Where is Fake Steve when you need him? Or the Real Steve? The ‘Dear Leader’ who rallied engineers at both Apple and Google, on a Sunday morning, because the shade of yellow was not quite right in the third letter of Google’s iPhone app? If thousands of posts on the usual rumor/fan sites about all things Apple don’t lie, and if my recent interactions with Apple are any guide, this sense of urgency and attention to detail no longer exist.
This past September, Apple remotely nuked close to 4,000 of my images, courtesy of its ridiculously buggy High Sierra Photos update. With the limited resources available to me (a Mac; a brain; a pair of eyes) it took two horrifying hours to figure out the main culprit: a bug in one of Apple Photo’s presets. Picture yourself in front of three years of your work no longer accessible to you, with all your backups of little use thanks to a non-downgradable, buggy app baked into a buggy OS on top of an all new file system. ‘Magical’ indeed. But not in a good way.
In the olden days, you could have sent an email to Steve Jobs. Something would have happened, if only a cranky CEO emailing you back at 2am. Anyway, the cemeteries are full of irreplaceable people and I get that. I also get that today’s ‘crazy ones’ aren’t likely to work for today’s Apple but, say, on blockchain tec, ‘24/7’, in far away Switzerland. Sure enough, I sent an email to Tim Cook the same evening. Mainly because: what would you do before you shoot yourself because of Apple? And on the off-chance that he might care for these kinds of ‘details’, perhaps even enough to ask an engineer to fix things.
Alas, a week later an Apple ‘Executive Relations’ person wants to ‘connect’ with me. A dozen emails later and things are looking up, briefly, when I screen-share the damage with a ‘Senior Specialist’. Liked his first comment too, to the effect of: “Yikes!” So we dutifully uploaded more than a gigabyte worth of screenshots and diagnostic files for the ‘Software Engineers’ to review. ‘Software Engineer’ is of course Applespeak for devs, as in, a developer who writes code s/he is actually responsible for, as in, a product person. And here I want to stop. Apparently Apple’s system doesn’t just victimize customers but its employees too, if what this article from earlier this month says is true. Had I known this last fall, I’d just given up then and there and saved myself several months of agony.
But I didn’t know. Apparently to everyone’s suprise including mine, it took the engineers a couple of weeks to confirm the preset-bug that I had described in my email all the way back from day one. They took another two months to actually fix it. That’s me just sitting there, watching and waiting in disbelief with both arms tied to my back. And yes, this was/is a ‘highest priority ticket’. When the fix for the preset bug finally arrived, it came with an extra set of bugs on top of the other bugs introduced with High Sierra. All easy to spot for anyone with time on her or his hands to, well, open the app before releasing it into the wild. So at this point, thousands of my images, plus cards, plus books, and the three years worth of work that went into them, just sat there in a maze run by my new best friends Spinning Beachball, Comically Easy To Replicate Crashes Galore, and Force Quit. And yes, I know that this is not the first time Apple lets a photo application die a slow, painful death. By now it has sunk in that it’s time to move on, also due to a candid claim by an Apple ‘Executive Liaison’ that they are not responsible whether their ‘personal’ software works or not; that they are anyway not obliged to fix it if broken; and that, if they were to fix it, it’s literally unknowable when. All of which strikes me as ‘sad’. For better and for worse, tools matter. I have just about every commercial photo software available today installed on my Mac. If Photos actually worked, I’d still prefer it over all the others for most purposes.
Then there is the insult-to-injury part of it all, aka Apple’s ‘Executive Relations’ setup. Whoever is in charge of that should not be in charge of anything. By Apple’s design, no one with the possible exception of the engineers is privy to any forward-looking product information including timelines for product fixes. Which, by definition, renders every minute ‘Executive Relations’ spend with you and every minute you spend with them useless. I learned that their script mandates them to never communicate in writing but to keep calling you and to keep ‘connecting’ with you instead, in content free fashion and for weeks and months on end. How this is preferable to hiring product people (anyone recall “it just works”?) remains a mystery to me. Customers and shareholders rejoice, apparently there’s another new campus in the works for just this kind of customer support. Or perhaps it’s all an elaborate plot to bring an enraged Steve J. back from the grave, and with him the sense of urgency and attention to detail that made the company great in the first place?
To be continued.