Hello AppleVis community. It's been some time since I blogged. Other writing tasks have occupied my time. But the real reason I haven't blogged is because bugs are getting me down.
I could remain silent about the bugs as I've been doing for the past seven months. Or I could post a rant on the forum. But ultimately, I decided to approach the topic with some seasonal levity. So if you can read this blog as constructive criticism and humor, then join me on a merry sleigh ride through the Twelve Bugs of Christmas.
On the First Day of Christmas, Alphabetize my Music
In iOS 13, alphabetical navigation of artists or albums in the Music app fails to work reliably. When it does work, VoiceOver includes extra gibberish, such as "Cap C, heading, possibly, refresh," "Cap V, heading, possibly, down arrow," and "Cap X, heading, possibly, close".
Alphabetical music navigation broke previously in iOS10. The recurrence of the issue was a lump of coal in my stocking. It makes me wonder if Apple uses automated regression testing. Santa, please put a fix for this under my Christmas tree.
On the Second Day of Christmas, VoiceOver Shouldn't Talk to SIRI
VoiceOver shouldn't chatter like a mischievous elf when I'm using SIRI. Stuff a fix for this one in my stocking, please.
On the Third Day of Christmas, Set My Volume
I used to be able to set the volume for each specific audio task. In iOS 13, my volume sporadically raises and lowers as if controlled by the Spirit of Christmas Past. Worst case, I was listening to an audio book with earbuds when the volume jumped to a deafening, painful maximum.
While this has improved since the first iOS 13 release, I asked for a more complete fix in my letter to the north pole.
On the Fourth Day of Christmas, Tell Me the Time
An iPhone replaces many blind devices. But don't throw out that old talking watch until Apple fixes the bug with VoiceOver not consistently reading the time. I hope Santa can keep his tight Christmas Eve schedule in spite of this issue.
On the Fifth Day of Christmas, Return My Home Button
I traded the home button for the home gesture when I upgraded my iPhone SE to an iPhone XR. I expected the home gesture to be faster and easier to use. But after months of use, I still find it as slow and clumsy as Donner after too much egg nog.
Santa, put my home button on the Polar Express and ship it back to me immediately.
On the Sixth Day of Christmas, Raise to Wake
I tried Raise to Wake on my iPhone XR. I think a better name for it would be Wiggle to Wake, or even Move Slightly to Wake. It's ironic. The phone is smart enough to recognize my face, but doesn't know when it's being jostled in a pocket, pouch, or Santa's bag.
Apple engineers probably have no idea how often this feature wakes their phones erroneously. Without VoiceOver, there's no audible indication that the phone woke. I've asked Santa to put bells on all Apple employee iPhones. Maybe they'll rename the feature Jingle to Wake.
On the Seventh Day of Christmas, Stop Taking Screenshots
On my iPhone XR, it's too easy to hit the side button by accident when adjusting the volume. Like an overstuffed Christmas stocking, my photo library is full of unwanted screenshots.
Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you redesign my iPhone hardware buttons tonight? Or at least give me a way to select and delete all screenshots in the Photos app.
On the Eighth Day of Christmas, Fix AppleScript
MacOS Catalina inhibits AppleScript, even the default Apple Script for announcing the time that's built into the Keyboard Commander (right alt+T). I've discovered, quite by accident, that I can nudge an AppleScript along by going to menu extras with VO+M twice quickly. I never had to do this in Christmases past.
I sat on Santa's lap and asked him to bring me well-tested Apple releases, but he just picked cookie crumbs out of his beard.
On the Ninth Day of Christmas, Fix VoiceOver Pronunciation
I use the Allison VoiceOver voice. With MacOS Catalina, suddenly Allison forgot how to pronounce certain words like gun and Stu. She says G-U-N and S-T-U instead. Thank goodness she can still spell them.
In my letter to Santa, I asked him to send Allison a speech therapist.
On the Tenth Day of Christmas, Don't Announce Web Page Insertion Point
When I move through static text elements on a web page in MacOS Catalina, VoiceOver repeatedly tells me things like "Insertion at beginning of text" or "Insertion on word: The, between characters: and T". Santa, please tell VoiceOver that I can't edit a web page, so announcing the insertion point is, well, pointless.
On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, Read the Whole Web Page
Safari in Reader View won't let me read an entire web page. After reading a few paragraphs, VoiceOver focus jumps back to the top. This happens whether I use Read All or VO+right arrow to read by paragraph. I hope this doesn't happen to Santa while he's checking his Naughty and Nice list.
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Fix Low Vision Features
Santa's sleigh seems to be off course when it comes to the rollout of the Smart Invert and Dark Mode features.
iOS 11 allowed users to select between Smart and Classic Invert, but MacOS failed to give users a choice. MacOS v10.13.4 replaced Classic Invert with Smart Invert, leaving MacOS low vision users with no practical way to invert images or videos of text.
MacOS 10.14 Mojave and iOS 13 added Dark Mode. Visually similar to Smart Invert, Dark Mode differs from Smart Invert by requiring programs to honor the Dark Mode setting. Even sighted users complain that many programs continue to render dark on light in Dark Mode, including Apple's own Safari, Pages, and Script Editor applications.
MacOS 10.14.6 broke the Smart Invert feature by rendering text too dark. I'll take a shot in the dark (I just couldn't resist the pun) and assume this was caused by massive rewriting of old OpenGL code to use the new Metal API. I used Time Machine to back out to 10.14.5 until the issue was fixed in Catalina. Thanks for Time Machine, Santa!
Twenty months after MacOS 10.13.4 removed Classic Invert, Catalina restored this feature, allowing users to switch between Classic and Smart Invert, as available on iOS since iOS 11.
If Santa's elves care to take a look at these features, they can find Dark Mode under General settings (Display & Brightness on iOS). Classic and Smart Invert settings are under Accessibility.
This low-vision sleigh ride has been erratic and disorienting, but with the Classic Invert fix in Catalina, it looks like Rudolph is finally getting Santa back on course.
On the Thirteenth Day of Christmas, Fix Current Products
My old iPhone SE worked great. The design was unparalleled. It only had one real problem. The volume was too low when I used the phone in handset mode, and there was no way to make it louder. Hoping Apple's current products would work better, I upgraded to an iPhone XR. That fixed my handset volume issue, but the XR has its own set of problems even though it's a current product running the latest iOS.
My mid-2012 MacBook runs Catalina, but it's a bit sluggish. I'm sure new hardware would run Catalina faster. But if my iPhone XR experience is any indicator, a new laptop would come with new issues.
Santa, if you can't bring me good support for old products, at least bring me good support for current products.
And Everything Else
I went to thirteen days to prove a point. There are so many bugs and issues with Apple products that I could easily fill many more days of Christmas. Here are just a few things I didn't mention.
In MacOS Catalina, my 32-bit build of Audacity no longer works. Time to finally learn GarageBand.
I've never heard of zsh, but apparently it's the new default shell in MacOS Terminal
After a MacOS spell check, shouldn't the spell checker dialog close automatically? It always stays open, sometimes with the last corrected word highlighted as if it's still spelled wrong.
I haven't even opened Catalina's redesigned Music app or tried to sync my iPhone. I'm almost afraid to.
Do we know any blind users who think the touch bar is a positive change?
I'd love to get a Braille display for my iPhone, but it seems like every iOS release has Braille display issues.
If you're so inclined, please put your bug-fix Christmas wish in the comments below.
The Christmas I'd Like to See
Santa isn't going to grant all my Christmas wishes. Apple's releases will continue to have bugs. I expect better from the world's largest corporation, especially when I pay a premium price for their products.
Apple's reputation for breaking things with each new release actually made me look into other computing options. In spite of all the issues, I'll stick with Apple as long as it's the only accessible non-Windows option for Scrivener, and as long as I want to play my iTunes purchases.
So what to do about all these bugs?
It would be nice if we could choose to not upgrade, but we don't really have that option. Content on the App Store quickly fails to support older operating systems. I asked Santa to bring me Time Machine for the App Store, so I could continue to access App Store content built for my old operating system, but Santa just gave me a hearty "Ho, ho, ho!" and offered me a candy cane. Staying on the stable release of my choice is not an option.
I would be more than happy to report issues to Apple if I had any evidence that their releases were slowly coalescing into a state of stability and increased quality. But that's not the case. Every release comes with several new issues, plus many old unfixed issues. For those of you with the time and energy, please join others in a constructive effort to improve bug reporting. I've reported bugs to Apple for years. I can't do it anymore. It's too exhausting and frustrating.
This brings me to the Christmas I'd like to see. I'd like Apple to go to sleep Christmas Eve and, like Ebenezer Scrooge, have nightmares showing how their release quality has gone wrong. I wish Apple would wake up Christmas morning with a newfound love for product quality. I wish Apple would pass out bug fix releases like Scrooge passed out turkeys on Christmas Day. This Christmas, I'm after nothing less than a fundamental philosophical change within Apple. So I'll wish for that and maybe even write Santa a letter.
And for all of you in the AppleVis community, I wish you all a happy holiday season full of warmth, love, plenty of food, and good times with family and friends.