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  • OS X Mavericks: Five Weeks On

    November 28th, 2013

    On October 22, Apple released OS X Mavericks as a free download. In the previous months, I’ve suggested that such a thing might happen, although Apple went even further by making iWork and iLife more or less free too. I mean “more or less” because you have to buy a new Mac, or be using a previous version of either, to get the new gratis upgrades.

    While my OS X upgrade experience was flawless, and Mavericks is near-perfect when it comes to stability, there are some rocky edges, and I’ll only cover a few.

    When starting Messages, for example, it sometimes fails to connect to my AIM (or AOL) account. It will either be flagged as Offline or Connecting, but never quite complete the login. In all fairness, I’ve seen this oddity with previous OS X versions, so it may be something on AOL’s end, which wouldn’t surprise me.

    Yet another very slight problem I reported in a previous column involved an audio processing app, Levelator, which does sophisticated trickery to normalize the volume levels of an audio recording. In older OS X systems, it would auto-quit after processing a file, assuming I used drag and drop. Now it doesn’t, but the developers of Levelator say that there was never an auto-quit feature to begin with, so maybe it worked incorrectly before. Go figure!

    My tiny problems, however, are trumped by more serious issues reported online. If you have a Western Digital external drive, and use their own software, you were in danger of losing your data when upgrading to Mavericks. But the folks at Western Digital have announced a software update to fix that problem, one that I recommend you download and install right away if you’re using one of their drives. It doesn’t apply to the internal drives Western Digital makes for Apple, however.

    The folks at Ars Technica are reporting all sorts of glitches with the new multiple displays features, such as docks set to auto-hide failing to appear when you mouse over. Or Finder placements going awry, so you put something on the desktop on one place, and it migrates to another. In all fairness, the reliability of Finder positioning has long been flaky, so it’s not as if any of this comes as a surprise. If Apple ever announced an OS X update that fixed Finder positioning, there would be an extended round of applause from millions of Mac users.

    Yet another complaint has it that smooth scrolling isn’t so smooth on apps not recompiled for Mavericks. While I haven’t tested every possible app to see if this is true, at least on a 27-inch iMac, I tried a few that haven’t been updated recently and didn’t notice anything particularly ragged about scrolling. But my testing was casual, and the experiences with one Mac configuration cannot apply to others.

    The third complaint, one long standing with OS X, is that the Finder goes into a spinning beachball fit if a shared volume suddenly disconnects. It has gotten better over the years, but there’s still a troubling delay. You’d think Apple would have gotten a handle on this, but I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the behind-the-scenes process in which OS X engages to determine that a file share is no longer mounted.

    To be sure, other OS X Mavericks issues are likely related to individual app compatibilities. There are loads of under-the-hood changes that will probably give developers some conniptions. One example is Audio Hijack Pro, from Rogue Amoeba, which we use to capture Skype audio for my radio shows. Under Mavericks, there’s curious issue in working with my setup, involving an outboard analog mixer, a Griffin iMic analog/USB adapter, and a Bose USB speaker system, the Companion 5. The problem is complex: The audio from the Bose is disabled when I am hijacking audio from Skype. But Rogue Amoeba is aware of the issue, so I expect they will come up with a solution soon.

    The long and short of it is that I am quite satisfied with Mavericks overall. There does appear to be a bit more snap in the way the system functions, and overall system load is lower when different apps are doing their thing. I have not fully tested the promise of better battery life on my note-book, a 17-inch MacBook Pro from 2010, but other reports indicate a measurable improvement.

    There are also published reports that Apple is working on a 10.9.1 update, which would be the second Mavericks-related fixer-upper to arrive so far. Earlier this month, the Mail for Mavericks update arrived to fix problems with sorting Gmail messages and inaccurate unread message counts. iBooks was also updated. But I gather Mail isn’t quite fixed yet. Other email apps aren’t necessarily better, though. I tried the latest update to Microsoft Outlook 2o11, for example, and it remains barely usable. Performance is dog slow, for example, though Outlook seems more savvy about capturing information on mapping your local mailboxes to your email service’s IMAP mailboxes when you set up an account.

    All and all, I remain quite pleased with the Mavericks upgrade.



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    8 Responses to “OS X Mavericks: Five Weeks On”

    1. Ted Schroeder says:

      I don’t use a lot of the new stuff. I have an iPad2, and a first gen Air – but mostly, I’m on a 7-year old Mac Pro.

      Having said that, my brother and his wife and kids get lots of the latest Apple gear and I get to play with it.

      There does seem to be a lack of concern about quality around the edges in the past few years. Mail in Mavericks being a pretty good example of this. No real option in iOS 7 for people with Old People’s Eyes is another one. And the oddities/difficulties with multi-screen in Mavericks. And don’t get my brother started on iCloud. Or me with the Save/Save As… debacle.

      Still, I can appreciate that it’s difficult to keep what – say 400 million users – happy…

      ps- and thanks to Gene for the site and the show!

      • @Ted Schroeder, Thanks, Ted. But I hope that Apple, knowing they are surrounded by enemies, will work harder to shore up the quality control. But there have been issues aplenty over the years with both the hardware and software. It’s hard to really say it’s that much worse, or worse at all these days. I can tall you some stories.

        Peace,
        Gene

    2. Ron Lanham says:

      I’ve been using Macs since the mid-90s and this is one of the most bug-free, stable updates I have installed.

      I use multiple monitors and have chosen to not use the default System Preferences > Mission Control > Displays have separate Spaces

      Have unchecked this preference so that Photoshop doesn’t keep moving its panels to my primary monitor… as well as for other problems with the default setting for multiple monitors.

      Recommend this update to all of my friends whose hardware will allow it.

    3. Safari is far more stable than previous. Like the notifications feature within Safari. Enjoying Maps.

    4. Tilmon Brown says:

      Mavericks has not been friendly to my HP Photosmart series printer/scanner. After upgrading the HP Scan module produces nothing but blank black pages. Tech support at HP says they are working on a fix that will be provided via App Upgrade.

    5. Ron Lanham says:

      External firewire drives not spinning down when unmounted is another bug that really needs to be fixed quickly.

    6. In the News: 2013-11-30 | Klaus' Korner says:

      […] Apple News: OS X Mavericks: Five Weeks On On October 22, Apple released OS X Mavericks as a free download. In the previous months, I’ve suggested that such a thing might happen, although Apple went even further by making iWork and iLife more or less free too. I mean “more or less” because you have to buy a new Mac, or be using a previous version of either, to get the new gratis upgrades. While my OS X upgrade experience was flawless, and Mavericks is near-perfect when it comes to stability, there are some rocky edges, and I’ll only cover a few. Read full story => TechNightOwl […]

    7. John B says:

      Problems I’ve noticed are minor, but a pain.

      One is that Finder windows in list view do not remember the width of the columns. They always open at the same width, which is too small, for me at least, to actually see most file names. I have to widen the file name column every time I open a Finder window.

      Another is that the activity indicator that used to show when Mail was fetching messages is gone. Now there’s no indication at all, you just have to wait a while to see if anything new shows up.

      I also had a lot of system freezes that required a restart after going to sleep. It got to the point where it was happening several times per day. I thought it was the screen saver, but the fix turned out to be not letting the computer go to sleep. Still have sleep turned off.

      Also, not Mavericks related, but I’m very bummed that they discontinued the iPad polyurethane smart cases. I really like the one I have, and wanted the same for my new iPad Air, but now they’re only available in leather. And I read somewhere the new leather ones don’t really fit the Air very well.

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