The Tiger Report: They Have Problems, But I Don’t!

December 5th, 2006

You know, I don’t want to say that I’m particularly unique in any way. At the same time, I have to wonder why Mac troubleshooting sites are filled with reports of problems with various and sundry Apple products, both software and hardware, yet I don’t have any of these problems. Not one!

It’s not that I am doing anything special in maintaining my systems. I just turn them on, or awake them from sleep mode, and do my thing. On a rare occasion, there’s an application crash, but they’re aren’t terribly frequent. But everything else seems to work as advertised, and I seldom run into any performance issues unless I’m handling a beta product, in which case all bets are off.

But I’m very troubled whenever I read the pages of MacFixIt and find message after message that something went wrong with the very thing that worked properly for me.

Now some with a fatalistic approach to such matters will say that, by opening this very door, I might be subjecting myself to abuse from my desktop and note-book Macs. Maybe I should keep my big mouth shut and let sleeping dogs lie.

However, that’s not me. I must question and question again what I’m doing right and what others might be doing wrong. But I don’t think there are too many mysteries to solve. It’s not like my paranormal radio show, The Paracast, which thrives on exploring the unknown and that which science has damned. The problem, as I see it, is that there are, first and foremost, thousands upon thousands of possible combinations of Mac hardware, software and peripherals. A driver conflict, a malformed kernel extension, a damaged preference file, and lots of other stuff can combine to make things behave badly.

Even if everything is done properly, a peculiar combination of circumstances might combine to cause troubles for a small group of people. Those people, of course, will tend to be more vocal about such issues, which is understandable. Further, if the problems are repeated and reasonably consistent among all those who write about them, a responsible site such as MacFixIt will devote a reasonable amount of attention to finding out what’s going wrong.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t Apple defects that don’t require peculiar circumstances. When folks said their MacBooks suffered from sudden shutdowns, it wasn’t their imagination, a coincidence, or a sign of abuse. After replacing logic boards and heat sinks, Apple adjusted the way the cooling fans function, and voila! No more problems; well, for most of those who encountered them at any rate. There are, alas, always exceptions.

Certainly, the first releases of Mac OS X Tiger had their share of defects, most of which affected people who do cross-platform networking, or connect to an office system via VPN. It doesn’t matter who was responsible. Third parties say Apple changed the rules, pulling the carpet from under them. Regardless, it seems most of those problems were fixed. But my particular cross-platform excursions didn’t require heavy lifting of network resources on an extended basis, and I am sure most of you readers were in the same boat. So we weren’t affected.

It may also be that I have the wrong printer, the wrong external drive, or some such device, and thus find myself largely immune to some of the issues.

Moreover, I’m extremely cautious about installing system add-ons, things that put stuff in the menu bar, modify the Apple menu and so forth and so on. I don’t have anything against them, mind you, but I am not enamored of distractions. I suppose this attitude dates back to the early 1990s, when I installed a system alteration utility, known as ClickChange, which modified cursors, system sounds and just about every element of the Mac experience of that era. It could also be horrendously buggy if you went too far, as I did at work. Soon I was restarting my Mac constantly, and that didn’t stop until I removed the thing.

That being said, I suppose I could complain about the time that I couldn’t get file sharing to work between a PowerMac and a PowerBook. After going through all the usual diagnostics, I just sat back, did a clean system install on both, and everything returned to normal.

I am curious, however, if you readers can offer me some exceptions to ponder.

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11 Responses to “The Tiger Report: They Have Problems, But I Don’t!”

  1. Enrique Mayoral says:

    I sell many Apples every week. An unfortunate side effect of selling Macs is supporting Macs. I do want to clarify my statement. As a sales person, I am paid on how many units I sell, not on how many units I support. The store that I am in, doesn’t have many knowledgeable mac users (Although it seems to be rapidly changing! A welcome change for that matter!) so i am left with selling and supporting Mac products. In my experience, about 80% of the problems I encounter are user errors. Most of these people disregard their problems as a “bug” or “defect” or some odd quirk that they have to adjust to as they get used to a new OS. The “bugs” that most people evaluate are compared to their Windows Experience. They find it enfuriating when in Safari the back and forward buttons are missing and didn’t realize they removed it themselves when they were playing around. These are the same problems I generally see online as complaints or “bugs” that should be fixed. The other 20% I see have genuine problems and need a tech to fix their problem be it software or hardware.

    I don’t know if my random directed explenation helped but this is what i encounter. Granted, I am most likely not encountering a fair sample of the population of all mac users but I feel fairly confident that other retailers are encountering similar statistics.

    On a final side note, I love all the articles from Mac night owl. I read them as soon as they come out. Thank you for your opinions! It’s good to see people voicing their independant thoughts asside form Microsoft’s… well, you know.

  2. Dave says:

    I’ve always felt that may of the problems articulated in MacFixit, MacIntouch etc are from users with NS (non-standard) equipment and or setups and is the reason most of us doing “normal” things like email, surfing, a little word processing, Quicken use etc are not affected. (Obviously the occasional Apple hardware/software gaffe does occur.)
    While it would probably be impossible to have “standards” maybe these trouble reporters should indicate their setup/usage is NS e.g. they move applications out of the Apple apps folder, they have a phaser 2 supersonic graphics card installed, they are still trying to use their scsi drives, they don’t like where Apple puts fonts, etc.
    I could go on but you get my point which is why, although I do check the above sites, I do not have the problems hysterically (at times) reported there.
    The bottom line is, that for most of us, “it justs works.”

  3. Andrew says:

    Until your MacBook shut down.

  4. Dave Barnes says:

    The best analogy that I have seen is the one comparing “problem discussion groups” to “hospital emergency rooms”. If you spend a weekend at your local emergency room, you will conclude that a significant portion of the population has been stabbed or shot and that everyone is poor.

    Our family has purchased eight Macs. Problems? Yes. Significant? Depends upon you point of view.
    1. iBook had a disk drive die. I had not purchased AppleCare so it was an expensive visit to the “doctor” for our daughter who was away at university.
    2. iMac with a slight defect in the screen. Apple replaced the LCD in 2 days. (ProCare is great when your computer is your business.)
    3. Power Mac (1.8GHz single processor) with a nasty firmware problem. Took Apple 6 months to figure out a fix. I haunted the discussion boards daily.

    But, if you came to me on the street and asked: “Do you have problems with your Mac?”, my response would be: “No.”
    The iBook worked perfectly for years after the disk was replaced. Sold it recently to buy a new MacBook.
    The iMac never had another problem and we sold it after 18 months to buy a 24-inch iMac.
    I still use the Power Mac and have almost forgotten about the 6 months of daily crashes as my machine has not crashed once since the firmware update.

    Now, do you want to read about my problems with Windows machines? Of course you don’t.


  5. Doc says:

    Having spent 20 years setting up and maintaining Macs (about 500 on site when I retired last year), I can verify that they are virtually trouble free both hardware and software wise. My most typical experinece was to reformat & clone my annual desktop image onto each Mac at the start of the school year in August and to not touch it again until I repeated that process the next August. And, of course, to chuckle to myself when my cohorts in the Windows schools complained about fighting virus infections and needing a different install image for each major hardware configuration in their schools. All hardware occasionally breaks down and operating systems are becoming increasingly complex but Apple has done an outstanding job of minimizing problems for the end user (and the IT folks that support them).

  6. Andrew says:

    With the exception of a very bad MacBook experience, I’ve also had great luck with Apple hardware. Of course, I’ve also had great luck with IBM and Toshiba’s business-class hardware (had a consumer Satellite laptop that was absolute garbage). Most first-tier manufacturers are making good stuff these days, and most of it is made in the same factories with the same parts. My current tablet PC shares most of its components with the MacBook and Intel Mac Mini, while the ThinkPad T60 is a near component clone of the MacBook Pro. Execution varies, but the basics guts are largely the same.

    OS is the biggest factor in making Macs more reliable than PCs, and again the gap narrows when using first-tier machines. ThinkPads have stable drivers that do not crash. Apple is the same, just look at an Intel Mac using Windows with Boot Camp, they are fast and don’t crash.

    Yes, Windows requires a bit more vigilance to keep it running safely, but its not the massive chore that most Mac people make it out to be. I go to work earl;y every Monday morning to maintain the seven computers (5 Mac, 2 PC). The Macs take about ten minutes to clean out browser caches, run CRON scripts (I use Onyx) and repair permissions (using Disk Utility – updated more often than Onyx). On the PCs it takes an hour, but my involvement is actually shorter than on the Macs. I launch antivirus, antispyware and anti-adware programs (at the same time), and after the programs update themselves (5 minutes) I can just let them do their thing. Yes, the PCs are a bit slower while running their scans (the CoreDuo stays fast), but since I don’t use the big and bloated packages like Norton there is almost no overhead when not actually scanning.

    With that routine, I’ve not had a major Windows or OS X meltdown in years. My biggest annoyance with Malware is the volume of spam, but that had nothing to do with my own machines. My computers, both Mac and PC, are reliable and go about their business with almost no fuss and little attention. They all “Just work.”

  7. Geoff says:

    I tend to agree. We have 5 Macs in our place (SOHO online business) for the two of us, and have virtually no issues with our Macs at all. We keep them clean, up to date, run maintenance regularly and backup every Friday. In 6 years of using Macs we’ve only experienced 1 x hard drive failure on a Ti Notebook. About the only application that causes me any grief on very infrequent occasions is BluePhoneElite which can hang sometimes. Thats it.

    I just can’t see the benefit of us even considering moving / implementing another platform.

  8. Rick Ruffin says:

    I, too, have had the “no problem” experience with my many Macs – with the exception of trying to run OS X on my 9600 (and Power Tower Pro). I Just could not get those old machines to run, although I blame the many additions (ram, HD video cards), not Apple. Unfortunately, I am still having the Cisco VPN problem that you mention in your article. You seem to say that this is a past problem for most of your readers. Here is hoping that this isn’t too inappropriate, but how have these folks solved the problem? I am still using VPC to connect from my G5 Tower running 10.4.8 because I cannot get any version of the Mac Cisco VPN software to natively connect to my office server.

  9. Chuck Carnes says:

    I am a network engineer, and I use a MacBook Pro as my primary administrative machine. I have accepted that such a choice means I must be vigilant as regards cross-platform integration issues; my servers range from AS/400 to Windows 2003. Problems aside, I like the idea of OS X. I like that it is the best possible GUI strapped to a robust BSD kernel. I like the ports collection, and lately I like being able to run Windows and many other OS’s as virtual machines rather than emulators. This is immensely helpful for penetration testing and intrusion detection functions.

    I must admit, however, things don’t always run as smoothly as even I expect. It begins to wear on me, for instance, when as an experienced computer user I encounter SMB problems so ‘other worldly’ as to be nondescript, not between my Mac and a Windows box but between it and another SAMBA implementation. The annoyance is more related to time rather than functionality lost. To illustrate, I can mount an AS/400 SMB share from my Mac, and everything appears normal except that some files have arbitrarily disappeared. Some show up as expected; others seem to have been deleted or never created, that is until I return to any choice of Windows virtual machine, Windows proper, or Linux box. Of course, now it’s all there. I’m sure the fix is out there, but come on.

    Besides SMB, there is also the matter of VPN compatibility, a prime nuisance, the detriment of which Apple has quite obviously underestimated. Or what about Open Directory (lack of) integration with Active Directory for single sign-on. This does not work despite what anyone may tell you. You see, my problem is not that problems exist, it’s the type of problems and the (seeming lack of) attention Apple pays to each as it simultaneously bills itself as enterprise-ready. These are the reasons I will not implement OS X Server. Support is yet another.

    For a recent contract employer, I purchased an 8-node HPC cluster from Apple and, upon its arrival, had to immediately call tech support. It’s a good thing I have CLI experience, because I found out pretty damn quick (post-sale) the limitations of Premium Care, namely to those matters pertaining to the GUI exclusively! Imagine my dismay at experiencing an out-of-box problem that prevented GUI management! No video cards; OS updates by a third-party vendor that changed IP settings from documented defaults; and no remote management software had been enabled! I had purchased every support agreement my sales representative made me aware of, and this was the first problem I ran into. Incidentally the Apple BioInformatics Workgroup Cluster is (or was) advertised as an out-of-the-box, total turn-key solution. No IT required. Good thing my folks had IT.

    If your experience with Macintosh is isolated to Macintosh, you’re probably not going to run into these problems. I don’t have that luxury and neither does any manager of a large network. But such isolation is not the future hope of something with such potential as OS X anyway. It can and should be better than that. It needs to integrate, and it needs to have more or better people dedicated to resolution of its enterprise-related issues. Until Apple recognizes and puts forth money to this end, its brainchild will never replace Red Hat or other Linux distros as the UNIX of choice. I hope to see it, though.

  10. Muriel Day says:

    I’m outnumbered here. Most people love their Macs. I for one will have to admit Macs are not user friendly, and the terminology is not for the average computer user. I’m not a computer geek, just an older person who wants a friendly computer that I can do simple tasks on. Safari crashed or whatever several months ago, the Mac Technician could not fix it, never heard of the type of symptoms it was having, so he had me do a reinstall. When it was through reinstalling and I was still having problems, I was instructed to call him back. Of course, you never get the same technician when you call back. After the reinstall, I still had the same problems, but I never called back. I went to Firefox. Firefox is now slower than a snail. When Safari crashed, I had just bought Version Tracker Pro and MacFixIt Pro with a freebie of MacPilot. I believe it was April that I bought this package. I have been to the MacFixIt Pro Site recently, and I was told to BUY. I have a receipt showing I bought the package. They don’t even know I exist. My iMac is in serious need of technical help, but try to navigate around trying to find answers, it is impossible. You are given umpteen written choices of what the problem might be, and if you can understand any of the terminology, you must be Computer Savvy. I have savvy, but I don’t necessarily have Mac Savvy. Do I really have to know what L2TP over IPsec is when my Internet Service Provider didn’t even know. By the time you get through all that jargon, you’ve forgotten what the original problem was. Besides, hours have gone by, your eyes are tired, you haven’t even done what you logged on to do, you have an appointment, or you begin to realize that you’ve been going in circles now for hours. My body needs exercise, I need to see people and laugh and talk. The sun is out. Time to get rid of that blank stare with brain overload. So I log off. Tomorrow is another day. Guess what, tomorrow is another day just like today. No problems have been solved, I try to learn on my own, I read more computer jargon, I get that blank stare again, but this time I have a headache along with the brain overload. This has been going on for months. Forget about browsing or reading your email, take care of the problems first. I thought computers were supposed to be fun. I am a Mac Member, and I have two years left on my Apple Care Agreement. What good does it do to have these memberships or “care.” You look for their site so you can leave your comments. The leaders want you to join a group to get answers rather than asking them, so they make their support site hard to get to. Most of the time, I never reach that support site. There’s email, but when I’ve emailed, I’m never quite sure if it is or or A month will go by and I find out my email was never sent. It has been sitting in Mac Mail because I left a dot out in .com or another very serious mistake. The contents of my email was not serious enough to contact me personally to tell me why my email is sitting in their draft inbox. I don’t use Mac Mail, so why wasn’t it forwarded on to my email address. This was one instruction I asked them to do concerning my mail. So now it’s time to log off. I have other things to take care of besides troubleshooting a Macintosh all day and never getting anywhere. another day. There have been many tomorrows that have been exactly the same as today. Too many problems, way too many solutions to read on your own. After all, we are living in a no-service economy. Too bad I didn’t grow up with computers like the children of today. It’s second nature to them. When I was out in the work field, computers didn’t get to my office until approximately 1965. I had already been at my job for ten years, and now they want to uproot my job skills which were very efficient on a manual typewriter, and now I’m being introduced to a computer. Okay, computers were better for word processing than a typewriter was. I’m not a fast typist now as I was on a typewriter. Technology is growing leaps and bounds, there’s fewer technicians and the service is poor to help these computer illiterates; many people thought they were buying something that was going to make their life easier and even make their life more exciting. When they found out how difficult it was to call a technician for some friendly help, or possibly they had to pay for service because their warranty had run out, many of them took their computers back to the store, sledge hammers were used on many, and others have just gone by the wayside. People found out they don’t need anymore headaches. They’ve already been scammed when they bought it, why have a computer where spam and scams have taken over. I may never be a computer whiz, but I just can’t sit in front of a screen and read and read on how to do what for hours and hours. My problems with my Mac drifted to a no-service economy. Get used to it, it’s never going to be like it was. People are going to be less helpful. Everyone for themselves.

  11. Greg Roussel says:

    @ Chuck Carnes:

    I am having the same problem:

    To illustrate, I can mount an AS/400 SMB share from my Mac, and everything appears normal except that some files have arbitrarily disappeared. Some show up as expected; others seem to have been deleted or never created, that is until I return to any choice of Windows virtual machine, Windows proper, or Linux box. Of course, now it’s all there. I’m sure the fix is out there, but come on.

    Has anyone found the fix?????

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