My computer is busy

Last night I dreamed about what my computer is doing when it’s busy —fully occupied with its own work— which happens quite a lot.

I mentioned this at breakfast time on twitter and my pal @NorfolkWastrel replied, quick as a flash, that it’s worse for users of Windows 1o. No doubt he’s right, but I wanted to write this down anyway, as though I were a follower of Jung. It’s a mixture of dream and reality but that’s rather how I find lockdown generally.

Mostly, I suspect, the computer is indexing. It must, somewhere, have a huge index of every word of every page of every file in my computer (and in the cloud-storage which goes with it) because it can search for any word and quite quickly find documents which contain it, displaying their filenames. There is a similar index+search system in the Mail programme but my hunch is that’s separate from the one for files. There’s a third searching thing in the corner of my screen which is called Spotlight and that seems to be able to find not just files but also emails and other stuff around the world (but not bibliography items in my EndNote). So maintaining all that must be time consuming.

It also likes to compile and send reports —probably more than it tells me. These are about crashes and freezes of software and they seem to contain cryptic logs of what was happening prior to the episode and get sent off to Apple (it’s an Apple computer) or to Microsoft (whose software often hangs or crashes). Nothing ever comes back from these reports, like advice on how to avoid the crashes, and I can’t see any detectable improvement in the software as version follows version.

Two examples from Apple. The standard Mail programme which comes bundled in with the operating system is given to quitting spontaneously without offering any reasons. It does this a few times every day. It’s easy to re-start and I have long since given up googling for explanations: it’s a “known problem” and there is nothing to be done. Why don’t all those reports lead Apple to fix the known problem?

The other example is the contacts list: I recently found that all my contacts. had disappeared: the database was empty. This also turns out to be a “known problem.” I managed to find a duplicate in a backup and replaced the content so all is well for the moment but…

So my dream gets me wondering, both about what all those people at Infinite Loop (Apple’s HQ) are doing all time and about what else is going on in my machine. The first question is probably a simple one: the Apple people have all been shifted to the new products division since it’s not very profitable to maintain and improve laptop software for us captive audience of users. And they need to conserve their profits to buy back their shares and further enrich their shareholders (and pay their tax lawyers).

More interesting is what the computer is doing locally. I can think of 3 things, increasingly fanciful.

First of course there is all the file management between local memory and the cloud storage that I now have to pay for: making sure that every pointless photo I ever took is archived and visible from every device with faces scanned, subjects identified & places named so that jolly albums called “St Ives Beach” or “Party in the forest” or Ken Burns fake movies with music can periodically be sent to me.

Secondly all those cookies. When I’m feeling strong and assertive I try to reject as many cookies as I can but I often fail and I must now be hosting thousands of the things. They all, presumably, have their work to do: noting where I go, what I buy, whom I communicate with, what I’m thinking and bundling that stuff up ready to dump back to Google or Cotswold Conservatories or FT.com or whoever planted the cookie to start with.

<rant> cookies are so stupid: why don’t they remember that I have already accepted them? They ask again for permission on every visit, making me furious. Even the Guardian, where I have a subscription, and where the site welcomes me by name on every visit, asks many time a day for permission to place its cookies and sends me the same grovelling requests for cash as they send to unknown users. Are they just trying to piss me off? </rant>

Finally the spies. Maybe there are cookies or other animals in here reporting to real estate think tanks in Westminster or to GCHQ about what I’m thinking and doing, since I’m clearly such a threat to the free world or to democracy or to capitalism itself. Who knows? It’s just a dream.

And of course my computer must spend as much time as I do waiting for VirginMedia to allow the next few bits of data to come or go.

NorfolkWastrel implied this morning that he could find out what his Windows computer was doing. Is there a way I can ask my Mac? You can see that I’d love to know.

Now back to work. 25 November 2020 1630h

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