State of the Nation

My vacation is due to end this week (a matter that I am beginning to regret deeply, even though I managed to spend a significant portion of it sick), so the manic rhythm of site tweaks, random bouts of coding and cramming my RSS feed with updates is sure to die down a bit.

On Feeds

Anyway, regarding those – as you may have become aware recently (and in response to a few e-mails I got), my blog feed is no longer being syndicated to a few sites.

The reasons for that are mostly irrelevant, but they got me wondering about the size of my readership and their preferences. And, judging from what FeedBurner tells me, the blog-only feed is currently far less popular than my complete feed (which carries my linkblog and all Wiki changes besides the blog itself), which trounces it soundly with an over four-to-one ratio.

And, amazingly, the complete feed just keeps growing in terms of popularity. And me with no sponsors whatsoever. Hmmm.

On Squirrels and Hedgehogs

Which is just fine with me, actually. Even though I keep on writing and tweaking this site, my ability to do so like a rabid squirrel on crack has come up against The Brick Wall of Real Life, and said squirrel is now being phased out in favor of something more hirsute and sedate, like, say, a hedgehog on chocolate puffs – slow, deliberate, somewhat nearsighted but given to rare bursts of activity and quite a bit of curling up into a prickly ball.

I think this is a fine analogy for my writing output of late, crammed with short barbs (usually posted from my phone) and the occasional lengthy post on some particular topic I’ve been mulling while curled up in my couch.

On Macs And Useless Phones

So I will continue my dogged pursuit of most things Apple (and certainly all things Mac) with the usual degree of steadfast determination and (sometimes) witty criticism, but, like I wrote earlier, trying to even out things a bit more.

After all, the reason I switched to the Mac was not to worry about technology so much – the fact that I keep doing so must be attributed to spill-over from work and a continuing fascination for the industry’s ability to keep shooting itself on the foot in a myriad different ways.

And yes, I’m pretty tired of the iPhone by now as well. And, in some respects, I’m also growing tired with Apple’s tendency to hype incremental upgrades throughout their product lines – it is a grand Marketing strategy (and worth watching closely in a professional sense), but it is tiresome and endlessly frustrating for the end user in me.

Those Funny Little Penguin Critters

So much so that I’ve started looking at Linux again during this vacation – don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to pull a pilgrim – in fact, I am sticking to my assertion that it is nowhere near usable right now (no matter what fanboys say, it’s no match for the Mac, period1), but it is, from a general perspective, where most of the interesting stuff is happening.

And by “interesting” I mean, of course, enthusiastic.

Although it is hard for me to find it interesting to see people squabbling about fixing things that even Windows has gotten right for over a decade (can you say Office? “look and feel”? “cut and paste”?), the unbridled (if naïve) enthusiasm with which the Ubuntu hordes are trying to beat the Mac market share is fun to watch, at the very least, and the Novell crowd has impressed me with their slow, methodical and polished approach at delivering a decent desktop experience based on SuSE.

And, of course, it is tremendous fun to follow the fragmented bickering of the Linux community with a copy of the Unix-Haters Handbook alongside2, if only because it is a community that combines a steadfast determination towards repeating all the idiocy (quite humorously) portrayed in that book with a never-ending supply of denial regarding the possibility of doing actual user-centric design (witness the GIMP).

The Cool Corner

So I’ll be following them a bit more for the entertainment value alone while Apple makes up its mind about what they want to do with the Mac.

As I see it, they have two choices – either they acknowledge that computers will still be around (if only as glorified extensions to the iPod) and that they have to deliver a more substantial user experience (i.e., focusing on improving the plumbing rather than wallpaper over it), or let Linux (or BSD) catch up by dint of sticking a million easels on to a million monkeys’ hands and hoping for the emergence of the UI equivalent of a Michelangelo painting – because if there’s one thing they can do right, it’s plumbing.

Nasty, inscrutable plumbing full of baroque twists to cater to the underlying paranoia that is the inevitable offshoot of the clash between rampant free software ideology and hardware vendors’ cluelessness, but working and reliable plumbing nonetheless. Well, mostly.

There’s only one catch, of course – Apple is all too aware of the odds of that happening, so they don’t feel threatened at all as they paint themselves into the “let’s do cool stuff” corner.

And believe me, if there’s one thing they need right now, it’s competition – too bad that nobody seems to be able to deliver that right now.

1 And my MacBook will run Mac OS X till the day it stops working, thank you very much.

2 Recommended reading for people who remain under the illusion that all the problems we have with computers these days are new and exciting. The truth is that they are old, boring, and starting to smell a little musty, with a bit of warm bakelite thrown in.

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