We “hardcore Apple guys”

Steven P. Jobs re-emerged into the public eye at the iPod Event on 09 September 09, where he talked first about gratitude, specifically, among other things, about the mid-20-year-old who died in a car crash who was gracious and conscientious enough to have been an organ donor.

You should watch the first 5 minutes at least. He did more than discuss it. He was a class act.

I’m not sure what your definition of a ‘hardcore apple guy’ is, but the hardcore perfectionist engineers, UI folks, VI folks, hardware folks, design folks and everyone else who has what it takes to live as an Apple technical/creative (there’s no real line between the two) both in terms of initiative and talent will keep doing beyond their best every day—or they’ll leave.

And this same thing will continue whether Steve is there or not, just as it did when Steve wasn’t there….and we now know that at least some people at Apple knew that Steve might NOT have been coming back at all.

It’s not Steve’s head cracks open and Apple’s entire product line springs forth like Athena from the head of Zeus. Magical ideas come from whoever they come from at Apple. Smart people shepherd them up and out; honest people give the right people the right credit as they present the ideas to the right people.

Speaking of legend, middle management at Apple is the stuff of it. Not all good. In fact, mostly not. It’s more Kingdom than Business at Apple and there’s no disappointment to be had when the expected sycophants appear and the gashes on the backs of those they crawled over to get where they want to get, reaches exceeding grasps are hidden by the sea of Apple-logo’d T-shirts and hoodies.

Obsequiousness always points up, but management ostensibly is aimed downward. Therein lies.

Was there more to that sentence? Perhaps. Sometimes. Sometimes not. This time I choose not.

Obviously grand ideas get There, where There is usually to Steve, eventually.

Eventually.

There are thousands of incredibly talented people at Apple applying their talents to real world things that interest them and that they believe will be of value to others. I don’t ever recall hearing any single person, in any context, ever mention that the purpose of a product family, product, product version, feature, sub-feature or pixel as being something there for the purpose of making Apple money.

And here’s the secret of Steve as I know it to be, which means it’s no secret at all, and it’s also total bullshit because I’m not Steve and so what the fuck do I know? But it doesn’t seem to stop the punditry, the haters, the pigeonholers, the outsiders, the ununderstanding, the ignorant, the bold, the cowardly, the jealous, the envious, the contrarian from telling the world exactly who Steve is and what he’s thinking.

Worse, they tell me what I am—a cultist or a Mac “fanatic” or “hardcore” or “fanboi”—whatever it takes to label me in hopes of pigeonholing me and reducing me to something they can neatly package up into something harmless and dismissible.

The argument comes down to this for them: if I’m just an irrational git, nothing I have to say is valuable or arguable and by the either-or fallacy logic they themselves are the cool, collected, rational ones who by fiat are superior.

The rest of the world is business and money and economics and Apple is wizardry.

And all along my point was that with Steve and Apple, there’s no magic wand. Go figure.

Then it comes to Apple Life After Steve: I’d never expect anyone on the exec bench at Apple to ever try to replace Steve. That would be stupid, and none of those people are stupid.

Small groups of people are not always committees. Committees rarely accomplish anything.

Small groups of committed people are the ones who change the world.

Steve knows when to get out of the way and when to block the way. That much is obvious to anyone with eyes good enough to see things in original terms and not just according to the patterns that exist in other companies. Apple isn’t just any company.

Tim Cook and Jony Ive and the rest kicked some serious ass when Steve wasn’t there. I’m guessing they each knew first hand when Steve got out of their way and when Steve blocked their way.

It doesn’t take a genius to see any of this nor does it take an Apple insider. It just takes someone who appreciates the tabula rasa.

I just wonder why more people out there don’t see it.

Probably because they’re too busy seeing “how it is”.

And why bother looking if you already know what you’re gonna see?

Leopard Wiki Server

I suppose I should first do some research to see if the wiki server that comes with Leopard Server is open-source or licensed or whatever, but for now, suffice it to say that it erases every last nasty thing about contributing to a wiki.

Lots of Javascript and excellent graphics make me all the more psyched about the SproutCore-based applications that you’ll get with MobileMe.

Very nice. My world should change significantly after .Mac transfers to Mobile Me.

As for my own development, well, someone with the experience to speak on such matters offered the following advice:

  • 64-bit
  • Computationally expensive
  • Graphically intensive.

If your requirements include any of those things, write a native (Cocoa) app. If none do, write a web app.

I’ve never much liked anything to do with a serious application inside a browser window. I never EVER write long pieces in a web text field for fear of losing it all (e.g., I have used a blogging client—two, now—ever since I started blogging). For those of you keeping blogs, I highly recommend ecto and MarsEdit (oh, and check out Red Sweater Software’s other offerings. Daniel Jalkut is a brilliant developer.)

There’s so much more you can do with a local client than in a blogger or typepad web editor, like add Amazon references or graphics by a built-in search function. And indie developers are some of the best out there.

For example, Wil Shipley of Delicious Software is the smartest man on earth (and probably a space alien—he’d have to be). If you’re not a Mac user, go to an Apple store—or find a friend who’s a Mac user—and download the demo of Delicious Library. Oh, and bring a book or a CD or DVD with you just to try out the built-in barcode scanning. If this app doesn’t make you want a Mac yesterday, well, Microsoft has won.

iPhone SDK & A Free Agent

Good timing, Apple.

A week short of the release (or announced release) of the iPhone SDK, I’m a free agent. And a pretty damned good Cocoa and UI developer.

Bottom line: my ideas (and products) will be my own.

For being accused over the years as being over-thought, over-wrought, too complex, too demanding, too spineless, too willful, too arcane, too obvious; my worldview can be summed up in a single truth-statement (in my cosm): “Businesses aren’t people.”

Good-bye, Apple. At least for a while, and even then not until I get to work on stuff that I was hired to work on and better immediate management.

Your opinions, folks: have you ever had one of your ‘superiors’ at a job tell you that it’s wrong to ask questions? I did, and disdain-for has followed me since-then.

In The Kingdom of the Blind

People glom onto aphorisms like bumper stickers stick to bumpers. (Oy.)

You’ve all heard it: in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It’s come to mean any one or more of a family of related concepts:

  • you don’t have to be perfect, just better than others
  • appreciate what you have, because not everyone is so well off
  • it’s all relative

There’s another concept, though: the first ten words. Once you know what it means, you’ll view the Presidential races a little differently. The first ten words are the sound bite, the hook in a pop song, the bit that uses an economy of words to blanket your mind with nothingness, a shadow casting a long darkness over nuance and consequence.

Put these together and what do you get? What are the next ten words? Well, you find out what really happens to a one-eyed man in the land of the blind: because the blind move in a different world to the sighted, they have their own patterns, their own expectations, their own sense of caution, of culture and, by extension, of calamity.

The one-eyed man is the stranger in a land he cannot possibly understand and therefore not predict, so he must always stand, sleep, eat en garde lest he be trampled by the unsighted as they see themselves from hither to thither. The one-eyed man may be King, but who’s there to witness the coronation?

My entire world view can conveniently—and spookily accurately—expressed thus: businesses are not people.

I can take the religious wackos and the liberal tree-huggers and everyone in between and just remind myself that people are more important, more valuable than any corporate, religious or governmental bureaucracy in the world. Simple as that.

Companies cannot think, religious plutocracies cannot see, governments cannot move. All desultorily stumble, bumbling oafs whose footfalls destroy lives without a thought, without a vision, without a plan. And the world is ruled by them, did you know? Governments treat corporations and religious institutions better than they treat individuals. Religions ooze pus into all the interstices of government while bleeding corporations in the name of charitable action. Corporations bring down a government like cats on a large beast, lobbying their way to entitlement and use religion as a means of cowing the populace.

One individual is flotsam in the torrents caused by territorial pissings among the insistitutions, lost in a flood of effluvia. This, folks, is where fairness came to die. This, folks, is where and why and how a peopled world at first chose passivity and now live without choice.

If there is a god, he’s a bureaucrat, unreachable at the end of a very long automated phone tree. If there is a god, religion is his walk-in closet. If there is a god, government is literally beneath him, his unthinking footfalls crush us all in random fashion.

When navigating this contagion-riddled world with its arcane, labyrinthine thickets it’s easy to observe that effort isn’t worth the effort, that goals are chimeric substitutes for spirituality and that grace and greed are, in the end, the same thing.

I admire those who walk away from the world entire, go off the grid, but only to a point: it’s the nature of bureaucracies to grow to fill the available space and consume the available resources. The only absolutes which exist are temporary.

MT4 and AmazonMP3

The reason I got into all this “trouble” with the blog layout is because Movable Type 4 (the collection of scripts from SixApart that I used to create and maintain this blog) was too smart. Too smart for my own good, really.

If I hadn’t been poking around at CSS—in particular, the structural/layout aspects of it—I wouldn’t have recovered anywhere near as fast as I did. And while it was much easier to get up and running than previous versions, there’s still so much lacking in web apps that it sends me scurrying back to the comfort of native-application bliss (as always, I’m using ecto as my blogging editor).

I’m biased here, but that doesn’t mean I can’t objectively (and subjectively) justify myself when it comes to native applications. I avoid doing any form of creation within a web page if I can help it. Lots of people trundle along quite happily using LiveJournal (EL-JAY! ugh) or TypePad or Blogger or—eek!—MySpace, typing their blog entries into a web form and clicking that Submit button.

But all you have to do is click the wrong button once, or worse, go visit another website while you’re in the midst of writing a blog entry totally forgetting that to leave the page often times means losing the contents of that page.

So here I sit on BART (the train, not the man) typing away. Yes, I have an internet connection, but I’m not sure I’ll finish this entry (you know how I get) before it’s time to disembark at Union City for my weekly visit to the Korean Herb Doctor. Yes, I could close the MacBook Pro and when I opened it later, the webpage would likely be there, but perhaps not. Perhaps Safari will try to connect to the web before I have a chance to reestablish an internet connection and its display of an error message will be enough to lose whatever I type. Probably not, but the best software is that which removes doubt from the proceedings and provides a sunny path to your goals.

Which brings me to Amazon MP3. Yuck.

I tried. I really did. I spent a half hour trudging through the site in search of my old standbys. I was fully prepared to shell out the $8.99 or whatever to repurchase an album I already had just to compare things.

Well, there’s two million songs, and then there’s two millions songs you’d bother with. In searches for “Billy Joel”, I ended up with cover-band albums and tribute albums, and even some weird Asian group of tweens listed only by their Americanized first names. Among Kay and Bobby and Tom was a boy called “Billy Joel”. The sad part is that it was better than most of the alternative listings which were primarily karaoke tracks. At least the kids were singing original material.

Searching for other well-established artists turned up similiar disappointments. I finally ended up with an older Sufjan Stevens album, “Illinoise”, but not after downloading an ironic client application which was required for downloading an entire album at a time.

The client application was the best part of the experience, though. After downloading that and installing it—which required quitting Safari and relaunching it—the purchase started a download of a .amz file, which was the album’s bundle of resources: artwork, songs encoded as MP3s, but at 256kbps and with no DRM.

iTunes Store songs are encoded as AACs (MPEG-4) at 128kbps. Don’t go thinking that the Amazon downloads are twice as nice because they’re encoded at a higher bit-rate because AAC is a much more efficient codec than MP3.

You also end up with a song file that’s 60% larger than an iTunes song of a similar length. That means that if your iPod normally can hold 10,000 songs from iTunes (or your own CDs encoded with AAC), it can only hold 6,250 Amazon MP3 songs. If your iPod is a classic or “classic” iPod with a hard disk, that also means significantly poorer battery life because the hard disk has to spin up more often to access the larger song files.

But I saved a whole $1.00 and the music I have has no technical restrictions on copying as much as I want. But then, I have yet to bump my head against the technological restrictions of the FairPlay (iTunes) DRM, so that doesn’t mean anything.

What a chore. I suppose they’ll get better, but then so will iTunes. Yes, I’m once again biased, but my biases are out in the open.

At the end of the day, that half hour could have been better spent—on fixing the CSS & HTML of this blog, for instance—and I’ll take the comfort of a ⌘S and a local file anyday.

Hello from iPhone!

Sp A0118-1The complaints about the keyboard are greatly exaggerated. I have long approached Apple’s technology offerings with a kind of short-throw faith: if Apple offers guidance for “the right way” of approaching a feature, I try it that way for a while. With the iPhone’s text input, it didn’t even take even that long. Assume that the smart keyboard will more than likely get it right and just keep on typing.

Of course I cannot type as fast and typing with two thumbs instead of single index finger drops the accuracy by about half. Still, I’m entering text plenty fast for blogging from literally anywhere.

Next up, how to get long documents to display at readable sizes and widths on iPhone.

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