Monday, December 29, 2014

Just a Minute

I bought a new iMac Retina 5K. (amazing display!) So Shelley gets my previous four year old iMac. (Replacing her even more ancient iMac.) Personally I prefer to set up new machines from scratch rather than migrate potential junk and problems from the old machine. But for Shelley I knew that would be a big hassle so I used Apple's Migration Assistant.

Shelley was out for the afternoon so I started the migration. It's simple to use, you start it up on both machines and indicate which is the source and which is the destination.

The estimated time remaining went up and down, but was around 4 hours. That seemed relatively accurate since after about 4 hours it said it had a minute left. That was good timing since Shelley had just arrived home.

But an hour later it still said it had a minute left. Crap! I started searching on the web and found lots of other people with the same problem. It's been an issue for years, but I didn't find any official response from Apple. For some people it seemed if they left it long enough it would eventually finish. But other people waited e.g. 24 hours and it still didn't finish. I could abort it at any time and leave Shelley with the old computer, but she was ok with waiting overnight.

I could tell it was still doing something because our internal network was slow. In fact, the first clue that it might have finished was that the network suddenly got a lot faster. It ended up taking about another 4 hours for that "last minute". It reminded me of the 90-90 rule in software development that "The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time."

I understand that estimating completion times is difficult, and progress indicators are infamous for stalling at the end. But "a minute" is several orders of magnitude different from 4 hours. Surely Apple could do better, maybe obsess over the migration experience as well as the un-boxing experience.

If they really can't improve the time estimation, then give some visibility to the process. For example, show a list of "things" to be copied and check them off. Sticking at one minute remaining looks like it's hung up and I suspect a lot of people cause additional problems because they kill the process and then tried to recover from a half copied machine.

Other than this hiccup the migration seems to have been successful. But instead of being the hero for giving Shelley a newer, bigger, faster computer, I ended being the indirect cause of "breaking" her Microsoft Office. It needed the product key to reactivate it on the new computer and that seems to be long gone. The key would have been on the physical package which probably got thrown out sometime over the years. And worse, Microsoft now wants you to pay a monthly fee to use Office, rather than just a one time purchase. On top of which, they haven't updated Office for Mac since 2011. Sigh. Home tech support can be a thankless job!

PS. With Migration Assistant you have a choice of copying from the old machine, or copying from a Time Machine backup. I chose to copy from the old machine just in case the backup didn't include everything. Some of what I found on the web seems to indicate that copying from a Time Machine backup doesn't have the same problem.