Journal of Omnifarious - Why I hate all of Apple's new hardware

Jan. 31st, 2010

11:32 am - Why I hate all of Apple's new hardware

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The iPod, the iPhone, and the new iPad. I hate them all. They are a horrible abomination that appeals to the worst in us, the part that thinks if we all just let someone else handle all the details for us that everything will be OK and we don't need or want to take any personal responsibility for the things we own, for the attitude that convenience beats freedom.

And this isn't because they are small and not a 'full-fledged' computer or anything like that. I would love a world full of tiny useful gadgets that help people get stuff done without getting in their way. No, I hate them because you can't open them up and tinker with them. You can't make them do anything you want them to do, you can only make them do what Apple wants you to be able to do.

And this author has distilled for me at least one incredibly important reason why this freedom is so important in his short essay "Tinkerer's Sunset".

I got my start with computers because of that exact sense. This is the ultimate gadget! I can make it do absolutely ANYTHING! I just have to figure out how to tell it in a language it can understand.

None of the products I mention have that. They all treat 'developers' as a special class that you have to jump through hoops to become a member of (and what kid is going to go do that?). And even then, people who choose to be in that class still don't get to make the machine do anything, just what Apple approves of. That is very, very not OK.

I'm not an Apple hater here. I own one of their laptops because I get root access on it, just like I would own an iPhone if I got root access on it. The laptop is a good piece of hardware, and it's the only laptop I've ever used that I've really enjoyed using.

The most excusable of them all is the iPod. It masquerades as a simple, single-purpose device. But even then, the fact that Apple purposefully hobbles the platform in various ways in order to try to keep you from doing things Apple doesn't want you to do has kept me from even considering buying one.

It's my hardware! MINE! I should get to do whatever the heck I want to with it. This whole 'joint ownership' thing (especially when they pretend it isn't happening) with some large corporation is totally broken. It really distresses me that so many choose convenience over freedom (hint: it doesn't have to be a dichotomy, and I suspect that Google will get this right). My only, rather bitter, consolation is that such people will get the future they deserve.

Note, that I am most definitely not insisting that everybody should open up their appliances and tinker with them. I don't want you all to become developers or anything like that.

What I'm insisting on is that you choose appliances that you can open up and tinker with. Not because you know you want to, but because having the freedom to do so taken away from you is very bad for everybody, especially children who will never get the chance to learn they enjoy tinkering because their corporate overlords forbid them from doing so.

Unfortunately, people who buy such devices may also end up, by their aggregate choices, dragging me into a future that I don't want. Network effects (as in marketing speak network effects) are king on computers. If freedom destroying gadgets become popular, it starts to become really hard to use anything but freedom destroying gadgets.

Edited 2010-02-01 00:14 PST: People who commented before then are commenting on a diatribe where I didn't try nearly so hard to separate the nice things the gadget does from the freedom destroying effects of the policies of the corporation that makes it.

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From:esoterrica
Date:January 31st, 2010 11:49 pm (UTC)
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They all treat 'developers' as a special class.

I suspect that developers make up a small portion of users, so this distinction probably makes business sense.
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From:omnifarious
Date:February 1st, 2010 12:14 am (UTC)
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But, the point of the article I linked to is that it's really hard for people to discover they want to become developers unless tinkering with it is relatively painless. Forcing you to pay $100 a year to register to become a developer is not relatively painless.

Just because something appeals to a small class of people doesn't mean it's not incredibly important. Banning embryonic stem cell research doesn't really directly affect many people either. It makes sense to curtail the actions of a very few to accomplish a policy goal. But looking at it in that light is entirely the wrong way to do it.



Edited at 2010-02-01 12:14 am (UTC)
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From:esoterrica
Date:February 1st, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
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I don't think the people at Apple think the purpose of the iPhone is to facilitate self-exploration, which is why the distinction probably makes business sense.

Do you really want to compare access to life-and-death medical treatment with the ability to muck about with a fancy phone for free?
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From:omnifarious
Date:February 1st, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
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I don't think the people at Apple think the purpose of the iPhone is to facilitate self-exploration, which is why the distinction probably makes business sense.

Which brings me to another worrisome assumption, that we should be restricted in how we use our own stuff to things that make business sense for the manufacturer of that stuff. That's pretty scary.

Should the manufacturer of a screwdriver be able to tell us that we can't use it to pry off can lids because they sell a different expensive device just for that purpose?

Do you really want to compare access to life-and-death medical treatment with the ability to muck about with a fancy phone for free?

Embryonic stem cell research is not a life-and-death medical treatment. It's just a way for us to express curiosity that a lot of people (with good reason) think will lead to life-saving medical treatments. But, in itself, it isn't a life-saving medical treatment. It might lead to a way for people to change their height, or the shape of their nose or something and turn out useless for lengthening people's lives. It's research, where we have an idea of what we'll discover, but we don't know.

And the same is true for people who tinker with an iPhone. We have no idea what they'll do. Who knows, someone may write a program for it that ends up saving lives as well. Maybe a program that lets searchers easily find lost hikers. Maybe a really nice on-the-fly translation program that saves someone from getting killed because they can communicate with the person who would've killed them. Maybe a program that has a really clever way of measuring some vital sign that gives people advance warning of a condition that could be treated.

The point is, we don't know what things could result from embryonic stem cell research, and we also don't know what things will result from giving people the ability to freely tinker with a nice gadget that a large percentage of people have in their pockets.

And it's not "for free". It's "freely". You can't actually buy the ability to tinker with your iPhone freely. Even if you pay the money and jump through the hoops to become a developer, you still only get to distribute stuff that Apple approves of. That's hardly "freely".

Of course, one of the inevitable results of being allowed to tinker with it freely is that you will end up being able to tinker for free. Developers would write stuff that let random people write programs for other random people's phones without Apple's approval or even knowledge. But "for free" isn't the point, "freely" is.

And, as the article I link to points out, not letting people tinker with things stunts the curiosity of children. And that's a pretty horrible thing too, in the long run.

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From:lisatheriveter
Date:February 1st, 2010 01:11 am (UTC)
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I fully support the idea that these technologies should be open platforms for anyone who wants to use them as such.

However, the existence of such technologies as the iPhone, iPad, iPod, netbooks, other smartphones, etc. is not inherently stupid. Yes, they have less functionality than full-sized computers. Yes, if you own several such devices, you likely have a lot of crossover in functionality, but that is a choice you are free to make.

Personally, I own both a Macbook and an iPhone. My laptop is large and powerful, great as a primary machine, but not easy or convenient to carry around. My phone gives me a very powerful pocket tool for navigating out in the world, and it's smart functionality allows me to be free of the need to carry the computer while still having access to email, the internet, iPod functions, etc. Still, I want an inbetween device, and I was hoping that the iPad could be that device for me.

Those are choices I have made, based on what I need and what I want. I've chosen a Macbook and an iPhone precisely because they allow me to accomplish what I want to do in the simplest, most streamlined fashion. I do not want to have to learn how to build and program a computer in order to be able to check my email and listen to music on the bus. I fully support those who do want to learn and use those skills, and I exercise that support by purchasing independently developed software as often as I can. I want to own my hardware, and be able to run whatever software I want, and hire whomever I like to develop new software for me.

But to say that I am stupid or lazy simply because I do not choose to follow the same career path as others feels a little insulting.
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From:omnifarious
Date:February 1st, 2010 01:24 am (UTC)
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My issue is not that people should be developers. My issue is that people should be able to be developers if they want to be. It should be relatively painless.

My complaint about those platforms is that you can't be a developer without Apple's permission. Not that the people who use them aren't developers.

Now, I am criticizing your choice to own an iPhone, but I would not be upset over a similarly easy-to-use Android based phone. It's not that you're using it as an appliance, it's the fact that you embrace the platform despite the fact it's horribly restrictive and gives away freedom.

You are the second person to get this impression from my little diatribe, and so it makes me think I ought to re-word it somehow to make it clearer. Do you have any suggestions?



Edited at 2010-02-01 01:24 am (UTC)
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From:mysticalforest
Date:February 1st, 2010 07:33 am (UTC)
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>You are the second person to get this impression from my little diatribe

Third.


>Do you have any suggestions?

Strike the part about consumers of those products being horrible abominations and the worst of people. The conclusion you paint is that if you buy something awful then you are someone awful.


>It should be relatively painless.

Why does an iPad or an iPhone have to do what you say when there are already other products that do it? Aren't there other phones that fit your definition? Other tablets? Anywhere? Why do you care whether or not it's specifically an iAnything?


>it's horribly restrictive and gives away freedom.

Your idea of freedom is too narrowly defined. Devices like the iPhone give me an enormous amount of freedom unlike anything I've experienced before. It's a damned wonder. >>My phone gives me a very powerful pocket tool for navigating out in the world, and it's smart functionality allows me to be free of the need to carry the computer while still having access to email, the internet, iPod functions, etc.<< is exactly right.

There is more freedom on the iPhone that I know what to do with. Namely, freedom from.
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From:omnifarious
Date:February 1st, 2010 07:58 am (UTC)
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Strike the part about consumers of those products being horrible abominations and the worst of people. The conclusion you paint is that if you buy something awful then you are someone awful.

But, you see, I think consumers who buy those products are harming me.

Why does an iPad or an iPhone have to do what you say when there are already other products that do it? Aren't there other phones that fit your definition? Other tablets? Anywhere? Why do you care whether or not it's specifically an iAnything?

Because of network effects, when something becomes popular, it becomes very difficult to use anything else because everybody makes their stuff work on the popular thing. I hate it when freedom destroying products become popular. It hurts me because I care about my freedom.

There is more freedom on the iPhone that I know what to do with. Namely, freedom from.

And freedom from seeing anything Apple objects to.

If people who bought an iPhone had instead refused and said "All these nice toys are not worth my freedom from Apple's control, I will wait for something better." they would've been rewarded with something that didn't take away their freedom. People care more about the shiny now than they do about their long-term ability of everybody (themselves included) to continue to operate in a world where a large corporation doesn't have complete control over the devices in their pockets that they rely on for so much.

And you are only complaining about my criticism of people for buying devices that trade convenience for freedom. You don't address why my post seems to imply that I feel everybody should be a developer, not that everybody should be able to be a developer.

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From:mysticalforest
Date:February 1st, 2010 08:28 am (UTC)
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> those products are harming me

Harming you? How? Can you give any specific examples of how you've been harmed by the iPhone?


>And freedom from seeing anything Apple objects to.

Hyperbole.


> they would've been rewarded with something that didn't take away their freedom

Can you explain how this hasn't this already happened? Aren't Android and/or Droid as open as you describe? Isn't that the selling point of one or both of them? Haven't customers, wait, didn't you buy one of these devices expressly because of the openness and as a protest against the iPhone? I remember a D&D session where I thought for sure you whipped out an Android…didn't you?

As well, t's not like life would end if the iPhone disappeared. Everyone can still, at any time, go to another device.

If there's a problem I'm not seeing it. Perhaps if you provided a specific example of how you've been harmed I could understand, because based on what you've said I'm not seeing the problem.


>You don't address why my post seems to imply that I feel everybody should be a developer, not that everybody should be able to be a developer.

Because I'm not saying that. You're clear when you said >>I don't want you all to become developers or anything like that.
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From:omnifarious
Date:February 1st, 2010 09:00 am (UTC)
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Harming you? How? Can you give any specific examples of how you've been harmed by the iPhone?

There are many applications available for the iPhone that I cannot use because I refuse to give up my freedom. Currently, almost any application of note comes out for the iPhone first, before any other platform. I indirectly pay for people's choices by either not having things I might have otherwise, or by getting them later than they would.

And freedom from seeing anything Apple objects to.

Hyperbole.

Not hyperbole. There are several documented cases of Apple refusing applications for the app store for various reasons, including 'bad words'. The more market share Apple has, the more such cases we will see and the more blatant Apple will be in its attempt to exert control.

Can you explain how this hasn't this already happened? Aren't Android and/or Droid as open as you describe? Isn't that the selling point of one or both of them? Haven't customers, wait, didn't you buy one of these devices expressly because of the openness and as a protest against the iPhone? I remember a D&D session where I thought for sure you whipped out an Android…didn't you?

It exists, but currently plays second fiddle. Google almost brought it out too late. I expect if they had waited 2-3 years it would've been pointless, nobody would've developed anything for it.

And it's still an open question whether or not the platform can survive because it came out a year or so after the iPhone. It almost certainly will in some form because it's getting ported to practically every device under the sun. But as a platform for a phone or a personal pad device like the iPad, I don't know if it can.

At this point, I'm about 70% sure that the Android will survive as a phone and portable personal device platform. Mostly because it seems that a whole bevy of cell phone manufacturers and telecommunications companies are all getting on board the Android bandwagon. Apple's exclusive agreement with AT&T was ultimately a bad choice for them.

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From:mysticalforest
Date:February 1st, 2010 11:53 pm (UTC)
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>Currently, almost any application of note comes out for the iPhone first

That's it? OK, saying that's harmful to your freedoms is actually ridiculous.


>There are several documented cases of Apple refusing applications for the app store for various reasons

Ah, you're referring to applications. You said 'seeing anything Apple objects to,' which is not in fact the case.


>It exists, but currently plays second fiddle.

That's your argument, it's #2? Seriously? No, that's not a "my freedoms are being oppressed" event. Not hardly.
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From:omnifarious
Date:February 1st, 2010 08:18 am (UTC)
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I re-read it and thought a bit more, and now I think I understand your objection. My complain about the iPhone is not that it isn't a full-fledged computer or anything like that. I don't think it should be a laptop. It is nice and small.


My complaint is about how Apple's complete control over the platform has a subtle, but real and pernicious negative effect on people's freedom. If it were the same device, but you could install any software on it you wanted to instead of just what showed up in the Apple controlled app store, then I would be perfectly happy with it.

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From:lisatheriveter
Date:February 1st, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)
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First of all, your very first paragraph lays out your position: "The iPod, the iPhone, and the new iPad. I hate them all. They are a horrible abomination that appeals to the worst in us, the part that thinks if we all just let someone else handle all the details for us that everything will be OK and we don't need or want to take any personal responsibility for the things we own, for the attitude that convenience beats freedom." Right there in the second sentence you have said some pretty horrible things about me. You'll understand if that got up my nose a bit. Now, I'm no stranger to the Mac vs. PC fight, so I was willing to gently point out that you were being needlessly aggressive and accusatory there, but I'm not surprised if other people were even more annoyed by it.

Also in that second sentence, you lay out the foundation of your argument that the only real human being is a developer, when you equate such skills to "taking responsibility for the things we own," and claim that not having the skills or desire to develop somehow means that you think convenience is more important than freedom.

As to why I did not initially comment on anything except your personal characterization of me as a non-developer and Mac device owner, it's because your logic is deeply flawed. Since you've asked for my feedback, I'll explain why. But remember - this is your journal, and you're welcome to delete this comment if you prefer.

You have made the very common mistake of confusing powers of government (censorship, freedom), economics (business models, market share, distribution), and sociology and philosophy (self-reliance, rugged individualism). Now, as it happens I agree with you on some things - I think the computers we buy (of all sorts!) should be free of restrictions in how we use them, and I think a company's business practices shouold be an important factor in whether we choose to do business with them. Amazon and the Kindle are a perfect example in my case: as a book professional, I have long had problems with Amazon's book practices in general, and with their treatment of ebooks on the Kindle in particular. As a result, I will not own one and I refuse to recommend them, even though I think the technology of the Kindle is superb. To be honest, if (as I suspect) the iPad does not perform as I would like my dream pad to perform, I really wish I could let myself buy a Kindle. Combined with my phone, it would do most of what I want in a very elegant package.

Notice that those are my opinions, and while I have said I will not recommend Kindles, I have not lambasted those who still choose to buy them.

You talk a lot about freedom and market share and hacker culture. As it happens, I know more than I suspect you think I do. I grew up in roughly the same time period you did, and I too learned my firt programs in BASIC on and Apple IIe at school and a Commodore 64 and TRS-80 at home. In fact, I programmed alongside my dad, each of us taking turns either reading strings of code out loud or typing them in. We borrowed as many other computers as we could, just to see the difference among them. We mucked about and explored and tried to do all sorts of crazy things.
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From:lisatheriveter
Date:February 1st, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)
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Now, back then, Apple had the school market sewn up, and that's the first place that most people encountered a computer. Now, that's all changed. PCs are the 800-lb gorilla of market share, and people encounter their first computer all over the place - at home, at school, at that part-time job after school, in the rec room at the youth center, wherever. Operating systems are different now, too. Gone are the days of DOS - that prompt screen you remember so fondly existed only vestigially on the Apple IIe and later PCs, as GUI interfaces mostly did away with the need for it.

Now, by your logic, GUI interfaces are bad, because they make computers too easy to use without understanding how they work. I submit to you that computers are tools, and GUI interfaces make them more useful tools to more people. You seem to think that being easy to use means that no one will ever be curious about how they work.

The thing is, curiosity is a human instinct. In less than five minutes on Google, you can be well on your way to hacking whatever device you have at hand - iPhone, Macbook, Google Android, whatever. Kids know that, and do it. Hell, computer games are the most common gateway drug to programming and hacking - remember the hue and cry over 11-yr-olds unlocking the easter eggs in GTA, and hacking their xBoxes?

You're right, Apple has always had a more protective stance towards their intellectual property of hardware and operating system than other companies. And yes, that means there are a lot more barriers to developing for their systems. That's not censorship or a removal of your freedoms, it's simply a function of business. You are free to develop for a lot of other platforms, if you so desire. You are even free to hack your own purchased Apple devices - I continue to buy Apple precisely because I've never heard of them filing suit against anyone who hacks their personal Apple devices, and because of their stance on DRM in the iTunes store. The only thing they've done is to limit what they are willing to commit their dollars to supporting in the exercise of their granted license, and that's fully their perogative to do.

It is also fully your perogative to make your purchasing decisions based on what you think of a given company's business practices. But if you're going to talk about those decisions, do so with clear logic, and don't accuse other people of being sub-human if they do not happen to agree with your analysis.
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From:mysticalforest
Date:February 1st, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)
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What lisatheriveter said.

I wrote a paragraph explaining why there is no threat to tinkerers but deleted it for space. That notion implies that tinkerers are, in fact, addled individuals who will abandon basic curiosity at the slightest speed bump. Silliness. Getting over those bumps are what, in my impression, spur tinkerers on—you're not someone until you've overcome that very bump. Ergo, tinkering with an iPad would make it more likely to be tinkered with, correct?

If that wasn't true, then why do I hear about people who are first to crack the latest iPhone OS in news stories that cover the Mac community?

There's no cause and effect—you're not supporting your arguments.
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From:sine
Date:February 1st, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
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*thank you*. this really annoys me: if i buy an igadget, apple decides whether a particular program is allowed on it.

i have a nokia 9300i. if i am online and see an interesting-sounding application, i can download it, install it and try it out. if it sucks, i don't buy it. if, after the trial expires, i've discovered that it's useful and worth buying, i buy it.

if i want a porn-o-the-month screensaver, i can go to joe's mobile naughty store and download the one i want; no one telling me i can't have porn-o-the-month screensavers. other people can write and distribute whatever apps they want to make for my phone without someone getting in the middle and telling me that it's Not Allowed.

apple decides what programs you can or can't run on your ithingie. joe could write a pron screensaver for the iphone, but no one will ever be able to use it because apple will bar it from the app store. no matter how useful i might find a program, i can only have it if apple likes it, too.

i don't care how many apps are available for the iphone/pod/pad. letting someone else control what content can be on my device is abhorrent to me.

(i also hate the lack of usb ports)
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