Let me ask a silly but timely question: Pretend you were a race car driver in NASCAR. You were in the middle of a race, flying around the track at 190 MPH, and a message popped up on your dashboard that told you that new firmware for your fuel system was available and ready to install, would you click OK?
This turnkey package was very tight, in large part because the bits and pieces worked only in a small but specific “compatibility matrix”. As a result, it was always understood and firmly communicated that you NEVER update software in the middle of a production, you disable Auto-Update (to satisfy the previous requirement) and that you work with and depend upon capable experts before and during planned upgrades. Upgrades, in truth, need to be considered full re-designs in the sense that there is a delicate inter-dependency between all components and interrupting this “matrix” will have a series of consequences, and unless your name is Neo, you may not even realize that the matrix exists! (Sorry, had to throw that in there.) Consequences come in many sizes and shapes. Some, you may never even notice or feel and some may only effect you if a second or third seemingly unrelated event interacts with the dormant first consequence. If the majority of customers work only on a stand-alone computer with the most common of add-on devices, then the lowest common denominator challenges or conflicts get addressed and corrected early, often during beta test cycles. Companies like Apple and others have also done a great job intentionally or unintentionally inducing Pavlovian Conditioning with frequent and ever-improving app updates that have taught us that Updates = Good. Many of us treat these update requests like a new message from a friend, a gift or a present that randomly appears and, best of all, is free! Why wouldn’t you do it? Often it corrects and patches flaws and security risks that we didn’t even know existed (until the update told us). After all, who doesn’t want to keep up with the latest and greatest? But beware, the editing and graphics ecosystem that you have built, however streamlined it appears, is more fragile and requires more planning than a typical computer or smart phone. Major operating system updates – like Apple Mavericks 10.9 – change a multitude of things, for reasons that have nothing to do with you or your business. Here is an example advisory for some high speed, external media readers that came out upon the release of Apple Mavericks: “WARNING Qio E3 is not currently compatible with OS X 10.8.5 and 10.9 (Mavericks). Sonnet is working on a fix for this issue. Qio E3 is compatible with OS X 10.8.0 through 10.8.4 when using Qio E3 software v1.2.1c and later. Until a new driver is ready (1.2.2), do not upgrade your computer’s OS to 10.8.5 or 10.9.” Personally, I do not blame 3rd party board and hardware manufacturers for this. A computer is a complex beast, designed for many markets and many uses. In our high performance, time sensitive, video production world, we depend on our computers to connect with dozens of speciality devices. Somehow, we have collectively come to expect that all parties involved have been handed a rule book that defines accurately and immediately, all use cases and all code corrections. In truth, companies like Apple are famous for not providing detailed information about code or methodology changes that may break or change the way pieces or components behave. There is limited access for developers to beta OS releases and it is next to impossible for a hardware company to run structured quality control tests on all possible configurations. So, in summary, I offer a few polite words of caution: • DO NOT be tempted to hit that Upgrade, Update or Download button without first KNOWING why you need it and what it might affect. • PLAN for upgrades with production and business calendars in mind.
• BACKUP the current system before an upgrade.
Thanks for listening. I hope it helps. Tom Talbot, firstname.lastname@example.org