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OS X 10.7.3 update causing CUI interface artifacts

A number of OS X users are reporting an odd interface bug after installing OS X 10.7.3, in which window elements show red question marks and the repeated text "CUI" instead of buttons and scroll bars.

Yesterday Apple released OS X 10.7.3, but after updating their systems a few people have noticed some errors.

These include not being able to get networks connected, and some difficulties in connecting to displays, such as intermittent black screens or warnings stating that the connection is not supported.

Most of these errors seem fairly sparsely reported so far, but one that is a bit more widespread is applications crashing followed by graphical artifacts in response to user input in various windows.

More specifically, numerous applications crash, and when OS X displays the crash reporter window containing user input controls such as buttons and scroll bars, sometimes these controls appear with an odd green background that contains red question marks and has the word "CUI" repeated in orange letters across the top. While the controls still work, this bug causes them to have an unsightly appearance.

CUI CUI CUI errors
After updating, some people are seeing these interface element bugs. ADC member 'spirographer'

If you have run into this bug after updating your system, there are several things you can try to correct it:

Reapply the Combo updater
Apple supplies a Combo updater for all of its OS releases that includes every changed file from the initial OS release. Many of those who have experienced this latest problem have found that reapplying the Combo updater fixed it. To apply the updater, download it from the Apple Support Web site and then follow these steps:

  1. Open Disk Utility and run a permissions fix on the boot drive.
  2. Restart into Safe mode by holding the Shift key at bootup.
  3. Open the Combo updater image and install the package.
  4. Follow the onscreen instructions, and allow the update to fully install.

Restore from backup
If you made a full backup of your system before applying the update--which you should always do before applying any software update--then boot to the OS X Lion recovery partition (reboot with Command-R held down) and restore your backup. If you have Apple's Time Machine constantly connected to your system then you should have a full backup available, so in the Recovery tools select the option to restore from backup, followed by choosing the backup instance that is closest to the time immediately before you updated your system.

The backup restoration might take a little while, so allow it to complete and then reboot your system. After logging in, instead of using Apple's Software Update to download and apply the 10.7.3 update, follow the same steps mentioned above and apply the downloadable Combo updater.

Apple is apparently aware of this issue and has its software engineers collecting data from affected systems to look into it, so for now if you have not installed the OS X 10.7.3 update then you might choose to avoid it until Apple has been able to determine what is causing the problem.

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