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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   Apple: king of upgrades
Wednesday, September 14 2011 `

I'm always railing about Microsoft and how every "upgrade" of their software products is more about harvesting money from their user base than it is about introducing new features. Think about it: is there anything indispensable in the latest copy of Microsoft Word that wasn't in Word 5.1? (Word 5.1 came out in 1992, and I'm talking about Macintosh here, since most of my Word use has been on Macintoshes.) Most of the changes in a mature software product like Word are not about features, they're about putting access to everyday tasks in new and unexpected places, thereby spawning another generation of manuals and instructional courses. Businesses spend billions on this nonsense; if they'd all standardize on an open source word processor like AbiWord, Bill Gates would have to give up on mosquito nets for Africa and, for America's job creators, it would be as if a huge new tax break had been signed by President Obama (in other words, there would be more profits but no more jobs).
But as much as I complain about Microsoft, they have nothing on Apple. I haven't considered myself primarily an Apple user since 1995, although periodically I do wade into its world. Usually when I do, I'm greeted by wave after wave of insistent messages on my dated hardware beseeching me to upgrade this or that. Who knows what changed with iTunes between June of 2008 and September of 2011, but usually it was big enough to make the old iTunes useless. I don't like software to insist on such revolutions; ideally, all change would be evolutionary and I would like to think I could get by on a Macintosh from 2006 indefinitely. (Meanwhile, in the Windows world, my preferred OS remains Windows XP.) I have a compulsion of turning off software update reminders and act as if I am working on an OS as canonically perfect as the King James Bible. But such Luddism works only to the extent that my computer is not intimately interacting with other computers.
Recently I've been pulled back into the world of Macintosh by my career turn as an iPhone app developer, and I'm finding that my resistance to updates has become more of a liability than an asset. My main contact (out in Los Angeles) is the opposite of me with regard to updates. At least when it comes to Apple software, he wants the latest and greatest even to the extent that it fixes what isn't broken, and of course this means that he's often scratching his head wondering why something doesn't work. Now that we're interacting with each other, actually compiling common source code on our respective machines, I've had to become more like him and he's had to become more like me so that we meet in some sort of workable middle ground. Today, though, a mismatch in our software updating (or, technically, in my ability to update) led to an obscure problem where I couldn't use code he'd written because he'd compiled it in Xcode 4.1 and I was using Xcode 4.0. Mind you, Xcode 4.0 was the latest and greatest version as recently as July. I tried to "upgrade" my Xcode, but that required an operating system upgrade of my computer to OS 10.7 (Lion), something my 2006-vintage Mac Mini could not do. In the end the problem was easily solved when my colleague saved his code in a compatible older format, but of course older formats are never the default. Apple's goal, like Microsoft's, seems to be coercion of upgrades by subtle incompatibilities. In this case, though, the upgrade would have required an outlay of at least $700, and in such cases it's a lot easier to have your contact save his files in a non-default format.


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