Essays on Technology and Culture

The Inevitability of Failure

The drive on my Time Capsule is failing. This makes sense—the darn thing is seven years old, and hard drives don’t last forever. I’ve got cloud backup for all my important stuff, so I’m not worried. I just didn’t want to have to buy a new one right now.

I’m having issues with my MacBook Pro (15″ non-retina, 2013 model) and Yosemite, where apps will suddenly hang on launch. I’ve rebooted a few times, fixed permissions, and I think everything is behaving now, but it feels tenuous. Nothing is more fun than trying to get work done, only to have to reboot into recovery mode to run Disk Utility.

I think the touchscreen on my iPad 3 is starting to act up. When trying to use it, I’m seeing strange, seemingly random swipes and taps on ocassion. When I sat down to write last night, I managed to go 20 minutes without anything weird happening. Intermittent issues are the most annoying ones.

My EarPods are crackling and the volume feels weaker. I think the connection at the jack is breaking. This happens about every year or so with a pair, and somehow, I’ve accumulated enough pairs from various sources, that I even keep a backup in my daily bag with my iPhone cables.

So many of the tools we rely on every day are more fragile than we think. Hard drives fail, batteries swell, connections break under stress, software updates have bugs that only manifest under edge cases. When things go wrong, it’s a huge, and sometimes expensive, pain in the butt, and we’re always surprised when it happens. Now matter how much we reduce the points of failure in our technological lives, we’ll never reach a zero failure rate.

When the inevitable happens, try to keep this in mind. I hope it will reduce the frustration we feel when our systems fail.