The Fading Feature: Activity Lights

The way to find anything out when troubleshooting systems, is with information monitoring. And this is why the virtue of having systems that show you diagnostic info about everything in your life is so important. The reason the 'check engine light' in cars or Apple's 'beach ball of death', and even the modern day removal of tried and true monitoring systems like the HDD lights that used to come with all PC's, annoy me to no end. Without gizmos that let you know what's happening behind the scenes, even to just give you a general direction to go for troubleshooting, even the most simple problems seem to have no practical fix at face value. One reason those devices like the Elgato Streamdeck and that RGB PiHat for Raspberry Pi's are so useful, just to see really basic information about your system at all times. Plus they look really cool.

The modern line of thinking seems to be that "users are dumb, don't confuse them- we know better. We'll just do the work behind the scenes so they don't try to play smart". Apple's been doing this for over 2 decades in order to, I assume, avoid the label of 'error prone' like Windows machines get. But the funny thing is they have just as many, if not more, issues day to day in my experience, but Mac OS just pretends they aren't happening. No confirmation boxes, no error screens, no progress or even 'please wait' boxes... if something goes wrong, a window just disappears, or files just stop populating, or the OS stops responding to your inputs. BUT, visually speaking, no errors! Go Apple!

As a career IT guy, I actually completely, sadly, understand that way of thinking. Customers and users will blame whatever problem they have on something that their eyes get attracted to, on their screen, on their hardware, the weather, that guy that walked by their office a few minutes before the problem started, anything. So yeah, I can see trying to keep as many shiny objects away from users as possible so they don't 'hurt themselves' trying to solve (or usually just blame) something themselves.


As I said earlier, that is the sad reality with most users. Not many people really take any time at all to think critically while going through life. From using a computer to driving their cars to shopping at the grocery store. However, I think as a CONSUMER, eg. someone who's paying a company for a device, you should have the option of being able to choose between 'I don't care' and 'I want to know what's going on with what I paid for'. That is where I go from understanding, to being extremely frustrated with companies who just blanket EVERYONE as dumb users as opposed to trying to "KISS" (keep it simple, stupid) with a main market segment and allow for an 'advanced user' segment option as well.


Many companies still do allow for users to choose between simple and advanced options, but as time goes on it seems like we're just being more and more babied and the assumption that we're all drooling zombified buffoons who don't know what's good for us, seems to take over. Again, Apple has ALWAYS been the worst offender, but companies like Google and Microsoft seem to be taking this route as every year goes by as well. Windows 10, every quarter, comes out with a new major update and we lose some basic function or option that most administrators or power users would configure or manage religiously day-to-day... and now we have to dig around and modify the OS manually just to get those features back. Windows Update is a glaring example of this practice. No more "do not check for updates automatically". It WILL check, and we're gonna like it. IOS devices, we can't even shut down our Wifi/BT antennas without going deep into settings now, because Apple knows better. We don't REALLY want to save battery, or turn off our comms interfaces in sensitive environments. Who in their right mind could live without wifi for a few minutes, or bluetooth? So it stays on, and we're gonna enjoy it.

So in conclusion, I don't like where the tech world is heading, but I do understand why it is. These old fashioned creature comforts I grew accustomed to aren't irreversibly banished from our everyday lives, but the effort it takes to restore the functionality and at-a-glance activity monitoring in our daily lives, definitely sticks in my craw sometimes. It's why I own and prefer classic cars, 100yr old guns, and archaic technologies from decades ago. But oh well, it's not the end of the world. Just the end of a tiny, blinky little part of it.

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