For the first time since 2003 I’m seriously thinking about switching to Ubuntu. It feels like, since Snow Leopard, more things have been subtracted from than added to my Mac. This syndrome infects product-management groups everywhere not just in Cupertino; “We know better; the experience for the average user will be better without that.” But there ain’t no such thing as an average user, and it’s almost always a bad idea to subtract a shipping feature.
In Particular · Since Snow Leopard, there’s been exactly one useful new OS X thing: windows you can resize at any edge. And there have been brutal amputations (most painful for me: loss of the Apache GUI and the moronic refusal to tell me what screen resolutions I’m using).
Apple salts these wounds by hurling gobs of engineering effort into beautifully-drawn fripperies such as Launchpad and Messages and Mission Control (and I’m still angry about Dashboard).
Re Launchpad: For any app or document on your Mac, type command-space, start typing its name, and within a few keystrokes you can press press Enter and you’re there.
Re Dashboard: You can make it go away forever by typing
defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled -boolean YES
And stupidest of all: Laboriously building in system-level integration with two different flavor-of-the-month social networks, rather than investing in a general sharing framework of the kind that’s been working just fine since 2008 on Android.
In General · This failing is not limited to Mac product management. Nor even to Apple, despite for example features users miss in iOS 6; connoisseurs of flameage will enjoy any of Linus Torvald’s jeremiads about the impoverishment of the Gnome UI.
Sidebar: Leaving the Mac · I probably can’t because I’m addicted to Lightroom and Keynote. Well... I could maybe step away from Keynote; my slides these days are mostly just pictures with very few words; and it’d be nice if they had a URL.
As for Lightroom, I’m starting to wonder if running it in a Windows VM on one of the stupidly powerful boxes Lenovo and its competitors ship is an entirely insane idea.
A Radical Idea · There are certain objects whose design is finished: the violin, the little black dress, the hammer, and nigiri sushi; complete unto their purpose. Certain aspects of the professional toolset on my computer are starting to feel almost as polished as my cello or my jigsaw, and I’d like it if systems vendors would please just stop fucking with them.
You know who else would be grateful? Not just geeks like me but the other end of the teeter-totter; less-technical people who’ve put serious effort into mastering the mousewheel or the chat window. What’s sad is that when product managers break stuff, these people blame themselves; my pain is abated by anger, theirs amplified by embarrassment.
But there’s a large, well-tuned engineering team and a product refresh scheduled for next year, and the announcement has to say “314 new features!” Increasingly, we get sideways or backward motion.
I’m not claiming computer interfaces are finished; there’s plenty of unexplored territory. Let’s see... touch, kinetics, text entry, and predictiveness. But please, if you care for me, don’t change your hair for me.