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My brand new iMac and the bug I discovered. Is it really a bug, or a feature? MacHeads, chime in!

OK, Mac fanatics - here's something to chew on.  I recently made the switch on my home, personal computer from a PC to Mac.  After 30 years on this earth - and every one of my computing years spent in front of a PC - my Mac loving friends finally convinced me it was time to make the switch.  The programs that come with the Mac by default are superior to the ones I paid hundreds of dollars to add onto my PC, especially when it comes to video, image and audio manipulation and editing - something of paramount importance for a broadcast meteorologist who's always out in the community and grabbing video of events from clouds, to kids, to charity events.

What I'm coming to realize is the true subculture that exists - or, perhaps, now it's big enough to simply be the full-fledged culture - around the Mac.  For the love of Mac, for the passion of Mac, for the obsession of Mac - call it what you will, but your Mac becomes a part of your life.  I was given the hint to hold out for an iMac redesign by my buddy and fellow Cornellian, Jeff, and sure enough the rumors he'd heard on Mac forums and websites bore fruit.  I delayed my purchase in the spring based upon his information that had been circulating the internet, and when the redesign came out two weeks ago, I was as grateful as a new-coming Mac owner could be...I have the newest, bestest iMac around.  That was only the beginning for me - the start of my venture into MacLand, and the start of my own curiosity, wonder, and amazement of all that is Mac.  My curiosity peaked in the last 3 days and today, my Mac-Head buddy Ted said, "You HAVE to blog about your experience!"

It hardly seemed interesting to blog about a bug I discovered on my brand new iMac.  In fact, I was somewhat dismayed that an expensive piece of equipment would exhibit such a basic and rudimentary error.  For as basic as this error seemed, however, there are thoughts swirling that it could, perhaps, be the tip of an iceberg to something more complex and indicative of what lay beneath the surface.  Here's the situation:  ITunes starts by itself.  "I've heard that before," you say.  Me too.  I Googled it and found that, for years, folks have had occasional problems with ITunes starting as soon as the computer loaded, sometimes even playing a song.  But this is different.  I could re-create this.  ITunes starts by itself under a very specific circumstance - when you physically tap the desk, the computer, or the floor around it.  Even a large enough truck driving by on the street outside can start ITunes.  If you tap the desk once, Itunes opens.  Tap the desk again, it starts playing a song.  Usually the song that was last played.

"Surely, there must be an easy, mechanical explanation," this lifelong PC owner figured.  I tried turning off the wireless keyboard.  Still happened.  I tried taking the batteries out of the keyboard entirely.  Still happened.  I disposed of all widgets.  Still happened.  I disconnected the TomTom GPS that was affixed to the USB port.  Still happened.  I let the computer go into Sleep Mode - happened one time, but mostly didn't happen.  But about 50% of the time I tapped the desk, Itunes started, then started playing a song when I tapped again.

So, I did what any not-yet-obsessed Mac owner would do:  I called AppleCare support.  They were awesome.  They weren't awesome because they fixed the problem, but rather, because they truly cared.  The first technician listened to my explanation, and seemed intrigued, but once he actually heard me bang the desk through the phone and the music start playing immediately thereafter, his excitement boiled over.  "This is totally new!  I've never heard of this!  I'm sending you up to the next level!"  After about 5 minutes, on came the next technician: super-friendly, apologizing for the short wait, and interested in hearing more about the problem.  Soon, she would orchestrate generation of a system log and confirmed she could indeed see that iTunes had started several times (about 10) just in the last couple of hours.  I explained that was because I was tapping the desk.  She was equally excited as her colleague.  "I'm sending this right up to the Engineers.  They'll review this and spend a good two or three days on it, and we'll get back to you.  In my years on this staff, I've never heard one like this."  We laughed about how she could use my quality-control recording for the Christmas Party, or how funny it'd be if I'd started my webcam so she could have video of me banging the desk.  She did, however, have me update my Operating System to 10.6.2 from 10.6.1.  And guess what?  That solved the issue, at least for now.  I've been unable to re-create what was an easily re-creatable issue.

For this what-you-see-is-what-you-get PC guy, that would have been the end of the story.  Finished and fixed.  Something weird, but move on.  In Mac World, however, this raises a whole new bed of questions, hypotheses and intrigue.  WHY did it do this in the first place?  HOW is it possible that a nearby tap could somehow start iTunes, and a subsequent tap could start a song playing?  And, pending a recurrence of the problem, WHY OR HOW in the WORLD could an OS update *solve* this issue?!?!  OK, MacHeads.  Expand my mind.  Teach me the way of the Mac culture.  Enthrall me.  Add that fourth dimension to my world and shift my paradigm.  Did we just uncover something new and exciting in my living room?  A sign of...not a bug...but perhaps, a feature to come?  Or should I stick to my 2-D and occasionally graphics-card-enhanced 3D world, and assume it was just a strange bug?

Comment on this post and help me to understand...and I'll keep updating with info!

Update:  Some excellent points and questions coming in already.  NO plugins were installed (last.fm, etc.).  Also, Customer Support had me ensure all speech and other recognition features were disabled.

Comments

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it's really inspiring stuff , Matt!! well dine that share it with us!! so glad to find it

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A mi me paso lo mismo cuando me compre mi MacBook Pro, mi imagen sobre estos ordenadores cambio a mejor sin duda alguna.

Jenn Gaudet

Welcome to the wonderful world of Mac!! I am also a fairly recent convert who struggled with some things in the beginning but am now a believer (i can't believe it!?!). I never had that problem but it does seem mechanical. So I have to ask - where was your mouse cursor when you banged the desk -- anywhere near the iTunes icon? Perhaps updating OS reset some defaults to reduce sensitivity?? Very curious and thanks for sharing :)

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Chris Rosinski

I have never experienced that situation with my Mac, but when I tried to update iTunes, I am sorry to say that I could no longer access my music files from the previous version, unless it was downloaded from a CD. All that time and effort building special music lists. I was heartbroken for sure.
You had quite the adventure with your experience. I am glad that it all worked out well for you!

Lisi Hoff

In code writing terms there was a missing 0 in the software. yes of course a simplification LOL, but basically, in the "old days" we did not use "words" but 0s and 1s.

Congratulations on your conversion to Mac. Here is a real old-fashioned BB for Mac enthusiasts.
x704.com. Just tell BDAqua that I sent you :) Real Mac geeks run it :D
The apple support site is excellent should you ever need it :)

And thank you for a great story

Jeff Schultz

Matt, you awakened the Ghost in the Machine, aka the Mighty Finder (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHO8l-Bd1O4 )

Eric Sharakan

Matt, I wonder if "Speakable Items" (i.e. the Mac's speech recognition system) had somehow become enabled and strangely misconfigured to interpret the taps as a command to open iTunes. The OS update would've likely reset things to their defaults (including speech recognition being turned off).

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it! Congratulations on your iMac purchase.

Lee

Ahh Grasshopper, welcome to the world of AppleCare!
The Apple technicians are also customer service people - emphasis on service -and they are consistently awesome!
I have no idea why this happened. I'm just delighted that you switched to Mac. We switched four years ago and would never, ever go back.
Thanks for posting about this.
Enjoy the whole wonderful ride!
;o)
- Lee

Jenny Greenleaf

I am a lifelong Mac person (artist and graphic designer) and I have never heard anyone have this problem. It definitely sounds like some sort of hypersensitive link between your input devices (either keyboard or mouse) and iTunes. Very freaky, indeed! Definitely be sure it has remedied otherwise you should trade it in before the warranty expires, as it could be bad wiring inside somewhere. Apple has the best customer support (per recent Consumer Reports as well as per my personal experience).

There are all sorts of support boards online, too, where you can post problems/issues. You can also join a Mac User Group ("MUG"); check it out at http://www.apple.com/usergroups/ which operate both online and in person. You can search for a group near you-- for example, I belong to the NH Seacoast MUG (check them out at http://www.seacoastmac.org/).

Welcome to the Mac family! It's a nice place to be!

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Wow! Amazing story, Matt.

J Swain

Well, I am a PC user but I know you can control the keyboard sensitivity with software changes, so I wonder if they had some bad numbers in a sensitivity algorithm in 10.6.1 making it too sensitive. Unfortunately that might not be the full explanation since you said you disconnected your keyboard, but that would explain how software can control a mechanical input.

Thom Keith

I'm a mid-life convert to Mac myself, Matt, and this is very intriguing. I have had issues with my iSight cam on my Macbook, but this is a whole other can of worms. I would assume that there was some mouse sensitivity setting in OS 10.6.1 that was causing the issue. Or keyboard sensitivity -- it is a truly bizarre occurrence nonetheless. I have had my iMac only since summer, but I am a believer. With this issue solved, you soon will be, too.

To breakdown my 700XL PC, and components -- 35 minutes; to setup my iMac from box to browsing -- 5 minutes.

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Matt Matt Matt you are making my brain hurt. I think you just got lucky with the one Mac that has/had a quirk. Now what would of been really freaky is if when you tapped/banged not only did iTunes start but it always played
"Good Vibrations".

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