TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Major Releases, Benchmarks, and Feedback

Volume Number: 24 (2008)
Issue Number: 08
Column Tag: Industry

Major Releases, Benchmarks, and Feedback

Benchmarks and how the community contributes

By Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

Complexities

Software is a complex beast these days, and it has been for a while. Just take a look at the storage on your local machine, and you will likely see hundreds of thousands of files and folders, if not a million or more.

OS X, like other OSes, has many different configurations - more than is realistically possible for anyone to test on even for the biggest of companies. As a result, developers have gone into the mode of trying to write the best quality software that they can, do realistic testing, and then focus enormous efforts on listening for problems, and reacting to them. Both Microsoft and Apple are great examples of having done this on the Mac.

But with this approach comes a lot of responsibility on the community, especially those that are technical in the market. As a MacTech reader you are at the core of this market). Like it or not, this responsibility lands largely on your shoulders.

Leopard and Microsoft Office 2008 are both giving us good examples of what to look for, what to expect, and what our responsibilities are.

Benchmarks

MacTech strives to give you quality benchmarks. We've done it for virtualization environments, Rosetta, hard drives, and Microsoft Office. In all of these cases, like anyone else that does high end testing, we do this in "virgin" or "clean" environments. It's the only way to do the testing, as you cannot penalize a product by putting it on a machine that needs to have a disk utility run on it, or has system problems, or a congested network.

Benchmarks are a great tool — they allow you to see, in an "apples to apples" comparison, how well a product performs. As the pros in the industry, you take those benchmarks and start to apply them to your real world setting, as only you know the setups you have. When major releases come out, the distance between a clean setup and yours may be that much more important, and here, your involvement grows.

Let's take Leopard and Microsoft Office 2008 as examples. Both of these are herculean efforts on behalf of their developers, and are massive releases. As anyone experienced will tell you, releases of this size are never perfect. There's no way for the developer to test all permutations of hardware, OS release and other software installed on the machine.

Community Feedback

So, what's a geek to do? Well, that's a good question. When major new releases come out, you should get a copy in your hands as fast as possible, and start to use it yourself. What you should not to is put yourself in a situation where you are supporting others using it, and furthermore, you should not yourself be in a position where you are dependent on it working.

As you are able to experiment with these new versions, you want to understand what, if any, pitfalls you fall into. You should be looking for bugs, incompatibilities and more.

Now here's the important part ...

you need to report them.

This is so much more important today than it was in the past. As the technical community, it's become our responsibility to report the problems so that they can be fixed. If we don't report them, they are not likely to be fixed. Griping about issues on public mailing lists and in blogs doesn't count. Even more important, the bug tracking and reporting tools have become sophisticated enough that they not only provide information on what you are experiencing, but give statistical information to help rank the importance of the problems within the community.

Apple and Mac OS X / Mac OS X Server

As many in the industry will tell you, Apple versions tend to stabilize on the .3 version. For example: Leopard will likely stabilize quite a bit on 10.5.3. It just takes that many interactions of versions and general usage to get the major kinks worked out. That's not to say that there won't be bugs with a .3 version; Historically, the .3 version is the one that generally runs well, and then has incremental improvements from there.

Every time you have an application that unexpectedly quits, a dialog appears asking for permission to send information to Apple. You should use this as much as you can, as it's not only fast, but it gives very specific machine generated information that is very helpful to Apple in understanding the situation that just happened.

In looking through Apple's online support, you'll see a way to give Apple feedback on whether an answer was helpful to you or not. Take the few seconds to let them know if it was helpful or not— over time, it makes a difference.

If you are looking for help on an issue, there are a couple of things that you can do. First, you can use MacTech's "Community Search Engine." Here, we've selected the best web sites in the community, including Apple's support sections, to be a part of the search. So, when you are looking for "rebuild degraded RAID," you'll get only those search results relevant to the Mac and OS X, and not the hundreds of thousands of answers you might see with a general Google search. See the left navigation bar on MacTech.com or http://www.mactech.com/advancedsearch.html — either way don't forget to press the "Mac Community" radio button for that type of search.

Apple uses their "Bug Reporter" system at http://bugreporter.apple.com/ as the primary way to report bugs to Apple. ADC Membership (free registration) is required to use this tool. And, there's a great article on AFP548.com that talks about the best ways to use Apple's system — see http://www.afp548.com/article.php?story=20051102133234150

Microsoft Office

Microsoft also uses a variety of ways to have people report in information. In fact, they appear to have broader methods of interacting than Apple does.

Microsoft has a "Send Feedback" command in the Help menu that redirects users to a page on the Mactopia web site. This information is generally used to plan future products for Microsoft.

See http://www.microsoft.com/mac/suggestions.mspx

Like Apple, the online Help sections on the Microsoft web site also asks, "Was this helpful?" Clicking the "No" or "Somewhat" buttons prompts for slightly more detail. When the community tells them why a topic isn't helpful, they can use that feedback to change the topic online, without having to wait for the next major release for offline content updates. Microsoft calls this "continuous publishing."

If you are looking for help on any of the Microsoft Office products, you should look to the newsgroup forums. Here, there are MVPs (not Microsoft employees) that know the products in depth, and will give you very candid answers. They are particularly good at answering "how to" questions. In addition, Microsoft read the posts looking for problem reports, and if appropriate will compare them to reported issues, or create a new one. Here are the URLs for the web interface into the newsgroup forums:

http://www.officeformac.com/ProductForums/Word/

http://www.officeformac.com/ProductForums/Excel/

http://www.officeformac.com/ProductForums/PowerPoint/

http://www.officeformac.com/ProductForums/Entourage/

http://www.officeformac.com/ProductForums/MacMessenger/

When you first install Office, it asks if you want to be part of the Customer Experience Improvement Program (aka CEIP) which gives Office permission to periodically send statistical data back to Microsoft about how the products are used. No personal information is collected. This is very helpful to Microsoft, if you are game. (The default is off, so you would need to turn it on.)

Finally, Microsoft uses Microsoft Error Reporting (MERP on the Mac, and Watson for Windows), which is for real time error reporting. Like Apple's reporter for Mac OS X, this is an excellent way to quickly send information that is machine generated about the problem that you are experiencing.

Statistical Benefits

What all the larger organizations have in their error reporting is the ability to gather significance statistically from the error reports. For example, there are patterns to problems, and the bug reports are done in a way that Microsoft (and presumably Apple), can compare two bug reports and see if they are the same issue or not. Once that happens, they can determine whether an issue has widespread impact, or is localized to just a few users. In other words, it helps them to prioritize which things need to be fixed first.

Another example is that they can see that certain problems may be on specific OS versions, categories of machines, or even specific models of machines. This not only helps in understanding how to fix the bug, but is also may give insight that it's not a vendors bug.

For example, in the next maintenance release of Leopard, Apple is rumored to be fixing a large number of items. Microsoft may be looking at bug reports for an issue, and may very well find that the problem in question is not one with Office, but with the Operating System instead. Of course, the same thing could happen in the opposite direction where Apple receives bug reports, and finds that it's a third party.

Near Term Expectations

Leopard's next update will likely be the one that fixes so much stuff that those that have been waiting, should now move forward. Naturally, Microsoft is working on updates for Office 2008 as well, presumably called SP1 (Service Pack 1, if they hold true to naming conventions). These will likely to fix many issues that widespread distribution saw, but MacTech may not have with the benchmarks on clean machines.

Why is this expected? Because both these companies have mechanisms in place to listen to customer experiences, problems, and bugs, research them down through statistical and other comparisons, and rank their priority accordingly.

But, all of that doesn't work unless we, the technical community, make sure to use the reporting mechanisms as much as possible.


Neil is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of MacTech Magazine. Neil has been in the Mac industry since 1985, has developed software, written documentation, been heading up the magazine since 1992. When Neil writes a review, he likes to put solutions into a real-life scenario and then write about that experience from the user point of view. That said, Neil has a reputation around the office for pushing software to its limits and crashing software/finding bugs. Drop him a line at publisher@mactech.com

 
AAPL
$116.47
Apple Inc.
+0.16
MSFT
$47.98
Microsoft Corpora
-0.72
GOOG
$537.50
Google Inc.
+2.67

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Cobook 3.0.7 - Intelligent address book....
Cobook Contacts is an intuitive, engaging address book. Solve the problem of contact management with Cobook Contacts and its simple interface and powerful syncing and integration possibilities.... Read more
StatsBar 1.9 - Monitor system processes...
StatsBar gives you a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the following areas of your Mac: CPU usage Memory usage Disk usage Network and bandwidth usage Battery power and health (MacBooks only)... Read more
Cyberduck 4.6 - FTP and SFTP browser. (F...
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more
Maya 2015 - Professional 3D modeling and...
Maya is an award-winning software and powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted... Read more
Evernote 6.0.1 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
calibre 2.11 - Complete e-library manage...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more
Herald 5.0.1 - Notification plugin for M...
Note: Versions 2.1.3 (for OS X 10.7), 3.0.6 (for OS X 10.8), and 4.0.8 (for OS X 10.9) are no longer supported by the developer. Herald is a notification plugin for Mail.app, Apple's Mac OS X email... Read more
Firetask 3.7 - Innovative task managemen...
Firetask uniquely combines the advantages of classical priority-and-due-date-based task management with GTD. Stay focused and on top of your commitments - Firetask's "Today" view shows all relevant... Read more
TechTool Pro 7.0.6 - Hard drive and syst...
TechTool Pro is now 7, and this is the most advanced version of the acclaimed Macintosh troubleshooting utility created in its 20-year history. Micromat has redeveloped TechTool Pro 7 to be fully 64... Read more
PhotoDesk 3.0.1 - Instagram client for p...
PhotoDesk lets you view, like, comment, and download Instagram pictures/videos! (NO Uploads! / Image Posting! Instagram forbids that! AND you *need* an *existing* Instagram account). But you can do... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Ubisoft Gives Everyone Two New Ways to E...
Ubisoft Gives Everyone Two New Ways to Earn In-Game Stuff for Far Cry 4 Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Golfinity – Tips, Tricks, Strategies, an...
Dig this: Would you like to know what we thought of being an infinite golfer? Check out our Golfinity review! Golfinity offers unlimited ways to test your skills at golf. Here are a few ways to make sure your score doesn’t get too high and your... | Read more »
Dark Hearts, The Sequel to Haunting Meli...
Dark Hearts, The Sequel to Haunting Melissa, is Available Now Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Meowza! Toyze Brings Talking Tom to Life...
Meowza! | Read more »
Square Enix Announces New Tactical RPG f...
Square Enix Announces New Tactical RPG for Mobile, Heavenstrike Rivals. Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] With their epic stories and gorgeous graphics, | Read more »
Quest for Revenge (Games)
Quest for Revenge 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: The great Kingdom of the west has fallen. The gods ignore the prayers of the desperate. A dark warlord has extinguished... | Read more »
Threadz is a New Writing Adventure for Y...
Threadz is a New Writing Adventure for You and Your Friends Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] In the tradition of round-robin storytelling, | Read more »
SteelSeries Stratus XL Hardware Review
Made by: SteelSeries Price: $59.99 Hardware/iOS Integration Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Usability Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars Reuse Value Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars Build Quality Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars Overall Rating: 4.31 out of 5 stars | Read more »
ACDSee (Photography)
ACDSee 1.0.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Capture, perfect, and share your photos with ACDSee. The ACDSee iPhone app combines an innovative camera, a powerful photo... | Read more »
ProTube for YouTube (Entertainment)
ProTube for YouTube 2.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $1.99, Version: 2.0.2 (iTunes) Description: ProTube is the ultimate, fully featured YouTube app. With it's highly polished design, ProTube offers ad-free... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $17...
 B&H Photo has the 2014 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale today for $1749. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. B&H will also include free copies of Parallels Desktop... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac in stock today and on...
 B&H Photo has the new 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac in stock today and on sale for $2299 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available... Read more
21-inch 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $979, save $1...
B&H Photo has the new 21″ 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $979.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. B&H will also include free copies of Parallels Desktop... Read more
13-inch 1.4GHz/256GB MacBook Air on sale for...
B&H Photo has lowered their price on the 13″ 1.4GHz/256GB MacBook Air to $1059.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $140 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this... Read more
Save up to $400 with Apple refurbished 2014 1...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping... Read more
New 13-inch 1.4GHz MacBook Air on sale for $8...
 Adorama has the 2014 13″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $899.99 including free shipping plus NY & NJ tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. B&H Photo has the 13″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook... Read more
Apple Expected to Reverse Nine-Month Tablet S...
Apple and Samsung combined accounted for 62 percent of the nearly 36 million branded tablets shipped in 3Q 2014, according to early vendor shipment share estimates from market intelligence firm ABI... Read more
Stratos: 30 Percent of US Smartphone Owners t...
Stratos, Inc., creator of the Bluetooth Connected Card Platform, has announced results from its 2014 Holiday Mobile Payments Survey. The consumer survey found that nearly one out of three (30 percent... Read more
2014 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449, save $...
 B&H Photo has lowered their price on the new 1.4GHz Mac mini to $449.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this new... Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC)- Retail S...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and Read more
*Apple* Store Leader Program - College Gradu...
Job Description: Job Summary As an Apple Store Leader Program agent, you can continue your education as you major in the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.