The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

Posts tagged with rant

The iPad Turned 10

The iPad turned 10 a bit more than a week ago and I was somewhat shocked, although pleasantly surprised, to see the Apple blogosphere express their disillusion about ipadOS, led mostly by John Gruber’s piece:

The iPad at 10 is, to me, a grave disappointment. Not because it’s “bad”, because it’s not bad — it’s great even — but because great though it is in so many ways, overall it has fallen so far short of the grand potential it showed on day one.

That’s always been how I felt about Apple’s tablet, and tablets in general. The iPad Pro is an awesome piece of hardware – I carry mine around all the time and use it every day. But I use it only for a subset of the things I wish I could do on it.

The most maddening thing about its software is the sandboxing, and how you just don’t have access to the damn file-system. It’s gotten marginally less worse with the recent Files app, but it’s still vastly unusable.

The sad thing is that, as a result, even if you consider the iPad as a consumption device (something that “post-PC era” afficionados were always quick to “disprove”), it’s not even a good consumption device. It’s only good at consuming online media, like news and YouTube videos and Netflix series and such. If you buy, own, and store your own media, like buying music on Bandcamp, PDFs on DriveThruRPG, or comicbooks from (not so) indie publishers, the experience is worse in almost every way compared to the experience on your Mac or PC, because you have to go through uselessly complicated lengths to be able to get the files on your iPad before you can even consume them. Often, these PDF or comicbook reader apps have to implement their own (generally poorly made) network copy feature to be able to get your files.

My theory has long been that Dropbox would have never been so popular if it wasn’t for the iPad: during the early 2010s, Dropbox was pretty much the only way to get files in and out of your tablet, and many apps, from text editing to drawing, integrated Dropbox to that effect. Apple must have been kicking themselves that they couldn’t get iCloud to be used for that instead.

My new, more dire theory is that the iPad contributed to the soloification of the internet and the erosion of ownership. When consuming “rented” media from a handful of companies, like Spotify music and Comixology comics, is vastly easier to consuming owned media, like those bought directly from various content creators, the distributed nature of the internet dies a little.

So yes, I agree with John. The iPad is an awesome device. But it’s also a big disappointment.


Happy New Year!

Happy new year and other such holiday things to the 3 people who read my blog!

I was in San-Francisco for new year’s eve and it was quite lovely.

Golden Gate

Apart from the sake of posting something new, this post is also to show off how PieCrust’s admin panel can now upload page assets (in this case, that would be the picture above… check the URL, it’s hosted right here). This feature will be part of the impending 2.0 release, but you can get it by pulling the latest from BitBucket or GitHub as usual.

Cheers!


Overtime at Frostbite Cinematics

These past couple days most of the video games development community was set on fire by some pretty bad article written by some pretty famous guy on some pretty high traffic website. I’m not going to comment on it – other people like Rami Ismail did that very well already. Interestingly enough, it revived the old debate about “passion” and “crunch”, and we’ve seen a fair number of interesting articles about it as a result. This is not one of those articles either.

Frostbite plaque

What this is is just a simple look at what’s going in my team, Frostbite Cinematics, which I think is interesting because Frostbite is in a fairly unique position in the industry, and that translates to a fairly different approach to overtime.

Spoiler alert: there’s pretty much none.

Read more...

Design For South Paws

Sarah Baird talks about what us left-handed people have put up with all our lives, and all the way back through history:

Day in and day out, though, the biggest hurdle faced by lefties isn’t discrimination — it’s mundane, basic functioning. Almost all facets of society, from ink pens to urban design, are crafted and structured to support, abet and cater to the right-handed majority. For lefties, functioning means a constant, conscious consideration of how they can reverse or modify their natural behavior in order to most effectively move around in the world.

The funny thing is that most of the time, I’m not even thinking about it. I’ll be, say, getting hot air blowing all over me from holding the vacuum-cleaner “the wrong way”, and not really realize that this wouldn’t happen if I was right-handed. It’s just like living in a world that’s slightly less well-designed.

Generally speaking, I’ve probably encountered less hurdles growing up in France than most North-American lefties: spiral notebooks were not used a lot (we had properly bound notebooks) and student chair/tablet combinations were pretty much inexistent.

The last time I really felt the pain of being part of a market minority was when I was shopping for a new computer mouse. Being a palm gripper, I ideally need a so-called “ergonomic” mouse. But those mice are only ever manufactured for right-handed people. The only left-handed ergonomic mouse that I’ve been able to find is the Razer Death-Adder Left-Handed Edition. Many people dislike Razer for their annoying configuration software but I figured I still needed to vote with my money. And, you know, I needed a mouse.

Death-Adder

As expected, the configuration software is annoying, but the mouse is really nice.


Fucking pick one

Paul Stamatiou has been getting a lot of attention about his article “Android Is Better”. And beyond the obvious flamebait (which seems to be working quite well), he makes a couple of points that I agree with:

  • Most people probably use more Google services (for good or bad) than Apple services, and will find the Android experience better integrated if they tried it.
  • Notifications on Android are a million times more useful and productive than on iOS.
  • It’s a lot easier to customize your phone to your specific workflows.
  • The back button and intents make it a lot easier to work between apps.

These are actually the main points that made me switch to Android a couple years ago, along with a bigger screen.

Some points however I disagree:

  • Google Now is not “magical”. It’s downright creepy and makes your device slow.
  • I don’t find Android’s UI inherently better or more elegant than iOS', or vice-versa. I’m used to both either way.
  • You still find a lot more polished and refined apps on iOS, which is not to say they are more useful or functional, as people often mix up the two (if anything, Android’s ugly apps actually do more things). But since I’m not an app-whore – I must have only a dozen non-stock apps on my phone and they’re almost all cross-platform – I frankly don’t care. The only app I miss is Sparrow, but that bird is flying away.

Marco Arment has written a nice commentary on the story, where he first criticizes Stamatiou’s use of absolute statements (emphasis his):

Paul’s headline is his thesis, conclusion, and call to action: Android is better, and everyone should try it and will likely convert like he did. But after reading the article, I’m more convinced than ever that the best mobile platform for me is currently iOS.

That sentence contains two huge qualifiers: the best mobile platform for me is currently iOS. I’ve learned to write and think with a broader view, since it’s less insular and more accurately reflects reality. (The world is a big place.)

While reading Paul’s article, I was often struck by how differently he and I use the same technology.

His article exudes a narrow tech-world view by having no such qualifiers.

That’s fine, and as a guy who has always chosen his tech (hardware and software) based on specific needs, and not on generic opinions and reviews, I can’t agree more. I often say that if I ask a question like “_what is the best X?_”, and someone answers “_it’s Y!_” without even asking for more details about my situation first, I’m probably not going to listen to that person, quietly labeling him as fanboy or short-sighted in my mental notebook.

I wish Marco would talk to his online buddies about this, actually. For example, MG Siegler, once wrote:

I don’t know about you, but when I read my favorite technology writers, I want an opinion. Is the iPhone 4S the best smartphone, or is it the Galaxy Nexus? I need to buy one, I can’t buy both. Topolsky never gives us that. Instead, he pussyfoots around it. One is great at some things, the other is great at others. Barf.

Fucking pick one. I bet that even now he won’t.

Maybe he just doesn’t read reviews like I do. I just want a reliable opinion of what a product does well, and what it doesn’t. And then I’m going to decide which one is the best, based on what I need. But apparently, Siegler wants somebody to tell him which one is the best.

And then there’s John Gruber. I’m pretty happy with my Nexus 7, myself, but apparently “most people […] agree it was a turd”. In comparison, his first-generation iPad “works just as well as the day [he] bought it”. But oh, wait:

Update: A lot of pushback from readers on my claim above, arguing that their first-gen iPads have been rendered slow and unstable by iOS 5 (the last OS to support the hardware). My son uses mine for iBooks, watching movies, and playing games. Mileage clearly varies with other apps. (And yes, the App Store app in particular is a bit crashy.)

So yeah, mileage clearly varies on the iPad, but not the Nexus 7. And funny enough, my iPhone 3G was also rendered slow and unstable by iOS 4, the last OS to support the hardware. If I was paranoid, I would think Apple likes to leave users with a broken device to force them to upgrade, but hey, your mileage may vary, maybe your iPhone 3G is doing great.

In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that everybody’s got different requirements, budgets and usage patterns. One thing that often gets overlooked by Apple fans, for instance, is that in some countries (like here in Canada) you can’t get an iPhone unless you spend a minimum of $40-ish/month on a data plan. If you want a cheaper plan like me (I use a 500Mb plan which lets me do everything I want except streaming music/video), you have no choice but to go with another OS.

As far as I’m concerned, my iPad and my Nexus 7 get along fine in my backpack, and they must know I love them just the same – just for different things.