Monday, November 24, 2014

Yes, Dave, Everything is Broken

Everything is broken. I said that in September and Dave Winer said it yesterday.

Ok, it's not quite everything, but it sure feels like it when your simple workflow comes screeching to a halt.

Software engineering is about managing complexity. It seems the level of personal technology has exceeded our ability to reliably manage it.

I'm typing this on my two-year-old iPad with Apple's Bluetooth keyboard. Normally, I use my MacBook Air, but today I wanted to focus on writing. It's too easy to go down a rabbit hole on my laptop. With just my iPad and keyboard, it's as close as I can be to being offline while being online. It minimizes my distractions.

Unfortunately, my afternoon is failing miserably. I can't get my iPad to keep its Bluethooth connection with my keyboard. On top of that, I can't respond to an incoming text message even when the keyboard is connected. One could make the case that it's a dying battery in the keyboard. (How would I know if the battery is dying? There's no way to check on the iPad.) But that doesn't explain why, when the keyboard is connected, it doesn't allow me to respond to pop-up text messages.

That frustration, added to the fact that Apple's Continuity fails me 50% of the time, is too aggravating. I hear my iPhone ringing, just a few feet away, but I can't answer it on my Mac half of the time. Oh, have I mentioned that the "Check Spelling While Typing" sometimes flags misspelled words now, and sometimes, at an arbitrary point in the future, it will suddenly flag a word that's been misspelled for hours? And don't get me started on the OS X dictation feature which is sometimes unavailable for no discernible reason.

So, I gave up trying to write in Pages on my iPad, this afternoon, and decided to blog here for a few minutes. Prose will have to wait.

And this isn't a case that all new technology has bugs. It's that the level of complexity is getting more than can be managed. My keyboard used to connect to my iPad, and stay connected; and my mouse used to do the same with my Mac. Now, both are hit-or-miss. Trust me, I clearly remember how elegant and bug-free the first iPhone was, yet how bad OS X 1.0 was.

Could it be turnover at Apple? I wonder if the lessons learned, from 15 years ago, are being repeated by the new software engineers at Apple?

Technology is suppose to move out of the way to enable productivity, not hinder it. But, I guess that's my problem to deal with. Perhaps I should focus on the positive, like the fact that I can count on one hand the number of times I've had a kernel panic over the last few years.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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