It Just Works

HomePodA few days ago Atrios was complaining about Apple products, in that while it was once true that they “just worked”, at least for the most part, it was no longer true. He has a point, but what he neglected to mention is that the computing environment has gotten extremely more complex in the intervening years with many more hardware and software products that need to work together, so it’s a lot harder for things to “just work” like they used to.

I remember when I first started using Apple Macs about 20 years ago and I connected a third party mouse; having been primed by the nightmare that was Windows, I expected a lot of hassle with installing drivers, rebooting multiple times, and needing to call tech support to get the blasted mouse to work. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised, shocked even, to find that it “just worked” when I plugged it in.

Similarly, a few weeks ago, Marco was complaining (and when does Marco not complain?) about Apple’s HomeKit on an episode of ATP. He had received feedback from a listener who disagreed with him, a paraplegic, who claimed that in fact HomeKit worked quite well and allowed him to do things he otherwise couldn’t accomplish. But still Marco continued to complain. Of course, John stepped in to set the record straight. Where Marco was looking at HomeKit’s occasional glitches, the listener was comparing it to the truly awful options of years past.

HomeKit is Apple’s home automation system which lets you control smart appliances such as lights, locks, and other devices.

I’ve been using it for a couple years now, and I’d say that it works very well about 90% of the time.

Of course, it’s that last 10% that can drive one up a wall.

And there’s the problem that when something doesn’t work, it’s not always clear if it’s an Apple problem or a third party problem. Apple merely makes the software that controls the devices. All the smart devices are supplied by third parties.

But this morning I ran into a problem that was clearly an Apple problem.

I have a smart light in my bedroom, and the first thing I do in the morning when I open my eyes is say, “Hey Siri, turn on the bedroom light.” And there is light.*

Except this morning the HomePod responded that I had not set up any devices. Actually it was a fairly long error message, but that was the gist. I’ve encountered it before and usually, if I just repeat the command, I can get HomeKit to respond, But not this time.

So I fumbled for my Apple Watch and iPhone in the dark and managed to get the bedroom light on by talking to the iPhone.

To make a boring story a bit shorter, I never got the HomePod to respond to a command so I called Apple. The suggestion was to reset the HomePod and reinstall it.

Which I did. A bit of a pain. It took, what, two minutes of my time?

And now the HomePod is working again. So what went wrong?

¿Quién sabe?

I could dwell on it and complain on a podcast like Marco, but I don’t have a podcast to complain on, so I’m writing a blog post like Atrios.


* I wondered if I could just say, “Hey Siri, let there be light!” So I tried it. And OMG it worked. The Siri software is “smart” enough to “know” where you are and turn on the light in that room. Could be a problem in rooms with more than one light, however.

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