Rollout and rollover: when the App Store needs a refit

Those who compile severity scales for stressful events in life need to add an item close to the top: major system software update. I am not sure whether it should go above or below moving house, as sometimes it comes close in intensity, but mercifully not duration.

Yesterday’s rollout of OS X 10.10.3 is my case in point. Now that my logs have stopped spewing errors, the hard disk is no longer churning, and the dust is settling, it is time for a hot washup.

The problem

Apple decided to release a large group of huge updates at about the same time. To some degree they were interlinked, something that we were not warned about. In my case, I needed to download and install the 10.10.3 update itself, OS X Yosemite Recovery Update 1.0, OS X Server 4.1, Xcode 6.3, and Apple Configurator 1.7.2. However last night only the first two were offered in the App Store, which was a mistake.

The results

My update to OS X 10.10.3 and the Recovery Update went fine, apparently. Unlike the initial Yosemite upgrade, my Mac did not go and hide in a hole for a couple of hours while trying to complete the final ‘minute’ of the installation. It restarted fine, and ran, or perhaps more accurately it limped along as if it had severe groin strain.

Ironically yesterday I had also published an article here about using the logs in Console, so it was to Console that I turned when the initial sluggishness did not go away. There was an almost continuous stream of error messages, peppered with a few crashes, and no sign of anything settling.

Browsing the log as best I could, I made out that one process was definitely crashing, the Wacom Tablet driver, which I had only updated a few days ago. However the vast bulk of the log entries, which kept cycling over and over again, were warnings and errors relating to Apple items, distinct with their signatures.

I tried a few tricks, like opening and checking through to see if some troublesome service had perhaps become turned on following the update. But still the disk churned, and the logs went on and on about the same problems. I then excised everything relating to the tablet driver from the LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons folders in my main Library folder, and restarted. The error messages relating to the tablet driver had disappeared, of course, but the logs kept on spewing away – now with almost pure Apple issues.

I then tried a Safe restart, with the Shift key held down, but that froze fairly early in the startup sequence, and I had to force a shutdown. I gutted third-party items from those Launch… folders, but that did not help either. Eventually the pandemonium seemed to settle of its own accord. It was only first thing this morning that I discovered the OS X Server 4.1 update, which had not been offered last night once I had installed the main 10.10.3 update.

Now the rate of log entries has fallen from 4000 in around 10 minutes, as it was last night, to 4000 in well over 12 hours.

The App Store

Recently I have been growing increasingly uncomfortable about the App Store’s human interface. The feedback that it provides has drifted off: sometimes when I click to update, I just see the busy icon, and there is no feedback to inform me whether the update is being requested, downloading, or anything. Sometimes the Update button is enabled again, suggesting that the request failed, and I click on it again, still without any sensible feedback.

Apple needs to fix the feedback provided by the App Store app so that we know what is going on, and whether requested updates are being downloaded, or not.

Furthermore Apple must have been fully aware that those running Server 4.0 would face problems after installing the 10.10.3 update, until they had installed the Server 4.1 update. If it was not, it had not undertaken sufficient rollout testing, or perhaps even thought carefully about this for a few seconds.

As the App Store app is perfectly capable of knowing whether Server 4.0 is installed or Server running, there was no excuse whatsoever to let any user update to 10.10.3 and then not immediately offer the Server 4.1 update, or at least warn us of the problems which would result.

Apple and software vendors more generally never seem remiss in reminding us of their licence terms. Surely they should be even more diligent in warning us when their updates are going to cause us such obvious problems.

So in future, please, Apple, let’s have an App Store which provides the same excellent customer service that your retail stores do.