A rat king arises when rats are living in such close proximity and in such a boiling and pother that their tails become entangled. The rats then continue their lives while thus entangled, but not for long as their ability to feed themselves is clearly compromised. They seem to be less common now that the brown rat has outcompeted the black rat in Europe, but medieval examples exist in many European museums. They were considered a bad omen for people, and were probably unpopular among rats too.
A rat king seems to me to be a fair analogy for the web of otherwise independent components of my development system which have become caught up in an interconnected mess.
The first part lies with the system I do my development on, which is currently running Snow Leopard. This should ideally be upgraded to Lion as I could then properly start testing the iCloud stuff when upgrading my apps to run on IOS 5 which will be available next week. This system backs itself up hourly to a 1TB network drive (WD MyBook World Edition) which Western Digital are having trouble upgrading to work with Lion. (Mea culpa, if I had not been so cheap, and had bought an Apple Time Capsule it would just work).
The second is with Xcode, the development environment for which a Beta test version is available which includes the components for IOS5 development. This will run on Snow Leopard so I could update, but needs upgrades to iTunes which means installing a new Beta version of that, and needs upgrades to all the devices I test on(iPhone 4, iPod touch and iPad) to beta versions of IOS5, which means I couldn’t then duplicate and rectify any problems users of IOS4 may report.
The third is with the devices themselves, without upgrading at least one of them to IOS5, I can’t verify that my existing Apps will run on the new iPhone 4S shipping next week, or any existing users who upgrade to IOS5.
Rather like taking that tool on a swiss army knife (The spiky one which never fails to draw blood when you open it) to an intractable knot I need to unpick the strands one by one. I think I will wait for the full (Non Beta) releases of IOS5 before upgrading two of the three test devices. In the interim I hope that Western Digital will have a fix available and I can update the development system to OS X Lion. By then maybe Xcode with the tools for IOS5 may be in full release and I can update to that.
This all arises from the highly competitive environment in which iPhones and iPads are sold and the relentless improvements being added by Apple and their competitors. This environment, with its constant mutation and adaptation, is akin to Nature’s modus operandi (See earlier post re: the One Horse Shay) and is wasteful but resilient. The payoff is that the devices get more useful each time (How cool is Siri?), ever approaching the horizon of a perfect device only to redefine perfection as it approaches.
The deal is then, I have to stop wingeing and deal with the rat kings when they arise as long as Apple keep evolving both the products and our expectations of what they can be used for. I can live with that.