More OS X software rot

More OS X software rot

Summary: Evidence of the quality rot in Mac OS X continues to grow. The latest is a hilarious-if-it-weren't-so-sad: typing "file:///" with a capital F results in many Mac applications crashing. But that's not all.


Since I'm writing this on a Mac, I can't spell it out as it crashes Notational Velocity, my preferred text processing tool. Read all about it at 9to5Mac

Obviously, this could be used in an exploit to sabotage Macs all over the world. And that's bad.

But the real question: what the hell are the system software guys doing in Cupertino? It's past time to put down your lattes - they make fine ones at the Infinite Loop campus cafeteria - and stop embarrassing yourselves.

OS X is turning into a steaming mess.

Time Machine system rot A recent technical comment on an Apple developer mailing list documents more OS X stupidity. Thomas Templemann, author of the app Find Any File had some telling comments.

Mr. Templemann is a ". . . big fan of Time Machine, at least on the technical level." He went on to write:

Well, today, a friend showed me the horrors of Time Capsule: Saving a few 100MB of changed files to the Capsule can easily take one to two hours. Which is incredible, isn't it?

And why is that? . . .

. . . accesses to the SAME item are repeated 10-20 times. Each of them issuing a fresh network call. . . .

. . . Isn't anyone at Apple noticing that [Time Capsule] or any network-based [Time Machine] backup is so incredibly slow?"

Sure they are. They just don't care. Mac sales keep climbing anyway.

Too many network accesses aren't the only problem with Time Machine. I stopped using it years ago because if you have a lot of email TM has to break and remake thousands of symbolic links, an expensive process, after email deletions.

Time Machine slowed my Mac Pro to a crawl. TM just isn't intended for serious users.

And about HFS+ Some Mac fans pooh-pooh assertions about the low quality of HFS plus despite the fact that it's been documented in independent research. Apple did nothing. Microsoft hired the researcher and has implemented major improvements.

But you can see for yourself, if you're comfortable with the Terminal, that you can corrupt a volume and OS X's Disk Utility won't see it or repair it. Still think OS X is safe for important data?

The Storage Bits take I don't know what it will take for true believers to see that there is a serious problem with Mac system software quality. Maybe a Google search on Mac file corruption? Or worse, personal experience of massive data corruption?

What is worrying to me is that these issues get worse with each release of OS X. That says that the OS X software group needs adult supervision, much as Microsoft did when they brought in uber-engineer Dave Cutler to drive Windows 7 after the Vista fiasco.

It's time for Tim Cook to step up and make sure that whoever is responsible for system software for the Mac has the same commitment to quality and innovation that Steve imbued in the rest of Apple.

Comments welcome, of course. Still using my Mac, but I'm starting to look at Linux distro's.

Topics: Apple, Microsoft, Software, Storage

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  • Apple's sad lost child

    If you talk to Apples people in Silicon Valley off the record you will find lots of very sad people in the Mac team. They feel they are the under invested cash cow getting little love in the brave new world of iOS.

    Apple or the Mac are not yet heading for a fall but let's just say the signs of the start of the end of their glory days are showing. They need to be wary - Android is becoming the new Windows and it will be the early 80s all over again. They may maintain some significant share of market but a business savvy more open platform comes along and takes the growth.

    And as for looking at Linux - my current favourite disti is Linuxmint. Downstream from Ubuntu and Dedian so well supported with software, drivers etc and a simple, performant, traditional GUI. Worth a look.
    • I have realy tried

      I bought an iMac and a descent one it was. I spent a lot of time on it. After a while I have installed windows 7 with booth camp and ended up using windows almost all the time. I sold the thing and bought another PC. Two years later, I got a fully loaded iMac with a 27 inch screen....and after a few months, I ended up using Windows more often on it.

      To me OSX rotting or not just doesn't give me the same fizz that Windows gives me. There are probably millions of reasons why OSX should be better, but in the end, it is simply not as satisfying to use on a daily basis. Sorry.
  • OSX is losing in many ways.

    Apple needs to overhaul the OSX. I don't care about UI, but I think Apple should re-energize and implement just not only the gestures of iOS, but bake some of the goodies of iOS into OSX. Something like developing a runtime for iOS apps to run within sandbox. Of course majority of iOS apps needs touch, so be it, make use of touch mouse and touchpad within the MBs. I think whoever owns MBA would love that. I for one definitely want something like that.
    Ram U
    • huh?

      developers test their ios apps on their macs. although you wont do well with air testing an ipad app because you need an mbp retina resolution to fit it.
    • Get off the pot!!

      OS X isn't perfect but it beats the hell out of these mobile OSes.
      Arm A. Geddon
      • As for the iOS?

        OS X 10.8 has enough of it in my opinion.
        Arm A. Geddon
        • Nope you and polarcat didn't really understand my request.

          I would love to see an end user be able to purchase the iOS apps and use them on their MBAs and MB(P)s. Something sort of BlueStacks running Android apps on Windows. It may sound crazy, but there are few good apps that are exclusively available for iOS platform and I would love to see those apps be able to run on my MBA. I don't care about apps supporting retina only. And Apple should use iCloud to share data between this runtime and main OSX.
          Ram U
  • Well...

    I'm certainly no fan of OS X, but this seems a bit overblown. OS X has never been perfect. These issues pop up from time to time, they get fixed (usually)... and life goes on.

    The bigger issue seems to be that the RDF or whatever you want to call it, seems to be fading. People notice the problems more, and/or are less willing to overlook them.
  • I'd like to echo a few of these points...

    By saying I've seen the same issues with my late 2010 Air, especially since I upgraded to Mountain Lion. Time Machine had been unreliable (to the point of taking days to back up a couple hundred megabytes), to having issues staying connected to a corporate 802.1x EAP wireless network (which Apple Support happily suggested would be fixed by upgrading to the latest AirPort version, never mind it being a CORPORATE connection...)

    And lately, I've been having issues copying files to USB drives, as well... the copy would quit mid-transfer, but leave an incomplete "ghost" copy on the receiving drive that I have to reboot in order to delete.

    And I know Apple is a "look and feel" company, but some old-school software engineers should address a lot of these ongoing issues.
    • Sure you do. /s

      What number talking point from your playbook is this from? " I own "insert name here" and it totally sucks. Ever since I owned it "insert problem here" acts up and I have to " insert action here" to get it to halfway work."
      Arm A. Geddon
      • No, the point was...

        ...when it was on Snow Leopard, it worked fine. I had no issues then. I've even worked with Apple support sending log files for them to fix things... but never did hear back "officially".

        Now I understand that every system and company can have issues... but if the only official response is to "buy newer Apple gear", then it becomes an issue to me.
      • Kill the messenger to surpress the message?

        Why not address the points being made if it is so easily proven false or made up?
    • you have to reboot to delete file from removable drive

      Why not just disconnect the drive and reconnect it again? If a file copy is failing, perhaps you have some file system or device problem? I have collected few flash drives that behave very strange (on many different operating systems).

      No operating system can work reliably with flaky hardware, so this must be checked first.

      Just saying...
      • It's happened more than in one place...

        ... and even over a network drive. I've used the USB drives at work without issues, though so I don't think it's the drive issue. I just had an update from Apple though, so I have yet to see if it's better.
  • So, did some Apple executive

    urinate in your wheaties this morning? You are on such a rant that you are rapidly losing all credibility. The link to the web site that claims to corrupt an HFS volume in such a way that disk utility can't detect or correct it isn't using random data, it's copying specially crafted data from an input file onto the disk image using a method that DELIBERATELY bypasses OS X's data checking. My guess is if he had tried to do that copy in the Finder, he would have gotten an error about an ureadable file. BTW, the volume structure of the disk was not damaged. You can still copy to and from the disk normally, although you'll get an error when you try to access the corrupted file or files he hacked onto the volume.

    But, what the heck, it makes OS X look bad, so you'll just run with it.
  • RE: OS X look bad

    Taking from Daring Fireball...

    That pretty much summarizes what’s driving the current wave of Apple jackassery: start with the “fact” that something has gone wrong with Apple, then speculate about just what that is. Apple has real problems, isn’t perfect, and faces numerous serious competitors — but it, like every company, has always had problems, has never been perfect, and has faced serious competitors. The error in this line of thinking is that something has “gone wrong” for Apple in the last year or two. The truth is, most things have gone exactly right for Apple for the last 10 years.
    Arm A. Geddon
    • I'd be more impressed . . .

      if Gruber were responding to what I wrote instead of Henry Blodgett.

      Gruber knows enough about software to understand what I, Lloyd Chambers and many others are saying about Mac OS X.

      If HFS+ were so great, why did Apple start to replace it with ZFS 5 years ago?

      R Harris
      • apple never intended to replace HFS with ZFS?

        I don't know where you get your "facts" from, but storage is sort of "hobby" for me and I am big fan of ZFS.

        What Apple could have ultimately done is implement HFS on top of ZFS storage, just as the POSIX file system is already implemented. Then they would be able to use all the niceties of ZFS... Except, there were few "drawbacks". Still, I believe they eventually may implement it, one day.
        I will list some of these for you to know and keep in mind for future Apple bashing.

        - Apple has never be en really into servers, but ZFS is primarily server focused solution. ZFS works best when there is redundancy, which means every Mac should have at least two physical disks. Apple's computers still do fin with one relatively small size disk.

        - ZFS is very heavy user of memory. Until recently, most Intel CPUs of the class used in Apple computers had hard time managing more than 8 GB RAM. And this much RAM is barely enough for ZFS to perform reasonably. More memory costs more and the benefit for the user in single-user system is questionable.

        - ZFS uses SSDs only for caching and improving latency. None of this is relevant in non-server environments, because it takes plenty of database, network file serving etc sync load to need latency improvements and also plenty of drives. Caching the cache also requires lots of RAM. The solution Apple came with, which borrows some ideas from ZFS and known as Fusion Drive, makes more sense in consumer systems.

        - If you have huge drive subsystem, nothing prevents you from running it on ZFS capable platform with plenty of disks and connecting via Thunderbolt, or iSVSI etc - Apple simply does not make any such systems. The mass-market, non-ZFS solutions like the Thunderbolt attached Promise Pegasus obviously do the trick for users.

        Just for the record, all of my (many) UNIX systems run ZFS only - from the desktops, to huge storage servers.
        • Data integrity IS a function of a file system

          ZFS data integrity is a massive improvement over HFS+ even on a single drive system. But all storage systems benefit from redundancy.

          The technically astute can use ZFS today on Macs using the Zevo version from Greenbytes. As they note on the Zevo webpage: "Our custom ZFS memory manager is finely tuned to work with the Mac’s simplistic memory model." Memory usage is much reduced. Don Brady, Zevo's lead developer, was the lead on the Mac ZFS platform, so he understands the kernel issues.

          R Harris
  • One more thing.

    Robin Harris...selling and marketing data storage.

    Need I say more?
    Arm A. Geddon