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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

The pace of summer

Beach

It’s summer here in the northern hemisphere. Things are different in the summer in so many ways. And if you’re someone who writes about (or writes) Apple software, it’s different in even more ways.

As someone who works from home, the pace around my house is spectacularly different. My children are out of school for more than two months, and getting the kids out the door in the morning is an important part of our morning routine. Now that’s gone, and I have to exert a lot more effort to keep on a regular schedule, including diligently shutting the door to my office and getting work done when there are other people wandering around my house.

Then there’s the technology side of this. For years now, Apple has used the very start of the summer to announce the new operating-system technology it will roll out in the fall. In some ways, it’s the most warning Apple ever gives anyone about anything—three whole months between product announcement and arrival. But it’s still an approach that shapes the summers of so many people who work in this corner of the industry.

This month at Apple’s developer conference in San Francisco, I was talking to a developer who expressed great relief that his entire summer wouldn’t be spent frantically trying to adopt major new Apple technologies in his apps. Developers always approach the WWDC keynote with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The new stuff can be cool, sure, but it also can mean a whole lot of work. This year’s announcements were a little less traumatic.

Still, if you’re a developer, summer is for making your software compatible with the next versions of the operating systems, and adopting any new OS features that will make your app better or cooler or sell better because Apple will promote it. And if you’re a writer like me, summer is for the long-term projects of getting your reviews of iOS, macOS going. I also write a book about Photos, which will need a substantial update for macOS Sierra. So that’s on my agenda too.

Spending the summer with a new version of macOS (yeah, I’m gonna need some time to get used to it, even though I predicted it more than a year ago) isn’t just work, though. It’s also fun, and even nostalgic. We bought our house in 1999, and it includes a small backyard with a big redwood tree. I have sat in a chair in the shade of that tree on warm summer days and written things about every version of OS X, from the very beginning, across an impossibly large number of summers.

Summer also means beta software. If you’re a developer, using unfinished operating systems is part of the deal—and developers usually have extra devices around to install those operating systems on. If you’re a regular user, you probably shouldn’t ever use a beta operating system, though Apple’s new public-beta system gives you a legit way to inflict buggy software on yourself if you’re so inclined.

As a writer, I’ve always struggled with how to approach beta software. Usually it starts with an extra laptop or a separate partition on a desktop computer with the new operating-system beta installed on it. That’s great for a first take, when you’re describing what you see and what’s new. I used a 13-inch MacBook Pro provided by Apple for my hands-on story about Sierra.

But to really understand this stuff, you have to use it. With your own data. For a long time. Which means at some point during the summer, I will have to make the decision to install beta software on the computer, phone, and iPad I use every day. That’s scary, because there are understandably bugs—things crash and strange incompatibilities emerge. But it’s necessary. Last year, the El Capitan betas had a USB audio bug so pernicious that I had to reboot into Yosemite every time I wanted to record a podcast.

I guess what I’m saying is that while summer is hands-down my favorite season, I don’t think of it as just warm weather, days spent in the backyard under a redwood tree, trips to the beach and the mountains, and backyard barbecues. It’s also a season of beta software and book deadlines. And that’s okay! That’s summer to me now. I’d miss it if it were gone.

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