back to article Is Apple's software getting worse or what?

For over a year, Apple's software has been the subject of more derision than might be expected for a company of its size. Developer Marco Arment took Apple to task early last year, arguing that OS X (recently rebranded macOS) is full of embarrassing bugs and that the company is trying to do too much on unrealistic deadlines. …

TRT
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The exception that proves the rule...

The rule being Betteridge's Law of Headlines.

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Re: The exception that proves the rule...

But the "or what" leaves the door open to objective worsening.

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Anonymous Coward

The new Sierra syslog is meant to be causing severe performance problems thousands of lines of debug being stored to sqlite every second, causing even UI slowdowns, mDNSResponder all over again.

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Ouch, that's doesn't sound great. SQLite isn't really suited to write-heavy use cases.

Btw, do you have a reference or pointer to the issue reported? I just did some quick lookups via DuckDuckGo and nothing obvious showed up. :/

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You can't really say much about declining quality with iTunes, because that's always between a steaming vat of feces that, to add insult to injury, deliberately ignores many of Apple's own app guidelines.

Other than that, hell yes stuff has gotten buggier. Welcome to the wonderful future of perpetual beta, except a lot of people buy Apple stuff because they just want things to work and don't want to be in perpetual beta.

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JLV
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storm in a teacup?

I am still using iTunes, mostly out of inertia. Never really shared the deep hatred for it, mostly for lack of trying others. However, I do now notice things that are wearing on my patience:

- frequent changes in good-enough-UI to no great improvement (cf Windows UI)

- disappearance/hiding of previously available functionally on iOS - shuffle by genre/artist, star ratings

- promotion of their dumb music service

- about as update-happy as Adobe Flash

To be clear I buy Apple for the build quality, core OS stability and bash/posix friendliness. As well as for the main desktop windowing system. The rest comes from macports and GitHub. On those terms it works and is stable enough, esp if you sit out new releases for a while.

I find their own apps are stodgy and prone to locking your files in databases. So I mostly avoid Mail, Pages, Safari, iCloud. And iPhoto did its best to lose all my pictures. iBooks/music/movies? Surely you're joking - who wants unportable media? I grudgingly put up with Finder but much prefer navigating the file system in iTerm2.

Bottom line: I essentially try to have as little to do with Apple as possible while running on their platform (my treasured 17" 2011 MBP).

Much better alternative, to my needs, than Windows and enough like Linux at the editor/bash/server-process levels that it's pretty seamless minus much need to configure anything.

Hardly makes me notice these hiccups. But then it hardly makes me their dream customer either.

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Re: storm in a teacup?

"On those terms it works and is stable enough, esp if you sit out new releases for a while."

Funny, that reminded me of what people normally say of another OS: "I'll switch to the new version after they have solved the teething problems, when SP1 comes out."

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Unhappy

It's downhill all the way ...

Even the basics are being lost.

For around 10 years, dragging a photo onto the mail icon used to open up a new message with the photo in it - now we have mice with multi buttons I am forced to go via a crappy pop-up menu hierarchy to the 'share' options or play with cut and paste if my app is not in the list - assuming it feels like it.

And don't get me started on what a pile of crap Preview has become - trying to save a file under a different name now involves duplicating and renaming or exporting or some other nonsense - what was wrong with 'Save' and 'Save as' - which BTW appear in all other applications.

Moaning about iTunes doesn't count as it's been crap for so long and every new release means you can't do what you did in the last one - assuming that you can find anything again.

The simple intuitive gestures are disappearing on the desktop and being replaced by menus and stuff you have to read - and are often inaccessible via keyboard shortcuts.

Seems like they've moved on to another of Orwell's classics ..

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

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Re: It's downhill all the way ...

Blue Pumpkin: agreed on Preview. <alt><file> will give you "Save As" in the file menu.

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Preview

And don't get me started on what a pile of crap Preview has become - trying to save a file under a different name now involves duplicating and renaming or exporting or some other nonsense - what was wrong with 'Save' and 'Save as'

Press <Alt> (aka <Option> on some keyboards) in the File menu and 'Save As' will appear.

Where Sierra's version of Preview has really messed up my workflow is taking away the ability to right-click on the filename at the top of the window and see where the file is in the directory tree - clicking on the parent directory would in prior versions highlight the file in Finder, making renaming a cinch.

Looking at that again as I type, it's plain buggy. Some documents currently open in Preview allow me to do that, others don't.

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Re: Preview

A good thing about OS X is the useful behaviour when dragging, dropping, and doing things with window titles, no other OS has it. If they've forgotten about that, then I doubt we can expect much improvement from here on. They still haven't worked out that the Finder leaving a trail of hidden files in its wake is not good. I mean, we have been using multi-user systems for some time now.

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TRT
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Re: Preview

I wanted to remove the audio track from a video I recorded of a road junction to send to the local highways authority. Took the video on my iPhone... on my iMac, it comes up in Photos. Great. Now right click, reveal in Finder... wait... where's that gone? OK, drag and drop it from Photos into iMovie... nope, that doesn't work... OK, look in the Movies folder in my User folder, that's where video used to end up... Nope, not there. Pictures? Nope. Ah, a big library file. What was that trick to show a package contents? Alt key, click... WTF?! A dozen folders with obscure names? Back to Photos... what the F*** can I do with this? Info... Ah! A Filename... let's spotlight it... and... it found it! In photos. Back to square one. GRRRRR! I can see it on the screen... WHERE THE F*** IS IT ON MY COMPUTER? Ah, export. No export. Share? SHARE? I don't want to share it, I want to edit it before I share it... Oh, I can apparently share it with myself as a file. Resolution to export at? I don't know. The original one I guess. I don't want to waste cycles reducing the resolution. Nope I can't recall the specs of that camera on the phone. I thought it was HD... that's 1080p... Not an option. Can't be it. No idea. Wonder if the original resolution is the default one? 720p anyway, that'll have to do.

So where... Ah! NOW it's a f***ing file. We're getting somewhere. Now, how to get it into iMovie...

Open... Nope. OH FUCK IT ALL TO HELL! Where's my camcorder?

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Re: Preview

Right-clicking (two-finger click on trackpad or command-click) on the filename (or icon) at the top of the window and seeing where the file is in the directory tree works as expected here.

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Re: Preview

"what was wrong with 'Save' and 'Save as'"

Quite a lot actually. This is a personal bête noire and is a very good example of how users like to stick with bad solutions they know rather than good solutions they are not used to. People are used to "Save As" but it is bad for so very many reasons. The problem being it combines two action that should be separate, duplication and renaming and, horror of horrors, it is often used to save versions of documents. Why is this bad?

1. Duplication where there should be one canonical version. Duplication results in multiple versions of a file often badly named. Far better to have one canonical version with versioning build in (as all Apple apps have had for some time - only many users don't think about it). "Save As" can too easily result in many versions of a file across the filing system.

2. Uncertainty as to what is contained in "orphaned" versions. When "Save As" is used, an old version is left behind. So if it is used to duplicate a file, was the previous file saved first? Very often the user doesn't remember. Is there any sensible coherent version of the file in the old version? The user may well have forgotten when it was last saved. Consequently after using "Save As" users tend to distrust the earlier versions unless they have a really highly developed habit of saving before using save as, or a disciplined sense of what the file contained when it was last saved. This undermines the value of Save As for the file duplication use case. But also results in file detritus. We've all been there. It's horrible.

3. Bad version naming. If used for versioning, doing version naming in a file name is an extremely bad way to do it; is a very 1980s solution we have the tech to move way beyond now. Version naming is more difficult to do well and more prone to error. Maybe modified dates can be used to overcome any possible user introduced inconsistencies? No relying on modified dates to determine version precedence is dangerous. If you keep to versions open and modify an earlier version, even by mistake, the modified dates are no reflect version order. My personal "favourite" bad file version practice is when you see files named things like "xxx Latest" or "xxx Updated" (though I acknowledge this isn't an argument against Save As per say, because you have to be a special kind of stupid to make this mistake).

So sorry I disagree, Save As is one of the worst user "I like it" habits in the history of personal computing. We really are far better off with dedicated and distinct duplicate and rename functions and with proper version management (which so many people ignore) built in. Alas, people like to stick with their habits. Personally a drink too much.

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Re: Preview

urine idjit...

you ASSUME that everyone has the same saving/saveas conventions and usages you do, we don't...

i open a 'master' file a couple dozen times a day and SAVEAS, any other process would just add bullshit that is of no use...

when you dumb down the process, you make it difficult for knowledgeable users, NOT FOOLPROOF...

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Unhappy

Re: It's downhill all the way ... @Blue Pumpkin

Couldn't agree more. The ease of use is gone. Safari used to have an icon to show your downloads. It is gone. You have to hunt down the download folder now. I have owned Macs since the MacPlus and every time I upgraded I never considered anything but a Mac. That is not true anymore and I no longer suggest anyone by a Mac now.

The Reg needs a former Apple Fanboy icon.

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Re: It's downhill all the way ... @Blue Pumpkin

Nope, the downloads button is still there for me, have they been stupid enough to not have it by default for a clean install?

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hiding things

"Press <Alt> (aka <Option> on some keyboards) in the File menu and 'Save As' will appear."

Oh, that standard feature that our metrics tells us loads of people use on a daily basis? Yeah, we hid it under the carpet. Just lift it up, and you'll find what you're looking for.

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TRT
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Re: hiding things

Holding alt... for the window expansion thing. Just WRONG. Make it an option, yes. But changing the default behaviour? Forcibly? For everyone?!?

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Re: hiding things

This will put Save As back on most things which have taken it away...

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Re: It's downhill all the way ... @Blue Pumpkin

It's not in the default set of icons any more.

I assume it is part of little Jonny Ive's insistence that all desktop applications must look like they were designed for a 4" phone screen.

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Re: hiding things

TRT: I sort of agree with you, but the other week I was working with someone who's also a Mac user. She opens everything using the green button and puts it onto a new desktop. Every document, every spreadsheet - all on its own desktop. She's never used cmd-tab for switching and she just swipes right and left to move between stuff and was very adept - I got dizzy just watching the screen.

I guess it's horses for courses; I tried the desktop thing for a couple of days and it just annoyed me - except for apps where I almost never need the menu bar (e.g. iTunes).

Maybe the world does move on and old gits like me might have to get used to it.

BTW - just re-read that: my lawyer would like to point out that this post is not intended to imply that anyone else on this forum is an old git.

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Happy

Re: It's downhill all the way ...

Not to drag you off your ranting horse, but it's possible to click on the name of the file at the top of the window and change it there. This works in Preview, and also in at least a couple of other file handling apps I'm using...

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Re: hiding things

TRT: This is the way of Apple. "The customer doesn't know what they want until we show it to them"

This whole attitude got them a long way. A lot of their products were said to be stupid ideas or not possible, until they did it. This worked for a lot of things, but it doesn't work for everything. Hiding useful features and changing sensible default behaviour is just annoying. More so when you can't change it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Preview

Duplication where there should be one canonical version. Duplication results in multiple versions of a file often badly named. Far better to have one canonical version with versioning build in

Wrong. This assumes that every person in your work orbit has the same softwares and versions that you do.

Admittedly this assumption is common in Apple users.

I am a big user of versioning using "filename_2017_03_29" naming, and using an older version of MS Office file types that I know will open on any computer sold in the last decade.

Lord rescue me from the latest and greatest, like the XPS form sent to me this week by a bank. Neither LibreOffice or Office 97 in a Windows VM could open the stupid thing.

However much I dislike Adobe, PDF always works, on any machine.

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Re: It's downhill all the way ...

"For around 10 years, dragging a photo onto the mail icon used to open up a new message with the photo in it..."

Still does.

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Re: Preview

Better "170329filename"; your directory will then show files in date order. In six months' time you may not remember the filename but you'll remember more or less when you created the file and it should be easy to find.

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Re: Preview

Have you ever met anyone who is not on the autistic spectrum? This kind for file keeping is beyond almost everyone, as well as not taking in to account sync errors and branch versions created on a whim.

Technically you are correct. In the real world it aint gonna happen because humans tend to have human foibles.

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Re: Preview

File systems with version control.. like VMS?

But I think there are two different types of version-control. There's "save it while I edit" draft versions (VMS) and then there's release versions where you do want to keep a snapshot and you might want to email somewhere, in which case, you probably do want to be able to easily see which version you mailed out. Since other OS's and applications may not support version control, you probably do want to support "save as" and you certainly want to purge the old edits rather than sending a file with all the drafts to a customer.

Maybe we need a "save Release version as" to go along with internal versioning?

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Re: Preview

Try dragging the video or photo from Photos onto the Desktop or into a folder in Finder.

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Holmes

The Macs in our office have been tossed aside for the past year

What does that tell you when workers are asking for Win10 laptops because they just need to get their work done?

Not a single Mac in daily use anymore. I doubt we'll ever buy another one in the future.

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Anonymous Coward

@Andy - Re: The Macs in our office have been tossed aside for the past year

Tells me they lost their minds completely. Asking for Windows 10 ?!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Andy - The Macs in our office have been tossed aside for the past year

Tells me they lost their minds completely. Asking for Windows 10 ?!

An advert that tells the truth for once?

Yep, get a days work done? I couldn't do that with a Mac!

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Re: @Andy - The Macs in our office have been tossed aside for the past year

@Coward -- "Tells me they lost their minds completely. Asking for Windows 10 ?!"

No, it's more like "I can't use this crappy Mac - I need to push out a spreadsheet pronto, what do you have back there?"

"Got this shiny new Win10 lapper..."

"Oh, f*** me. OK, give me the f***ing lapper then."

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Laptop swaps

My personal requirements for a laptop: Light weight, good screen, able to run Illustrator as well as bash and all you can spawn from it. Windows 10 laptops now qualify, and the "bash" bit of that deal is better than on MacOS ( genuine " apt-get" versus brew/port) Also good is that I can choose to purchase a device with a physical NIC... Apple wrongly thinks I don't need one anymore.

Downsides of Win10 is the regularity of updates that require a restart and twenty years of MacOS muscle memory still making me go to the writing place for things; upside is it's faster than OSX, less buggy (these days) and doesn't assume I own an iPhone.

... I do miss BBEdit, though.

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Re: @Andy - The Macs in our office have been tossed aside for the past year

Are you still working in the 1980's?

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little to do with apple

The fail fast fix fast mentality of software development is insane. (Have worked with software dev teams for 16 years now). Sounds fine if you are working on some new thing. But should not be used on core products. Whether it is apple (not a customer so can't say from personal experience ), Microsoft struggling with their updates, MANY others as well.

The focus has been shifting towards faster delivery of lower quality stuff because they believe they can just fix it later. Though in many cases later never comes because they move onto something else new and shiny.

It is possible of course to release things often but it requires more care than just doing it.

Too often agile is used as an excuse to ship faster and not need quality control.

Windows 10 seems to be turning into the largest scale agile fail in the history of software.

Companies like apple and MS have absolutely no excuses each having 10s of billions of dollars in the bank.

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Re: little to do with apple

Oh, if only I could upvote this multiple times.

This "Move fast and break things" attitude has been the bane of my life for the last few years now. It seems to have infected every area of every development team in every business. Using Agile as an excuse to put band-aids on band-aids on poor quality development, no worthwhile external documentation and code comments that are either non-existent or referring to the original code that has since been fixed over the intervening several sprints and are now completely irrelevant in context.

Christ ... roll on retirement. Only another 15 years to go (unless HMG decides to move the goalposts again in the interim).

</grumpy_bastard>

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Re: little to do with apple

"The fail fast fix fast mentality of software development is insane."

That's one issue. The other is the converse, taking something that's fine as it is and them applying fix fast fail fast to it. Nobody seems to be immune to that and I don't think marketing is solely to blame.

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Re: little to do with apple

Stumpy,

I totally agree with you, that's one of the major factors that made me decide to move away from development all together.

For too long now, there has been a drive primarily by manglement, to race to the bottom, don't worry about quality or whether it works, we will fix it later! It seems to be more about getting it rushed out of the door instead of doing a proper job in the first place.

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cd
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How bad is it?

It's bad enough that one of the oldest Mac help sites has recent long discussions on which Linux distro to use going forward and how to make Macs boot from USB drives with those on them. Meanwhile on the hardware side, Hackintoshes are being discussed there, a place where enabling the dev menu in Safari was wild stuff, because Apple doesn't make what many content creators want any longer.

I know I'm done with them. When this one running 10.6 runs its course it'll be something else. The shell is there but the passion is gone. Steve really gave a fuck. Ridiculously so, asininely so, but he did.

If someone would step up with a more polished distro and bundle it on some thought-out hardware, they'd do well I think, esp with some migration assistants built in.

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Re: How bad is it?

I run Linux Mint on my imac 27"... two work colleagues in my group run w10 and another Ubuntu... we did not like the stability and interface decisions, so we decided not to use it...

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Facepalm

"But it's not clear that Apple's software is better or worse from a reliability standpoint than Microsoft's or Google's."

Microsoft's? You are on some serious drugs son. Melted.

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What is going on?

Over the last ten years or so it seems that software everywhere has been turning into complete shit. Decent and functional interfaces have given way to useless half-assed attempts at phone interfaces. Complexity has exploded in the service of features that no sane person could possibly want. Vital features that people have taken for granted for decades are becoming impossible to use. The list goes on.

It seams like everyone is doing this shit these days. Is there something in the water?

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Re: What is going on?

I think this has happened because something seemingly impossible happened, but nobody recognised it for what it was. And that something was as follows:

They had finished writing the software.

Now that's impossible, no program is ever finished there's always loads more that can added, etc. But with Windows 7, possibly Snow Leopard too, they were arguably complete. No changes needed, just maintenance and bug fixes, security improvements here and there.

This "impossible" event clearly caused major mental stress amongst these companies and their teams. Microsoft threw it all out with Windows 8, 8.1, and is still clearly ill given the state of Win 10. Apple has gone down the same sort of slippery slope and is showing no signs of responding to treatment. Even the Linuxers, especially RedHat and their backing of Gnome and systemd, are not immune. Gnome especially has got the bug badly, having ripped up the rule book and rewritten it badly on toilet paper using what I'm hoping is brown crayon but is probably shit.

Memo to all programming staff. When it's finished, stop fucking tinkering with it, and certainly don't throw it out and start again. Maintenance is boring but necessary. Sigh.

Windows 10 has a great kernel and a lot of excellent under-the-hood improvements. Imagine how ace it'd be with Windows 7's interface. Windows 8, 10 is what you get when you employ a lot of marketing and UI experts who have jobs to justify.

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Re: What is going on?

Incidentally, one of the major problems with Web apps like most of Google's stuff is that the programmers are all powerful and can push their latest wet dream of how-things-should-be down users throats with no warning or choice.

OK, so maybe the tech savvy in a company that uses Google Apps can adapt quickly enough, but there's plenty of people out there who aren't tech savvy and are left floundering for quite a while every time Google goes and changes something. Not helpful at all.

And when Google fuck it up completely (Google Maps is a complete cock up; moving / cancelling way points is a nightmare, never used to be) you're left with a real problem.

So I see web apps as being pretty dangerous; you're at the mercy of people you don't control and, based on current form, cannot trust. At least with native software running locally you can have some control over what your working environment looks like every day.

BTW, anyone else think that Google's search is pretty crummy these days?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What is going on?

>Incidentally, one of the major problems with Web apps like most of Google's stuff is that the programmers are all powerful and can push their latest wet dream of how-things-should-be down users throats with no warning or choice.

BBC iPlayer is the classic example of this. They got it right probably 5 or 6 years ago and have been steadily obfuscating and trending up the UI ever since....

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Re: What is going on?

I don't have a comprehensive answer, but I have part of one (though I'm not being clever, others have already pointed this out).

The problem is, at root, simple-mindedness.

Bear in mind that people with terrific skills, whether scientists, fighter pilots or top-flight developers, can display surprising naivety and foolishness when they're out of their 'comfort zone'.

Two decades of disruptive innovation and the shattering success of a few big names like Apple, Google, and Facebook (notwithstanding that hundreds of businesses just as good or even better have long since failed and blown away), plus the rise of outfits like Uber and Airbnb which use software to the nth degree to make humans and their livelihoods irrelevant, means that those aspiring to success tend to think in some very simplistic, cartoonish ways. You can see this just by looking at headlines, or business plans, where intellectual boilerplating would have the reader believe that every single startup has a management "passionate about {some bolox}", offering products/services that are "unique" (by the fictional margin that satisfies the idiots in USPTO), and of course "disruptive" plus all the other phrases that find their way unchanged into a business plan.

This leads, with a kind of sad inevitability, to blockheads thinking "different" must be "better" and that getting code out there counts as first-mover advantage.

It's been going on at least since Microsoft's 'ribbon' for Office apps, where a clumsy mess of options hogged a third of your screen as an *improvement*, making a farrago of cluttered dysfunctionality where previously your fingers remembered exactly where to find the menu options you needed.

So Apple, leaning far too heavily on the perceived quality of their devices, which now lack a headphone socket, an SD socket and even a removable battery while doing nothing much phones couldn't do five years ago, think they are "innovating" by mucking around with poorly tested code of dubious desirability.

The search for "different" (because it must be "better", right?) has taken us down some particularly pointless alleys, like screens of utterly pointless high resolution (on a phone??) and voice assistants renowned for their misinterpretation and hopelessly irrelevant answers.

What's particularly funny is that manufacturers who think they are "innovative" are all glumly churning out candy-bar-form-factor phones which look almost indistinguishable from each other, instead of trying real ideas (such as revisiting the clamshell). But that's simple-mindedness for you.

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Re: What is going on?

"BTW, anyone else think that Google's search is pretty crummy these days?"

Yes.

Google a place name: estate agent ads.

Google a surname in conjunction with a place where someone or family of that name was associated: estate agent ads for all the housing estates named after said person.

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Re: What is going on?

@bazza - "BTW, anyone else think that Google's search is pretty crummy these days?" - I was saying to some friends just a few days ago that it feels to me that trying to find specific information on the internet is getting harder than it used to be. It's almost as if the crap results are being forced to the top of the queue as against the ones that actually match your search criteria. Another few years of this and it'll be like the early years of t'interwebs where unless you already knew where to find something, your chance of getting to it were just about nil. Only with the needles hidden in an immensely larger pile of hay and manure.

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