© by the author using macOS Ventura beta 2

Let the beta cycle begin

As Apple announced on the WWDC 2022, the public beta for their upcoming operating systems is about to start. While those of us who are either registered as Apple Developers or IT professionals are already on the second beta today, you mere mortals will be getting a somewhat more refined version pretty soon.

But should you?

That is entirely up to you. If tinkering with new capabilities is your cup of tea, go ahead. It can be fun, like having a new toy. Don’t expect your banking app to work, though. Or some video streaming services — at least those you’re paying for, YouTube should be fine. Or anything, really. Of course, battery life will suck. You’re bound to invent new curses because nothing works, and you’ve just lost the last two hours of work, or all of it. Other than that, it’ll be fun.

The reasonable approach would be to make a backup of everything, and for your Mac I’d recommend using macOS Monterey’s erase & install command, getting a fresh OS from and leaving behind all those apps and tweaks you cannot live without. Especially during the early builds it can be helpful to start anew, it also gives you the most unobstructed view of the new capabilities, sometimes only hinted at.

Moreover, just in case, make sure you have a spare device handy for every device you put into the beta. I know that sounds boring because it is. But some people, strange as that does sound, do have Macs and iPhones and iPads around for actually doing some work on them and sometimes even have vital data on them as well.

If you’re participating in the beta, stay in the beta

That’s essential if you’re using it on an iPhone. While you can erase your Mac anytime you chose (that is, you might need another Mac to do that, but I already mentioned you should have a spare available, didn’t I?), it’s not as straightforward with an iPhone. In fact, trying to get back might indeed brick your iPhone. You don’t know what I mean by ‘brick your iPhone’? Well, turning the shiny device into a brick, like in brick and mortar. Killing it, requiring you to visit an Apple Store, hoping they can revive it. Doesn’t happen often, but it does happen; mainly when you are trying to restore the previous release version of iOS.

Since we’re at it, I’d recommend using only current devices. While it may sound sensible to not use the iPhone your life depends on currently, it really is the best choice. Makes everything more exciting, more fun. On a more serious note, experience shows that I had the most trouble with old ones. Your choice, of course.

What’s on your iPhone stays on the iPhone

Not during a beta. Every crash report is automatically sent to Apple, which is something you agreed upon before installing the beta profile in the first place. While that does not mean that Apple knows everything about you, apart from what they know anyway, it does create a lot more data for the Apple engineers to analyse. Frankly, that’s why there is a public beta.

For some of the stranger crashes, you are presented with a form on your device asking you what you were doing before the application went haywire. While it might seem cumbersome at times, at least try to leave some useful information before tapping on the send button. It might not seem worth much, and most of the time it isn’t, but debugging a whole OS and its apps is not an easy task and every tidbit of information can help to fix issues.

Talking about feedback: on macOS we have feedback assistant not only for crash report, but also for misbehaving applications or weird design errors. Occasionally, you get follow-up questions from Apple. Don’t count on that, though, especially not on the public beta train. If you don’t get any feedback on your reports at all, there is no point complaining about that.

Organising the beta cycle for an organisation

While I have some devices which are, for better or worse, constantly in a beta cycle since WWDC 21, and stay there, I open up the beta for a small team of testers in August. Traditionally, that is the time when the nastiest bugs have quenched and the OS becomes pretty much usable. Don’t quote me on that. Before I open up, I have been testing the basics: network share access, printing, VPN, video calls, basic peripherals we have, and lots more of those dreary, but vital components. I do have a list of tests to run and am happily doing that throughout the cycle. Apple itself offers a list of components you need to check, and it is wise to do that. Mostly, Apple knows what it is changing.

Once the beta group is up and running, each member will get their own Managed Apple ID, and those will be included in the companies’ feedback group. The benefits are: each feedback, and each response, can be viewed by all of us. We can also re-create a situation in which an application has misbehaved or crashed, giving Apple more data to dig into.

Isn’t it exciting?

Only in part. Mainly, it’s just work I’m used to doing each year. Seeing new features coming along is exciting, but you always have to figure out a way how to integrate them into your way of doing things.

Quicknote, for example, is something I’d love to use all the time, if it weren’t omitting Mail on macOS. Then there’s the small things you need to worry about — in macOS 12 a PAC-file would have to be delivered using https, otherwise it’s being ignored; so that had to be addressed before deployment. It’s not the grand new features, it’s the small changes which are causing headaches.

The grand new features are just the icing on the cake.

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