Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More foibles of free enterprise

I write these little diatribes against "free enterprise" not because I oppose "free enterprise" but because I get tired of those who believe "free enterprise" should be free to do what it damn well pleases and that government can do nothing right.

"Free enterprise" and government are both human creations and, as such, can do wonderful things and can really screw up.  The latest free enterprise screw up screwed up my day recently.

I use my computer and my iPod to keep my calendar.  Because I prefer the calendar in Microsoft Outlook, I have to use Apple's iCal on my computer to synchronize the iPod calendar and the Outlook calendar.  Normally this works "seamlessly", but a few times it hasn't.

Last week the calendar on my iPod became blank.  All the entries had disappeared.  Years of past data and months of future data gone without any effort on my part.  I checked iCal on my computer; all that data was gone also.   I checked the Outlook calendar and the data was all there, whew!

But, could I restore the data to the other two calendars by synching or would the Outlook data be wiped out also?

Off to the wonderland of Apple support.  With most large companies, this doesn't mean talking with an "expert" anymore.  Instead you have to rely on hundreds or thousands of other customers asking and answering questions.  This means sifting through dozens, if not hundreds, of messages that seem to be about a problem similar to yours.

There were many threads about iCal calendars disappearing, going back to 2006 (or was it 2004).  I'm using the latest publicly available version of OS X (10.6.7). Come on, Apple, can't you get this problem fixed permanently in five years?

I did find a suitable solution, which involved deleting a certain folder from the Library folder and replacing it with a backup copy from before the error occurred.  Well, the certain folder wasn't where the message said it was, but it was close enough for me to find it.  Second problem for many people is how often do they even back up their Library folder.

Fortunately, I have installed Apple's Time Machine, which frequently backs up my internal hard drive to an external hard drive.  And it backs up multiple copies for up to a month.  I selected a copy of the folder from when I knew my calendar had data.

Bingo!  The computer iCal was restored and after I synched the iPod, I had both calendars up-to-date, sort of.

But I was not home free.  After the Outlook calendar was synched with iCal, I had double entries for many events.  I still haven't removed all the duplicates.

A half day shot for the "efficiency" of free enterprise.  Those who make the false comparison between free enterprise and government either don't use computers or are blinded by their ideology.

I'm not completely unsympathetic to the problems of software.  When I closed my software business fifteen years ago, I had a problem book at least nine pages long.  That program was a toy compared to the complexity of most software today.  Much of modern software is not the product of one programmer in a home office, but of a vast bureaucracy.  The bureaucracy screws up a lot, but boy, we still get lots of great stuff from the bureaucracy, be it corporate or government.