Apple Computer Inc. had to hurriedly issue an update Wednesday to fix a Mac OS X 10.4.2 security patch that prevented the operating system from running 64-bit applications.
The corrected patch, Version 1.1 of Security Update 2005-007, is available from Apples Web site or through Mac OS Xs Software Update feature.
Both versions of the update address multiple performance and security issues and roll in many previous system updates.
“We have issued a new version of the 2005-07 security update, which resolves an issue affecting 64 bit applications,” an Apple spokesperson said.
The problem occurred because the first version of the security update included only a 32-bit version of a crucial system component, LibSystem, according to an Apple technical note. The latest update includes both a 32- and 64-bit version.
The incompatibility was first reported by Wolfram Research Inc., the makers of Mathematica, a visual computational tool.
As a result of the flaw in the security update, the 64-bit Mathematica 5.2 software would not run on any hardware based on the G5 processor that has Version 1.0 of the update installed on it, according to Wolfram.
In an e-mail to customers, Wolfram wrote, “If you have been affected, then Mathematica 5.2 will generate a MathLink error when you try to do any computation with it. (If you run MathKernel directly from the command line, it will crash at startup.)”
“The issue also affected various other 64-bit compiled applications, such as the 64-bit version of the GMP library,” said Ben Wilson, editor of the MacFixIt Web site.
“The GCC 4.0.0 [compiler] would no longer recognize the arch ppc64 option and 64-bit dynamic libraries failed to function,” he said.
Mac OS X 10.4, also called Tiger, was the first version of Apples operating system that supported 64-bit applications, which can address more memory space. This can be a critical feature for scientific and database software.
“Its not the first time a major bug has made it out the door in these incremental revisions, and it probably wont be the last,” Wilson said.
“However, with the broad variety of Mac OS X configurations at the end-user level, its extremely difficult to predict when a new release, however minor, will cause significant widespread issues,” he noted.
Still, Wilson said, this does not reflect a decline in quality assurance.
“In general, it looks like progressive incremental releases of Mac OS X 10.4.x [Tiger] are increasingly more stable,” he said.
MacFixitIt conducted three user polls that indicated that users are seeing fewer problems with successive Mac OS X releases and updates.
“Realistically, the penetration of native 64-bit applications is somewhat shallow, and the majority of the Mac OS X user base was not affected by this bug,” Wilson observed.
“An issue such as this will undoubtedly give users in mission-critical 64-bit operating environments pause when applying the latest patches from Apple,” he said.
Other users on Apples Web forums have also reported isolated problems with restarting their computers or with mouse tracking.
Some of these were resolved by isolating prior problems on the affected systems. An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on these incidents.