Translating Fraser Speirs on iPad

Giving you the likely thinking behind this post by Fraser Speirs, quoted in its entirety [and translated] below...

I'll have more to say on the iPad later but one can't help being struck by the volume and vehemence of apparently technologically sophisticated people inveighing against the iPad.

[Many who normally love everything Apple and defend their products at length have a serious problem with this product. These traitors must be dealt with.]

Some are trying to dismiss these ravings by comparing them to certain comments made after the launch of the iPod in 2001: "No wireless. Les space than a Nomad. Lame.". I fear this January-26th thinking misses the point.

[I fear the missed point may not have been made grandly enough.]

What you're seeing in the industry's reaction to the iPad is nothing less than future shock.

[I've borrowed this fantastically melodramatic way of describing people who don't like how things are turning out, because it sounds like a syndrome rather than an opinion.]

For years we've all held to the belief that computing had to be made simpler for the 'average person'. I find it difficult to come to any conclusion other than that we have totally failed in this effort.

[Characterising every other thing in the universe as worthless is probably the only way I'm going to be able to make paying to live in a policed computer gulag seem like a good deal.]

Secretly, I suspect, we technologists quite liked the idea that Normals would be dependent on us for our technological shamanism.

[I'd much rather you doubt my opponents' motives than listen to their arguments.]

Those incantations that only we can perform to heal their computers, those oracular proclamations that we make over the future and the blessings we bestow on purchasing choices.

[I want you to see iPad doubters as a religion because religions are crap.]

Ask yourself this: in what other walk of life do grown adults depend on other people to help them buy something? Women often turn to men to help them purchase a car but that's because of the obnoxious misogyny of car dealers, not because ladies worry that the car they buy won't work on their local roads. (Sorry computer/car analogy. My bad.)

[Sexism is crappier than religion. Is there some product that is sold that I can use as an analogy that can also be linked to sexism?]

I'm often saddened by the infantilising effect of high technology on adults.

[I probably have the word 'infantilising' in my head because I'm so intent on doing it to 'technologists' in this post.]

From being in control of their world, they're thrust back to a childish, mediaeval world in which gremlins appear to torment them and disappear at will and against which magic, spells, and the local witch doctor are their only refuges.

[The scarier it sounds out there, the more you will feel like giving up almost anything for Apple's guiding hand.]

With the iPhone OS as incarnated in the iPad, Apple proposes to do something about this, and I mean really do something about it instead of just talking about doing something about it, and the world is going mental.

[I don't need to claim anymore that Apple did anything good, before. Nothing was ever good before the iPad. Repeat after me.]

Not the entire world, though. The people whose backs have been broken under the weight of technological complexity and failure immediately understand what's happening here. Those of us who patiently, day after day, explain to a child or colleague that the reason there's no Print item in the File menu is because, although the Pages document is filling the screen, Finder is actually the frontmost application and it doesn't have any windows open, understand what's happening here.

[Think of the children!]

The visigoths are at the gate of the city. They're demanding access to software. they're demanding to be in control of their own experience of information. They may not like our high art and culture, they may be really into OpenGL boob-jiggling apps and they may not always share our sense of aesthetics, but they are the people we have claimed to serve for 30 years whilst screwing them over in innumerable ways. There are also many, many more of them than us.

[The iPad doubters have been sounding way too much like freedom fighters. Maybe if I characterise them as Romans, everyone will think *Apple* are the freedom fighters. Yay, porn!]

People talk about Steve Jobs' reality distortion field, and I don't disagree that the man has a quasi-hypnotic ability to convince. There's another reality distortion field at work, though, and everyone that makes a living from the tech industry is within its tractor-beam. That RDF tells us that computers are awesome, they work great and only those too stupid to live can't work them.

[All Apple fans who believe in Steve Jobs should feel personally insulted by those who doubt the wisdom of the iPad.]

The tech industry will be in paroxysms of future shock for some time to come. Many will cling to their January-26th notions of what it takes to get "real work" done; cling to the idea that the computer-based part of it is the "real work".

[I have to make it seem like my opponents have already accused someone else of not doing "real work", because I am about to do the same to them.]

It's not. The Real Work is not formatting the margins, installing the printer driver, uploading the document, finishing the PowerPoint slides, running the software update or reinstalling the OS. The Real Work is teaching the child, healing the patient, selling the house, logging the road defects, fixing the car at the roadside, capturing the table's order, designing the house and organising the party.

[All of these super good, ordinary things you should associate with, and think of as having been made possible by, the iPad.]

Think of the millions of hours of human effort spent on preventing and recovering from the problems caused by completely open computer systems. Think of the lengths that people have gone to in order to acquire skills that are orthogonal to their core interests and their job, just so they can get their job done.

[I changed my mind. You aren't dependent on the high priests of technology like helpless, probably sexually abused children, anymore. No, now I need to describe you as *too* independent with the actual skills to do your job, so that I can point out all that time wasted learning to do things yourself that you should now depend for on Apple. Let's just forget that part about about not wanting to be dependent and not wanting to be infantilised. I'm over it.]

If the iPad and its successor devices free these people to focus on what they do best, it will dramatically change people's perceptions of computing from something to fear to something to engage enthusiastically with. I find it hard to believe that the loss of background processing isn't a price worth paying to have a computer that isn't frightening anymore.

[In conclusion, I'm going to abandon the whole 'future shock' thing. There is no larger story here. The doubters basically just don't like the lack of 'background processing'. You don't even know what that is. Move along.]

In the meantime, Adobe and Microsoft will continue to stamp their feet and whine.

[Oh yes! The one evil thing I haven't linked to doubters is large corporations. My bad.]

[To sum up: the iPad doubters are probably a huge monolithic corporation of misogynistic cultists who are only saying what they say to keep you in emotional thrall to their complicated so-called 'free' advice. Apple, however, is entirely altruistic, and has only the best interests at heart of the children, nurses, doctors, and firemen when it charges you for its locked-down products.]

> Completely ignore the new Apple iPad

Those of you waiting for me to find something praiseworthy to say about the next stage of Apple's plan to push their ironfisted App Store model up the computing ladder? You know, the model where you aren't allowed to 'ridicule public figures'?

Keep waiting.

> Break Mac apps by copying them with Snow Leopard to a Windows file share

Those who have set up a Mac for use in the business world have more than a few horror stories under our belts regarding connectivity of Macs to folders shared with Windows (usually using the Samba or SMB protocol). It's one of those desperate, hanging bridges spanning the edifices of two technological giants (Apple and Microsoft), that neither of them seems particular concerned with upgrading or fiixing the planks on.

OS X Tiger was probably the high-water mark for SMB connectivity. Before that it was still too flaky — as of Tiger, connecting via SMB had begun to get vaguely useful, at times. But then, with Leopard, it suddenly took a turn for the unconscionably slow. Faced with hourslong+ copy times, I just bought a bigger USB key.

Now, beginning with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Apple appears to have innovated yet another new way of rendering SMB shares useless to the Mac community: sudden, instant regression to the 1990s, when simply copying a Mac app or complex document to a foreign server would usually destroy it.

WORKAROUND: If you aren't sure whether a foreign file server will mangle your Mac files, you can always 'zip' them. If you haven't heard of Zip, it's an ancient little third party plugin that appears to be smarter than Windows and Snow Leopard, combined. It comes pre-installed — just rightclick a file, then select 'Compress', and then copy the zipped version, instead.

> Enjoy the bleeding edge on that 27" iMac!

I try not to jump into the vanguard of the shock troops of consumerism to be mown down by experimental hardware designs. Just a general policy I have. Because 'bleeding' and 'edge' are two words that describe only hurt — is there really an upside to this concept? If there is, no one ever seems to just come out and nail it. Having the latest, most crappily engineered and untested thing is a luxury which, however questionable, appears to just go without saying on this world.

So, I've advised against buying the new 27" iMac, which simultaneously violates two of my cardinal rules of Earthly computer hardware purchase: Never buy the first available prototype of a new enclosure; and, Never buy the first available installation of a next-generation CPU in an old enclosure. Manufacturers, including Apple (some might even say especially Apple) hew pretty close to the heat tolerances of these components they use, in the rush to achieve their latest avant-garde design. Apple cuts engineering corners, and it affects first-generation product reliability, as we've seen with the capacitor problem in early, large white iMacs, and now the cracked or DOA Intel Core i7-based 27" iMacs.

Lest anyone think this is a new development, I should point that the very first Macintosh ever invented didn't even have an internal fan, despite being offered in an almost unprecedently small, and thus hot, enclosure (for 1984). Unsurprisingly, the first generations of Macs had a habit of frying their own power supplies after a few years, and then burning up the replacements, a few years after that. The 'novel' idea of fan-based cooling wasn't welcomed to the Macintosh until 1987, with the Macintosh SE.

> Unzip iWork documents

Exactly as it reads above — if you want to poke around inside an iWork document and examine its structure (which is XML-based), all you have to do it unzip it.

> Check apps for Snow Leopard compatibility

The Unofficial Apple Weblog pointed me to SnowChecker, which will detect all of your apps and compare them with an online compatibility database. It doesn't really detect them all — it didn't pick up on any Adobe apps, for example — but for a cautious upgrade-shy fellow like myself it's a good indicator of the current state of things.

My verdict: this cat is not ready for primetime yet. Which means it isn't ready for my Mac.

> Get info for multiple files in one window

This is mostly useful for finding out how much disk space is taken up by several different files, without putting them in a folder together or moving them around.

Select the files in the Finder, then, instead of Command-I (Get Info), use Control-Command-I (Get Summary Info).

> Fail to use the new iMac as a TV

In case you heard about the fact that Apple's new 27" iMac can also double as an external monitor, and you were getting excited about all the different kinds of devices you can attach to this thing — don't. The iMac will only accept DisplayPort input. This 'feature' is designed not for your convenience, but to promote an Apple-favoured standard with little prior presence in the marketplace. DisplayPort might eventually achieve wide adoption, but by the time this feature becomes generally useful, your iMac will almost certainly be obsolete.

> Avoid guest accounts on Snow Leopard

Using guest accounts on Snow Leopard could cause your entire main account to be wiped. That's right — wiped. Still feel comfortable out there on the bleeding edge?

> Bank on Apple's nonexistent credibility

Erm. Something tells me that Apple — a company whose name is becoming increasingly synonymous with corporate censorship and interference with interoperability for user control — is unlikely to win any kind of widespread consumer support for its new universal connection standard. Rather, the best survival chance for any new interoperability protocol would be if it weren't mentioned in the same breath with the name of the most notoriously willful foe of interoperability of the 21st Century.

> Prolong lithium-based battery life

Lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries have a few key differences, according to this Battery University guide, but the main danger to laptop battery remains the same.

With the nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride batteries common in the 90s, you would need to discharge fully quite frequently to avoid the 'memory effect', which should be called the 'forgetfulness effect', because it happens when batteries forget that yes, they actually do have more power left, and quit prematurely, thinking they're out of power. That's an act of forgetting if I've ever seen one, but with lithium-ion and lithium-polymer, you don't have to worry about it; frequent shallow charges are not only safe but less stressful and healthier for the battery. You only have to discharge fully maybe once a month and that's only to give the software gauge a chance to recalibrate to the size of a full charge.

However, this is all scribbling in the margins of battery life. Charge or discharge frequency were never really the main thing killing laptop batteries. From what I have witnessed, people have just been killing their batteries by leaving the mains adapter plugged in way too long, sometimes for days. I've seen some random internetling claims that lithium batteries can be safely left docked indefinitely, but the Battery Guide article says nuts to that: forcing a battery to remain in a state of full charge with constant heat applied for an indefinite period is just a great way to age your battery chemistry at a far accelerated rate — even lithium.

Bottom line: you can read that whole article, or you can just not work with your laptop plugged in unless your battery actually needs charging. This single factor explains most of the differences I have observed between the battery life of different laptops in different environments.

> List what's been removed from Snow Leopard

An informal list has formed at Waffle [via Daring Fireball]. The knifing of PowerPC support was widely expected, but the dropped creator code adherence is going to spark a bunch of people to falsely believe that their system can no longer open their oldest files anymore, when the truth is that it has merely forgotton how to figure out which app to open them with.

I can understand clearing out the cruft, but adhering to creator codes made the system more intelligent about how to open your legacy files, so that really wasn't cruft at all, was it?
UPDATE: Looks like I'm not the only one who was shocked at the braindeadness of the creator code move: see more details and complaints about this issue here and here. ]

> Solve Exchange/iPhone bug by turning off security

Nope. Not kidding. That really is Apple's official, recommended solution to the recently reported 'surprise policy enforcement' that results in a broken Exchange functionality for any iPhone that is upgraded to firmware 3.1.

Apple doesn't let you downgrade your phone, so if you leapt early, you got burned — big-time.

> Fiddle endlessly with Photoshop CS4

If you're feeling incredibly obsessive about small gains, take a look at this beyond-comprehensive list of ways to use Photoshop CS4 at its very, absolutely fastest. [via Daring Fireball]

The simplest tip on that list is more likely to make a perceptible difference for the average user than all of the others, combined:
"Photoshop requires at least 2 GB of free hard-disk space, but more is recommended. The OS volume should contain at least 20 GB of free space to ensure that the virtual memory system has plenty of available hard disk space."