Steve Jobs, one of computing’s icons, rest in peace

There are many, many tributes being shared over the Web these past 12 hours or so and I’d hate to just add to it, considering I am not among those who think Apple can do no wrong, or that Steve Jobs alone saved Apple. But I need to mark it here because his work affected all of us in so many dimensions. From his realization that the liberal arts played as much a role in technology as engineering, from his personal story of perseverance and his capacity to create his own 2nd acts, each one built on lessons from his past, to his push to create tools that… well… he’s going to be remembered for Apple, for NeXT, for Pixar, what they made, and folks will say he was a genius.

Me? I’m going to remember that he helped empower people to dream and create.

People compare Steve Jobs to his peers, but I think of him like Jim Henson, someone who was driven to make, to help others make, who brought teams together and found ways to instill it in them. Tools to help you to make, and to share what you make. To dream, and to share what you dream.

Thank you Steve Jobs and for the teams he was part of.


Steven Levy: Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011

Metafilter: Steven Jobs, RIP

Wall Street Journal: Steve Jobs’s Best Quotes

And 15 minutes to take that will, I hope, inspire you:

YouTube: Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

A few thoughts on Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple’s CEO

Apple is far more than the creation of one man. A casual scan of, a site focused on its history, will tell you that.

But so would Steve Jobs.

He’s created a culture at Apple that is going to go on long with out him.

A few reads about Jobs stood out for me today and I’d thought I’d share them here:

WSJ: Steve Jobs’s Best Quotes – as someone said on Twitter, you could avoid reading a few business/programming/design tomes and just absorb these and be better off.

His Stanford University commencement speech: ‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says. He ties in his life history as an adopted child of working class parents, into his pursuit of his dream, the failures he encountered, and the lessons that he absorbed that made him stronger. There’s a bit about life, death, perspective and mission. It is worth reading in full. There are reasons it went viral. You can watch it on YouTube as well. But the text is best.

Anil Dash on “What they are ‘protecting’ us from” connecting Jobs liberal, working class background, with his success, and wondering why some are fighting the policies that enabled stories like Job’s to be possible.

You won’t find much Apple fandom here and I’m not going to wax poetic about Apple products, but in a way, for programmers of a certain age like myself, one of the leaders of the personal computing revolution is now walking off his most visible stage and we have much to be thankful for.

So thank you everyone at Apple, Pixar, and NeXT, and thank you Steve Jobs for providing inspiration, and the foundation for so many careers reflecting creativity, communication, and passion.

iPad, iPhone, App Store rejections – the wrong choice

There are two camps waging a war for hearts and minds across the Web – those that want Apple’s App Store approval rules removed, and those that want more transparency in the approval decision making process. John Gruber outlines these but avoids a third choice that recognizes Apple’s right to maintain their store as they want and recognizes the right of an iPad or iPhone owner to do with their hardware as they please.

This third choice – this third way – is a win-win for everyone. Allow owners to add content and programs to their devices utilizing difference means then the App Store with the proviso that we are voiding our warranties.

Make it easy to do so. Make it obvious to do so. Plaster warnings for those treading into these waters. But make sure to empower the communities of users who are finding work-arounds to upgrade issues and more that will spring up to take root and flower.

In addition only require a developer license for those targeting the App Store.

If I am a tinkerer, or a child learning programming, it shouldn’t require permission from a corporation to do so.

Why is the discussion focusing on the App Store? Because everyone believes they are in a zero-sum game. They are not.

The App Store can remain as Apple’s ‘voice’ in what they consider to be great apps for your mobile device. And for those that want to pursue their own path – yes – to ‘think different’ – they would be able to do so. And have a terrific platform for just that.

Stories like this: “Apple removes Scratch from iPad/iPhone/iTouch” should not be.

I admit to not being an expert, and maybe what I’m suggesting here makes no sense. Feel free to criticize. But I find it interesting that few are considering it.

Please consider it.


Daring Fireball: “Why Apple Changed Section 3.3.1”

Business Insider: Jeff Jarvis: “I’m Really Worried About What Apple Is Trying To Do With The iPad”

Dan Gillmor: “Fiore’s iPad Rejection Harbinger of Bigger Story” “Is the iPad the harbinger of doom for personal computing?”

Boing Boing: 1984, iPad edition

Boing Boing: Cory Doctorow: Why I won’t buy an iPad (and think you shouldn’t, either)

Doc Sears: “Beyond the iPad”

Tao Effect: “Steve Jobs’ response on Section 3.3.1”

Terry Heaton: “Apple and the iPad: It’s 1968 all over again”

Aprit Mathur: “Alright Adobe, here’s what you do: Cross compile Objective C to run on the Flash Player”

Slate: Jack Shafer: “Apple Wants To Own You: Welcome to our velvet prison, say the boys and girls from Cupertino.”

Dave Winer: “iPad as coral reef”

Freedom to Tinker: “Flash, Scratch, Ajax: Apple’s War on Programming”

Ars Technica: Peter Bright: “Apple takes aim at Adobe… or Android?”: “Hostility towards competitors is, I suppose, all part of the game. But this action is also hugely hostile towards developers themselves.”

In closing

A thought to consider from Fake Steve, which, while not directly applicable to this, does touch on the passion this has roused in programmers and Apple supporters across the Web, and the… falseness of it all (my post a prime example!):

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs: “An open letter to the people of the world”:

…But let’s get back to you people who are waiting in line. I mean it’s not like you’re in Bolivia and there’s just been an earthquake and you need to line up to get food and clean water. It’s not like you’ve time-traveled back into the Depression and you’re waiting in line at a soup kitchen. And yet, in fact, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Spiritually speaking, we are living in the Great Depression, and you are waiting in line for sustenance. We, all of us, are experiencing the world that Deleuze and Guattari described so presciently in Capitalism and Schizophrenia. If you haven’t read this incredibly important two-volume work, I highly recommend that wait for us to make both volumes available on our iBooks store and then order them right away. The cool thing is that then, as you’re reading, you will have the strange and circular experience of discovering why you bought the iPad in the first place.

The truth is, this is all about spiritual emptiness. That is why you’re standing in line. Except for Scoble, who is an attention whore and just doing it to get attention.

The truth is, all over the world, across every culture, there exists a sense of yearning. A kind of malaise. An emptiness. At the risk of sounding like Dr. Seuss: There is a hole in your soul. That is what we’re addressing at Apple. That is the hole we aim to fill. Sadly, as you may have begun to suspect, that hole can never really be filled. The truth is that modernity, the condition of living in our modern world, has inflicted terrible wounds on your inner self. These wounds can never be healed. They can only be treated. At best we provide palliative care. Not a cure. Because, my dear fellow human beings, there is no cure for what ails you. The products we create provide only temporary relief. Their magic eventually wears off. The sense of childlike wonder they impart will, over time, begin to fade. And then you need a new product. Think back to June 29, 2007. Do you remember the rapture? The wonder of iPhone? The magic? Now that is gone, but here we come with another shot of digital Dilaudid. Sleep well, my friends. Sleep deeply and rest, cradled in the arms of my electronic medicine.

I’m enjoying the controversy around the latest Microsoft advertisement

I didn’t think an ad could generate controversy in this day and age, but Microsoft happened to do so with its best attempt yet at contrasting itself with Apple. Even though I run a MacBook Pro these days as my work machine, I know I could be just as productive with a decent laptop running Linux, Open Solaris, or Windows. Just about everything I run is open source an is available across all three operating systems.

Upgrading SVN on Leopard

If you’ve been keeping your Subclipse Eclipse plugin up to date on Leopard, sooner or later you will be met with a situation where your svn cli client will report an incompatibility and lead you to upgrading it.

The problem starts when you download and install the universal binary at CollabNet.

Installation goes well, but it doesn’t upgrade the original installation you have on your machine.

The simplest solution found in the comments in this post was to override path so that /usr/local/bin/ takes precedence over /usr/bin/ . In addition, I took the additional step of moving the original svn binaries from /usr/bin to a backup folder, to avoid any possible conflicts.

Worth a re-read, still relevant: Neal Stephenson’s “In the Beginning was the Command Line”

Pre-OSX, Pre-iPod, pre George W. Bush presidency, way back when.

First, A quote about Apple and Boomerdom:

Apple has always insisted on having a hardware monopoly, except for a brief period in the mid-1990s when they allowed clone-makers to compete with them, before subsequently putting them out of business. Macintosh hardware was, consequently, expensive. You didn’t open it up and fool around with it because doing so would void the warranty. In fact the first Mac was specifically designed to be difficult to open–you needed a kit of exotic tools, which you could buy through little ads that began to appear in the back pages of magazines a few months after the Mac came out on the market. These ads always had a certain disreputable air about them, like pitches for lock-picking tools in the backs of lurid detective magazines.

This monopolistic policy can be explained in at least three different ways.

THE CHARITABLE EXPLANATION is that the hardware monopoly policy reflected a drive on Apple’s part to provide a seamless, unified blending of hardware, operating system, and software. There is something to this. It is hard enough to make an OS that works well on one specific piece of hardware, designed and tested by engineers who work down the hallway from you, in the same company. Making an OS to work on arbitrary pieces of hardware, cranked out by rabidly entrepeneurial clonemakers on the other side of the International Date Line, is very difficult, and accounts for much of the troubles people have using Windows.

THE FINANCIAL EXPLANATION is that Apple, unlike Microsoft, is and always has been a hardware company. It simply depends on revenue from selling hardware, and cannot exist without it.

THE NOT-SO-CHARITABLE EXPLANATION has to do with Apple’s corporate culture, which is rooted in Bay Area Baby Boomdom.

Now, since I’m going to talk for a moment about culture, full disclosure is probably in order, to protect myself against allegations of conflict of interest and ethical turpitude: (1) Geographically I am a Seattleite, of a Saturnine temperament, and inclined to take a sour view of the Dionysian Bay Area, just as they tend to be annoyed and appalled by us. (2) Chronologically I am a post-Baby Boomer. I feel that way, at least, because I never experienced the fun and exciting parts of the whole Boomer scene–just spent a lot of time dutifully chuckling at Boomers’ maddeningly pointless anecdotes about just how stoned they got on various occasions, and politely fielding their assertions about how great their music was. But even from this remove it was possible to glean certain patterns, and one that recurred as regularly as an urban legend was the one about how someone would move into a commune populated by sandal-wearing, peace-sign flashing flower children, and eventually discover that, underneath this facade, the guys who ran it were actually control freaks; and that, as living in a commune, where much lip service was paid to ideals of peace, love and harmony, had deprived them of normal, socially approved outlets for their control-freakdom, it tended to come out in other, invariably more sinister, ways.

Applying this to the case of Apple Computer will be left as an exercise for the reader, and not a very difficult exercise.

On Disney, Apple/Microsoft, and mediated reality:

If I can risk a broad generalization, most of the people who go to Disney World have zero interest in absorbing new ideas from books. Which sounds snide, but listen: they have no qualms about being presented with ideas in other forms. Disney World is stuffed with environmental messages now, and the guides at Animal Kingdom can talk your ear off about biology.

If you followed those tourists home, you might find art, but it would be the sort of unsigned folk art that’s for sale in Disney World’s African- and Asian-themed stores. In general they only seem comfortable with media that have been ratified by great age, massive popular acceptance, or both.

In this world, artists are like the anonymous, illiterate stone carvers who built the great cathedrals of Europe and then faded away into unmarked graves in the churchyard. The cathedral as a whole is awesome and stirring in spite, and possibly because, of the fact that we have no idea who built it. When we walk through it we are communing not with individual stone carvers but with an entire culture.

Disney World works the same way. If you are an intellectual type, a reader or writer of books, the nicest thing you can say about this is that the execution is superb. But it’s easy to find the whole environment a little creepy, because something is missing: the translation of all its content into clear explicit written words, the attribution of the ideas to specific people. You can’t argue with it. It seems as if a hell of a lot might be being glossed over, as if Disney World might be putting one over on us, and possibly getting away with all kinds of buried assumptions and muddled thinking.

But this is precisely the same as what is lost in the transition from the command-line interface to the GUI.

Disney and Apple/Microsoft are in the same business: short-circuiting laborious, explicit verbal communication with expensively designed interfaces. Disney is a sort of user interface unto itself–and more than just graphical. Let’s call it a Sensorial Interface. It can be applied to anything in the world, real or imagined, albeit at staggering expense.

Why are we rejecting explicit word-based interfaces, and embracing graphical or sensorial ones–a trend that accounts for the success of both Microsoft and Disney?

Part of it is simply that the world is very complicated now–much more complicated than the hunter-gatherer world that our brains evolved to cope with–and we simply can’t handle all of the details. We have to delegate. We have no choice but to trust some nameless artist at Disney or programmer at Apple or Microsoft to make a few choices for us, close off some options, and give us a conveniently packaged executive summary.

But more importantly, it comes out of the fact that, during this century, intellectualism failed, and everyone knows it. In places like Russia and Germany, the common people agreed to loosen their grip on traditional folkways, mores, and religion, and let the intellectuals run with the ball, and they screwed everything up and turned the century into an abbatoir. Those wordy intellectuals used to be merely tedious; now they seem kind of dangerous as well.

We Americans are the only ones who didn’t get creamed at some point during all of this. We are free and prosperous because we have inherited political and values systems fabricated by a particular set of eighteenth-century intellectuals who happened to get it right. But we have lost touch with those intellectuals, and with anything like intellectualism, even to the point of not reading books any more, though we are literate. We seem much more comfortable with propagating those values to future generations nonverbally, through a process of being steeped in media.

On Linux, Writing Software, and Emacs:

The triad of editor, compiler, and linker, taken together, form the core of a software development system. Now, it is possible to spend a lot of money on shrink-wrapped development systems with lovely graphical user interfaces and various ergonomic enhancements. In some cases it might even be a good and reasonable way to spend money. But on this side of the road, as it were, the very best software is usually the free stuff. Editor, compiler and linker are to hackers what ponies, stirrups, and archery sets were to the Mongols. Hackers live in the saddle, and hack on their own tools even while they are using them to create new applications. It is quite inconceivable that superior hacking tools could have been created from a blank sheet of paper by product engineers. Even if they are the brightest engineers in the world they are simply outnumbered.

In the GNU/Linux world there are two major text editing programs: the minimalist vi (known in some implementations as elvis) and the maximalist emacs. I use emacs, which might be thought of as a thermonuclear word processor. It was created by Richard Stallman; enough said. It is written in Lisp, which is the only computer language that is beautiful. It is colossal, and yet it only edits straight ASCII text files, which is to say, no fonts, no boldface, no underlining. In other words, the engineer-hours that, in the case of Microsoft Word, were devoted to features like mail merge, and the ability to embed feature-length motion pictures in corporate memoranda, were, in the case of emacs, focused with maniacal intensity on the deceptively simple-seeming problem of editing text. If you are a professional writer–i.e., if someone else is getting paid to worry about how your words are formatted and printed–emacs outshines all other editing software in approximately the same way that the noonday sun does the stars. It is not just bigger and brighter; it simply makes everything else vanish. For page layout and printing you can use TeX: a vast corpus of typesetting lore written in C and also available on the Net for free.

Read the whole thing

The Elements Of Style: UNIX As Literature

Though I understood how people might be put off by having to remember such willfully obscure utility names like cat and grep, I continued to be puzzled at why they resented typing. Then I realized I could connect the complaint with the scores of “intellectual elite” (as my manager described them) in UNIX shops. The common thread was wordsmithing; a suspiciously high proportion of my UNIX colleagues had already developed, in some prior career, a comfort and fluency with text and printed words. They were adept readers and writers, and UNIX played handily to those strengths. UNIX was, in some sense, literature to them. Suddenly the overrepresentation of polyglots, liberal-arts types, and voracious readers in the UNIX community didn’t seem so mysterious, and pointed the way to a deeper issue: in a world increasingly dominated by image culture (TV, movies, .jpg files), UNIX remains rooted in the culture of the word.

UNIX programmers express themselves in a rich vocabulary of system utilities and command-line arguments, along with a flexible, varied grammar and syntax. For UNIX enthusiasts, the language becomes second nature. Once, I overheard a conversation in a Palo Alto restaurant: “there used to be a shrimp-and-pasta plate here under ten bucks. Let me see… cat menu | grep shrimp | test -lt $10…” though not syntactically correct (and less-than-scintillating conversation), a diner from an NT shop probably couldn’t have expressed himself as casually.

Read the whole piece.