Practice what you preach. Sounds good, but we don’t all do it. I recently personally paid the price when I ignored my advice about the early adopter tax.

Wikipedia, defines an early adopter as “an early customer of a given company, product, or technology. The term originates from Everett M. Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations (1962).”

Ok, boring part is over. Let’s jump into my story. It is well known Apple releases a new operating system annually, most usually in fall. A month ago, I watched the Apple keynote and got excited to try out the newest, shiny features built into the upcoming macOS High Sierra. I circumvented my own I.T.’s measures and profiles made to block installing beta builds of the software (hey, I’m the boss, they may warn me-and they did, but I do what want). I installed the beta build of macOS High Sierra on my work laptop.

The install itself went fairly smoothly, although several tools I depend on ceased to work, Box Sync, Pathfinder and as well as a handful of bugs with Microsoft Office – Outlook and Word specifically, which I use the most. I believed I was safe as I went through the beta build mainly unscathed. Fast forward to the beginning of November and while now using the official release version of macOS High Sierra, I lost hours of valuable time. While running 10.13.1, I noticed an update was available in the App Store, I installed it as soon as I saw it (again, something we tell our own clients not to do). My computer was unable to complete the install and my computer booted to a screen with an error message saying “macOS could not be installed on your computer.” Clicking on Restart led to an endless loop. This occurred during the most valuable part of my day, the morning, since I ran the update when leaving my desk the night before. I went through 3 cycles of this, each taking about a full 10. I then tried a Command+Option+P+R which worked and I was able to get to work, for the time being.

I thought I was in the clear. Fast forward two days later and the same thing occurred. Except this time Command+Option+P+R did not work. I was stuck and unable to work. To add a new behavior, it rebooted to the clean macOS install window twice where it prompted me to either restore from a Time Machine backup or install a new clean version of macOS. I wanted to do neither. I performed a safe boot, which eventually got me back into the computer, about 2 hours in to this whole process. At this point I manually re-downloaded the installer and my computer was finally working, another 45 minutes later. Not a fun morning.

I lost at 3 hours of work that morning alone. Then another couple dealing with the issue a few days prior and a couple hours from my workarounds in my workflow from not being able to use Box Sync and Pathfinder. Fortunately, I did have a workaround, but it took significantly longer to find the files I needed and to work the way I am used to working. All in, an 8-hour loss! It hurts even more when tell the truth and get the real numbers. Fortunately, although I am quite rusty in my troubleshooting skills since I it is now extremely rare that I get involved in any kind of support, I was able to figure it out. If I wasn’t an IT guy, that downtime could easily have doubled depending on what happened and when it had occurred.

What can we learn? For years we have educated our clients about this early adopter tax and how to not fall victim to it. We advise you to NOT install new operating systems or software updates (including both Apple and 3rd party software) when first released. It is not uncommon for major changes or big update to software introduces new issues. If you decide to be the first, chances are high that you will pay the early adopter tax, as I did. I am a 'tech guy,' I believed I understood the risks I was taking by going early adopter, but I had forgotten the pain that can result. That being said I was not happy when I lost 2 hours yesterday morning when I had a full day to begin with and lost a total of 8 hours on this little thrill seeking ride. I hope to not forget about this lesson for many years and I hope you learn from my pain and save yourself some in the process.

Fortunately for our TotalCare clients, we manage their software updates for their Apple devices so this is never an issue for them. The tools we use install software updates (both major macOS operating systems as well as 3rd party software updates) only they have been tested and verified to not introduce new bugs. The truth is installing an update form the App Store seems innocent and secure enough, but it is things you don’t know you don’t know that can end up sideswiping your time and energy. Because of this we have built & developed custom profiles in our solution which block end users from being able to install beta versions of macOS. In other words we have automated the process of protecting our clients from themselves.

Our tools run in the background when no one is working, which also save them the time of manually applying updates on across multiple computers, which tends to be a tedious and time sucking process. Before rolling out a major Operating System update (currently macOS High Sierra), we audit all of our client’s software that they depend on and check if any software titles will either cease working or have known issues with the new operating system to ensure they do not suffer downtime as a result of the update. We take care of not only Apple and 3rd party software updates, but also major operating system updates.

Without access to our tools, we recommend you wait at least a few weeks when new software patches are released. For major Operating System revision, such as masOS High Sierra, we typically recommend waiting until a “.2” update is released. For example with macOS High Sierra, when it is first released it is 10.13.0. Apple works very hard to resolve bugs and issues and on occasion will release big OS updates to address these, in the format of 10.13.1, then 10.13.2, etc. For most cases by the time they release the .2 update, the major issues tend to be resolved.

In September 2016, when macOS Sierra 10.12 was released, I remember many law firms I knew in outside corcles (ie – not clients) were greatly impacted by major bugs with the ability to view PDFs and scanning issues with their ScanSnap devices.  In addition many software titles they depended took some time to release a macOS Sierra compatible version, leaving their software partially impaired, or not working at all. For example, when I updated to macOS High Sierra, the Finder replacement tool I use daily, Pathfinder, did not even have a beta candidate available and the old version was incompatible - I couldn't even open it at all. I had to use the Finder for 4 weeks before they released a candidate that worked with High Sierra. That cost me about an hour over that month in lost productivity as I work faster and more natively in Pathfinder.

Although I didn’t dip into the iOS pool in this discussion, the same early adopter tax applies, although it is be less impactful than on macOS.

Take away lesson: be aware of the early adopter tax. If you choose to do what I did, chances are you might suffer. Maybe you don’t and it’s all good, but what’s it worth to you if you do have issues and what will it really cost you. If you take action too early you may pay for it in lost billable time and other frustrations. There is a low possibility that everything will be perfect, but in my 10+ years of doing this, that is extremely rare.

Yours truly,

Tom Lambotte