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Issue 17.1 ('iOS Success')
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Vague Errors

Writing better error messages

Issue: 17.1 (January/February 2019)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Author Bio: Marc taught himself programming in high school when he bought his first computer but had no money for software. He's had fun learning ever since.
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 14,766
Starting Page Number: 47
Article Number: 17105
Related Link(s): None

Excerpt of article text...

Who among us hasn't seen an error message? Our software is riddled with them. It's almost impossible to use any modern device for a length of time without seeing some sort of error message.

Most of these errors are minor. Many are temporary, such as network connectivity problems. Try again a moment later and the error is gone.

But some errors are significant and require extensive troubleshooting to diagnose the problem. The trick here is that so many times the error message itself—which is suposed to explain the situation—fails to tell us what is really going on.

How many times have you seen an "incorrect email password" error that turns out to have nothing to do with your password and everything to do with a down network or clogged server?

I once wasted a whole day after iCloud kept claiming my password was incorrect every few minutes. After dozens of failed entries, I finally changed it, which caused no end of problems as every Apple device I own then had to be updated. (And Apple, in their infinite wisdom, doesn't support single sign-in: there are half a dozen different places that require your Apple ID password and they don't share with each other, so I had to type in my new password six times on each device!)

After doing all that, it turned out iCloud itself had a problem that incorrectly reported "wrong password"—I didn't need to change it in the first place!

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