November 26, 2019


In 2009 I hosted a Windows 7 Launch Party. It was a fully sanctioned, fully supplied by Microsoft Windows 7 Launch Party. I received two copies of Windows 7 Ultimate Edition: one for a giveaway and one for myself. I had party favors and a list of suggested games and feature demonstrations. I watched the Pre-Launch Video designed to prep us for the merriment, and which has also been parodied all over the Internet over the past decade. I played honest and true geek.

In 2009 I was all in on Windows 7, and that was even after being part of the testing team for the preceding Windows Vista fiasco. I had Windows 7 installed on my MacBook Pro at the time. For the most part I really liked the platform and user experience.

When the iPhone, and later the iPad, came out I went all in on Apple products; the integration was just easier to manage. After writing code and doing network things all day long (and through long hours of on-call nights), I wanted a home setup that just worked. Microsoft products still needed fiddling, Linux required a LOT of time and energy that I just did not have, and Apple made promises of It Just Works. For the most part, it did.

As a geek I’m happiest when I’m all in on one computing platform. The OCD side of my brain has a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of using Microsoft Word on Mac OS or the Google Chrome browser on my iPad. Storing my files on Dropbox and then working to sync everything together to work with dissimilar operating systems just runs contrary to the way my brain thinks.

But being all in on one platform in 2019 is really not feasible.

Over the past several months I’ve tried to make all of our home automation magic run on Apple’s HomeKit. We can yell into the air, “Hey Siri, turn on the lights in the dining room”, and Siri will do it around 65% of the time.

“Hey Siri, turn on the lights in the dining room”. Three of the four lights come on.

“Hey Siri, turn off the lights in the dining room”. All the lights go out.

“Hey Siri, turn on the dining room lights”. All the lights come on. We then enjoy a nice meal.

“Hey Siri, turn off the dining room lights”. Siri replies, “I don’t know how to help you with that.”

“Hey Siri, turn off the dining room lights”. One light goes off.

“Hey Siri, turn off the lights in the dining room”. The lights in my office come on and then a HomePod starts playing profanity-laden rap music. I suppose it’s Siri’s way of tell me to f*&k off.

Needless to say, Siri and her HomeKit are not reliable. Not even close. Luckily, I still have a couple of Google Home Minis so I fired them up, waved to KellyAnne Conway through her microwave, and asked Google to do some home automation magic.

Google Home did everything it was told to do and probably told the NSA, CIA, and the FBI about it, but by God the lights in the dining room were finally off.

In 2019 I can’t be all in on Apple. It doesn’t “just work” anymore and iOS 13’s release has been a disaster. I remarked on Twitter today that the IMAP protocol used to handle email has been around for a couple of decades but Apple has somehow figured out a way to break it for the iPhone and iPad. I can no longer reliably fetch email on my iPhone, even though it’s been fine on this exact phone for two years prior to iOS 13. Folks online suggest wiping the phone out and starting over.

That hearkens back to the days of reinstalling Windows 98 every other week. It’s like iOS 13 is the Millennium Edition of Apple software.

Because my mind works best in “computing canisters”, I’m making a private list to define what constitutes my computing ecosystem. I’m still working out the particulars. The family is all on iMessage and FaceTime, so that’s not going anywhere. Over the past year I’ve paid for subscriptions to iCloud Drive (again with the 80% reliability rate), Dropbox (plenty o’ security holes, enough to resemble Swiss cheese), and Google Drive (works natively on everything but Linux and will prolly guarantee my pictures ending up on a billboard someday). These three will be narrowed down to one by the end of the year. I’m leaning toward the billboard risk. I’m using my existing hardware, tying it together with some of the Google sauce (still waving to KellyAnne through the microwave!), and hoping for the best. Once I have my methods documented I’ll feel more comfortable about this whole arrangement and I guess I’ll just have to apologize to Steve during my next prayer session.

As the 21st century progressed technology was suppose to become more reliable, safer, and cheaper. Yet mediocrity is the name of the software game, people are losing millions to scams, everyone lives their life on horrid social media platforms, and it’s becoming common place to spend over $1K on a cell phone. Expectations are so low that folks are pleased when their phone lasts for a year. Imagine swapping out your rotary wall phone in avocado green every year.

Madness? You betcha.

I’d love to hear where others are living in the computing ecosystem game. Are you all in on one platform? Do you mix and match? Are you a little Jamesway and a little bit Bradlees?

There’s a McDonalds at nearby Woodfield Mall that has a mix of cash registers made by Panasonic, NCR, PAR, and IBM. The dated, dissimilar systems work together in harmony. As a retail computer geek this absolutely fascinates me.

Perhaps they have the right idea.