Thursday, December 04, 2008


Apple seems to have implemented some across-the-company, strictly enforced, "keep the user completely in the dark" policy for their software engineers. I just received a message saying (I quote from memory), "An error occurred when Time Machine attempted to access the backup drive." (Time Machine is Apple's new backup software.)

Now, I was a software engineer for 18 years, and I was taught that a basic principle of error handling was to give the user as much information about the error that occurred as possible, to allow the user to attempt to fix the problem. And I know that the programmer writing the relevant bgit of code involved in this Time Machine error was checking for specific problems, such as the disk in question not having enough space available to store the contemplated backup, or the disk being off-line, etc, So why in the world is Apple not conveying what the problem is to the user? Does anyone have any idea why Apple is choosing to say nothing more than, "Oops, something went wrong"?


  1. They aren't entirely keeping users in the dark. Users can check the logs for the details of the problem.

  2. Ugh. Of course Windows has its gems, too, like "File not found, or permission denied". :P

  3. Gene, I dunno, but I remember the good old days: you submitted a big box of punch cards and came back a day later to receive the message "did not compile."

  4. Maybe the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Because I used to be amused at the ridiculously opaque (to me, not to you) error messages my computer would give me. I don't remember exactly what they would say, but really specific things that only a software engineer would understand.

    So instead of saying, "Error #3434arf at memory location q2432," it just says, "Oops" which is all most people would understand anyway.

    (I'm not saying this makes more sense, but I'm just theorizing why they might have changed it.)

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Euphemisms II

It's not just abortion where these euphemisms bug me either. I think it is sometimes OK to euthanize your pet, but... you did not "...