Nearly every Mac user has already used Windows. The reverse is hardly ever true.
          • Every Mac user I know...

            ... also uses Windows via Parallels, BootCamp, or whatever. So, "already used" should read "is also using."

            Regarding whether it just works, I literally never have an issue with my Windows 7 PCs and they run 24/7. Conversely, I get the "infinite twirling beach ball of doom" regularly and even the occasional kernel panic on my Mac. My Mac running Mountain Lion is far more flaky than any of my Windows 7 machines. In fact, the Hackintosh I made in order to try OS X before buying a Mac was less troublesome, although I admit I only used it for a couple weeks before buying the Mac. The tag line "it just works" makes me laugh every time I see it. From my own experience, the Mac's stability is purely mythical.
          • I've sworn off Parallels

            Very little I need it for. I still hate windows. It's a web world today. What's the difference?
            George Kriza
          • Mac stability is right up there with other general purpose...


            ...operating systems. I've found it to be neither more or less stable than other general purpose operating systems. I do recall having had kernel panics in the early years of OS X. But I can't recall the last time I had one. Same with Windows...I can't recall the last time I had a blue screen with Windows.

            I also wouldn't use a hackintosh as an example for OS X instability. Such a configuration is unsupported by Apple and therefore I wouldn't use it as the basis for evaluating performance and stability.

            As for running Windows on a Mac I agree with you 100%. I seem to be the only one I know of who doesn't run Windows on his Macs.
          • ???

            "I seem to be the only one I know of who doesn't run Windows on his Macs."

            What? 99.9% of Mac users I know don't run Windows on a Mac.

            I work in IT, and I have a Windows 7 VM via fusion for one reason only. I use it to VPN into work with. Not because VPN does not work on the Mac but because we do not allow split tunnel. So I use the Windows 7 VM in a "space" to connect to work and use the Mac side to do everything else while at home with out the restrictions of no-split tunnel VPN.

            If I did not need the VPN I would dump the Windows VM. In fact there are NO apps minus the Cisco VPN app in that VM.
          • How Did We See It Here

            Ye, he who is fond of that throwing out that phrase in derision when something Maccy isn't working well, brought it up, not an Apple fan. He justifies it by saying he sees it whenever something goes wrong with a Windows pundit. For some reason, rather than ignoring moronic advice to change platforms on a dime — or many, many dimes — it burnsssssss him.

            Meanwhile, these phrases and anecdotes go back a dozen years while the platforms, Linux, Windows, and OS X, have been moving objects and all have gotten better by any measure. But, they have gotten more complex and the hardware has gotten faster. One in a million bugs now occur 8000 times a time unit in our 2 GHz four-core systems.

            Is any os now more stable, usable, or more discoverable than the other? Does it matter? I'm a happy guy here in Apple-land. Is that the only way I could be happy? Of course not. Is it perfection. Of course not.

            So let's talk about Gerwitz's problem. Why would Apple spend resources altering the protocol and software for Windows sharing? To goof up their customers and penalize them for working in a Windows environment? No. That would be silly.

            I expect it has to do with security/sandboxing, which we all recall is the inverse of utility, and for which difficulty is compounded when communicating from one platform to another using a third-party codebase.

            As to kernel panics, etc., I do get more freezes and Finder crashes than I'd like and sometimes my trackpad gestures to invoke Spaces functionality get ignored. I am pleased at how smoothly things run with your Windows 7 machines. And if I have curiosity as to why they remain Windows 7 and migration to 8 hasn't started, it's only because I haven't paid close enough attention to your posts and missed where you explained.
          • It Just Works

            It Just Works applies very well to my windows 8.1 machines. Meanwhile I've had two people try to convince me to switch back to mac in the past month, both of whom cited windows not working properly on their mac as the main reason.

            Of course neither wanted to give up trying to make it work since they couldn't get some things to work on OSX at all, because they require windows to run...
      • Not only that

        Not only that, but two out of three of the issues he specifically cites are related to 3rd party software (Parallels) and hardware (USB/DisplayLink monitor adapter).