The march of progress


One of the things that has always been a challenge for developers is the ‘progress bar’. It can be very difficult to predict in advance just how long something is going to take: you work it out for, say, a typical operating system update on the typical machine and then you find that some users have 100,000 things in their Trash, or are in the midst of a backup to a slow external drive, or whatever…

Installing Mac OS X Yosemite this morning, the progress bar sat at ‘About one minute remaining’ for well over half an hour, so I went and did some Googling and found that I was not alone – many people waited much longer than that, but it always completed in the end. Of course, like a watched pot, it will never get there if you’re sitting waiting for it, so you have to go and do something else. Usually, it is just a mild annoyance for impatient enthusiasts like me, but occasionally it can be a more serious problem if you’re told something will take 30 mins, for example, and you therefore assume you can do it before your appointment in an hour’s time.

Anyway, watching the slowly-progressing pixels gave me an idea…

There are tens of millions of people who will be going through this process over the next few months: surely you could improve the accuracy of their progress bars by uploading the timing information at the end of each installation, along with basic information about the system and then using that to give more accurate estimates to those with similar machines, similar disk usage, etc?

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I think I’d rather have some concrete numbers than a faulty time estimate.

“You have installed 3 out of a possible 1729 items” gives you at least an idea of how far you’ve come. If they want to tack on “So far you’ve spent 3 minutes so we should be done by next Tuesday”, at least that lets me know I can safely go and get a nice hot mug of tea.

Yes, but that doesn’t tell you that item 1726 is a really enormous and slow one…



Maybe the update should first do a quick run through on the state of your machine/connection etc.?
Mine took about 30 minutes to update, although annoyingly it seemed to have 3 eperate processes which required some user intervention.
Must say it is a marked improvement on earlier versions. Obviously the guys at Apple are getting older and so now appreciate deep black fonts and legible screens 🙂

I upgraded to Yosemite with ease and for most things I do, the change was transparent. I am growing concerned by this trend: Snooping that extends beyond what we touch with a browser, but any useful application or service on the computers we own.

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