The State of Independent Consumer Contact Products on the Macintosh

THE ANTI-COMPETITIVE PRACTICES OF APPLE, INC.

There was a time not so long ago when the U.S. computer company Apple, Inc. thought it was a great idea to buy the source code for FileMaker Pro 6 Standard and Advanced versions from the original developers — Claris Corporation. Partly out of a realisation of just how popular the software is to Mac users, but also to give Apple another source of revenue while giving the original develops a once-off financial offer they could not refuse, the intention in purchasing the software was initially noble. The primary aim for Apple at the time was to improve FileMaker Pro and make it a more popular app for the users (since the tool is only available on the Macintosh, whereas Microsoft has its own database maker called Microsoft Access). This in turn would hopefully be translated into bigger profits for Apple. However, not long after the purchase, a conflict of interest developed within the company.

Apple discovered the power of quietly identifying Mac users over the internet by develop its own contacts, calendar, email and other apps and have them supplied for free with iOS and OS X. Only problem is, Apple needs to get people to use its apps, but is worried about other developers supplying alternative contacts management solutions for the Mac. Why? Because there is the potential for third-party developers (including those who have purchased FileMaker Pro) to by-pass Apple's own servers (via the familiar "push technology" currently in use on Apple's own free apps). Apple wants to see the personal data being transferred unencrypted between OS X Macintosh computers and iOS devices via its servers based in the United States. The company needs this information presumably on the basis of making marketing decisions (the general explanation given by the company should people ask questions) such as learning how people use Apple products and to improve the products, but also for various other purposes. A classic one would have to be the ability to control software piracy by identifying users who are not using legitimate software. Unfortunately, the other problem with allowing unencrypted personal data to pass through the Apple servers is the ability for Apple to gather business confidential information that would help the company to gain an edge and even to the point where it can choose to affect the business dealings of its competitors (especially those third-party developers with contacts management solutions on a Mac). Part of the problem can be solved by allowing alternative contacts management solutions to be made available on the Mac, so long as Apple allows it and does not apply anti-competitive behaviours on third-party developers. The other solution is to allow developers to provide an independent industry-strength (or preferably military-grade) encryption of data within their own contacts management solutions.

Unfortunately, Apple does not like either approach. Instead, if it can reduce the competition in any way to help encourage people to use Apple's own contacts solution, it will try it.

Realising it now owns FileMaker Pro, Apple has recently decided to deal with certain third-party FileMaker developers selling their own contacts solutions as a "runtime solution" (of which SUNRISE Contacts is an example), Among the various changes implemented by Apple to affect these developers, the company has decided to drop the free instant web publishing (IWP) feature of the standard FileMaker Pro that would have otherwise allowed any database layout and its data to be seen on any web browser (served up on an independent server, i.e., your computer). Unfortunately, the only way to get this feature back nowadays is to purchase the hideously expensive FileMaker Server and to make use of what Apple now calls WebDirect — the new name for what is essentially a refined version of IWP. To make it seem like the change was absolutely necessary because of supposedly unique technologies (i.e., HTML5) added to it, Apple has done nothing more than window-dress the feature with a new name. Now you will have to use Apple's more expensive server software, and make sure you pay regularly to Apple for the privilege of running it.

But that's not all. FileMaker Developers who work hard to improve their products and find ways to solve these kinds of new problems from Apple must face other issues when using FileMaker Pro. For example, why not make FileMaker Pro Advanced less stable and introduce certain bugs?

For example, Apple introduced (from FileMaker Pro 10 right up to FileMaker Pro 14) a security bug in the Data Viewer feature of FileMaker Pro Advanced to encourage FileMaker developers to keep their solutions in-house and not to sell them if they wish their intellectual property not to be stolen by other FileMaker developers and consumers alike. More remarkably, Apple was not willing to fix the Data Viewer problem for a long time even when notified by a number of FileMaker developers over a period of more than 4 years. And it is not because Apple is too busy to fix the problem. When other critical security bugs are discovered across other software products and is noticed with FileMaker Pro as having the same problem, Apple is very quick (within a week) to offer a bug fix. Not so for the Data Viewer security bug.

This is not the only bug to get introduced. Developers have found other bugs in selected functions, such as GetNthRecord bug.

Here are the essential things Apple, Inc. has done to get its way in controlling the contacts management market on a Mac:

  1. Apple had been happy to introduce and leave behind for a rather long period of time a major security bug in the FileMaker Pro Advanced product that would allow anyone to reverse-engineer and eventually steal the intellectual property of developers' own database solutions, and no amount of effort by developers to request that Apple fix the problem would work.
  2. Developers would often experience numerous unexpected quits when using FileMaker Pro Advanced. It is most prevalent when working with scripts (such as copying and pasting scripts into different databases). These unexpected quits were introduced in FileMaker Pro 13 and continued right into the latest update for FileMaker Pro 14 (we will test FileMaker Pro 15 soon to see if the problem persists). We have attempted to mention these crashes to FileMaker representatives for the product engineering and development team, but there is very little interest in the problem at time of writing (indeed we have not received a reply about these problems since 13.0v9 was released and certainly not by 14.0v6).
  3. Apple has removed the Instant Web Publishing feature of the cheaper FileMaker Pro standard app after version 12 that would have allowed consumers to access their personal database information via an iOS device through a web browser independent of Apple's own servers. Only the prohibitively more expensive FileMaker Server will provide this option and its new monthly subscription and per user costs ensure the Server edition is only financially viable for medium to large companies. Thus, Apple has effectively forced FileMaker developers to consider selling their solutions directly to companies, or to create and use the solutions in-house. They are not meant to be sold to consumers.
  4. Apple created its own contacts and general information management apps and priced them to undercut the cheapest independent third-party contacts management solutions from FileMaker developers. It was called Bento — a range of ready-made database files (initially priced below the FileMaker third-party contacts solutions, and later offered for free but with no further development of the product) as a means of directly competing and undercutting the price of these contacts solutions from FileMaker Developers. Now that the free contacts.app in iOS and OS X is already sophisticated enough, why support Bento any further? Eventually Bento was dropped to avoid anyone seeing any anti-competitive behaviour.

NOTE 1: Apple has tightened up the integration and ease of transferring your personal data to iOS devices using Apple's own free apps in OS X "Yosemite" and iOS 8. In this way, it is hoped the public will stick to Apple's own free products and not consider any other alternative and more secure solutions from third-party developers.
 

NOTE 2: This explains why Apple, Inc. has not developed an Intel-based combo laptop/tablet device — clearly the next logical step. PC manufacturers have already caught on to this fact and are offering such devices by late 2014. Apple, on the other hand, can't see the value of Intel-based iOS devices. It has, for some incredible reason, decided to lag behind the PC manufacturers (extremely unusual given its long-standing reputation as a leader in the IT industry with innovative new designs and latest technologies in its products). The only reason one can fathom at the present time for Apple not introducing its own Intel-based laptop/tablet device is because all their efforts to restrict FileMaker Pro's features and put in various bugs, enhance iOS and OS X Apple apps to entice consumers to stick to these apps, and previously sell its own database solutions called Bento in an attempt to thwart the efforts of certain developers in delivering independent contacts management solutions to consumers, would go to waste. It is better to leave it as an Atom-based microprocessor iPad and the laptops remain with the Intel microprocessor chips. But if Apple should ever release an Intel-based laptop/tablet combo machine, the only option left for Apple is to stop all further development of FileMaker Pro (or remove the Runtime solution creation feature). Or better still, how about Apple learns to compete properly and fairly with third-party software developers by creating better applications to help the developers provide the best products to consumers? Surely, there must be enough unfair competitive advantages Apple has by using Xcode to develop its own software products. So why add more problems for FileMaker developers? Seriously,.just let FileMaker developers give consumers the best products possible with quality and stable features, and make it freely accessible in a way that allows consumers to decide how they wish to use the products and their features (developers have already paid Apple for the features, so what more does it want?)? But just don't make it obvious about restricting other developers from delivering their best. We certainly do not see Apple restricting other developers or their own in-house developers from creating their own sophisticated apps using Xcode (other than the fact that Apple likes to remove certain features to prevent apps from running on older OS X versions).
 

Examples of bugs introduced into FileMaker Pro

SUNRISE has noticed the way FileMaker Pro 13 Advanced.app will regularly crash during launch and while working for a period of time in a field or developing a layout. The problem is more likely to occur when additional applications are loaded followed by FileMaker Pro Advanced. It will also occur during the running of multiple scripts, as is commonly achieved using the OnTimerScript function to run a specific script as well as clicking various buttons or accessing menu commands at the same time. According to the OS X reports we have recorded, this is caused by a bug in the libdispatch.dylib and other areas of the FileMaker Pro 13 application, which doesn't exist in any previous FileMaker Pro version. Here are some of the messages OS X crash reports will reveal about these bugs:


Crash 1
Application Specific Information: BUG IN LIBDISPATCH: flawed group/semaphore logic.
Crashed Thread: 23 Dispatch queue: com.filemaker.PSConversionHelper.xpcq
0 libdispatch.dylib 0x98bf599f _dispatch_semaphore_signal_slow + 73.


Crash 2
Application Specific Information: *** error for object 0x1: Non-aligned pointer being freed.
Thread 0 crashed with X86 Thread State (32-bit).


Crash 3
Application Specific Information: Java information: Exception type: Bus Error (0xa) at pc=0000000081120069.
Crashed Thread: 0 Dispatch queue: com.apple.main-thread.
 

NOTE: These crashes occur even when Java is installed.
 

Fortunately for consumers, the runtime solution created for SUNRISE Contacts 2015 does not appear to have these bugs (we are currently testing one of the bugs with the introduction of the auto-updating clock function, and so far it is stable enough). Only the developers' FileMaker Pro Advanced.app version 13 (up to version 13.0v4) has them as far as we can tell. So the problems are specifically targeted toward developers running FileMaker Pro 13 Advanced.

As another example of a bug, the GetNthRecord() function does not work after the 157th record, displaying data as a '?'. This is despite the FileMaker Pro 13.0v4 updater where Apple claims it has "Addressed an issue where, under certain conditions, calculations may incorrectly evaluate to '?' ". SUNRISE has notified FileMaker, Inc. (the branch of Apple, Inc. handling all issues relating to the FileMaker Pro product) at least twice in a period of 12 months. The representative has accepted this bug report and allegedly was sent to their product development team. As of FileMaker Pro 14.0v6, the problem is not fixed.
 

There are more bugs introduced into FileMaker Pro 13. Using the Trim() function to strip leading and trailing spaces will trim the text at the end to fit within a 734,851 characters limit. Using Length() function will not show a higher character length in the trimmed text field beyond 751,415. It could be a display issue, but on copying and pasting into a text application, the text has been trimmed back inappropriately. Please note that we have introduced alternative solutions in SUNRISE Contacts 2015 to avoid this problem.
 

Then we have the classic Set Field bug for repeating fields where data can only be transferred from one repeating field into another so long as the repeating field number is the same. If you try to grab data in a repeating field number of one field into a different repeating field number of another field, the data will be lost.

And how about the fact that the appearance of popovers are not reliable and fail to show in Browse mode after a period of time? Certainly no invisible filters added to hide the popover under any conditions. What happen to the popovers? The only way to resolve this problem is to re-create the popovers and transfer the fields and buttons. And then you must pray the popovers will remain visible in Browse mode after a period of use. Not exactly a stable FileMaker Pro app.

What is really going on?

Apple has clearly found a way to quietly identify users and what they do by pushing personal "unencrypted" data gathered by Apple's own free apps supplied with iOS and OS X through its billion dollar Apple servers on the pretence that this is merely designed to transfer your data to your iOS devices and vice versa to help with your work and daily personal activities. However, for this to work, Apple needs to find ways to get people to use its applications. Obviously a big problem for the company should people start using FileMaker Pro solutions instead. Because of this, and through our research and observations of Apple and its activities, we have discovered that SUNRISE Contacts had been the product that actually gave Apple the impetus to create and sell its own version called Bento 1.0 - 4.0 (a set of ready-made databases built by Apple for consumers at a price designed to undermine SUNRISE Contacts 2015 — exactly half the price to be precise some years ago). This Apple product may now have been dropped in 2014 to avoid any chance of being seen as anti-competitive in its practices (and now you get a free contacts database from us) after finding an alternative way to give the company another unfair advantage — this time by dropping the instant web publishing (IWP) option in the cheaper standard FileMaker Pro app that would have provided ordinary consumers with an independent and basic server on their own computer to deliver personal data in SUNRISE Contacts 2015 to the web and accessed via an Apple mobile devices in a more secure manner — Apple still wants to stop further and direct competition from third-party FileMaker developers with its free OS X and iOS apps. Strategically placed bugs in the FileMaker Pro Advanced app is just the start. Reducing features that would enable web access unless you pay considerably more money to Apple on a regular basis is another. All are designed to discourage FileMaker developers from selling their alternative OS X solutions to consumers if it is likely to affect the aims of Apple.

Is Apple being anti-competitive in the contacts management market?

Unless Apple fixes the security bugs and application crashes and stops removing useful features of previous FileMaker Pro versions such as the instant web publishing option, then the only way to explain this and other observations (i.e., Bento) is by stating that some form of anti-competitive practice is being employed by the company.

But why? Simply because Apple is worried about the way FileMaker developers can provide alternative solutions that can by-pass Apple's own servers through the familiar "push technology" currently in use on Apple's own free apps. Apple wants to see the personal data being transferred between OS X Macintosh computers and iOS devices. The company needs this information for (alleged) marketing purposes, and to control software piracy. At a deeper level, it can help Apple to secretly look into business confidential information. It is here where Apple can get the edge in the business world.

To learn more of the efforts by developers to notify FileMaker, Inc. about these problems, read this document.

Another security issue for FileMaker developers

In addition to this, if developers want to use the new data encryption option in FileMaker Pro 13 (which can potentially help to address the security holes such as the Data Viewer security bug), Apple expects developers to leave their Admin account for developing the software intact for this encryption method to work. However, it also enables other users to crack the developer's password using tools such as FileMaker Password Recovery, thereby ensuring developers can never really make a profit in selling secure solutions to consumers.

Try it. Here are the registration details for FileMaker Password Recovery and see how easy it is to break into a FileMaker Pro database:


Registration Name: Any User
Registration Code: 763A-WY3V-HB8R-8X3X

To put it simply, Apple prefers that you, as a consumer without the FileMaker Pro app, should not consider runtime FileMaker Pro database solutions (i.e., you don't need FileMaker Pro.app to use the databases, and it is free) as an alternative to Apple's own Contacts and other "free" products. SUNRISE Contacts 2015 and other similar solutions should only be used within organisations. That is what Apple prefers to see happen even if publicly it claims developers can sell their solutions to consumers according to their license agreement. Of course, we don't agree you should be denied the choice.

More restrictions for consumers courtesy of Apple, Inc.

With the instant web publishing feature no longer a viable low cost option for consumers in FileMaker Pro 13, if you wish to use SUNRISE Contacts 2015 on portable devices, we recommend you purchase Android or PC tablets with a 64-bit Intel processor to enable our Runtime solution to run. Otherwise the only alternative is paying considerably more for FileMaker Server to deliver the SUNRISE Contacts database solution onto any iOS web browser, which would be well beyond the budget of any average consumer.

Is there anything Apple will not do to get its own way in this area?

Could MacUpdate.com be assisting Apple to prevent certain types of independent contacts management solutions from being accessible to the public?

We have noticed on a number of occasions how some reviewers on MacUpdate.com do seem to have close connections to the company (perhaps employees acting as marketers for the company) and are doing things to recommend which Mac products follow Apple's policy and thus should be given good reviews and which ones need to be given bad reviews if they don't. Now we are wondering whether MacUpdate is also capable of restricting which Mac apps will be shown on its listings to the public. If this is true, we would have to say this is a form of discrimination against those developers who wish to provide independent Mac solutions.

In support of this claim, our attempts to submit SUNRISE Contacts 2015 with MacUpdate.com achieves nothing at the present time. After attempting submissions on nearly half a dozen occasions on different computers (on PC and Mac), we have noticed MacUpdate.com is not allowing the software to be shown on its web site. A support request has been made, but no response has been forthcoming from MacUpdate.com to this day.

We wonder whether this may have something to do with the description we wanted to give to our product? For those interested, here is the description:

"SUMMARY: A powerful CRM designed with security and privacy in mind.


DETAILS: You are probably wondering, "Not another Contacts Relationship Management (CRM) software?" Relax, this is not your average "run-of-the-mill" CRM, and it does a little more than store contacts for you. This one is specifically designed for all those more experienced and security-conscious Mac users (including business professionals running a SOHO or small-sized business of up to a couple of dozen people) who want a secure contacts and general information organizer that doesn't surreptitiously (or accidentally) send information through the Apple servers (or anywhere else) when you least expect it. However, if you want this decent-looking and powerful app to work on a portable electronic device, we do have the PC version of SUNRISE Contacts 2015 available from our web site. Then all you have got to do is run the PC app on an Intel-based tablet with Windows 7 or higher (in fact, you can now get laptop/tablet combo PCs such as Microsoft Surface Pro 3, or the latest Lenovo laptop model to do exactly this very thing).

Of course, Mac users can always purchase a copy of Apple's FileMaker Server to deliver this app via a web browser (giving the users access to their data via Apple's own iPads, iPhones etc). No problems there, and it just so happens to be Apple's preferred way for you to access your personal and/or business confidential information held in this high quality database system on a portable Apple device. Unfortunately, at more than US$1,000 plus a US$29 monthly subscription fee, we thought many of you might find this expensive. So try the PC version of SUNRISE Contacts 2015. Much cheaper. Just file sync the relevant databases (in particular contacts.fmp12) between your Mac and PC tablet and you will be fine.

Or if you have one of those newer laptop/tablet combo PCs from a more innovative PC manufacturer (Crikey! What is Apple doing to create its own laptop/tablet combo?), there would be no need to file sync anything. It is all there on one machine.

And maybe one day, when Apple sees the benefit of releasing a laptop/tablet combo of its own for Mac users, this Macintosh version of the SUNRISE app will run perfectly fine too (and then we can all sit back and wonder what all those Mac users with their non-Intel-based iPads will do when the day finally comes).

Until that great day comes, for all Mac users who are looking for a better quality and secure CRM, enjoy!


PLEASE NOTE: If you are happy with Apple's own free iOS and OS X software in managing your contacts and personal information and sending the data unencrypted through the Apple servers, SUNRISE Contacts 2015 is definitely not for you.


How much?
SUNRISE Contacts 2015 is free (you will not need to access any of the lookup databases used by the contacts database just to manage your contacts, documents, notes, emails, invoices, calendar events, etc). However, if you want to access the lookup databases and add new lookup databases, you can purchase these for as little as US$5 per database. We will even throw in an iTunes-alternative music playing and organising lookup database for free if you do (an offer available to all Mac users).


Can I request changes?
Sure you can. If the changes look useful to have for all users, we will incorporate them. And, in most cases, very quickly too (depending on the complexity of the request). Because at the end of the day, this app is really your app, to do as you wish and in a way that you feel safe and secure."

Is this a fair and reasonable description for our product? We let you decide.

UPDATE
16 January 2015

Windows software download web sites and a couple of lesser known Mac software download sites have no trouble listing SUNRISE Contacts 2015 online. They are listed correctly as freeware software. Only one web site questioned this aspect, but after explaining how the software works, Softpedia has agreed that our software should be marked as freeware. Everyone else seems happy with the listing. Or is this because we have not used the above description for our software? At any rate, if we mention freeware when submitting the software title, MacUpdate should have no trouble accepting this. Need PAD files to submit software? MacUpdate does not use them, but other sites have access to these files.

There is clearly something odd about MacUpdate and its decision not to list SUNRISE Contacts be listed on its web site.

UPDATE
17 January 2015

A separate account set up with MacUpdate late last year (reveals nothing about its link to SUNRISE or who owns it) shows that MacUpdate is happy to send promos of software title on sale to this account, but not to the official SUNRISE account established with MacUpdate. So what happens if we mention SUNRISE Contacts on the other account? Standby for further details.

UPDATE
18 January 2015

The account with MacUpdate that has no links to SUNRISE is able to save preference settings such as whether to receive MacUpdate promos by email. However, do the exact same change to the preferences of the SUNRISE account and MacUpdate displays the warning. "There was an error saving your settings". Same browser, the same computer and at roughly the same time (well, within about 10 minutes), but with vastly different outcomes noticed on both accounts. Therefore, MacUpdate has chosen to lock the SUNRISE account for some reason, preventing SUNRISE from making a software submission request to list a software title on the MacUpdate web site.

The next test is to delete the SUNRISE account, and create a new one from a different location and computer to see what happens. Any differences?

UPDATE
19 January 2015

MacUpdate.com has just sent a couple of MacUpdate promos emails to the SUNRISE web email account. Probably a coincidence.

UPDATE
20 January 2015

While the MacUpdate preference page does not update on attempting to save new settings, re-logging in shows new settings are retained. It is just that the error message appears specifically for the SUNRISE account with MacUpdate. It is most likely some settings are saved and the ability to submit a software title is not saved and this is where the error appears. Even so, how would this error also affect the ability to send support request messages from the MacUpdate web site to the MacUpdate support team (i.e. no replies are received)? Is this request also linked and saved to the MacUpdate account?

UPDATE
December 2015

We spoke too soon. Thinking FileMaker Pro 13.0v5 is stable, it is in fact still unstable. A continuing of unexpected quits is apparent when working with scripts.

FileMaker Pro 14.0v5

The Data Viewer and GetNthRecord bugs remain something of a feature in the eyes of Apple at the present time (not so for developers and users of databases for personal and confidential use). The company is not willing to fix these bugs even at version 14.0.5.

An additional bug has also been introduced. It is the inability to show a drop-down menu list until the record where the data in the list is to be stored is created. A serious enough bug to see a number of developers asking Apple/FileMaker to fix the problem. And so far, no solution has been found. The problem occurs because ID field in the table is not automatically entering a unique number once data is stored in another field within the same table. You need to get the record to be created first by forcing data to be stored into the ID field. Afterwards, the drop-down menu works for other fields that are linked to other tables. Testing in FileMaker Pro 12 and 13 (and certainly in all earlier versions) shows no such problem exists. As a result, this is another messy job of creating an additional script to force FileMaker Pro to behave properly.

Application in general is still not stable enough, and certainly not for reasonably large databases. It is strongly recommended that you do not store large numbers of documents in FileMaker databases as this will significantly increase the time it will take to perform a consistency check should the Filemaker app suddenly quit under OS X El Capitan. Also a newly introduced Database Design Report bug reveals further difficulties for developers using FileMaker Pro 14 Advanced because of some invalid characters when processing layouts, even though no such problem occurs when running the database or using the same report generation feature in earlier FileMaker Pro versions. The error messages show something along the lines of, "SAXParseException: invalid character 0xIO (Occurred in entity /Volume/[startup disk]/var/folders/ks/[random alphanumeric folder name]/T/FMTEMPFM375_4.tmp, at line 48603, column 9.". Application remains open after clicking OK on the messages. Repeating the report generation process will reproduce the error messages. It does not happen all the time, but it is fairly consistent when the "layout" option is selected for the report.

More examples of bugs in FileMaker Pro 14

The tradition of finding more bugs and limitations continue in Apple’s newest database editing tool known as FileMaker Pro 14. For example, when importing a large FileMaker database (especially if it contains lots of documents stored within the file). everything will be okay in the early stages as can be seen from the progress bar and how the number of records imported increases over time. But looks can be deceiving. If your startup disk is limited to say 16GB of space, this is as much as FileMaker Pro 14 under OS X El Capitan can handle. The nearly 16GB cache file created by FileMaker Pro on the startup disk is too big. It does not matter if the database is stored on a separate disk with more than 400GB of space (or have more than 16GB of RAM). No. Apple wants to save the cache file on the startup disk. Otherwise it must find a way under very limited hard disk space to save this information to the database file before continuing with the import process. Unfortunately, if there is not enough space left on the startup disk, you will see the whirling coloured pinwheel and no further importing will take place. Leaving it for several hours would see no further progress as can be observed in the number of records imported staying put at a particular number. It is at this point where you are better off to quit the app, let FileMaker perform its consistency check (this will take some time for a large database, but quicker in the end), determine where in the documents layout the records have reached, go back to the old database file and delete the document records already imported, and then manually import the remaining records (very risky, so always make a duplicate copy of the original and new database before trying to import and quit the app).

Copying and pasting scripts within FileMaker across different databases is also problematic in that it will increase the likelihood of crashing the FileMaker app during the development phase should the amounting of pasting done be sufficiently large (although it can randomly quit with very little pasting done on a few occasions as if the RAM memory is not cleared properly after quitting the app).

These problems occur with at least 16GB RAM, a relatively new machine, and a reliable storage device (i.e., no block errors etc.). So technically the app should have absolutely nothing to complain about in terms of running smoothly and reliably. Yet the bugs and limitations continue to fester in the app. The bugs are just evidence of Apple’s inept ability to provide users with reliable and stable software due to the fact that the company wants to save money.

And if you want another one, the Go To Layout script has difficulties separating the name of a folder containing a variety of layouts with a layout having the exact same name as the folder. Try it. Use the "Layout Name by Calculation". You can see the layout name you want to go to. Type the name into the calculation and FileMaker Pro 14 complains that it cannot find the layout stating that it is missing. But no, the layout is there. The problem is simply the fact that FileMaker Pro cannot handle properly a layout folder designed specifically to organise layouts from an ordinary layout. If the names of the folder and a layout are identical, FileMaker Pro is confused. Recommendation: Do not name a folder exactly as the name of one of your layouts.

If you are unable to perform any decent work in, say, the financial side of things using FileMaker Pro 14 because of the GetNthRecord bug after around 130 records (another bug to linger in this product), get a refund. First, get everything up-to-date with the latest features (or ask a FileMaker freelancer to assist with fixing up essential aspects of your solution at a price that will be far cheaper than purchasing FileMaker Pro 14 from Apple). Then you wait until a stable version comes out with the critical bugs fixed. And only then would you make the purchase. As a user, you should not be rewarding Apple for selling software that has not been properly and thoroughly tested.

FileMaker Pro 15 Advanced finally solves the Data Viewer security bug

It has been a long time coming, but at last Apple has decided to fix the Data Viewer security bug in the latest FileMaker Pro release, now version 15 as of May 2016. According to a FileMaker Customer Support representative:

"Thanks for your feedback about this security flaw. I am pleased to report that we fixed this in FileMaker Pro Advanced 15, which was released today. You must now provide credentials for a Full Access account in order to use the Data Viewer. You can also set the minimum version to open the file as FileMaker 15 in order to prevent users with older versions from exploiting the Data Viewer. [bug]" (Source from MacUpdate.com, 14 May 2016)

Can someone give Apple an applause for making this amazing attempt!

And why the change? Perhaps the team of FileMaker programmers have managed to find the time to look at a few more bugs and the Data Viewer security bug just happened to be on the list. In which case, the turnaround time to fix a bug mentioned to FileMaker by its users is around 8 years, which would probably explain why the GetNthRecord() function bug has not yet been fixed according to this comment from a Filemaker Customer Support representative:

"Thanks for reporting the GetNthRecord bug as well. We have not yet fixed this in FileMaker 15, but I have added your report to the bug for visibility. I can mention that the number of records it works with is based on the amount of ram available on the client machine." (Source from MacUpdate.com, 14 May 2016)

With at least 16GB of RAM and only around 130 records showing the correct data using this function before it decides to show the "?" character, fixing this function bug is going to require more than 160GB of RAM to be useful to anyone, especially for stock brokers and bankers who need to perform important financial calculations on over a more useful 1000 records. On the other hand, earlier accounts of the bug from users with only 4GB of RAM suggest the number of records that do show the data correctly is roughly the same.

This bug is not likely to be a RAM issue.

Whatever the cause, users can expect to see this bug fixed in the next 2 to 3 years with a bit of luck!

At any rate, the effort to fix the crucial Data Viewer security bug could be a sign that Apple has found a solution (so long as FileMaker developers don't encrypt the data stored in the databases) that will let the company achieve what it wants through the FileMaker databases people create while offering them a chance to sell their products on the Apple store as iOS apps while the company suddenly sees the the value of fixing some bugs. Or more likely the real reason is because the company has realised it needs to find alternative revenue sources to bolster profits. Consumers are just about saturated with iPhones and iPads and have had to deal with lots of bugs over the years, and there is only so much ordinary customers can take of all of this. Now, Apple has decided it will pitch its products to the business community by showing numerous examples of how FileMaker databases on iPads and iPhones can help business professionals. Making a business case to the more discerning business user to buy Apple products with FileMaker solutions running on them is probably a good move. The only thing is, business users are a finicky bunch. They expect nothing less than reliability and stability, as well as durable products that last the distance. Samsung and Google's Android OS have already reached this mark. Apple now understands some effort must be made as well to reach the same level of stability and reliability if it is to have any chance of competing with the new market leaders in portable devices and the OS that runs them.

Fixing software bugs in FileMaker Pro is just the beginning.