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Feb 07, 2012 at 08:05 PM

Usually when someone asks me what to get to enjoy a more or less hassle free desktop the answer I give is "a Mac". This might change in future, since OS X Lion is the most annoying and least perfect OS X release since 10.2 and causes a lot problems for me. I don't really want to list all the issues I ran into over the last months, but lets have a closer look to a few of them.

My girlfriend's iMac suddenly stopped autojoining the WiFi about a week ago when being woken up from sleep. This is a no-go, as we heavily use network attached storage mounted via the LAN, imagine what happens when working on a USB stick and unplugging it before saving your work. To avoid network related problems, we use a decent and believe me - perfectly configured Cisco Aironet AIR-AP1252AG with two radios. One is supplying a state of the art 300Mbps capable 5GHz 802.11n WiFi network, the other one (for legacy devices such as iPhones and other mediocre WiFi devices only being capable of this band) a 2.4GHz alternative.

Of course I try to keep as many devices as possible in the 5GHz WiFi, since that's what one should do, when the 2.4GHz band is pretty busy as it is in any city. In addition I have quite some gear communicating in the lower band, like a few XBees for home automation or other noisy units like the two DECT headsets. Having all the noisy stuff centered around 2.4GHz, the 5GHz WiFi cell largely benefits from a greater signal to noise ratio and can easily use 40MHz channel width without too much interference from anything else around here. Using a doubled channel width the theoretical maximum link speed of 802.11n can be configured leading to a real world bandwidth of about 8-10MB/s - close to what you got from 100MBit/s wired ethernet.

When Apple released IOS5, finally offering over the air sync (OTA) it was just as logical to use OTA sync with our Phones and Pads here, where only the iPad supports 5GHz WiFi, the iPhone (not even the latest 4S) seems to have no such capability. And, since we're talking about media sync, bandwidth can't be high enough, unless you're an overly patient person. Unfortunately this all lead to a structural problem, as the Cisco AP forces unique VLANs for unique SSIDs per unique radio (btw - Cisco, this is not something for you to decide, and no, the customer is always right). This means we have to have to set up two SSIDs/VLANs, one for the 2.4GHz radio, the other one for the 5GHz radio.

Not to dive too deep into OSI layer 1-3, the Mac running iTunes has to be associated to the same SSID as the IOS device, so that both are members in the same VLAN and therefor the same subnet. That's the only way this crippled mDNS bullocks called Bonjour works to provide the semi dynamic configuration data for iTunes OTA sync. Congratulations you dumbheads, when I try to keep something simple, I also try to keep it as general as possible. So if you add something that does some automagical discovery, be sure to allow manual or semi-manual configuration hints to address at least the most common cases. Such a case would obviously be: related devices in multiple subnets. I'm not too overwhelmed thinking about setting up a mDNS proxy just because you think one subnet fits all. My WiFi will always be in a different VLAN than my ethernet based hosts, for now that's just the right™ way to do it.

Anyway, back to the autojoining problem, I searched the net for a solution, deleted network environments, rm'd appropriate preferences, adjusted beacon intervals until there was almost only beacon traffic at a rate of 300Mbps going on - nothing helped. So I went back to the beginning and tried to find out what exactly changed since the Mac refused autojoining the WiFi. It all pointed to the 10.7.3 update, whose release notes even mentioned something about the solution to WiFi autojoining problems with older versions of Lion. Huhh? They introduced the problem and called it a fix for something that was never there? Anyway, whatever they claimed to have fixed there, it actually caused exactly the opposite, but hey, at least I got an idea of what's going on. Using Google once again revealed a slight chance this could have been triggered by a broken delta update (== incremental update) via the internal software update utility. So reinstalling the defectively patched files could eventually solve this problem. So I thought, let's give the combo update (usually contains every patched file since the initial release) a try. After all, I already lost 30min for debugging Apples QA incompetence, so why not invest another 30min just to be sure and not to stop half way through. So, where's the download ... mhmm, again - not as easy as it could have been, searching for the file, I always ran into a certain link:


Unfortunately, this link was expanded (server-side) to:


... which is was the prototype of a non functional hyperlink:

The webserver behind it refused to deliver content because it was lost in a redirection loop until I changed the link manually to:


I mean, if I break thousands of computers by delivering a defective delta update that might break an essential connectivity function, how smart can it be to misconfigure the only server that might provide a cure for this failure? Geesh .... well anyway, reinstalling the 10.7.3 combo update didn't help that particular iMac, it just showed the same erratic behaviour again and again. After a complete reboot or being woken up by the power button from sleep, the Airport connects just fine, but being woken up by keyboard or touchpad, it refuses to autojoin. For now I have to leave it and hope for an update to the update, I never thought these times would come again. Seriously, someone @QA should wake up really soon, just to make sure this will be the last time they break WiFi.

And what about display flickering? What feature did I request to deserve a flickering screen? Depending on what graphic card I activate I get a flickering screen on my Macbook Pro. Going green using the less powerful GeForce 9400M, it appears to be more often than using the GeForce 9400M GT. I saw videos on Youtube where other systems went partially black every 10s or so. Ok, it's not that bad with my system, I'd say every 300s on average, but hey, this is distracting every once in a while. As is the fact that every 30-40th time I hot plug a secondary TFT, the pixelclock goes mad and displays 1920 by 1200 white noise distributed pixels. WTF, is this Linux or what? Every 15-20th time I do that all colors on the secondary screen become inverted oder even reduced to 16 different colors. Why? And whose idea was that? I mean this is 2012 and I'm on a Mac. I don't want to worry about such teething problems.

Ranting about graphics - fire that GUI designer responsible for iCal immediately, it's awful. If I wanted a cheapo leathery calendar, I'd get one. But I don't - I just want a clear, straight forwarded and fast calendar application, no a teletubbie animation bullocks.

Something in Safari tells it sometimes to reload every page, when I switch tabs. Are you kidding me? There are clearly specified tags in HTML to tell a browser what content to reload, and what not. Fortunately most of the time this isn't bad, but often enough it's pretty strange.

Why is there no option to disable Versions globally? Only very few applications use Versions now and I won't use it, until I get consistent behaviour. I don't even know anybody else using it for work - do you? I'd say I have a pretty clear idea what files and versioning can do since I dived into unix almost twenty years ago and actively use svn and cvs on a daily basis. So the concept of Versions is far from being revolutionary to me. But unless every application uses OS X Versions, come up with a global switch to disable it. In other words, I want my "Save as" back, and I don't care how that breaks their idea.

Fullscreen mode - this must a bad joke, mhmm? For years Apple preached a philosophy of not using full screen, but we had to wait until now to learn why: They just don't know what to do with it. Adding a button that resizes a window and locking all other screens cannot be the holy grail for productivity. Another hint to the clueless people responsible for that - make it fast and smart, not inferiourly neat. I don't need animation, I want it to happen instantly and on any screen I chose a window to reside on. So get your clumsy fingers off my additional screens, it's fullscreen, not singlescreen mode. Oh, and is there a reason why Quicklook still doesn't support pinching for zooming in fullscreen? What's the purpose of a quick look, when I can't really read anything since it's too small on a 15" screen? Go, fix it, now!

UPDATE: At least they fixed their server error in the meantime, while the iMac still suffers from disorientation after having had a nap unless you chose to wake him up using the power button.

UPDATE 2: Reading more about multicast vs. security made me resignate, so I set up a mDNS proxy service to get around the broadcast limits avoiding multicast in general or complicated unicast/dns settings. Look for avahi in combination with the both the allow-interfaces and enable-reflector directives.

UPDATE 3: They just announced Snow Lion for summer. Should I sigh and resign or just dump all this IOSy stuff and go with Windows 7 for the next years? At least it looks nice and stable and in some ways seems to converge more towards what I had with OSX than what the real thing is stumbling into.

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