The inherent element of danger in installing an early beta, I must confess, also has an appeal of its own. It’s the software equivalent of participating in extreme sports, and leaves me able to congratulate myself for my own derring-do. You don’t get all that many opportunities in life to feel brave merely by sitting at your desk and clicking on a few buttons, so I take them where I can.
When beta code does act up on me, I try to think of any suffering I must endure as part of my job as a technology journalist. I’ve never wanted to live in an antiseptic bubble where gadgets are trouble-free; instead, the more battle scars I collect, the smarter I feel. Struggling with recalcitrant software is part of the journey, and the journey is its own reward.
I’ll admit that I may have been lucky. Though I’ve certainly experienced lots of beta-induced crashes over the 25 years or so I’ve been behaving this way, I don’t recall any aggressively buggy beta ever bricking my computer, phone, or tablet. I also haven’t lost any essential data. (Did I mention that I also ignore the stock instructions to back up a device before installing a beta?) In recent years, I’ve gotten good enough at storing my essential files in redundant clouds that even the worst possible hardware failure would be irritating more than devastating; if anything, that’s made me even more irresponsible.
I don’t, by the way, think that my own attitude about these matters should be yours as well. Instead, my advice—as it often is with technology-related decisions—is to listen to your instinct. If you prefer to avoid trouble rather than gleefully risk it, that’s fine. Smart, even.
But you know what? If you feel that way, you ought to avoid not only betas but also the first supposedly-final versions of new software. Dot-zero releases, too, are usually buggy; frequently interact badly with other products you’re running; and have been known to brick the hardware they get installed on. Unlike beta software, they don’t come with warnings about installing them on a device you use for real work–but maybe they should.
Here, for the record, is the liveblog we published during the WWDC keynote, with some of the impressions I had about Apple’s news as I heard it. Our liveblogging got off to a rocky start, because cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity in the hall was almost non-existent. But just as I was thinking the wireless gods hated us, bandwidth returned to normal—maybe because the thousands of developers in the hall put down their gadgets and paid full attention to the stage.