Thursday, March 6, 2014

BETA 13: No Crashes (we hope)

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 13 is now available from our Beta Program page.

Important: Some of b12's problems can persist in a saved game. We recommend starting a new game the first time you open b13, instead of trying to play the saved game from b12. Otherwise you may still see crashing or incorrect behavior, even when using b13.

What's New
As you all must know by now, the previous release b12 had serious crashing bugs that affected nearly all users. We believe that b13 will be much more stable. In addition, we believe we have fixed the problem of inappropriately face down cards that many users saw on Lion.

Some of you have reported seeing the same shuffles over and over in b12. This is a side effect of the crashes: if Solitaire Till Dawn does not quit properly, it can't save any information about which shuffles you have already played. If it doesn't crash, you shouldn't see repeated games.

Finally, we have made some subtle adjustments to the pacing of the animations; we hope that this will make them more attractive, and even perhaps more informative by making it more obvious what happens when you deal in some games.

Update: Some of you have found that there are still cases where cards are incorrectly face down, and a few of you have experienced crashes. The face down cards seem to happen when rapidly undoing or redoing, either by repeatedly clicking the Undo or Redo buttons or by repeatedly using their keyboard shortcuts. It doesn't seem to happen if you just click Undo to Snapshot or Redo to Snapshot. The face down cards still work as if they were face up; and you can get them to show correctly by changing the card size (after which you can change it back to the size you were using before).

Update: Also, I have learned that you can cause a crash pretty easily if you click the "New Game" button before your current game is quite through moving cards around. To avoid this crash, always wait a second or so after all the cards have stopped moving before trying to start a new game.

We tested this release, a lot. So why am I so carefully saying "we believe we have fixed it" instead of just "we fixed it"?

Most of the crashes and face down cards in b12 were due to race conditions in concurrent code. We know that many of you won't know what that buzz phrase means; that's okay. The important thing is that this kind of problem does not always behave exactly the same way every time, nor on every machine, nor under every version of Mac OS X. It can also behave differently simply because one is trying to debug it (the dreaded heisenbug).

As you can imagine, this can make it very difficult to be certain that a problem is really fixed. So while we have done a lot of testing of different games on different Macs with different versions of OS X, all we can really say for sure is that we haven't seen b13 crash or seriously screw up the graphics yet. To be certain (of either success or failure), we need you guys on your hundreds of different Macs, playing hundreds of different games. If you see a problem, do as you've been doing: tell us about it! And if you haven't seen any problems after using b13 for a few days, tell us that too!

What Isn't New
This release still will not run successfully on Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6.8). We intend to try to restore Snow Leopard compatibility in a later release, but for now it was important to fix the serious problems that everyone was seeing, regardless of which OS they use.

A word about bug reports
Recently we've been telling you not to send us any more crash reports for b12, because we already had more than we needed. But now that's over: for b13, we want every crash report you see, thanks!

I'd like to remind you all that when you send us a bug report, please include at least the following information:

  • The beta version you were using
  • The version of Mac OS X you were using
  • The game you were playing (Klondike Familiar, Free Cell, Canfield, or whatever)
  • A careful description of what happened and why you think it was wrong.
You cannot send file attachments using the Bug Report form. If you need to send us an attachment (such as a screen shot), you can send us a description of the problem and mention that you have additional files to send. We'll reply and tell you how to send them to us.

If you experience a crash, your Mac will display a crash report for you, and ask whether to send it to Apple. Here's what to do:

  • Don't send it to Apple. They can't do anything about it, and they will ignore it.
  • Do copy all the text from the window, paste it into out Bug Report form, and send it to us.

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