Saturday, January 17, 2015

Everything isn’t broken, calm down.

The Apple world has been freaking out over how awful everything is since iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite came out, which while unsurprising, is terribly disappointing.

As someone who has lived and breathed everything Apple for the last twenty years of my life I would offer some sage advice from a prominent Mac geek; Douglas Adams:
Don’t Panic
I really should put that up in large friendly letters, and make it take up about ten pages worth of my site, but, well, that’s overkill.

Seriously though, don’t panic. Calm back down. This is nothing new. The Mac ecosystem has been like this forever. From the times before Steve Jobs came back after the acquisition of NeXT, during his triumphant return, and now after he’s gone it has always been like this. New OSes being buggy for months after launch is the norm. Macs with faulty logic boards not getting service extensions? Happening right now with the 2011 MacBook Pros and it happened in 1994 with the 68k LC and Performa units, to name some solid, concrete examples.

Every time Apple changes something we collectively freak out. For example, I stayed on OS 9.2.2 until 2004 when I got a G5 tower running OS X 10.3 Panther. Even then I continued to cling to Classic mode, refusing to give up my OS 9 Mac apps. I could regurgitate a whole slew of reasons why I kept using OS 9 until 2004, but at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter — I fiercely denied the changes Apple had made by releasing OS X until I was pulled into the new OS kicking and screaming.

And you know what? I adapted. I even grew to love OS X. I was in the 68k Mac Liberation Army back in the day, I was a die-hard classic Mac OS person, and I shifted to liking the new BSD Unix-backed world of OS X.

Every time a new version of iOS or Mac OS X comes out there are hiccups. There are issues. There are frustrating, terrible problems. As a quick refresher course, here are a couple issues that have popped up in the brave new world of Mac OS in the time after physical install media was curb checked.

Concrete example 1: When OS X 10.7 came out the built in ActiveDirectory plugin was hopelessly broken. To a home user this makes no difference. To a university or business this was a nightmare. Until 10.7.3 came out seven months later every time someone upgraded their Mac at the university I was attending and working at we had to downgrade them back to 10.6.8. Why? They couldn’t log into their computers anymore because the Mac couldn’t authenticate their passwords with the ActiveDirectory server. It took seven months for Apple to patch the built-in Active Directory plugin for Lion.

Concrete example 2: When OS X 10.9 came out there was a gaping security hole in SSL. It wasn’t patched until 10.9.2 was released four months later.

So, we’ve got two really nasty show stopper issues from earlier versions of OS X in the Mac App Store era. If we look at these in comparison to the issues with 10.10 and discoveryd, the current red-headed stepchild of Mac issues, which will be getting a good initial patch when 10.10.2 comes out shortly, we’ve got a couple take-aways:
  • Apple’s time to addressing issues is shrinking. It took 7 months during 10.7, 4 months for 10.9, and it is hovering at about 3 months to get 10.10 patched.°°°°
  • Compared to the severity of the previous issues discoveryd is far, far easier to work around. The issues discoveryd causes (lost network connection, [Hostname] (n+1) in Bonjour/Sharing) are annoying, but not show stopping. Cycling WiFi off and on or rebooting occasionally are pretty straightforward, easy to comply with steps for living on the bleeding edge.

As Apple/Mac folks there is a choice we have to make: live on the bleeding edge and take our lumps, or stay a step behind that edge where things are more stable. Some choose to slip further and further behind the bleeding edge (I see you, folks clinging to OS X 10.6.8) and the further down you slip the more a disservice you do to yourself.

Yes, the yearly upgrade cycle is brutal. Yes, it has brought us less stability in the newest releases of the OS. Here’s the thing: no one is twisting your arm and forcing you to install the latest, greatest, shiniest OSes.

So, in the spirit of Choose Your Own Adventure books, here are some options for all the other Mac/iOS/Apple folks out there:
  1. Accept that 10.10 has some issues, upgrade, and work around them.
  2. Wait until 10.10.2 or 10.10.3 comes out before you upgrade from 10.9 or earlier.
  3. Stick on 10.8 until it hits End of Life, then upgrade to 10.9 or 10.10.
  4. Cling to 10.6.8 and fall further behind and live in a terrible, unpatched world.

Personally I’ll stick to the bleeding edge. Even with all of the issues Yosemite is still more stable than classic Mac OS, even when I had delightful issues during the early phases of the developer beta. I’m living in the future! All of my devices can chat with each other and keep me constantly connected to the world around me — I can send instant messages to people and know exactly when they arrive on the other person’s device and are read, I can watch my data clone in real time from device to device to device — the list of future things goes and on and on and on. We’re at the place where the Knowledge Navigator (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mLqJNDWx-8) is practically a reality!

To reiterate, if you've made it this far: Don't panic. Things are how they've always been. There have always been bugs and glitches in Mac OS X in the early phase of each new version, and Yosemite is only in the hotseat worse than normal due to its larger potential install base over every previous iteration of Mac OS X.

Notes:
°°°° — timeframes based on initial public availability of the OS patches taken from Wikipedia pages for each respective version of Mac OS X.