AMITIAE - Thursday 6 June 2013

Cassandra - Analysis of Disappearing Updates: More Than Meets the Eye

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Over the last couple of days Apple has released some updates, none of which have appeared to be available on my MacBook Pro. While I had dismissed the 10.8.4 update to OS X as an inconvenience, solved by downloading the Combo update from the Apple Downloads pages, to have the same thing happen the next day with another update was too much of a coincidence.

It was not a coincidence as the iMac at my office was also not showing the 10.8.4 update as available, but an update for Digital Camera RAW Compatibility Update 4.06, was revealed after the restart. That had been released on 30 May and had not appeared as available beforehand.

Initially, I thought that this was a problem that was affecting users in Thailand: perhaps Apple was staggering the releases; or perhaps there were lower priorities for the country: often near the bottom when Apple hands things out. A user in Phuket contacted me as the download had appeared in his App Store, but then he remembered he was logged into the US App Store.

iTunes When the iTunes update was made available, I checked in the iTunes menu and it was shown, but clicking on the download link opens App Store which tells me that there are No Updates Available. When I put the comments online a Bangkok user who is logged into the Thai App Store told me that his iTunes update had appeared correctly. He was using a different internet provider.

I considered some possibilities: there is something wrong with the computer; there is something wrong with Apple; or there is something wrong with the internet link here. While this has affected the Mac App Store and OS X updates, iTunes has kept me informed about any updates to apps available, and (as above) also recognised the current update as being available.

The idea of computer problems was lessened - I thought - when I checked another MacBook Pro I have here: a 13" model. In the same way, when a check with the Mac App Store was made, no updates were shown as available. Both on the 13" and 15" computers, these checks were made in a user account.

With a new internet connection (I restarted the router), there was no change. When I switched to the Admin account on the 15" MacBook Pro, the iTunes update was shown as available. I logged out and checked again in the user account: nothing.

I tried the 13" MacBook Pro. I do not use iTunes in the account on that computer. Immediately the app was started, however, it identified the update, but the same happened in that user account: no iTunes update appeared in the Mac App Store. Switching to the Admin account, I waited as OS X did its stuff and one update was identified: Analog. As the machine is running 10.8.3 it appeared there were now two Apple updates not being identified. I restarted the 13" Mac.

In the Admin account, I checked using Software Update. This time there was a much longer period while the software linked to Apple and the updates (plus a few more) appeared.


Likewise, in the User account, a check now showed all of the available updates: 5 for OS X and the third-party software, Analog. The download of all these files was some 2 GB. Time to make some tea.

With this in mind, I reluctantly restarted the 15" MacBook Pro. Using Software Update, the Mac App Store app was started and a longer connection to Apple took place. The iTunes update was now shown as available.

This was not the result that I wanted as this seems to indicate a problem with user or system cache; or with some external caching done by the Internet provider. While Mountain Lion does retain some information, for example to make a restart less painful by reopening apps that were in use, some aspects of this, with Safari for example and its insistence on reloading all open pages at times, being a prime (bad) example.

This behaviour with OS X app updating, however, is fairly recent. While the 13" Mac is used as a spare computer (so little data is shared), the only common factors were the 10.8.3 update and after, and the point that I do not shut these computers down.


With earlier versions of OS X, the machines would run for over a month at times, with just the occasional restart, for example with a software update. With the most recent versions of OS X the system seems to have become stickier: slowing down much quicker over the course of a week, needing restarts more often than it had before.

Such behaviour is often displayed when I have several tabs open: sometimes as many as 30; but that is nothing new for me, only Mountain Lion is not happy with this. Also in Safari, Facebook with its multiple video links and images that need loading, seems to be a drag on resources at times.

I am not wholly convinced that this is the full reason for the updates not appearing. The iMac for example in my office, did restart (there had been a power cut), but still the 10.8.4 update was not shown. The 13" MacBook Pro does not have heavy use at all these days and was last restarted about 2 weeks ago, since which it has been lightly used. Another common factor appears to be the internet provider: users of other IPs have not been affected.

Needless to say, I will be monitoring the arrival of further updates in the future to assess how best to deal with this. In the interim, it is perhaps time to find my rescue flash drive and give Disk Warrior a run.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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