I am Peter Breuls. I write web applications in PHP, movie reviews and irregularly something on this weblog. Welcome!
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Software developers: please log everything

Linux / Tech / Maccomment

Okay, this annoys me. Since a few hours, the wireless connection on my MacBook Pro is gone. No reason given. Of course I'm trying to connect back, while I'm using Google to find solutions when it seems I can't solve this on my own.

MacBook ProThe problem is, my Mac recognises my wireless network. It can see my accesspoint, read its name and it asks me kindly if I would like to connect to it. Sure I would, so I press Yes. It then tries a couple things and comes up with the message that tells me connecting failed. No reason given.

Being both a Linux desktop user and Linux server admin, I have seen my share of failing pieces of software or equipment, and one of the reasons I like Unices to much is that there's a whole bunch of logiles being kept in the /var/log folder, providing me with the how and why of these errors. Mac runs on a Unix-type OS, so during my wireless-problem I'm listing the files in that folder, sorted by date and time, and I'm using tail to view the latest entries in what seems to be the only active log file: system.log. Indeed it shows me some errors, but there's nothing corresponding to the pop-up message that told me the connection to my accesspoint failed. Nothing! Not a single logfile seems to have updated with information I can use to solve this problem.

And I've seen that before: software that's dealing with its problems all on its own, without asking for help or enabling the user, me, to find out more using Google or my own knowlegde. That is a mistake. If you create software, make sure you have nice friendly error messages for the average user. That's important. But the "extra mile" in this is just as important: make sure you write every error into a log file and point me to it in case it's not system.log (or syslog or messages or anything that can be considered a default). Make sure enough information is in there to enable me to exactly understand what's going on. I am a technical user. I understand technical information if it's described in a human-readable way. I can think for myself and come up with solutions, or spend time pasting the log entry in search boxes to I can find other people's solutions.

To me, having enough information is very important. So, software developers, please log all those information somewhere.