Oct 12

Steve Jobs

So, I realize that I haven’t posted anything new here in like four months. But since nobody reads it, who cares?

Anyway, as you know, Steve Jobs of course passed away the other day, and there was a bit of controversy surrounding a remark made by Richard Stallman. Here’s the quote:

Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.

As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” Nobody deserves to have to die – not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs’ malign influence on people’s computing.

Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.

Now, needless to say, this caused a bit of controversy. In some regards, Stallman has a point here – that Jobs made Apple into such a closed platform that it’s impossible to do stuff. While this is definitely true, on the flip side who needs unnecessary complications in your software? Most people don’t. In that regard, the iPhone/iPod are excellent platforms for software. They’re very simple, which on a small device is exactly what you want. You can’t use a desktop environment easily when you have scrollbars on the side. You don’t have the finesse of a mouse.

This “simplicity is key” design has been dominating Apple products ever since the first iPod. While this is good for most users, what I think that Stallman was getting at was that for the more power users, they don’t have all the options that they want. Let’s take the new Macbooks for example: there are a grand total of two USB ports, and just one button besides the keyboard on it(the batter charge button). It does look very sleek, but I have a hard time using it because the edges are very sharp and cut into my hands/wrists when I am typing. Possibly that’s a good thing, because it would promote better key typing posture, but it’s annoying.

Now, having two UBS ports is perfectly adequate for most people. However, people like me, whom (for lack of a better term) I call “power users” require more than two USB ports at a time. One of my co-worker’s USB ports on his Macbook is broken and only charges. My EEE PC has three USB ports on it, and is about half the size of a Macbook.

So, what’s my point here? I don’t disagree about any particular part of Stallman’s quote, but that perhaps what has been done is at least a step in a right direction. Too often, software has seemingly hundreds of buttons and controls – Apple realized that this was not a good way to use software, as did Microsoft when they came out with Office 2007. The biggest problem is that Apple wants complete control over everything. That’s fundamentally what the problem with Jobs is. He had a vision for simplicity – but he wanted it to be too simple. When you make it too simple, you remove the capability to do more advanced tasks.

This video, from The Onion, sums it up quite nicely.