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A Lowest Common Denominator

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Programmers and designers work at cross purposes. Programmers look for solutions to everything and when it comes to computers, they create programs to solve things. Programmers want to engage others in what they see as marvelous human achievements of logic and they want to share their fascination for these things with others.

Programmers want to educate. They want people to understand they're not as stupid as others make them out to be, as stupid as others assume they are, as stupid as others want them to remain. They view simple things as simple, and they want to convey that simplicity and the inherent elegance in it to everyone else.

Designers are the diametric opposite, from Day One, from the get-go, from the first day of employment. Whether they're willing to admit it or not. Designers do the bidding of the Man. They regard all people as tortuously dumb (perhaps because they themselves are) but they see Dumb as a Good Thing™, as something to profit by, and they help their employers turn things topsy-turvy into Systematic Worship of the Stupid.

OPENSTEP 4.0 is the most brilliant, most sophisticated user/developer environment ever known to man. No matter what platform one considers - from mainframes to supercomputers to... Absolutely brilliant. A friend of Scott Anguish who'd used Apple Macs all his life was totally blown away and admitted it. OS X is the direct descendant, but you'd be hard put to see the same intelligence there.

Robin Keir remarked on several occasions how users of his software began writing in the last years before the New Millennium to ask how to launch his programs. You launch them by double-clicking them, a perplexed Robin answered. This came on the heels of Microsoft's new MSI technology which turned the simple exercise of downloading software into a major federal project.

Microsoft's convoluted COM architecture opened the doors for substandard developers creating silly (and pointless) OLE modules when a single executable would have worked better and been written faster and with less bugs. OLE servers clogged the more and more bloated and malware-infested Registry, broadcasting out their existence for no one at all as they were never meant to serve more than their one client.

An outdated technology already by the end of the Multics project but worse: an abused technology tantamount to shipping coals from Newcastle to Newcastle over Macau. And so within a few short years, thanks to the benign influence of that same cult of worship of the Stupid in Redmond, the elementary 'double-click' had become arcane, something the 'new' generation of Internet and computer users could no longer relate to. Add/Remove Programs came to stay - was in some cases all Windows admins knew how to use - and the median IQ of the planet's species homo sapiens plummeted. Scary stuff.

Such a mindset is being seen again in the diabolical moves by Cupertino to clench and ultimately strangle the free software market, a market that's been the mainstay of the personal computer revolution for the past thirty years.

The success of the IBM PC - as opposed to the failure of the Mac - was predicated on the painful IBM insight that it was the proliferation of third party software that made the CP/M market strong, a market IBM needed to inherit - and that IBM couldn't afford to play the same horizontal and vertical monopoly game they'd always played if they wanted to outflank and ultimately rid the field of that annoying upstart known as Digital Equipment Corporation.

But inviting other players into their monopoly market wasn't something IBM directors could easily wrap their minds around - and yet at the end of the day they did it. Yes they did. Courageously. The results are of course well known today.

But 'diabolical'? Cupertino diabolical? Indeed. For if 'diabolical' means 'devilish' and if the mythical 'devil' be considered the 'father of all lies', then we have a diabolical Cupertino.

  1. iTools will always remain free, as will mac.com email addresses.
  2. Apple discussion forums have no nannies and absolutely no censorship. And if there's ever been either, then there isn't any longer.
  3. Apple won't ever want video on a handset.
  4. Apple won't ever move into telephony.
  5. The early OS X upgrades of the New Millennium were optimised for PPC G3s.
  6. Your .Mac homepages can stay online as long as you want.
  7. App store? What app store? We have no plans for an app store!
  8. Our development tools are based on open source and will always be free.
  9. We fully understand how crucial Windows support is - do you?

The lies are there.

Everyone's Gruber pointed recently to an article written by a Scandinavian designer formerly at Google, now at Mozilla, an article Gruber daringly described as 'thoughtful'. The article detailed some of the issues at Mozilla in getting Firefox users to understand how to 'install' the web browser, and enumerated some of the absolutely classic gaffes newbies to OS X made in so doing. Some people simply mounted the Firefox DMGs on their desktops and fully presumed they had to open them every time they wanted to run the application. And one of the common denominators for these poor unfortunate wayward sheep seemed to be that they couldn't read or at least were too lazy to do so. Considering what pain Microsoft put people through for the same task, the 'Apple' way of doing things with the DMG must still be seen as intensely pleasureful.

Consider the Spotify download page.


The basic DMG modus operandi: double-click the DMG to get a mount on your desktop; double-click the mount to open it; check the BIG PICTURE of a LINK with a SHORTCUT ARROW; and under the picture you see the words 'move to Applications'.

Or in the case of Spotify today: the app does the move for you (if you like).

Of course, putting everything in /Applications is wrought with difficulties, something the Rixstep gurus have taken pains to ceaselessly point out and hammer home over the past ten years. For NeXTSTEP (and now OS X) recognises ~/Applications as a valid path; your own apps don't have to have any special 'permissions'; you leave Apple's stuff alone in that 'other directory'; then you don't have to go on abortive troubleshooting missions as soon as things start falling off your box and your system.

Of course, ~/Applications isn't created by default when setting up a new (or a very first) account. But it should be. And Apple's own applications would do far better buried in /System (as would those /Library files which have caused so much consternation and so many root exploits over the years). But that's not been done. So the ordeal is as extensive as the Spotify diagram makes it out to be.

  1. Double-click.
  2. Double-click again.
  3. Double-click a third and final time.
  4. Take a power nap to recover.

Of course, if you allow for automatic launches from your browser... But you don't want to do that, not any more, as you've learned The Internet Is A Weird And Nasty Place. So you inspect everything carefully before touching it, don't you? You run Tracker, for example, on all your downloads so you see what they do and how they possibly hurt your computer.

Of course you do. And so you're willing to live with a succession of three double-clicks. Six clicks in all. One of your 'digits' might need a break after the ordeal, but at least you don't have to do it all the time.

Of course you're double-clicking things all day long, but having to add six more clicks? The bottom line is you don't have to do that every day. Consider yourself lucky.

Yet the new 'Apple' way of downloading and installing software is easier still.

Of course, this new method needs that new 'hack' present on 10.6 Snow Leopard so the system doesn't need to get your approval (or your password) to enter into forbidden territory on your hard drive, something 10.5 and earlier cannot do.

Oh it's a tricky arrangement alright, delineated elsewhere at this site: the software update module actually triggers the root-owned launchd process to start a root-owned suhelperd ('software update helper daemon') process so it can plant the zero-byte file .SoftwareUpdateAtLogout in the protected area /var/db on your computer so that after you've logged out, rebooting or whatever you're doing, automatically or not, the logout 'root single user mode' process that takes over will see that file and automagically know exactly what to do.

Of course, this 'hack' is a 'hack' and no more (and an ugly one and a scary one at that) and of course the security worries are considerable and the danger that hats of any colour out there have already figured out how to pwn your computer is eminently tangible. But that's the way things are going to work. And the worst part of it is: without the proper tools such as Tracker (and who cares about proper tools anymore) you aren't going to see what's happening to your system - you are forced to implicitly trust everything that's happening, even though you don't know what that is.

But all you'll have to do is 'tap tap tap'.

A kind and dedicated California forest ranger once remarked that the evolution of technology would soon deprive homo sapiens of the one thing the species had over all the others: the opposable thumb. Said thumb would be reserved for picking up coins to insert into slots to 'pay pay pay'. Even the day of the 'mouse' pointing device is gone - but back then at least one needed the thumb to at least steer the device on a flat surface. Or with latter Apple and other laptops, to do the actual mouse clicking. Those days are now gone. Given the iPhone and the iPad, they're totally gone. It's all 'tap tap tap' and 'pay pay pay' today. It's new and it's brave.

Who knows what's happening under the bonnet? Who cares! The thing's getting full? Toss it out and get a new one! Those gadgets are cheap! They're made somewhere in the Far East by little girls in white coats in dust-free rooms (and not so many are jumping out of windows anymore or else someone's put a blackout on further news releases) and no one's really sure what they do in there - circuits and small chips and things - but it's cheap labour! So if you run into any difficulties then you simply toss your hermetically sealed Gadget from the Planet Groovy on the compost heap of history and get a new one. No worries!

Compare the DMG method and its exhausting six clicks with what Windows users have to go through and you'll see how lucky you've been. You've always been able to see what's been going on (even if you didn't want to look). You've always been able to protect yourself. From the more uncommon Evil® and the all too common Stupid™. You've been able to do that; the smart user always has done that.

[Rixstep software 'installs' always require one (1) double-click and two (2) mouse drags (and that's all) but there's no room for a pissing contest sidebar - clients get to see exactly what happens to their hard drives and that's the only way anyone can trust anyone else. And the Yacktman Cocoa bible stressed the dangers of Apple's Installer.app in the wrong hands. Remember iTunes 2.0.]

Apple OS X users have always had a decent chance of retaining control of their personal property. Apple have often made it difficult, locking things out, hiding and moving other things around in an attempt to escape detection, and at least this site has produced articles over the years for users intent on staying on top of such subversion - but given a brave new era of 'passive computing', of 'no-tinker computing', of the dreaded 'tap tap tap' paradigm, things are changing.

Steve Jobs firmly believes the personal computer is gone forever (or soon will be). Mark Pilgrim agrees - it's just that he's not as happy about it. Peter Guttman spent a lot of time studying Windows Se7en and Microsoft's very misleading 'Trustworthy Computing' initiative and concluded that he'll need to travel to China to get a 'free and open' PC.

Trends are underway to force technology companies everywhere to provide back doors in their products so big brothers can spy on anyone at any time. It's not just some silly rumour anymore about NSA hooks into encryption standards - now they're coming out and telling you they're going to do it. And they don't care you know anymore. That's how bad it's become.

We're getting closer and closer to a Lowest Common Denominator. And every time we think we've reached as low as we can get, something or someone comes along, some 'alternative genius' or sinister diabolical force, to show us that we can stoop even lower.

The knee jerk reaction of a lady of rank to the news the Apple fanboys were trying to justify the Mac App Store That Never Was To Be on the grounds it can simplify software updates was 'they're reaching for a new Lowest Common Denominator again'.

And indeed they are. They don't want to educate you. That costs them time and money. They want to keep you dumb. You'll buy more shite from them if you stay stupid. You won't know when they cheat on you if they can keep you stupid. They don't care for you and they certainly don't love you - they only want your money. And the easiest money in the world is money taken from Dumb.

You see the 1984 Mac ad in front of you. The ad only shown once in public. You hear the filler words formulated by a hack on the spot for what everyone thought would be just another cool project by Rids. But today those words actually mean something to you. They smart as they slap you in your face because today they represent the one company on the planet that's turned out to be the guiltiest of them all. Microsoft wanted your money; Apple also want your mind. They demand it. And as they're going to get both sooner or later, why prolong your self-inflicted agony? Give them what they want. Go ahead. Get it over with.

You've hit rock bottom; you've landed on the final Lowest Common Denominator. Swim in it and relax.

Pleased to meet you. Can you guess my name? But what's troubling you is the nature of my game.
 - The Glimmer Twins

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