Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Top 6 OS X Pre Mavericks Bug Fixes


I can't wait until the autumn when OS X Mavericks arrives (hopefully!). From what I've seen and read so far, the highlights for me are :

  • Proper multi-display handling (why so long?)
  • Searchable tags in Finder (again why so long?)
  • Improved notification support (especially across devices)
  • iCloud Keychain (with reservations)

But before we get too excited about these 'innovations' (let's face it these aren't genuine innovations, they are integrated improvements which in many cases are already available through 3rd party software (e.g. Tags, 1Password), I hope Apple have gone through the support logs, bug reports and forums, although the latter may be a misguided hope) to find out what still needs fixing after multiple incarnations of OS X.

I have six areas I've singled out for attention. They aren't real show stoppers but they are annoying because of their longevity, and the fact that they do appear to affect thousands of users. So here are my top six bugbears (in no significant order)

iTunes / iMatch

I love iMatch. My music library alone has over 27,000 songs in it, which is clearly impossible to keep on anything other than a Mac with a 250Gb drive, and certainly not on any iOS devices. Even my 160Gb iPod classic has already gone overdrawn (unless you listen to nothing but 3 minute pop songs the estimate of 40,000 songs in your pocket is a clear overestimate). But my  number one bug with iMatch is the way that play counts get screwed up everytime iMatch weaves its magic. Last played dates remain intact but play counts are re-zeroed. This seems to happen pretty much at random - I can't see any patterns. Sometimes 100 songs are affected, sometimes it's as many as 17,000. But many of my smartlists use play counts and I have to rely on Doug's Apple Scripts for iTunes to fix the problem to make these smart lists work properly. OK, it's not mission critical, but as a former programmer I can't believe this is anything more than a five minute fix.

Another issue I have with iTunes is that I'd like to see the same viewing options in the Home Sharing that I have in the dedicated library support, specifically regarding playlists. I think this is an omission rather than a bug, but I'd like to see my home share playlists as something more than a plain list.

Final iTunes gripe is the amount of time it takes to check the integrity of the iTunes library after a crash or improper exit. Please find a way to speed this up - it can take 10 minutes or so on a really large library, and I want to listen to my music now!

Mac App Store

I've documented the problem with the Mac App Store in a previous post, but this bug is still lurking and it would appear to be due to Apple linking the internal store data to the user's spotlight index. So, when the spotlight index gets corrupted, for whatever reason, the Mac App Store can't work out which apps are installed, which need updating or which new apps should be installed. If Apple used a separate index for the Mac App Store app rather than relying on spotlight I would expect this bug to disappear. Again, this situation can usually be resolved by rebuilding the spotlight index, but this can take hours, and the user shouldn't have to understand how this works in order to be able to update their apps.

Time Machine

There are a few issues that regularly occur with Time Machine backups but I'm guessing this is not an easy problem to fix. Nevertheless, I would argue that anything to do with backing up your system can be classed as mission critical and as such I would urge Apple to look closely at some of the more common problems. My two favourites ("?"!!) are "Time Machine Disk cannot be found" and "Sparse.bundle already in use".

In both cases, for me at least, rebooting the Time Capsule (or sometimes the modem/router) will almost always fix the problem, but takes down the system at the same time since the TC device is my wireless router.

Integrity of Time Machine backups is paramount and while the backup and restore system usually works perfectly, there are enough glitches for me not to have complete confidence that my systems are 100% safe without taking additional steps like regularly cloning disks.

Networking

There's a well reported issue with network access being lost when a Mac goes to sleep. Apparently Apple are aware of some significant problems in this space and the last couple of 10.8.x betas have asked developers to look out for changes in this area. It seems a shame that Apple have included the 'power nap' feature in Mountain Lion but many people can't take advantage of it since they have no network once the machine is asleep. Maybe this will be fixed in the forthcoming 10.8.5 release - fingers and ethernet cables crossed! At present I'm getting round the problem by using a 3rd party app called Sleepless but this comes with a potential overheating health warning (especially in this hot weather!).

AirPlay

I've also documented AirPlay problems on this blog in the past. AirPlay is one of those funny things - it either works or it doesn't, and if it doesn't, it just seems a matter of starting everything again. Some improved diagnostics would be really helpful (unlike Error -1500 …) if nothing else.

Safari

This is a relatively new issue that I've noticed where sometimes Safari just partially freezes. The menu works, scrolling works, selecting tabs works but noe of the controls on a page work. Buttons can't be pressed, input fields can't be filled. This only appears to be on certain sites - I have most problems with the Amazon login page. The only fix I have to date is to restart Safari.


As I've indicated, none of these problems is without a work around, and none are that critical (exception possibly being Time Machine). But they do cause interruptions, they force me to spend time fixing them when I could be doing something more productive - and overall they detract from the whole Apple OS X experience, where stuff just works!

Any specific bugs you'd like to see fixed before Mavericks? Drop me a note via the comments or @allygill on Twitter so we can compare notes.

Enjoy the summer!


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