Some people seem to believe I know everything; others can assure you I do not. When confronted with the fact that her iPhone had a software bug, and there was nothing to do but wait to see if there would eventually be an update to fix it, my client demanded, “When will Apple fix that?” Confronted with such a question, I often quote that great American philosopher Yogi Berra. “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” That seems a little more polite than two of his other Yogisms: “I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question,” or “If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.”
While I cannot predict when Apple might fix a software bug, I know there exist opportunities to preview what software makers are working on and what bugs they have fixed. Commonly called the “development channel,” I prefer to call it software makers using customers as guinea pigs. I received a question about this recently, and it caused me to ask if it might not make the computer world a safer place if I did not answer, but since I do strive to answer all questions, here goes. The question was from a reader, obviously riding the cutting edge of new technology and aware a new feature was planned for release in the future, but wanting to know how to get it NOW.
A few companies, notably Google and Microsoft, make upcoming versions of their products available for testing, and some of these are available to the public for free. The popular web browser Chrome is available in a version named Canary. Microsoft also makes future versions of its Edge browser available for preview.
Microsoft has three different “Insider Channels” available to anyone who wants to try them. “Beta Channel” is updated every six weeks, and “Dev Channel” is updated weekly. And for those who must see what Microsoft worked on today, there is the “Canary Channel,” released almost every night to give a nearly real-time view into what programmers worked on that day. These have new features and bug fixes that will not show up on your computer for weeks or months.
My experience with these not-yet-released updates is to stay away from them. My only experience using one was when the tech support at a bank told me the problem I was experiencing was something Microsoft would fix in a few weeks, but I could have the fix immediately if I used the not-yet-released version.
So if you decide you want to be on the cutting edge of modern software development and to see new and upcoming features before anyone else, remember what Yogi Berra had to say about that: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.