Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Yosemite Slam

Yosemite Sam, character copyright Warner Brothers Studios, image courtesy of  dailyinspires.com

I've been a lover of Apple products from almost the beginning. My very second computer was a Mac Plus with a whopping one MEG (yes MEGABYTE) of RAM. (My first computer was a TI 99 that didn't do much but hey, it was a computer!) I've since owned or been responsible for the purchase of well over one hundred Apple Macs, not to mention an equal number of iPhones and iPads, half a dozen or so iPods, and even a Newton. I keep hoping for Apple to get into the PACS/EMR game, as their approach to an interface would hopefully provide us with the usability and friendliness so sadly and sorely lacking in the current offerings.

While some might accuse me of being an Apple fanboy, and willing to swallow anything and everything they deliver, I must go public with a huge complaint.

My brand-new Macbook Pro Retina came with MacOSX 10.10, code named Yosemite, after the park and not Sam. It has not quite been trouble-free. In particular, it is affected by some WiFi bug that causes a random disconnect on the average of every five minutes or so. When this happens, one has to turn WiFi off and then on again, and this usually resets the problem.  I will anticipate doing this about 5 or 6 times while writing this piece.

This issue has now been reported thousands of times on multiple threads on the Apple Support Community bulletin board. Apple has released a few updates and we are now on 10.10.2, but still no WiFi joy. If you google the issue, you will find thousands of additional reports.

There have been other Apple issues of this magnitude over the years, such as the infamous iPhone 4 antenna glitch, wherein touching the metal band surrounding the phone which WAS the antenna shorted it out and limited the range of the internal radios. It didn't take Apple too long to fix this, mainly by giving away bumper cases (large rubber bands) that insulated the antenna from the user's grubby, moist paws.

The WiFi debacle, however, has not merited a response from Apple, nor will you see much mentioned about it in the mainstream Mac Media (MacLife, etc.) which depend on Apple's goodwill for their livelihood. For some reason Apple has chosen to neither acknowledge or fix this issue, and some others associated with Yosemite. The consensus is that Apple shoved 10.10 out the door too quickly, perhaps trying to keep things current with the last hardware release. All I know is that the WiFi reception, which is rather critical in a laptop, sucks, and it isn't getting fixed. The crowd posting on the Community board has offered numerous solutions, erase this, redo that, go into the guts of the OS and tweak thus-and-so...and none of them work for any period of time.

Frankly, I've had some intermittent WiFi problems with various Macs and iPads over the years that I haven't been able to document, but task me none the less. I'm convinced, for example, that my wife's original Macbook Air disrupted other user's WiFi, but I could never get that to happen consistently. Given the fact that the WiFi protocols are out there to be matched by the folks that make the routers and receivers, there really shouldn't be a problem, right?

But there is. It has been said that President Obama chose Joe Biden to be his Vice President as an insurance policy: no one would even consider impeaching Mr. Obama because we would then be left with Biden as Commander in Chief. (Excuse me while I wait for the nausea to pass.)  Similarly, Apple knows quite well that Microsoft is its insurance policy. Having Windoze 8.1 installed via Bootcamp on my same Macbook Retina, I can tell you it is absolutely horrid to use, having been written more for their Surface tablet (which I'm told is also a dog) and not for a run-of-the-mill keyboard/mouse setup. It is splashy and colorful, and full of features that do nothing but get in the way of actually using it. For me, and most Mac aficionados, switching completely to WinBlows is a complete last-ditch resort, which won't happen unless MacOSX reaches the point of total shut-down.

Still, Apple, and CEO Tim Cook, need to realize that they are testing the patience of their users, especially those of us who use these (formerly) wonderful machines for mission-critical and even life-saving applications. Sooner or later, someone will step into the void you are creating with your indifference toward a really serious problem.

Fix this. Now. Please. Next time, I won't say "Please".


stacey said...

I just wrote this today, somewhere else: I fail to understand why Microsoft doesn't seem to care about releasing software that consistently causes its customers great consternation. If you went to a restaurant where the first time you tried each new dish, it was a disaster, you'd stop going back. The restaurant would not tell you, hey, just wait til next month, we will fix it and make it better. Or, imagine if they said, "if you go and get a different plate and curved fork with different tines and a special knife, and add in some extra ingredients then it will taste better". And it's not just Microsoft, though they get a great deal of attention because of the number of systems running on their OS. It seems that very few software companies can actually build and develop things that are adequately tested and work reliably before they are sent out the door. And we tolerate it/have no choice. Why are software companies not held to the same standards as other industries?

Geoff said...

If you pop open a terminal window and run the command 'sudo ifconfig awdl0 down' it should help. I can't find the original article I read about it, but the basic explanation for the wifi issues is that the AWDL interface "borrows" the wifi antenna periodically. Sometimes it doesn't give it back properly, thus disconnections and frustrations ensue. The command has to be run after every reboot, and you'll have to enter your password for it to complete.
You can find a little more info about the fix on this Apple Support link

For those who don't speak unix/mac terminal:
sudo - allows a non-root user to execute the following privileged command. Requires the user to enter their password.
ifconfig - interface config utility, which let's you change interface configurations and states
awdl0 - Apple Wireless Device Link zero - the name of the specific interface we're playing with
down - as in 'shutdown' to tell ifconfig to shutdown the AWDL interface.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Geoff. Apparently this works for some but not others. I'm still holding Apple responsible for the glitch and insist THEY solve this problem.

Phil said...

A minor defense - WiFi is a mess, in part because too many cooks spoil the soup. Had Apple been able to design the protocol, and prohibit add-ons, etc, I am certain it would be far less of a problem. As it is, Apple has the job of making this mess of a system simple and easy to use, and that is a hard job.
That said, I expect them to do it, and do it better.
Odd, as much press as the Apple Maps mess got, this problem is far worse, and is ignored. They need to be getting a lot of bad press as.... as.... incentive.
It is interesting, I have heard others say that completely new systems, such as yours (and Jennifer's - she just got a new mac air) are immune to the problem. We have had no problems with hers. (we use purely apple products - time capsule - for our router).

PACSFerret said...

A minor defense - (DICOM/IHE) is a mess, in part because too many cooks spoil the soup. Had (Random PACS vendor) been able to design the protocol, and prohibit add-ons, etc, I am certain it would be far less of a problem. As it is, (Random PACS Vendors) has the job of making this mess of a system simple and easy to use, and that is a hard job.