Bug Writing Season

It’s that time of year: Apple has just released a bunch of amazing new things and we start poking at them. And of course, we encounter things that don’t work like we’d want or expect.

Apple’s engineers like to remind us that there’s a good way to handle that situation. You’ll also see a lot of bug report numbers pass by on the Twitter and Facebook feeds as your colleagues ask for duplicates. We’ll all be spending a lot of time writing Radars.

Now’s the perfect time to start using QuickRadar. As its name suggests, this project run by Amy Worrall, makes creating or duplicating bug reports much quicker. You’ll also find that a native Mac user interface is much easier to deal with than some web form pretending to be iOS 6.

The QuickRadar icon can be shown in your dock or in the menu bar. When you click on the icon or use the global hot key, you’ll be presented with the following UI:


Note: Since Apple doesn’t provide an API for Radar, the app works by scraping web pages. You’ll need to enter your Apple ID and password in Preferences before you can submit a bug report (and you have the source, so you know exactly how those credentials are being stored and used—it’s all done securely.)

Just fill in the fields and hit Submit. If you have your own internal bug tracker or want to document a workaround, you’ll probably want to copy the Radar number to the clipboard. Sending the bug to Open Radar is awesome if you want to let other developers know about the issue and/or get some duplicate bug reports.

If you want to duplicate a Radar, all you need is the bug report number. For example, say you want to complain about the new developer website being a huge pain in the ass. Just select File a Duplicate… from the QuickRadar menu and you’ll be presented with:


After entering the bug number, the user interface will be pre-populated with the information from Open Radar along with a header saying “This is a duplicate of rdar://21372721″. Click Submit and you’re done.

We all know that writing bugs takes time away from doing more interesting things, but it’s still our best way to affect change from within Apple. With these tips, you’ll be able to get back to coding as soon as possible!

On Apple Watch Ergonomics

Now that we’ve all had a few weeks with this new watch, it’s natural to start analyzing the interaction models: there’s been some great commentary from people I respect.

However, one area I haven’t seen discussed much is the ergonomics of this device: how efficient are we at performing tasks on the watch? The physical interactions with a device attached to our body are just as important as the mental ones.

One of the first things I noticed about using the Apple Watch was that pressing the digital crown on my left wrist required a fairly awkward position of the index finger on my right hand. While pressing on the crown without another finger to provide resistance, the strap twisted uncomfortably. When you try to get your thumb on the opposite side of the case to provide support, you either cover the face or resort to contortions.

Luckily, I had spent some time digging around in the settings in the Apple Watch app and remembered seeing some odd settings in General > Watch Orientation. The wrist selection is obvious enough, but being able to change the position of the digital crown had no obvious benefit. That is, until I tried it.

I left the wrist setting alone and changed the digital crown to be on the left (it defaulted to the right side.) This is what it looks like after the change:


I’ve been referring to this orientation as the “reverse crown”.

With any ergonomic change, you need to give yourself a few days to overcome the bias for something new and different. I gave myself three days to form an opinion.

I will say my immediate reaction was positive: I could use my thumb to activate the crown while using the side my index finger to provide stability. Also, our phones have taught us to use the thumb as a quick navigational tool.

An added benefit to this new orientation is that the speaker and microphone are directed toward your face when your wrist is raised. It’s easier to hear sounds and Siri recognition seems a little better. It will be interesting to see how much better this works when we’re wearing heavy winter jackets.

With the crown on the left side, you use your thumb to scroll. Initially, I was concerned that my hand would block the screen, but the display fits nicely in the space between your thumb and index finger:


When using your thumb on the crown, your index finger is also in a convenient location for tapping and scrolling on the display.

Apple never adds settings without a good reason. The inclusion of a preference for the crown position is a pretty clear indication that someone important knew that this was an ergonomically superior choice. But it’s also one that goes against horologic convention: Apple’s desire for this device to be visually appealing won out over ergonomics. I’ll be the first to admit that the “reverse crown” looks weird.

Luckily, Apple has given us a choice between what works best and what looks best. It’s been several weeks since I made the change and have never once considered changing back to the default setting. I encourage you to give it a try, too.

An @import-ant Change in Xcode

How many times have you done something like this?

(lldb) p self.window.bounds
error: property 'bounds' not found on object of type 'UIWindow *'
error: 1 errors parsing expression

Followed by a quietly whispered “crap” and some more typing:

(lldb) p (CGRect)[self.window bounds]
(CGRect) $0 = (origin = (x = 0, y = 0), size = (width = 375, height = 667))

And even if you remember to do it when debugging views, you’ll forget in some of the more arcane situations:

(lldb) p CGPointFromString(@"{10.0, 20.0}")
error: 'CGPointFromString' has unknown return type; cast the call to its declared return type
error: 1 errors parsing expression
(lldb) p (CGPoint)CGPointFromString(@"{10.0, 20.0}")
(CGPoint) $1 = (x = 10, y = 20)

Buried deep within the Xcode 6.3 release notes there is a true gem that can relieve this daily frustration.

LLDB’s parser for Objective-C can now go through any module used in your app and determine the types used for all functions and methods it defines. If you’re using UIKit in your app, you can do this:

(lldb) expr @import UIKit

Which will save a lot of subsequent typing:

(lldb) p self.window.bounds
(CGRect) $4 = (origin = (x = 0, y = 0), size = (width = 375, height = 667))
(lldb) p CGPointFromString(@"{10.0, 20.0}")
(CGPoint) $5 = (x = 10, y = 20)

Note that the app must be linked against the module being used in the @import. For example, if you try to use that command in a Mac app, you’ll get:

(lldb) expr @import UIKit
error: Header search couldn't locate module UIKit
error: 1 errors parsing expression

And if you’re a forgetful developer like I am, you can save yourself some more typing by adding this to ~/.lldbinit:

command alias uikit expr @import UIKit
command alias foundation expr @import Foundation

For those of us that work on both Mac and iOS projects, it’s just a matter of typing “uikit” or “foundation” at the beginning of a debugging session:

(lldb) uikit
(lldb) p self.window.bounds
(CGRect) $4 = (origin = (x = 0, y = 0), size = (width = 375, height = 667))

Note that you’ll need to use the “uikit” alias every time you start a new debugging session: the @import is not maintained across build and run cycles. Similarly, if you add something to .lldbinit, it won’t be read until the next time start debugging. Also, as much as we’d all love to automatically do the @import in the LLDB initialization file without typing “uikit”, that’s not currently possible (probably because this file is loaded before any modules are known by the debugger.)

Updated: Steve Streza came up with a brilliant hack: add the “uikit” alias as a breakpoint in the application delegate and set it to auto-continue.

Thanks to Oliver Letterer for the tweet that inspired this post and Peter Steinberger for bringing it to my attention with a retweet. This little trick is going to save us all a lot of time and frustration!

discoveryd Clusterfuck

I usually keep things fairly clean on this site. I have a simple metric: would I be embarrassed if my Mom read this post? As you’ve probably guessed from the title, this post is going to be different.

So, Mom, it’s time to stop reading. I’m pissed off and you know how I get when that happens.

In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, look at this shit. A network process using 100% of the CPU, WiFi disconnecting at random times, and names, names (1), names (2), names (4). All caused by a crappy piece of software called discoveryd.

I started reporting these issues early in the Yosemite beta release and provided tons of documentation to Apple engineering. It was frustrating to have a Mac that lost its network connection every few days because the network interfaces were disabled while waking from sleep (and there was no way to disable this new “feature”.)

Regardless of the many issues people were reporting with discoveryd, Apple went ahead and released it anyway. As a result, this piece of software is responsible for a large portion of the thousand cuts. Personally, I’ve wasted many hours just trying to keep my devices talking to each other. Macs that used to go months between restarts were being rebooted weekly. The situation is so bad that I actually feel good when I can just kill discoveryd and toggle the network interface to get back to work.

Only good thing that’s come of this whole situation is that we now have more empathy for the bullshit that folks using Windows have suffered with for years. It’s too bad that Apple only uses place names from California, because OS X Redmond would be a nice homage.

It’s no secret in the tech community that discoveryd is the root cause of so many problems. There are even crazy workarounds. With so many issues, you’d expect some information from Apple explaining ways to mitigate the problems.


The only explanation I can come up with for this astounding lack of information is that there’s some mid-level product manager at Apple who’s covering their ass. I hope this person who’s responsible for withholding advice feels good about themselves, because the rest of us hate them with the burning passion of a thousand suns. Being stingy with knowledge in an engineering organization is a fucking stupid career move.

To give you an idea of how helpful a tiny piece of information is towards people’s productivity, let me give you a simple example that’s already saved me hours of frustration.

For months, I’ve seen bullshit like this in Bonjour:


That shows the xScope service on the Mac that provides data for the Mirror on iOS. In that screenshot, the service is being shown as available on three devices: one with just an IPV6 address, one with no IP addresses, and one with a duplicate IPv6 address and a valid IPv4 address. The name “CedarX” was the only way I could find to prevent names from incrementing (and breaking things that use the host name of that device.)

The “funny” thing is that this Mac is running the latest version of 10.10 with fixes for “WiFi issues”. And after tweeting about it in frustration, I got this response:

I followed Hendrik’s advice and guess what? No more network issues.

Bonjour keeps a cache that’s shared amongst devices on the network. This is so that if the device is asleep, another one that’s awake can provide the necessary information. I suspect that a device running an older version of discoveryd poisoned this cache. For some reason, the invalid cache information couldn’t be corrected by a newer version of the software which screwed things up in the first place.

But this is all just conjecture because Apple hasn’t written that fucking tech note.

This situation also shows another important aspect of the discoveryd clusterfuck: this code is all over the place. It’s in use by iOS, OS X and presumably whatever is running on the Apple Watch. As such, any one of those devices can poison Bonjour for everything else on your network.

This workaround is fairly simple if you’re on a home network where you have direct physical access to the all the devices. But as we all know, wireless networking is essential in places like an office, an airport or a coffee shop. Good luck rebooting everything in that kind of environment. And what happens when someone running an older version of OS X connects to that network and poisons it? Time to reboot!

You also can’t rely on software updates to fix everything: I have both an Airport Express and Apple TV that are no longer receiving fixes. Having to buy new hardware because of crappy software adds insult to injury.

Ironically, these issues are most likely to affect Apple’s best customers. The more devices you have, and the longer you have them, the more likely you are to get an unstable network. The only advice I can offer is to restart your entire network.