What happened during the troubled Big Sur launch, and why Apple can't let it happen again

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2020
Apple's Big Sur update needed to go smoothly, and instead it caused disruption worldwide even for users who weren't trying to download it.

Tim Cook does use that praying gesture quite a lot.
Tim Cook does use that praying gesture quite a lot.


Anyone can make mistakes. And very few companies can deliver a revamped operating system to millions of users without problems. However, Apple is one of those firms that can do it, it's one that has done it extraordinarily successfully.

It's also the one that on Thursday got it startlingly wrong. In 2020, at the dawn of Apple Silicon, when consumer trust needs to be maintained at all cost during a big hardware transition, Apple cannot allow this week's errors that prevented some folks from launching apps already installed on non-Big Sur machines, and Big Sur installations to fail, to ever happen again.

Ready or not

If we've all previously wondered whether iOS 13 was a little bit jinxed, macOS Big Sur has definitely been a problem child. It is the biggest update to macOS in years, but it's also had what has seemed to be a very extended beta period.

Right up to the end, that beta didn't seem to be closing in on the kind of robust, finished version that could be delivered to the public. It rolled out on November 12, though, and it was ready.

Only, instead of checking out Software Update in System Preferences, take a look at the macOS Big Sur entry in the Mac App Store. The latest version, the one announced and revealed on November 12, was actually uploaded and ready to distribute on November 9. It has not been changed or updated since then.

So it had been ready to release in time for Apple's unveiling of the Apple Silicon M1 Macs, but Apple chose to hold it back for three days. There was no apparent technical reason for it, nothing within the update it self. But what there was in those days, was the initial pre-order phase for the new Macs.

There could be one or two meetings going on in Apple Park about these problems
There could be one or two meetings going on in Apple Park about these problems


Apple cannot have expected a software release to impact on the online Apple Store. But if it did know that there was a risk of a serious problem, it can have expected that its resources would be stretched if it were simultaneously trying to handle a lot of sales transactions. And it could have done more to prevent it.

The move to Apple Silicon

You can't fault any company for balancing its resources, for deploying its efforts strategically. But this was part of the transition to Apple Silicon, a gigantic move that Apple has to get right.

What's more, it's a gigantic move that Apple had already done a great job of convincing us that it would get right. Even if you weren't using Macs around the transitions to PowerPC or Intel, Apple's really well presented explanations of what it is doing, when, and why, are remarkable.

Those explanations, this expectation Apple has built up so well, they are all remarkably punctured when the company stumbles. It's not as if this were just something like Big Sur taking a long time to download because of demand, though that was part of it.

It was that the problems downloading Big Sur affected Mac users around the world -- including ones who were not trying to get the new macOS at all. Apps that were working just fine on Macs with macOS Catalina were suddenly not launching.

That was not a demand problem, that was a mistake. To run your apps, you just had to disconnect from the internet or use an app like Little Snitch to block some traffic, and all was fine.

Naturally, you couldn't download Big Sur if you weren't online, but to get on with your work, you had to figure out this workaround. So however many people were watching that very, very slow download of macOS Big Sur, there were countless others who weren't downloading it but still could not do their work.

There are likely to be some people in Apple Park having a very bad day today, and the conversations will be chiefly about what went wrong with the Big Sur download. But they should also include examining how users were abandoned.

Apple didn't tell users what was going on, it didn't change error messages to ask people to try later. It took users to figure out what was going so wrong, and it took users to devise this workaround.

Hey Apple users:

If you're now experiencing hangs launching apps on the Mac, I figured out the problem using Little Snitch.

It's trustd connecting to https://t.co/FzIGwbGRan

Denying that connection fixes it, because OCSP is a soft failure.

(Disconnect internet also fixes.) pic.twitter.com/w9YciFltrb

-- Jeff Johnson (@lapcatsoftware)

It wasn't about demand

It's also a little too easy to blame the problems on just how many people were trying to download macOS Big Sur. This was a failing, it isn't an excuse to claim Big Sur is popular.

Again, there aren't many companies that can push out an OS update to so many users, but this is was actually one of Apple's smaller cases.

True, macOS Big Sur was a very large file to download, but according to Apple's last unit sales volume data from a few years ago, there are at least 20 iPhone users to ever one Mac owner - and this ratio has surely only increased with time. So iOS 14, for example, was a far bigger deal to distribute from a volume of data perspective.

Apple can do OS distributions at large scale. Apple has now done this many, many times. And, it does it with popular media as well -- the download crushes from a new Disney movie are fairly incredible, we understand, with 4k movies of similar size as Thursday's Big Sur download.

It hasn't been without incident, though, it hasn't been that everything has always gone so smoothly that Apple could be forgiven for relaxing. While nothing like this week's issues have come up before, macOS Mojave caused a lot of problems at first.

Yet if the next year's macOS Catalina saw issues with people's older apps failing, that was the move to 64-bits, it wasn't an error. So for all the disruption that the Big Sur problems caused, it isn't a case of Apple not being up to the task.

It is a case of mistakes. They were just costly mistakes that came at a time when Apple needs to be rock-solid with its releases.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 53
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,580member
    Apple makes rare mistake but others like Microsoft and countless companies have legacy to repeat mistakes especially fixing software vulnerability,security holes,software patch or release/dot release download and install. Even screwing up install forcing complete wipe and re-install of OS.
    edited November 2020 StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 53
    cg27cg27 Posts: 134member
    Have to wonder if remote working due to Covid is the main culprit.
  • Reply 3 of 53
    I was hoping to get some details about what went wrong with the trustd network connection. Apparently we still don’t know?
    edited November 2020 bloggerblogScot1randominternetperson
  • Reply 4 of 53
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 1,187member
    The download went smoothly and so far, I haven’t experienced any issues.
  • Reply 5 of 53
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,316administrator
    Wgkrueger said:
    I was hoping to get some details about what went wrong with the trustd network connection. Apparently we still don’t know?
    There are a lot of theories, and Apple isn't talking.
  • Reply 6 of 53
    I'll never understand why anyone who actually "needs" their Mac, apps and peripherals to function for whatever purpose would download an OS update on Day 1. I always wait about a month to see what shakes out, because even If the OS is solid out of the gate, you just don't know if the apps or peripherals you rely on will have issues. 

    SO... I was really interested to see what happened when I saw the headline of this article... and after TWENTY-THREE paragraphs of reading, it was difficult to distinguish the smoke from the fire. Let me see if I have this straight:

    1) Apple could have launched Big Sur on Nov 9, but waited til the 12th... and this is a problem because why? I'm not being snarky--you seem to suggest something nefarious about this, and it's not clear what you're trying to say. Are you suggesting Apple knew Big Sur wasn't ready for primetime, and was going to launch it anyway, but held back a few days to maximize sales of the M1 Macs before foisting a buggy Big Sur on its user base? Because that's a pretty big charge to level, if that's what you're saying, and I'd imagine Apple attorneys might want to discuss it with you. 

    2) Difficulty connecting at all for Big Sur download, and long download times once connected. Okay, but when HASN'T this happened on Day 1 of an OS update as big and robust as Big Sur? This is not news.

    3) FINALLY, we get to the truly newsworthy, "WTH, Apple?" territory: even Mac users not trying to download Big Sur were having problems launching apps in Catalina?! I can't say I was affected by this, but holy crap! THIS is where I wish the article had spent more time explaining how/why this is even possible... and yes, THIS needs to never happen again. 
    edited November 2020 mr. hmobirdmanfred zornrotateleftbyteraybotechnoflyingdppembroketmayrezwits
  • Reply 7 of 53
    This is a very long-winded article that can be re-written with these points:
    - There was a botch that happened with the launch of macOS 11 Big Sur which itself is not greatly problematic.
    - The big problem is that this affected other Mac users who, though were not downloading Big Sur, had trouble with opening some existing applications already on their computer

    That's it! That's what the article really is or should be about!
    bloggerblogmobirdrayboDogpersonfirelockflyingdpuraharaStrangeDaysAlex1Nosmartormenajr
  • Reply 8 of 53
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,316administrator
    charlesn said:
    I'll never understand why anyone who actually "needs" their Mac, apps and peripherals to function for whatever purpose would download an OS update on Day 1. I always wait about a month to see what shakes out, because even If the OS is solid out of the gate, you just don't know if the apps or peripherals you rely on will have issues. 

    SO... I was really interested to see what happened when I saw the headline of this article... and after TWENTY-THREE paragraphs of reading, it was difficult to distinguish the smoke from the fire. Let me see if I have this straight:

    1) Apple could have launched Big Sur on Nov 9, but waited til the 12th... and this is a problem because why? I'm not being snarky--you seem to suggest something nefarious about this, and it's not clear what you're trying to say. Are you suggesting Apple knew Big Sur wasn't ready for primetime, and was going to launch it anyway, but held back a few days to maximize sales of the M1 Macs before foisting a buggy Big Sur on its user base? Because that's a pretty big charge to level, if that's what you're saying, and I'd imagine Apple attorneys might want to discuss it with you. 

    2) Difficulty connecting at all for Big Sur download, and long download times once connected. Okay, but when HASN'T this happened on Day 1 of an OS update as big and robust as Big Sur? This is not news.

    3) FINALLY, we get to the truly newsworthy, "WTH, Apple?" territory: even Mac users not trying to download Big Sur were having problems launching apps in Catalina?! I can't say I was affected by this, but holy crap! THIS is where I wish the article had spent more time explaining how/why this is even possible... and yes, THIS needs to never happen again. 
    Well, for starters, this isn't a news article, it's an opinion piece, so you may have to read source links to elsewhere on the site, so it isn't a 70 paragraph article.

    If we were suggesting something nefarious, we'd have straight said. That said, we DO think that Apple was predicting strong demand and server hammering, related to point 2, and chose to postpone to launch until Thursday to as to not interfere with preorder day. If Apple wishes to send lawyers, it won't be the first time that we sent them packing.

    In regards to section 3 here, the link in the third paragraph details the saga from yesterday. 


    edited November 2020 muthuk_vanalingamkuduanantksundaramAlex1N
  • Reply 9 of 53
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,316administrator
    mSak said:
    This is a very long-winded article that can be re-written with these points:
    - There was a botch that happened with the launch of macOS 11 Big Sur which itself is not greatly problematic.
    - The big problem is that this affected other Mac users who, though were not downloading Big Sur, had trouble with opening some existing applications already on their computer

    That's it! That's what the article really is or should be about!
    The news was yesterday, and a link to the news item is in the third paragraph. This is not a news piece.

    In case anybody missed it, here's the news piece: https://appleinsider.com/articles/20/11/12/apple-system-issue-causing-app-install-runtime-problems

    This piece is a discussion about it, and those tend to be a bit lengthier. The article is clearly labeled as an editorial, as posted from the screen cap above.

    Further complaints that this article is not a news article and is instead an opinion piece will be deleted, as will discussions about moderation actions. If you did something that merits a warning, you'll get one in DM -- but so far, everybody's okay. 

    Do feel free to discuss your opinion about the topic at hand. How William chose to structure the Editorial with opinions is up to him, and isn't a topic for debate. If you'd like to discuss his opinions that's fine.
    edited November 2020 muthuk_vanalingamanantksundaramAlex1N
  • Reply 10 of 53
    The solution isn't just up to Apple...when parts of the interwebitubes clog up in every direction.  Yes, we couldn't get through in the first wave.  But, we also couldn't place an online grocery pickup order at our local Walmart.
    edited November 2020
  • Reply 11 of 53
    I had a virtual visit with my doctor yesterday that we ended up having to reschedule because of this mess. Zoom wouldn’t launch without immediately not responding. 
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 12 of 53
    I think it’s time for upper echelons to go starting with Cook.
    elijahg
  • Reply 13 of 53
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,426member
    Wgkrueger said:
    I was hoping to get some details about what went wrong with the trustd network connection. Apparently we still don’t know?
    There are a lot of theories, and Apple isn't talking.
    It was a short duration glitch and all is working, I say move on...
    flyingdprezwitsuraharakudubonobob
  • Reply 14 of 53
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,426member

    I think it’s time for upper echelons to go starting with Cook.
    How about you just go.
    killroyDogpersonflyingdproundaboutnowtmayrezwitsuraharakudurazorpitanantksundaram
  • Reply 15 of 53
    I’ve figured out that Apple was phoning home a while ago, and nobody seemed to care. Well, there you have it. Just be thankful that disconnecting the internet is enough to fix it FOR NOW.

    https://apple.stackexchange.com/q/391379/40576
  • Reply 16 of 53
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,941member
    mSak said:
    This is a very long-winded article that can be re-written with these points:
    - There was a botch that happened with the launch of macOS 11 Big Sur which itself is not greatly problematic.
    - The big problem is that this affected other Mac users who, though were not downloading Big Sur, had trouble with opening some existing applications already on their computer

    That's it! That's what the article really is or should be about!


    This piece is a discussion about it, and those tend to be a bit lengthier. The article is clearly labeled as an editorial, as posted from the screen cap above.

    ...

    Do feel free to discuss your opinion about the topic at hand. How William chose to structure the Editorial with opinions is up to him, and isn't a topic for debate. If you'd like to discuss his opinions that's fine.
    To be fair, reading on the AI app on my iPhone, there is no way to tell that it is an editorial. I don’t see the heading anywhere except in your screen capture...
    flyingdprazorpitanantksundarampulseimagesSpamSandwichAlex1N
  • Reply 17 of 53
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,316administrator
    bageljoey said:
    mSak said:
    This is a very long-winded article that can be re-written with these points:
    - There was a botch that happened with the launch of macOS 11 Big Sur which itself is not greatly problematic.
    - The big problem is that this affected other Mac users who, though were not downloading Big Sur, had trouble with opening some existing applications already on their computer

    That's it! That's what the article really is or should be about!


    This piece is a discussion about it, and those tend to be a bit lengthier. The article is clearly labeled as an editorial, as posted from the screen cap above.

    ...

    Do feel free to discuss your opinion about the topic at hand. How William chose to structure the Editorial with opinions is up to him, and isn't a topic for debate. If you'd like to discuss his opinions that's fine.
    To be fair, reading on the AI app on my iPhone, there is no way to tell that it is an editorial. I don’t see the heading anywhere except in your screen capture...
    This is a point of some contention between editorial and the developers. I'm still working on it.
    edited November 2020 razorpitpulseimagesAlex1Nchasmcornchip
  • Reply 18 of 53
    AI must’ve pulled my post where I linked to a useful article on Engadget about this topic 
    pulseimageskillroy
  • Reply 19 of 53
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,316administrator
    AI must’ve pulled my post where I linked to a useful article on Engadget about this topic 
    Not as far as I am aware. Go ahead and repost it.
  • Reply 20 of 53
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,816member
    #firstworldproblems

    This is the part where I say that I am embarrassed to be a part of modern society where people whine and complain that they can't get their computers updated or working for a few hours, and those that write articles claiming it to be a bigger deal than it really is.  People NEVER say anything about the countless days, weeks, or years that something's been working well.  It's only that ONE day, or hours that the twitterverse gets their undies in a wedgie.  It's embarrassing really and those that think the world is falling need to take a step back and contemplate what's really important.  

    I guess it's me being born before modern technology took over.  I know tech's not perfect and things go wrong, but damn... some people.

    Disclaimer:  After all the complaining yesterday, I decided to upgrade my 2017 MBP that I rarely use just to see how bad it was.  I was fully prepared to experience the same problems as others complained about.  My MBP downloaded BigSur and upgraded it all in under and hour.  I was shocked.  I expected to leave it on the entire day/night while I do my other work.  On top of that, after a few hours of using it - so far - I've had zero issues with my apps, and was pleasantly surprised that my crucial apps (Java-based) worked perfectly.

    Go figure.


    The "opinion piece"?  Whatever.  People place way too high a value on these kind of articles.  Most folks have the attention-span of a gnat.  Today most will have forgotten about it.  By the weekend... completely forgotten about and now looking forward to their next 15-minute fix.  

    Apple will take this event as something they need to work out.  It never ends, and it will happen again.  Nothing is perfect, but funny how some expect that from others knowing what they do could certainly be put under scrutiny as well.  Get over it.
    tmaymacplusplusStrangeDaysbonobobAlex1Nosmartormenajrcornchip
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