'Barbie Dreamhouse' bug changes Mac, iPhone calendars to gaudy colors

iCloud glitch in August returns, swaps users' custom calendar colors for purple and pink, won't let them manually switch back

A bug on Apple's iCloud servers -- the second in the last three months -- turned OS X and iOS user calendars into a dizzying palette of what one customer called "Barbie Dreamhouse" colors.

Barbie Dreamhouse iCloud glitch
A glitch in Apple's iCloud turned OS X and iOS first- and third-party calendars, including Fantastical for OS X, into a garish nightmare one user dubbed "Barbie Dreamhouse" colors.

The same problem had struck OS X and iOS user calendars in August, according to complaints logged on Apple's support forums, and resurfaced Tuesday, Oct. 8.

In the OS X and iOS native Calendars, users can color code different "calendars," such as ones tagged as "work" or "home" or "travel" or "new project," to make events easier to pick out. But the iCloud snafu changed all users' custom color selections.

The iCloud-mandated colors -- variously described as rust, pink, blue, mauve, purple, aquamarine -- replaced the preferred colors users had picked previously. And every time those default colors were manually changed, within seconds they reverted back to the garish hues.

Computerworld confirmed the color changes on OS X and iOS first- and third-party calendars.

"My calendar looks like Barbie's Dreamhouse," complained a user identified as kimarui in a message on one of the support threads Wednesday.

Old hands quickly concluded that it was a repeat of what they'd experienced in August, when they'd wasted hours trying to restore their color coding. Several days later, they said, Apple presumably fixed the bug because things went back to normal.

They recommended sitting tight again. "I created this discussion in August because I was having this problem then, and a few days after that (probably about August 18 or so) it fixed itself," wrote dtobin yesterday. "Now on October 8, it has started again. So for any of you experiencing this problem for the first time, it hopefully will go away within a few days. My suggestion: Wait it out again and save yourself the headache of worrying about it."

Try telling that to the support desk at BusyCal, a popular third-party calendar for OS X. When Computerworld reached out to BusyCal support on Wednesday to see if there was a fix for the color glitch on a staffer's system, a support representative said that the help desk had received "hundreds of emails on the subject this morning."

Although the problem was with iCloud and not BusyCal, the company provided a beta to customers that it hoped would solve the color chaos. It didn't.

While Apple engineers rarely if ever surface on the support forums, several users said they'd spoken with the company's support personnel. One claimed that a fix was in the offing.

"The engineers at Apple are aware of the problem and are working on a fix," reported BethBee Wednesday around noon PT. "At this point, they don't know what the issue is. So hopefully they'll figure it out soon and we'll all be back in the pink (or orange or green or whatever colors we need)."

Customers who didn't get that encouraging word, however, were frustrated.

"I sincerely hope Apple reads these comments because there are a bunch of ticked off Apple customers right now," said mickyj26. "Apple -- FIX THIS NOW."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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