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Backstage: Apple’s wise silence on Tiger and Macs

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2005
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MacDailyNews? Snarky, yes, but it’s a fun read. And even when its editorial comments are over the top, I still enjoy the selection of stories. Today’s story (“Apple’s Biggest Blunder In Years: the Unconscionable Lack of Mac Advertising”) really caught my attention. The concept: “If Apple blows their current ‘Windows’ of opportunity by not educating the general public about Mac OS X Tiger’s capabilities, they have only themselves to blame for not grabbing new users. Apple’s continued silence on TV, in print, and elsewhere about their Mac products could rival some of the company’s biggest blunders. We have absolutely no idea why Apple is not advertising the Mac.

There’s a good reason for this, and one that true believers in the Mac community should be aware of: despite all its great new features, Tiger has some serious problems under the hood. Really serious ones - more serious than the ones noted by straight-shooter Anand over at AnandTech, and things that would turn away people who are attracted by Apple advertisements: complete system lockups, kernel panics, application crashes, and other highly un-Mac-like experiences have become a daily part of my life since a few days after installing Tiger, and many other Mac users are having the same issues. Here are just a few samples from Apple’s discussion forums:

Tiger killed my machine
“itunes will just sit there if you let it, spinning the beach ball of doom. You can’t log out, you can’t shut down. I’ve rebuilt my library. I have deleted all of my preferences, i have re installed Itunes. I am about to throw the thing through a window, and demand all of my money and then my data back. ... I have plenty of space, plenty of ram, adequate system resources, and serious experience with os X. This is baffling me, and its an affront to all of the things I come to expect from Apple.”

Support me Apple
“...I get the spinning beachball of death. Thinking maybe spotlight was indexing the machine I let it run for about 4 hours. Nothing happened. So now I have rebooted it like 10 times since. Twice it has worked and the other 8 it has just hung there. I talked to Apple Support for about an hour and a half and I think the guy gave up on me.”

Buy Tiger, just don’t install it
“As an Apple shareholder I would be happy if you bought Tiger, but as a frustrated upgrading user I would sadly recommend you wait until an update comes out before you install. I have a pretty standard system with no weird tweaks. Yet, EVERYTHING that I need on a daily basis, which worked in Panther, is now broken.”

There are many, many other posts like these, too. See MacFixIt for just a few more of them.

I’m a huge Mac fan, and was as thrilled as anyone to put Tiger on my machines. And I’m directly responsible for the purchase of 3 new Macs in the last week alone. But I’m strongly recommending that people follow the latter Apple poster’s advice; there’s no doubt in my mind that Tiger will be fixed, yet right now as I deal with the 20th or 30th kernel panic (and complete system lockup) I’ve experienced in the last 3 days, I honestly cannot believe that Apple shipped a product capable of causing this many problems. I’ve heard and tried all of Apple tech support’s suggestions - pull third-party RAM, pull the devices, try a new user account, try a clean install… None of them work. I’m fairly convinced that Tiger’s the problem - my brand-new dual G5 was working flawlessly for 2 months before it was installed, and so these suggestions are all just time-wasting stuff until 10.4.1 comes out.

My guess is that Apple’s not advertising the Mac and Tiger yet because it knows how many problems there are, and also knows that any new Windows “switcher” would sooner return a buggy Mac than keep it with a bunch of Windows-like hassles. I’ve heard that story before (“PC to Mac… and Back”), and it’s unpleasant to say the least. Once the problems are fixed, and 10.4.1 discs are inside retail boxes, the advertising will commence in force. As someone who’s already made the Tiger conversion, I’m just praying that Apple doesn’t take too long.

Updated Note to MDN Readers: Welcome and thanks for reading. I actually agree with MDN’s comment that Apple should have been touting Panther - but Tiger’s (currently) a step backwards in stability from my experiences. If 10.4.1 truly fixes the bugs we know are in there, there shall be much rejoicing, and I fully agree that the advertising should commence post-haste.

Update 2: A day after pulling Apple’s RAM and replacing it with Crucial’s, the system’s locking up again; the latest error message implicated the kernel. I’ve been running Temperature Monitor to see whether any of this has to do with escalating temperatures inside the G5, and all of the temperatures (including the CPUs and memory controller heatsink) appear to be within normal limits. My most recent Tiger crash came when the CPUs were each running at around 133 degrees F, give or take a degree.

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This is all anecodtal, but I think these are pretty similar to the posts that show up any time there’s a major OS upgrade.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been running it since the release on two machines without any problems except for a couple caused by software that hasn’t been updated yet.

Posted by mattwardfh in Texas on May 10, 2005 at 1:04 PM (PDT)


I wonder how many of the people having problems had a bunch of third-party haxies and other OS-modifying utilities installed and then did an Upgrade install.  That’s a recipe for disaster because all of that third-party baggage would be carried over into the Tiger and some of it would likely wreak havoc due to incompatibility.

I think Apple should default the installer to Archive and Install and then display a warning to switch to an Upgrade install if there’s insufficient disk space.

Posted by TheBum on May 10, 2005 at 2:37 PM (PDT)


Anecdotal is the key word here.  If you logon to Apple Suppoort and go to the appropriate section you always want to look for threads which are quite large to see if there’s a REAL problem or just the usual problems that inevitable result from a new version.

Users should also know that both MacInTouch and Version Tracker are publishing lists of apps updated for 10.4.  The other main mistake is usually assorted freeware garbage which worked fine with 10.3 but won’t with 10.4.

10.4 introduces some of the more substantial changes in the OS than some earlier ones.  This should alert the user that old junk should be gotten rid of first.  Then make a BOOTABLE backup with CCC or Retrospect 6 (the only one updated that I know of thus far although CCC should be available soon).

Also if you’ve been an OSX user since Day 1 you’ve inevitably picked up a lot of junk that needs to go.  Look at your preference files as well as the contents of both libraries.  Make certain your drivers are up to date, etc. etc. (often in /System/Library but use GREAT CARE).

Remember that the Mac loads all three libraries (or makes them readily available) on boot.  Junk in those libraries, along with apps not updated, seem to be the biggest problem.

I put Tiger on only one of my machines (already backed up with bootable copies of 10.3.9 by both CCC and Retrospect 6)  This was done only after discarding old junk utilities and their pref and/or library files.  I then checked the update lists, read the LENGTHY threads on Apple support, MacFixit and MacInTouch, before installing Tiger.  I now backup all new files created with the new version of Retrospect 6 by creating a new folder (and sub folders) of them in /Users/username and have double checked them as both “duplicates” and “backup to file” and seen no problems.  I had one beach ball problem that I probably caused myself.  I run a lot of apps like Office 2004, the Adobe package CS (s), etc. and avoid cutting corners with some of the utilities for which I see no update.

Doing this is not as time consuming as it might seem.  The Retrospect “duplicate” and “backup” scripts run automatically at night.  And I’ve done the homework I consider basic.  I also only installed Tiger last Saturday after reading the first and inevitable fallout from a whole new version of the OS.  I’‘d discount ALL of the above comments.

BTW, I did a complete format and install.  Then copied with Retrospect 6 the Library and App files I felt safe to use (even after the general cleanup ahead of time).  I plan to gradually introduce the assorted shareware and freeware apps I have (few).  But my system is presently entirely stable and most problems seem to come from the “updates” for 10.4 which DON’T work.  I’ve had better luck with some older ones.  Remember that such “updates” are also newbies too.

Posted by glockster in U.S. on May 10, 2005 at 3:13 PM (PDT)


My personal machines are free of “third-party haxies and other OS-modifying utilities.” I’ve tried with a clean wipe of the G5’s hard drive, too, which is my second Tiger install (after an Upgrade), and it made no differencee.

My typical full-machine lockups occur when iChat, Safari, amd Mail are running. I also have had application-specific crashes in iPhoto, iChat, and Mail. Same problems occur when I switch over to a user account with nothing installed, or in Safe Mode. Again, two-month old G5 with no prior problems.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on May 10, 2005 at 3:15 PM (PDT)


I’m a Mac professional and a regular on Apple’s discussion board and I am quite confident in asserting that Tiger is no more problematic than any other Apple OS upgrade and much less so than some others I remember.

Are people having problems? You betcha! Just go to Apple’s discussion board and take a gander - it is enough to scare the wrinkles off a prune. But take a closer look and you’ll see that nearly all the problems have a common story: The user failed to take simple, commonsense, well advertised steps prior to their upgrade:

Repair permissions. Boot with the system CD and perform a disk repair. Back up crucial data - even better, clone the entire drive. Remove or turn off all third party pref-panes and auto-start programs. Check for updates for all programs before the OS upgrade. Unplug external hard drives and other unnecessary peripherals before doing the upgrade.

Just look at the people having problems and you’ll see nearly all of them broke at least one of these rules. Shouldn’t be necessary, you say? In a perfect world, maybe but it ain’t a perfect world. Then again, being curious, and being a professional, I took my work desktop which really needs to be cleaned out and did an upgrade without doing any of these commonsense things. Tiger is purring!

Posted by david_b on May 10, 2005 at 3:21 PM (PDT)


It’s an initial release, so problems are to be expected. Although you do show links to a FEW users with problems, MOST users installed Tiger without a problem, like me. I have been using Panther for months, keeping my software up to date, and even customizing the core system to how I wanted it, installing things under the hood. Only small problem was I had to reinstall X11, that’s it…

What I think you people did, was not use Software Update quite enough…

Posted by pakkman781 in TN on May 10, 2005 at 3:25 PM (PDT)


Truth be told I think Jeremy might either have a bad DVD or a bad mac (is there such a thing?). I’ve installed Tiger no on 3 machines ranging from a G4 Cube to a 1.67 PB, and it’s all been a breeze. All the machines feel ‘zippier’ and aside from the ususal suspects (Microsoft as an example) as my App’s are running just fine.

Jeremey, just some advise. Rather than whinning, bring your mac over to an Apple store and let them take a look at it. Or better yet, contact one of the many mac consultants out there.


Posted by sheldondav on May 10, 2005 at 3:32 PM (PDT)


Pakkman781: Used Software Update at least once weekly from the time the machine went up. Not the issue there.

David: “Repair permissions.” Done that, no good.

“Boot with the system CD and perform a disk repair.”

Done that, no good.

“Back up crucial data - even better, clone the entire drive. Remove or turn off all third party pref-panes and auto-start programs. Check for updates for all programs before the OS upgrade. Unplug external hard drives and other unnecessary peripherals before doing the upgrade.”

Done that, that, that, and that. No good. Next? I’ll just add that I don’t keep a lot of crazy stuff on my Macs, anyway. I’m not trying to run a test lab for 3rd party apps - this is my key business machine, and as noted above, the apps that are crashing are Apple apps.

Sheldon: My very first call was to Apple technical support, and I spent around an hour on the phone with them (including a specialist) to discuss what might be wrong. Hence, I’ve taken all of the troubleshooting steps specified above. My G5 is connected right now exclusively to Apple hardware - and very little of it, at that (keyboard/mouse/monitor/nothing else). Same issues.

I’ve also spent several hours working through potential troubleshooting issues with others. Nothing. And to answer an obvious question, no, I haven’t run Diskwarrior or anything else that might munge Tiger up.

After trying everything Apple recommended, my current test is the inverse of Apple’s RAM recommendation - I’ve pulled out the stock 512MB of RAM that shipped with the machine and am running off of the 1GB of additional Crucial RAM I purchased. With only the Apple RAM, the machine failed just as often as when the Crucial RAM was installed alongside it. Since pulling Apple’s RAM this morning, I’ve had two application crashes (iChat), but the rest of the system hasn’t come down - yet. A couple of days from now, I’ll know for sure whether it’s defective Apple RAM or something more, but the timing and pattern of my crashes (alongside numerous reports of lockups in other systems) strongly suggest that Tiger’s the culprit.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on May 10, 2005 at 3:51 PM (PDT)


To Whom it may concern:
Just a thought on how I will be handling Tiger when I get it. And I have done this for all the OSX.x upgrades. I know that some of you don’t have but one hard drive, but we all know that hard drives are a LOT LESS expensive then they were and are a LOT BIGGER then they have been. I have more then one hard drive connected to my computer. Two external and 4 internal. Some are so big that I could easily partition them to a 100gig partition. What I will be doing is to take a drive that is small and copy any files off that I want to keep and then Wipe the drive,renitialize it and then perform a clean install of Tiger when I get my copy. You can also install different operating systems on different partitions on the same drive. That way I can have my Panther drive running with all apps. Nice and stable and then install Tiger into a new partition or in my case a “new or different” hard drive. That way if I have problems and need to use my computer “productively” I can just go to the System Preferences and choose the Panther drive with all the apps installed and running perfectly and restart. And if I want to play and experiment I can boot to the Tiger Drive and check out the OS and then start slowly moving over applications and see how things run. To only have one drive or partition and install a new OS and expect Harp Music and Rainbows is a bit optomistic I would think. I like jumping on the bleeding edge but I prefer to have a back up system up and running some whereon my computer in SOME obscure drive or partition, if it starts to rain and the sky starts to fall.
HOPEFULLY this will help some of you with wonky computers and installs to weather the next upgrade cycle.
Just a little suggestion.
Jan Swesey

Posted by jan Swesey on May 10, 2005 at 4:33 PM (PDT)


I’ll also direct the thread’s troubleshooters over to this interesting post, which would be very similar to my experience except that my machine is nearly fresh from factory and the poster’s is not.

What hath Tiger wrought <—Earn points here

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on May 10, 2005 at 5:25 PM (PDT)


For what it’s worth I’ve installed Tiger on three of my five Macs so far. One, a 1 gHz iBook G4, installed without a hitch using upgrade. The other two, an old eMac and an even older Sawtooth, both required an archive and install without transferring user data. Last Friday, like Jeremy, I was ready to chuck the eMac out of a window. I was also wondering if the Mac mini I had talked a friend into the week before was such a good idea. I tried the upgrade on both computers but the eMac proved extremely unstable while the Sawtooth couldn’t even finish an install. After archive and install everything works fine. Having said that the other two Macs, which are in my office and critical for my work, will not be upgraded until 10.4.1 appears. I can’t afford the time which might be needed to fiddle with things on my work machines, so I won’t take the risk until Tiger just works. Even so I think Apple ought to advertise now, since by the time people start noticing they will probably have sorted things out.

Posted by mgo on May 10, 2005 at 5:55 PM (PDT)


Jeremy: now that we’ve got some actual information to deal with we can talk. So far I’ve come across three snarky Tiger installations that should have been okay. IOW the computers were running solidly under Panther and all my above advice had been taken.

In one instance even though an archive and install had been done, I advised my client to try doing the archive and install again and call me in the morning…so to speak. He called the following day to let me know the computer was running fine. Why? Voodoo. Maybe he did something differently after the install. Maybe a bit got lost in the install. Who knows. But I’ve had this happen about a dozen times over the last 20 years.

The second instance I finally formatted the drive and did a clean install. The computer is still going strong and steady. Why? Dunno this time either. But sometimes it is the solution.

And let me add, sometimes a computer that was running smoothly, for no apparent reason goes south and a reinstall is required. We don’t point fingers at Apple when this happens, why do we point fingers when the OS is new? By now we should all understand that digital voodoo happens.

The third computer? Like yours, memory is implicated. We saw this happen with Jaguar and Panther so I expected it to happen with Tiger too. I have a cop friend who works in fraud and he claims that the computer industry is only slightly behind the designer clothing industry when it comes to counterfeits. Rejects sold as good, generic sold as brand name, and used sold as new.

Had I known about your computer what I do now, I’d have suggested that you pull RAM. And let me add, yours isn’t the first case I’ve come across where the Apple RAM was the problem.

Posted by david_b on May 10, 2005 at 6:05 PM (PDT)


David: I’ve heard plenty about RAM issues in Macs, but 99% of it is blamed on cheap RAM. Whether that’s fair or not, I bought the Micron stuff (Crucial direct) and a G5 for that matter to avoid having the sorts of issues that come with buying cheap parts and cheap machines. It’s a pro-class computer for professional applications, and I don’t expect it to hang all the time.

That said, given the Apple price premium, I’d hope for the same from a lower-end Mac, too. That’s most of the reason people are buying Apples instead of Dells - stability and a better experience. Plus, I’m personally not of the belief that it’s appropriate (from a consumer’s standpoint) for an OS install to demand a RAM replacement, in other words, that it’s okay to expect people to go out and buy new RAM because a new OS is flaky. If so, that should be on the box - “$129 (+ you may have to replace all or some of your RAM).” grin

If the Apple RAM is defective, awesome. That’s a lot easier for me to deal with than a dodgy logic board, CPU, or random other component, even though it’s highly odd that the problems would start almost immediately after Tiger was installed. We’ll have to see what the next few days bring.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on May 10, 2005 at 7:17 PM (PDT)


what about the people who bought the computers with tiger standard system instead of panther have they had troubles cuz the only people i see here are the ones who upgraded any one just bought a new mac with tiger standard whats up with yall

Posted by BIGP in Texas on May 12, 2005 at 8:54 PM (PDT)


It’s simple. Clean install.

Posted by EricP on May 17, 2005 at 8:37 PM (PDT)


Well I just bought a new Mac Mini. I am new to mac and am really upset to find out that there are that many problems with this system. I have had only one problem and I know why It happened. Other than that My mac upgrade was flaweless and I havent had any problems yet. I just hope I don’t end up regretting trashing my PC for a mac. the other part of my fear is I have know idea what all this mac lingo about archiving and pulling ram is about. Get me a PC and I can build on from scratch. I hope Im not gonna get screwed and hate life with this mac. Regards - Tommy

Posted by oddiseus on May 20, 2005 at 1:55 PM (PDT)


...really upset to find out that there are that many problems with this system.

You have been using Windows all this time and get upset about a few teething problems which have probably been addressed by the 10.4.1 release? :o)

You won’t regret it. I have used both Windows and OS X and I’m about to dump the PC, when I can, for a iMac - the iBook I have has been problem free.

Upgrade to Tiger went fine. It runs fine on a G3 600MHz although some of the features of Tiger are lost due to the low processor spec.

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on May 24, 2005 at 12:50 AM (PDT)


As a further update on this - Apple has replaced the entire logic board of my G5 machine, and the full-machine crashes have apparently disappeared - it will take a few more days of testing to be sure. There are still major crashes with iChat AV (even after the 10.4.1 update), but the overall stability has been returned. Why this happened only after a Tiger install I’m not sure, but Apple’s techs believe that it was just a badly timed coincidence.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on May 24, 2005 at 1:55 PM (PDT)

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