This is a difficult post to write.
More often than not, the content of this blog is pro-Apple. I make no apologies for this, and although I do critcise Apple from time to time, I also cut them some slack.
Recently I purchased MobileMe. Now, despite a hiccup in purchasing, which wasn’t Apple’s fault, but the resellers, things went smoothly.
At first, things went smoothly. I have an iBook running Leopard, an iPod Touch and a G5 Tower running Tiger, all syncing to the cloud.
This worked fine for a little while. I kept getting a lot of contact an calendar updates on the G5, which was a bit suspicious, but things worked OK.
That was until last week.
The G5 at work was syncing OK, no problems, the iBook & Touch worked flawlessly. Just to check a configuration, I clicked the .Mac Preference Pane on the G5 (it’s running Tiger remember).
It wouldn’t open. It beachballed and then gave me a ‘Could not open .Mac because of an error.”
I’m a seasoned troubleshooter, so I logged into another account – same result. OK, that points to a system-wide pref file that’s corrupted.
So I moved all the .plist files I could find and restarted.
Oh dear. This time the G5 stalled at the desktop. It couldn’t load the .Mac menubar item. So I did a bit of system-voodoo and removed that menubar item so it wouldn’t have to load.
The system now started ok (sans the menu bar item), but upon launching System Preferences, the .Mac Preference Pane wasn’t there.
Ouch. Never seen that before. At this point I thought about cache corruption. The preference pane was in the system (I checked) but it wasn’t loading.
So I cleaned the local caches and restarted. Now my Keyboard & Mouse Preference Pane is in Chinese. I kid you not.
Anyway, this G5 is a production machine, so I left it there, so I could do some more research.
This research has given me a few pointers, which I will try soon. There’s a couple of files I haven’t trashed yet, so we’ll try that.
If that doesn’t work, then I’ll clean all caches, including system.
If that doesn’t work, I’ll try reinstalling the combo updater.
If that doesn’t work, it’s a install of a new system.
How is it possible that enabling a product on your system can cause so many problems? I have over 20 years Mac experience and I’m grasping for solutions.
How is it possible that a product can simply stop working for no reason?
And, let’s not forget, this is an additional service I’VE PAID FOR.
Which is why this article is difficult to write.
MOBILEME IS NOT READY – AT ALL.
It works for lots of people, but not all. I certainly could not run a business on this. Even the little web-design service I do in my spare time.
I don’t expect this from Apple, I really don’t.
Are we seeing here the limits to what Apple can do reliably? Are we seeing the edges of their competence? Were all those Windows users right in saying that Apple just doesn’t do certain things as good as Microsoft?
Now that Steve’s away, I hope that Tim asks some serious question of MobileMe. It’s damaging the brand severely and they need the courage to fix it properly, or pull it off the market, trash it and partner with Google, rebrand their offerings and give us a service that we can all be proud of.
Will I be renewing in a years time? At this moment, I’d say no.
Sorry for the ‘cold’ pun, but I couldn’t help it.
So, ‘Snow Leopard’, (the next iteration of the Mac OS), is going to be Intel-only. The Power-PC, which has had a love-hate relationship with Apple over the years, is finally going to be discarded, sometime in 2009.
A lot of the PC-press is trying to stir up a sh*t-storm over this, citing Apple as abandoning their users, and forcing them to upgrade.
Well, I’m here to say that I think Apple is doing the right thing.
The department that I run has over half-a-dozen Mac’s and a couple of PC’s, and everyone of these Mac’s runs Tiger.
Not Leopard, but Tiger.
“Aha!” I here all the Windows-apologists scream, “Leopard is full of bugs! Here’s a Mac-loving ‘power-user’ and even he doesn’t even recommend it!”
Well, calm down, there are reasons why my department runs Tiger, and not Leopard (apart from a little iBook for testing).
Firstly, this is software – a lot of software. On top of the OS, I have about a dozen applications that I rely on being compatible, all the time.
Secondly, software has bugs. Mac software doesn’t have as many bugs as Windows software, but there are bugs. InDesign CS2 has 2 reproducible bugs that I can do right now – that cause a crash.
Thirdly, and talking of InDesign – it’s Adobe. CS3 (including 2) and Leopard don’t play well together – at all. Now I don’t care whose fault this is, it’s probably both Apple’s & Adobe’s, but I’m not installing Leopard on any production Mac until it ‘just works’.
However those half-a-dozen Mac’s are also all PPC. There’s not one Intel Mac in my department, so Leopard is a no-no until Adobe pulls its finger out, and therefore Snow Leopard is a bit of a non-starter for me as well.
Is that likely to change? Maybe, maybe not. The oldest Mac in my department is a 700mhz G4 – nearly 7 years old, and (touch wood), it’s still a production machine.
I do have the chance to bring Intel in however, I’m about to purchase another large format printer, and I need a Mac to run it on, but I’m stuck between buying a 2nd-hand G5, or a new MacPro.
Now most people would go with the MacPro, but as well as the hardware, there’s the software issue as well – all my software is PPC, not Universal.
So, it looks like I’m stuck for now, until one of the Mac’s die (7 years and counting), and I have to by Intel, and go cap-in-hand to finance to upgrade the software as well.
But my finance department is as tight as a ‘gnat’s chuff’ (English colloquialism, look it up), so I’ll be sticking with a PPC-based department for now.
Apparently, we’re weird because we like computers to look nice…
This recent posting postulates the question, “Mac users don’t like others touching their stuff.”
The reasoning behind it is that because we pay so much (apparently) for our kit, we don’t like other people using it and supposedly breaking it.
But, as usual PC pundits fail to see the wider issue.
It’s because I don’t want ignorant PC users who see technology as a useless commodity, covered in stickers, touching my pristine Mac’s/iPod’s/iPhone.
It’s got nothing to do with how much I paid for it, it’s to do with the way in which Windows users treat their technology.
If I get another PC user coming up to my flawlessly clean LCD screen and smudge it with his or her greasy finger, I’ll scream.
I walk through our Windows IT department daily and see ugly tin boxes, covered in dust, stickers, pen marks, yesterday’s lunch wrappers and worse.
When the electrician’s come to my company and test all the electrical equipment, they have to put an ugly ‘tested’ sticker on everything. PC users are quite happy to have this sticker anywhere on their PC, I have almost punched said electrician for considering to stick it on the ‘front’ of my G5 Tower.
I had to loan a little iBook to a PC user once, I received it back a month later and it was filthy, and had what looked like jam on the LCD screen. I actually felt sorry for the poor thing and spent over an hour giving it a good clean.
PC users don’t care. PC users pay next to nothing for basement-spec PC’s. PC users think nothing of the hardware.
Am I weird? Probably, but I have to work with these computers all day, and I also have to be creatively active at a moments notice.
I, like most creative people realise that ideas best surface in a clean, ordered environment, where the equipment I use has had time spent on it’s look and feel (both hardware and software).
This is why we don’t like PC users, ‘using’ our equipment – they just don’t think that this is important.
Sorry it’s been a while since my last post, but as well as going through one of the most busiest periods of the year, I’ve also had to move the entire studio to new premises whilst this busy period was in full swing.
It was one of the hardest move’s I’ve ever had to accomplish. The studio, since moving to the previous premises has expanded considerably, adding 2 large format printers and 2 new members of staff and consequentially, the move took about a week to complete, (and it’s still not really finished) the studio’s at about 80% capacity now.
It’s not been without it’s problems though. I’ve wrote long into the night about Windows IT Managers and their constant battle to make the life of the Mac-based, in-house design studios difficult, if not impossible and their overall goal being to get rid of them completely. However the biggest problem I’ve had with the studio move, has not been the IT guys (they seem to have, at least for the moment, given up on the anti-Mac crusade), but something else entirely – dust.
The studio was at it’s old premises for about 3 years, and it was always going to be a temporary thing, because the premises were totally unsuitable. Noisy (vibrations from heavy equipment outside), dusty (were attached to a full-service centralised warehouse) and cramped (making planning for large scale projects difficult). But, things seemed to tick along fine until about 3 months before the move.
One of the large format printers broke down with various error messages. After 3 vists from a technician, it was deemed that the problem was dust. It was cleaned up and now works fine.
It wasn’t until the move that the dust in the Macs became apparent. It seemed by moving them it unsettled the dust inside them and caused even more problems. After moving all the equipment over and trying to set the studio up, I was faced with the following problems:
1) One of the work drives in the G5 was DOA (just a clicking noise and no mounting), thank goodness I have good backup.
2) The superdrive in my G5 was unoperational
3) One of the 160gb backup drives was DOA.
4) The CD drive in one of the G4’s was unoperational.After cleaning up I’ve managed to get one of the optical drives partially working (now burns CD’s but not DVD’s), but the rest need replacing.
It’s made me realise that part of my maintenance routine needs to be more hardware related than software, and I’ve ordered several cans of spray air.
I’ve had a real problem recently, something has had me cursing, gnashing, and basically screaming at a certain application from Apple. This application is Mail (or Mail.app, or Apple Mail or whatever).
It all started with upgrading a test iBook to Tiger shortly after the second or third maintenance upgrade was released.
As always, I test any major release with a non-work critical system before rolling the release out to the 4 or 5 other Mac’s in the studio.
This time my testing was not thorough enough. All apps seem to work ok, such as Adobe Creative Suite, Suitcase etc, but it wasn’t until I installed Tiger on the main work Mac that I came across the ‘Mail’ problem.
Something was wrong with Mail. It wasn’t that it was as slow as molasses, (it’s never been a speed demon), it didn’t seem to be downloading attachements, or emails with HTML correctly.
Instead, what I got was the ‘Mime gibberish’ that denotes that the way in which Mail was seeing attachments was completely screwed.
Upon testing, this seemed to be for all incoming and all outgoing messages. Mail was unusable.
Upon testing, I found that it was IMAP accounts that Mail could not handle. POP accounts seemed ok, and IMAP accounts connected to other servers worked fine. Mine did not. There is something about my unique situation, (I am part of a larger PC-based company and access my mail through a PC server), that Mail did not like.
One of Tiger’s biggest selling points was spotlight, and I was looking forward to being able to search through my mail with ease. I have a huge local mailbox, and I communicate with China on a regular basis on various projects, so having a reliable mail client, and especially one with which I could search my archived mail as easily as I could search through the files and folders of my system was a major draw.
Unfortunately this wasn’t to be. So I stopped the roll out to other Mac’s until an update hopefully fixed the problem, and started looking around for another mail client.
I used to use Entourage. Indeed I have tried to use Entourage in the past, and did for several months, but having struggled to make Entourage, Projects, Notes etc work for me, I found that I needed to change the way in which I worked, in order to use it. Something that I wasn’t prepared to do.
So I tried every (EVERY) mail client, freeware, shareware and commercial on the market, but none seemed to give me what I want, and in the end I settled for Thunderbird.
At first I was a little dubious, but eventually I found connecting to my email via IMAP, using Thunderbird was overall an excellent and pain free experience. The only clouds were the lack of Address Book integration, and poor search capabilities, but I decided to live with that until the next Apple updater.
Except the next Apple updater did not solve the problem, nor the next.
I had to look at this from another angle, so I decided to see whether I could connect to my email via POP, rather than IMAP. I have a personal POP account on my iBook, which works OK, and with a little persuasion from IT to give me the correct IP addresses, I tried the POP connection, but I wasn’t holding out much hope.
But it worked. It worked great, in fact it’s fast, flawless (apart from the odd dropped connection) and I am now using Mail, and have rolled out the full Tiger install to my studio.
But IMAP still doesn’t work, and although I can get around this, it’s still a major bug that needs fixing. I’ve posted to the Apple discussion forums, and apparently Apple are aware of the problem (it’s a problem with a ‘Groupwise’ connection), but as yet, there is no fix.
We may have to wait until Leopard.
But I don’t think that this is good enough. With Apple’s recent advertising campaign, touting the ‘it just works’ aspect of the Mac, I find that the advert and my experience are miles apart. I keep saying this about Apple, but you must do better.
This fly in Apple’s ointment has been brewing for the best part of a year now but I did not experience it until about 6 months ago.
The studio that I run is part of a larger PC-based company that is expanding rapidly and various internal developments necessitated a purchase of another Mac for the studio.
In the end I decided upon the single processor G5 (1.8ghz), and upon delivery everything seemed fine. I transferred over the user’s account from his old Mac (an 800mhz G4 which is now used as a print server), installed an extra 160gb internal hard drive for the user’s work and off he went into G5 heaven, extremely pleased that he cold now use InDesign at an acceptable speed.
After a few days several odd things began to happen. Occasionally and without warning the spinning beachball would occur, usually in Illustrator or the Finder.
So I did what I would normally do in this situation, I tried to force quit these applications – but they wouldn’t force quit. I tried quitting all other applications first and then trying to force quit the Finder – still no dice.
I then tried force quitting from the Activity Monitor and then the command-line – still nothing. I couldn’t even shut the Mac down – I had to press and hold the power button to restart the Mac.
Now, I did not know about the G5 freezing problem back then so I approached the problem in much the same way as any other, repairing permissions & running disk utility from the CD, all to no avail.
After this happened numerous times I tried to find out exactly what the user was doing in each occurrence and what I narrowed it down to was when the user was saving something to the extra internal hard drive. Taking the hard drive out completely, and moving the work folder to the boot drive seemed to make the problem go away.
I then ran tests on the hard drive but it was fine. It was at this point that I happened to listen to the MacCast and a chance article advertising a web-site (www.G5freeze.com), alerted me to the fact that I wasn’t alone in this problem. I registered my complaint with them and we all waited with baited-breath, waiting for Apple to notice us.
And, 6 months later Apple seemed to have noticed. The G5 System Firmware update has just been released. I have yet to install and test this update, I’m going to wait few days yet as this is a production machine and I do not want to risk anything, but initial feedback from the Apple forums seems to point to everything being okay.
However, this has been a troubling affair for all those people who have had working hours lost because of this anomaly. Apparently a lot of the early complaints were ignored, and some users were accused of lying about their problems. Many G5’s have been returned several times, and eventually were replaced with a dual G5.
This does not bode well for Apple’s crowning glories, i.e. the Mac’s reliability and great customer support, those crowns now need a lot of polishing. These kinds of problems should not affect Mac’s, and the fact that they do, point to a few problems in quality control at Apple.
Somebody is to blame for this, and I hope that lessons have been learnt. I also hope that this does not give us an insight to any future problems with the Mactel’s because once we’re all on the same hardware, and speed is no longer an issue, reliability and customer service will be the only thing Apple has left in hardware terms to differentiate themselves from the competition.