June 4, 2014

Fighting with Computers

Ah, the joys of computers.  They're an essential part of my job - you know, being a musician where I spend every night playing in front of thousands of cheering fans, go to after parties and ingest recreational pharmeceuticals, have sex with nubile young groupies (sometimes two or three at a time), then sleep till 4 pm in the tour bus while my driver gets me to the next gig.

Sorry, I should have put "irony alert" at the top of that description. 

In the real world where I live, I spend a lot of time at my desk using my computer - like right now as I'm composing this blog entry.  Don't get me wrong.  I need the computer and the new one I have is blindingly fast with a hi-res wide screen monitor.  It is an essential tool for many of the things I need to do as an independent business person whose product is music.

The problem I have is with the programs.  Actually, it's with the programmers and developers.  Full disclosure: I am a retired computer geek.  My degree is in Computer Science and I spent 17 years of my earlier life writing software.  So I know the theory and I remember a lot of the things I was taught in programmer school.

The concept of an "almost working computer program" was compared to the concept of being "almost pregnant."  Also when someone said, "The computer screwed up" at least two human errors had occured, one of which was saying the computer screwed up.

When I was learning the trade, people were cheap and hardware was expensive.  It was better to spend person-hours developing incredibly efficient software so that it would run fast on slow small machines.  We were taught "Don't just get it working, get it right!"  and we were graded on how good the software was, not just whether it worked.

Now hardware is cheap and people are expensive, so priorities have changed.  It's cheaper to get bigger and faster hardware than to spend expensive human resources on developing efficient code.  With the pressures of the marketplace to bring out something newer, bigger, shinier, the mantra is "Don't get it right, just get it working."   In other words, get it out the door and we'll fix the bugs in a maintenance release.

I just installed a Windows 7 partition on Julia's Mac, so she can use some software for which there is no Mac version.  It's a legal copy with Microsoft logos and product codes all over the DVD.  The very first thing I had to do after installing it was to download 152 security updates. 152 - and that's just the critical stuff, not even the optional ones.

Julia came into my office a couple of days ago and asked what all my cursing and swearing was about.  I've been editing videos of the All Day Breakfast Tour and the editing software has some "interesting" behaviours.  Again, full disclosure, I'm learning how to use it but I have run into several instances of counter-intuitiveness coupled with an absence of detailed documentation.  A number of times I have wondered what they were thinking? 

I could go on.  I'm sure you've had your own fights with computers.  It's a love-hate relationship.  I couldn't do my job without one but sometimes the idiocy of the people who designed and wrote the programs drives me crazy.  Maybe if they did a bit more research into what people do with the software, the programs would be better.

With the video editing software, I'm ahead on points and I think if I go the distance I'll win but it will be a split decision.   Watch this space - when we're ready to release the finished videos, I think you'll like them. 

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