|Home » Learning Curve
Why John Gruber is Mad
'I hope your sausage tastes good!'
'It will - it's been hiding the Fallen Madonna!'
'I don't care about her - I only want your sausage!'
Some people have to work. They have better things to do. Others have nothing to do. They have no real work. Because no one will hire them. John Gruber is such a person. So what does he do? Sells t-shirts. And stands on the Beige Balustrades and guards against attacks.
John Gruber makes Don Quixote look like a career diplomat. So far he's gone after the legendary Avie Tevanian, the universally popular Andrew Stone, and the well respected columnist Dan Gillmor. And that's enough. And why does he do it? Read on for a peek into a truly toxic mind.
Why indeed? John Gruber is an insect and everyone knows it. Fanboys are no more. None of these people count. They're not going to ever be worth your time. They're totally irrelevant both now and in the final analysis.
But if you're new to the OS X platform and you find things funny over time and want to know why - you've come to the right place in reading this article. You're about to find out why things on OS X can get as fucked up as they often are.
You're about to get a case study and a close look at the ultimate madman: John Gruber.
Who is John Gruber?
Nobody really knows who John Gruber is. Or what his qualifications are. He certainly doesn't have much of a CV. But he's evidently been able to make contacts within Apple headquarters in Cupertino over time. Perhaps fanboys hide in those offices and see him as a way to get the message out. Whatever: his sole claim to fame is 'inside information' - which admittedly comes sporadically these days. But that's how he got the attention of the fanboys at any rate.
The fanboys love John Gruber. They literally love him. He gives them back exactly what they want to hear - couched in a framework of pseudo mumbo jumbo craftily written to impress the stupid and uninformed. Gruber can write. And he can write this kind of demagoguery really well.
They also love him because he's - well 'fartsy'. He's got this sort of gay image, what with his domain name and an absolutely asinine grey on grey web design - which he contends 'represents all I can do'. He also uses a line spacing of about a gazillion pixels to make his articles look more lengthy and erudite than they really are. Talk about using appearances to deceive.
Mad - or Mad?
It's clear John Gruber is mad as in 'angry'. Almost every day he's lashing out at a new windmill. When he isn't discussing the comparative curvatures of the iTunes window corners that is. But John Gruber is more than mad as in 'angry' - much more: he's mad as in 'totally fucking batshit insane' - and that by a mile.
This compendium of the pathology of John Gruber is not so much a technical treatise as it's coverage of an Internet issue, but certain technical matters - which invariably are over the pointy head of John Gruber - will be dealt with summarily (as will John Gruber himself).
Windmill: Avie Tevanian
John Gruber's always been going on about Avie Tevanian. Avie Tevanian is the legendary chief software architect of NeXT Computer and NeXT Software and until recently held the same position at Apple. (Who were Apple going to pick instead? Dan Nagel? John Gruber?)
Avie's the one who captained the NeXTSTEP project to the harbour. He's the one who was ultimately responsible for both the overall design and the feature set of NeXTSTEP. And you don't have to wander many metres outside your front door to run into someone who'll roll their eyes and break into a big grin at mention of that product. Wikipedia calls NeXTSTEP 'the true gem' of the entire NeXT venture. The World Wide Web (which you're using to read this article) may not have ever been created without that OS, according to Tim Berners-Lee.
With a track record and pedigree like Avie's, why did Gruber go after him?
Easy: Avie hates fanboys like John Gruber.
Avie might not have said so in so many words, but it's easy to understand - from an engineering perspective - why someone would feel revulsion at the prospect of having to deal with 'MacOS' and have that experience spiced with these nitwits hanging about.
But Avie was too conscionable an engineer to be swayed by the ravings of these lunatics - and that's what got John Gruber into a hissy fit: OS X was to have a clean space-age design - with no reflection from the pathetic 'MacOS' that had almost brought Apple Computer to ruin.
And John Gruber couldn't tolerate that.
John Gruber didn't know beans about Avie Tevanian before he came to Apple - none of the fanboys did. Their greatest hero Steve Jobs was totally ignored for Steve's twelve years at NeXT and now they act like they own him and have always loved him.
To learn more about the charge against this windmill, click here.
Windmill: Dan Gillmor
John Gruber can't stand Dan Gillmor either. Lonely life he leads, that John Gruber. Who's Dan Gillmor and what's he done to offend little Grubie boy? Aside from being a really nice guy and a renowned journalist?
Although the article is currently offline at the site where Dan originally published it, it can be found. Here it is in all its glory.
Sun, Apr. 20, 2003
NeXT still stands out in its Mac incarnation
APPLE ACQUISITION, OS X BRING APPLICATIONS THAT PROVIDE PHOENIX-LIKE SOFTWARE REBIRTH
By Dan Gillmor
Mercury News Technology Columnist
During the past few weeks, I've installed a batch of new programs on my Macintosh computer running the OS X operating system. In this case, however, 'new' is a relative term.
All share a legacy from NeXT - the technology Apple Computer acquired in 1997 as the foundation of what became OS X. NeXT, founded about a decade earlier by Steve Jobs, was so advanced for its time that the world is still catching up in some ways.
NeXT hardware was expensive and never sold very well. The NeXTSTEP operating system disappeared entirely for several years as Apple assimilated it.
But software developers loved what they could create with the NeXT platform. And for many, OS X has meant a phoenix-like rebirth.
Some, like the Omni Group (www.omnigroup.com) in Seattle, were ready to jump to OS X pretty much the minute Apple's modern platform hit the street a couple of years ago. Others, such as AquaMinds (www.aquaminds.com) in Palo Alto and Circus Ponies (www.circusponies.com) in San Francisco, have just arrived in the market.
NeXT's lure, especially as it matured during the company's relatively brief life, was a combination of things. The operating system was sturdy, and the graphical way it interacted with its users was coherent and logical.
NeXT's technology was also way ahead of its time in the tools it offered developers. Programmers could assemble applications with relative ease, using powerful building blocks that were part of a sophisticated toolkit.
In bringing the NeXT technology into the heart of the modern Mac environment, Apple has maintained the guts of the old NeXT architecture while simultaneously extending and enhancing it. Some in the former NeXT community worried that Apple, trying to accommodate its legacy customers, would create a Frankenstein, but that hasn't happened.
'The Mac is now the NeXT with a lot of cool new technology', says Andrew Stone of Stone Design (www.stone.com) in Albuquerque, an early NeXT and OS X developer.
Almost all of the biggest traditional Mac developers, including Microsoft and Adobe Systems, have rewritten their applications for OS X.
But the technologies that made NeXT attractive a decade ago are giving a leg up not just to the former NeXT developers - though they have the easiest task in updating their work in the most modern ways - but also to a group that could be the foundation of tomorrow's Apple developer community.
Stone sees the modern Mac architecture and programming toolkits enabling a 'samurai' model of software development. That is, the tools and platform make it possible for a significant number of individual programmers or small teams, not just corporate behemoths, to create seriously innovative applications.
That's the case with AquaMinds' NoteTaker software and Circus Ponies' NoteBook. Both are based on code that powered the NoteBook software for NeXTStep that was sold by now-defunct Millennium Software Labs. Scott Love of AquaMinds and Jayson Adams of Circus Ponies were partners at Millennium, and now compete in tiny companies that are creating some interesting technology.
NoteTaker and NoteBook are designed for collecting a variety of information, including text files, Web pages and even audio recordings, and organizing them in a coherent and searchable way. I've licensed both products, and look forward to seeing how their features diverge over time. (I also hope there's enough of a market to support both.)
I'm also partial to LaunchBar, a must-have utility program from another small outfit, Objective Development (www.obdev.at) in Vienna, Austria. The company dates from 1991, when the NeXT machines first became available in Europe. LaunchBar was a NeXT application, but Objective Development has other products and continues to write new software, enthusiastically using the new Mac platform.
'The whole system has been way ahead of its time', says Norbert Heger, a partner, echoing a familiar refrain.
Omni is no giant, but in the OS X (and former NeXT) space it's big enough, boasting about 25 employees and a variety of products.
Wil Shipley, Omni's co-founder and president, says he knew he was seeing the future back in 1989, when he first encountered the NeXT platform. The name is different and the technology has been advanced, he says, but the concepts are the same.
Shipley says his company had its best sales day by far last week when it launched the latest version of OmniGraffle, a charting and diagramming program. 'I think we're starting to hit critical mass with OS X', he says.
Andrew Stone may have the best view of the landscape. His company had an early NeXT application called TextArt, which is now called Create for Mac OS X and is one of a batch of products Stone Design sells for graphic artists and Web site designers.
Stone Design also sells an application that OS X developers use to let potential purchasers download and try out software before buying a license. Stone says he has about 25 customers for that product, and new developers are finding the platform worth the effort.
'My vision is 100 or so shops like ours pushing the envelope', he says. 'OS X is just getting going.'
Dan Gillmor's column appears each Sunday and Wednesday. Visit Dan's online column, eJournal (www.dangillmor.com). E-mail email@example.com; phone (408) 920-5016; fax (408) 920-5917.
Nice article, what? Think again: there's untold evil lurking there - if you're to believe John Gruber.
Sausage Quotes I
In order to concentrate on the pathology of the John Gruber mind it's best to stick with 'out of context' quotes felled by our friendly sausage lover when he got into one of his typical hissy fits over the above Gillmor article. Try to not laugh too hard.
Note the use of the term 'legacy customers', implying the old Mac OS was some sort of antediluvian backwater.
It's absurd to claim that Apple could have screwed things up by 'accommodating' its existing MacOS customers.
I think the biggest reason OS X was so late is that it ended up being so much more than just a new version of NextStep with a Mac legacy layer.
The sentiment that former NeXT developers have a tremendous advantage over long-time Mac developers is misguided, and is actually somewhat harmful, as it's largely responsible for commonly held belief amongst the masses that 'Cocoa is better than Carbon', which is nonsense.
You really don't want to know how your sausage is made; you just want it to taste good.
Ever since the Apple/NeXT merger, there's been a decided amount of 'us against them' coming from NeXT developers moving over. I've never understood why this is.
It's a shame to see a writer as smart and prominent as Gillmor on the wrong side.
Ready for more?
Windmill: Andrew Stone
Now we start getting into dangerous waters because John Gruber is not a programmer and even less a system architect. And as you will see, grasps absolutely beans about operating systems and security. In fact this is where you'll start to perceive a sort of 'Benito Mussolini aura' around the guy - the spectre of someone hopelessly out of it, uninformed - and just blindly charging the windmill anyway.
Gruber's threat this time? The extremely popular Andrew Stone. Andrew founded Stone Design back when almost nobody knew about NeXTSTEP. He's been largely positive about everything that's happened since - including the 'merger'.
He's loved in the developer community and generally regarded not only as a lot of fun but one of the few 'nice guys' in the business. Yet Gruber still found reason to call him every tasteless name in the book.
Why? Because Andrew Stone, although initially an Apple developer, saw NeXTSTEP and understood where the river would run - and went for it - all the while John Gruber sat in front of his beige box and practiced clicking his mouse.
For if anything, Gruber's like some old geezer (and from his music references this rings absolutely true) who's living in a shack beside a road that's going to be turned into a super-highway. And the department of transportation can't get him to leave. And all the other idiots make him a cause celebre and flock to him. All because he wants to go on living in a stupid fucking shack.
Now the construction company NeXT is in town, and they're going to finally make something out of this wasteland called Apple - and the old geezer just won't budge.
Days after Dan Gillmor's article Andrew Stone introduced a new product - and it was the blurb itself which got Gruber's knickers twisted this time. The blurb's below. You'll probably think it's cool. Most people do. That's because you're sane.
And before her highness even got going on the blurb, she went berserk over the feature set!
But watch closely - for this deviant is not stupid: he makes things sound way different from the way they really are. As in the following remark which sounds like he's had a little personal chat with Gillmor who's suddenly seen the light - when all he's had of course is yet another cozy little chat with himself.
On Thursday I wrote about Dan Gillmor's ill-considered article in the San Jose Mercury News about former NeXT developers releasing successful Mac OS X applications.
On to Andrew Stone's evil blurb. Next windmill please.
Stone Design Ships FontSight™
Adds Visual Font menu to OS X Apps
Albuquerque April 25, 2003 - Stone Design today shipped a new plugin named FontSight™ that adds a visual font typeface menu to all Cocoa* Apps with a Font or Format menu.
Stone Design CEO Andrew Stone comments 'If you loved the way MacOS 9 could show you the actual typefaces of each font in your system, then you'll find FontSight™ indispensable! And it comes with a single-click installer'.
FontSight™ Features include:
• adds visual font menu to native OS X Apps
• one-click install (and uninstall)
• selecting new font changes the selected text's typeface
• view and print all fonts at any size
• set font size of the menu
• set 'as one list' or 'as families'
• set if it appears at top level or in Format menu
• shareware - only $19 with free upgrades for life!
Visit the FontSight™ Home Page for more info:
FontSight™ is available online from the Stone Store for $19. A full-strength demo can be downloaded from Stone Design's web site.
*Cocoa is Apple's revolutionary, native OS X development system. All Stone apps are written in Cocoa, as are Apple's TextEdit, iCal, iPhoto, Safari, Mail, etc. Carbon applications that have been ported to OS X without taking advantage of the native functionality of OS X do not show the FontSight™ menu.
Stone Design Corporation of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was incorporated in 1984 and was the first developer to ship a product on NeXT hardware in 1989 with the release of TextArt. Since then, Stone Design has been a leader in innovative shrinkwrap software in the NEXTSTEP/OpenStep/Mac OS X marketplace. Create® - the high end drawing and web page making package - is Mac OS X's first Cocoa native design application. Create®, PhotoToWeb®, GIFfun™, SliceAndDice™, TimeEqualsMoney™ and PackUpAndGo™ are Stone Design trademarks. Other names are trademarked by their respective companies.
Sausage Quotes II
And now some juicy quotes from Gruber's attack (some of which sound like outbursts from a drag queen).
That's not how things work on OS X, which is absolutely a change for the better. You can still achieve system wide hacks (see Unsanity's Haxies) but you can't do it at the same 'one wrong step and your entire machine will crash' level that you could on MacOS 9.
Because Cocoa apps are by definition built using the same programming frameworks and depend upon the same OS resources, it's possible to modify or add to those resources to affect all Cocoa applications on a system. This isn't hacking - it's a very deliberate feature in Cocoa's object-oriented design.
I don't know how Stone's FontSight is implemented, but I think it's a reasonable guess that he's overriding the default menus in Cocoa's object model.
Now that's just downright insulting.
The implication is that the only way for developers to 'take advantage' of Mac OS X is to use Cocoa.
That's called promoting your features.
Stone took the opportunity to besmirch Carbon applications with the claim that they're 'not native'. That's called bigotry.
Just because Carbon developers aren't taking advantage of Cocoa does not imply they aren't taking advantage of Mac OS X; Cocoa is a part of the OS, not the OS itself.
Most Mac users have little or no understanding of the actual technical definitions of 'Cocoa' or 'mach-o' or whatever, nor should they need to.
Do you see how this is insulting? Not just insulting to established Mac developers (although it is), but also to Mac users in general, who are being sold a bill of goods on the assumption that they lack the technical expertise to see through these claims of 'nativeness'.
Certain executives at Apple haven't helped in this regard, having insinuated in the past that Carbon is a stop-gap measure on the way to an all-Cocoa future.
Carbon is not just a compatibility layer for old applications; it's a deep chunk of the OS.
Let's take a step back for a moment, and imagine that I am wrong.
No matter how good Cocoa is, it's a bit narrow-minded to assume it's the one and only legitimate application framework for OS X.
For one thing, many long-time Mac developers have their own frameworks, written from the ground up for their specific needs.
Cocoa has some significant shortcomings. Its support for AppleScript is mediocre, at best.
Shouldn't we safely assume that top Mac developers know more about the internal structure and framework of their applications than we do?
The truth is really kind of boring.
Yes it is. And even worse it can't move t-shirts.
Bertrand Russell once made a remark about how the intelligent were cautious and soft-spoken and only idiots whined, screamed, and stomped their wee feet.
In the extensive comments section to a recent Gruberoid attack on one of the windmills, one post went almost unnoticed. It pointed out that the windmill was universally popular, often the high point of the WWDCs with his parties, and in no way - as the article stated - 'batshit insane'.
But that post was so sober in comparison to the rest of the blather no one paid it any attention.
It was authored by Eric Buck, co-author of the definitive Cocoa programming bible.
The broad OS X demographic could care less about the 'MacOS' antediluvian backwater. Most have never seen a 'Mac' before. They have no use for all the 'doodads' Gruber and his ilk are so fond of. They won't be buying 'Carbon' apps. Apple themselves choose to create Cocoa apps - and for a good reason. Apple update their Carbon apps to Cocoa - and for a good reason.
Gruber and his fanboys are dying out anyway. They don't reproduce. Either because they're not invited to the gene pool or because they're totally incapable of splashing around in it. Consider them gone. Picture in your mind that the shack beside the super-highway is gone. Because it soon will be.
Out of the Madness
So what does it take to make someone so totally full of himself? Or herself? It takes heaping tablespoons of insanity. It takes a totally mad mind. It takes a pathology as unique and as devastating as that of John Gruber.
Herstory has always had her share of demagogues, and John Gruber is clearly a demagogue; but herstory also tells us that demogagues - invariably - are stark raving mad.
Postscript: John Gruber Six Years Later
Things are easy when you carry a light attaché. Preferably without a real CV to weigh you down. Six years later and John Gruber rants and rails against Android because it's not Cocoa. Small steps. A child's steps. And very tiny sausages.
Artwork © Nick Carmine NetFX LLC. All rights reserved.