Open Plan

Apple Park’s Open Work Spaces

I’ve had the misfortune to work in “war rooms” (no fighting allowed!) and “open plans” before, and for some reason I always think of this, for a moment before the noise distracts me:

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April for
instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in
that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-
year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very
hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t
think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his
intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his
ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a
government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would
send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair
advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s
cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.
On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits
from a burglar alarm.

—Kurt Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron” (1961)

Remember OpenMoko?

Mickey’s Story (to be read with Brian’s Song playing)

Lessons: Linux & GTK+ are terrible, hardware guys making decisions without design & software direction are terrible, open doesn’t help if you run a shitty stack. I ♥️ Python, but not in a kernel.

That puck phone was the ugliest thing in the world, and it couldn’t reliably make or receive phone calls, which in 2007 would’ve been feature #1 in a phone.

The design mockups are hilarious, Photoshop without any connection to shippable code.

And the Commodore PET sucked.

Paint No More

Microsoft is deprecating MS Paint. I’m never been a Windows, but on the few times I’ve had one on a work desk, MS Paint was a cute, useful tool; BMP was a terrible format, but once it could save as PNG or JPG it was fine.

Update 2017-07-27: Paint isn’t being killed, but sent to a farm upstate

I’d mock, but oddly OS X has never shipped with a real paint program. The closest is an Xcode sample project Sketch, which IIRC was shipped pre-installed at one time, and you can grab Xcode for free and build (you may have to open the project and set Deployment Target to your OS version, because it’ll be too old). And Sketch is just a toy line-drawing program, not a pixel editor. You can sort of draw in Apple Notes now, but don’t rely on that, I get terrible results and often lose those sketches.

Obviously, there’s plenty of professional software, like GraphicConverter, Acorn, Pixelmator, Sketch – no relation?, Photoshop, etc. I miss Fractal Design Painter, but dislike the way Corel Painter went.

I’m not opposed to leaving this to independent developers, just surprised by Apple not Sherlocking a major application category.

Premium Subscription ★☆☆☆☆

Day One Goes Premium Subscription
and of course the mob outrage in App Store ratings is what you’d expect: MacDrifter.

And this is why I only do bare minimum maintenance of my App Store software now. I released Brigand as free with a $10 unlock, and got savaged for it, so I pulled it. If Nintendo can’t make that work with Mario, Apple giving them the front page, and millions in advertising, I sure can’t. I love Brigand, but unless I put in more work changing the business model, I can’t sell it; sunk cost fallacy tells me not to do that.

Productivity software should cost more than a game, but very few on iOS are willing to pay up front every single new version.

Apple doesn’t let you give old customers an upgrade price, and presumably never will; maybe an upgrade killed Phil Schiller’s pet/child/Camaro in front of him, or something, given the 9 years he’s heard developers request this feature and told us to pound sand. And Apple does nobody any favors by Sherlocking and undercutting developers with “free” or cheap productivity apps.

The older solution of releasing a new numbered version and abandoning the old one every year or so was completely user-hostile. I just refused to do it, and would always switch apps whenever someone tried, and often found a better app by doing this.

Maybe the subscription model is terrible, but it’s less terrible than anything else going on.

Michael Tsai wonders if the hostile reviews are from prices going up, but they’re just catching up to desktop/web service prices, usually because a subscription gets you cross-platform access now.

Long-term, I think the App Store will be seen as the worst-managed disaster in the history of software. It went from a nice slot machine for indie devs and gallery for a few professional companies, to a predatory flea market full of thieves and frauds. Trying to tell anyone you make real software and here’s a reasonable price, in that environment, is a waste of time.

Data and Reality (William Kent)

A book that’s eternally useful to me in modelling data is William Kent’s Data and Reality. Written in what we might call the dark ages of computing, it’s not about specific technologies, but about unchanging but ever-changing reality, and strategies to represent it. Any time I get confused about how to model something or how to untangle someone else’s representation, I reread a relevant section.

The third ambiguity has to do with thing and symbol, and my new terms
didn’t help in this respect either. When I explore some definitions of
the target part of an attribute, I get the impression (which I can’t
verify from the definitions given!) that the authors are referring to
the representations, e.g., the actual four letter sequence “b-l-u-e”,
or to the specific character sequence “6 feet”. (Terms like “value”,
or “data item”, occur in these definitions, without adequate further
definition.) If I were to take that literally, then expressing my
height as “72 inches” would be to express a different attribute from
“six feet”, since the “value” (?) or “data item” (?) is different. And
a German describing my car as “blau”, or a Frenchman calling it
“bleu”, would be expressing a different attribute from “my car is
blue”. Maybe the authors don’t really mean that; maybe they really are
willing to think of my height as the space between two points, to
which many symbols might correspond as representations. But I can’t be
sure what they intend.
—Bill Kent

I originally read the 1978 edition in a library, eventually got the 1998 ebook, and as of 2012 there’s a posthumous 3rd edition which I haven’t seen; I would worry that “updated examples” would change the prose for the worse, and without Bill having the chance to stop an editor.

See also Bill Kent’s website for some of his photography and other papers.

This book projects a philosophy that life and reality are at bottom
amorphous, disordered, contradictory, inconsistent, non- rational, and
non-objective. Science and much of western philosophy have in the past
presented us with the illusion that things are otherwise. Rational views
of the universe are idealized models that only approximate reality. The
approximations are useful. The models are successful often enough in
predicting the behavior of things that they provide a useful foundation
for science and technology. But they are ultimately only approximations
of reality, and non-unique at that.

This bothers many of us. We don’t want to confront the unreality of
reality. It frightens, like the shifting ground in an earthquake. We are
abruptly left without reference points, without foundations, with
nothing to stand on but our imaginations, our ethereal self-awareness.

So we shrug it off, shake it away as nonsense, philosophy, fantasy. What
good is it? Maybe if we shut our eyes the notion will go away.
—Bill Kent

★★★★★

You Have Updates

WordPress just told me I have a bunch of updates, so I pushed the button, at my convenience. iPhone has a bunch of updates, but I certainly don’t have autoupdate turned on, I’ll look at those when I feel like it.

I don’t understand how people put up with their software deciding to “update” on them without permission.

Mac is insistent with the “updates waiting” dialog, but you can tell it to fuck off indefinitely.

Linux is like a broken car you have to go dumpster-diving to find new parts for.

But Windows breaks into your home to change your shit around. Just no.