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Apple checks Sherlock for bugs

Some users are reporting problems with the new search technology in the recently released Macintosh OS 8.5.

Apple Computer is investigating a few alleged bugs in its recently released Macintosh operating system software upgrade, including one in its much-touted Sherlock search technology.

Sherlock is new feature of Mac OS 8.5 that searches hard disk drive files and several different Internet search engines, such as Excite and HotBot, simultaneously. Besides conducting multiple searches, Sherlock can summarize findings without opening up the Web pages, saving download time.

Those who have tried out the feature, however, assert that problems appear to crop up when their connection passes through a proxy server.

In such situations, users may get error messages instead of search results, said Mark Kriegsman, president of ClearWay Technologies. Kriegsman's company makes a standalone product for Macs and PCs that, like Sherlock, is used to search multiple Internet sites at a time.

The problem, which has not been confirmed by Apple, prevents users from getting search results. Because of a problem with how a search request is formed, Kreigsman said, a request that passes through a proxy server is not recognized by a search engine such as Yahoo.

The types of users experiencing these problems are found mostly in businesses because companies often replicate frequently used Web pages on a local server to improve security and access speed. Fewer home users would encounter such problems because their service providers typically aren't hosting content on local servers, and not all types of proxy servers are affected.

Apple recently posted information on its support site offering ways to reconfigure Sherlock, but Kriegsman said the bug persists even after the changes are made. A spokesperson for Apple said the company is looking into the matter but has not confirmed that a problem exists with the software.

A more serious problem affecting some users is the loss of data from the hard drive after installing the new operating system. The problem is more limited, apparently hitting mostly users who have previously formatted their hard drives with third-party tools or different operating systems, according to users posting messages on the widely read MacInTouch and MacFixIt Web sites.

It is not uncommon for new software to have problems, and the Mac OS is no exception. After the launch of Windows 98, Microsoft had to fend off a flood of users complaining about bugs after installing the software.