Casual Debunking

I really don't get all the fuss about Zune. Sure, Microsoft has given up on slamming Apple by proxy (now that Creative seems to be running out of steam), and, flush with the experience that comes with moving from mass-producing mice and keyboards to mass-producing Xbox consoles, now wants to capitalize on that, salvage some bits from its Windows Media partnership model, and go after the iPod.

And everybody's going bananas about it. So what?

Read my lips: It's just an MP3 player. Or something like it.

Another little rechargeable box with a pair of headphones to clutter up our lives and fight for a place in an (ever increasingly saturated) market where the chances of anyone holding a majority stake are slimming by the day.

Silver Bullets

All those who have to put up with the vagaries of in-house IT development fueled by outside consultancies and pointy-haired bosses, will love these two great little pieces from Alex E. Bell, published in the ACM Queue:

An African Word For "Cannot Install Debian"

With apologies to Mark Pilgrim, who used this sentence to resounding effect.

Another thing that keeps cluttering up my RSS feeds is hype about Ubuntu, Mac switchers to it, and other suchlike drivel. The Linux crowd singles out a few instances and tries to use them as standard bearers, all the while forgetting that they have far too many drums to maintain a concerted pace as an infantry.

Never mind acknowledging that, despite Linux's momentum, they have yet to form a halfway decent strike force where it regards overall computer use on this planet.

As always, knowing your history helps, in all walks of life. During the past seven years or so, a bunch of Linux distributions have competed (and fought for, and lost) mind share. Red Hat, Mandrake, Debian, you name it - all of them were poster children for the penguin "revolution" at one time or another, and all of them had notorious "switchers".

The main difference between those (arguably more enlightened) times and the present was that there was far less idiotic hype. Nowadays any defection from any platform is instantly made public and the actual reasons for it distorted and re-purposed to suit the meme du jour.

Such is the case of ResExcellence's Bryan O'Bryan, whose reasons for switching were plastered all over a bunch of Linux-centric (one could almost say OS-challenged) sites, and promptly distorted out of recognition.

I sympathize with his points. The Mac community's "perfect or else" attitude irks me as well, especially their attitude to newbies - which was one of the main reasons I bothered to put up a halfway-decent HOWTO on switching to the Mac (a few people noticed that I made a point of making the motives for switching irrelevant when I wrote it, and now you have an inkling why).

You see, the "hard-core" Mac community does not take kindly to having newbies of any sort in their midst, and when I came back to the Mac there was an especially warm spot in their particular brand of hell for UNIX immigrants (and that, in turn, was the initial driver for Planet Tao, which has since become a bit more eclectic).

They are arrogant indeed, even though they seldom bother to understand what was happening under the hood of their machines. I knew that when I stopped using Macs around System 7) and moved to a NeXT, and I was made acutely aware of it when I returned to Mac OS X and started this site - some of the Mac zealots in Portugal even made a point of stating it could all be powered by pixie dust for all they cared, and that "this UNIX thing underneath is useless".

I am not, however, as irked by Apple's moves as Bryan. This may come as a surprise to many (given my vocal stance on things like .Mac's shortcomings and Apple's rather wonky approach to carve software tiers via feature crippling), but bear with me.

First off, I haven't been a software developer (by trade) in years, so Apple hasn't done anything particularly shocking to me (nor anything that other companies don't do where it regards, say, embracing and extending other people's feature sets). Second, the software market has evolved beyond recognition, but one thing has remained constant - diversity - so that new concepts pop up at a steady rate, regardless of applications and operation systems' tendency to accrete them.

So if your concept gets subsumed (or, dare I say, better implemented) by someone else, you can always come up with another. Harsh, I know, but it's been this way in every industry for centuries.

I do, however, wholeheartedly agree with Bryan where it regards Apple's QA. I'm fine with having buggy software in Linux, downloading the occasional package update, and coming up against the brick wall of clumsy integration time and again - but I'm not happy with Apple's handling of Tiger so far (and the latter editions of Panther were a bit off, too...).

Sure, they are spread thin. And 10.4.7 does seem to be a bit more stable (less Finder issues, a few outstanding bugs fixed, etc.), and anything as big as an OS is tough enough to maintain, let alone an OS with a set of flagship applications under every Mac users' scrutiny.

I don't actually rely on much besides the base Mac OS X environment, some third-party applications and my own stuff, so I tend to focus on and Safari - other people are sure to have different pet niggles.

Still, and despite having feinted a switch, I still think Mac OS X is the best laptop UNIX out there - at least for me. If other people think differently, well...

They're just ordinary people with an opinion, not poster children for a misguided (and still somewhat misfiring) revolution.