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No one's going to Catalina (Xnews)

A bit on Apple and Gab both. The week of 1 August 2019.


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Life is peaceful on Gab.

At least as peaceful as it can possibly be if one spends most of one's time in the dedicated Swedish group Swegab. Or in the unparalleled group on IT - there's only one group like that on the entire Internet.

Gab is different from other platforms in at least that way: there are dedicated groups, anyone can form a group and administer it, with old functionality in that regard to return in a while.

You find posts and topics around a specific area when in a group. All your posts go public anyway, but if you're a member of a group then they also go into the feed for that group.

But the big thing is the calm. There is no censorship or monitoring or anything of that sort, the only limitations being what local law requires. As Gab is registered in the US, only US law applies - much as it applies to Sweden's Flashback forum.

(Flashback does have moderation, and consequently a number of scandals, and that's not a good thing.)

What's interesting is to join Gab, be in Gab, see things from that perspective for a while, and then look back at the chaos and destruction caused by California social media in the past fifteen years.

It's not pretty.

Remember when chatrooms were the way people congregated? Remember seeing censorship then? Most likely not. Censorship wasn't an issue. Having served as administrators of a few chatrooms, all we remember is a number of instructions of what to do if we thought someone was in trouble, could do themselves harm. We'd contact someone higher up, they'd presumably contact local authorities, who could then contact the ISP and find more information on the person in trouble, in order to hopefully help them.

And that never occurred on our particular watches.

It isn't just the censorship on mainstream social media that's troubling: it's their hostility to sites like Gab. There has to be a reason they attack. And that reason has to be that they want to stifle free speech - or more correctly: they want to control the public dialogue.

We see this same totalitarian spectre all over today. Sadly we also see it in software companies such as Apple.

Apple have gone off the deep end. They used to be - at least in our eyes - the Great White Hope. They were the ones who had a fighting chance to beat Microsoft. And why beat Microsoft? Because Microsoft was dangerous. And people should get used to surfing the web without fear of something bad happening to them. So their minds open to all the possibilities.

Those who've seen to what extent paranoia on Windows can propel people - the huge sites with lists of malware, all the phony tools to help people, the hundreds of thousand of stories of suffering and misery caused by Windows...

Getting people off Windows - getting people safe - was the ultimate goal. And Apple seemed the only entity out there that had a chance.

But they blew it.

Blew it and blew it - odds are they never ever wanted it. Programming is about computer science, and not abnormal psychology. Yet after spending a while in the 'Mac community', one finds it has precious little to do with programming or computer science.

The level of professionalism is abysmally nonexistent. We kept trying to get professional colleagues to migrate. It would have been so good to find one professional developer over there. But no. Some used Macs, but none could be enticed to develop for the platform.

Programming for a Mac wasn't a science. It had no fundamental corporate support. If it had, there would have been institutes sprouting up all over the place to teach that wonderful technology. But there were none. We looked briefly at one, perhaps the only such project of that sort, and found it sorely lacking. Apple's technologies weren't going mainstream.

Initially there was a lot of interest in our CLIX. Everyone seems to know what CLIX is! But that interest eventually waned, as the more knowledgeable users on the platform gradually moved on. They knew they had to get away from Windows, but Apple wasn't going to be their final destination. We had some great minds in our forum, but they mostly moved to different flavours of Linux. Thanks for the fish.

What's really enervating is to see how Apple used NeXT to rescue themselves from a well-deserved bankruptcy, then went on to crush all that was good on their platform. This process took over twenty years, but they finally got there. Their next iteration, called 'Catalina', isn't the final 'end' to it all, but it's far enough along that path. All of California's become a place on our planet that only Californians can love (if that).

Apple hardware. Abysmal. Dongles, and the lack of ports, and where's the backlit Apple on the lid, and the MagSafe adapter's gone, and Jony Ive is gone, just like Avie Tevanian and Jon Rubinstein before him, and you still can't touch the screen, even though you can and must touch the screens on Apple's lucrative mobile devices, but on the Macs you need to learn to program yet another utterly ridiculous thing called the Touch Bar, and nobody likes it and no one's yet been able to describe what it's good for - and all this only so you don't touch the screen. Really?

Enough of this virtue-signalling too. We had an early post on the Apple forums booted off. The post was called 'All I Want for Xmas' and it lamented the demise of the free 'mac.com' email address. The reason? It contravened with Apple policy which was to cancel the addresses. There you go.

Fanboys. n. See 'abnormal psychology'.

And they're inside the Apple corporation too. We've repeatedly run into issues with our Apple login and resource credentials, the only possible reason being that someone over there was trying to mess with us. Nothing bad to say about Tim though: he personally interceded on a few of our hardware transactions, and those people in the local office were amazing, a far cry from what one finds elsewhere.

From NeXT to where?

Good question. The only reason to choose Apple was NeXT - and this was despite Apple. Meaning 'Apple' brought NeXT respect down. We had a long-going correspondence with the author of Opener. Yes it was one person, using a series of identities on those forums. A very nice, well-educated, young lass from southern California, a network administrator, who had for years tried to get Apple to plug the hole. She was totally ignored. She wrote the script to put pressure on Apple. Did she succeed? Or was it the demise of that education toy that caused Apple to finally relent?

And Oompa Loompa. The author there also corresponded with us. Why? Because we were the only site on the net, in that corner of the net, that wasn't 'fanboy'. And he told us why he wrote Oompa Loompa. The fanboys. He couldn't stand them. Who can?

And Kevin Finisterre and LMH. Good people indeed.

The future is in free software. Not necessarily cost-free, but free in most all other ways. Such as open source.

We've often said that one only need keep the kernel open source. And in principle that's true. But what do you do with a company like Apple where everything is closed? The few source files they provide is not enough. They release only what they need to. They have so many funky things going on under the bonnet.

Security? Let's look.

Unix security is good. You own files and they have ugo permissions. You add 'file flags' onto that. That's a bit overkill but OK. You add ACLs on that and now you're overlapping and things get dicey.

But now Apple - and only Apple - add another two layers on top of that. And working with the one of those requires single-user mode. Think about it.

Why all this security? Or paranoia? Because the platform is insecure? Shut it down in such case. But it's not insecure. It's never had a major malware outbreak and likely never will. Unix is Apple's Rock Solid Foundation! Why the change?

Money. It's always money.

Apple's one-trick pony, the iPhone, is getting tired of trotting. Unable to diversify, with CEO Tim proclaiming he doesn't know why anyone would want a Mac anyway, Scott Forstall taking all the better programmers off the Mac and putting them on the iPhone, closing down the dedicated Mac team, letting OS X only get the crumbs dropped off the iPhone table...

Now the iPhone has stalled. Tim won't publish sales stats anymore. Sales are down. Suddenly the Mac is interesting again.

But what Tim really wants are all the profits from software sales. And he's got a scheme.

Apple's idea is to totally control all software and software sales on their Mac. They're going to push their new language Swift (which is anything but) and dumb down the development process until it's unrecognisable. The money they don't make on App Store sales they'll make on all the suckers paying yearly subscriptions to just get in the back door there.

What they'll do for a followup, they don't know. Their TV and their watch aren't moving mountains exactly. They already shat all over their server market. They could have made good money in that market. Professionals loved their server hardware - they only ran for it when they saw Apple's Finder.

Finder.

You have to stop a moment there and just reflect on that. Windows File Manager. It could really manage files. Windows Explorer. It was a mess but it at least had a name that was not inappropriate. Open source programs for Gnome and KDE were adequate if not stellar. But Finder? What exactly can Finder find? What kind of environment are you in where things otherwise get lost?

And Finder can't find anything. Such a sorry, tragic, stupid name. Finder doesn't 'find' - it hides!

All through Apple technology - and philosophy - is the idea of hiding things, of keeping them 'simple', often to a nauseating extent.

Apple's Finder can't even show all three attributes 'read, write, execute' for a file - 'execute' is considered too overwhelming for Apple users! All they have is 'Read' and 'Read & Write'. Think about that for a while.

The OPENSTEP dock: it had tabs. Talk about sophistication. The Apple dock? Simple to the point of being stupid.

And why that wretched menu bar? So it looks like the old Macs we so hated?

It took a lot for real computer lovers to embrace OS X. And it was always despite the Mac in it, not because of it.

Taking it one step at a time, from the pinnacle of NeXT and down to the depravity of 'macOS' - things won't end well.

**

The menu bar.

Why? NeXT menus were not only different, they were brilliant!

**

There's a world inside Gab. Just going through all your subscribed groups. The Cooking group is great. So much fun and love of food! And the IT group. Special shoutout to Bill White, scholar and gentleman. The group uses a famous photo of ken and dmr as masthead. Nothing can be more perfect!

Gab's turned into something of a revolution. Today they have their own fork of Mastodon. They're trimming it all the time. One of the first things they did was increase post size from 500 to 3000 characters. That's enough for a short op-ed. Compare of course with Twitter's 280 and original 140. (Who came up with 140? Yes, Jack Dorsey.)

And if you haven't seen it, then bookmark this and take it in as many stages as you want, for this is very very good, and can be seen several times until you find the nuances between the lines.



They (Gab, Andrew Torba, and crew) also have Dissenter, which is really something. Remember how all those news sites had 'Web 2.0' and welcomed comments - until they didn't like the comments? Remember how rags like Grauniad used to redact and remove comments? No more. Dissenter sets up comment sections for each URL it gets. So people can discuss no matter what the original site wanted. And comments can be automatically mirrored back to Gab.

Then they have their own web browser too. (Yes - it's forked from Brave.)

And - finally, for now - they have their own app store, accessible from inside the Gab site (and presumably from the Gab app as well).

Finally, for all you SJWs: are there nut-bags on Gab? There must be. One doesn't see them very often, but if Twitter has them, then Gab must too. Initially Gab got a bad rep because all the people Jack and Vijaya didn't like sought other platforms. But surveys show that the number of nut-bags is low anyway. As if that matters.

Traditionally you haven't been able to 'block' anyone on Gab. Only 'mute'. 'Block' seems to have been a requirement for Twitter, to get all those cash-cow accounts with celebs and politicos. But that's not something Andrew's interested in. (They also expect to be paid to run an account, as evidently is the custom on Twitter, and Andrew's not been too keen on that either.)

Andrew's now a daddy. As of a few days. He posted pics of his marriage a while back. A post of his from 20 July pretty much sums things up.

'I'm just some middle class dude on a farm in the middle of the woods funded only by The People going up against the mainstream media machine and the entirety of Silicon Valley to defend fundamental human rights online...........and winning.'

That's about it. Just like the old days. Before machines ruled the world. When people were still people.

**

What's really going to be missed is the NeXT technology. Yes, it's weird the first time you look at it - apps not being files but hives of files - but good grief what they have going for them!

First there's the incredible Interface Builder. An offshoot of something called SOS Interface, built for the 'beige box' by Jean-Marie Hullot. IB is the missing piece of the puzzle for GUI event-driven programming. Those who've never tried will simply not know. Our friends at NeXT Sweden showed us how you could complete an eight-hour job in minutes with it. Development times can be a small fraction (20%) of what they'd normally be. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web with that system, and says it's doubtful he'd have been able to create the web without it.

Then you have the classes. Two in number specifically. One for abstract stuff, the other for visible stuff. And the hierarchies and the standardisations are fantastic. It's hard to think of another significant event in programming on that level, other than Unix itself. The wonder manifests when you go looking for things. Once you understand how they're all organised, you can find anything. Just like that. Apple's own documentation of course sucks, but there've been third party tools which have been excellent.

The language itself - Objective-C - is like 'assembler' but for messaging. For Objective-C and for GUIs in general, it's all about messaging. So says Alan Kay, and he's the one who came up with the term 'object orientation' and also the one who invented Smalltalk, and Objective-C is simply a version of Smalltalk that you can compile. (It's got a lot better syntax too.) And Objective-C doesn't mess with C, as Bjarne's C-- does. The latter is the self-destructive bane of the industry, Objective-C defined object orientation - which doesn't have to have a bad name anymore.

**

The world is good. There sure are a lot of crooked people out there. But if people organise and shout enough, they might be able to bring it down to a level where it can again be controlled.

IT is a mess. The desktop machine is going nowhere. Mainframes are here forever as well - just ask IBM. The folly of even considering putting 'what's a computer' in an advertisement has to show what a boner Tim Cook did. None of them have any respect for their users.

Now they're paying for it.

Tim doesn't have the vision and desperation and creativity of Steve.

But even so, the day when a corporation can try to control so much and still remain popular is over.

Gnome sucks very big hippo you-know-what. KDE does the same. No one ever got it right, not before or since NeXT. And it sure would be nice to wake up to a world without malware. But perhaps it's time to swing in the hammock and read the papers - or a good book.

No one's going to Catalina.

About Rixstep

Stockholm/London-based Rixstep are a constellation of programmers and support staff from Radsoft Laboratories who tired of Windows vulnerabilities, Linux driver issues, and cursing x86 hardware all day long. Rixstep have many years of experience behind their efforts, with teaching and consulting credentials from the likes of British Aerospace, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Lloyds TSB, SAAB Defence Systems, British Broadcasting Corporation, Barclays Bank, IBM, Microsoft, and Sony/Ericsson.

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