Falling Leaves: the Ardes blog

Archives filed under "apple"

Extension hell

Ray Drainville

In its recent Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple has announced that we’ll soon be able to write extensions to expand the capabilities of iOS in hitherto-unexpected ways.

I’m not an iOS developer, but this news hit me like a kettlebell to the nose. My memory extends (ha, ha) back to the days when Apple created such a system for Mac OS 7. The system was, indeed, extended in ways well beyond its original intentions. And it became spectacularly crash-prone as a result. (Even OS X is not immune to it: it’s worth searching “kext conflicts.”) These days, when I work on Rails sites, the development problems I encounter are without fail due to gems, the Rails equivalent of an extension. I’ve lost whole days trying to figure out which extension caused sites to fall flat on their faces & why.

So, why should my trepidation extend (ha, ha!) to Apple’s latest effort to enhance its OS? After all, today’s Apple is a very different one from the one that created Mac OS 7: they keep closer tabs on everything. By its very definition, opening up a system to accommodate unforeseen needs means that they open up the platform to unforeseen problems, bugs, and—and here’s the terrible word that brings back OS 7-era shudders—conflicts. Developers will take shortcuts (as developers will) and their extensions will be poorly tested and incompatible with other extensions—to say nothing of exposing users to security problems. Apple will play constant catch-up in its developer documentation.

It opens up the platform to chaos. It leaves the job of untangling the problem to the end-user, tearing her hair out trying to figure out which extension is causing her phone to go bonkers.

I don’t normally like to steal the words of fascists, but whenever I hear the word ‘extension’, I reach for my gun.

What It’s All About

Ray Drainville

In my post about Steve Jobs’ death, I didn’t write about the effect he’s had on my life. I should do that, here.

I got my hands on my first computer, a Mac Classic, in 1990. The first thing I thought was: this is a new tool for art. I started creating 2-bit artwork in glorious MacPaint and, while it was silly, pretentious stuff, those pieces were the first tentative steps that got me to where I am today, illustrating & making websites. Thanks, Steve.

Steve Jobs, RIP

Ray Drainville

The morning brings sad, if not unexpected news: the death of Apple founder and saviour Steve Jobs.

He did a lot with his 56 years on the planet. He revolutionised computing not once but three times, with the Macintosh, the iPhone & the iPad. It’s hard to remember now, but when he took over Apple again in 1997, it had been so poorly run for so long that people thought it impossible that the company would survive. Now, it is literally the most valuable company in the world, in terms of market cap. I think it’s fair to say that he’ll go down in history.

He was irreplaceable, but—cold as it may sound—not indispensable. In fact, he saw to that. He surrounded himself with extraordinarily capable people on Apple’s management board, which includes the new CEO, Tim Cook, who is clearly a brilliant strategist & has locked Apple into a virtuous circle of success for years to come. And he worked closely with Jonathan Ive, who is a brilliant industrial designer. So, while the company’s fortunes were shaped by Jobs, its success wasn’t merely his doing. That is as it should be.

I never met him, and frankly I’m not sure I’d have wanted to. He was a famously intense man. If you ever watch him in unscripted events—interviews, say—he had this laser-like focus that I found utterly unnerving. It was like watching a predator wait for his prey to make a fatal slip-up. And, of course, there have been stories that span whole decades about his temper: it’s the reason why the lazy media always prepend the word “mercurial” to his name.

But to do great things, it seems likely that anyone would be intense & “mercurial”—you’d have little patience for fools, and the world is full of fools. I’d like to leave this with Jobs’ wonderful commencement speech at Stanford a few years ago.

Jon Gruber also referred to the commencement address. Here’s a quote he pulled from it:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Inspiring words. Steve Jobs, RIP.