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ATPM 10.05
May 2004




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by Wes Meltzer,

Like It’s 1999 All Over Again

Did anyone else notice the Mac virus alert level briefly spiking to mauve from its previous lowered state at taupe? Or maybe you caught the return of “DVD Jon” Johansen to the DRM-cracking stage? Are you feeling nostalgic for products from a time when Apple’s prodigal son returned as triumphant CEO?

You belong in April, then. Flip your calendar back a month and try over again. Besides, April was a good month.

What’s with all the retro hubbub? Brownie points to anyone who can explain why it wasn’t, I don’t know, the Apple I (oh, wait), the mullet, or polyester leisure suits. Not like that would have been much of a Bloggable, but it might have made more sense.

Before I forget to write this, I want to point you to this column’s new companion blog, where from time to time I will post links that I don’t think are going to make it into the column or that are pretty timely and interesting. All the columns will also make it there, with various degrees of fleetness depending on my schedule during the school year. If you don’t feel like checking back manually, you can read my RSS feed, which is how I get most of the stuff I link here anyway.

OK then! First and foremost, rewind your 8-track all the way back to April 1 and refresh your memory of the CUPS chatter. We have an update, folks; it just took awhile. John Gruber, who must write his weblog knowing what I’m going to write about to be mentioned here as often as he is, jumped into the fray on April Fool’s Day with an impressive analysis of just what he sees as wrong with usability in the free software world: free software projects lack a firm controlling hand to force the issue. He cites Mozilla as a rare example of usable free software and then says that Mozilla isn’t so special either because the original Seamonkey UI sucked, too.

And we’re off to the races! Michael Tsai (yes, I know, my boss) has a good and pithy summary of the argument itself, with links that I won’t bother replicating. Rui Carmo summarizes the entire debate from the perspective of someone who uses OS X, Windows, and Linux. John Gruber revisits the question in explaining why some of the criticisms you can find via Michael don’t necessarily answer the question. Matt Gemmell thinks that the reason free software (and plenty of payware) is so hard to use is because programmers put user interface last and most users rightly put it first; make your application pretty without makeup is the general thrust. Also, not everyone agrees with Gruber’s criticisms, including his indictment of GNOME; I ran across a defense of GNOME 2.6 the other day.

Now we turn our clocks back to the early days of Apple’s Renaissance, after Gil Amelio’s Middle Ages. I’m going to fudge the dates of that period a little, but hey, all this happened when I got my learner’s permit the first time, so you’ll forgive me my time myopia.

That’s a wrap for this month, readers. But don’t forget to poke your heads in at Your handy “Don’t Panic” guide to the Mac blogosphere if you want more news. I’ll see you over there—oh, don’t forget to reset your time warp clocks back to this month, or you’ll never get back on track.

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