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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Apple is not going to Open Source OS X

Last week I was listening to episode 203 the MacBreak Weekly Podcast. I agree with most everything that's talked about on the episodes I've listened to and for the most part this one was much the same, except for the one member of the panel insisting that Apple should open source OS X. Let me be one to say that there is absolutely no way that OS X will ever be open sourced. There are so many reasons that this will never happen it's ridiculous. Here's a few off the top of my head:

Traditional computing devices aren't dead yet

The notebook is far from dead. The desktop maybe, but not the notebook. iOS isn't feature rich enough to replace a traditional computer for the vast majority of people. There are lots of places where the OS shines, but for general purpose computing it's not there yet. You can tell that this sentiment is echoed by Apple in the fact that iDevices are treated as satellites that have to sync up with the mothership Mac.

OS X is required for iOS development, why lose out on a sale?

Right now the only platform that you can develop iOS applications on is OS X. The only hardware that you can (legally) run OS X on is a Mac. Apple makes a sizeable amount of revenue off of Mac sales. If they were to open source the platform they'd been losing Mac sales. Why would they want to cut off that revenue stream?

OS X is encumbered

Probably the main reason that Apple will not open source OS X is that it legally can't. Unlike full open source operating systems like Linux, OS X probably contains lots of code that's been licensed from third parties. What code might that be? It could be anything. For an example of this, have a look at OS/2.

Unlike OS X, OS/2 was actually discontinued. Some years later devoted users and businesses that had bought into the operating system wanted it to be open sourced. IBM refused citing licensing problems over some of the code that makes up the OS. This is coming from a company that does a lot of open source work. If they could, I'm sure they would open source it but legally they can't. It's not worth their time or the potential for law suits.

Apple is not going to open source OS X.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Design Matters

It's summer time again, and with summer comes a change in wardrobe. I have two pairs of shorts in my small wardrobe that are extraordinarily similar. They're just about the same color and cut, and fit very well. Where they differ is in the design of their velcro-shut pockets.

Now, I'm not talking about design in the sense of expensive clothing designers. No, no. I'm talking about their general design and the thought that went into it by whoever designed them. Let me explain, as best I can, the general design of the pockets on each of these. Lets call the first pair A and the second pair B.

Pair A was designed as a standard pocket is - a slit on the fabric with a pouch sewn in. The band of velcro is attached right at the top on the inside of the pocket. Pair B on the other hand has a flap that covers the opening of the pocket when it's closed. The soft side velcro strip is attached to the inside of the flap, while the rough side is attached to the outside of the pocket.

Both of these seem fairly straight forward and obvious. But do either of these strike you as bad designs? I can guarantee you that it isn't obvious until you've used this configuration for a little while. Think about it for a minute.

Did you figure it out? That's right! Design A is the bad design. Because the the velco is on the inside of the pocket whenever you try to pull anything out of the pocket your knuckles get scraped on the rough side of the velcro. It's not so bad the first few times but after a while it can wear your knuckles raw. With design B the only the soft side of the velcro will come in contact with your hand.

Now for the $64,000 Question: Which of these designs do you think was on the more expensive pair of shorts? Yeah, that's right. Design A, the scrape-your-knuckles-raw design was more expensive, but that's not what's important. What's important is that design matters. It matters a lot.

When you're designing something you need to really think hard and sweat the details. What you don't think is a problem could turn into real, actual, physical pain for your users.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

You're an Artist!

Do you know anyone that refuses to show you what they're working on until it's perfect? I know I do. What drives this person to polish and buff their creation before showing it to the world? I think they do it because they're scared of what people might think. They're scared that someone might ridicule their hard work. To this person I say: don't worry about what other people think. I know it sounds trite, but seriously. If you're too scared to show off your creation then why did you create it?

Putting something out in front of people isn't easy. Everything you create is a piece of art, it says something about you both personally and professionally. It's a very scary thing, but you have to get over that. If you never show people your half-finished project how will you ever know if you're on the right track? I heard an excellent analogy that sums this up very nicely: You can't steer your boat until it leaves the dock.

What's the worst thing that could happen if you show off your creation? If someone tells you what they think that's great! It doesn't matter if it's good feedback or bad. The fact that someone is taking the time to tell you what they think means they have some feelings about what you're doing. And isn't that what you're trying to do? As an artist you should be striving to make people feel something.

What, you don't think you're an artist? Do you know what the definition of artist is?

n. A person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination.

If you've created something from nothing that shows creativity. If it's something that's never existed before, that's imagination. And there's no doubt that a program shows sensitivity. Have you ever used a program or seen some code that you thought was beautiful? I'm sure we all have, that's sensitivity. So, believe it or not but you, a programmer, are an artist. So stop pretending to be something you're not. Create something that people will have feelings about and unleash it on the world.