Yes, it’s another anguished chapter in my relationship with OS X and its posse. Baubles already hanging on this chain include Back to the Mac, Time to Switch?, and Unswitch. Weirdly, unless my logfiles are lying, people like reading them. Anyhow, I had a hard crash this afternoon when I unplugged my external screen, and after OS X came back, both Mail.app and NetNewsWire had lost their memory. It turns out NetNewsWire takes a daily backup of your subscriptions (that Brent Simmons, he da man!) so that only took a couple of minutes to recover. But Mail.app, like iCal, seems to think a crash is a good enough reason to discard user data; all my preferences and profiles were gonzo, I had to start from scratch. It still had my old POP mail without the account they belonged to, but it’d forgotten about my Sun IMAP world. I got it working again, but then there were some folders I didn’t recognize, so I deleted them, and now it’s borked again; says “Synchronizing with server” and never comes back. So I said the hell with it and now I’m running Thunderbird, which ain’t as pretty but seems to work. I’m still OK with OS X, but the number of its apps I use is down to Address Book, iTunes, iMovie, and (until the microsecond I find an alternative) iCal. Apple makes nice computers and a good operating system. Aside from movies or music, I’d stay away from the rest of the apps. OK, let’s try to be fair: I use computers and applications way harder than most, and plenty of people are unlikely to push these apps into breakage. And Apple’s mail and calendar and browser and so on are polished and easy to use. But I just can’t rely on them any longer. [Update: The Mac is going to win because its community is smart and engaged. For evidence, check the comments. Excellent stuff.]



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Joseph E. Davis (Dec 11 2006, at 23:13)

My MacBook has crashed about ten times since I got it this summer. Every time involved waking up from sleep and plugging in an external monitor/USB at the same time (a natural action when bringing a laptop to work with an external monitor/keyboard/mouse). OSX has some kind of horrible dataloss crashing bug in this area.

It always works if I wake the Mac up before plugging in the peripherals. But come on guys, if I wanted to have to learn the rules to operate my computer, I'd be using XP.

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From: J$ (Dec 11 2006, at 23:14)

<blockquote>(until the microsecond I find an alternative) iCal</blockquote>

Any specific reason for not moving to Google's calendar? UI issues, maybe?

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From: Steve Canfield (Dec 11 2006, at 23:51)

I agree with the undependability of system apps, especially Apple Mail for large numbers of messages and accounts. Things get borked seemingly at random. Also, various members of my family have had iPhoto and iTunes forget where their libraries were, but if you know how the system is laid out it's not too bad to fix. Hopefully the whole thing is not just a scam to sell more copies of Remote Desktop.

However, I can't say Thunderbird is much better! Yeah, it hasn't ever lost my mail, but I battle with it's interface daily. It's just obvious that it isn't a Mac app. I've been looking for something else for a bit now and it seems like the verdict is still that all Mac mail clients suck.

On the other hand, I use iTunes, iPhoto, iDVD, iMovie, QuickTime Player all the time, and Pages and Keynote occasionally. Really, Apple should fix their apps, but they should FTFF first!

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From: Anonym (Dec 12 2006, at 00:49)

How do you know Thunderbird is any better?

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From: Mark (Dec 12 2006, at 01:17)

Weren't you the guy who had a whole elaborate post about your infallible backup system? Why not just copy the mail app and its associated library files back to your hard drive? I use SuperDuper to make a daily bootable backup, as well as semi-weekly and monthly bootable backups. Hard disks are cheap. You should set Mail so that it leaves stuff on the server for at least a day, so if you need to go back to a backup, the app will just download the mails that disappeared in the interim. At that point you'd only lose some outgoing mail, no big deal, but there are easy ways to deal with that if you care.

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From: Bruno Rodrigues (Dec 12 2006, at 01:21)

The Apple Mail amnesia has to be somehow related to the last system update. This kind of bug has never happened before the update.

My Apple Mail also forgot everything except the accounts and signatures. All POP (gmail) and IMAP, as well as the .Mac account, were still there. The only SMTP server remaining was gmail. All other SMTP accounts disappeared, including the .Mac one. Font sizes and bundle loading were all gone.

For me it's acceptable if something crashes, burnes, bsod, anything, as long as my data is kept safe as much as possible (e.g. at least the last save shall be there). This is one of the things that interested me in apple when I switched (e.g. I was getting tired of having Windows Word crashing and leaving me with 0-bytes .doc files).

But recently their care with user's data has been more relaxed and bad things have been happening: Addressbook looses everything due to some iSync or .Mac Sync conflict. iPhoto corrupts the library randomly, etc.

My advice? backup often and use server side storage when possible. Always use IMAP (if you need local content, install Dovecot IMAPd on your laptop). Backup daily your Addressbook library. Create new iPhoto libraries after they get to a certain size (e.g. 4.4GB), and use the option key to select the library to use. Keep a seperate copy of your photos. Use Google Calendars or Entourage (if Exchange is needed). etc etc.

I hope Leopard's "other features" are stability on those apps.

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From: Michael Neale (Dec 12 2006, at 01:42)

Yes it is a worry. The mac software, whilst slick, seems to crash in evil, data corrupting ways. I feel generally tense and uneasy when using mac software most of the time. I know I should be enjoying it, but the knowledge and experience of what these pretty user friendly apps may be doing to my data scares the living pooh out of me.

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From: Mark (Dec 12 2006, at 05:55)

"""It seems like the verdict is still that all Mac mail clients suck."""

Although I've never used it personally, I have heard good things about Mailsmith from people who value both data integrity and Mac-like aesthetics.

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From: MiGrant (Dec 12 2006, at 06:16)

There were some folders I didn't recognize, so I deleted them? And now you're surprised when something doesn't work? Forgive me, but WTF?

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From: Michael Stevens (Dec 12 2006, at 06:26)

Personally I'd love to switch to Google Calendar, but it spent a day or two refusing to let me make new appointments. I need something more reliable than that.

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From: Ian King (Dec 12 2006, at 07:39)

I've had much the same Apple app-dumping experience using OS X at work; ditched Safari in favour of Firefox due to Safari's willingness to nuke all tabs on Cmd-Q. Never got into Mail.app and was glad that I didn't after the switch to .emlx. Thunderbird is a champ; I've been able to keep my mail, settings and extensions over a bunch of computers on three different OSes with very little pain since I began using it a couple of years back. That might not be on everybody's requirements, but it works for the way I [ab]use computers and software.

The underlying theme seems to be that a lot of the OS X bundled apps can result in the sort of lossage that allegedly drives people to switch to the Mac in the first place.

So these days, I spend most of my OS X time using almost no Apple apps -- it's the Adobe Creative Suite for graphical stuff, Mozilla products for net stuff, and a whole bunch of (usually Unix) tools from all over for everything else. Yeah, it's not purebred Mac, but I'm not a purebred Mac type in the first place.

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From: Emmanuel Décarie (Dec 12 2006, at 07:40)

Ahem, can you say "Retrospect" and "daily backup" in the same sentence :).

http://www.emcinsignia.com/products/homeandoffice/retroformacintosh/

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From: MikeH (Dec 12 2006, at 07:52)

First off, iBackup saved me the one time I had borked preferences (lost iMail and Aquamacs settings! ). http://www.grapefruit.ch/iBackup/ Combine iBackup with WebDAV and you have a great solution!

In the past I've had some problems with my MBP not waking up from sleep but it seems that a system update fixed this (or it "healed" itself, which never happens). I haven't had problems with iTunes or iPhoto. iMail annoys me, but do we have another Aqua-based alternative?

When I get annoyed at OSX, I think about my WinXP at my day job and an thankful I don't put up with that crap at home.

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From: walter (Dec 13 2006, at 09:03)

Hi Tim. regarding your woes with apple.mail (and ical).... do you backup those two on a regular basis? i have been using Backup with my .mac account and in the last three days it saved my bacon....literally.

In one instance I had deleted three years of sent messages from the server. luckily I back-up email to .mac and to my local HD. So i was able to recover.

Then two weeks ago i ran some weird app, that wiped out my Access Keychain and I was saved again by Backup... i simply restored all my settings. dito for ical... a snap to recover.

Of course you can easliy backup the data for ical and Mail.app in other ways. One way is to simply backup the whole Mail directory. And if you have copies of email on the network, you will also need to backup those to your HD.

Another option with iCal is to export it to a google calendar, as backup and as another way to have access to it. ( i do this once a month...takes a few mins)

cheers - all the best

PS I use sync to auto backup directories for Mail and Documents.

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From: Josh Peters (Dec 13 2006, at 23:23)

The advice to backup is sound, but it's not timely.

If someone comes to you with a problem offering them advice along these lines is very much like saying you should know better. It's the tools that failed, not Tim. Losing data is painful and Apple should do a better job of not killing data. The issue isn't "do you have a viable backup solution?" it's more like "how do I cope with data loss?"

My advice to Tim is to enjoy all five stages of grief: anger, depression, bargaining and finally acceptance. My advice to Apple is to fix your damn tools. Customers don't want to have to rely on 10.5's mystery feature of rolling back documents to a previous date: we want to not need to worry about your apps losing our data. I want to be able to have confidence in Apple's software, not my ability to recover from someone else's mistake (but thank you SuperDuper! for the peace of mind you offer me anyway).

iCal should at worst work off of a copy of the data file and should at worst use some ACID-type methodology for saving its data file. The same goes with iTunes, AddressBook, Mail, and all of the other apps that seem to treat your user data with reckless abandon.

My iTunes consistently messes up the synching of addresses and calendar events to the point where I have to constantly start over with these programs (actually, I haven't as I have given up on trying to make this work). That should never happen from a company with the reputation Apple has (or puts forward).

Tim, you have my condolences.

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From: Ted Wood (Dec 14 2006, at 02:03)

I've had great success with Apple applications, especially under 10.4. Yes, I did experience some strange issues with .Mac under 10.3 and earlier, but I believe they resolved that. Apple Mail happily manages 10 email accounts for me. I have dozens of Address Book entries happily syncing to 4 Macs. I frequently switch between 5 different Network Locations without any issues (okay, that's a lie). Safari remains my favorite browser, even if it does build up a significant memory store after extended use.

Some people have many issues (or focus on the issues), but my experience has been exceptionally pleasant. I work as Tech Support fixing Windows computers all day. I also train people in this business, and they are constantly impressed with how smoothly my PowerBook works day-to-day, unlike the unpredictable behavior of the many Windows computers surrounding us.

I don't know... I guess it's important to put pressure onto companies when we experience some grief with their products. I'm not against that. But I also choose to recognize just how much better my experience is than the millions of those around me. Yes, I back up. Yes, I use .Mac syncing, and yes, I don't install strange system modifications just for kicks. And yes, my machine treats me very well. The glass is half full.

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From: Steve Loughran (Dec 14 2006, at 03:20)

Google Calendar doesnt have an off line mode. Its a fantastic piece of AJAX coding, but try adding an appointment and then losing the WLAN just before you save the appt.

Up pops a nice little dialog saying "we couldnt save the appointment". That's it. The entry is gone; all your notes, the phone numbers whatever.

As such, its not something you can use if you travel, if you keep important information in your calendar. Maybe google are busy trying to do an offline mode; more likely they are looking forward to the time when off-line doesn't exist, so its not worth spending money to improve the situation.

Which is a pity, especially for those of us who have to use Outlook.

-Steve

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From: Mark (Dec 14 2006, at 05:42)

"""The Mac is going to win because its community is smart and engaged. For evidence, check the comments."""

Um, are there some secret comments that you're hoarding and not sharing with the rest of us? Because all I see here is the same idiotic "Apple rocks, you suck, IF YOU'RE SO SMART why didn't you back up your data with proprietary tools from the same company that lost your data in the first place"-type comments that I always see in discussions like this.

Also, I get the distinct impression that a few people are confusing you with me. Which makes sense, I suppose, if you grant the premise that there can't possibly be more than one person in the world who has ever lost data to Apple applications. And besides, it's your own fault for not backing up your data, so there.

(On a somewhat related note, I wonder if this is indicative of a more general pattern of platform-specific blind spots. As in, "Oh, your Windows machine got [a virus | a rootkit | pwned and used as a zombie slave in a spam botnet for the Russian mafia]? Well, it's your own fault for not [running a firewall | keeping up with security patches | running anti-virus software | running anti-spyware software | clicking a spam link | inserting a CD | all of the above]!" For Linux users (and I say this lovingly, as a Linux user), it usually revolves around the user being an idiot for not knowing which configuration file to edit to get some wacky piece of hardware working. For Mac users, apparently, the blind spot is data loss. Pick your poison, as they say.)

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From: walter (Dec 14 2006, at 11:43)

@Josh. Sir your comments are valid: We are all commenting on saving the horse after the barn burned down. But to be fair, ALL data needs to be be backed up. ALL HDs are prone to failure. So fundamentally backup needs to be part of any computer user's mondus operandi. And I completely agree that if the apps are causing the data loss that they should be better designed so that there are safeguards built in. I personally have never lost any data form the apps in question due to a malfunction of the apps... it was always due to "operator' error... the one exception was the weird app that mangled my Keychain. But thankfully I had a back-up. And finally i am one totally satisfied user of all the iApps / iLife. For me the Apple Mail.app is a wonder! i use it to manage 14 email accounts. i can search every email with lightning speed. And with the use of Sync all these email accounts are synched on my desktop and my laptop This is simply magic! Again the one and only "problem" that i had was when i deleted the SENT mail from my .mac account that was stored on the Apple servers. But that was totally my fault. There is not one Mail server as far as i know, that archives a user's email on imap. That is up to the user.

@Mark ... i didn't get that impression. no one was refered to as an idiot.

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From: Drew (Dec 14 2006, at 12:13)

Hey Mark,

It does seem that we Mac users as a whole react rather poorly to criticism of our favorite fruit vendor, but to be honest my first response to Windows users who gripe about data loss is the same as my response to Tim, you or anyone else who's ever thought their digital data was safe in one location. It's something along the lines of "man that sucks someone at --insert vendor here-- needs to fix that but, hey stupid, why didn't you back up your stuff?!" Occasionally modified for customer relations purposes. I ended up saying it to myself a few years ago after leaving a laptop in -16 degree f weather for 2 hours. Two years later I pulled the bricked hd out of a box and managed to get some data off after learning a few tricks in the intervening years, but I never expected to nor had any right to expect to be so lucky. Even if Apple was smarter about data handling/storage that still wouldn't save any of us from hardware failure, disk corruption, or it an effective Mac virus ever gets out into the wild and starts eating data. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to complain about Apple and even switch if it's not a tool that works for you or even hinders your workflow. These complaints about Mail/iCal and data loss just don't hold true to me as some of them. It's my opinion, yours obviously differs, but it's not just a knee-jerk "you leave Stevers alone he's da greatest!" that you seem to want to write these off as. Seriously. If your complaint was man, I'm constantly having to go to my backups to restore from corruption and data loss in Mail.app/iCal, I'd say: "man that sucks someone at Apple needs to fix that." and leave it at that.

Please excuse my poor use of my old enemy the comma.

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From: walter (Dec 14 2006, at 15:03)

I almost forgot about this piece that got me going on backing-up. Hopefully this will be of interest to manuy of you here;

http://www.sitening.com/blog/2006/05/23/how-to-backup-your-mac-intelligently/

cheers

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From: Matt (Dec 14 2006, at 15:14)

Mail.app has a lot of niggly little problems, including bugs that remain unresolved.

In a sense I think it is unfortunate that Mail.app is pretty good for a bundled mail application. It suits mosts people's needs but leaves little incentive for commercial developers to produce something better. Meanwhile everyone just puts up with Mail.app.

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From: Rob (Dec 14 2006, at 15:53)

"Um, are there some secret comments that you're hoarding and not sharing with the rest of us?"

Mark - I *think* Tim is being sarcastic. If not, then I'm not really sure which comments he's referring to either ;-)

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From: Mike (Dec 15 2006, at 11:22)

Mark:

Obviously you are not reading the same thread as everyone else. In the 17 posts preceding yours, only one could even be loosely construed as saying "Apple rocks!" (Ted Wood's post, and even that ends with a statement that "the glass is half full," which I would hardly call a blind endorsement of everything Apple has ever made). Six of them clearly state to back up, though I think everyone can agree that it would be idiotic not to give such advice to a user who experiences data loss, regardless of the cause. Three of them were written in a tone implying that Tim might be stupid. Zero of them combined all three messages in the manner that you claimed typified so many of the comments.

It is ironic that you are strongly accusing other participants of having no objectivity, and yet your post appears to be the most factually inaccurate on the thread (and this inaccuracy appears to be driven by your own experiences and biases).

Mike

P. S. I will not be surprised if you readily dismiss me as another rabid Apple zealot who is attacking you just because of who you are. However, please keep in mind that the ad hominem fallacy is, in fact, a fallacy.

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From: zpok (Dec 15 2006, at 14:37)

On Mark's comment: surprisingly, I don't see a lot of zealotry one way or another. The backup comments are typical, like shouting "you should have taken the plane" to drowning Titanic victims. But that's just nerdery, not at all typical of mac users, but a common computer freak disease.

Mark, I am glad someone is making ubuntu a better place to be, but you seem to be unhappy. Computer related or not, I can't tell. Here's a biiiiig big hug.

Peace.

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From: David S. (Dec 15 2006, at 14:45)

I can only say I've been using Thunderbird/Mozilla/Netscape mail since the uh Netscape days and have never lost anything with it. I've used it on Macs, Windows, Solaris and Linux boxes. That's one of the main reasons I use it (and Firefox) - cross-platform support is critical for any app I use as much as my web browser and email client. I can't waste the time needed to learn the setup, features (and quirks) of different platform-exclusive browsers and mail clients on each platform I use. I need something I can install and configure quickly, almost in my sleep if required, and directly copy bookmark and mail files across from different platforms. As to Thunderbird's interface, I like it and don't find it a problem (the limited amount of time I've spent with Apple Mail did not make me think its interface was particularly intuitive or wonderful).

I don't use iCal or Addressbook at all (I use Thunderbird's address book plus Palm Desktop's calendar and Address book for my thankfully limited requirements in this area). iTunes I use a fair bit and have had no problems with it.

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From: ExitToShell (Dec 15 2006, at 16:02)

I have never had iTunes, or any iApp "forget" where my data files are across three major OS X versions and two completely different computers (PPC & Intel).

The biggest problem I have with Mail.app is the random ask-me-for-my-password problem, which I suspect has more to do with spurious mail *server* problems *cough* Gmail *cough* than Apple's Mail.

The only real complaint I have against the iApps is that the apps tend to be *too* simple in the primary feature area and over compensate in the non-core functionality E.g. why does Mail have its own custom UI and yet requires nearly the full screen just to show a list of mail and one open message? After all this time why won't Apple add "quote selected text only" as I had in Claris Emailer 10 years ago instead of all-or-nothing quoting?

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From: Christopher (Dec 15 2006, at 16:14)

re calendar usage under os x

1. you are emacs user, why not .diary? or do you know org.el, it is excellent to manage ones schedule.

2. the palm desktop application is freeware. it is a very good "pim"-tool. I used it before using emacs and was quite content.

3. entourage (the outlook equivalent for mac) has an inbuild scheduler

4. use (carbon) emacs and org.el and become happy, period.

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From: Ben (Dec 15 2006, at 17:32)

to Mark Pilgrim; please keep straw men confined to alt.religion.paganism where they belong. Thanks.

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From: Chris Adams (Dec 15 2006, at 17:46)

ExitToShell: they have - check the "Compose" section of the preferences.

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From: Norbert (Dec 15 2006, at 19:16)

To ExitToShell: You can control how much text is quoted in replies or forwards in the Composition pane of the Mail.app Preferences.

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From: Yet Another Mark (Dec 15 2006, at 20:11)

"The advice to backup is sound, but it's not timely."

I think the thing you need to remember is that most people, 99.9 percent of people, never have these problems. The problem with the blogosphere is that a few high-profile posts give the impression that there is a huge problem. There isn't. There's a sort of silent majority thing going on where people to whom an issue isn't happening don't bother to post a didn't-happen-to-me/never-happened-to-me post.

The Mac isn't perfect, but there's nothing else out there that is going to be perfect either.

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From: Josh Peters (Dec 15 2006, at 22:37)

@walter: thanks for your comment; please don't get me wrong: I believe that backups _should_ be a part of the basic toolkit for any user.

However, there's not much help to be found in offering "should have" advice when something bad happens (and I think you'll agree from your comment). I have personally lost dozens of gigs of data that I thought was properly backed up only to find it wasn't (when your backup RAID fails and you're still learning how to properly rebuilt it you can find yourself in a world of hurt...).

So encouragement to backup is a good thing, but there seems to be this pattern of advice that follows an announcement of someone losing their data that isn't very good (because of its pragmatic value at the time it is given). I'd like to change that if I may (not that I have much influence...).

At the same time I really, really wish that the software vendors would more properly respond to these issues (and Apple is starting to do so it seems; iTunes 7 now seemingly randomly backs up your library file which is a meager start). Backing up of data should be an invisible operation to operating systems. Much like a hard drive has redundant sectors so that we don't have to keep a backup of our sectors to feel secure an OS _should_ be able to automagically determine when a data file is corrupt and needs replacing with a backup (this would be a place that XML and validation would greatly benefit the world in a very tangible way to non-technical persons; if my data file doesn't validate before writing my program should: 1) try to fix the problem 2) warn the user if the problem is unrecoverable 3) revert to the last known good copy). The stereotypical grandmas of the world would grok that this sort of benefit of XML is reason to use XML-based tools (not that XML is necessary for this to happen, XML merely has all of the pieces in place to offer this).

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From: Mark Thomas (Dec 16 2006, at 06:01)

[quote]After all this time why won't Apple add "quote selected text only" as I had in Claris Emailer 10 years ago instead of all-or-nothing quoting?[/quote]

They did.

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From: Mark (Dec 16 2006, at 11:40)

Every time an Apple-related conversation starts going sour for no apparent reason, I check daringfireball.net and discover that John Gruber has linked to it and unleashed the Mac fanboys. Every. Single. Time. It's uncanny.

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From: Adam Rice (Dec 16 2006, at 14:11)

The unstated, and unchallenged assumption in Mark's comments seems to be that while Macs may be vulnerable to data corruption, Linux is not, and that Mac users view backing up as a necessary part of dealing with Macs, but Linux users don't need a net under them. There's a bit of irony in this coming from Mark, who has discussed openly his meticulous backup strategies.

Is this really so? Is Linux really proof against occasional file corruption?

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From: Mark (Dec 16 2006, at 21:02)

"...assumption in Mark's comments seems to be that while Macs may be vulnerable to data corruption, Linux is not..."

That's not what I said at all. I theorized that the Mac community in general may be slow to acknowledge examples of data loss that are caused (and should be wholly prevented) *by Apple developers*. Of course there are other examples of data loss that are caused (and/or can only be prevented) *by the end user*, but this is not what Tim is talking about. Just look how quickly the discussion has shifted from "Apple apps have repeatedly destroyed my data" to "hey, let's all talk about backup strategies." These are two very different discussions.

Sure, it's important to have a good backup strategy. (I recently suffered a catastrophic hardware failure of a 750 GB hard drive. I lost no data whatsoever. Absolutely everything was properly backed up, easily restored, and checksum-verified.) But it's also valid to complain about applications that force you into disaster recovery mode unnecessarily.

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From: Justin (Dec 16 2006, at 22:05)

I quite enjoyed your observation about selective blindness, Mark, and think it's probably quite accurate. However, on the subject of blindness, it's a bit rich to refer to idiotic comments and then wonder why the conversation went sour.

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From: Jimmi Schou Hansen (Dec 17 2006, at 08:08)

I had the same thing happen with Mail.app after a crash, where it came up and asked me to setup my profile. But I just reentered the settings and Mail.app automatically found ALL my mail which were not deleted, it was just the prefs that got corrupted.

I had located the folders containing the mail-data, and backed it up, expecting to have to import them after setting up my profile, but that proved not to be necessary.

...I'd say that Mail.app handled this little preference corruption pretty well.

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From: Cameron Fleming (Dec 17 2006, at 08:41)

I use Thunderbird and I'm sorry to say that the same thing happened to me after a kernel panic -- all my messages were fine but my configuration was corrupted. The same thing happened to Firefox, Dreamweaver, and some of my system user preferences -- basically anything that was open at the time. Fortunately this has only happened after one kernel panic, but Mail isn't necessarily the only app that will do this.

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From: michael (Dec 17 2006, at 08:58)

Thank you Tim for bringing up Mail's problems. I've been using it since OS X beta on four different Macs and I haven't gotten through a complete OS X version cycle without having it go wonky on me on every single computer. I haven't had any of Apple's other bundled apps disintegrate on me since Panther came out, but absolutely don't trust Mail.

I still use it though I have switched to Entourage, GyzaMail and Thunderbird for short periods. I guess I'm just addicted to Apple's interface. What's funny is that I'm perfectly happy using Thunderbird on Windows. It's just so ugly and clunky on the Mac that it comes off like wearing hiking boots with a tuxedo. It's robust, reliable and so inelegant.

But you're right, we should be able to trust an Apple application. Sure, I back up nightly, use IMAP and download my mail to two separate computers, in two different locations, and store duplicate mail backups in an online storage account. (paranoid? long story) Doing that makes preference corruption just an annoyance. But, it's an annoyance that I shouldn't have to take for granted, as I do now.

Come on Apple, you can do better.

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From: Ed T (Dec 24 2006, at 09:36)

Live and let live, guys!

[Disclosure: I've used Windows and Linux, and now use OS X except when I have no choice.]

A summary of my thoughts:

1. No application should lose data, and bugs which cause it to do so should be identified and fixed.

2. It is frustrating to have an application behind a proprietary fence which prevents us from going inside and fixing those bugs or at least having some control on if and when they'll be fixed.

3. In most of life we have little control; for me, part of the appeal of working with computers is the degree of control which I (seem to think I) have, and any tarnishing of that illusion is annoying.

4. Apple's silence on almost all fronts makes it feel like we have less control yet on these matters. Perhaps they need a Czar or Czarina in charge of the secure storing of application data in (too much to ask) open formats.

5. The point of Tim's original note was the Cardinal Sin that Mail.app had lost the data, not that he had suffered a personal loss. As such, the advice to back up, while relevant to the personal issues of data loss, is irrelevant to the indictment of Mail.app. For all we know, he might have had a backup.

6. If Tim's issue were just one of his personal data loss, I think it is valid to point out to him that he should back up (although I dislike "I told you so's"). If we know that a certain set of events will likely cause data loss, and we know we are apt to perform that set of events, then (pragmatically speaking) it certainly seems reasonable to back up that data regularly. I think that is what the others were responding to. Tim might actually have backed up, but had not mentioned it since it was irrelevant to the issue he was addressing (Mail.app's transgression).

7. Before I had children, I lived the hypertensive life of (among other things) honking at and staring down poor drivers, and rooting for my favorite operating systems of the moment. Now I find it more important to be pleasantly surprised by what good drivers and computing events come my way, and I focus instead on my children. These are two among various different universes to live in, and while living fully inside one it is difficult to imagine sequestering oneself in any one of the others. However, if you fully put yourself inside one of those other universes, you find it self-sustaining and difficult to leave as well.

8. My choice in OS's rests with OS X because it allows me the time to perform the tasks of my job, and the tasks of its maintenance and data integrity as efficiently as possible so that I can still live in my universe; I even have a little time left over to play with the OS or to write this. Other OS's may blend better with other people and their universes, including when their universes are identical to mine. Because I choose OS X does not mean that I feel forced to use Apple's applications where they are available. I use Mail.app and Google Mail, but I also use Firefox and NetNewsWire. For a calendar, I use Google Calendar, but have iCal set up to subscribe to it and export the calendar for me (I like having a local copy).

9. I read through these comments and tried to find something engaged and enlightening (pointed to by Tim) about the comments from Mac users, and I tried to find Apple FanBoyisms (pointed to by Mark), and I couldn't. I think Tim was being generous rather than sarcastic. Like Mark, I find the pile-on from some Mac users annoying (and embarrassing as I am Mac user), but I did not find it here. I think that the mention of backing up was as a pragmatic solution to the problem, rather than a defensive defense of Mail.app. In fact, I think that Tim spoke highly of the comments because they were not blindly pro-Apple, but instead showed realistic OS X users who were willing to use Thunderbird and/or Firefox (etc.) as it suited them. The population that adapts (fights or accepts when necessary) rather than blindly accepts or blindly fights is the one that is most likely to heartily survive. The comments here were a bit of evidence that the OS X base has some of these latter types.

Apologies for the length.

ET

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From: Ed T (Dec 24 2006, at 18:29)

I hold with 1-6,8 but I wanted to apologize for 7 of the above. I was annoyed with the fact that the comments had turned sour beginning with a certain post, and in addition to the germane 1-6 I wanted to say "grow up and get a life". No implications were intended for those who have children and still want to go out and get involved in arguments of any type; people can still be caring and involved parents while doing such. I just used number 7 to indicate when I 'got a life' myself.

With respect to 9, perhaps Tim was being sarcastic...I can see the willingness of a broad group of people to cross-pollinate (buy Mac hardware and adopt OS X, but use open-source software where it fits them) as helping the Mac stay healthy (particularly if some of that group participates in writing and maintaining open-source projects), but I can't see taking that so far as "the Mac will win".

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From: J Mills (Jan 03 2007, at 19:01)

Hi there - I see you're looking for an alternative to iCal. I just downloaded the calendar extension for Thunderbird, called Lightning, and it seems to be working wonderfully.

I haven't yet figured out how to sync it with my iPod video, iPod still wants to use Outlook. But, that's my problem.

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author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
December 11, 2006
· Technology (77 fragments)
· · Mac OS X (114 fragments)
· · · Gripes (22 more)
· · Open Source (82 more)

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