iPad Snivellers: Put Up Or Shut Up

It's taken me a couple of days for me to understand the wet sickness I felt in response to all the post-iPad whining, until it finally came up in a sputtering lump: disgust.

The iPad isn't a threat to anything except the success of inferior products. And if anything's dystopian about the future it portends, it's an American copyright system that's been out of whack since 1996.

Mark Pilgrim, a man I don't know but can easily presume is my technical better many times over if only because he is employed by Google, said this in a piece called "Tinkerer's Sunset":

Now, I am aware that you will be able to develop your own programs for the iPad, the same way you can develop for the iPhone today ... And that's fine - or at least workable - for the developers of today, because they already know that they're developers. But the developers of tomorrow don't know it yet. And without the freedom to tinker, some of them never will.

Then, John Naughton, writing for the Guardian:

For the implication of an iPad-crazed world – with its millions of delighted, infatuated users – is that a single US company renowned for control-freakery will have become the gatekeeper to the online world. The iPad – like the iPhone – is a closed, tightly controlled device: nothing gets on to it that has not been expressly approved by Apple. We will have arrived at an Orwellian end by Huxleian means. And be foolish enough to think that we've attained nirvana.

This noxious attitude has permeated our tech culture for the last couple of decades, from a half-decade of open-source devotees crying about Microsoft on Slashdot, on toward the last few years of Apple ascendency. It's childish. It's defeatist. And it shows a simultaneous fear to actually innovate and improve while spilling gallons of capitulative semen to a fatuous, dystopian cuckold wank-mare.

Stop trembling, start creating Nerds! You're not smarter or better than the people who just want to use your creations for their own purpose. You want it both ways: to be able to complain about the incompetency of your family when you're asked to help them work on their computers, but to swing around the half-understood ideas of dead authors when a company actually decides to build a computer that doesn't crumble to dust as a matter of course.

You learned to love technology by tinkering? That's great! Please explain to me how a closed ecosystem like Apple's will impede a curious child's ability to explore in the least way. It's not 1980. It doesn't cost a month's salary to buy a computer. And as long as it takes code to make programs, there will still be plenty of "real" computers around.

Worse, this inviolate right to tinker you claim, the oh-so-horrible future you're trying to frighten everyone with literal think-of-the-children fearmongering, is the imagined possibility that future engineers won't be able to create their own tools.

Well guess what? Only shade-tree tweakers give a flip about creating their own tools. Most people want to use the quality tools at hand to create something new.

Fix the law Is the DMCA a travesty? Is it bullshit that someone should go to jail for cracking the firmware of a device they own? Of course. Only monsters would allow the curious to go to jail for exploring. Every song ever recorded, every movie ever filmed - they're all together less important than a person's freedom.

But you know what will fix those issues? It's not bitching about how those stupid customers may or may not buy an iPad. It's fixing the legal system. (Or for most of us, myself included, letting the EFF fight those battles for us.)

The number of engineers complaining about Apple's decisions who aren't using products of other capitalist corporations who thrive in the shadow of patent law and the DMCA approaches zero: Moan away in your Google browsers on Windows running on your copyrighted Intel processors. You're really fighting the good fight.

Hilariously, the great open-source hope is Google's Android, but its best apps are designed - and tightly controlled - by Google, which has used its clout to roll over countless web-based companies in a manner just as Orwellian or Huxleyan or whoever it is we're invoking now as Apple or Microsoft.

If you want to walk the walk, you can follow Stallman's lead and do all your computing on a tiny netbook, interfacing with the internet from a text console running emacs. Let me know how that works out for you. Be sure to take a picture of yourself using your Lemote Yeeloong next to the biodiesel engine you made on your handforged anvil.

Fix your product "Now it seems [Apple is]doing everything in their power to stop my kids from finding that sense of wonder. Apple has declared war on the tinkerers of the world," whimpers Pilgrim. Grow the fuck up. Apple has no more "declared war" on your children than Henry Ford declared war on colours besides black.

Apple is selling a product. They've chosen to keep it closed for demonstrably reasonable benefits. And - yes, OK! - several collateral benefits that come from controlling the marketplace that services their products.

But Apple is not the government. There's no mandate to buy an Apple product except the call of excellence. And if you think the average persona on the street doesn't recognise both the ups and downs of buying into an Apple ecosystem, you're eyeing them with the typical nerd myopia, looking down your nose with the same autistic disdain you cultivated in high school. Turns out the internet you helped build as a sanctuary ended up a great place for normal folk, too.

Consider a path that will truly inspire the coming generations of tinkerers and engineers: Working your arse off to make a product that competes with Apple on every count that matters - design, ease-of-use, a simple marketplace, customer satisfaction; you know, everything - and does it with the open-source licenses and values you claim to believe in; or fight to change the broken copyright laws that demonise the tinkering in the first place.

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Comments

    Well said. Personally, I don't like Apple and this goes way back. And I get sick of the Apple ads putting down PCs, which I consider to be the superior product. But I also deeply understand that it is just business and Apple has a good following because it is doing something right for certain types of consumers. I have, actually, an iPod Touch which was a gift and I might actually try the ipad. During the tablet heyday, I bought 3 PC tablets and was disappointed by 2 of them and partially disappointed with the 3rd. Maybe Apple has it right?

    It's good to read some passionate arguments whatever the position. Even more so when I agree. The Henry Ford line is genius writing. Sweet.

    The tinkering can still take place, in the SDK's virtual environment on a PC or MAC. The iPad may be a closed product, but it is not replacing all other computing devices in your home or pocket. I have a PC, iMac, iPhone and a PC Notebook for various purposes. If I want to do simple things when I'm at home like reading the news on the web, checking my emails, getting the weather forecast & so on, I have a choice of sitting at a desktop machine, fiddling with the small iphone screen or having a hot notebook on my lap. For me this is where the iPad is the ideal platform with its tablet form factor, size & lightness, I can carry it anywhere in the house or out in the garden to do those things.

    Apple does have a habit of doing what they put their minds to right. They can, however, be narrow minded on this approach, but what it means is, you get a device that is designed to do just what it was designed to do and it does it well (shame about itunes).

    If you think the closed system of apple is depriving you of tinkering, then you should look to alternatives first, there are plenty around!

    Want to develop for a hand held device, there are plenty of android's out there...but that's the problem isn't, there are too many and you have to cater to all there individual needs, but at least you can cut your teeth.

    You can run java on lego mindstorm!!

    You can also write for the windows mobile platform (if you can afford the development software)

    I don't agree in total with apples app store approach as I believe it disadvantages small-med business and organizations from fully taking advantage of the device (as they can't develop in house tools without having to release them to the app store - which isn't always appropriate).

    However, I do agree with there desire to protect their investment and the user (although, we don't all need hand holding all time).

    I have no issue with having to submit my code to apple for review and signing, I only have issue with then been forced to distribute the app through their public store.

    I like the look of the windows tablet, but we'll have to wait and see how it holds up. Sure it'll have "power" and "flexibility", but apple has already target one group of people with the ipad...people who don't want to be tethered to a power source.

    Freedom is found in choice. No one is forcing you to buy one if doesn't fit your needs and there are plenty of alternatives out there if all you want to do is tinker (hell, if you only want to tinker, get the SDK and use the simulator!), the only reason people continue to whinge about apple is they know that it is, for the time been, one of the best devices around!

    BUT, you wouldn't let you kid "tinker" with your porshe, without first having played with a VW bettle or an early model falcon/commodore!

    This is by far the best article I've ever read on Giz. I lost my shit at the paragraph about Stallman and the hand forged anvil. Kudos Joel.

    I have an iPhone and I love it, and I'll probably buy the next one when it comes out. What sickens me more than people whining about the iPad is all the fanboys convinced that the iPad is new and unique and at the forefront of technology. I still don't see the revolutionary functionality this device brings. There is nothing it does that something else that already exists couldn't already do..

    "Most people want to use the quality tools"

    I'm sorry, have you used xcode?

    I'm against open source, or at least the open source people who bitched about Microsoft, I can fully understand why Bill Gates said he didn't like open source.

    I understand your point, that no one forces us to buy apple products, and that keeping them closed has it's benefits.

    we are just worried that with the popularity of their products, they could set a precedent that all others will follow.

    also, I disagree that Microsoft, Intel and Google are just as bad as Apple. the former companies are only evil to each other, apple pisses off the consumer too. I don't care that google has a monopoly on the online ad market, I don't care intel under cut AMD, and I don't care MS did whatever they did. I do care that apple doesn't give me free reign over their device, and it's not like they couldn't, sure keep the app store and everything, even have a "closed/open" switch on the side for the majority of simpletons (no offence meant) that want the benefits the closed system provides, BUT DON'T TAKE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST PEOPLE WHO JAILBREAK IT!!

    you can argue all you want that they are doing it to "protect people from understanding how stuff works" but when they FORCE EVERYONE to do it their way, we see their true colors, they are just in it for the money. and are you seriously blaming the legal system for letting apple get away with it?? Im sorry! I'm not a lawyer!!

    Remember EVEN Sony let you have free reign over the cell on the ps3, saving scientists many $$$ from having to spend nearly 10 times the price for a "professional" version of the processor. yet they still maintained control for everyone else (and admittedly, made sure you couldn't make games) but still, EVEN SONY, that everyone hates so much, is less "evil" in this respect than Apple.

    and seriously? you are expecting a couple of bedroom programmers to be able to take on a giant corporation like apple?? get real! sure, I could create A corporation as big as Apple to topple them, but it would be SLIGHTLY easier if they just let me do what I want with their existing device...

    the simple fact of the matter is this: no matter how much you try to sugar coat it, apple could have just as easily pleased everybody, but they decided to go after ridiculous profit instead. fair enough, but excuse me for not considering them the second coming like the rest of you.

    and that is the reason we complain, why we complain about any company, we don't so much complain because apple is bad, we complain BECAUSE ALL OF YOU THINK THEY ARE SOO GOOD!

    Microsoft is bad in many ways, and many people bitch about them, all is good in the world.

    we bitch because apple doesn't seem to get the shit they deserve! :D

    all in all though, I agree with the others, I may not AGREE with all the content, but this is a really good quality article.

    So some people are pissing in Steve Job's pool and Joel Johnson suffers apoplexy. I may not agree totally with arguments but I completely understand the sentiment. I was looking forward to a future of increasingly powerful devices to use and abuse as I pleased. Instead the opposite has happened. Apple comes along and sucks all the sophistication out of a product and then markets to the lowest common denominator demographic as fashion accessories. I can't argue with Apple they're completely on mission making a buck while developers are happy churning out simple widgets and handing a hefty slice of the take to Apple. It doesn't matter what I think, I'm outnumbered twenty to one.
    I was speaking to my mother on the phone and she told me about this "invention" she'd seen on the news that was "a computer that only had a screen and it was going to replace ordinary computers". So Joel, you think you threw up?

    It's still a fail. Real computers can run real operating systems and applications. The ipad is a joke.

      What's reality Greg? If i am a casual computer user who enjoys the internet for entertainment, news and info, and likes to listen to music and answer email, then tell me why i need the hassle/viruses/bloatware/size/performance-degradation of 'real' computer?

      I am a Sysadmin, so i will always need a powerful desktop computer. But i will also be buying an iPad, because it will be a fun toy to read the news and listen to music on.

    Joel Johnson, get over yourself. If you have something to say, say it without the slanders and insults.

    @Matt, well put (although I do disagree with teh bit about open source)

    I have an iPhone, but my next phone will be an Android (assuming all goes well). My iPhone is my first Apple product in a long time (not counting mp3-only iPods). I started my IT life as developer on Macs, and all was good back in those days. Coming to the iPhone, and the claustrophobic control Apple exercises was a shock to me. I can't make my own ring tones without jumping through backdoor hoops! Apple are selling devices configured to ensure future revenues. Like so many other commenters, I want to own my device. I will stay away from the iPad because I have owned an iPhone. I don't need a larger one of the same.

    spoken like a true blind fanboy.

    i have a problem with all the sheeple out there who will buy this thinking it is something it is not. just like i have a problem with so-called LED TVs not being LED. This is not a personal computer as we come to expect. without multitasking it is completely gimped.

    apple are the greediest PC company out there and all the blind idiots follow like lemmings. ever tried to replace a part on a MBP... try 10x the cost of an equivilent windows notebook part. since when is a new(recon) motherboard worth $2200 AUS ($1500 if they can salvaged it for someone else who thinks they are getting a new logic board), new screen $900AUS, new DVD drive (not blu-ray but good old DVD) $900AUS. these parts sell at many many times the cost just because they can. the thing only cost me $2600AUS

    i have a MBP and will probably buy one again (with Applecare next time) because i am enjoying the OS for a change but i am not a blind idiot. i will not be buying this POS though

    now they want to control everything you put on their devices as well all because it brings them more and more money and creates their beloved monopoly. greeeeed

    You know that feeling you get when you see a film which is almost great, but for one reason (avatar..lack of plot) or (ai..sappy spielberg sentimentality) another (anything by ron howard or clint eastwood..manipulative) you just know it will not stand the test of time, let alone a second screening.
    A great film washes over you, stays with you..a crappy film you ignore and forget, but an 'almost great' film... an 'almost great' film sticks in your mind. You think about it, dissect it and talk about it..endlessly.
    Gadgets are like that too, and this is the crux of the iPad.
    We snivellers you speak of are not all wrong, or dumb, or misguided. Its simply that we saw its potential and we saw the reality..and we were torn.
    I have used macs for work, played with iphones, have an ipod (..will never use itunes again, but that is another story). I love their design sensibilities. The fact that they really push to have just the right feel, look and functionality to the hardware. Just the right level of simplicity and usefulness to the user interface. That level of control can please 80% of people 80% of the time.
    And that is pretty cool, but sometimes that 20% is really important and with an apple..just..not..possible. While this can be frustrating for someone like me, it is forgivable. The aim is, after all, an invisible UI - we are just not there yet. The sniping about the lack of usb or flash or whatever is just people trying to put their collective finger on WHY? Why the iPad is just not quite great.
    I think one of the central issues IS the closed system issue. And I think it disingenuous to claim it is simply a matter for the law. It is companies like apple (disney / RIAA) that created those laws. They seek to lock down markets in order to create little monopolies for themselves and to restrict free and open exchange of ideas.
    I thought it was going to be a game changer, but instead it turned out to be another bastard suit. Another middleman screwing the creatives, screwing the competitors and screwing the consumer.
    I thought it was going to be a game changer, but instead of the super mobile computing tablet thingy we imagined, it is just an iphone that you can't take everywhere.
    Yeah, the iPad is 'almost great', heartbreakingly so..

      Your 'almost great' argument hits the nail right on the head. If you actually read most of the negative comments they're nearly all saying why it's not great.

      Yes there are a few that just say 'iPad is crap', but, you can ignore them.

      The 80/20% rule is supposed to be - provide 100% of the functionality, but, make the 80% easily accessible and easy to use. The other 20% can be pushed to the back or hidden away.

      Is that what Apple does? No, they just say no 20% for anyone at all. A lot of people want functionality that is in that 20% category.

    I dunno what all this rubbish about it being for older people etc.. is about

    lets take my mum for example, approximately 60 years old, started using a computer a year ago.

    she doesn't care about iwork, why would she? its not like the basic e-mails that she writes cant be done in the e-mail editor.

    the one thing that she does care about is FARMVILLE
    and does this play farmville?????

    NO

    would I buy her an iPad for her birthday? NO
    would I buy her an iPad for her birthday if it had flash? YES

    the only real standout thing that the iPad does is set up an early standard for stupid product names for this decade.

    great article... some pretty dumb responses in here also!

    the bottom line (which many people missed) is that if you wanna complain about the iPad, then don't buy one! besides, it ain't even out yet, and if you want flash and blah fucking blah blah etc.. go wank off to some wholesome pron on your fucking MacBook instead!

    i don't give a fuck about whats missing or how the iPad is a closed system.. Apple made something that will in the end do something for you.. like, if i go buy a Mercedes Benz saloon, i don't go driving it off-road! i buy a fucking FWD instead!

    i'm sticking to my 13" macbook pro... it does all that and more!

    Re-read the article. On first read, I thought the author to be wanktard, gargling on whatever marketing shit that Jobs is purging through media outlets such as the Giz. But then, I realised that the author has a point. The fact that in some regards he is as overblown as those he critiqued provided in some weird sense, a bit of balance to the back and forth on this iPad debate. Perspective and proportion are gut, ja!

    I don't consider the iPad 'game changing' or some other marketing ablution to refer to the unveiling of this device. I can see a market where there will be folks who want a dumbed down device. Perhaps one day, everything will be reduced to one shiny red button that does everything without requiring the slightest thought or effort. It just does works. No brain required. I'm not so sure that is the sort of future we want - and perhaps the reason for the Orwellian/Huxley references.

    I treasure my iPhone (slobber), will succumb to buying a Macbook Pro next update (seduced by the Dark side I am) - but the iPad will remain a dream of what could have been. I'll be giving it a miss.

    I have been a Mac user for the last 10 years
    But
    The age of apple being able to impress with everything they turn out is over
    They are much too censorial in their content and application remits
    They are not as ahead of everybody ( or indeed anybody ) these days as they make out . Apart from in the looks department ... And we all know about fading beauty don't we folks
    Basically they have just got too big for their boots
    The iPhone is too big for my pocket
    I don't need a computer with me 24 hours a day ... Its naff ... And unnecessary
    And this iPad is just a big iPhone
    So What
    I really don't care
    Or nor do most other people
    Its just another boring techi gimmick ... Designed to make money from the hopelessly fashion ( not style ) conscious

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