2014 in Review


Like last year, I’m not particularly optimistic towards 2015. And if I were, I would likely have a hard time cheering up people.

Professionally, the gist of things is that the telco/internet business has (finally?) stopped expanding and is now going through the throes of consolidation, with unexpected twists and a future filled with creeping uncertainty despite a whiff of overall recovery from the rest of the local economy – and believe me, with the kind of gross mis-management Portugal has had in the past few years, it’s a marvel there’s still something to recover.

Furthermore, these industry dire straits have recently crossed over into the realm of current business affairs in Portugal, to an extent where the tech exodus now seems… oddly prescient.

Personally, it’s been a mixed bag – met a fair amount of new people, (permanently) lost a couple, found a degree of satisfaction in new hobbies and managed to strike a balance of sorts, although I’m definitely not happy with the current situation. I keep wolfing down entirely too many Sci-Fi stories to keep my mind off work (although I squeezed in Creativity, Inc. and other nuggets of wisdom every three books or so), and am constantly looking for interesting things to keep my mind occupied.

Overall, it’s been hard to focus – it’s always hard to stick to plans when wading through uncertain waters, so my drive for tinkering and building new stuff is the only thing keeping despondency at bay.

But let’s put all that aside (programming languages, hobbies, etc.) and tackle a couple of broad topics:

Software

This year Apple lost a fair bit of mindshare in my neck of the woods, and it was largely due to their shortcomings in software. System software, of all things, which showed a marked decrease in quality and user experience.

My expectations towards both iOS 8 Yosemite were low, and considering the overall feedback I get from my co-workers and friends, I’m glad I set the bar that way.

I haven’t experienced anything serious on my Mac (other than a couple of unfathomable reboots that I blame on buggy graphics and window server lockups), but then again my habit of shutting down my computers by close of business has a few hygienic benefits that have shielded me from the worse – gradual slowdowns, recurring crashes of Apple‘s own stuff, bad Exchange integration, and all-around flakiness.

Other than that, my overall expectations towards software remain relatively simple: I rely on plain, uncluttered stuff that either helps or gets out of the way. Chatty, overly friendly (or, $DIVINITY forbid, social) software is either binned or frowned upon (I’m looking at you again, Skype – all that wasted screen real estate for a few buttons?).

If anything, I’ve grown more spartan, with my work environments fairly standardized: All have a Spotlight-like launcher, a browser and a smattering of terminal windows laid out in classic tile layouts and managed via keyboard shortcuts (using Moom on the Mac, Openbox in Linux and the standard Windows 8 key combinations).

Hardware

There have been a few dramatic changes in this regard – I sold my home MacBook and traded my iPad 3, partly for the cash and partly for the same reason I’ve been using an Android phone for over a year: I wanted to step out of the rarefied, “perfect” Apple world for a while.

I also, to be honest, felt I had to lower my expectations towards gadgetry to match the economic downturn – I’ve never been able to justify getting a new iGadget every year, and the way things are going, I’ll be lucky to have money to spare for even a mid-tier phone somewhere in 2015, especially if I follow through with my plan to (slightly) increase my little menagerie of ARM development boards.

So I’ve been using a low-specced but heavily tweaked Chromebook for my personal projects, and it’s been humbling. It’s also been largely crap in terms of user experience, but I’ve spent so long using terminal windows that I’m grateful the thing can render more than one, has a passable browser and can suspend/resume properly – well, mostly.

It bears noting that I’m still using an iPad – we picked up an original iPad mini for my birthday last year, and I added a Folio Keyboard Cover to it. It’s a little cramped but usable, and it’s become my home computer for pretty much everything besides coding (writing posts like this, reading news, e-mail, social noise, even watching TV on occasion).

It’s my little luxury, even if it’s starting to feel a tad wonky with iOS 8. The only really sad bit here is that using an iPad still feels like the future despite Apple steadfastly refusing to acknowledge it as a productivity platform.

Onwards, then, to 2015. Let’s meet it halfway, shall we? Maybe it’ll give us a break…


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