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  • The Tiger Report: Your Problem or Mine?

    June 4th, 2005

    I’m sometimes amused when I read a story that (you fill in the name of the company) should fix a problem with a product because of one or more irritating problems. Why should I be amused at someone else’s grief? Well, in many cases, the problem is specific to the person making the complaint, or maybe a handful of people. In fact the problem may not be one for the company to fix.

    While I seldom criticize other writers in public, I’m going to use one specific article strictly as a typical example of the “my problem is really your problem” syndrome. Please don’t take this as a personal attack. It’s just a sample case history.

    The article in question comes an author whose name, because of his strangely immature attitude towards legitimate criticism, is omitted. However, he says he’s really frustrated over some problems he’s encountered with Tiger. In reading his demands that Apple must fix the things “that are somewhat askew,” I find it raises questions that may be better solved by some careful troubleshooting, rather than playing the blame game. Now I’m not even going to suggest for a moment that Tiger is free of maladies of one sort or another, but when you complain about something in an article intended for public distribution, it helps to check your facts first.

    The article in question mentions several specific problems that the author labels as “many bugs.” Let’s look at the specifics:

    Dashboard is a memory hog! Actually Dashboard consists of a collection of mini applications or widgets, each of which accesses a chunk of system memory when running. You close all those widgets, then should be no concern about memory use. It’s also possible that a specific widget, due to a bug of one sort or another, is hogging memory or has a memory leak, where RAM usage keeps climbing. Is this a bug for Apple to fix? The writer in question wants to be able to turn Dashboard off, which is an absurd request, for obvious reasons. If your Mac is suddenly beginning to slow down, you can use Activity Viewer (in the Utilities folder) to check which applications might be memory and/or CPU hogs. That’s a crucial step in finding out what’s wrong. I don’t know if this particular writer, who considers himself a Mac guru, did that, since it’s not mentioned in the article.

    Why can’t Spotlight be disabled? It seems that when the writer connected a digital camera to a PowerBook on which Tiger was installed, the computer “came to a screeching halt” when Spotlight attempted to index the files on the camera’s flash card. So what really came to a “screeching halt”? Was it the computer, the Finder or what? And how long could it possibly take Spotlight to index a few dozen photos or even a few hundred photos? If this is an issue that concerns you, and it’s not one I’ve encountered so far, you can use Tiger Cache Cleaner to disable Spotlight. But, as I said, I’ve not seen this as an issue beyond this lone complaint, though I suppose Spotlight’s indexing process may be far more noticeable on a slower Mac.

    Safari RSS doesn’t work consistently! The problem, that Safari can’t load feeds with large numbers of new files. The writer says he is forced to quit and relaunch Safari, reboot his Mac or dump Safari’s preferences. This sounds to me like a problem specific to his computer, not to the rest of the world. And that seems to be the hallmark of most of the complaints he said Apple ought to fix in its next Tiger update.

    Restore iChat’s file and image transfer feature: I presume he’s telling us that the ability to transfer files is grayed out. Usually, that symptom is caused by the presence of a firewall. Apple’s support area has some Knowledge Base documents on the subject, instructing you as to which ports you must open to allow the feature to work. By the way, in contacting other iChat users, I still retain the ability to send files, and they do as well.

    Why does iPhoto crash every third time it’s launched? Is this a known problem with iPhoto? Not at all. In fact, no version of iPhoto has ever crashed for me, ever, and I don’t see widespread reports of a problem of this sort, although more recent versions of the application may have a problem when you try to rotate a photo. In this particular writer’s case, maybe it’s a corrupted preference file or a damaged photo database file. It’s hard to tell, since he doesn’t even mention which version of iPhoto he’s using. This seems to call for a little troubleshooting, not a blanket demand that Apple fix the problem. Besides, iPhoto is not a part of Tiger; it’s a part of Apple’s iLife suite. Maybe the author in question didn’t notice.

    He says Apple is ignoring Tiger’s problems publicly, but if you examine the support documents at Apple’s support site, you will find that many problems are not only acknowledged, but there are suggested solutions. This doesn’t mean there aren’t other irritants that need to be addressed. Tiger is still young in the scheme of things, and the number of bugs may be conservatively measured in the hundreds. But most are not severe and may not be encountered all that often. Considering the frequency of Mac OS X updates, it’s also clear that Apple takes real problems very seriously and tries its best to solve them.

    Unfortunately, when you write an article complaining about a problem without verifying that it exists outside of your tiny corner of the world, you are harming, not helping the situation. We have enough real problems to deal with as it is.

    Update: Without a heads-up, the author of the article in question wrote several responses concealed in a personal blog. Rather than address the issues, his comments were laced with personal attacks, which is why I am not going to provide a link. I always welcome constructive criticism, but clearly the author in question regards contrary opinions as an affront to his ego. It is sad, truly sad. And, for now, that’s all I have to say on the subject.

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