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Hosing OS X with Apple's Idea of 'Expected Behaviour'

Thanks to Apple's 'user experience engineers', a fully up to date Apple OS can be destroyed.

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Following a number of alarming reports at MacInTouch and Mac OS X Hints Rixstep published a study of - and comments on - the issues on 20 December 2006. Rixstep and a number of other ISVs also submitted bug reports to Apple.

Apple responded with the following.

Engineering has determined that this issue behaves as intended based on the following information:

When the Save panel asks if you want to replace a file or folder of the same name, and the Replace button is clicked, expected behavior is received.

Note the cute turn of phrase: 'file or folder'. Apple don't really care what they're overwriting. But as demonstrated here, others seemingly do. And so do the KDE people. Note the alert not only broadcasts the error in the title bar but completely disallows the overwrite.

So - once again - how does 'expected behaviour' work according to the superior minds at Apple? Why not set up a test account on a fully updated machine to see? The following was performed on a pristine fully up to date Apple computer with OS X 10.4.8 and using TextEdit 1.4.

1. Set up a new account you don't mind hosing.

In this case the appropriate username 'luser' is chosen.

2. Create a TextEdit document.

The contents aren't important - how it's going to be saved is.

3. Save the TextEdit document.

The document is to be saved as 'Library' with no extension.

4. Respond appropriately to the 'are you sure' alert.

Note the use of 'file or folder' in the alert message. Apple don't bother figuring out which it is - and presume you don't really care either. Haha. Note as well that the 'replace' button is not only enabled, it's default: one slip of the mouse and you're toast.


Use your trusty Finder to find out. Yes, there's still a 'Library' there but what is it? It doesn't look like a folder anymore, does it? Oh goodness what have you done?

6. Compare with your 'rock solid foundation' just to be really really sure.

Below are the listings before and after Apple advised you how to save your file. Note the file mode for 'Library' has changed from 'drwx------' to '-rwx------': it's no longer a folder. You just hosed your system, dude! You're toast!

Summing up.

  • Unix won't allow this nonsense.
  • Classic 'MacOS' won't allow it either.
  • MS Office for OS X won't allow it either.
  • Standard Linux GUIs won't allow it either.
  • Heck most likely even Windows won't allow it!
  • No one allows it - except... And they haven't always allowed it either.
  • But Apple do allow it today and further claim it's 'expected behaviour'.
  • Allowing files to overwrite folders is not, has never been, and will never be 'expected behaviour'.
  • But Apple's response to this issue and to user concerns in general is very much 'expected behaviour'.

Thanks to Bruner, Nick, and all the rest at the forum for sweating the details.

See Also
Learning Curve: 4893378 FAQ
Learning Curve: 4893378: 'Expected Behaviour'
Learning Curve: Rebel Scum: More Attacks on 'Expected Behaviour'

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