4.19.2021

The scary process of changing something vital to your business. Something which already works "just fine."


 I am not a particularly brave person when it comes to technical "progress." For many years most of us were in the position of being our own I.T. Directors and the experiences seem to have left many psychological scars. Some of my son's early memories of his dad with a computer come from the times that he would venture into the studio only to find me down on the floor, under the desk, with the chassis of some tower-type computer wide open and me muttering and swearing under my breath trying to track down SCSI conflicts or issues with aftermarket memory modules. 

In the earlier days of "computing" there were no real resources to consult on the web because the web didn't really exist for normal people back then. There was no recourse to go online and watch a video on YouTube because.....same. We learned by trial and error and via articles in printed magazines devoted to computing on various platforms. During the pre-historic days of computing the machinery was expensive and there were few people who could clearly claim to have "grown up" with the technology. In fact, there were far, far fewer people around who actually owned personal computers!

In those days new operating systems arrived on multiple floppy disks or, a few years later, on CD-ROMs. The process of updating a dodgy system was anything but straightforward and each upgrade came complete with incredibly frustrating, new incompatibilities. Many days of real work were sacrificed in the pursuit of just having a machine that would turn on and run with acceptable stability for even a day or so. In many more ways even the applications were fraught with perils galore. Imagine trying to figure out layers in PhotoShop for the first time after having used the program for several years before layers were even introduced! And no documentation. The book would come out months later...

Many machines were temporarily or permanently bricked after unsuccessful update attempts and no one was around to revive them. They sat as slowly deteriorating fossils of a time before ... support. 

Damn. Those were bleak times. At various junctures I am amazed that we didn't toss our hands up and decide not to embrace the demonic compromise that was....computerization. It's not as though film didn't work!

But I mention all this so you'll understand that those early memories, like some childhood trauma, haunt me to this day. I've been running an iMacPro for about 1.5 years and it's been remarkably stable. It never crashes. But I try never to give it any reason to crash. I try to make sure than only the most pure electricity is introduced to its power cord, even if that means the children go shoeless and hungry. I never turn the machine on without touching the rabbit foots dangling next to one of the hard drives; just for luck. I talked to one of the product engineers and wrested from him information about optimal performance temperatures and so for the last 1.5 years I've tried to keep the temperature around the computer at 66° Fahrenheit. Plus or minus half a degree. Once a week we burn sage outside the studio door and chant positive mantras to the computer. And all this is part of our effort with an Apple computer product. Can you imagine what we'd have to burn to keep a Windows machine even marginally usable? It boggles the mind. 

At any rate, last Fall Apple announced a big operating system upgrade. You could take your machine from "Catalina" to "Big Sur." Most of the benefits clustered around better security and better rejection of trackers and other forms of unwanted surveillance. Stuff/features that I value. I wanted to update right away but my computer therapist, my analyst and my psycho-therapist and my attorney all dissuaded me from the horror of being an "early adopter." 

Stories were seeping onto the web about updated computers slowing down to a crawl. Or of updates just failing altogether. Most stories recounted what seemed like a dystopian landscape of disappointment. Centers opened up to deal with SUD (system upgrade depression). Expert Counselors from the Windows world could only suggest their favorite remedies to Apple users: Cold Dominos Pizza and Mountain Dew.

Since my wanton attraction to cars tossed my work schedule into a deep fissure and diminished my work reliance on my desktop computer to nearly nothing last week I decided that I'd take the leap. I would either end up renouncing the bane of the 20th century (computers) or be elated by new capabilities and speed. I didn't even want to consider that there might be middle ground. That the update might work fine but there might be no discernible performance differences. 

I backed things up. I ran disk repairs on all hard drives. I pulled tons of trash off my internal SSD. I formatted a new, external SSD to run Time Machine and backed up all my critical files....again. And then, early Saturday when the bandwidth hog family was still slumbering away, dreaming of massive online multi-player games, I snuck out to the office and, making the sign of the cross over my heart many times (even though I am not Catholic) I pushed the right buttons, on screen, to begin the process. The upgrade to Big Sur. AKA: MacOS 11.2.3.

My anxiety was apparent from across the street. Dogs howled in fear. Birds fell dead in the street.  I put down my mug of hot but un-drunk coffee and grabbed a handful of Xanax instead. And then I spent the next two hours blearily watching the little "progress" bar slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, make its way across the center of an otherwise black screen. 

But....it was successful and everything is fine now and even my passwords and junk made it across the void. I'm breathing a sigh of relief and will probably have to take the rest of the week off to recover. 

Maybe a retreat to one of those places where everyone meditates all day and no one speaks for a week.

Naw. I'd never make it.

14 comments:

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Funny thing is that I updated my MacBook Pro the very first week the update became available and it was easy and perfect. Only with the desktop computer do I worry...

Steve V. said...

Catalina was the one that scared me. Early reports had it very unstable and I never did jump to it. I had a busy wedding season that year and I won’t go to a new OS while editing projects await.

Big Sur has been better received overall, but alas my late 2014 iMac is listed dead last on the machines this OS will run on. So therefore I’m spooked and waiting on the M1 iMac (the 27 inch / larger machine) to get released and that will be my OS upgrade.

I would love it if they announce those tomorrow so I can get that in here before the wedding shooting season gets underway.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Steve V. That sounds like a perfect plan for an upgrade. I'm not ready to move from my recent iMacPro purchase but am looking forward to the M1 iMacs for Belinda. The technology is supposed to be really good.

I won't ever change anything in my system in the middle of projects. That seems like financial suicide to me.

JC said...

I detailed my iMac travail on Mike Johnston's TOP blog today, but he hasn't put up the comments yet. To keep it really short, I'm doing a trial with as Lenovo PC and Windows 10, after using nothing but Macs since the 90s. I really do question Apple's annual OS update. Do they really need to do that? It always screws up something, and it finally messed me up enough that I'm trying a PC.

Eric Rose said...

I have a new macbook pro running Big Slurpy. Runs faster than the roadrunner being chased by the big bad coyote. I also have a winbloz machine running win 10. It also runs like the wind. Over the time I have had both machines I have had more problems with the mac OS than winbloz. Maybe because the mac gets most of my business.

For me they are both tools. The mac get 98% of my time but some things either run better or only on a PC so I keep it going too.

Heck if I could run linux and get PS, FCPX and a few other programs to run on it without some kluge that's what I would be using.

Eric

MikeR said...

I did "grow up" with computers, starting with mainframes and time sharing services, and languages like Dartmouth Basic and Fortran, COBOL, RPG, and a few other oddities. When IBM introduced the PC, I didn't want one in the house until such time as a PC did something useful for me. When that happened, I bought a used PC, upgraded its guts, and ran DOS for a while, then Windows, also IBM's OS/2. I built up a great Photoshop platform for my wife, a real hot rod. Then, last year, the hot rod showing its age, we upgraded. A nice Dell mini tower, with up-spec'd parts. Had the old machine and the new one do a mind meld. Voila! New hot rod, straight from the showroom floor, works like a champ. I have never touched an Apple anything, by the way.

What I've learned from a few decades of experience with all kinds of hardware and software is encapsulated in a little motto I borrowed from somewhere a few years ago:

'Never ever approach a computer saying or even thinking, "I will just do this quickly."'

I keep a printed copy always in view by my desk.

Anonymous said...

Delighted to see you have decided not to restrict the blog to strictly photographic matters - I don't think any of your readers wanted that.

Unknown said...

I also waited to do Sur. 2019 27” with lots of RAM, 64. Ran great. Finally did the BS and wish I hadn’t. Now right now I can’t print pretty much anything. I’d say it is all due to older printer firmware I can’t update to BS level but I can sometimes print sheets of music. Adobe Acrobat flat out fails. It’s all up to date. Just does’t work. Other things and issues too but I wish I hadn’t done the BS
update. Luckily all photo programs work but slower. I’m
sure BS is a monster with an M1 chip.

Michael Matthews said...

Some of us waited nearly a year to download Catalina, then did so only to a fresh, bootable SSD. I have it, but don’t use it except to fiddle with from time to time. Mojave keeps everything working. It will be years before Big Sur or its successor arrives in this household. And then, as the Mac and iOS software continues to merge, it will probably come built-in as part of my wife’s latest iPad Pro. She has abandoned desktop and laptop computers altogether. Always the smarter one.

Fred said...

Golly, Mike J. just did a post on computers and here you are. So are you guys synchronizing your posts now? There is an open water swimming race scheduled for July on Seneca Lake which is the next Finger Lake over from Mike so he will surely be blogging about that. And you did mention billiards, although you should demonstrate your seriousness and just go straight to snooker (don't be shy, you know you want to.) :-)

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

MJ's post was on computers but mine was on operating systems. So, not the same. But yeah, we seem to be syncing post now.... But could it be that Apple's announcement about today's event was actually splashed all over the universe and we were both just reacting to that?

Interesting question: Buy Apple products or buy Apple stock?

By the way Fred, how cold is Seneca Lake in July? Who is hosting the open water swim? Is Mike Johnston a sponsor? Will he be swimming? If so, I'd better get my entry in now!

Advice: Don't use your billiard cues as microphone booms. They don't have the right connectors on the end and they are too heavy.

Peter Dove said...

Still on MoJave here, too, as long as it’s supported. Wish I’d put big chunk of cash into Apple 15 or so years ago, when I could’ve afforded it. At the time, though, it looked to me they were on their last legs, and what’s this goofy tricorder thing they’re trying to flog? Who’s gonna use a phone for a web browser? And how would you look at anything anyway? That’ll make your phone bill, what, $50-$100 a month? Who’s gonna pay that? I didn’t even have a cell phone at all then, didn’t want one. If you’d told me Apple would still even be around in fifteen years, I’d have laughed at you. Fast-forward to now... Four Apple products in view and another old phone in a box somewhere. Yeah. Right.

Fred said...

The top 10 to 15 feet of Seneca lake should be in the low 70's in July. It averages almost 300 feet of depth. It is organized by the Marathon Swimmers Federation and I believe Mike is not yet a sponsor, but there is still time.

Craig Yuill said...

I upgraded my MacBook Pro’s OS from High Sierra to Mojave about a month ago. I did so mostly because I couldn’t upgrade to the latest versions of Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and DxO unless I upgraded macOS to Mojave or higher. I considered taking the plunge and upgrading to Big Sur - but too many of my apps would break if I upgraded to that OS. I am absolutely no fan of Apple’s annual macOS upgrades. Windows 10 can run DOS programs. Current macOSes should be able to run 32-bit software. New macOS versions tend to be too buggy when first released, and seem to require at least two updates before they are truly stable. But I guess this is an effective way for Apple to make older Macs obsolete and encourage us to buy new Macs.