I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Whatever works for you

In my earlier 20s when I knew everything, I was a much bigger evangelist for my technology choices. I’m accused of fanboyism a lot more these days, but only because Hacker News keeps sending huge waves of people here who tell me I’m an idiot. But I used to be much more annoying with pushing my choices onto others.

I’ve naturally reduced such evangelism as I approach 30 and realize I don’t know anything, but I’m now making a much more conscious effort to stop it.

I spent Thanksgiving weekend in my hometown and visited my friend’s parents. They used to generously pay me to fix their computer problems, but it wasn’t always productive: everything took far longer than I thought it would, and my efforts to fix one problem often created others. It was inevitable: they’re an architect and a graphic designer, and I was a computer nerd with very little professional IT experience, so I never fully appreciated the complexity of their software setups or their priorities for getting their jobs done.

My friend’s father spent this weekend battling similar issues. Having failed to set up a suitable sync system with an Android phone, he had exchanged it for an iPhone and was trying to set up iCloud and whatever software (iTunes?) syncs calendars and contacts with Outlook on Windows. It wasn’t working properly.

He’s probably not going to get it to work, and he’ll probably return the iPhone and just tolerate a lack of a synced smartphone for a few more years until he tries again with whatever shoddy pile of hacks we’ve cooked up by then to (not) sync contacts and calendars with our other piles of hacks, a simple problem that we’ve been (not) solving for decades that still isn’t reliable for everyone.

My friend told his father to dump Outlook and go all-Apple, which of course isn’t going to happen. Previously, I’d try to convince him, too. But not this time. His father has many good reasons not to switch, and I don’t understand any of them.

I said I couldn’t help him.

The iPhone and many of Apple’s products work very well for me. But for him, they don’t. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s Microsoft’s fault or Apple’s fault or iCloud flaking out or some other third-party software interacting with something somewhere. To him, the iPhone doesn’t work with his setup.

I bet very few other phones, if any, would work exactly the way he wants with no other modifications to his setup. But that also doesn’t really matter. He got a product that claimed to work in his setup, but when he tried it, it didn’t.

I choose to fit myself into most of Apple’s intended-use constraints because their products tend to work better that way, which makes my life easier. But that requires trade-offs that many people can’t or won’t make.

Previous-me tried to persuade everyone to switch to my setup, but I now know that it’s not worth the effort. I’ll never know someone else’s requirements, environment, or priorities as well as they do. I don’t know shit about Windows or Outlook or architecture.

You should use whatever works for you. And I no longer have the patience or hubris to convince you what that should be. All I can offer is one data point: what I use, and how it works for me.