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Technofailure

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One of my favorite anthologies when I was a kid was the Asimov/Greenberg/Olander book 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories. My tastes have changed quite a bit--perhaps as many as a third of the stories in the book match our "Stories We've Seen Too Often" list--but various bits of various stories have stuck with me.

One of those bits was from James E. Thompson's story "Synchronicity":

"Since we abandoned the Aristotle-Ptolemy view of the universe, we have tended to assume [...] that the same laws prevail throughout [the universe]. But what if we are wrong? [...] The earth is moving. Perhaps we have moved into a region of space where synchronicity is more important and causality less important."

The story is, of course, a joke story, leading up to a joke ending. But I was always amused by the idea of the planet moving into a region of space where things work differently, and I've employed it as a joke explanation of various things at various times.

But most often, I've employed it as a joke explanation for periods of time in my life that seem to be rifer than usual with technological breakdown. And in the past couple weeks, I'm pretty sure we've been in a region of space where software works even less consistently and well than usual.

Mostly I've been running into this in the form of various failures and breakdowns related to my blogging software. But what sparked this entry was just now finally updating my iPhone to the 1.1.1 software release that came out a couple weeks ago. (I had been waiting 'til I got around to running a backup; my backup scheduler mysteriously stopped working about a month ago.) I haven't installed anything untoward on the iPhone, so it should've been a routine update.

But it got halfway through the update process and told me that an error had occurred, and stopped. The phone was left with a gray screen; pressing buttons didn't help.

I unplugged the phone from the computer and then reconnected it, and was told I would have to Restore the phone--which is to say, wipe it clean and start over. I grudgingly clicked OK, and the restoration process started. I lost the past couple days' worth of changes (if any) that I'd made on the iPhone (I think there were a couple calendar items I hadn't yet synced)--what kind of update software doesn't do a sync before running?

Anyway, the restore process worked reasonably smoothly, up until it started syncing my calendars; then it suddenly stopped, telling me that an error had occurred.

I re-ran the sync, and everything seems to have worked. And I like the new iTunes interface on the iPhone, and the new double-click Home button shortcuts. So I think things are fine again.

But I think I'm going to try to refrain from doing any really important or major computer work until we leave this region of space for one where software more or less works again.

[Added later: Never occurred to me 'til just now that this idea prefigures the Zones from Vinge's Fire Upon the Deep books.]

2 Comments

That would have been such a good book if Asimov hadn't tried to compete with all the stories.


100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories was good, too.


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