Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Computers Are Magical; Computers Are Awful

Nick Heer:

I was reminded of Nikita Prokopov’s classic post today — “People Expect Technology to Suck Because It Actually Sucks” — in much the same way I think of it many days but, and especially, today. These are all things which happened today from when I woke up[…]


None of the problems above are life-changing, but this list is representative of the kinds of hiccups I experience more-or-less daily. It could be a different mix of things with less or more impact than those above, but these problems often require I spend time trying to diagnose and fix them. Sometimes I can; sometimes, as with the Adobe Audition problem, the tools just suck and I have no recourse.


It is amazing what I do every day with the computer on my desk, the one on my lap, and the one in my pocket. But I wish they did everything more reliably, predictably, and consistently. I am prepared to fix things sometimes. I do not understand why I am tending to these things daily like they are made in a shed instead of by some of the world’s most valuable corporations. We, the users, deserve better than this.

I used to run into no recurring daily issues with my Macs, but the last several releases it’s been the same bugs almost every day, with Finder and external storage particularly bad.

On the day I read this post, I temporarily missed an iMessage that my mother sent from the hospital. For some reason, it was only received by my iPhone, which was in a dock with the screen off. Days later, it never arrived on any of my Macs or my iPad, even though I have Messages in iCloud enabled, and even though I toggled that as well as iMessage on my various devices to try to force a sync.

Later that day, I tried to update one of my Macs to macOS 14.1.1. The partition had 80 GB reported as free before the update, but the update failed due to lack of free space. I thought that meant that it just failed to prepare (as it often does) but hadn’t actually made any changes. Instead, when I restarted the Mac, it looked as though it was starting to apply the update, then failed and left the Mac in an unbootable state. I rebooted in Recovery but then remembered that Apple had removed the feature to roll back to a snapshot from before a system update. I ended up booting from another partition, making a Super Duper clone, erasing the container, reinstalling macOS, migrating from the clone, reauthorizing everything, and then installing the update again (which again failed several times to prepare).

Juli Clover:

Apple briefly paused work on upcoming iOS 18, macOS 15, watchOS 11, and tvOS 18 updates last week in order to make a serious effort to address bugs in the future iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV and Mac releases, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.


Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi has been making an effort in recent years to ensure that software bugs are addressed, sometimes resulting in features that need to be delayed. Sources that spoke to Gurman said that with the upcoming software updates, the software engineering management team working under Federighi found too many bugs that were missed in internal testing, leading to a week-long sprint to address the issues.

I can’t say that I’ve noticed this effort, except perhaps that there are fewer new bugs. The overall count of issues that I run into seems to be increasing, not decreasing. I think they need a couple of years, not a week.


11 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

> I think they need a couple of years, not a week.

Amen. My thought exactly.

A week is not a serious effort. It’s absurd that anybody would make that claim.

Beatrix Willius

The problem with macOS is that bugs are not fixed in a timely manner. Emptying the trash still does not work. I first reported the bug in summer 2022. There is no feedback at all to Feedback cases except "works as designed". Thank you very much. I still get a reminder for emails where I haven't used the reminder function in Mail every week or so.

2 months ago I reported a security problem. It took a friend a couple of minutes to reproduce the problem. So far I made 3 videos and some simple example code. The last question of the security team was to ask for code. When I reported the bug I didn't expect much. But so far my experience has been incredibly stupid.

Here is my top six of annoying bugs I encounter regularly:

- Every couple of days, all files on my desktop disappear, the only remedy is to force restart finder. I had to teach this "trick" to my mother, because it happens on her Mac too.
- Every two or three weeks the Bluetooth stack will completely die after waking from standby. The only solution is to restart. Pretty annoying to do, because my (magic) keyboard and mouse won't work without Bluetooth, obviously. At least the keyboard is recognized when I hook it up with a lightning to USB cable. I keep a cheap Logitech USB mouse close to my iMac just to initiate the restart using the menu.
- I also have problems with the delivery of iMessages. Occasionally they won't arrive on my Mac at all. Last time this happened was yesterday.
- I have a UPS hooked up to my iMac. It has a USB connection so that the UPS can signal to the Mac that it's running on battery and then macOS should orderly shut down the Mac. This should "just work" without installing additional software. Unfortunately with the UPS hooked up, every couple of days my iMac would not wake up from sleep at all. It crashes sometime during the night and I can't turn it on the next day. I'm now running it without the USB-connection.
- Mail bug when moving messages is still not fixed in Sonoma, apparently. Luckily you can work around it when you know how the bug is triggered.
- Imports of Photos from my iPhone using a cable connection will occasionally import duplicates and create a mess in my Library. I had this issue for years.

So to sum it up, I agree. They should probably skip one major macOS version just to fix bugs in macOS.

Another one that is super annoying. My M1 MacBook Air's Wi-Fi has latency issues. You won't notice it when browsing or when downloading stuff. But when I use the terminal to connect to my servers through SSH (on the same network) every key press has a subtle but noticeable lag. I tried to research this and there seems to be a problem with the awdl interface which is used by Apple for services like Airplay and such.

That's what happens when you keep adding complexity on top of complexity. Less is more. Something Apple seems to have learned in hardware (Arm is simpler than x86) but not software (oh, you can just fix it later...).

The fact they say their testing team does not find bugs, and that they make a fuss that features had to be delayed by a whole (!) week, suggests me that their incentive structure does not privilege bug fixes. So, although I agree they probably need a couple of years to fix all this, I doubt they will take them. It sounds like a change of culture at the top levels (Hair Force One and above) is needed first.

Dan, it sounds like you need one of the fabled Control-Alt-Delete keyboards! ( https://stevenharman.net/assets/images/posts/ctrl-alt-del.gif )

> Dan, it sounds like you need one of the fabled Control-Alt-Delete keyboards! ( https://stevenharman.net/assets/images/posts/ctrl-alt-del.gif )

Haha, yes. Or even better, a special keyboard with dedicated Restart and Shutdown buttons.

There are keyborad shortcuts to trigger the appropriate menus. But I can never remember what they are when I need them. It's easier to quickly connect the USB mouse.

>I think they need a couple of years, not a week.

The "a week" part seems like Gurman-style embellishing of a story, where he knows a few tidbits and tries to weave a thread through them that's really just his own guessing.

A week wouldn't even be enough to do proper triage.

> I used to run into no recurring daily issues with my Macs

When was that? (I started really using a Mac with Big Sur. Switching to Linux now.)

@Alexandre macOS 10.13 (High Sierra) was probably the recent high point.

If we're listing the most recent "good" updates, I kind of think that there's very little that has changed since 10.8 that has made my life better. I'm sure I'm not thinking of something obvious, but it really feels that since then, every update has removed features that I used, and didn't really add things that I wanted...

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