Another rant on software updates

When I opened my blog today, after quite some time, I didn’t have any idea I wanted to write about. Just an ache to see my space. I’ve been reading my RSS feeds a lot more recently, since I’ve been able to get my homelab going on a new mini pc I bought. I also setup Cloudflare tunnels to the software I’m running on said mini-pc-turned-server so I can access it anywhere. The majority of blogs I follow in my feed reader is personal blogs and with reading all those blogs comes the ache of wanting to write to my own.

But soon as I opened it, it prompted me to deal with 15 updates. I hate software updates. They’re so irritating. I get the point, but come on. This is part of the reason why I like working for the company where I recently joined – JFrog. One of their big ideas is “liquid software”. Updates shouldn’t come in your way. They should just happen in the background. So I went into the WordPress interface and turned on automatic updates for as many plugins it made sense for. I’d rather deal with updated and broken plugins by removing them than have to update them every time I come to the blog to think. I also took action on this previous statement by deleting the Apple News plugin. It throws some sort of error on the WordPress Gutenberg editor which always irks me. Besides, I don’t think Apple News works for personal blogs any more. Hasn’t worked for a while. So why keep a relic around? Out with it!

I recently had about half an hour of “me” time and chose to pick up my rarely used Nintendo Switch to play something, anything on it. I own Zelda Breath of the Wild on it, but I never feel like diving into a storymode game any more. So I had remotely installed Apex Legends on it at some point. I thought I’d dive into that game and setup my character and maybe play a quick match.

First the Switch had some software updates it forced upon me. Then Apex Legends had a software update it forced upon me. I keep the Switch plugin in and charging at all times. This way if I ever have the time, I can pick it up and just enjoy it. But no, updates got in the way again. You’re plugged in and charging. How about just download these damn updates in the background? Dejected, I shoved the device back into its charging slot while Apex Legends was downloading its update. I’m almost sure that the stupid thing didn’t finish the download and install and will irk me the next time I have a few minutes to myself.

I have a policy on my iPhone – no software updates unless I’m forced to. Banking apps and my Car Insurance app will often force me to update. The insurance app is the most egregious. It’s almost always needed when stared in the face by a cop or in an accident. Instead of letting the user get to vital information, this stupid app forces an update. So I’ve taken to opening it once a month or so to get any potential updates out of the way. The banking app, I open regularly enough to get the updates in as needed.

All other apps can shove it. Facebook has figured out that people hate updates, so they have a shitty SDK that does the updates for them, all within the app. This leads to a loss of control, but at least it’s consistent – I can open the app and use it, even if I have to deal with a whole new UI when I do. Still other apps will keep working till things break, and that’s when I go hunting and realize there was an update a year ago that fixed said bug. So I missed a year of updates. No worries.

I could just turn on autoupdates on iOS, but there’s a stark difference between WordPress and iOS – on WordPress, on the plugins view, I can choose which of the plugins would get the autoupdates feature. Plugins that are critical or those that I don’t trust enough should not be autoupdated OR force updates on me.

iOS has no such features. Autoupdating is an all-in or all-out approach. This is a horrible UX. Granted, we all have hundreds of apps on our phones and such granular controls can be cumbersome. But it’s a better problem to have than to have no autoupdates at all.

[rant] I hate podcasts

Ok, listen up. Podcasts are stupid.

I’ve got good reasons too, if you read on.

There are two types of blog posts – ramblers (like this one) and informative. That’s generally what you’ll see on the Internet.

Most personal content is a rambler type of blog post. It may be the most succinct two line update, but it might contain content that you’re not interested in. You might be following a world-famous author (cough GRRM) for his book updates and end up reading more about his travels to various conventions instead of focusing on his books. So personal blogs (and personal blog posts) come with a disclaimer – here be ramblings.

Most professional content is, conversely, not a rambler. It’ll be informative, to the point, with a few asides. As any programmer will tell you, those asides are the true saving graces of the Internet – the aside might be an anecdote by the author about some small issue they faced and it’ll end up being the key that solves the reader’s biggest pain point! So in general, even with asides, a little rambling, and generally useless intro and outro content, professional content is mostly informative.

And it doesn’t have to be that personal and professional content is separate. My blog is personal, but my most visited blog posts are related to devOps and setting up certain software in cloud environments for free. Similarly, professional blogs, specially by indie hustlers, often contain gems about their personal travails which are amazing to read.

But podcasts. Ah, podcasts.

I’ve never come across a podcast that wasn’t an indie production and wasn’t a mishmash of nonsense. See, I figure that when people are given a chance to write, they edit. But when they’re given a chance to speak, they ramble on.

I’m a fan of conspiracy theories. They drive me nuts, they’re fun to analyze, they’re fun to call out the stupidity of people. I’m a sucker for flat-earther-takedowns. Those idiots!

But conspiracy podcasts? Oh, they suck! Never have I ever come across one that was by any measure good. I came across one recently that showed some promise. One episode was the podcaster just telling us a story. That felt good. A single person talking to you is a great medium to learn something new. But the very next episode was an interview with an author of a conspiracy book. Now, when the episode started, all was well – the podcaster introduced everybody, gave us a short intro of the book and the backstory, and then opened the floor to discussion. Then all went to hell. The book author first talked about his backstory. Then stopped midway to talk about how he knew the podcaster. Then stopped midway from that to talk about how he had been “permitted” to visit a certain telescope in Arizona AND THEN he stopped midway to give us the dang history of the Church’s involvement with…

At that point my eyes glazed over. I glanced through the wikipedia article and that was enough to educate me on the “conspiracy”. They’re idiots, the lot.

I’ve almost never had a good experience with a podcast that has more than one person talking. It’s not even about the rambling all the time too. Too often, you’ll have the podcaster sitting in a home-studio environment with an excellent mic, a windscreen, and a crooning voice. Then they’ll cut to their guest, who will be in the middle of the Savannah on a shaky Internet connection talking into Skype! The podcaster won’t even have the decency to tape the audio, clean it up, and then plug it back into the stream. Who wants to do all that work? Let the listeners suffer, I say! It’s the only way they’ll learn! Those times when I have to constantly toggle the volume between the well set presenter’s baritone and their shaky-Internet guest’s squeaky voice are the ones when I rue ever having learnt the concept of podcasting.

Then there’s the problem of followup. I love listening to science and tech podcasts. But unless the content is professionally produced (and then too it’s not common), there are almost never any cliff notes. No links to the products or websites mentioned, no “here’s where to go to get more information”. Most of these folks just seem to wing it. If you, the listener, can remember a URL after an hour of someone talking to you, kudos to you! “But Nitin,” you say, “my podcast app allows me to bookmark points of interest, or does automatic speech-to-text so I can read along or find links easily!” Well, good for you. I don’t have those apps, and neither does the majority of the world. Unless that’s the standard, there’s no point in referencing these fancy tools. Notes are a must. That’s all! If you’ll notice, I’ve not linked to any of the stuff I’m talking about in this blog. None of the podcasts are linked to, no link to my own “most popular content” mentioned above. How irritating is that? Yeah.

Lastly, there’s the problem of finding a good podcast. You have to sit through multiple episodes to understand if you like the content and the author. This is much easier on YouTube, where you’re actively looking at the content, or on Instagram, where a few pics will set the tone of the page, or on blogs, because I can just scroll forward 🙂 Further, on any subject, there are dozens of podcasts and looking through that small search space on your phone is just not enough to know if you’ll end up liking a podcast. You kinda just have to dive in, and that sucks.

It’s not like there aren’t podcasts I like. Philosophize This does a great job of a single person, Stephen West in this case, talking into an excellent mic, and following up with text transcripts of the entire content. It’s not perfect, but it comes close to a podcast that I respect.

Spotify has been pushing me these past few days to get into the Michelle Obama podcast. My music app giving me podcasts? Blasphemy! I might check it out. But if she rambles, I’m out.