Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Latest Apple Blunder

Those who follow my writing for known that I have long been a champion of the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall, particularly through the video streaming of concerts that have been archived. Recently, however, I have discovered that visits to this Web site have fallen victim to the current run of software development blunders by Apple. Thus, I recently discovered that, since the upgrade to Lion, one could get the video stream on Safari; but none of the controls for the video player would work.

By now I am used to the fact that the folks on the Apple Help Desk automatically respond to any problem with Safari by asking if I have tried another browser. Therefore, I did not need anyone to tell me to try using Firefox as an alternative; and this did the trick. On my last visit to the Digital Concert Hall (still in Firefox), however, I found that the stream was being interrupted with inordinate frequency. (I could not get an uninterrupted signal for even one minute.) I reported this to the Digital Concert Hall technical staff, and they made some useful recommendations regarding Flash and making sure that my network connection was working up to speed.

By accident, however, I considered a possibility that had to do with neither of these problems. When Software Update appeared to be running sluggishly, I decided to check out CPU usage with Activity Monitor. This is not the most reliable tool, since the CPU usage numbers often add up to more than 100%; but, as indicators go, it is better than nothing. In this case it reported that the CPU was being thoroughly hogged by the Safari plug-in for displaying PDF files. (No PDF files were being displayed at the time.) It thus occurred me to just kill Safari and run only Firefox. It was immediately apparent that the streaming service from the Digital Concert Hall had returned to its usually reliable state.

My guess is that this is all due to a “perfect storm” of software development ineptitude coming from both the OS X group and the Safari group. Whether this is a consequence of what Ted Landau has called the “iOS-ification” of Mac OS remains to be seen. Even if Apple has shifted its design priorities, this seems to be a blatant case of releasing software before rigorously testing it. As I observed in a previous flame about Lion, Apple may now be counting on its users to live with problems, rather than on insisting that they be solved, following the logic of E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops.” (The point of that story, of course, is the nature of the consequences of that logic, which is what justifies the story’s title.) Alternatively, this may be a calculated move on Apple’s part to get those of us who do “real work” to start using iPads, however unrealistic that aspiration may be. What will the consequences of that move be? Enquiring minds want to know!

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