Software niggles

The suggested route (through a school) is *3 minutes* faster

I frequently encounter infuriating software niggles which are bewildering and difficult to diagnose, because the internet is a repository of every single problem anybody has ever had with a computer ever, and if you search for, say, “Reminders doesn’t recognise home address” you find hundreds of examples of the same or similar problems dating back to 2013, or whatever, and the solutions rarely match your particular configuration.

I’m thinking about this now because I’ve just reported an issue with Apple Maps that has been bugging me a while. I happen to live at the end of a No Through Road, next door to a school. Outside school hours, the gates are locked, and during school hours, it’s a school. But that doesn’t stop various Maps apps from trying to direct traffic through the school to its other entrance, which comes out on a different No Through Road on the other side.

Now, when the school was built, some nerk obviously thought it was okay to have a connecting road between the two gates, but that was before the general insanity of the school run was a thing, and long, long before the general insanity of GPS navigation apps. I expect when the school was constructed, most people walked to school, and if they didn’t, they took the bus from the outlying villages. Nowadays, even people who live within walking distance (and everywhere in this town is within walking distance) think it’s a good use of their time to drive their kids to school. Nowadays, if the through route was open, you can bet your life that the hundreds of parents who try to get as close to the school as possible when dropping and picking up their kids would be attempting to actually drive through it to shave a few minutes off their few-minute car journey.

So I find it absolutely infuriating to see cars drive up to the school gates, then do the reverse ferret and drive away again. Not because I particularly care about their inconvenience, but because it is so fundamentally anti-social for a sat-nav app to be directing people this way. Not just because it’s a school (although that’s bad enough), but because there’s a perfectly good main road route, and this is a residential neighbourhood. Why should our cats, our kids, and our air be subjected to extra traffic because Apple (or Google, or Waze) has calculated that it’s two minutes quicker?

The algorithms of these apps are long overdue a revamp. I’ve read recently that Google are planning “low carbon” routing, which is good, but not if “low carbon” means through residential areas. You can see how that might happen, especially if there’s a queue through the town centre, which there often is.

Anyway, I’ve reported the issue, for what it’s worth, and also the other issue, which is that the house next door is shown as the local Nursery school, when the school is, you know, in the school. And this reporting process made me think of all the other niggles we have to live with, minor bugs that seemingly never get fixed. Here is a list.

  • Apple Homepod Mini. I can play audio from my phone onto the Homepod. Apple Music works pretty seamlessly, except it immediately transfers the playback from my iPhone to the Homepod, so that the music is playing from there rather than my phone. This is weird, because (as a general rule) I never want to cede control. But the real bug is when I’m trying to play a podcast (from Overcast) or a radio programme from the BBC Sounds app. Whenever I am doing this, Homepod is likely to randomly drop the connection at any moment. The radio drama, or whatever, stops playing, and when I go to my iPhone and hit play, it starts playing from my phone again rather than the speaker. The speaker, meanwhile, still remembers the last song it was playing in Music, even if it was three weeks ago. This behaviour means that I’m less and less likely to use the Homepod for speech/drama, which means it’s an £89 white elephant, gathering filth in the kitchen.
  • Another niggle: when I want to adjust the volume of something on my iPhone, I pick it up, reach for the on-screen volume control, and… it immediately mutes itself to zero. It then refuses to respond to touch, and I’m forced to either use the side volume buttons or pull down the Control Centre volume. This is maddening, not least because I cannot think of a scenario when I would want to drag the volume down to zero rather than just hit Pause. It’s insane. It’s a bug. Will it ever get fixed? Who knows.
  • Then there’s the Reminders problem. I used to use the geofencing feature quite a lot, as in: remind me when I get home to put the bins out. But I don’t use it anymore. You know why? Because Siri doesn’t recognise my home address. It’s in the Contacts app, it’s known about in Maps, but in Reminders? Nope. Related: Apple Pay works perfectly from my iPhone and my Watch, but when I try to use Apple Pay in Safari on my Mac? Same problem: address not recognised.

There are others: lots and lots of shoddy little bugs that stop things from working as they should, and apparently without solution, because the solution you find out there on the internet is ten years and five operating systems out of date. Just the other day, I was trying to start up my old Macbook (being passed down the family line) and it wouldn’t come on, after a couple of weeks being shut down. Searching for a solution online was useless, because the various reasons this could happen and the various key combinations you were supposed to try have proliferated. We got it started eventually, but I’ve no idea what it was I did to make that happen.

Computers are rubbish, as we used to say when I worked in IT.

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