Journal: News & Comment

Monday, May 30, 2005
# 12:19:00 PM:

Lies! All lies!

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I've often wondered why those "Estimated Time Remaining" boxes in operating systems and applications are never, ever right. Now I think I know: they're often fake.

One recent example is Apple's latest operating system, which starts up with a blue progress bar marching across the screen. It turns out that this progress bar isn't monitoring anything. It's just making a guess, based on the last time you booted your Mac up, of how long it will take. You can even make it run the fakery again at any time by going to the Terminal window and typing:


and you can change how long the bar takes to move (but not how long it actually takes your Mac to boot) by editing a text file.

I feel conflicted about knowing this. On the one hand, it seems insulting to have a progress indicator be a total sham. On the other, it's interesting that Apple would dedicate developer time and resources to making me feel like something is going on even when it isn't, and thus trying to prevent me from feeling frustrated. User interface design is about illusions, after all, and this is just one more.

By the way, if you have a Mac and want more detail about the startup process, hold down command-V (a.k.a. Apple-V) (for "verbose") when you boot or restart. Command-S will start your Mac in single-user mode, which is a raw command-line with no graphical interface at all, just like old-school Unix.


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