Byzantine Reality

Searching for Byzantine failures in the world around us

FileVault Is Mildly Annoying

While reading over the new Joel on Software book (More Joel on Software), I came across the chapter “A Game of Inches”. An important chunk of it is that all the little design choices you make (or fail to make) are the things that add up in the user’s mind. While playing around with FileVault last night, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was right on.

FileVault is part of Mac OS X (may be new to Leopard) and encrypts your home folder. I initially turned it on right away since I’m super paranoid but over time realized that I was likely never going to put any super-secret stuff on it and would possibly need an unencrypted drive to recover data off of should the computer tank.

The big kicker though is that you can’t reclaim file space in your home directory unless you reboot. Example: I had a few extremely large data files (~500MB) that I was fiddling around with in some Perl scripts and deleted them. My initial inclination was that I would see my free space jump up by the amount of stuff I deleted, which naturally was wrong. I had to reboot the computer and get prompted to ‘recover free space’, which is then given back to me upon the next login.

This wouldn’t be too bad if it didn’t happen too often, but as I have a Windows partition on my Mac, I don’t have a whole lot of free space, and thus for a while, I was sitting at around a gig of free space. So this ended up happening all the time and quickly became an annoyance.

So I go click on the button to turn off FileVault, and after a minute (literally) it tells me I need to go free up 35GB of space to turn off the encryption. Unbelievable. I ended up having to delete the Windows partition and then some other stuff to recover that much space just to turn off the encryption.

But here’s where it really is a game of inches. FileVault tells me that I have to log out while it’s decrypting things and that once I hit ‘ok’, it’s going to need to do it’s thing uninterrupted. That’s fine with me, since that’s what I wanted it to do in the first place. But after I hit ‘ok’, it takes a moment and tells me while it’s working that this process will take FIVE HOURS. Here’s the game of inches, Apple. PUT THE FIVE HOUR MESSAGE ON THE SAME SCREEN WHERE I DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO DO THIS! Don’t tell me that determining whether FileVault can be uninstalled will take a while but fail to mention how long the actual decryption will take!

Thankfully it didn’t end up taking five hours, but it still did take around two hours, which totally sucked. But at least I recovered the ~30GB from erasing the Windows partition and found a real-life application for stuff I read about.