Android hemroids

I am a genuine late adopter of modern technology. I do see a lot of it coming from miles away tho, and try to get in touch with it before it arrives. Read up on it, let it sink into my stubborn brain cells.
And so I fell in love with Android long time before it was found on any commercial device. As a programmer I immediately fell for it’s architecture, it’s intents, it’s openness.
While waiting for the baby to mature, I read up on the first user experiences and decided to wait a year more, before trying it out myself. Being very fond of my iPhone User eXperience, and a Linux user, I was very reluctant to try another open source OS.

So I finally decided in 2010 to buy the Goog’s Nexus One, and treat myself to a whole different mobile experience. No cruft, straight up android from the core.
Nice new features, integrated messaging and notifications, free navigation, supported rooting, a dream come true from a programmer’s perspective!

But then the wet cement started coming up through the cracks, reminding me of the slow, shaky and ever evolving Linux OS’s. Why would it be different with Android? Marketing? A larger user base? Of course not. The foundation is the same. Openness breeds variety, and the lack of control allows buggy software. It just kills the user experience when there is no senior top of the pyramid overlooking a coherent interface to it’s OS, but also it’s ever growing list of apps.
Android’s choice to let performance measures come from the community itself, rather than exert dominant control over such an important aspect, resulted in an unresponsive and sluggish device. Trying and uninstalling many task killer and performance apps trained me to keep it into shape somewhat, but how cumbersome!
But the most irritating to me was the fact that the Android market became the waste bucket of successful iPhone apps, with even the largest web services out there offering alpha software. Not only were most of them very buggy, but it seemed that the android user base was treated like the linux user base, expected to not care about user experience, but openness and features only.

And that is what made me sell the device after 2 months of trying very hard to make the device perform acceptably, and go back to my good ol’ iPhone 3Gs.
So I decided to give Android more time to mature, and hoped the inevitable growth of it’s user base would demand top notch user experience. Boy was I wrong.

2 years after my first encounter I now own a quad core Asus eee prime monster tablet running the latest ice cream sandwich, holding more power than necessary for a smooth user experience. Or so I thought.
ICS 4.0.3 is still not controlling performance and has apps running wild, interfering with my user experience.
The apps I use most, such as Facebook, Spotify and Twitter, are all cream of the crap. Offering the same crappy UI and limited functionality like years before. But I can’t really blame app developers for not wanting to support an OS that does not deliver the same functionality on the multitude of devices churned out every day. I do have to see that as a given from now on I guess.

What was I thinking? I should have realized that the same lack of control over performance and apps, and also the increasing complexity of hardware support are truly hindering front of the line, top notch mobile device experiences.
Apple has been criticized by that same android community for exerting this kind of control, and app manufacturers have been honed for only supporting Apple’s stable unified hardware approach. But being an open source advocate, I am also a power user in need of a user experience allowing my quick and intuitive workflow. My day to day operations are not to be hindered by sluggy OS’s and unusable apps.
There is no choice for me but to go back to Apple’s stable, and ride their willing and able iron horse, taking me into the camps of the fronteers, letting me indulge in their nourishing stream of app cream.

MacDrama

It was around 11am a coupla weeks ago, and I was happily coding away on my 3 yr old Dell XPS 1710 running Ubuntu 8.10 (and it was running fine too), when it suddenly gave in to some cosmic dust. Or whatever else that made it go bust. I was not too pleased ofcourse, and had to get myself another laptop asap to get back in business (and keep the company that hired me happy). So I went online to get a good deal, but couldn’t resist that voice in my head that said: “its time to get that Mac now boy”. And so I did, I fell for the powers of the dark side and got myself a brandnew MacBook pro. Hoping to find comfort. Which I did find, but lost pretty soon afterwards.

See, I was happily installing and configuring, using my new friend quicksilver, when after 2 days it wouldn’t start up anymore. The infamous question mark folder appeared after the infamous white screen of death, leaving my macbook locked for ordinary humans like me. Google couldn’t help me. Nothing on the net could help me out. On day one I installed all the updates it could find, so I figured all would be well. But no. I even reinstalled OSX that night, only to be left with the same white screen and questionmark folder upon first reboot. I was, however, able to deduct that the hard drive was fine (because disk utility said so after each test).

So the next morning I gave the machine back to the store, which gave me an entirely new macbook in return the next day, telling me they found the harddrive to be faulty (!). Too bad that I never got the chance to backup all my work, so I decided to do that every so often from now on. And that was no luxury decision. Because after another 9 days the same problem happened to me again! And again I could tell that the hard drive was fine. So I went back to the store and told them about my findings. I even mentioned my suspicions about a flaw in the EFI boot loader, because both disks proved fine. I asked them to backup the goods on the harddrive (which they said they would). But when the store gave me back my machine (after 3 days!), they said that they changed the harddrive because it was faulty (?). And when I asked them where my files were, they said that somehow that information was not given in time to the tech ppl. NOOOOOOOO! So much time lost! (back to scraping the interweb). They did however tell me with a friendly smile that they had already preinstalled OSX for me. How nice!

In the mean time I had found more posts regarding my macbook’s symptoms. Many people believe it has to do with a flaw in the EFI bootloader, but which is denied by Apple themselves. So by now I was worried that this new harddrive wouldn’t be the solution to my problem and wanted my money back. Hell, I can’t work on-site as a freelance programmer with a failing laptop! They would not do that however, hiding behind saying that the period in which I was able to do so expired. But when I asked them how long a period that is, since I only had it under 2 weeks, they said “we cannot disclose that information”. How frikkin weird and customer unfriendly that came across, you can imagine.
So off I went to work again, reinstalling my time machine backup, working through lots of hickups because of broken symlinks and files that disappeared somehow. (Strange.) But then I realised that my screen was too dim, and had only about 60 to 70% of the brightness as my first macbook pro. So I went digging on the net, and eventually found out that the store’s technicians had preinstalled one of the most ancient versions of OSX from late 2007 (9G55). And it was known to have a brightness issue. But worst of all, it had kernel version 9.6.0, which wouldn’t be upgraded to the current 9G2141 version with 9.6.2 kernel (that is on my install DVD). For heavens sake! Haven’t you Apple store airheads caused me enough grief?! That night I had to redo the entire days work. All in all I have lost over 3 billable days to this sharade. Pfffff…

Did I tell you that I have a friend who had his Mac repaired 5 times within half a year? Stoopid me knew this, but I decided to buy one anyway. Hoping that wouldn’t happen to me, reasoning about Apple selling controlled hardware with specialized software.

So whats my advice? Don’t buy one? I am not saying that, don’t get me wrong. Maybe I am the victim of a poor hardware/software combo, and if so, many with me (do you? is that how you found this post?). And I certainly feel that I was not helped by the Apple store and its crew, even though they were a smiling and friendly bunch. But I like a LOT of my Macbooks offerings, and am certainly willing to spend all that time to get used to its crippled keyboard layout (no delete key, no right CTRL key, bad keyboard mappings in Terminal), or find ways about cut and paste not working in Finder (only drag and drop will work, how painful!), or … pffff, what a list that has become. But like I said, I am willing to go ahead with it. After having had the pleasure of Ubuntu’s super functionality, I am crazed about the crispness of OSX. And to be able to use Quicksilver in all it’s might, as opposed to the flimsy wanne-be Gnome-Do (which not only lacks Quicksilvers usability and true powers, but also lacks a good team leader with vision in my opinion, you can find a post on this blog about that here) .

Anyway, it’s been a week now, and I haven’t had any problems since then. Time machine is backing up right now, using a custom sized sparsebundle on my external harddrive (thanks to a little app called TimeTamer).
Lets hope I don’t run into more MacDrama (which is how I dubbed my macbook :p). No coincidence. Did you know my first nickname is MoDrama?

Next time you check in here I hope to have filled up my fav OSX apps section. It will be worth checking out!