Moving to the cloud; expect fog
I try and write a piece for the first of every month - this month I've spectacularly failed. Part of this is because I decided to 'update' my computers, which seemed to do exactly the opposite.
As computers get faster and faster, following so-called Moore's Law - speed doubles every 18 months or so - it seems that software follows the opposite: every 18 months it's twice as big, more cumbersome, and twice as slow.
I've just upgraded my Macs to the new operating system. Working on the sane principle of not upgrading whilst you have something else important to do, I was still using 2004 versions of software, and it really was time for a change. In particular, the new Apple operating system, called Lion, introduced the iCloud, which gives you storage in 'the cloud' - not actually a cloud at all, but a dirty great data centre somewhere in the US, or Iceland (because it's cool there) - and the great thing about the cloud is it means all your stuff is available to all your devices, all at once. So it should solve those horrible problems of not having the up-to-date things with you when you most need them. And given I have a phone, and a tablet, and a laptop, and a desktop, and a few more odd machines around, keeping them all in sync was starting to prove a little, er, challenging. So the iCloud, especially the calendar synchronisation, was going to solve my problems and make my life easier.
I can safely say - bunkum. (insert whatever expletive you wish in here - I have probably used it).
iCloud is quite easy to set up to do basic things. If you've never shared a calendar before, it'll allow you to do so. However, if you've done anything at all like this before, you'll find it impossible to make do what you want it to. I use google calendar as well, which has the ability to share with others. And I publish it to the web so my students can see what I'm doing, and others can book meetings with me, and so on. iCloud calendars won't sync with Google calendars - in fact, it seems they've been deliberately engineered to cause frustration and inconsistency: events sometimes disappear, for example. So I abandoned that part.
And so it went on. Features that should be good - sharing your photos via the cloud to all for devices - are simply badly done. I don't want to share *all* my photos: some are taken by my 5 year old who has a fascination with close-ups of the back of my jeans. Some images are duplicated almost identically 5 times as I try to get them right. But I can only send all of them, or none. How daft is that?
It's also inconsistent. It has done away with coloured icons and design in favour of a muted greyscale - which is fine if it's an option, but it's forced on you. But for the calendar, once a triumph of clear simplicity, it gets a faux leather look, and the address book has been downgraded to a toy-like version of its former self.
What's the worst is that it's taken me approximately 20 hours of time to achieve the things I want to achieve on the machines, and I have some idea of what I'm doing. The cloud is supposed to make it simpler and easier for people, and it's patently not ready for prime time yet. And I still have managed to delete all my son's Ben 10 videos, for reasons which are still beyond me, and I now have to go, as he doesn't yet know, and I have the rest of the night to resolve this particular issue.....
What's worse is that I write this as a Mac fan, though I can imagine a recently deceased Silicon Valley entrepreneur spinning in his grave, as his loyal users fight a fog of confusions, frustration and incomprehension at Apple's latest foray into the cloud.