Just When You Thought Only Apple Does Bad Updates

December 16th, 2014

Apple never heard the end of it when September’s iOS 8.0.1 update went awry. This sorry little episode fueled speculation that the company had taken on far too many projects and needed to slow down and improve quality control. While Apple’s new product introductions were but a fraction of what other tech companies delivered, that must be too much. The theory had it that Apple must be perfect, and there was little room for error.

Of course, 2014 wasn’t the first year where Apple screwed up, and it won’t be the last no matter you think they’ve taken on too much or not.

Over the years, there have been flawed updates, and the need to enhance product warranties to handle persistent problems. Don’t forget the power supply failures on the iMac G5, which was first released in 2004. At that time, the iPhone and iPad hadn’t quite reached the rumor stage, and forget about an Apple Watch.

Some believe the iPhone 4, introduced in 2010, had a fatal flaw that resulted in poor cellular reception if you held it the “wrong way,” which meant that you covered the junction of the two antennas on the lower left side. It turns out that this so-called Antennagate phenomenon applied to other mobile handsets too in various ways, but Apple got the rap and was forced, as a PR maneuver, to ship free cases until the dust settled.

Let’s not forget the Apple Maps fiasco in 2012 as another example of good intentions gone bad, but that may have been more a marketing issue. Google persistently calls new products betas for years to fend off criticism about bugs. If Apple had taken the same approach to Maps, the outcries would have been muted. Apple can’t take the blame if they warn you, already, that a product is not yet considered ready as a final release. Remember how long Siri remained in beta.

More important, Apple is hardly the only tech company to issue flawed updates that went bad. A recent article from ZDNet lists 10 flawed Microsoft updates for this year alone. Some were serious enough to cause seriously impaired performance — or the inability for a PC to boot.

Here’s a key example: “August Windows updates cause systems to go into reboot loops (among other problems).”

Add to that flaws in an Exchange Server 2010 update that would keep Outlook from connecting to the email server, or one that would block the ability of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 (how’s that for a silly name!) to lose their ability to install future updates, but don’t forget an earlier update for these systems that would cause system reboots, which is, I suppose, different from a reboot loop.

Yet another flawed update disables ActiveX controls.

You can check the article for the rest, but this is a real messy situation. What it means is that you just cannot trust Microsoft to issue a reliable update for most any product. It hardly seems honest to attack Apple for one flawed update, almost immediately withdrawn, and not give Microsoft its due for doing far worse.

I do understand that Microsoft’s situation is far more complicated than Apple’s. They have loads of system versions, an incalculable number of hardware variations to support, so it’s inevitable that things will go wrong from time to time. That’s a key reason why IT people in the enterprise will normally monitor a Microsoft update for its efficacy on a test computer before deploying it to company PCs.

The consumer is in a far worse position, because most people don’t have the time to test every single system update to make sure it works before installing it on the family PCs. That would require having a PC that serves solely as a test bed. The best answer is just to avoid Microsoft patches for a while and consult the online chatter to make sure they work before installing. Having to back out of a bad install, or hoping Microsoft will somehow be able to release a quick fix, can result in disaster. Imagine someone with a small business who must depend on each and every PC in the company to operate efficiently.

You certainly shouldn’t assume that all iOS and OS X updates must be perfect. More often than not, though, the flaw is failing to completely fix a problem. A key example is OS 10.10.1, which, in part, was designed to repair Wi-Fi connection glitches with Yosemite. For many it worked, but some Mac users continued to report problems. According to published reports about a forthcoming 10.10.2 update, it appears that Wi-Fi issues are still being worked on.

So if you want to be real cautious, turn off the options to “Install OS X updates” and “Install system data files and security updates” in Yosemite’s App Store preferences. If you opt to install the updates manually, you have time to consult the online chatter about possible flaws before you take the leap.

Honestly, I leave the update options active. I realize I am taking a somewhat dangerous approach, but I am not one to always play it safe.

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9 Responses to “Just When You Thought Only Apple Does Bad Updates”

  1. DaveD says:

    Working on my MacBook Air (MBA) with Yosemite has its down. I don’t know but it sure feels like a big step back on performance. I wasn’t impressed with Mountain Lion, yet Mavericks was a very good upgrade. In Yosemite, WindowServer will peg close to 100% CPU momentarily. I can sustain that by doing fast tab switching in Safari and the MBA gets quite warm.

    I have seen Apple tamed Safari with version 8.0.2 to slow down the memory leaks and fast tab switching now does not show the spinning beach ball. I like the looks of Yosemite, but give me back the performance of Mavericks.

    • @DaveD, I’m not seeing any serious spike in WindowServer’s drag on CPU on the test iMac 5K with Yosemite. It mostly stays in the 1% range; it spiked to 2% or so for a bit. That’s with half a dozen Finder windows and seven apps opened including Safari 8.0.2. Of course, this is a piece of hardware optimized for Yosemite. When I have a chance, I’ll test it on a 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro and see what it shows.

      But if the figures aren’t very different, it may well be something is causing errant behavior on your Mac, or some hardware configurations are more prone to such ills.


  2. DaveD says:


    Many thanks for the feedback. It would be great if your MBP can be set to use the integrated graphics only. BTW with iOS 8.1.2, I can do an AIRDROP from my iPad to the MBA for the very first time. Could do it from MBA to iPad without issue, but I needed to use some pictures from the iPad a few weeks ago.

    Kind regards,


  3. Ant says:

    IMHO, the bar for Mac is set much higher than that for Windows. I have noticed that Apple is indeed dropping the ball with its frantic software update schedule. I think it would be better served to slow things down a bit, particularly for the Mac platform. I’ve grown weary trying to run the latest and greatest OS as there are a number of really annoying bugs that keep creeping into each major release; and I just don’t want to deal with any more nonsense than necessary. I’m not too keen on its current hardware development either, but that’s a different issue altogether.

    • @Ant, I see nothing frantic. Apple has been doing annual OS X and iOS updates for a while now. Remember that several Windows updates I mentioned made it impossible to boot the computers. The worst of the recent Apple releases was the short-lived 8.0.1 update that hurt iPhone 6s.


  4. David R. says:

    Mr. Nightowl,

    I have Windows Office for Mac, version 11. something. The updates for that often come with a “critical” update note attached. So far there seem to have been no major bugs in the updates i’ve received, but i’m wondering how long that might continue. If I should be checking for a warning about that fix which community discussion group or groups should I check with before installing the latest “critical fix?”

    • @David R., These updates are pretty minor in the scheme of things, David, so I wouldn’t be too concerned.

      Besides, a new Office is coming for the Mac next year, so I expect updates for 2011 will be more and more infrequent, and only for critical problems.


  5. DaveD says:

    @Gene, Appreciated your result from the MBP check. I’m leaning to a possible issue with the integrated Intel graphics processor (IGP) in Yosemite with memory compression performance. My MacBook Air (MBA) has 4GB of RAM with 1GB allocated to the IGP. Something could have changed in Yosemite requiring WindowServer to do more work because in Mavericks there were no performance issue.

    I read a TidBITS article titled “Five Fixes for OS X 10.10 Yosemite,” published on December 5th ( http://tidbits.com/article/15273 ). In the “Yosemite Performance Problems” section, I followed one the suggestion which was “selecting the Reduce Transparency checkbox in System Preferences > Accessibility > Display.” I did get an improved WindowServer response which still spiked to 90% of the CPU, but doesn’t stay at that level too long. My MBA performance is definitely better, but not a Mavericks level.

    Another TidBITS suggestion was what you already stated in a previous Tech Night Owl publication, a clean install. Yes it is in the back of my mind, but I’m holding out and hoping for better outcome in the next one to two Yosemite updates.

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