1275 words on Bugs
Recently Dan Wood came up wit the idea of ‘Bug Report Friday’ for Apple bugs. The idea is to file bug reports with Apple and then share them on the web, so other people can join in. I’m filing bugs more or less regularly anyway, so this isn’t a big deal. However – with Apple’s bug database remaining as obscure as it used to be – I’m not quite sure this will help a lot. Why should Apple start considering a certain problem more important just because a handful of people wrote about it? But on the other hand, doing this won’t hurt. So I’ll try to go along, list my favourite bug of the week and live in the faint and vain hope that this’ll make a difference. Even if it doesn’t, perhaps seeing bug reports all over the web can give us a better idea of how to write an efficient bug report and which problems are really tickling people.
Before I start, let me ask a question: What’s the best way to file feature requests for the bug reporter itself? I didn’t find a way to do that. And sadly, with their updates in the past years, Apple first removed the feature that the report field came pre-filled with their bug template, which you now have to open in a popup window, and recently they stopped sending you e-mails in case they have further questions and just colour the bug requiring your attention in the list of your filed bugs. I consider both of these to be inconvenient and making bug reporting and timely answers to questions more difficult than they need be – than they used to be, in fact.
And let me digress further. As we’re supposed to point to our favourite bugs this way, I’ll use the opportunity to point out a few of my old reports the problems of which are still around.
All right, I think these are my favourites. And with all the frustration brought to us by Apple’s bug reporter in terms of lack of responsiveness, let me note that for some of the really bad bugs – i.e. system crashes – they were usually very quick to gather additional information and those crashes went away within a few updates, which is probably to be considered reasonably quickly considering the monstrous sizes of OS X and Apple. So the bug reporter is slightly better than the giant trash can that it sometimes seems to be.
But now to my bug of the week. Actually I filed it Thursday… but it was already Friday in India at the time, so I hope that counts. It’s once more a bug in Mail and one that keeps irritating me. Not only because I run into it frequently but also because it really looks like an unnecessary glitch where all the basics to make it work properly are in place already.
I filed it as ‘Other Bug’ which perhaps sounds more trivial than it is. But as probably very few people only get to see it and no data is destroyed, labelling it ‘Serious’ would’ve been overdoing it in my opinion. To see the problem you need to be able to sign messages, i.e. have your own certificate in your keychain. Mail will then display the buttons that let you sign or encrypt a message. And when you’re creating a new message the button for encryption will only be enabled if you have public keys for every recipient (in the most basic cases this works quite well and is quite clever about letting you CC encryped messages to people who can’t decrypt them, but once you start editing the fields, this gets wonky as well… but I don’t really care and it’s not my point here).
So the basic idea about this is that the encryption icon will be disabled if you can’t possibly encrypt the message. Which makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, if you reply to a message rather than create a new one manually, the encryption icon will always be enabled. As I keep losing track of whose certificates I have, I keep clicking on the encryption icon for people who haven’t sent me a certificate. And then I’ll get an annoying error message. Grr.
When replying to a message, Mail will _always_ display the active encryption icon, even when there is no public key available for the recipient. Clicking the icon will give you an error message, pointing out the missing public key.
In comparison, when creating a _new_ message, the encryption button will be inactive unless public keys for all recipients are available.
0. Make sure you have a private key /certificate in the keychain for your Mail account.
1. Select a message you received from a person for whom you don’t have a public key.
2. Reply to that message
-> The encryption button is active.
The encryption button is inactive as there is no public key against which to encrypt. I.e. the same behaviour as when creating new messages.