Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Unintended status lights and ill-advised GUIs

My Macbook Pro Retina is in the shop, after developing an "after market" power status light--namely, the right hand USB 3.0 port, which suddenly began to glow brightly.  Apparently something metallic got lodged in there and turned the port into a nightlight.  Amazingly, the machine still works fine, but the partially toasted port is a little worrisome, thus a trip for repair.  The end result is at least two weeks to go with operating systems I don't want to use and ones I do want to use that have grown bad user interfaces.

Windows 2000, XP, --> Windows 7 user interfaces are basically fine.  They're nothing special, but years of use yield a stalemate--not perfect, but it works, and what's the point of complaining, especially since I simply don't care about Windows at all, except to make money on taking it apart in forensics cases.  I'm through pretending Windows is good for simply getting work done--it isn't.  It's good for games, which I don't currently have time for, and it's good for running J River Media Center.  If there was a Mac port for J River and a rich uncle died, I'd be completely done and I can guarantee you that Windows 8 would never have gotten installed.  For getting real work done, I have Mac OS X and Linux.

The Mac OS X interface takes some getting used to, but humans are adaptable.  The fact that the interface is consistent and generally tightly integrated with applications is a good thing and most people who give it an honest try find that they're up to speed quickly and can then concentrate on getting work done, which for better or worse, is mostly what computers are for now.  The fact that the hardware is solid, even if it does come at a premium price, and the platform has great software support while providing a solid Unix backbone, is fantastic.

Unfortunately, Linux has had yet another go at becoming the widely used desktop OS it isn't ever going to be.  I love Linux for hacking and it's my first choice for programming.  But mainstream application support sucks, it's always going to, and that's that.  Linux has about as much chance as becoming the desktop OS of choice as Windows 8 phones do of mattering at all in a world of Android and iOS:  zero.  So breaking what were reasonable and simple Linux desktop GUIs in some attempt to create a bastardized Mac OS X environment was a huge mistake.  The simplicity and usability are gone, and replaced with crap like Unity, which clearly shows what Mac OS X would look like without proper application integration.  So going "back" to GNOME seems like a reasonable option, except that there's bad mojo here too.  For example, why would anything think it's a good idea to disappear the minimize and maximize buttons?  If you want to use the left click/middle click functionality to maximize and minimize, etc., fine, but were the familiar buttons for managing windows that everyone uses on every available desktop OS really so offensive that they had to go, only to force users to discover how to re-enable them?  It smacks of change for the sake of change, not improvement.

Change is good--I'm not some old curmudgeon pining for his TRS-80 with a homebrew 64K upgrade and a $600 floppy drive--although I occasionally miss it the mystery of those days.  But simply changing things to make some artistic statement, that ultimately is simply irritating to users and gets in the way of them getting work done is, well, not special, in my view.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Macbook Pro w/ Retina Display

My Macbook Pro recently arrived and while I'll miss the slightly smaller form factor of the Macbook Air, it essentially addresses all of my concerns with the Air (and unfortunately adds another, non-Air concern).  Not having resigned myself yet to sloth, receding hairlines, and a thickening gut (thanks, skateboarding), I can deal with a pound or so of extra weight.

Read the reviews--the machine is super fast and the display is fantastic--almost.  Having paid $1300 to upgrade the Macbook Air's SSD, the 768GB option in the Macbook Pro is fantastic, as is having 16GB of RAM and better virtualization support because of the up-to-date i7 processor.

For viewing photos, etc. the new display is absolutely spectacular.  The one issue--and my only complaint at all about this otherwise "best ever" laptop--is the glossy display.  It attracts reflections like fruit flies on day old watermelon and mars an otherwise amazing computer for people who like a shades-up lifestyle. Luckily, the keyboard is backlit--plan on working in the dark or with the windows closed when the reflections loom.