May 31, 2010

Happy times

It's been a while since I've written on my blog - this entry is long overdue. I've tried my best to write something in the past few weeks, but every time I put the draft to the trash either because I thought I said everything that has already been said or that I sounded a bit... over-pessimistic. Hopefully, this time I'll get it right.

Last week was the iPad's arrival (in Canada at least, I don't follow release dates of every gadget to the letter, especially not the ones I consider useless). Apparently, people lined up at Apple Stores to get their hands on the shiny new device. It would seem, also, that Apple managed to get themselves above Microsoft. I'll let you guess the expression on my face when I heard this. Hint : I wasn't jumping in joy.

My experience with Apple products started years ago at college, where I discovered these weird beasts. I didn't have predispositions like I have today to hate the experience - having never touched Macs before. But after three years of working on them, the only thing I liked from Apple was Final Cut Express and some audio software I don't remember the name (I don't think it was Apple's). But Mac OS itself? I hated every bit of it. The window manager, the dock,  Finder, the way it fills every device with damn .DS_Store files, the lack of verbosity of the OS... I'll spare the details. But my blood pressure took a hit, that's a sure thing. For some parts it's a question of taste, of course. I can find why people find Mac OS appealing, but I just don't. Even the machines themselves, I feel they're just overpriced pieces of design. While I write these lines, Reitman's line of "Designed for real life" ads just came up to me. They always make me laugh. My machine ain't shiny - it's matte black. Black/grey keyboard, black/grey screen, black/grey mouse. I have Gentoo with Xfce and Windows XP on it. Sure, it doesn't make people go "Aaaaaah". But for a four years old computer, I can say it still gets the job done. And it's specifically what I need my computer to do. I'm not saying that graphical design ain't important.  I just say that it's not because it looks great that is works great. And a logo shouldn't justify the price of a product - its quality should.

In the last two weeks, for the interface design class, we had to develop a basic application for the iPhone. Yes, we have a lab filled with what I affectionately call kleenex boxes at the university. Good thing they installed Ubuntu on them for some time. All the machines have the iPhone SDK with Xcode, Interface Builder and the iPhone simulator. It's now over, and I can tell you, I'm not going back to iPhone development unless it's of paramount necessity (which means, in the present state, that it could jeopardize my semester. Luckily, it's not the case).

I always found the amount of control Apple exercised on their product excessive and ridiculous. Whether it's application filtering or locking down devices like the iPod... It's just an ecosystem I don't feel welcome in. A golden cage, of sorts. It's fine, as long as you stay behind their limits.

When it comes to the Linux world, I see it as a welcoming and open environment. It encourages diversity. It is not a perfect world - whether you use Windows, Linux or Mac, there are going to be bugs and there is going to be faulty software. But I think that free software environments are the one with the less barriers.

Now for a change of subject. I saw this thing called "WebM" come in my news feeds last morning (you'll probably say I'm late in the news these times!). While I haven't looked at all the details, it sure looks like a promising project - I sure hope it's going to bring some unity in the current HTML 5 video codec format debate.

Whew! That was a long one!

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