Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Wider Ecosystem

Being without the MacBook Pro that I have worked on for the last six years has taught me a few things about the way that I am dependent on the computing environment that I have created. Being able to restore my data did allow me to continue work but it lacked the tool set that I was familiar with and I found myself looking to get my environment back. A Ubuntu based system provided my first interim system but it lacked the tools that made my job easier. I am not keen on remember lots of command line commands to get basic tasks completed nor do I favour test editors over proper development environments that tell you when you have a syntax error. I wanted the tool set that I was used to and am familiar with. To compound it LibreOffice which I use for doing these blogs did not edit PowerPoint slides without corrupting the graphics and some of the animations. A Widows system with Microsoft Office helped the editing problem but I was conscious that I was losing a lot of time fighting the systems that were not setup for the way that I work. The computer needs to be a productivity aid and not a handicap to productivity.
I did manage almost seven days ago to get an iMac to boot from the MacBook Pro disk. That gave me all except the network connectivity that I was used to. But having proved that the iMac would run the latest software and talk to the network, our tech support decided it needed to be upgraded to the latest OS X and set up to the current university standard. That meant a change in my user id. Sounds simple but how do you transfer you settings from one user id to another?
Yes, I made some progress by running from the MacBook Pro disk drive but my Time Machine backup is accessible to the iMac (different networks and location and I am not prepared to put my backup on a public network). Still everything is on the MacBook Pro disk so migrate from there. That would have worked fine as long as the user id was not changing or the user id was not already setup. Two days more lost migrating and copying files and I am getting closer to what I used to have but still feels a long way off. This is now two weeks of low productivity and I am conscious that when the replacement MacBook Pro arrives, it will be configured to the latest university standard so taking the time on the iMac may make it easier to migrate. That is at least the hope. I might be able to set it running the migration over a weekend and go in on the Monday to a working system (as the New Zealand Tui beer adds say ‘Yeah Right!’).
This whole episode reminds me of being a systems programmer supporting IBM’s VM/370 and DOS/VSE operating systems. Each new release meant changes in the configurations. The systems programmer spent their time setting the system up and ensuring that migration was possible. Here I am thinking again about system configuration but I am conscious that my current system configuration is based on having access to the Mac OS X environment. Is it possible to have a more portable work environment configuration? A portable environment that would work regardless of the operating system or equipment supplier. Supposedly cloud computing is the solution but do I want all my data and applications out in the cloud?

I am talking here about computer ecosystems and what we get used to but I am also conscious of how dependent we get on modes of transport and wider social environments. Changes in these also influence our productivity and how we respond to the things that are happening around us. Rebuilding a work environment or social environment when it has been uprooted through relocation or disaster is not easy. Yet, the current economic thinking assumes mobility and adaptability. Could it be possible that our workers might be more productive if we provided them with a more stable work environment? I believe that we can and should but then I am just a squeaky door that can be ignored.