Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

RIP Steve Jobs

Posted by Stropp on October 6, 2011

I just heard on the radio that Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and the force behind Apple’s recent wave of innovative products, the iPhone and iPad, has passed away at the age of 56.

There are going to be hundreds of testimonies to Steve Jobs popping up shortly, giving details of everything the man had done in his too short life, but I just wanted to talk about how his work affected me.

You see Job’s and Wozniak directly influenced the path my life took.

I was in high school in 1981 happily working my way to a career in electronics. I was planning on studying for a degree as an Electronic Engineer at the time, and was quite the keen hobbyist.

But in 1981, the school purchased two Apple 2e’s and put them in the annex to the physics lab.

The competition was immediate. Most of the guys interested in using the Apple’s during recess and lunch sat there playing games, and to be fair I did that too. But I ended up taking the manuals home most every night, and poring over every detail of the electronics and learning how to program. I spent as much time in the computer room as I possibly could.

I ended up writing two programs.

One, the second project, was a clone of the arcade game Defender.

The first was a practical joke on another student who was trying to get a program that broke copy protection on games. I wrote a simple little 6502 program that accessed the floppy drive and spun it up, while printing “please wait” on the screen. That’s all it did. I had this guy on the hook for two whole lunch periods trying to work out why his games weren’t being cracked, until another student whom I told about the joke, let him off the hook. I would have had him going for a few weeks if I could!

Anyway, that experience led me to the love of programming. And from there my parents purchased my first computer a Vic 20, and the rest is history, a 27 year (so far) career as a software developer.

Thanks Steve.

I Hope The MacBook Air Gets Copied

Posted by Stropp on October 22, 2010

Well, not so much the Air itself, more like some of the features.

Personally I like the following:

  • Really fast bootup times in the order of 15 seconds. I really like this, as conventional harddrives get bigger, the seek time for files gets proportionally longer. Since the MacBook uses Solid State Drives (SSDs) there’s no spin up required and no need to wait for drives to rotate. It’s also likely the newer Mac OS helps here.
  • Deprecating optical drives. If something goes wrong and the MacBook needs to reload the OS, Apple provide the reloader on a thumbdrive, not on a CDDVDBluRay. That’s neat, and a great start. Thumbdrives still don’t have the capacity of optical storage, and since that’s still growing, they aren’t likely too for a while, and with some media a DVD or BluRay will still be the optimal solution, but Solid State tech will get there and eventually optical drives will go the way of the Floppy Disk.
  • Lightweightedness. I like that the MacBook is lightweight. Not so much that it’s small. I like a lot of screen real estate when I’m programming so I don’t see small devices helping me there, but bigger lightweight devices that are less power hungry.

However, Apple scares me.

I really don’t like the closedness of the Apple, or is it Jobs, philosophy. Sure they make an gorgeous product, but they lock it down so that Apple are the only gatekeeper to getting an application onto the device. This is the way the iPhone has gone, as well as the iPad. For these it’s no so much a big deal if you consider them consumer devices, but the MacBook is a computer.

During the presentation Apple took the logical step of introducing an App Store for the Lion version of OSX. This App Store will operate under similar rules to the iPhone and iPad App Stores. Developers will create apps, pay US$99 a year for access rights, and submit their apps for approval to the store, and Apple takes 30 percent of every sale. Wether or not the OSX App Store will be as strict as the others remains to be seen, but given Apples propensity to be control freaks on what they allow in their other app stores, I’d say there’d be at least some level of standards.

But what does this mean for the future?

It’s quite clear that Apple are not happy with some third party developers, like Adobe, and would be happy to be able to deny them the ability to put software on any Apple platform. Jobs has come out and said that the majority of crashes on Apple hardware are due to Flash. Wether or not this is true, it’s clear Jobs wants them gone from Apple. The only way this can happen is if Apple completely lock down their hardware and only allow approved apps.

Will this happen?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. There’d be a huge outcry if it did and many developers would jump ship. Lack of openess on Apples part lost them market share in the early days of personal computing, allowing the much more open i86 platform to take off. I don’t see them making the same mistake. Although, there are a few tech commentators saying that Apple will lose market share on their iPhone and iPad devices when the open competitors start coming online. Closing up the entire consumer range though? Probably a bit too much.

But Apple is still, and will always lean towards closed platforms with Apple as the gatekeeper. This is why I’d like to see other devices start to take on the newly announced MacBook features.

I’d love to see:

  • Windows N delivered on a thumbdrive, with a reinstallrepair process built in.
  • Desktop and Notebook Wintel PCs with built in SSDs for the OS and conventional superfast and high capacity harddrives for data storage.
  • Superfast bootup and shutdown times for Windows, with Sleep data written to the SSD.
  • A continued open environment for developers and users. This is a must.
  • App Stores that give developers a marketplace for their products, but open market places where the gatekeeper requirements are low. I think this is already happening on Windows and Google Chrome OS.
  • All of the above for the Chrome/Linux/Unix OS variants.

What MacBook features would you like to see implemented on other platforms?

The iPad Is A Step Backwards In Computing

Posted by Stropp on February 16, 2010

I keep reading how the recently announced Apple iPad is a step forward in computing.

Sorry. It’s not. It’s a step backwards.

What it does push forwards is the ubiqiuity of computing devices as consumer electronics. It provides a propriety platform for users to access what was once solely the domain of computing devices.

Smartphones, the iPhone is just one of this class, have been doing this for some time. Ordinary people have been able to access the web, email, entertainment and productivity applications for some time. The iPad does take this a little further along. This is a good thing.

But as for computing. The iPad is a giant step backwards.

Computing has taken some giant leaps since the 1970′s mostly due to hardware coming down sharply in prices along with the advent of open platform computing. (I’m not talking open source although that has had a major impact.) What that means is that for the most part, if I see an application I want to use I can download it or buy it and run it on my computer without any one elses permission. If I cannot find an application I need, I can write it or have someone else write it for me. Also without anyone elses permission.

That changes with Apple.

The iPad will use the same application store as the iPhone does, and everything there is controlled by a gatekeeper. Apple. If Apple doesn’t want me to run Firefox on the iPad I won’t be able to. And this will happen because they don’t like flash which means I’ll be prevented from playing a million browser based flash games by Apple. If the app I’ve bought gets unapproved by Apple, there’s a good chance I’ll lose access to it, no matter how much I depend on it. The gatekeeper is a nightclub bouncer.

Apple have always zealously prevented competitors from emulating their products. And they’ve managed to control their hardware. But there’s always been the software that they haven’t been able to control. Until now.

It doesn’t matter who it is, Apple or otherwise. Gatekeepers are bad for consumers. And that’s why the iPad is a giant step backwards in computing.