Mac OS X 10.5.3: A ‘massive’ disappointment

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
May 29th, 2008 • 8:31 am

Apple finally released the latest Mac OS X 10.5 update, Mac OS X 10.5.3, yesterday. You can read the release notes here.

I am afraid that, unlike the previous update, this release is a massive disappointment. By this, I don’t mean that it is massively disappointing—only that, well, it is quite massive (536 MB for the combo updater!), and that it is also quite disappointing, especially after such a long wait.

I suspect that those who do like to use Leopard’s Spaces feature (not me) will appreciate the fixes included in Mac OS X 10.5.3, but for the rest of us out there, the number of bug fixes that actually address substantial usability issues with Mac OS X 10.5 is far too small.

In particular, I simply cannot understand why Apple still hasn’t addressed the glaring issues with Spotlight’s search results windows (like this one, this one, and this one).

And, among this particular group of issues, I find it particularly baffling that Apple still hasn’t fixed the problem with file names becoming editable in Spotlight search results windows in the background after double-clicking on them.

This is, after all, a bug that is a known issue. And it is also a bug that is not just “cosmetic”: it can have very destructive consequences, which I keep experiencing myself again and again in my work.

Just a few days ago, I was looking for a specific keyword in a bunch of text files scattered within several sub-folders inside a main folder. So I selected the main folder and initiated a search for the keyword in question with Spotlight in the Finder.

I got a Spotlight search results window with a list of three results in list view—three files named A, B and C. I selected A in the list and then double-clicked on it to open it in BBEdit. After the file was opened in BBEdit, I could still see the search results window in the background. And sure enough, the name of file that I had selected and then double-clicked on had suddenly become editable, in the background.

But what’s worse is that, a few moments later, I saw with my own eyes in that background window that Mac OS X arbitrarily changed the name of result C, which was not even selected, to the same name as result A!

Since result A and result C were two files that were in two different sub-folders, I didn’t get the error message complaining that I (!) was trying to rename file C using a name that already existed. Mac OS X simply randomly changed the name of result C to the name of result A, and if I had not noticed it right there and then, I would have continued with my work and never realized that I now had a file whose name was incorrect.

And this happened in a context where file names are particularly important, since the search in question had to do with the PHP files inside my WordPress folder. To be blunt, in such a context, a changed file name means that the entire WordPress installation is broken. It is extremely damaging!

How can Apple’s engineers live with the fact that this bug still exists in Mac OS X 10.5.3? It has been a known issue for many weeks now, and they have had more than enough time to address it. And, I repeat, this is not just a cosmetic bug that users can live with until Apple’s engineers get around to fixing it. It is a potentially very destructive bug! I cannot believe that Apple’s engineers don’t realize this, and don’t make fixing this bug a high priority.

Another area of Mac OS X 10.5.3 that is utterly disappointing is the Mail application. As far as I can tell, none of the new problems introduced in Mac OS X 10.5 that substantially affect usability have been fixed. The alert sounds for incoming and outgoing mail are still played randomly, with neither rhyme nor reason. Mail still does not play these sounds through the correct audio channel. It still removes the text colouring when replying to a message that has been coloured by a rule. Etc. Etc.

What exactly is the Mail team working on? The list of fixes for Mail provided in the release notes is sadly pretty short, and none of the above issues is mentioned.

Now, the issues in question are not as potentially damaging as the bug with Spotlight search results windows, but they still affect the usability of the application in very visible—and audible—ways. Given that these are not new features, but things that worked just fine in Mac OS X 10.4 and that Apple broke in Mac OS X 10.5, you’d think that they would demonstrate a little more zeal in fixing them so that at least Mail works as well in Mac OS X 10.5 as it used to in Mac OS X 10.4.

But no. Now Mac OS X 10.5.3 is out, and none of these things is fixed. This means that we still have to live with them for at least another couple of months, if not longer.

I am afraid this is really quite disappointing.

8 Responses to “Mac OS X 10.5.3: A ‘massive’ disappointment”

  1. jameskatt says:

    I think you expect too much in a short period of time.
    Apple has already logged your complaint.
    Apple isn’t your whipping boy – so have patience.

    Operating Systems are extremely complex entities with usually thousands of bugs. Windows is well known for having hundreds of thousands of bugs.

    At the very least, Apple is incrementally addressing these bugs – 10.5.3 is an incremental update. It helps a lot of people – just not your specific issues.

    I don’t see MacWorld or other sites making a big deal about the bugs you point out.

    You can stay disappointed. But I would say – move on with life. Life is too short to keep negative energy.

    Mac OS X is a whole lot more satisfying and fun to use than Windows XP or Vista. You can always try something else other than Mac OS X if you are REALLY disappointed. I wouldn’t personally do that since I think Mac OS X is the best OS.

    So move on with life. Negativity, fear, disappointment just shortens life. Have patience.

  2. Gary Morgan says:


    I think you’re drinking too much coffee. Lean back in your chair and take a deep breath. Breath into a paper bag. Lighten up and relax. Everything is going to be OK. Whew!

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    All I am saying is that it is hard to put a positive spin on a bug that repeatedly changes the names of your files (including file extensions, which means that it also changes the file types) behind your back, randomly, without warning. It seems rather obvious to me that this is a potentially very destructive bug and should be a priority.

    Just because Macworld does not devote column space to it does not mean it does not exist or that it’s not important. I am not making it up. I gave up long ago on the mainstream Mac press. They have their own agendas, and they are not exactly in tune with real-world computing. They occasionally offer useful information, but most of the time their stuff lacks depth of any kind.

    And I don’t find the fact that Windows is 10 times worse much of a consolation. On the contrary, to me it means that even the best system available is still full of bugs and flaws and that we are forced with live with them on a daily basis. The lack of real competition for Apple on the OS front is part of the problem, in my opinion. They devote more resources to flashy stuff and don’t have as strong an incentive to fix unglamourous problems, because the mainstream press does not talk about them (it is too “real-world” for them) and there is no other developer making a better OS and fixing bugs faster than they do.

    It has nothing to do with Apple being a whipping boy or anything like that. All I am talking about is my real-world experience using this tool for real work on a daily basis. I am forced to live with numerous flaws and bugs, and the fact that they are “known issues” and yet nothing is done about them for months or years is particularly frustrating.

    Of course there are lots of bugs and lots of people expecting timely fixes, and Apple cannot accommodate everyone all the time. But sometimes I cannot help but feel that their priorities aren’t quite right. If it’s a known issue, and it’s potentially very destructive, then for heaven’s sakes do something about it. Now.

  4. ssp says:

    Rest assured Pierre that not everybody is on the happy pills. From my POV X.5.3 ranks pretty highly on the FAIL scale. I am not even sure wether they fixed things that affect me, but I am pretty sure they broke some.

    Of course many people do not use their computers (phones, gadgets) intensively and do not need the features that are advertised with the product. Those people may not see as many problems as you (or I) do. And they’ll find it easy to relax because they do not experience the destructiveness of those bugs. I figure that’s the reason why the public opinion is relatively positive. The basics work not perfectly but reasonably. Once you go past those 10% of features, however, you’re in for problems. Problems which nobody will admit and which it is hard to find information about because what is known as ‘Mac troubleshooting’ is pretty close to white noise.

  5. Paul Ingraham says:

    As if MacWorld would ever be substantively critical of an Mac OS X update. Ha. That’ll be the day!

    I was also acutely annoyed by the unimpressive list of repairs in this 10.5.3. I’ve struggled with numerous Mail bugs since 10.5. I was eagerly awaiting repairs, and I didn’t get a single one of about 20 that I was hoping for. It was truly a bummer to scroll down that list, realizing that they somehow managed to fix anything I cared about.

    I wholeheartedly agree that the lack of substantive fixes of prominent bugs is … well, baffling.

    I don’t think “too much coffee” or a bad attitude causes one to be baffled by such things. I will never accept that simply being “better than Windows” is enough for the Mac: that’s too low a bar to get over. Mac OS X could be a lot better than it is, and there’s not really any good excuse for Apple to fail to take it all the way. Many of the most desperately needed bug-fixing is held up primarily by unwise allocation of human resources, by corporate prioritization that pulls too much talent out of OS X development and puts it into iPhone work. If there’s a complexity problem interfering with making OS X truly good, it’s Apple’s institutional complexity, not OS X’s technological complexity.

    Apple cares about good design more than most companies, but still not enough for a truly friendly technological future.

  6. jbayly says:


    I’ve *Never* run into this until I read your article. I thought, “Wow, that would stink!” I almost didn’t believe you.

    Then it happened to me.

    Very naughty, Apple. You should have fixed this.

  7. Pierre Igot says:

    jbayly: If you are referring to the random file renaming bug in the Spotlight search results window, the bug might have happened to you before without your noticing it. See this post for more info.

  8. zahadum says:

    yes, the emperor has no clothes!

    the terrible QA at apple is especially galling to those of us who are big fans of osx!

    the whole engineering dept needs a big house-cleaning!

    since they are so cluless (and poorly lead!) i will spell it out:

    1) UML … action semantics v2 makes this not just a design language but a live reactive where it is easier to spot mistakes (as well as properly use patterns!)

    2) DFT … having the testing baked-in to the design forces clear thinking in the first place, as well as decreasing the impact of errors that do slip by.

    3) SDL … having a real notation (derivitative of ASN.1) is the key to being able to generate /insight/ into validating the specification … it lays the groundwork for doing serious, mathematically-based (not STATISTICS-BASED) analysis eg SPIN. The current generation of telemetry in osx (borrowed from solaris) is not wired-in to deeper analytics required by aggressive use of SDL. Of course the premise of SDL is that you need to surround the code with an environment that can scrutinize the promises made by the code … because the programming language does not itself contain any idioms to do so (eg as eiffel does).

    More generally apple needs to FINALLY get beyond the osx legacy codebase … and start using modern design & language techniques! … there is a growing body of evidence from (eg the L4 project) that functional languages (eg haskell and some object/functional hybrids) are the best way to build a microkernel & do system programming in general …

    if apple were to going on this stuff for leopard’s successor then alot of the obvious bugs and the unbelievably stupid/lazy design failures would simply be eliminated in the first place!

    apple’s increasingly /genetic/ indifference to QA is founded on the assumption that microsoft will FOREVER remain the blind leading the blind! —- which is not only arrogant (though justified by its long history of mediocrity!); it is foolishly dangerous.

    institutionalizing contempt for your customers is a sure-fired formula for ruination.

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