El Capitan: Glitches Please?

October 6th, 2015

As Apple reportedly continues to test the first maintenance update for OS X El Capitan, a small number of glitches have shown up. I know of two on recent iMacs, and I realize such a tiny sampling of similarly configured hardware isn’t sufficient to reveal a trend. But I’ll tell you what I’ve seen and what I’ve discovered as we wait for the expected arrival of 10.11.1, and I’m curious to see what readers have discovered.

It’s almost a given that there will be mail glitches. I have large IMAP folders spanning several accounts, and I wasn’t surprised that I’d see something this time. It might be the result of some sort of background message processing, for every so often, when I click on a message folder, such as an Inbox, nothing happens. It seems as if the app has frozen solid, but after a few seconds, it’s working again.

That’s just a minor annoyance. When I examined some of the online chatter on Mail in El Capitan, I found reports of people who aren’t receiving messages at all since the upgrade. I’ve seen nothing that drastic, and it’s possible problems of that sort are limited to specific email services, or a small number of installations. I suppose we’ll see.

The other problem is, to me, more significant, and I’ve seen it on a couple of recent iMacs, both using external USB speakers, such as Bose. In each case, the sound suddenly disappears. Gone, kaput! Changing output settings to Internal Speakers and back again, to Bose USB Audio, has no effect. The only solution, temporary though it is, involves a restart.

What is most troubling is when it happens during an interview for one of my radio shows. Guests may not appreciate being forced to hang out for a few minutes while a restart is in progress, and, of course, it shouldn’t happen — ever. I’m assuming, for the moment, that there’s no hardware issue, because the sound was flawless with OS X Yosemite. What’s more, I do find evidence that others have encountered sound issues of one sort or another after installing El Capitan.

Meantime, I’ve experimented with a pair of remedies. One is to restart in Safe Mode, with the Shift key held down.

Officially, here’s what Safe Mode does:

  • Verifies your startup disk, and attempts to repair directory issues if needed
  • Loads only required kernel extensions
  • Prevents Startup Items and Login Items from opening automatically
  • Disables user-installed fonts
  • Deletes font caches, Kernel cache and other system cache files

This is a fairly normal diagnostic step. Another is to reset NVRAM on a Mac. This is the modern-day equivalent of reseting the PRAM on older Macs, and it’s done the same way. Among the information stored in nonvolatile memory is speaker volume, so there might be a connection.

To reset NVRAM, follow these steps (direct from Apple’s support document on the subject):

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Locate the following keys on the keyboard: Command (?), Option, P, and R.
  3. Turn on your Mac.
  4. Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys immediately after you hear the startup sound.
  5. Hold these keys until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for a second time.
  6. Release the keys.

Evidently shutting down is an important part of the process. A restart isn’t sufficient to get the job done. It’s also possible that you’ll have to reset the time, startup disk, screen resolution and time zone. Or maybe not. For me, it’s usually just the startup disk.

All told, something in these two painless remedies might be just what’s needed, and I tried them both before writing this column. But the problem has been sufficiently erratic, happening every few hours or every few days, that I haven’t been able to test the efficacy of any remedy.

These steps are also sometimes useful in fixing network-related issues, such as erratic Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The former was reported by many in OS X Yosemite before Apple finally found a fix, reverting to an older networking file, in 10.10.4.

There’s another diagnostic tool that used to be available for OS X, and that was to repair disk permissions. The process, activated in Disk Utility or a third-party maintenance app, generally focused on system files, and the repair would sometimes fix odd behavior. But El Capitan’s “System Integrity Protection,” designed to prevent access to certain system files to provide greater security, has ended the need for this function. That’s why it’s no longer present in Disk Utility.

Besides, I rather suspect that repairing disk permissions really helped very few people, and was the sort of process that may have provided some emotional security but little more. I’ve used it over the years, mostly because it was there, and even suggested it to clients. But I do not recall any episode where it actually fixed anything. I do recall a few occasions where I had to manually change the permissions on a file to make it work, but that is the extent of it.

Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see that the list of early bugs in El Capitan doesn’t seem as large as Yosemite, so that’s progress.

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11 Responses to “El Capitan: Glitches Please?”

  1. charlie T. says:

    Regarding the IMAP problems: I found I had to change gmail over to POP3 and totally disable IMAP to prevent random hangs and crashes in mail. Other odd problem was when I was troubleshooting I had disabled the gmail IMAP account and tried creating a new gmail POP3 account. It would fail every time. I had to totally remove the gmail IMAP account before creating a new gmail POP3 account.

    The other issue I am continuing to have is with the magic mouse on my iMac. After a while the mouse stops responding to gestures like scrolling the page. If the iMac goes to sleep for a while it is very likely once it wakes up the mouse will be movable but won’t click on anything. About 1/2 the time powering off the mouse will bring back clicking but rarely fixes the gestures. All sorts of removing resetting the mouse has been tried. The only fix is to restart the iMac. The same mouse works great on another computer running 10.9

    • @charlie T., I haven’t seen any problem with the mouse. Which generation iMac do you have?

      As to Gmail, it’s always a problem for some people. But Apple supposedly addressed some IMAP performance issues. I don’t recommend POP3, particularly if you want to keep your email in sync for multiple devices.


  2. DavidK44 says:

    I’ve reverted to Yosemite after a failed El Capitan install and a number of productivity-killing bugs. The first install hung about 2/3rds of the way to completion on my mid2014 Retina MacBook Pro. A re-boot was necessary, and the second attempt at an install completed successfully.

    After a day of El Capitan use, the Mail program died. The first thing I noticed was an inability to alter any of the account details in the preferences. My signatures weren’t being properly applied, and when I tried to modify them, the changes never registered. The next time I re-started and launched Mail, it crashed immediately. Nothing I did (hold down shift, restart into safe mode, delete pref plists, etc.) kept it from crashing within 10 seconds of launch.

    Finally, iTunes was corrupted. It would not allow any actions connected to my account. I could not sign in, authorize/deauthorize the computer, or sync my iPhone (it said all apps were not authorized and would be removed). All attempts to click on appropriate buttons or menu items were not detected and gave no response at all. My account was fine when viewed on my iPad or iPhone.

    I wonder if the issues were related to the new SIP protocols, as an underlying cause could be an inability to access or write to pref files.

    I’m waiting until 10.11.1, or maybe .2. It’s been the worst update experience I’ve had in a half-dozen upgrades.

  3. That’s terrible. My experience is much the reverse. Even the early betas were mostly usable.


  4. DaveD says:

    My most current Mac is a 2012 MacBook Air running OS X Yosemite (10.10.5). It is the one that is kept up-to-date with software from Apple and third-party developers. Unfortunately, OS X Yosemite is not the rock of stability of OS X Mavericks. The spontaneous reboots began after the upgrade with just a single one which I thought was an anomaly, ballooned in 10.10.3 and continues today. My running count with version 10.10.5 is five reboots, so far. Have not seen the cause in the system log and done permission repair, disk repair, and the Apple Hardware test coming up clean. I suspect the issue is in the area of memory mismanagement after seeing the free disk space disappearing when WindowServer went rogue gobbling over five gigabytes of memory. Got spoiled with the fantastic experience with version 0 of Mavericks and slapped down hard with Yosemite. It is back to wait for the third update before upgrading.

    On a separate topic, I downgraded the iPad mini back to iOS 8.4.1. My huge iTunes library resides on my 2008 (white) MacBook with a big hard drive running Snow Leopard and was used for the iOS 9 upgrade. iOS 9 requires iTunes 12.3 which requires OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.5) for syncing. The OS X for the old MacBook upgrade path ends at Lion. With the thought of moving my iTunes library and the iOS downgrade window closing, I chose downgrade. Had to update iTunes on the Yosemite MacBook Air to version 12.3 to in order to replace iOS 9 with 8.4.1. Followed by restoring the iPad contents via the Snow Leopard MacBook. Other than gaining experience on how to downgrade iOS and a short time playing with iOS 9, unless I missed it, there was no list of caveats presented at the start of the upgrade process. It only came to light when I plugged back the iPad to run another backup and received an incompatibility message from iTunes.

  5. DaveD says:

    @DavidK44, Your El Capitan install experience was what I went through with the Yosemite install. Reflecting back now it was a sign of bad things to come. I may just live with the spontaneous reboots (and continue to provide Apple with a feedback if that screen comes up) and never do another upgrade.

  6. Frank says:

    Outlook 2011 launches, but then hangs, although It’s probably Microsoft’s fault. Interestingly, though, it was only a problem after the GM, but not on the earlier beta builds.

    An odd bug is – sometimes when I click on a window or in the dock, it pauses iTunes. It’s infrequent and random, which makes it hard to diagnose.

  7. jeff says:

    the problem(s) I am having with Mail in El Capitan is

    a) when I first launch Mail, it just sits and does nothing and I have to force quit it and relaunch to get it running

    b) I have 32G memory on my machine, and when I launch Mail, it eats up almost all of my memory available

    I am looking for solutions…..

  8. dfs says:

    Those of you having trouble with Mail might try the alternative mail client Airmail. I don’t like it quite as much as I do mail, but I keep a copy on my hard disk for those times when Mail gets cranky.

  9. jeff says:

    I am certainly considering doing that

    installed the update yesterday morning and while Mail has not been completely fixed, its working better than the initial release

  10. Frank says:

    MS released an update for Office 2011 yesterday that cured the problem with Outlook hanging at launch. However, to install it, I had to log out of my regular profile and use one I created some time ago for updating MS products. For some reason Office’s installer can’t quit certain background processes that need to be stopped before the installer can be run. Trying to quit them in the Activity Monitor didn’t work either.

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