Your Daily Mindjob
This is my personal blog where I'll offer up some political straight talk as well as thoughts on technology and pop culture. That should give me plenty to talk about. The world can give you one heck of a mindjob. Think like me and get your daily dose.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thoughts on OS X Lion, the iOS transition

Most of the subject matter I write here is political in nature. On rare occasions, I feel the need to cover technology from a perspective that I do not usually hear from the main tech media outlets. I am an avid TWIT listener, so what I do hear via Tech News Today or This Week in Tech usually covers any and every possible story that would be of interest to me.

That being said, the most recent episode of TWIT discussed the recent announcements by Apple, including iLife 11, the new Macbook Air, and OS X Lion. When the discussion began revolving around Lion, my attention immediately shifted to Leo Laporte's astute observations and his understanding of the inner workings of Steve Jobs. Why? Leo knows what he's talking about. However, there was one aspect of the iOS transition I did not hear discussed. Maybe I missed it. Maybe one of the other hosts said it. The fact remains. I did not hear it.

Most of the discussion revolved around the notion that the app store transition reflects a philosophical shift with Apple, but also that the overall interface does not necessarily cater to pro users. It was said that for the casual user, the interface will likely be comfortable, but given that we are now a multitasking society, OS X Lion will most certainly have to learn to evolve.

What did they not discuss? Switchers. No, I don't mean your run of the mill switcher that Apple has been targeting for a few years with their Mac/PC ads featuring Justin Long and John Hodgman. I have a feeling Apple is targeting a whole different brand of switcher, users who have an iPhone or iPod Touch, but still manage the device using a Windows environment.

We've already got them by the balls when it comes to familiarity with the iOS interface. Make OS X something they are familiar with and they will be easily swayed into using what now feels very natural.

Now that I have that point out of the way, I'd like to address some concerns I have about the next major revision of OS X.

In my mind, this transition represents another major shift in development, the likes of which we have not seen since we went Intel. Developers at that time were slapped around a bit, being forced to rewrite all their apps to support the x86 architecture. Sure, we had Rosetta. Sure, many of those developers recall making the switch from OS 9 to OS X. Even fewer developers recall what it took to go from a 68040 platform to PowerPC. I'm showing my age here, I suppose. The fact remains. The notion of an iApp means developers will once again have to rethink their approach to Mac computing.

But that's not all they have to worry about. Apple is going to centralize the application delivery system using an app store in much the same way the iPhone and iPod Touch has access to new applications. With this sandboxed approach, Apple essentially gives themselves ultimate power with a closed system. One can only hope the app approval system is much more lax than the rigid rules used for the iOS store.

Several questions remain, but there are some worrying questions I'd like answered.

Will keyboard navigation be a thing of the past? As a long time Mac user, I am completely reliant on keyboard navigation, whether via command keys or typing the names of folders and documents as I move around in the Finder. As Leo Laporte said, this looks like the death of the Finder. Power users, like Photoshop users, are invested in keyboard shortcuts. Surely there are reasons to maintain that level of interactivity? Lion looks more mouse and gesture oriented, two areas I don't use a lot of in Snow Leopard, at least not as much as keyboard navigation, even if I'm using Spaces.

Will the app store be the only place I can get my apps? Will I be able to go to MacUpdate, a well known application repository, to get my applications?

Will developers start charging small fees for their apps? In other words, is this the end of freeware on the Mac?

I know what you're saying. Think of it this way. In the iOS app store, there is no real try before you buy business model in place. If an app costs money, you have to buy it to try it. If you don't like it, I'm sure there is a refund process, but as with anything we buy these days, getting a refund is not as simple as it used to be. In the current store, free choices certainly do exist, but look at all the other apps that cost money. Am I going to have to pay for everything now? I'm certainly not advocating being a freeloader, but Freeware is what makes using a computer enjoyable. When everything starts costing money, owning a computer becomes a major expense. When all I want to do is perform a simple task or make my interface a little different, an application is usually out there to remedy my problem for free. Consider it a friendly relationship we have with developers.

I had a similar fear when we made the Intel switch, and yes, for the most part, my suspicions were correct. The idea was to bring in more developers and in turn, more applications. The Intel switch made a Mac a more appealing platform to write for. Unfortunately, at the time of the big switch, Windows apps were notorious for being shareware-only. I was afraid the Mac world would become inundated by greedy shareware devs wanting to charge too much for an application. The trend certainly is on the rise, but with the advent of the app store, I'm afraid freeware might be on the way out.

Although jailbreaking allows piracy to continue, a centralized app store also helps combat the illegal distribution of copyrighted software. If we are required to use an app that acquires our own personalized usage signature when we download it, sharing apps between machines will become a thing of the past. No more will you be able to try out something a friend has in an attempt to decide whether or not you should buy it. No more will you be able to go to a friend's computer with a utility and fix their problem without having the proper license.

I'm scared of where Apple is taking us in terms of usage and licensing.

That also brings up the notion of "sideloading." At least I think that's the correct term. What I mean by "sideloading" is that if I buy an app on my Mac for use on my Mac, but the developer has coded it so it supports both use on an iDevice as well as my Mac, will I be allowed under the license to use it on both systems? I'd hate to have to buy the same app twice, or worse yet, three or four times. Face it. We are at a time when one user controls several devices. Licensing language should change accordingly to allow one user to spread an app across those devices. Here's a perfect example. Let's say I own a Mac Pro and I do my heavy lifting on that machine. Let's say I travel and do business on the road. I'd likely have a Macbook Pro or even a Macbook Air for doing all the light work that usually happens on the road. I'd like to be able to install the same program on both systems without worrying about licenses. It's not like I'd be using the program simultaneously on two machines. This philosophy has yet to be embraced by developers, but I'm hoping they come around instead of offering the grotesque insult that is the "family pack."

I'd like to close with one other interesting point in defense of the closed system that is the app store. It may be closed, but Apple has shown that it works. How many apps have been sold? How many iDevices are out there? People do use this interface regularly. It stands to reason that using it on a desktop will work equally as well for Apple as a company. It may not be good for the pro user, but it works for Apple.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My vote. A decision to make. What is it worth?

Our current voting system is flawed, driven by negativity through attack ads and falsely guarded under the pretense that campaigns are geared towards tackling the issues we care about. Once elected, the person who goes to DC faces the same bribery and underhandedness that the rest have who came before them fell prey to. Lobbyists control their campaign, and in turn, their vote. My vote becomes meaningless. The sad truth is still that I helped put them there.

I have said this before in previous posts, but our elected officials are a reflection of ourselves. American voters are at each other's throats. We are unable to agree on anything. We elect men and women who are extensions of that disagreement. Government can't get anything done because we cannot agree on what should be done. If I want progress, I have to seriously consider how I vote.

Which leads me to my conundrum, and perhaps your own.

I want to vote my conscience. I want to vote for what I believe in. I want to vote based on someone's record. I want to vote for someone I can defend, someone I can stand behind. Instead, I'm being convinced that I must vote against all of that and support the lesser of two evils. If I vote my conscience, I might be able to sleep at night, but the person I vote for will not win. If I vote for the lesser of two evils, I may not like them, but they have a shot at winning and some of what I want might get through Congress. By voting for the lesser of two evils, my wants and needs as a US citizen have a chance. Ironic, isn't it?

But the opposite side votes the same way now. Take David Vitter, for example. He's running against Charlie Melancon who is admittedly a conservative democrat. Republicans and "independent" conservatives will be voting for David Vitter despite his afflictions and very public penchant for prostitutes. Family values are important to those voters, but Vitter is not expected to walk the walk. Why? He is a reflection of the conservative voter. His constituents don't have family values either. They behave in ways which favor selfish interests too. They may not be chasing after hookers, but their values are most certainly compromised. They would never be caught dead voting for "some damn democrat." As far as they are concerned, Melancon is a socialist, despite the fact that he's obviously a conservative democrat. In terms of the political spectrum, he's light years away from being a leftist. Still, conservative voters play the lesser of two evils game too, even when their candidate is an outright scumbag. Apparently Melancon is worse that a john.

The people voting for David Vitter are casting what I call a pseudo-protest vote. They are voting for Vitter to protest Obama, but all the griping going on in this country about incumbents, crooked politicians, and and reforming DC politics becomes meaningless by voting for David Vitter. We do not send a message to the corrupt that we want them out. We continue to put them back in because they will supposedly vote at some point in time in line with our belief system. We vote for the chance, not the reality.

If I do not vote for Melancon, those who vote for Vitter give their side a lead. If I do vote for Melancon, there is a chance he could win. But is my vote worth a sacrifice? Do I break principles and go for the win? Do I play that game? What does that say about me?

I do not like this feeling one bit. I would much rather take a stand against the status quo of conservative Louisiana. I have the gumption to cast a protest vote. Practically, it amounts to nothing in the long run. What would you do?

I would prefer to cast a vote of no confidence. I think that is a sentiment those of us on the Left and Right can sympathize with.