Killing it: Apple kills supposedly killer bug


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The Macalope thinks it must exhausting being an Apple nay-sayer. You have to constantly scan the news so that when anything negative happens regarding Apple you can quickly type it up and declare it to be life-threatening to the company.

Writing for Inc., Erik Sherman says the “iPhone Has a Killer Character Problem, and It’s Kicking Apple’s Brand.” (Tip o’ the antlers to SamT.)

Killer karacter problem kicks Apple! Katastrophically.

If you have an iPhone, better be careful about any text your apps display.

Any text? Well, no. Specific text. Text that’s not likely to show by accident on your phone unless you use a particular language so we shouldn’t jump to-

This is just another hit to Apple’s perfect product image…

Oh, right, no, we should totally jump to the worst possible conclusion we can. Sorry, the Macalope was thinking of any other company than Apple.

As TechCrunch reported, there are two non-English symbols that “can crash any Apple device that uses Apple’s default San Francisco font.”

OK, well, how widespread is this bug? Is it affecting a lot of people? How many people even know about it?

These aren’t questions Sherman was put on God’s green earth to answer. The standard for flipping out about Apple bugs is, “If the bugs exist, you must not resist.”

Apple has told TechCrunch and others that a fix is on its way and that beta versions of iOS, tvOS, macOS, and watchOS already have been corrected.

And, guess what, 11.2.6 is now out and fixes this bug. Our few-day-long national nightmare is over. But none of us will ever forget where we were when we first learned of this bug.

The Macalope was sitting at his desk reading this article.

What makes this sound so insane is that the problem is with Unicode characters. That’s a long-standing international standard for consistent representation of written languages.

What’s weird is this is a bug involving computers! Personal computers have been around for decades! And don’t get the Macalope started on bugs in phones. Phones have been around for a hundred years!

Even more amazingly, this isn’t the first recent Apple bug that can be reduced to something that sounds very simple!

In January, there was news that a single link could freeze an iPhone.

A single link! As opposed to hundreds of links. And what are links except aliases for networking addresses to pages that can execute code? Like those could ever cause a problem. What did the link contain? Who knows? Could have been a stream of hot dogs that would flow directly into the iPhone’s registers and out the Lightning port burying the user in a pile of rendered animal lips. What matters is it was just one link.

Please, do not freak Sherman out by telling him you could point to a codex containing what is tantamount to the sum total of all of human knowledge with just one link.

Only in paragraph 10 do we get to the shocking news that:

Bugs are inevitable in any serious software development.

That’s crazy talk. Don’t get wishy-washy on us now, Erik. We all know they only first appeared in Apple products and even then just recently.

Apple’s challenge is facing bugs in the context of a branding mythology of superiority and virtual infallibility that it has gone to great lengths to create and protect.

Pundits loooooove to play this game. “Ah-ha! Apple says that it never has any bugs but, look! Bugs!” Yes, game, set and match, pundits. Now customers will run willingly into the arms of the platform that collects user location even when location services are turned off and has had a long-standing problem with security. And they will enjoy their choice of vendors, either a vendor whose phones famously exploded, one who the U.S. intelligence community worries is beholden to the Chinese government or one that spams its customers. Surely that’s better.

Decisions about Apple are not and never have been made in a vacuum. In general, Apple’s products are better made and work better than those of their competitors (and they’re consequently more expensive). These bugs are certainly not good things and Apple could stand to take another look at its quality assurance process. But the rumors of any serious impact to the company are greatly exaggerated.

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