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Apple's Core Rot

The trends are there for all to see.


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There's a rot at the core of Apple's OS X, says Lloyd Chambers of the MPG blog.

'Over the past few years a semiconscious unease has been steadily growing in my mind', writes Chambers. 'OS X is not getting more reliable and more stable, it is instead developing more and nastier problems that range from interference with getting work done to potential data loss.'

Chambers goes on.

'This unease is now consciously realised, hence my decision to publish this series of pages and to no longer ignore the eruption of a serious bug, but to document it.'

'The goal here is for Apple to step up to the plate and engage in responsible OS X development; some of these issues are absolutely unacceptable even in a single minor release, but to see them persist for months or years is unforgivable.'

Chambers is a professional software engineer going back 25 years.

'What I see happening with OS X is not pretty', he says.

Main Points

Chambers' main points are the following.

  • OS X becoming more and more an entertainment platform. Server and enterprise support all but gone.
  • Too many system updates of no real import, bugs in previous releases not fixed in an orderly fashion.
  • Core quality sacrificed for more 'i*' software and devices, leaving the professionals 'twisting in the wind'.
  • Threat of massive data loss caused by haphazard design and little or no rigorous testing.
  • Arbitrary (and unnecessary) API changes impact third party developers.
  • Complete removal of APIs in point releases.
  • Apple's control of the app stores leaves them as censoring dictators.
  • Slow upgrade of professional hardware, some product lines discontinued entirely.
  • A new breed of shallow features for beginners only - 'makeup over pimples'.
  • General dumbing-down or outright removal of application features.
  • General trend to introduce 'stupidly inappropriate' 'iOSisms' such as Mission Control.
  • Real work is harder because of all the so-called 'improvements' - 'ribbons and flyers and decorations and marching band'.
  • System upgrades are now 'ill-conceived dilettante eye candy features that reduce usability, clutter the user interface, and introduce scads of new bugs'. No true upgrades for at least the past two major releases.
  • Real talent in Cupertino taken from OS X to iOS, 'leaving incompetent and truly reckless programmers working on areas they have no business touching'.

One can't but concur.

Examples

Chambers points to a number of examples of the above, all evidently related to 10.8 Mountain Lion.

  • iTunes which he describes as a 'nightmarish kitchen sink design cluttered with dozens of tabs and modes and animations and clutter, all mixing highly variant purposes'
  • iCloud - an 'organisation-destroying bug-ridden unreliable disaster'
  • OS X Finder - damages the system, can't copy files reliably, can't do useful things it ought to do at all, hides key files, rife with bugs
  • iPhoto - arbitrary removal of keyboard shortcuts and similar made a slightly useful program into a useless toy
  • Aperture - so full of display bugs on dual-display systems as to be unusable
  • Time Machine - auto-excludes critical data from backup, silently
  • Disk Utility - under some conditions, destroys arbitrary numbers of volumes, no real upgrade for years, took two minor releases to fix RAID support
  • File system - continued use of HFS Plus instead of robust ZFS

'That's just for starters' writes Chambers. 'OS X Lion had its share of hairballs, many of which still exist.'

Not to look even further back of course.

One independent software contractor commented the following.

Nobody in their right mind would trust more than one disk drive to the engineers at Apple. They have no fucking idea what they're doing - and they pass up on excellent technology.

Example: ZFS support on OS X. Had it, then it went away. Then they decided to create their own CoreStorage - which has never been tested in any enterprise environment - and never will.

Meanwhile, ZFS (and btrfs on Linux) continues taking big chunks out of enterprise storage behemoths like NetApp.

A number of companies have been discussing their price point for Petabyte-class computing clusters - and they just want JBOD - shove as many disks as you can in the rack systems, install Linux, let Linux handle volume management.

Was going to make a joke about anyone ever thinking about buying Xserves - then I realised: they DON'T EVEN EXIST ANYMORE!

Once Upon a Time

Apple used to have very classy enterprise hardware. Very classy. Apple never learned how to sell to the enterprise and the few real attempts they made were marred by lack of organisation. Steve Jobs eschewed the enterprise market anyway.

Apple have been #1 in market cap in the world at one point, passing Exxon, and perhaps their business model with iPods, iPhones, and iPads - essentially abandoning 'computing' per se - works for them.

But that's certainly no excuse for putting out shoddy products, and as long as Apple continue to market them, they need to be of better quality.

The point Chambers is making, however, is that the overall trend at Apple - a trend not only he can discern - indicates a significant and someday irreversible deterioration in overall quality.

One need only remember the Tiger bug abandonment disaster, the massive data loss disasters, the recent 'revision system' disaster, the insistence by Steve Jobs that hiring more programmers even if you now have more markets never helped Bill Gates, and the recruitment by Scott Forstall of all the programmers he thought were best to the iOS groups, leaving only programmers who were not only inexperienced with Cocoa, but inexperienced with computer use itself.

Certainly this site has been testimony over the years to what's been really going on. The picture Chambers paints might have some people panicking, but that's only possible if they're as clueless as they seem to be.

Tim Cook and company need to finally grapple with the fact they're a professional software company and but a few cogs in the bigger wheel. Either that or cut the 'professional' software lines completely and leave the field open to Gates and the penguin.

Apple have proven capable of creating the most dazzling computer and computing device hardware imaginable. There's no reason and no excuse for their software to lag so shamelessly behind.

See Also
MPG: Apple Core Rot: Introduction

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