Solipsism Gradient

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Browsing Posts tagged History

Tempora Mutantur

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Yes, the times sure are changing. Today I even found myself largely agreeing with a Paul Thurrott article:

Since the euphoria of PDC 2003, Microsoft’s handling of Windows Vista has been abysmal. Promises have been made and dismissed, again and again. Features have come and gone. Heck, the entire project was literally restarted from scratch after it became obvious that the initial code base was a teetering, technological house of cards. Windows Vista, in other words, has been an utter disaster. And it’s not even out yet.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like the ill-fated Copland project?

Sadly, Gates, too, is part of the Bad Microsoft, a vestige of the past who should have had the class to either formally step down from the company or at least play just an honorary role, not step up his involvement and get his hands dirty with the next Windows version. If blame is to be assessed, we must start with Gates. He has guided – or, through lack of leadership – failed to guide the development of Microsoft’s most prized asset.

Perhaps Microsoft’s most serious mistake, retrospectively, was that Gates and Ballmer were too compatible. Ballmer should have driven Gates out of the company in the 80s, then Gates should have matured elsewhere, only to return triumphantly in the 90s with new, cool technology, in the nick of time to save the company that was going broke after Ballmer in turn had been pushed out… sounds familiar, too? icon_smile.gif

Now here’s another interesting part:

Here’s what you have to go through to actually delete those files in Windows Vista. First, you get a File Access Denied dialog (Figure) explaining that you don’t, in fact, have permission to delete a … shortcut?? To an application you just installed??? Seriously?

…What if you’re doing something a bit more complicated? Well, lucky you, the dialogs stack right up, one after the other, in a seemingly never-ending display of stupidity. Indeed, sometimes you’ll find yourself unable to do certain things for no good reason, and you click Allow buttons until you’re blue in the face. It will never stop bothering you, unless you agree to stop your silliness and leave that file on the desktop where it belongs. Mark my words, this will happen to you. And you will hate it.

This is exactly what happened to me when I, a few months ago, had to install Windows XP for my wife’s business (to run a proprietary vertical app, if you must know). I tried to set up an admin account for myself and a normal user account for the receptionist. This being the first time I’d ever seen XP, I did them in the wrong order… and then tried to organize the desktop and taskbars. In the end I had to wipe and reinstall everything. It seems Vista won’t be any better, sadly.

Thurrott goes on to complain about glass windows and the Media Center UI, which I can’t comment on myself. But, here’s a thought:

    One of the “stealth” features of Apple products is that more and more people are being subconsciously educated as to what constitutes good design.

We certainly aren’t that used to columnists criticizing details of the Windows UI; specialists like Don Norman, sure, but not mainstream columnists. Personally, I’d about given up commenting on bad UI to Windows users… they either just emit a blank “huh?” or say somewhat ruefully “well, that’s what computers are like, you know”. Not that the Mac UI is itself perfect – it’s still a work in progress – but at least we developers, and many people inside Apple, deeply care about producing good UI. (Here’s one example among hundreds.) If that attitude is now leaking out to the general public, so much the better.

Thanks to John C. Randolph for pointing out that article.

Re: The next Finder

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Posted by Nando:

colpa wrote:

While Apple jobs are prestigious and important, I could imagine working at Apple and wishing I was out on my own where I could work on any project that suits me. And so we are! icon_smile.gif

Funny you should say that, I just read the Audion story and Cabel got to the same conclusion as you. Thinking of it, I don’t know if I would take a job at Apple either. As an icon designer in my case, but even so. I think I like being able to do my own stuff. I’d love to build an amazing carreer on my own, and not hidden behind a big company.

The Apple Centipede

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Amazingly, I’ve almost caught up with my e-mail, almost a month after returning from the last trip… and the remaining offline work is clearing up, so I hope to be able to post more here again.

The catchy title is just to remind people that Apple has a lot of shoes to drop in the near future.

In particular, there’s been some news recently that I should comment on while I still have all the links. First of all, Apple will prepay $1.25 billion (yes, gigabucks) to a new Intel-Micron consortium to secure supplies of NAND flash memory – the flash memory used in some iPods. This of course is, obviously, also meant to dispel investor’s fears about iPod supply problems, as the present manufacturers aren’t quite able to keep up with Apple’s demands, let alone the rest of the industry.

Separately, the latest build of Tiger for X86 has been cracked; seems they’re not using the TPM encryption capabilties yet, but just checking for the chip’s presence. The latest build also extends Rosetta to emulate the G4 with AltiVec, so a wider range of PowerPC apps should be able to immediately run emulated on X86 – although there’s no word yet about speed ratios.

The Motley Fool and some other folks speculate that Apple will be introducing instant-on capabilities; this would use the suddenly plentiful flash chips to hold parts of the operating system while the power is off. Incidentally, the IBM/360 mainframes I worked with in the 1970’s had something similar; the core memories they used at the time held data when the power went off, so with some care – stopping the processor before turning it off – you often could just continue after turning it back on without a reboot.

Finally, it’s no surprise that Intel has a special “Apple Group” where engineers from both companies work together. As I believe it unlikely that Apple will use a standard Intel motherboard, the most likely focus of this group is to make special motherboards and custom chips for Apple.

Put these bits together and what do you get? I think the X86 hackers are in for a surprise when the new Macs come out. I think Apple will take OS-hardware integration to a new peak with the Intel Macs. They’ll have a gigabyte or so of flash memory where an encrypted version of the Mac OS X will reside – a return to the days of the first Mac 128, when most of the toolbox was in ROM and the “System” file just contained patches and late-minute additions.

This giga-firmware will be encrypted with each machine’s own unique ID – contained in the TPM chip – and will be decrypted on-the-fly as needed into a secure portion of system RAM. Future system updates will come encrypted and be re-coded by the update process, which will run in full secure mode, perhaps even inside the TPM chip itself. Since some Intel CPUs are rumored to have the TPM chip built-in, this hypothesis gains weight. The instant-on capability would be just a nice side-effect…

Re: End of an era

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Posted by neilio:
That’s funny – my magazine consumption is increasing, not decreasing. I guess it’s all a part of me attempting to separate my computer / Internet time from offline stuff. There’s something very relaxing about sitting down with a hot beverage and a good magazine that cannot be replicated by reading the web site.

I think for me this more applies to newspapers than magazines – we still get the weekend edition of the local newspaper here, but during the week we get all of our news from the web.

Albeit I do read quite a few magazines where the content isn’t available on the magazine’s web site, but I think it’s also part of my reading habits. I like to sit down and read a magazine from cover to cover, where as I would never do this with an online version.

I would be interested to hear if your actual reading habits have changed since you stopped reading physical magazines – do you just dip in and read the occasional article here and there, or do you read through an entire magazine’s articles in one sitting as you might have before?

I also stopped keeping the majority of magazines that I buy – like you, I used to hoard everything, but after moving a half dozen times in the past 6-8 years I quickly learned that this, coupled with my massive book collection, was a one-way ticket to gigantic moving fees. So I now use magazine web sites for archives, and only keep the ones where the experience is vastly different with the print edition (Communication Arts, for example).

Just for fun, here’s some of the magazines I still purchase in print form:

– The Economist (though it’s getting harder and harder to read this cover-to-cover with all of the other distractions)

– Communication Arts

Before & After magazine

– Macworld (I have a free subscription lasting for another 2 years or so)

Maisonneuve – awesome Canadian magazine

Walrus – another excellent Canadian magazine – similar to Harpers, but with a Canadian perspective

I would be interested to hear what others are still buying in print form.

End of an era

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Dozens of offline things to be debugged, no time… but I’m slowly digging my way out from under.

Even so, one thing struck me this weekend; I’m not buying magazines anymore.

Ten years ago I was buying an average of 20 to 40 magazines each month. No subscriptions; the few times I tried subscribing, it didn’t work out well; one extreme case was when I subscribed to MacWorld magazine at an expo and the first (and only) issue I ever got from that arrived 11 months late, and with my address wrong – they’d put in “Mexico” instead of “Brazil”. I suppose whoever typed my address in from the subscription card decided I was obviously mistaken about my country of residence. But I digress…

When we moved from a largish house into a smallish apartment, Dorinha wisely decided that my magazine collection would not survive the move. Some I gave to friends, some I stored elsewhere, but most if was discarded… and that part was like several cubic meters of paper. (I thought briefly of microfilming, but…)

Anyway, after the move the only magazine I still bought every month was Wired, since I had the complete run from issue#1. But lately some issues have been missing at the newsdealer’s, and now the last trip has definitely interrupted my collection… and most of it is available on the net now anyway… still, I miss the ads and the back page.

Of course, the blame lies on that Internet thingy. Don’t know how people survived without it…

Soft on Microsoft?

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I usually pay relatively little attention to news about Microsoft, not counting the usual jokes about virii and blue screens. What one hears about XP and Vista is usually not too exciting, and even MSFT stock has been slowly but steadily going down since 2000.

But lately there’s been some philosophical discussion of the whole Microsoft story. For instance, Forbes has a very interesting discussion of Microsoft’s midlife crisis:

…In the dog years of Silicon Valley, Microsoft, at 30, is in advanced middle age. The company relies on Windows and a suite of desktop applications – products released a decade ago – for 80% of sales and 140% of profits. Newer products – the Xbox videogame machine, the MSN online service, the wireless and small-business software – collectively have racked up $7 billion in losses in four years…

The article goes on to draw parallels to IBM, which suffered a similar crisis in the Eighties. Then I saw a couple of Business Week articles, including one about employee dissatisfaction. It was interesting to read how far Microsoft has come from its beginnings – both in the positive and negative senses – and in what varied direction.

Then I saw this great post over at Matt Gemmell‘s blog:

I just don’t have any real anger towards Microsoft anymore…

…I’m not interested in Microsoft bashing or even much Windows criticism at this point, and that surprises the hell out of me, to be honest. I guess I just don’t really care anymore. I have an OS that I really like, without the sense of compromise I had way back in the days of classic Mac OS. I feel I’ve got the best end of the deal, and I still get the “elite club” thing we’ve all always cherished. I don’t want Apple to destroy Microsoft, nor are they going to…

…I wouldn’t want to use Windows on my own machine, but at long last I think I’m finally really comfortable with it being around. I guess that if I was Microsoft, I’d find that pretty terrifying.

Of course you should read the whole thing; I’ll be translating this for publication in Macmania magazine later on, since I thought Matt’s really spot on here.

Finally, while considering writing something up here, someone pointed me at the latest Rob Enderle Apple Death Knell (here are the other ones – currently 46!). I won’t dissect it too detailedly as The Mac Observer folks have already done so, but what I found most striking about that piece was the great disconnect between the writer’s view of Apple and “Linux” as minor/doomed competitors of Microsoft for the entire computing market, and my (and other’s) feelings of Apple and Microsoft inhabiting increasingly different spaces.

Yes, there’s still part of the rivalry over the desktop OS market – the Tiger/Vista face-off which both sides view as mostly decided, each in their favor. And the QuickTime/WindowsMedia thing, which has largely migrated out of the desktop space into the music player space. But, come on, it makes no sense anymore to speak broadly of “marketshare”. The computer market has split into multiple markets. Servers are going one way, cheapie home or office computers another, high-end game machines yet another, and so forth for at least a dozen of splinter markets. Apple is interested in some of these segments, but not in most others; and correctly so, as they shouldn’t fall into the trap of overextending their reach, as Microsoft seems to have done. Instead, with the iPod, they’ve defined and dominated one new market with great focus and competence.

I can’t resist quoting one paragraph of the Enderle piece, however:

For Office 12 the clear advancement is discoverability. The product has over 1,500 features and most of us use 30 or 40. The massive UI enhancement has to do with being able to find and understand these features, the vast majority of which have been included in earlier versions of the product. This is something where the words “long overdue” seem incredibly inadequate. Everything else, no matter how compelling, that is new in this product simply seems unimportant when compared to this one comprehensive overdue enhancement.

If I understood this alright… the user now needs a search facility to find out which of these 1,500 features should be used to turn off, say, automatic uppercasing? This is the microcosmic analogue of Microsoft’s error of trying to do all things for all markets. And failing, if Forbes’ numbers are correct.

If my hunches are correct (as I’ve explained in the previous post), Apple will probably seize the PowerPC->Intel transition to leave the retail OS market entirely. They’ll sell updates for holdout Mac OS 9 users for some time, and updates for MacIntel boxes, but in 2-3 years they may even stop breaking out OS update sales figures from other software sales figures. It will be great fun reading these columnist after that happens.

For a long time I’ve read, peripherally, the phrase “English as she is spoke”, but only recently I found out that there actually is a book by that name. Here’s the book description from one of the links above:

In 1855, when José da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino wrote an English phrasebook for Portuguese students, they faced just one problem: they didn’t know any English. Even worse, they didn’t own an English-to-Portuguese dictionary. What they did have, though, was a Portuguese-to-French dictionary, and a French-to-English dictionary. The linguistic train wreck that ensued is a classic of unintentional humor, now revived in the first newly selected edition in a century. Armed with Fonseca and Carolino’s guide, a Portuguese traveler can insult a barber (“What news tell me? All hairs dresser are newsmonger”), complain about the orchestra (“It is a noise which to cleve the head”), go hunting (“let aim it! let make fire him”), and consult a handy selection of truly mystifying “Idiotisms and Proverbs.”

Here are some gems from the “Proverbs” section:

Take the occasion for the hairs.

To do a wink to some body.

So many go the jar to spring, than at last rest there.

To craunch the marmoset.

To buy cat in pocket.

And here’s some more information and an explanation for the whole thing. It seems that the much-maligned José da Fonseca was simply the author of a competently-written French phrasebook for Portuguese speakers, and that the otherwise unknown Pedro Carolino simply translated the French phrases word-for-word into English from a dictionary. A footnote says:

The Proverbs and Idiotisms deserve a quick note, here, since they inspire a special wonder in the reader who knows a little Portuguese or Spanish. Fonseca’s virtues and Carolino’s flaws butt heads in this portion of the book. Fonseca made a point of translating Portuguese figures of speech into French not by rendering them word for word, but by giving a French idiom of equivalent sense; but Carolino, in his turn, simply substituted English words for the French.

Indeed, most of the samples make some sense when you retranslate them word-for-word into French… fascinating.

I don’t want really to conduct a long discussion here, but…

Ibis Itiberê S Luzia wrote:

“The soul of the Mac is the CPU”. What is the meanning of the therm “Mac”? If I’m not wrong a “Mac” is a computer and not a software. The software is called “Operational System” which in this case can be System 7,8,9 or X. And at least what differentiated a Mac from an ordinary PC? Was the CPU, wasn’t? We were able to get experiences that ordinary PC users didn’t accomplished. We were able to run programs that they could’nt. The great difference was that Apple had a CPU that it helped to develop together with IBM and Motorola. They had the “difference” and this maked Apple so different.

I think that may have been more applicable in the past. In 1984 I bought my first Mac. The Macintosh was the user experience, the Mac operating system, the 68K CPU, the SCSI interface, the NuBus boards, the ADB Keyboard and mouse, the 3.5″ floppies. All these components enabled something extra in the user experience.

This is quantum physics in that it really needs someone operating the computer to have the “experience”. All of the components I’ve listed above have been changed: the operating system is now Unix and NeXT based, the CPU migrated to the PowerPC, SCSI, NuBus, ADB and floppies were replaced by new technologies. But people agree, when they sit down at an iMac G5, that it’s still a Mac – although a completely different Mac from the 1984 Mac 128K.

So, I’m actually writing this at an Intel Mac. It’s still a Mac. Everybody here at WWDC agrees with me, as far as I can tell. The user experience has evolved, but the essence has remained. It’s faster for some things, it’s slower for other things. This is irrelevant; it’s a different model, that’s all. It uses other chips inside. That’s irrelevant too.

Let’s move on. There’s tons of new stuff to do and write about.

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