Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Apple Snow Leopard - Update - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This is like a post to tell the aunts how the behaviour of the problem child has been - in this case Snow Leopard. Well the short answer is not great. But I've fixed a couple of things and found a much more problematical issue.
So first the good news. The GCC printer first. This printer had been on the network for months and doing its stuff perfectly well. Then I upgraded to Snow Leopard and it disappeared. In this model - the GCC Elite XL 20/600 - you set the IP address as a static IP somewhere in the range that you are using. The printer had had the same static IP address for months. As part of the diagnostics around the problem I had checked the IP address and all the other settings multiple times. No other device was using that IP address or anything near it. All was well but still no printer.
Finally in one of those random and senseless acts I changed the IP address to another address in the range. Hey presto there was the printer, I could ping it, add it in the prefs and use it. There is no rational reason I can think of why this should have worked but hey, this is Snow Leopard. Still I now have a working printer.
The second breakthrough was with iSync. We have a Sony Ericsson W705a that we wanted to sync using iSync. We had been doing this under Leopard with no dramas. Snow Leopard said that it was a "non supported" phone or some similar language. I removed the Sony Ericsson plugins, downloaded them again (albeit the same version), installed them again and still nothing. I removed the phone from the "Phones" directory in the Library and then recreated it. I couldn't add the phone to iSync as a device. I searched the support discussions, restarted the computer, did everything I could think of. Then I stumbled on someone who had found that the permissions on the plugins directory were screwed up. So I went and had a look at that only to find that I had no permissions on that directory at all. I fixed that and that solved the problem. I could add and sync the phone!
Again this is a seemingly random event. I had been running these plugins under Leopard and syncing this phone. I had repaired permissions after each install of anything but for some reason under Snow Leopard these permissions were stuffed up. Thanks to the anonymous person who had worked this out.
That's the good over with. I've also had further improvement by doubling the RAM on my laptop. Even though Snow Leopard has a smaller disk footprint than Leopard (well done Apple) it appears to need more RAM. What had been a marginal but OK setup under 10.5.8 refused to run with any stability in Snow Leopard. That and 10.6.1 seem to have fixed a couple of the stability problems I was suffering.
Now the ugly. The very ugly actually. The Mail app is totally stuffed under Snow Leopard for me and a lot of others. There is a vast sea of questions and complaints on the Apple support forums. The main problem is that Mail downloads multiple copies of the same email. It appeared to be mainly POP accounts but unfortunately IMAP accounts are similarly affected. My first alert to this was when I came home one afternoon to find tens of thousands of emails in my inbox and my monthly data allowance totally blown. Because I need web access to my mail from time to time, I keep a copy on the server. This has been working OK with the Mail app for years. I've got around 7,500 emails in one account and it worked perfectly.
Not under Snow Leopard. Mail now downloads copy after copy. I had thought that IMAP solved the problem but I came downstairs this morning to find my laptop in the middle of downloading 13,500 new emails. None of course were new.
I've done the whole bit, deleted accounts and created them again from scratch. Created new IMAP accounts, removed the POP accounts...on and on and on. I'm amongst friends though, many people are getting increasingly angry about this and about Apple's total lack of public response. Are you alive Apple, do you care about your users?
It's now almost a month since I upgraded and I haven't had working email for most of that time. I'm relying on my iPhone which is great for a two line response but hopeless for a detailed email.
Apple: you only have to get two things right - the browser and the mail app. We can live with anything else. All you have to do is fix Mail NOW and sit around a table with Adobe and fix the Flash plugin for Safari and our lives will return to near normal.

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