Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Post Version 2.13245674

The stench of ash and decay is overwhelming in this dimly lit chamber, thinly veiled by wisps of smoke eminating from various candles and censers. A sole, shrouded occupant kneels in the dirt before an altar of stone, all manner of indistinct skulls, glass vials and USB cables scattered infront of him. At his side rests a ceremonial blade thick with the dried blood of untold sacrifices, but his hands are fixed firmly together and pressed against his chest. Following his unwavering gaze, atop the altar, surrounded by runes of a long forgotten language carved into the surface, sits that most ruinous of powers. An internet connection.

I'm currently embroiled in a war with software updates, and it's one I'm fairly confident I'm not winning. The more I think about it, the charming setting described above is the only conceivable scenario in which I can imagine anyone who'd consider themselves to be on top in this gruelling conflict. Silent in the darkness, consulting ancient charts and whispered secrets from another realm, he unfurls a map and grins. The long-awaited update will indeed arrive in 5 days - but only in select regions of southern France.

Generally speaking, I have no problem with the concept of applying updates to things I own. I vastly enjoy the the fact that any given device is no longer essentially encased in amber, oblivious to any technological advances with software capabilities after its release. The regular, planned updating of software is even the main appeal of systems like Google's Android. In light of these free offerings that can often add whole new features and even increase performance, I've tried to suppress the burgeoning sense of entitlement that I see has gripped so many people - response to delays and other unhappy announcements are generally met with a ferocity and abandonment of loyalty typically associated with a medieval peasant revolt.

Are people starting to forget what's important? The joy of owning one of what is now a constant stream of slightly varying products is shifting away from savoring the capabilities and qualities of the device in its current state, and towards a sort of paranoia-tainted scramble for what features might become available at a later date. I had to stop and take a look at myself, awake at 4am in a cold sweat, surrounded by twitter feeds and refreshing a handful of technology websites, hungry for news of when my firmware update might be getting here. I'd never even used Twitter until this point, but I needed bleeding-edge information to be absolutely certain the update hadn't slipped out without me realising. For the record, if I'm ever referred to as a 'Tweep' or a 'Tweetheart' again, I'll need a lot more than 140 characters to accurately convey my rage.

Having undergone a process of searching through wildly contrasting reports on when and where an update might be made available, and then having to update the software which is used to update the hardware, in order to acquire a pre-update patch for the update I wanted to update with, I can't help but vomit powerfully – and then, wonder how the less devoted consumer manages with all of this. If I, the keeper of a mythical, multi-headed beast of devices and media platforms, finds the whole concept tiring and annoying, then there must be people who'd rather shoot themselves than go through this whole dance. Show your average sunday iPhone driver instructions on how to root a HTC handset via the Goldcard method, for example, and they're likely to react as if you've just told them that with some practice and focus, they could shit out their own lungs and swallow them again before suffocating.

It was when I was poking my girlfriend with an RJ-45 cable and enquiring if she would like to download a patch for her breasts (She would not), that it came to me. I now know where the future of incrimental updates will take us. We'll no longer be fed cut & paste corporate responses about how much customer satisfaction is highly valued, and that everything possible is being done to ensure that what we want is probably on the way. We shall simply wake up each day and apply one universally available patch to our minds. No more discrepencies between different hardware specs and providers; everyone has a brain! Instead of waiting and wondering, you can look forward to a lie that's much easier to swallow (The early form of the patch may even take the form of a delicious pill) and much more satisfying, in the form of the perception-altering 'Is it just me, or is my device running a little bit smoother today? Hmm...' update.

Granted, Philip K. Dick would be spinning in his grave, but that would largely be down to the 'Celebrity Grave Spinning' App soon to be made available for phones whose names have the letter 'E' in them.

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