THE SATURDAY BEFORE Christmas — the 23d — Microsoft chose to push a Windows update, which, according to what I see, included the ability to link the computer to an Android phone, and the takeover of all image files on the system by an app called Photos.
Some background: I’m a long-time graphic arts professional. I started using microcomputers for art and design around 1990, when the Wintel operating system was Windows 3. The illustration app was CorelDRAW! (versison 2 at the time, though it was quickly replaced by version 3). The bitmap editor was … well, there wasn’t one. Some brief period later, Macromedia brought Freehand to the PC and Adobe brought forth a version of Illustrator. Then Aldus came out with Photostyler. That was the one. We bought it where I worked. It came with a scanner. No. Photostyler was bundled with the scanner, not the scanner with Photostyler, if you get the difference.
Whereas the Mac had always integrated the handling of fonts and image files with the OS, Windows made little provision for this. So the user was forced to think for himself. Some of us though of that as a feature, not a bug. Over the next year or so — before Windows 3.11 came out and vastly improved things for us — I and my colleagues, developed a system for handling fonts and our files, partially built of a combination of best-of-breed apps, and partially of a certain protocol and discipline of file and folder naming and handling practices.
Over time, things have changed. The OS has grown up. The fussy OCD treatment of font files, and system folders has relaxed — or the need for it has slackened some. Some capabilities have been added to the OS (though not nearly as many as Miscrosoft would have you believe — the OS has changed remarkably little since the early ’90s in some ways) Please remember I am talking of the days before the Internet blew up. Things were quite primitive then. I used to say, “The very best that’s out there — the state of the art — is barely adequate to the task at hand.”
Over time, we the users, and the beta-testers and peer support sysops and forum staff, arrived at a modus vivendi with software companies. Rule one was — and, really, always has been: DO NOT ALTER USER DATA. Period. End of discussion — full stop.
For the most part, with a few notable exceptions — I’m not looking at Adobe or Corel or anybody, really, because they all did it — that rule, that Prime Directive of Personal Computing — has been honored pretty well.
And for most of that time, the difference between professional apps and the kiddy cars was that the pro stuff gave the user adult controls over where his data resided, how the software accessed it, and how it was visible OUTSIDE of the program.
The amateur, kiddy-car stuff took (and takes) over and decides where the data is allowed to reside and who (in terms of software) has access to it, and it sets the system defaults as what’s to be done with a file and what programs you can open it with. Bleah. Crap.
Thus we come to Photos. Now I’m pretty raw on that site because I’ve been fighting with Dropbox. My idea is that only stuff I want there gets put there. Dropbox seems to want to assume it gets all the data on my system — and it’s going to pop up windows that interfere with my shit whenever I plug in something to a USB port — even if it’s just a phone or a tablet to charge, Dropbox wants to upload all the data in its memory — to the Dropbox folder.
Which won’t work, because I have a specific organizational protocol to follow as to where I put files. So I can find them later. So they’re kept with other files relevant to the project(s) they’re for. Plus: I don’t trust the cloud, so I’m not likely to put my copyrighted, for-sale work product on somebody else’s computer. Not to mention, I have a responsibility to my clients to maintain their confidentiality, and can’t really be sure of that if the work I’m doing for them leaves my direct control. I know that many of my colleagues think I’m odd and quirky (old fashioned and out of date) but I don’t think the time of man has anything to do with principles. Either they apply always, or they never did. There’s no such thing as an outdated principle.
Military and intelligence types have an assumption that, if somebody puts a lot of effort into developing a tool or a weapon, it’s a pretty safe bet that evinces an intent to use it for the purpose it’s meant for. If somebody spends millions of dollar on a system that can capture my data, I feel justified in thinking they might — all protests of innocence nothwithstanding — intend someday to capture my data. In which case, I’d be a fool to trust them with said data. No. Dropbox. You don’t get my photos before I’ve even opened them in Photoshop. So I want to store them on my computer — take note: **MY** computer — where and as I plot will assist me with my work, and not where the dumb arrogance of a software engineer leads him to assume is best.
So, immediately after the final restart of my system after the Windows update (that’s where we came in — remember?), I noticed that the image that has been my desktop for YEARS (and two computers, to tell the truth) was missing. In trying to rein in the settings, I discovered that the large tree of folders (that’s one feature of my file organization — endlessly branching trees of folders branching out from a single parent folder one step down from the root directory of the drive — which is meant to make it easy to back up the contents by mirroring them to another storage device) where the image was to be stored … was gone. !!!!! As it is THE directory tree in which I store ALL of my graphic work, representing my life’s work, you betcha damned skippy I was pissed off. And more than a little frantic.
So the lesson here is 1) never trust anybody in computer tech. Don’t care who they are, they’re out for themselves and don’t care much for fiduciary responsibility. You remember the old Quaker motto? “I will not cheat thee, but I will do my level best to outwit thee.” Sort of like “Minbari never lie.” (But they never tell the truth.) If you trust your data to them, more the fool you. And 2) never ask, “Whose computer is it, anyway?” Don’t get too clever with how you name folders — especially mission critical folders. The OS may one days decide one of them is redundant and delete it.
And keep an unerase utility handy.