Developer warns users against "Bungled" Snow Leopard

Those of us in the tech punditry game know what it is to be “canaries in the coalmine” – heading into danger first so others might escape the problems we encounter. And there are few of us (with the possible exception of Alex Kidman) who have not encountered a problem or two with Snow Leopard. Likewise, user reports from “the wild” indicate that there are some problems. Accordingly, most of us journos have advised that it’s probably best to hold off upgrading until things are a bit more settled unless you feel brave.

That’s a reasonable, rational position to take. No hyperbolic over-dramatisation is necessary.

Of course, we’re not publishers of disc-printing software. Publishers of disc-printing software, it seems, feel that the world might end if you are so foolish as to upgrade to Snow Leopard straight away. Specifically, Magic Mouse, developer of Discus, sent a warning to its customers over the weekend, reproduced here in full:

“Discus User Alert

Dear registered Discus user, we have seen a flurry of tech support inquiries in recent weeks about compatibility with Macintosh OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and also Windows users calling about quicktime (sic) issues if they install iTunes 9, as well as information about the upcoming Windows 7 system.

Rest assured that whenever a major system change occurs, we will make any necessary changes to Discus immediately and post a new version on our website at www.magicmouse.com under the "Download Updates" section.

The latest Discus version is 4.24.

To our knowledge Discus 4 appears to be running fine.

We are seeing huge numbers of problems with Snow Leopard in general however as Apple really bungled their recent release. Apple had to rush out a service pack (6.1) to prevent a riot, and many defects remain. If your livelihood depends on smooth functioning of your Macintosh, please avoid installing Snow Leopard until 6.2 is released. Snow 6.0 almost completely ruined printing. If you have already installed Snow, be sure to download the latest versions of printer drivers, many companies like Epson updated their drivers after Snow shipped, and some like DYMO have not yet released Snow drivers.

We are old hands at computers, going back to the punch card era, and can state with authority that if you value your time and would like to avoid unnecessary frustration in your life, we recommend that you NOT UPGRADE TO ANY NEW OPERATING SYSTEM UNTIL SIX MONTHS HAVE PASSED. The trusting people who recently purchased Apple's Snow Leopard and immediately installed it were greeted with hundreds of terrible bugs. It was reckless of Apple not to test their system more thoroughly before releasing it to millions of paying customers.

When you immediately upgrade to a major new operating system version you are basically volunteering to be an unpaid tester for the supplier. Unlike bran muffins fresh operating system versions are not better - they are more like wine which benefits from age. Operating systems are among the most complex projects ever attempted with hundreds if not thousands of man years of work inside, and every major system shipping today went out the door with tens of thousands of known defects. Both Apple and Microsoft have a bug tracking system and the managers at Apple and Microsoft know full well that their products are riddled with defects but market forces dictate that they ship on a fixed calendar schedule regardless of the consequences to the customer, and if they waited until the product was flawless it would never ship at all.

Approximately 35% of the laptops containing Vista were downgraded to XP. And this is after an entire year of vista (sic) on the street.

There are two places you can be in the computer world - the bleeding edge and the trailing edge, and we recommend to all our customers to buy proven hardware technologies that are least two years old and try to stay behind in operating systems until you start to hit problems because you are too far behind. When you stay behind a bit you enjoy low prices, complete reliability, and lots of technical help.

Regards,

The Discus Support Team”

Just go back to the fourth paragraph there and read it again. This warning comes from a company whose own product “appears to be running fine” under Snow Leopard. I can only imagine the portent of global catastrophe that might have emerged if it didn’t.

(And I note that Discus 4.24 “appears to be running fine” despite the assertion that “Snow 6.0 almost completely ruined printing”. I’m not entirely sure what “Snow 6.0” is, but if it’s at all related to Snow Leopard then I don’t think that’s quite right. I’ve got an Epson printer right behind me here in the office that has continued working without so much as a hiccough since the upgrade. I know that has not been everyone’s experience, but I also find it hard to believe that 10.6 “almost completely ruined” printing, except for the lucky users of Discus 4.24 and me.)

No, this warning is in response to “a flurry” of tech support calls from, for example, Windows users installing iTunes 9 and having QuickTime issues — which, for some reason, they thought they’d call the developer of their disc-labelling software to gripe about. Nice to keep in touch I guess.

Now, I’ve been following the reports about Snow Leopard pretty closely, and I have to tell you this is the first time I have heard about a riot having been averted. I’ve been to Apple’s offices and to its flagship Sydney Store several times since 10.6 was released and at no stage have I got the sense there was a crowd forming with pitchforks and torches and Molotov cocktails, ready to storm the battlements and place on pikes the heads of whoever was responsible for breaking the iPhoto Mosaic Screensaver. But if Discus is to be believed, OS X 10.6.1 arrived just in time to mollify their rage.

At least the .1 update has reduced the number of problems from “huge” to “many”, but that has done nothing to stop Discus warning its customers about Apple’s “reckless” act in having “bungled” the release of an operating system with “hundreds of terrible bugs” (which, in the next paragraph, somehow becomes “tens of thousands of known defects” about which Apple knows “full well”).

I presume that The Discus Support Team ran this letter past The Discus Legal Team before sending it out, because you can be pretty sure Apple’s lawyers are giving it a skim.

Apple has bungled product releases before. I doubt there is anyone inside or outside Cupertino who reckons the MobileMe transition went well, and let us remember solemnly the data that was lost by those brave few who tried FileVault as soon as Panther hit the streets. But by most reports the serious problems with Snow Leopard have been few, and the majority of users have had minor niggles if any.

Nonetheless, the advice in the letter has merit. It’s not necessary to be on the vanguard of technology (whether you call that the “leading edge,” the “cutting edge” or for whatever reason the “bleeding edge”) and for most people waiting until everything is settled and stable is a much better idea. And, as pointed out in the letter, waiting until hardware is at least two years old will almost certainly ensure that the bugs have been ironed out.

So make sure you don’t rush in blindly and update to the latest version of your Discus printing software, will you? Two-year-old printers probably don’t support it.

Discuss this at MacTheForum

Note: I am not a Discus user, and received the letter via the iMug Discussion List.

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