When it actually ‘just works’

27 August 2015 #Thoughts

Declining quality in software is a hot topic. The common refrain with Apple software for a long time was ‘it just works’, but lately that’s not the case. I sometimes wonder if it’s a case of expecting so much more from software and services while they simultaneously get more complicated.

We’ve quickly become accustomed to the conveniences of cloud services and software when they do work, that the points of failure stick out all the more. For example Apple Music can store information about my entire music library in the cloud, but sometimes at random simply will not play a song. Playing a song is the core experience I want from a music service, but if that fails, the whole product seems like a failure.

Writing about problems in tech is easy, so here’s an anecdote of when ‘it just works’.

But first, when it breaks

I use Parallels Desktop to run a Windows virtual machine on my Mac. This is helpful for clients that want files supplied in Microsoft Office formats. My existing virtual machine was a Windows 10 Insider Program install, which I launched earlier this week.

I was prompted to upgrade to Windows 10. Which I did without much of a problem. It completed the install and I even got to look around in Windows 10 for a few moments before being prompted for a restart, which I did.

Then I walked away for coffee.

Next my ~40GB Windows virtual machine was reduced to 10kb and would not launch. Worse, the contents of the system folders (on my Mac) Pictures, Movies and Music had been deleted. Not moved to the trash, deleted.

Parallels Desktop provides linkages between system folders on your Mac and the virtual machine for convenience. For example it will keep the files on the desktop of your Mac and virtual machine in sync. This sounds like a great feature, until the virtual machine attacks files on your Mac, instead of keeps them in sync.

Disaster, right?

Well no. I keep all of my important files in Dropbox (which thankfully Parallels left alone). The only music in my Music folder is my iTunes library, for which I have an Apple Music and iTunes Cloud Library setup for. Same for my Movies folder.

The Pictures folder is easily replaced by opening the Photos app and linking it back up with my iCloud account.

Within minutes of noticing that those folders were empty, I was replacing their contents again from the cloud.

It just worked.

So while apps and services can frustrate and annoy during daily interactions, it does feel like magic when they save the day.