Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Mountain cat that didn't quite roar...

I just couldn't wait. I have no reason to be an Apple 'developer', you see. Not on my age, anyways. Not even to mention that if I was one, I'd be among the least competent. Too impatient and sloppy to be a descent developer, that's for sure. I'm just the consultant 'type', you see. Got a lot of experience in 'talking' about things. Not doing them...
I'm only curious, plain and simple ! That's all. Curious about all things OSX. So, I pay a 79€ fee to Apple for a developer's annual subscription and I get to download preview releases of all their OSX goodies. Actually, in the last two years that I've been doing that, it's been only Lion and Mountain Lion final Previews that I looked at. None of their other code. Like SDKs and such. These are for those who make a living by developing apps to run in Apple's iOS devices and Macs. So, instead of waiting for Apple's commercial launch of their two 'bug free' Lions, and only counting no more than 30 or 20 € for each one respectively, I was kinda 'smart cookie' to pay 4X as much for the privilege of 'experiencing' the pleasure a month earlier. Talking about wasting dough, eh? Was it any worth? I doubt it. I can simply claim that I had this hands-on experience a short month before the rest of them lame crowds came to taste Apple's newness. I just couldn't wait anymore! Not in my dictionary, the 'waiting', I guess. Besides, I admit it, I am one of those Apple addicts, who live to swear by His Jobness (RIP). I got my reasons though. Trust me on this...
A Mountain cat is all we got in 2012! Will it be worth the 19.99 bucks they plan to sell it? I dunno... I guess... Nowadays you can hardly buy a pack of fags in some places for 20 bucks. And the mountain cat would be a healthier pastime, that's for sure. On the other hand. I still dunno... Well, what the heck? It's gotta be worth the 20 bucks.
Between you and I, it's not the individual functional improvements of OSX, or of any OS for that matter, that actually keep me 'awake' at nights. It's more about the grand vision of the Master(s) of computing that I am after, you see. How, us humans, are gonna be using computers and other devices in the future is the core that triggers my curiosity. This isn't such an easy question to answer, mind you. You gotta be able to look into the individual details of technologies, products, and overall trends, and pick-up guiding signals; try to draw conclusions next about those visionaries' intentions (whoever, and wherever they are, God bless 'em). Often, I wonder. Is there effectively one single individual, a sort of a Holy Visionary, anywhere at all, someone who's worked out a Grand Plan for the rest of us? About the ways that we shall lead our lives as they are being reshaped for ever by a handful of tiny silicon chips? I guess, El Jobso has already shown that, if anyone was ever the closest possible to be that 'person', i.e. deciding upon ways that 'CPU' based devices could and should change our lives, then, it's gotta be him. But he's passed! Who took over his role now then, and what has this individual, if anyone, got up his sleeves for the next ten years or so? Are folks like Page and Brin, or even Zuckerberg close at all to being the new visionaries? Or should he or she have to be found nowhere else than in Apple itself? Will he/she be able to execute on the Vision? Anybody can answer that question? I doubt it.
I wish someone could draw an orderly 'architecture' around an individual, surrounded by a plethora of CPU devices, living and interacting inside various eco-systems. Like, the family system. The career system. The leisure system. The interacting with the environment system. The system for self expression and knowledge acquisition! And, us humans being central in this intermingling of eco-systems, someone to tell us about the changes that we'll witness in the next 50 to 100 years if we continue like we have done in the past 40 years. What is it then that such devices will change our lives into? Augmented reality? More knowledge? Enhanced social activity? Shrinkage of time-space? All of the above? Somehow, these responses sound too familiar... Or is it gonna be something different altogether? Are we going to turn into SF cyborgs? Half men half machines? Will there be a place for human emotion at all, or are human emotions simply a banal ramification of Darwin's evolution of the species?
Actually computers started inside business and government organisations to improve worker productivity, take over repetitive and monotonous tasks from us, and do the age old boring stuff better than humans ever been able to. Not too creative though. Just the dull, necessary-evil bits and pieces. At least that's the way computers have been in the early days. It's gotta be quite different now, you might reckon. Or, is it? In any case, it is universally accepted that CPU based devices are nowadays quite pervasive and omnipresent in everything we do. Billy Joy even predicted that one day they'll take over the planet for good, and regulate human masses in the hands of a 'superior' human being, or a clan of those. Kinda like a 1984 Big Brother doom scenario. Inevitably, our free market capitalist system, led by the audacious and the bold, will have to eventually yield society to that point. It's even technically possible today!!! Do I believe this? Bullocks! I doubt it. But who am I to know better? I can't certainly measure against good ol' Bill. He co-invented UNIX and Java for cryin' out loud!
There's another thing that throws ash in our eyes, when we are trying to grasp the 'Grand Vision'. And we end up missing the forest from the trees. I always had serious fun with tech geeks (mostly bloggers of the worst kind) trying to convince their listeners and readers about the merits of Apple lookalikes sold by competitors. Such tech religious fanatics systematically pick individual functions and technology specs of competitors' products to prove that, say, the Samsung Galaxy, to mention one such device, is by all means 'superior' to Apple's iPhone, or that Nokia is going to crack the code by putting a 150 megapixels camera in their next gen pathetic 'windows-mobile' smartphone. So what? Why even bother buying a Hasselblad H4D-60 or the Canon pro EOS-1DX at all? For a fraction of the dollar amount you could buy a Nokia smartphone instead, you can even use the darn thing to 'call' people on the phone, and you're done! Gimme a break! Get real people. Sometimes I have the feeling that CEO's like Nokia's, and Microsoft's understand a rat's ass about technology's impact in shaping human lives. It's not about the individual specs, folks! Not at all! It's about entire eco-systems, kids, and about the proprietary platforms such systems are supported by. And about what it is we do with these things.
Back to Mountain Lion. Apple decided to release annually (give 'n take) a version of their operating systems. Improvements have always been incremental. Evolutionary so to say. Small things here and there, in the hundreds. With few quite visible and highly desirable add-ons that will usually impress the crowds, and which are permanently central in Apple's marketing campaigns for the new OS. This time over such are dictation (of impeccable quality mind you, it even understood my seriously lacking accent in speaking French!) and Airplay for OSX boxes (the Macs, so to say). Many improvements are so subtle that are hard to even recognise. Gee, is that a new gig, or was it there all the time, kinda thing. Rearranging regions in the left column of a Finder window is such an 'improvement'. Big deal! Worth mentioning? Well, maybe nice to have. If I hadn't read about it, I'd probably have never known about it, or let alone used it at all. Most of them small incremental improvements are kinda nice to have, I'd dare say. If you are looking for an extensive coverage read Apple's homepage announcement. There's even more than those 200+, that you can only experience after you start using ML yourself.
However, Apple's ulterior message is rather less conspicuous. You obviously see them trying to continuously harmonise OSX with iOS and, since those things are done with OO programming libraries and APIs, most of their functions are reusable and interchangeable. Meaning they won't have to spend too much R&D to provide future enhancements. This is the beauty of a standards based OOAD, dude! Thus, we increasingly see stuff that exist for years on iPhones and iPads find their way into OSX. The objective is obvious. Users must not waste too much grey matter to have their devices do what they want them to do. It's called being intuitive in their use. Natural and intuitive. His Jobness was a genuine Master in understanding the man-on-the-street's intuition and natural behavioural reaction to electronics appliances. Those whom he left Apple to after his death will hopefully continue his vision.
I haven't been able to test Airplay in ML because it presumably needs version 5.1 of the Apple TVs OS. I am running 5.0.4 now and it sez it's the latest available. I hope it's ready by the time they ship ML commercially. It will be bad press if they don't. Airplay is one of their best functions that brings a lot of user media assets together for the entire family to experience, at the convenience of the living room sofa and on a big ass HDTV!
Also, and this happens each time a new version comes out, installation of the new OSX has seriously accelerated the response times on my old (little more than a year old, that is) Lion install. Recently, the turtle slow processing of trivial tasks on a monster specs 27 inch Quad core i7 iMac, and its painfully uninterrupted drive spinning for just opening the mail app, to say something, drove me literally up the walls. Turned my last grey hair into snow-white! ML seems to have improved at least 2 to 3X my most recent performances on Lion. Let's hope it stays this way.
Conclusion: Those of you who have abandoned any other Mickey Mouse mobile and desktop/laptop computing for ever, and replaced it with Apple Macs, routers, apple TVs and iOS devices, the new OSX will bring you a step closer to the computing/media sharing/Living room nirvana. The quality is as expected Apple exquisite. Simply signed, Steven Jobs and Jonathan Ive. What is there else to say?

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