Apple's Failure To Ensure Backwards Compatibility In Big Sur Leaves Developers Quite Sour
from the doesn't-anyone-check-these-things dept
When there’s a major OS upgrade, like Apple’s recent Big Sur MacOS release, you would hope that an effort was made to ensure backwards compatibility with key apps and services. However, it’s now become clear that Apple failed to do so, and a variety of different developers across a variety of different applications have had to scramble over the last few weeks to update their apps just to keep working on the latest version of MacOS. It’s always understandable that a few apps may fall through the cracks, but with Big Sur, it’s notable just how widespread the reports are of compatibility problems, and just how much scrambling app developers had to do just to make sure their apps continued working. Here are just a few reports of such problems from across the internet.
There are plenty of gripes from users about Starcraft 2 problems on Big Sur found on MacRumors and elsewhere.
The issues range from crashes on start to display issues to being “unable to quit the game” (a feature?). A user comments “In general macOS is a train wreck when it comes to gaming,” but the blame is quickly assigned to the Big Sur update.
“Actually before the update, SC2 worked perfectly on my macbook. All the problems only started with Big Sur. I’m still having the issues unfortunately, but I have a workaround that works (with my eGPU)”.
Apache’s Netbeans IDE
This is one case where developers moved quickly. By November 21 the second voting candidate for Netbeans 12.2 was announced with Java programmer Glenn Holmer praising the inclusion of the “Big Sur fix.” The previous release had startup issues.
Other Java IDEs
Many other Java IDEs had issues: “Well, yesterday I impatiently upgraded to MacOs Big Sur and since then I can’t use any of my IDEs (Eclipse, Netbeans, IntelliJ). They don’t recognize the JDK” wrote Pablo Herreo.
It turns out Apple broke the “Java_home” environment variable in Big Sur.
Other programmers suggest using the SDKman package manager “I use sdkman to manage my JDKs and other Java-related stuff. It works pretty good even on MacOS Big Sur” wrote Gleb Remniov.
In the middle of this brouhaha, Azul Systems gets a nod for giving Big Sur users some hope: two weeks ago, the firm had released builds of its Zulu OpenJDK port both for x64 and Apple Silicon which at least made the Netbeans team happy.
“After upgrading from Catalina to Big Sur, users on our French forum report that docx and xlsx cannot be opened. Whatever the opening process, OpenOffice crashes” reads the bug report on the project’s public bugtracker.
This was confirmed by other users on the web forum: “have the same problem. Safe Mode doesn’t fix it.”
Other user comments show that the OpenOffice fork LibreOffice also had issues: “the big problem with LibreOffice at the moment is that, with Big Sur on a Retina-screened Mac, the text is blurry. The devs at LibreOffice are looking to fix this”
MacOS Catalina and beyond changed the way the OS handles kernel extensions, some of them requiring a system reboot. This raised some developer worries last year. What started as worries has turned into actual problems with Big Sur during the beta cycle for some developers. One example is with Virtualbox, Oracle’s open source virtualization solution.
A long bug report (ticket#19795) on the project’s public bugtracker documents the hurdles faced by users who had VBox working fine on earlier releases but failing on Big Sur, with “security pop-ups” that developers expected to appear, but users didn’t get.
In the end, some manual command line magic and rebooting often led to a working configuration. The good news is that there is now a Virtualbox release available that manages to work fine for most if not all Big Sur users (version 6.1.17 (r141370)).
But the bug squashing didn’t end without sweat and tears. In the flaming bug report, a project contributor was facing end user criticism and chastised Apple for changing a command line tool during the beta cycle, “Apple completely re-did their KEXT handling and there were issues throughout the different Betas with it blocking us from getting everything tested extensively, they even changed the kmutil command line tool completey[sic] in the last Beta.” That same user notes that people saying that “ample time” was given to developers to adjust “is a joke.”
ZFS also affected
In the same Virtualbox bug report, a user reports compatibility problems with the ZFS file system port to the fruity OS: “Nevermind! Further research indicated that the problem was my ZFS installation which hasn’t been made compatible with Big Sur yet”
ZFS developer Jörgen Lundman is still battling the compatibility bugs and API changes, with a test release for x64 available. But things aren’t so easy on ARM64: “So many kernel functions that are missing – so it is hard to say. Still working on it though” he said two weeks ago.
One of the ZFS users has cleverly nicknamed the OS “Bug Sur.” Some sour Apples, indeed.
The more you look, the more problems you find. Native Instruments is noting that a bunch of its software is somehow causing CPU spikes on Big Sur, and it’s working with Apple to find a solution:
Using a MASCHINE MK2 or MIKRO MK2 on macOS 11 (Big Sur) can produce high CPU spikes on your computer, which could cause it to freeze. We are working together with Apple to find a solution to this problem.
Using a KOMPLETE AUDIO 1, KOMPLETE AUDIO 2 or KOMPLETE AUDIO 6 MK2 on macOS 11 (Big Sur) can cause CPU spikes and distortion with sample rates above 172kHz. This can be avoided by selecting large buffer sizes (2000ms). We are working together with Apple to find a solution to this problem.
It’s not surprising that there might be some compatibility problems and updates necessary to deal with a new OS, but it’s striking to see just how many apps seem to have been caught totally off-guard by these changes.