How (not) to solve technical problems

Tonight I had a problem with MobileMe’s iDisk: I kept getting an “Error -35” while trying to access it, with a dialog that my “member name or password may be invalid”. If I went to System Preferences > MobileMe, I was in fact logged in, so my credentials were indeed valid.

I searched Apple’s Support site and found an article (appropriately titled “Error code -35” when accessing your iDisk) explaining the issue and how to solve it. Unfortunately, they made a cardinal sin in providing a resolution: they started with a sledgehammer.

There are three specific things you’re asked to try:

1. Log out and log back in.

2. Restart your computer

3. Sign out of MobileMe, then sign back in

And yes, that’s the order they presented them. In fact, the third option is prefaced by something of a caveat: “if the issue persists, follow these additional steps”.

Why is the least destructive solution, one that you expect to work, given last? That should have been the very first option provided, followed by the log out/log in, then the restart.

Lest destructive to most destructive. This is basic troubleshooting. You don’t reinstall the OS until you’ve moved aside a preference file, and you don’t force me to tear down my environment if a simple option toggle might solve the problem.