Steam was officially released for the Mac the other day. For a limited time Mac users can get the awesome game Portal for free. I’ve been wanting to try out Portal for a while now and I finally got a new 27 inch iMac last week. Yay! Time to install…


No, I will not be reformatting, creating another partition, or using .dmg hacks to get this to work. I understand Steam delivers unmodified Windows games (which expect to run on case-insensitive filesystems) but there is obviously an engineering solution. This dialog shows Valve’s engineers thought about the problem and rather than fixing it decided to take the easy way out.

Apparently Adobe has plenty of engineers who think this method of engineering is acceptable:

I was planning on buying CS5 for my new iMac, but it looks like I will now spend my money elsewhere. Maybe I’ll give GIMP a try again, it looks to have progressed since I last played with it.

If case-insensitivity is too hard for your engineers hire better engineers. Perhaps redirect some of the marketing budget from those expensive advertisements? Damn it Adobe, you have access to the source and the engineers who wrote it. Why can’t you make your own product work?

It’s not like case-sensitive filesystems are unsupported by Apple either. When I worked on the Apple Software Update team, case-sensitivity bugs were valid and we would never tell the reporter to reformat. I know a large percentage of Apple engineers run case-sensitive as well. This is a valid configuration that is supported by Apple and in turn should be supported by application developers.

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2 Responses to Yay Valve and Adobe!

  1. I agree that it is sad these applications don’t support case sensitive filesystem. Historically Mac OS has always been case insensitive so large code bases will be hard to move and there is very limited upside to change. It is still an edge case configuration.

    Hiring better engineers isn’t strictly the answer; they may make *fewer* mistakes leading to case sensitivity issues in the first place, but fixes for these problems are typically simple anyways.

    The true cost is in finding the old problems, which cannot be done deterministically and must be tested. This will add an extra configuration to the test matrix, doubling the time. You could argue all testing could be done on a case sensitive filesystem. When other filesystem shit goes down I’d hate to be the one explaining to the CEO why you’re not testing on the configuration of 99% of your users.


    • Christian says:

      Yeah, I was a little perturbed when I wrote that and it was slightly tongue-in-cheek. With my engineer hat on it feels very, very wrong. With my project manager hat on I understand why such a decision might be made. Not knowing anything that went into the decision, it seems like letting the product run (and potentially crash) rather than wholesale lock-out would be a more desirable choice from a revenue perspective. Or, perhaps throwing up a warning rather that locking it out completely. I wonder what happens when you restore CS5 from a time machine backup onto a case-insensitive filesystem? Does the app detect it at runtime or is it only in the installer? I know Steam detected it on startup but I am not so sure about CS5.

      Also, isn’t NTFS case-sensitive by default? As far as I can tell it is. Do these same apps not work on NTFS filesystems? Do the apps tell me to reformat my Windows partition to FAT? I’d be surprised if they did. As an outsider this seems like a decision that was made purely for lack of QA resources, which stinks as a user.

      I bet the apps run decently in WINE. In the past I ran Photoshop 7 in WINE previously with zero problems. I don’t see why there would be case-sensitivity issues cropping up now unless the app was completely rewritten (and again, why would case-sensitivity not be thought about if the app was rewritten?).