Archive for the '#noapple' Category

A Cautionary Tale: Rogue Amoeba and Apple

Friday, May 25th, 2012

At the OUCE people were teasing me because I kept saying “Apple is Evil”.

Now I really don’t believe in good and evil as absolute constructs, but the phrase gets my point across. If you are a casual user of Apple’s products you probably don’t care, or more likely just don’t notice, how tightly Apple is trying to control both the information you create and what you can do with it.

[Note: for those of you who point out that Apple is a fine example of capitalism, they aren't. In functioning markets, profits like Apple's are not sustainable because competition will arise to drive prices down, to the benefit of consumers. With the double edged sword of stupid software patent lawsuits and a hegemony on components brought about through having container ships full of cash, Apple is preventing this from happening, or at least slowing it down, but I guess that's a topic for another rant].

Some people think that I hate the idea of paying for software. Not true, I spend a lot of money each month on software. I prefer free alternatives, but I am more than willing to purchase commercial software as long as the vendor looks out for my privacy and the software works (or better yet, I prefer spending my money supporting free software).

One company I’ve spent money with over the years is Rogue Amoeba. They write wonderful audio-focused utilities for OS X. Recently I used Audio Hijack to digitize a collection of vinyl albums and then processed them through Fission. Through their Airfoil products I could stream music to any of my devices (well, before I started using Ubuntu – I really wish someone would work to make Linux tools that can leverage Apple’s Airplay/Airtunes technology or create a free alternative). The apps were inexpensive, easy to use, and got the job done.

Yesterday on the Rogue Amoeba website, they posted the following: “Apple Has Removed Airfoil Speakers Touch From The iOS App Store”

Airfoil Speakers was a little app that allowed you to stream music from your computer to any iOS device. It had been around since 2009. No reason was given for why this application was pulled and nothing had recently changed to act as a trigger for its removal.

Rogue Amoeba isn’t some little flight by night software company. They’ve been around a long time, been very focused on OS X (even when it wasn’t cool) and are all around good guys. While they are probably somewhere down the list of Apple business partners from, say, Samsung, my guess is that they are much closer to the top than most. The fact that Apple would just yank their app with no justification shows how little Apple cares about those who develop on their platform.

Think about it – Rogue Amoeba, and thousands of other software companies – have bet the farm on being able to supply software for Apple devices. These are good companies employing smart developers who have mortgages to pay. Now, to a large extent, their livelihood is being threatened by Apple’s fickle control of its marketplaces.

The rumor is that Apple is creating a similar product in the next iOS release, and apparently the terms of service prohibit applications that duplicate Apple-provided functionality.

Control is the main point here. One reason I left Apple last summer was that I saw that company taking more and more control over what I could and could not do with the devices on which I create. I could envision some point in time where Apple would make a decision I didn’t like, and then it might be too late or too expensive for me to back away.

I could see Apple moving to standardize everything, including their personal computers, on an iOS platform. With terms that prohibit competing products to anything Apple itself creates they are stifling competition, and I could foresee a future event where their policies might arbitrarily screw me over, although I didn’t really have a concrete example.

I do now, even if it didn’t happen to me directly.

First World Problems

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Just a quick post to point out two things.

The first was that I found myself seeing a lot of press about the OS X FlashBack Trojan, and I immediately tried to test my iMac … before I remembered I was on Ubuntu.

I thought that was interesting, not only because Linux tends to be safer from such things but mainly due to the fact that I totally forgot I wasn’t on OS X.

I should also note that most sites are suggesting that the easiest way for people to detect the trojan is to download and execute some code off the Internet. (sigh)

The second thing is that David Bryne has started blogging again, and he has a cautionary tale about Amazon removing Kindle content without asking permission:

It seems that, once again, Amazon has removed purchased material from our devices. I suspect Apple had a hand in this as well. Apple has consistently sabotaged their competitors’ apps and software that allow you to sync other devices with their own. Then, all of the sudden, apps that once did X and Y suddenly don’t perform those functions anymore. In most cases those apps were free—so it is hard to complain too much. Although, some of the free apps contained magazines, books and other content, like Decoded, that I purchased and though they may not have been very good, I paid for them and they were mine to keep! They came to my house and ripped pages out of my book!

As much as I’d love to have some sort of e-reader, until they stop doing stuff like this I’ll vote with my wallet.

Back to Ubuntu

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Just a quick update on my #noapple efforts. Except for one lapse I’ve not been regularly using OS X since last summer. For the last several months my desktop of choice has been Gnome 3 on Debian testing (wheezy).

Due to the tight integration with the rest of the desktop and its ability to integrate well with our middleware solution (SOGo) I was using Evolution mail. I had heard it could be buggy, but for weeks I had no problems, plus I liked the fact that it was easy to play sound files in-line without launching another app (which I have to do with Thunderbird). Our Asterisk PBX sends voicemails as attachments.

But something happened after the last update and Evolution kept crashing. It was sporadic at first, but then it happened so often I’d launch it via the Gnome debugger. Surprisingly, when I did that it was stable, but after awhile it would die even in the debugger. I did a search on the error and found out that it had been reported as a bug, but it didn’t seem to have any activity on a fix.

Since I can’t live without e-mail, I needed something else. I’d seen some interesting things about Ubuntu 12.04 so I thought I might give that a shot. Of course, there must be something wrong we me, as the businessman wants something stable that just works and the geek wants the new shiny, and here I was willing to run another testing desktop.

Lucky for the businessman, the 12.04 Alpha 2 installer kept dying on me.

The reason I left 11.10 was that SOGo did not have a frontend for the version of Thunderbird that came with it. However, that has now changed, so I went back.

I missed Ubuntu.

If you have been a longtime OS X user, Ubuntu with Unity is about the closest you can get to that experience (pre-Lion of course since Lion sucks). I had everything up and running in about an hour, and over the weekend I based my other two machines and put 11.10 on them (still didn’t fix my line-in audio problem on my iMac, however).

So I’m back to drinking the Ubuntu Kool-aid, which is cool. What I love about open source is the plethora of choices.

Ubuntu’s HUD

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

I am on the road this week (shout out to Boise) and it is the first trip I’ve taken where I’m spending almost all of my time on my Macbook Air since upgrading it to run Linux.

I’ve been pretty happy with it. Wireless works fine, and while I sometimes struggle with nvidia-settings when trying to run an external monitor, I haven’t hit anything where I had to boot back into OS X, at least for very long.

As someone who has decided to run Linux on the Desktop, I am very eager for news on the future direction of such things. I noticed today on Mark Shuttleworth’s blog that he was announcing a new feature in Ubuntu called the “Heads Up Display” (HUD).

The idea is simple – instead of a hierarchical menu have an intelligent search box that learns what you use the most, and can use “fuzzy matching” to help you get to what you want fast. Once it is considered ready for prime time, I’ll probably check it out.

However, there were a couple of things about his post that bothered me. First, he wants to add voice recognition. While that is all well and good, I must be the only person on the planet who doesn’t want to talk at his electronics. Sure, I love being able to dial my mobile phone by voice when driving, but I don’t want to have to speak “Find Nekkid Pictures of Scarlett Johansson” into my browser. I experience so many people on cellphones creating noise pollution that I don’t want to have to deal with it in other aspects of technology. While this probably won’t be the default for most devices, I am still not as excited about it as Mark seems to be.

Second, nowhere in his post did he mention Gnome 3 as an inspiration. I’ve been using the much maligned desktop for awhile now and I love it. When I need to run a program I simply drag my mouse into the upper left corner of the screen and type in the name of what I am looking for in the “Type to search” box. Now it isn’t smart or fuzzy, but it gets the job done and seems to me to be very similar to HUD.

I especially liked Mark’s comment “Instead of cluttering up the interface ALL the time, let’s clear out the chrome, and show users just what they want, when they want it.” which is very similar to what I wrote about Gnome 3: “It gets me to where I need to be, and then it gets the hell out of the way.”

As someone who doesn’t plan to leave the linux desktop, I am excited when improvements like HUD are being implemented. In the ecosystem that is open source, the great ideas will propagate, and if HUD takes off I would expect to see something similar in other offerings.

Evolution Mail and SOGo Address Book

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Just a tip for anyone using Evolution mail with the SOGo Carddav address book. Sometimes I launch Evolution (usually after a reboot) and I notice that there are no contacts in my Webdav calendar, Nothing I can do in configuration seems to help, and I get an error if I try to delete the address book to re-add it.

I figured out that if I stop Evolution, open a terminal and kill the:

/usr/lib/evolution/e-addressbook-factory

process, my contacts will reload properly. Might be some sort of race condition but I figured I’d mention it here in case someone else hits the same problem.

Oh, this is on an up to date Debian Wheezy install running Gnome 3.