No updates please

I was an avid software updater. I would read the updates list, hit the update button and see the download happen. I enjoyed doing this manually because it’s a fun process to acknowledge all the work someone has put into this update that I’m downloading. In that sense, websites are no fun – they change suddenly and have no changelist to describe what all has changed and what new features are available.

But then I got bitten. First, on my iPad Mini (Series 1). iOS 9 slowed everything to a crawl. I still have use for the iPad, but it’s limited to two apps – Scrivener and Kindle. Everything else is basically unusable. I don’t even browse the web on it. It’s just easier to bring out my iPhone 7 Plus for that.

Then, went my Macbook Pro. The main reason is under-use. When I’m developing something, I’ll update the packages, update Xcode, get the latest and greatest of iTunes. But when I’m browsing or reading on it, Safari suffices. Chrome is a crybaby on OSX, so I dumped it and never looked back. Perhaps the lack of Chrome Sync is what drove my usage down? Not sure. All I know is that my Mac cries for updates and I deny it. I don’t even know what version of OS I have. It’s a pain to find out and keep track. I don’t have Siri on it. APFS, you ask? Not gonna do it.

Finally, the iPhone. Oh, the iPhone. I still enjoyed downloading and updating apps on it for the longest time. It’s the most used device I have (and I have the Apple Watch strapped to my wrist most of the day. It’s just not used in the same way). I have truly enjoyed watching app updates change the way I use my iPhone and what I keep on my main home screen.

Then, the inevitable happened. I got bitten. The app update didn’t mention that Terminology 3 was going to change one of the main features of the app – opening on the search view. I thought the cries of a thousand users would make the developer reconsider. I don’t even know where that debate went.

Then, I updated an app I was just trying and the developer put an ad at the beginning of the app, destroying the experience completely. I gave my first ever App Store review – a 1 star with a few choice bad words. I calmed down after a day and updated the 1 to 4 stars. But I made the developer notice. I made sure they understood that not mentioning the ads in the app update is the reason why they got the bad review. They changed the update text to include mention of the ads.

I don’t mind change. I’d just like to have it mentioned to me. Today, browsing the app updates page, I saw that Delta Dental had updated their app. I opened the details and all it said was “bug fixes”. There’s more effort made to inform users of what’s changing in SnapChat than what’s changing in an insurance company’s app. There’s technology for you.

Twitter changed. Instagram changed. Facebook changed. I see more ads and more crap ‘features’ in these apps that anyone around me. Maybe they’ve labelled me guinea pig?

One day, I updated Google Search’s app. There was a time I used it as my main search app. The app team had added Cards to the app. The feature destroyed the app. It had slowed down to a crawl, it was not even loading the cards properly and wouldn’t let me jump right into a search. Google eventually fixed the cards and made the thing faster, but the app’s main focus is still ‘showing information’ instead of letting me ‘search for information’. My main ‘search’ now happens through Safari – it’s got adblocking, it’s got session retention (Google Search app is crap for that), and it’s just nicer to use.

I’d like to remember what exactly it was that broke the camel’s back, but there’s just a very long list to look through. One day, I was just not updating apps with the same zeal and the same frequency. I realized that the release notes were a joke, and features were going to keep changing at whatever terrible pace the developers decided was right. I’m a developer, I know that it’s very easy to decide to change something (and very difficult to implement it). So I respect the devs who put hours into these updates. But I’m just not going to update apps (and OS versions) as frequently as they come out with them.

Since the last few days, we’ve been talking about iOS 11. My wife has been asking me to backup her phone and update it. She’s never been this excited about an OS update. But I couldn’t be farther away from it. I’m not excited about HEIF/HEVC. I’m not interested in iOS 11 ‘degrading’ my phone. I’m not even excited about all the bugs they’ll eventually iron out with a point release in a month or two.

But, I’ve readied my phone for it. I’ve deleted about thirteen thousand photos from my phone, primarily because I was tired of keeping them around (is it true that less storage used translated to better battery life?). I’ve taken a backup or two. Maybe I’ll update my phone today. Maybe I’ll update my wife’s phone first and see how that goes.

But app updates? No, thank you.

Rethinking Folders in iOS

When I first came across the Mac OS X, one of the reasons that immediately set it aside from other OSs I’d used was the way the UI was constructive towards doing work better. A simple example of that was the way I could scroll the window which was behind my work window without needing to click on the background one. This meant that I could refer to a document and type in my current window at the same time.

The other feature that really struck me was the concept of stacks in the Dock. The way stacks work is that I can choose recent documents, recent applications or just a list of favorite items to sit in the dock for easy access. That’s not all. The best feature of stacks is that they’re highly unobtrusive. Stacks don’t need a window for themselves, they’re just floating on the screen and as soon as your attention goes elsewhere and you click, the stacks disappear. That way they’re really hidden, but at our beck and call. Compared to a folder, that requires your full attention and even needs to be specifically closed when not needed, stacks are a great resource in the OS X. Continue reading

Thoughts on OS X Mountain Lion

So, a preview to OS X Mountain Lion is out. Most people will not find out before evening because Apple decided to do a quiet launch on their website about it. But anyways, now that we know about it, what’s so great?

Let’s see. Apple decided to take the best features of the iOS ecosystem and push them towards OS X. Notice also, that the name is no longer Mac OS X, but simply OS X.

We will have, Game Center, Notifications Center, more iCloud integration, a ‘Messages’ app corresponding to the iMessages in iOS (also, a replacement for iChat) and many apps like Notes and Reminders that will sync with your iDevices to keep you seamlessly synced where ever you go. All of this will be possible because of iCloud.

Users will also have better Twitter integration and sharing options for websites like Vimeo and Flickr. That cute tweet poster in iOS 5 is also there. Apple is trying to woo people to Safari with the Sharing options, though how useful it turns out to be is yet to be seen. The notification center looks neat, although long time users of Growl will, well, growl.

Interesting new features are GateKeeper and Airplay mirroring. GateKeeper is like the User Account Control (UAC) of Windows, for the Mac. It’s going to be intrusive, troublesome and restrictive. What it does is, allows a person to make settings to block apps that are not from the Mac App Store or from the App Store but not from famous developers to not be installed on your system at all. If the default setting in the Mountain Lion is going to be ‘Mac App Store only’, it’ll not only cause problems to people who are new to the Mac but also shows Apple’s huge push towards the App Store instead of independent developers. The little guys with direct downloads from their websites will bear the brunt.

Airplay mirroring, on the other hand, is an awesome feature that allows you to wirelessly display your Mac’s screen on your appleTV connected TV.

Finally, the Game Center is going to be useful for playing games with your friends who own other Apple devices like iOS or another Mac. Like Apple says on their website, it’s now going to be the Mac vs the iPad vs the iPhone vs the iPod Touch. Fun indeed, if only we could buy a single app for all devices instead of having to pay for the Mac games separately.

On a more developer related note, Apple has been moving farther away from open source apps every upgrade. That means more proprietary software in Mac and less room for hacking. It remains to be seen how far they’ve gone this time and how the developers and lovers of Unix will be affected.

Lastly, those who want to, can download the Messages app for OS X right now from their website –

This offer is similar to when Apple released FaceTime for free initally and then started charging for it once it became popular. So grab your copy now!