iTunes 2
November 5, 2001 6:33 PM   Subscribe

iTunes 2 was released recently. Some poor OS X users lost all their data after installing this seemingly innocuous software. (about a third of the way down)
Is being on the bleeding edge worth it? What responsibility does a software manufacturer have to prevent from damaging your data? Any other horror stories from installing just released software? Not bashing Apple, as I'm using a Mac myself.
posted by the biscuit man (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I read about this earlier on Slashdot, and without hesitation I can say I'm quite glad that I didn't rush out and get the update.

Major blunder from Apple there.
posted by clevershark at 6:44 PM on November 5, 2001

Man, for the first time I'm glad I'm still using the classic OS. I have to wonder if they bothered testing the installer on more than one machine--there'll probably be lawsuits over this one (and no doubt someone's already lost their job, too.)
Something as innocuous as an mp3 player (and especially not its installer) had better not trash data, IMO--it's not like installing a beta release of the OS, where a few bugs are expected.
Major blunder, yeah. But I bet every installer that comes out of there now is gonna be tested to death.
posted by darukaru at 6:51 PM on November 5, 2001

Ok I am not a Mac user but I fail to see how an MP3 player/encoder installer manages to delete partitions? I mean why does it need that high an access? I mean didn't the OS itself stop the program from doing that? If Microsoft's Media Player did something like this you can be sure people would've raised hell.
posted by riffola at 7:07 PM on November 5, 2001

Does anyone know how many people were actually affected by this? As far as I can tell, it only deleted data if you had multiple partitions, one of which had a name starting with a space.

While the multiple partition thing is probably common on Macs right now as people test out OS X, I don't think I've EVER in my life known anyone to give a partition a name starting with a space.

That said, it still sucks. I was angry enough that the installer for the Classic version deletes iTunes 1.1 even though it tells you it's installing into a different folder... and that's nothing. Sigh.

Oh, and Riffola: basically what the installer's shell script did was issue a "delete all old iTunes files" command, only because of a misplaced quote mark, it ended up just being a "delete all" command. It didn't delete the partition itself, it just (just!) deleted all the data on the partition. Doh.
posted by bcwinters at 7:15 PM on November 5, 2001 has the best analysis of why this happened that I have read. Here is an excerpt from a reader report:

"This is quite a severe bug, the 'rm -rf' command parameters should have been enclosed in quotes, which would have prevented this erasure.

This really is a beginners error, the rm -rf command (especially under root privileges) is such that extreme care is in order when issuing this command.

Here is a look at the relevant look at script in question:


# if iTunes application currently exists, delete it
if [ -e $2Applications/ ] ; then
rm -rf $2Applications/ 2> /dev/null

exit 0

When the diskname (partition name) starts with a space the following happens:

rm -rf /Volumes/ harddiskname/ 2> /dev/null

So rm removes /Volumes (all mount points!) and a nonexistent path harddiskname/ but no errors are displayed because they are /dev/nulled."

Apple will really lose face in the unix community for this one.
posted by machaus at 7:15 PM on November 5, 2001

For want of a quote mark, the data was lost... heh.
A lot of people are raising hell, riffola; it's just that since the Mac community is such a small percentage of the computing world (and the OS X community even smaller), this isn't getting the firestorm of coverage a comparable MS bug would receive. Also, a lot more people watch MS to crow over their mistakes than watch Apple.
posted by darukaru at 7:22 PM on November 5, 2001

I liked it that one guy had a sense of humor: "Well, at least my OS 9 partition has been defragmented!"
posted by D.C. at 7:32 PM on November 5, 2001

This is really inexcusable. The Windows landscape has long had products built around WISE (aka M$ SMS Installer) and InstallShield. When you built an uninstaller around these, you specify the precise filenames to be deleted during an uninstall. (The location is determined from the Windows registry.) You may also use a folder remove command, but by default it only removes fully empty folders.

Anybody with any experience with Unix should be loathe to blithely script a rm -rf for unknown environments.
posted by dhartung at 8:07 PM on November 5, 2001


darukaru - as bcwinters pointed out this has proved awful for someone who has a disk partition whose name starts with a space... not exactly a common occurrence. Not like huge security holes in a mass-distributed web server, or a system-wide scripting language which has over time proved to be the equivalent of a large "viruses enter here" placard, or "service packs" that break more systems than they fix...

If anything, the fact that we're even hearing about this issue shows how vocal the Mac community is. How many Windows installations have been hosed innocuously -- then quietly reinstalled as a matter of course? I've seen it done again and again. Perhaps that's the difference between Windows and Mac users: the latter actually expect their systems to keep working.
posted by clevershark at 8:14 PM on November 5, 2001

OSX has a built-in installer as well, and from I've heard, it's quite good from a programming standpoint.

Working for Steve Jobs would be hard enough. Working for him after making this mistake is probably impossible.
posted by jragon at 8:15 PM on November 5, 2001

I'm not sure the person making that mistake would still work for Apple or Steve Jobs. It's hard to believe no one flagged this during a test install prior to releasing it.
posted by ericalba at 8:23 PM on November 5, 2001

OSX has a built-in installer as well, and from I've heard, it's quite good from a programming standpoint.

Not everyone is a fan of Apple's installer. One of the cooler installing techniques supported on Mac OS X is 'packages', where you make a whole folder full of stuff look like an application. To install one of these, you just drag the 'application' over to the Applications folder.
posted by boaz at 8:26 PM on November 5, 2001

My point exactly, ericalba.
posted by jragon at 8:29 PM on November 5, 2001

From the page linked above:

Volume Names a Factor? A reader commented on what may be a factor in why some volumes were wiped (names of volumes) in the first OS X iTunes2 installer:

" The problem is with some code in the installer. If you have more than one partition with spaces with similar names (eg "Disk 1" "Disk 2") then it will hose your drives. Apple's supposedly working on it right now.
Dogcow (forum username) "
posted by riffola at 10:12 PM on November 5, 2001

Apple responded pretty quickly to this. The iTunes 2 installer was released Saturday, mid-morning. By late morning, it had been pulled. The new installer, minus the path name bug was released yesterday morning.

I have to think that apple was pretty quick to jump on the issue and did something about it within a few hours and on a weekend. I'm not defending the issue, but am pleased with the response from Apple. I have to think that the actual number of people affected was fairly small. Apple also yesterday posted instructions to help with data recovery for anyone who lost data. Water under the bridge, but at least they've acknowledged and tried to present some solutions.
posted by warhol at 5:36 AM on November 6, 2001

The infamous EULA for almost every software product disavows any liability whatsoever. Further, they usually state no warranty at all, no "suitability for intended purpose" guarantee, etc. In other words, REGARDLESS OF WHAT CLAIMS ARE MADE ABOUT A SOFTWARE ITEM'S FUNCTIONALITY, YOU HAVE NO GUARANTEE THAT IT WILL EVER WORK AT ALL, AND NO RECOURSE IF IT CAUSES DAMAGE.

Just another in the long list of reasons why software is a very unique product.

And another reason to oppose DMCA and similar legislation.

If a paint product is advertised as a concrete sealer, and the text on the label gives application instructions for sealing your basement walls, and then the stuff erodes the mortar and causes damage, you as a consumer can sue the manufacturer.

However, if you purchase and use a software product in its intended fashion ("intended fashion" is established by marketing claims and on-the-box statements), and it causes damage, there's nobody "on the hook" for it.

The software industry is probably the only industry there is with absolutely zero product liability exposure.
posted by yesster at 6:17 AM on November 6, 2001

Except the EULA isn't part of the installer. The user sees it when they first run iTunes - *after* the installation.
posted by warhol at 8:19 AM on November 6, 2001

Except the EULA isn't part of the installer. The user sees it when they first run iTunes - *after* the installation.

I bet Apple Legal is working to rectify that omission right now ;)

Also, just to follow up on my earlier comment, while packages are cool, the fact that iTunes was a package was the reason why Apple had to use 'rm -rf' instead of the much safer 'rm -f' to remove the old version. So packages can cause problems too.
posted by boaz at 8:24 AM on November 6, 2001

Not Apple bashing but I just noticed that Apple's store has a typo in the menu. Accessories is printed as [Accesscries]. (It's the image in the menu, directly below the Quicktime tab)
posted by riffola at 11:46 AM on November 6, 2001

It's 'accessories' in the image above. They must've just changed it.
posted by gyc at 12:21 PM on November 6, 2001

Funny, it's still Accesscries for me.
posted by boaz at 12:41 PM on November 6, 2001

I think it's because it's being squished. If you download the image and look at it, it looks fine. The A is also a little nudged. That would explain why some browsers look fine and others don't.
posted by jragon at 1:04 PM on November 6, 2001

I sent Apple an email I guess they changed it. But it still looks like Accesscries to me. (IE6.0 on XP at 1024x768)
posted by riffola at 1:18 PM on November 6, 2001

Ah! The image is sized at 77x20 in the menu whereas the real dimensions are 84x20.
posted by riffola at 1:22 PM on November 6, 2001

An update on what Apple is doing for affected users.
posted by machaus at 8:51 PM on November 6, 2001

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