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I got a Black Magic Woman

Vijay Verghese, Editor, Smart Travel AsiaShe’s got me so blind I can’t see… or work, as Adobe gets the bum’s rush along with other fabulous software.


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by Vijay Verghese/ Editor

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Head to Mars if you wish to beat those pesky app updates

The only place to escape those pesky app updates

TECHNOLOGY will set you free. That’s what the adverts say. This is what savvy travellers like to think as they pick up their iPhones and super gadgets to whizz off into the sunset to impress some cowering bureaucrat in some depressed Third World country. But hang on. Did you pack the charging cables? The right ones, I mean? And is there any electricity as we know it in Ouagadougou or whichever place is eagerly awaiting your visit for a leveraged move up the ladder to the First World good life (read shrinking economies, migrants, tanking stocks, crippling debt, and much finger wagging by the stoically soldiering Angela Merkel).

No liberation, this. Updating apps has become a fulltime job. It’s more intrusive than looking after a demanding puppy or dealing with your wife and bratty kids. Remember Tamagotchi? Apps beep and burp, they ping and shake and demand you update them immediately – often for no discernible reason – just for the satisfaction of bloating all that junk accumulating on your precious hard drive, which will soon run out of space.

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Updates are endless and time consuming if managed manually, as I prefer, or a permanent drain on battery and phone resources if set to automatic. They hog disk space. Every update is intended as a critical ‘bug fix’ to prevent your system from crashing. If apps are buggy, why release them? It’s like moving into a new house and then having plumbers, electricians and construction crews knocking on your doors constantly demanding to march in and change a light bulb, or patch up the walls with experimental cement, or drill new routes for your water pipes. Aren’t you happy?

{Our family car ran through most of my childhood, as did the house phone. Stuff was built to last. When people called, they actually had something to say...

For travellers, the interruptions are constant. And as soon as an app has finally adapted to your operating system, Windows and Apple will up the ante by changing the operating system and the whole rigmarole begins anew. Blink and you’re obsolete. I held on to my iPhone 3 for years as friends chuckled. I was adamant. I used my cell phone as a telephone – or a messaging device, SMS in those days – so it could never get obsolete. I was wrong.

Our scratched and dented family car ran through most of my childhood, as did the house phone. Stuff was built to last. When people called, they actually had something to say. The phone ringing at night was invariably bad news. Now we have WeChat, WhatsApp, LINE, Kakao Talk, Viber, and more. It’s like having five phones to reach the same friends – on the same number. Now when someone checks into a flight at Chiang Mai or eats a fried egg at JFK, we get the pictures and GPS coordinates to track our pals by the millimetre. “Hey, Bob just moved two centimetres closer to the boarding gate in Beijing.” Ah but that flight’s delayed six hours. It could be a long and riveting series of posts.

Also keeping us guessing and entertained is Windows, which often updates by stealth. Don’t update and it claims some monstrous bug will take over your computer and shoot off malicious mail to your boss and best friends informing them you’ve lost your wallet in Madrid or have been waylaid by women of uncertain gender in Samui. Now the pressure is on to move up to Windows 10. Many people switched on their computers to find that Windows 10 had already self-installed resulting in app malfunctions requiring, you guessed it, bug fixes.

I just upgraded to a Mac Pro, a space age device if ever there was one – svelte, sexy, and immensely desirable. My old trusty Power Mac G5 was grinding to a halt like some wheezing B-747, its turbo fan roaring a complaint every time I switched it on. The new Mac Pro – visible only on the Web but not to mortal eyes in any showroom – dazzled at a distance like a mischievous mistress and, I confess, I was smitten.

Not without some tugs of conscience, I abandoned my G5 of many years and fell headlong into the arms of my sleek Mac Pro, a polished black cylinder all of one foot tall and just six inches across, like some meteor marvel from outer space. It needed a technician to get it hooked up to my old machine that gasped as we drained its innards to breathe life into my new beauty. And my Black Magic Woman stirred to life at blazing El Capitan OS X 10.11.1 speeds.

All my astronomically expensive Adobe design software from Photoshop to InDesign that I had meticulously bought and updated over the past years was rendered invalid at one stroke. So were my made-for-Apple buys like Aperture and Motion. I stared at my blank screen. Then I downloaded a slew of alternative free apps. They appear to work just fine.

This morning I see an icon flashing in my dock. I have 24 updates. Let’s get started. Time to keep up with the Joneses.

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