Tuesday, June 12, 2018

File Radars Early and Often

Rene Ritchie (tweet):

Soon enough, the priority will begin and end with showstoppers that prevent software from shipping. At that point, the glitches, no matter how maddening, will get deferred. It’s simple project management. Apple has to fix the bugs that can’t be worked around before fixing the bugs that can. And they have to fix the bugs that affect a lot of people before fixing the bugs that affect relatively few.

Right now, though, right when the first betas hit, there’s some breathing room. And that’s where radar comes in. If someone at Apple wants to get a bug fixed, they need a radar to point to. If they want to get a bug fixed as a matter of priority, they need a lot of radars to point to. Otherwise, they simply won’t be given the time to do it.

James O’Leary:

After 11 years, I finally read an Apple engineer give an unofficial deadline to file bugs - they said by beta 3.

Marco Arment:

On one hand, this is true and pragmatic.

On the other hand, it’s stupid that the richest tech company in the world can only fix our reported bugs quickly (and seems to only pay attention to them) during a brief window once a year.

Daniel Jalkut:

To make a difference you need to file bugs often and file them well. I’ve had bugs ignored, duped, fixed, and fixed with honors ;)

There’s a toxic meme in iOS and Mac community that bug filing is pointless. It’s fed by misinterpreting Apple’s challenge in replying.

Corbin Dunn:

I second this! All bugs are looked at; sometimes the screening process is slow or gets stuck on one person, or in the wrong queue. Having an existing bug rack up duplicate reports will help increase its priority.

19 Comments RSS · Twitter

I don't buy this at all. I gave up filing bugs after the last go-around where I found a major bug, and Apple escalated it, putting me in touch with someone from "Executive Relations" or something to that effect. They reproduced the bug, agreed that it should have been fixed long ago, and then DIDN'T FIX IT. I have emailed the appropriate VPs (Acero and Federighi), who responded with generic responses like "Thank you, I have looked into this and sent it to the proper team to deal with it." -- then it still didn't get fixed! This is a bug that has existed from iOS 8 (it was fine in iOS 7) all the way through to the current 11.4, across at least an iPhone 5S, 6S Plus, iPad Air 2, and iPhone 8 Plus. I run across it several times a week. It's super obvious, so I'm sure dozens of people at Apple in the software development department have personally run into it on their own phones... yet after close to 4 years... no fix.

What is it?

Easy. When you use Siri to create a reminder, and she doesn't understand you properly, and you edit the input (either via the keyboard, or, picking another option from the list when she presents to you the "Maybe you said..." choices)... basically this is telling Siri "No, that's not the reminder I want... but here's the correction" ... she totally IGNORES the correction, and creates the erroneous Reminder in addition to the corrected version.

What's the point of providing an interface to correct Siri's interpretation of your input, if the system is just going to create the wrong reminder anyway?

For example: "Remind me at 10am to call Kerry"

Siri: "10am: Call Carrie"

Me: (corrects Carrie to Kerry, either by typing it, or sometimes Carrie will be underlined in blue, and give me the pop-up option to select Kerry.)

Siri: "10am: Call Kerry"

Me: opens Reminders app. Sees two reminders for 10am, Call Carrie and Call Kerry. WHY?!?!?

It's not just with names in my Contacts. It can be anything -- in ALL cases, no matter how you do it (direct text manipulation, or picking from Siri's list of alternate possibilities)... it always saves the incorrect reminder. This is MADDENING, especially for creating Reminders about things that Siri doesn't understand, like technical jargon, or god forbid, using a foreign word mixed with English, or the name of a place, etc. Just try creating a reminder using the word "permaculture".

This bug is 100% reproducible, and happens to me at least a few times a week. I really don't understand how such an obvious and frequent bug could persist for so long.

Like, don't the people who put the error correction (such as the "Maybe you said..." pick lists) in Siri actually check to see that if you correct a Reminder, it discards the initial incorrect interpretation?

That should be like, STEP 1...

So yeah, after chasing this bug, and spending hours on the phone (or exchanging emails) with Apple, for over 3 years... on something that is so obvious... I give up and I will never ever waste my time filing a bug report ever again. Their system is too opaque and disrespects the time it takes to file a bug report, because they never really get back to you, and most bugs are "MARKED AS DUPLICATE" anyway, with no further info, such as giving you the ability to view the original bug report that they think yours is a duplicate of. It's such a shitty system.

(and yes, this bug is STILL in iOS 12 beta 1)

Martin Marconcini

I also don’t buy this.
Apple is the richest (or one of the) richest companies in the world. They manage a limited amount of products, especially on the software side. The almost invented the language and have control over the compiler and the entire toolchain (give or take); yet some of their “softwares” are buggy, poorly maintained, and their communication is often vague about it.

Even Google is doing a much better job at issuetracker.google.com.

This is a multi-billion company; it should start acting like a good one. Sometimes Apple looks like CapitalOne.

I agree. Anytime I have found an issue on Google Maps, it has been fixed within a few days. Can't say the same for Apple. How many years are we on Apple Maps now? And they still don't have transit directions except for very big cities? What does the maps team do all day? I haven't come across a city that has transit that Google Maps doesn't support in over 5 years. Every city with a bus or rail system has transit in Google Maps. Why, after all these years, is Apple Maps not on par?

I love my Mac and my iPhone, but Apple's first party apps SUCK for the most part. They have a habit of making them "good enough" (but not great) to kill off the competition, and then they let them linger for years. Or in the case of some apps, they release updates that REMOVE tons of features (see iMovie, Pages...).

Remember how big of a deal Garageband was when it came out? When was the last time that it was substantially updated? Why were the Music Lessons abandoned? Those were hyped so much back in 2009 and then never updated.

When Apple spends so much time focused on Memojis instead of substantial improvements, I am starting to lose my patience... turning my face into a cartoon is the least of my needs. They are starting to pander to the lowest common denominator more than ever, while letting many many serious bugs go unfixed, and their own apps not updated in years (or at best, once a year with a new iOS/macOS).

"They have a habit of making them "good enough" (but not great) to kill off the competition, and then they let them linger for years. Or in the case of some apps"

Isn't this directly from the Microsoft Book? Lately, they also took the idea of announcing a product and never release it or only some years later.

Playing devil's advocate here, but... hiring engineers capable of fixing bugs in a complex product written in somewhat esoteric languages (e.g. Mac OS X) isn't just a matter of money. The fact that working at Apple isn't exactly something most engineers dream of probably doesn't help.

Having said that, the results Apple is currently getting are not acceptable, so they need to try to figure out a solution, even if it's hard to do so.

My article from 2016 "Writing good bug reports" was widely shared by developers and Apple employees and is still as accurate as ever: https://pspdfkit.com/blog/2016/writing-good-bug-reports/

Here's a sadly hilarious bug that IMHO is typical of Apple:

1) Make a video on your iPhone

2) Transfer the video to your Mac using Photos or Image Capture.

3) Right click on the video and select "Open with..." and choose iMovie

4) iMovie will throw an error "The document [your movie] could not be opened. iMovie cannot open files in the Apple MPEG-4 movie format"

WTF?!? How does this bug make it into shipped software whose sole purpose is to EDIT MOVIES TAKEN WITH YOUR iPHONE?

I reported this on March 9, 2016. Not fixed. Apple never even responded to the bug report. Zilch! Nada! Even after I followed up 2 weeks later and asked for further comment. Still nothing.

And people are saying this company cares about bugs? This is about as egregious as it gets.

Ben G,
Can you directly open the file in iMovie? As in launch iMovie, then open the file as a new project? Or it doesn't work at all? Thank you!

The movie file does open in iMovie, just not by right clicking and doing "Open with..." nor by dragging the movie onto the iMovie app in the Dock.

Why not? This is so un-Mac-like behavior.

You either have to drag the movie file onto the iMovie window, or go to File>Import Media. There is no File>Open.

Weird. Thanks for the follow up. That's a strange one.

Has anyone else seen the "Siri creates duplicate reminders if you correct the input" bug that I described above? It's so egregious.

@Ben Yep, it happens for me every time.

Ben Kennedy

@Ben G: Yep; that's been irritating me for years. Like you I've been bemused and disappointed that Apple hasn't bothered to address it.

I put up with it until last December when I finally filed a bug (36050972).

It was of course closed as a duplicate (34194044).

Mine is 25890021 which was marked as a duplicate of 22066072 -- I'm curious why it says your report of the same bug is a dupe of 34194044... shouldn't they "dupe" it from the very first report of the bug? (which I guess might not even be 22066072... who knows).

My favorite reply (eye roll) is when Apple says the issue is "under investigation" and "We will do our best to keep you informed as new information becomes available." yet they have NEVER EVER updated a bug report with any details on their end whatsoever... not even a confirmation of "we have verified that this bug exists and are actively working to fix it". Bug Reporter is nothing but a black hole. I don't even bother anymore. It's a shame that they have such a horrible system for reporting bugs, with virtually 100% of the info coming from users/developers and ZERO info returned from Apple, even though we are helping them for FREE. With Apple software becoming more buggy every year, they need to focus on having a better way to resolve them. I've run across more end-user bugs in Apple's software in the past 5 years than I have in the previous 20.

I would consider filing radars if Apple were still an underdog, strapped for resources and trying to disrupt established tech giants with superior software.

But today, filing a radar for Apple means you're providing free labor to one of the richest corporations on earth. Apple has hundreds of billions of dollars at its disposal, but it wants to rely on me — someone with negative net worth — to be a free part-time QA engineer? No, I'm not helping perpetuate that inequity.

@Lukas "hiring engineers capable of fixing bugs in a complex product written in somewhat esoteric languages (e.g. Mac OS X) isn't just a matter of money."

You're right in that there currently isn't a giant pool of Objective-C developers ready and willing to QA Apple software, but this speaks to the modern-day issue of companies refusing to provide training for employees. If Apple cared about software quality, then then could easily allocate a tiny fraction of their stock buyback program to train QA engineers from the ground up. Basic math, quantitative reasoning, all the way up through design and computer science.

Apple has the money to provide this education and training for a lot of people. $20,000 worth of annual training per student would let you train 50,000 people for $1 billion per year. Once they become QA engineers with $80,000 salaries, that's $5 billion per year (added 25% extra for managers). A drop in the bucket for Apple's finances, and not to mention making a big, positive economic difference in the lives of over 50,000 people.

"The fact that working at Apple isn't exactly something most engineers dream of probably doesn't help."

This is Apple's problem, not mine, and I'm not going to help them keep their head in the sand about it by providing them with free labor.

The same day I posted my most recent comment above (18 June), I also updated my bug 36050972 to include the URL of this discussion.

Today (28 June), it was updated with a boilerplate response: “Thank you for contacting us. It has not been determined how or when the issue will be resolved. The original report on this issue, Bug ID 34194044, is still under investigation. We will notify you when it is closed.”

I really don't understand, with Apple being the richest company in the world with a huge cash reserve, why can't they dedicate people to fixing EVERY bug? For significant, common bugs to go unfixed for years is inexcusable. Are there really people on the other end of our bug reports who are sitting there like "Yep, that's a bug!" and then they just never decide to fix it? I could MAYBE understand if they somehow "need" to wait until a major OS revision (e.g. 12.0 instead of 11.4.1), but going from iOS 8 to iOS 12 without fixing some of this stuff is just insane.

E-mail from Apple last night that no doubt everyone received:

Dear Developer,

As part of our commitment to privacy, we’ll soon be removing developer data from certain bug reports starting late fall of 2018.

• Data will be removed from inactive bugs.
Bugs that have been closed for at least five years, have not been updated for 60 days, and are not a duplicate of another bug will have developer data removed. Developer-originated sysdiagnoses and related attachments will be deleted, and any reference to the bug originator will be redacted. In addition, these bugs will no longer display in Bug Reporter.

• Duplicate bugs will remain available for a limited time.
If a bug is marked as a duplicate, developer data will be removed once the original bug has been closed for five years and has not been updated for 60 days. Until then, you can continue to follow the state of the original bug until it’s closed, and engineering can still reach out to you until the bug is resolved.

Well, I guess it's time to finally bid goodbye to my oldest still-open bug (3158027, from January 2003, regarding an NSDrawer delegate method).

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