Good Grief

Good Grief

Computering like it's 1997, a burgeoning forest garden, and understanding a retreat to software design emotional safety.

Boring computer moan starts here (scroll down for non computer stuff).

Our little home media server (I know, check us out) has been moaning about needing updates for a while so I finally upgraded it… to Catalina. Shitting hell people, and what the actual fuck. I started it off at around midday, and when I went to bed at 10:30pm it was still sat there with an unmoving white progress bar on a black background. By morning when I remembered to check it, it had actually completed (yay) so that was anywhere from ten and a half hours to twenty hours. And that's when the fun started.

Apple has added more security stuff, which is good. The implementation of it is… not so good. In software design there's a temptation to dump difficult decisions onto the user in the guise of a 'settings page'. With Catalina they've gone for the 'flood of dialog boxes' approach, all telling you something about System Settings with buttons that imply they're going to show you the thing they're on about, but actually don't. Many things had extensions that needed some permissions. No idea what or where they are, because it didn't say. "A program has attempted to load…" or something. A program. Not even an app. I was asked to sign in to iCloud six times by various dialogs popping up. I could have been phished in the process quite easily and I wouldn't have known (I wasn't. I think.)

I then got the dreaded "Some iCloud services may not be available until you sign in again", this was after I'd signed in six times already. This particular sign in is really bad. You fill in your iCloud password, click the button and nothing happens. Things are happening but there's no indication of it. Then, maybe a minute later, you get asked for your Mac administrator password. The first time I saw this (on another computer) I thought it was asking for the iCloud password again and so the process failed, and no matter how many times I tried it again it would always fail. The solution to that is to sign out of iCloud and back in again so everything gets deleted and has to be downloaded again. With anyone who uses their computer at all that leads to quite a bit of downtime. I have a lot of photos. I use iCloud drive. Yes, it took three days to get everything downloaded again.

Fortunately I remembered this time and got the right password. The thing about waiting ages before asking another question reminds me of installing Windows back in the day. You'd start it off and because it'd take ages you'd wander off. Come back an hour later and it apparently asked a question 5 minutes after you left and has done nothing since. It's like that. "Oh, I don't need to watch this now". Yes you do because it's 20 years later and software is made by people who didn't experience that as a problem the first time.

Oh, and while all this is going on, more dialogs about stuff keep popping up. iTunes, Apple TV, some other things, all bouncing their icons in the dock about stuff, even though I'd done their iCloud sign ins already, but now they wanted to tell me about things, I can't even remember what. I just knew I didn't care.

By the end of it I was stressed, upset and angry. This is the first use experience after upgrading to Apple's latest shiny new operating system. This feels almost as bad as Windows used to be.

Computer moan ends. Other stuff here:

With the above tediousness the compulsion to give up modern tech and run away to live in the woods is strong. Which leads nicely onto…

I bought some fruit trees for the garden. The long term goal for the garden is to turn it into a forest garden, so, one with multiple layers of growth from high (trees) to medium (shrubs) to low (ground cover) corresponding to layers in a forest. The fruit trees are dwarf ones so would count as shrubs I guess. We also want a no-dig garden, so I'm gradually getting rid of the lawn with mulch to give more varieties of other plants a chance to succeed. This year I'm going to try growing more veg outside the greenhouse and see what does well round here.

We had to cut back the plum tree a couple of years ago and it's starting to grow back (now free of its fungal infection) and the trauma of being cut back has forced the roots to send up suckers (this is why pollarding street trees can backfire). So we have the Victoria Plum growing well along with a line of suckers of whatever the rootstock is. They're tall and don't branch much so I'm going to use them as growing canes for tomatoes and maybe beans.

I've a load of wildflower seeds to put in, so I'll do that soon. I'm going to get some strawberries and dot them around. People tell us "No! They grow everywhere, like weeds!". I can't think of a better weed to have in a garden than something that gives you strawberries.

I had some other stuff about software design to write but after all the computer moaning I won't. One thing is, I think I have a personal, visceral, understanding of design by committee now. Getting personal, directed aggression at you because of design decisions you made (backed by research), you definitely want to retreat to the safety of groupthink. I didn't, because of the research and the backing of other colleagues, but still. Yeah, I get it now. Don't allow that shit to go on.