Why you probably shouldn't join the Apple OS X beta seed program

Why you probably shouldn't join the Apple OS X beta seed program

Summary: After limiting its beta software to developers Apple is inviting civilians under the Kimono to test OS X, iTunes and other pieced of its desktop software.

Apple's Feedback Assistant helps user file bug reports - Jason O'Grady

Apple is showing a new facet of its corporate identity by allowing everyday users to test upcoming software releases. Previously the domain of registered developers, Apple is now allowing anyone to sign up for its AppleSeed testing program. The change is a pivot for the uber-secret company and has the hallmarks of something that Tim Cook would do. 

Apple opened its beta program to civilians because it wants feedback on new code. The program is valuable because more people testing its code and reporting bugs will allow Apple to ship higher-quality products, which benefits the entire Apple community.

I generally don't recommend installing beta software (especially operating systems!). Beta software is unfinished and contains bugs by definition. It is intended for people that wish to test new functionality and with the time to write detailed bug reports. If you aren't willing to file detailed bug reports, do yourself a favor and stick with the tried and true public software releases.

It should be obvious, but it's worth mentioning here: beta software should never be installed on production machines, machines with sensitive data on them, machines used for mission critical/lifesaving work or machines used to earn a living. Beta software will crash, it could cause data loss and even require you to reformat your entire HDD/SSD. A full backup is a requirement.

I use a MacBook Pro Retina as my main production machine and treat it like a cash register. It's backed up in triplicate and nothing gets installed on it that would cause it to break (or jam the register drawer from opening).

On the other hand, my second Mac is a MacBook Air 11-inch that I use for software development and testing. I don't keep much personal information on it and I do use it for testing the multitudes of software that I come across over the course of being a professional writer. I employ a similar strategy on my iPhones.

If you understand the caveats above, accepts the risks, and are willing to file bug reports, then feel free to sign up for the AppleSeed testing program by following these steps:

  1. Go to the AppleSeed testing program landing page
  2. Click the "Join" button
  3. Log in with your Apple ID and accept the confidentiality agreement
  4. Download the small utility "MavericksBetaAccessUtility.dmg"
  5. Install it 
  6. Check the Updates tab of the Mac App Store

Once you perform the steps above a new app called "Feedback Assistant" will be installed into your Utilities folder (and added to your dock) which allows you to file bug reports. You should only join the AppleSeed program if you plan on writing detailed bug reports. If this doesn't appeal to you or sounds off-putting, you shouldn't join.

Apple's Feedback Assistant application - Jason O'Grady

If you launch the App Store you'll also see two new pieces of beta software in the Updates tab which you can test:

  • OS X Update Seed 10.9.3 (13D45a)
  • iTunes 11.1.6
OS X Update Seeds appear in the Mac App Store - Jason O'Grady

If you've got the inclination to provide detailed bug reports and an extra machine to test software on, I encourage you to join the AppleSeed program. If you need your machine to be reliable and to make a living you should definitely skip it and wait for the software's public release.

Topic: Apple

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  • NDA

    I think your screenshots violate Apple's non-disclosure agreement. :-)
  • Ever feel like you've been conned ????

    I certainly do in signing up for the development program and paying for it only to find its going to be open to all for FREE

    • Er, what?

      The Appleseed program only allows you to download the beta and report bugs. It doesn't allow you to submit apps to the Appstore, it doesn't give you a signed key for same, you don't get access to the developer forums for discussing problems...

      The developer program provides a lot of tools and information for developers. The Beta of OS X is a very small part of the complete package that you are paying for.

      If you have been paying for the developer program just to get Beta access to the OS, then that is your problem, that is not what the developer program is for. On the other hand, if that is all you have been using the developer program for, look on the bright side, you won't have to renew next year...
  • Operating Systems upgrades have become boring.

    Back in the day moving from one version of an OS to another meant a lot of cool changes and capabilities. Today there's nothing that exciting about a new OS upgrade.
    • Re: Back in the day....

      That is precisely why Microsoft became so un hinged with the original release of Windows 8

      Too much change all at the same time.
      • Exactly

        Windows 8 was like an old OS upgrade, lots of new. The problem is the rate of change has slowed and people have become staid and don't accept big change like they used to, when it happened regularly.

        They are now in their comfort zone and don't want to be disturbed. Having new gadget categories works, because they still have their "tried and trusted" items, until they get used to the new fangled gadgets.
        • That's because, despite all the blinkety blink blink

          of Windows 8, a Windows 8 computer fundamentally doesn't do anything different from a Windows 7 computer.

          People accepted all those changes in the past because computers could do radically different things. In Windows 95, you had games that actually began to feel real. Spreadsheets could crunch numbers in ways that only FoxPro and Sybase could before. With Windows XP (the NT codebase), you had computers that never went bang, no matter how heavily you stressed them, and you had wifi and true working plug and play storage devices.

          With Windows 8? There's nothing a "modern UI" app does that an Adobe Air app or WPF app didn't do before it. And to get these in-fact already existing capabilities, you had to put up with strangely inchoate bipolar user interface.

          So of course that faced resistance that predecessors did not, as it just didn't bring any new capabilities to the table.
    • I for one am glad of it

      The future is in the gadgets.

      A computer sitting on a desk is already close to its maximum capabilities. Those capabilities are wonderful, and I couldn't do without them. But I also don't need them to change, going forward in a dramatic way, just like I'd prefer not to have to relearn how to use the damn dishwasher.
  • I'm a developer

    and I DON'T do the pre-release versions. Rather keep a working computer, thanks!
    • Re: Rather keep a working computer....

      Absolutely however it clearly states upon signing up to the OS X Developer program that Pre releases are not recommended for use on a Production machine.

      That being said I throw caution to the wind and run the OS X Developer pre releases without issues and have been running OS X 10.9.3 for some time now. Obviously I have a stable OS X 10.9.2 backup available if things were to go pear shaped.

      For those who like dabbling with Beta software this is a great opportunity. I recommended creating a separate partition using Disk Utility and calling it something like 'Macintosh HD dev.'
  • " 'Macintosh HD dev.' "

    Damn, that's almost as pretentious as what the Linux guys do - you're good! (and smart too!)
    • Um, no

      that's what everyone does. When I was in the much more restricted beta program for Windows 2000, I dual booted it...I did NOT get rid of my Windows NT 4.0!
  • Good Advice

    I agree with u and thanks for the tip I will use MacBook air to test it and iMac leave it as is
  • Agree, but with caveats

    I agree, Jason, that most consumers should not install BETA operating systems. I did have to snicker when you said 'by definition, beta means there are still bugs" because, honestly, we find bugs in the shipping versions, too.

    Anyway, I think this program is good for someone like me: I am not a developer, but I manage the Macs for a medium sized firm. I would like to test beta software once relatively stable, and since is the fifth version of the 10.9.3 I feel comfortable testing it on one of my machines. So far, so good!

    I will not be doing this on, say, 10.10, or even the first or second beta of 10.9.4. But, I feel good about trying rev 5 of 10.9.3, and honestly no problem so far!
  • Distinction

    Both are within the appleseed.apple.com domain, and both involve seeding to customers of Apple, however:

    * the OS X Beta Program is quite different from the more established AppleSeed Program.

    Please, to avoid future confusion, can you edit the article? Or add an update that draws attention to the difference between the programmes? Thanks.

    (For the benefit of newcomers, there's already some additional orientation at the AppleSeed page, so that people can find their way to the OS X Beta Program.)