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What's Bertie Up To?

How well does Avie's replacement fill the shoes?

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For the longest time - since the release of Panther in October 2003 - people have been annoyed by the 'out of the blue' introduction into OS X of bad ideas and bad code. Is there a pattern to or a reason for this?

Avie Tevanian stepped 'up' at this time and long time associate Bertrand Serlet took over Avie's day to day job. Is there any connection?

Something's happened - and the quality of software production in Cupertino since then has turned to utter crap.

Tiger KPI

Apple began the transition to Leopard with Tiger. They rewrote their kernel programming interface. If that's what's needed that's fine. What's not fine is not completing the job. It's not fine to leave screen remnants all over the place. It's not fine to do such a crappy job potential switchers in Apple stores see this stuff on computer screens. Wake up! Nobody does that - not even Microsoft.

And yet year after year - Tiger's been out since 29 April 2005 - it just persists.

Leopard CPI

Leopard introduced a new concept. It didn't replace the wayward Tiger KPI - it layered itself over it.

The Leopard 'CPI' - the 'Confused Programming Interface™'.

Suddenly it's not only things not working as they're supposed to - suddenly it's things not supposed to work the same way anymore. And no one really understands how things are supposed to work or why. It's a mess.

The Latest

Pierre Igot of Betalogue has been looking at Leopard's Spotlight for some time and noticed a number of deep seated 'anomalies'. These are not mere bugs - they're a symptom of something far murkier going on.

'I am afraid there are situations where these problems can lead to destructive consequences', writes Igot.

This is about entries completely disappearing from search results, a new and unjustified limitation in collating search results, file names themselves changing at random, and so forth.

'Sometimes it's a Pages document that takes on the name of a PDF file. Sometimes it's a PDF file that takes on the name of an RTF file. Sometimes it's even a folder that takes on the name of a Pages file!'

When things like this happen Igot notices the system no longer treats folders as folders and the files in folders are no longer indexed by Spotlight. It's like an avalanche.

Needless to say when you have an upper level application fucking with the file system below - and doing such a bad job of it - you have a software engineering crisis on several levels. There's a lack of proper vetting in HR recruitment, there's a lack of sound thinking in the design of new interfaces - and there's incredibly crappy programming.

The software manager's ultimate nightmare.


Note Igot calls this more than an annoyance - he calls it destructive. Because - believe it or not - an upper level application with no formal permission to muck with the file system itself is not only taking those liberties but screwing up to the extent it's destroying user files to boot.

The only safe policy for Leopard users under the circumstances is to not use Spotlight at all.

[Don't mind fanboys saying they've never seen this happen - they're too stupid to notice anyway.]

And Igot's prognosis isn't encouraging. Obviously he's acquainted with how bug hunting works in the increasingly chaotic world of Apple software.

'I might have to endure it for months or even years.'

Keep Digging

But the rabbit hole goes yet deeper.

'What I strongly suspect however is that this random renaming bug is related to another obvious (100% reproducible) flaw - file and folder names in a search results window are actually editable!'

This most likely is a stupid simple blooper no one wants to bother fixing. Table view cells are editable by default. When built through Interface Builder you have to turn this capability off specifically; when you're creating table views on the fly (through code) you have to do the same thing.

-(void)[(NSTableColumn *) setEditable:(BOOL)flag];

'I strongly suspect the fact item names are editable in a Spotlight search results window has something to do with the random renaming bug because the list view in general in OS X has a long history of being buggy and handling editable name mode in a non-standard and unpredictable fashion.'

Of course when you insist on breaking all the rules just to appease a few stupid Maccies you deserve to pay the consequencess - but your users don't. Finder - that most inexcusably abysmal of all programs running on open source foundations - has never and will never work right.

But when that abhorred mentality starts to become pervasive in the system as a whole it's time to locate the Cupertino grid circuit breaker.

There's More Always More

Igot's done a good job of digging. Apple should hire him on. He seems to both use and understand their products better than they do. He's also happened upon an 'anomaly' that's nigh on unbelievable: the sudden 'ability' of Leopard to allow editing of text fields when their windows are in the background.

Text fields like windows or controls anywhere are supposed to be sensitive to parent window deactivation. They're windows of their own in a way and they're supposed to respond to a change of activation by ending their editing. Try it on any platform but Leopard. Try it on Windows! Or GNOME! Or KDE! Or Solaris! Or any release of OS X prior to Leopard. It doesn't work because of course it's not supposed to work.

Again as stated so many times here before: it's one thing to have a scratchy system under development that needs more work but it's quite another to take a system that's worked admirably for years and then apply a litter of nitwits to the code and ruin it.

Stand aside Microsoft, Sun, IBM: for that takes REAL talent.

Back to You Bertie!

So it's inevitably inexorably axiomatically incontrovertibly indubitably ineluctably inescapably back to Bertie. He's been running things since Avie started moving out of there back in October 2003. Maybe it's a coincidence and maybe it's not.

But either way it's Bertie in charge of things today - and that makes the current mess his responsibility and no one else's.

'I have reported all this to Apple albeit without the 100% reproducible scenario they would need and they have responded to the bug report about random renaming a few times by asking me whether it is fixed in 10.5.1 and 10.5.2, probably hoping something else they had fixed in the newer version might have fixed that problem too. Unfortunately it has not been fixed. It's still there. And I honestly have no idea how many files on my hard drives might already have been affected without my noticing the fatal file name changes. It worries me quite a bit.'

See Also
Hotspots: A Litter of Nitwits
Betalogue: Finder - Another problem in List View
Betalogue: Finder - Can't drag item if name is editable (list view)
Betalogue: Finder - Edit commands don't work properly when editing file names in list view
Betalogue: OS X 10.5 Leopard - Double-click on icon still does not work when name is editable in list view
Betalogue: Spotlight in OS X 10.5 Leopard - Major bugs in search results window
Betalogue: Spotlight in OS X 10.5 Leopard - Further evidence of buggy behaviour in search results window
Betalogue: Spotlight in OS X 10.5 Leopard - Double-click on already selected result makes its name editable

Avie! Come home! All is forgiven!
 - Steve

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