The “don’t you worry about that” philosophy of a former Queensland pollie seems to be the mantra of some software companies. Would it hurt them to show a little message saying the latest (inevitably bloated) version of their operating system is being downloaded automatically? The mouse and keyboard suddenly working spasmodically is a bit of a too-little-too-late giveaway that something is happening.
A long time ago, we decided that our ISP’s plan with 8 GB of downloads per month would be sufficient. And so it was, with no problems until an iPhone entered the house. We immediately came perilously close to being shaped as all the apps we had somehow managed to survive perfectly well without made their merry way onto the phone.  Fortunately, for exactly the same cost, our ISP had a “medium” plan that allowed us 20 GB of downloads plus uploads. Calm was restored and there were only occasional warnings about impending shaping, usually after the arrival of a new iDevice or iApp.
Every now and again, the data usage had an unexpected blip. A blimp would be a better word, actually, as a tenth of our monthly allowance could be devoured in a single day! It finally dawned that upgrades were the cause, with the blame shared between Apple, Microsoft and others, probably in that order.
This month saw a particularly large number of “blimps”: we faced the (unbearable) prospect of three days of shaped internet usage. We bought the 10 GB top-up rather than the probably-not-quite-enough 2 GB option, rationalising that we could use some of the excess to install iOS8 earlier than planned. A foolish strategy really: “update in haste, repent at leisure” as the proverb goes.
A little Google research suggested that moving to iOS8 wirelessly was not without its traumas and that the via-iTunes-on-a-computer approach was prudent. The iPhone was plugged in and the grand updating began. While we did wonder what was going in, we knew there was no need for us to worry about it. And sure enough, after an hour or so, it was the iPad’s turn to be connected. During which time iOS 8.01 was released and probably recalled, but not before it had been downloaded to but not installed on the iPad.
8 GB of data trundled into our house that night! 8 GB—God only knows what it was! Mind you, He probably chuckled 'well, I did warn them about apples' before becoming more reflective and thinking that the parable of the wise and foolish virgins might have been better expressed in terms of the five late and the five early updaters.
As many of you will have noted, the release of iOS 8 was not without a certain amount of drama. The hoped-for emergency replacement iOS 8.02 was released before our remaining 2.5 GB allowance expired. Both the minor updates were touted as being 70 MB, which made the 8 GB even more puzzling. Taking Euripides advice from 428 BC, "try first thyself, and after call in God”, a hypothesis was developed: if an OS update is installed wirelessly, the system is patched, but if the update is installed via iTunes, the whole bleeping lot (2 GB in this case) is downloaded. And, based on a statistically valid sample size of 1, this was confirmed.
The iPhone was updated wirelessly and quickly. The iPad was nagging “install me!” But iOS 8.01 couldn’t be installed because it couldn’t be verified because it was a disowned OS. And there was no obvious way to remove it so the iPad would find the newer update. We didn’t worry about that—we had Plan B. The iPad was plugged into the computer; iTunes found iOS 8.02, and an hour or so later the download finished. Oh yes, and gobbled up the remaining 2GB plus of data allowance. The timing was almost perfect: we were shaped a quarter of an hour before the witching hour when the slate is wiped clean, a mere 25 MB over our 50%-greater-than-normal limit.
As one of the songs from Cabaret says, every story should have a moral: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. A fool rushes in to update where angels fear to tread. Let the early birds find the bugs; there’ll still be worms enough for you.
- Shaped: a less ominous threat than the “throttled” used by some ISPs to describe a considerable reduction in internet speed.