Updated 3.56 pm E.S.T.
One of the big attractions of using a Mac has always been Apple’s focus on making the operation and update of your computer and mobile device relatively painless.
But it turns out that even Apple’s team of brilliant engineers couldn’t make the transition to cloud computing completely smooth and seamless.
On Wednesday, the magicians in Cupertino threw open Apple’s doors to customers so that they could sign up for its new iCloud service. The service is meant to take the pain out of synching your devices by automatically and wirelessly backing up and synching all your apps, media and data. You had to sign up for the free service by buying an operating system update. Apple also released its new mobile operating system iOS 5 and Lion Recovery Update, a new feature that enables users to reinstall OS X Lion without having to use any discs.
Horror stories normally associated with Microsoft Windows operating system updates began pouring forth online late Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning as those who couldn’t resist being on the bleeding edge agonized in public over the hours the latest Mac operating system update took, and how Apple’s new iCloud service screwed up the data in their apps.
It seems that so many people loved the idea of the service that Apple’s system was simply overwhelmed. (We’ve sent in a query to Apple for clarification.)
One of the most high-profile early adopters was Wade Roush, the innovation blog Xconomy’s San Francisco bureau chief, and the publication’s lead correspondent. Blow-by-blow, his tweets chronicled his painful transition to the world of cloud computing on Apple’s products, and the subsequent reconstructive surgery he had to go through.
Like many people, Roush owns an iPhone, an iPad and a MacBook Pro. He began the upgrade process on Wednesday and ended up wiping out all of his personal history chronicled in the form of appointments in his iCalendar since 2007 when he bought his iPhone. It was a painful process.
Roush began sharing his tale of woe when he tweeted Wednesday: “The hurt begins with iOS 5. Error message: The iPhone ‘iPHone’ could not be restored. An internal error occurred.”
Roush says that he thinks the problem was that all three of his devices tried to sync with Apple’s servers simultaneously, and because the system was overwhelmed, couldn’t get through and were stuck in a sort of limbo.*
His iPhone was bricked because it was stuck trying to call in to Apple’s servers, which were busy. He says in a conversation with TPM’s Idea Lab that all he had for several hours was a picture of a USB cable plug on his phone.
In a Kafkaesque twist of events, Roush tried to fix the problem of the duplicates in his calendar (created by the iCloud back-up service) by deleting duplicates in the “updated” calendar, thinking that he had a separate, archived back-up file on his hard-drive in reserve. But later he found that he had deleted everything, and the archived copy of his iCalendar was empty.
Roush says that he spent the entire day dealing with the update on Wednesday.
“I think I’m set now, but I still worry that I’m going to stand people up for appointments,” he laughs ruefully on the phone.
Roush obviously wasn’t the only person reporting these issues. Fortune’s veteran technology correspondent Philip Elmer-Dewitt reports about his experience on Apple 2.0 that what should have been a 10 minute process took three hours and 28 minutes. At one point, Apple told him that it was going to take 92 hours to finish installing Lion Recovery Update.
“Even so, Thursday morning still felt like an Apple shakedown cruise. Calendar synching was a nightmare, with entries either popping up twice or not all. OS X kept asking me for the password to my no-longer-operative MobileMe account,” he wrote. “And the Mail app — which was hit and miss all Wednesday — was rejecting my password to p99-imap.mail.me.com, which it has decided is now my incoming mail server.”
So if you haven’t heard back promptly from a friend today (Thursday,) and they’re one of those early adopter types, now you might know why.
*Roush writes in to clarify: “I think the issue was that EVERYONE was trying to sync yesterday. I wasn’t updating and syncing all three of my devices at once — I did the MacBook Pro first, then the iPhone, then the iPad.”