Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Open Letter to Steve Jobs - 2

I thank you for listening to my and others' requests for the App Store for Mac OS X. It means a lot that Apple takes the requests of their users seriously. We are also all very delighted at your company's financial success, and that it has overtaken Microsoft.

I'd like to make the following suggestions, and I am grateful for your time in considering them. Apologies for the very long email, it has taken me a while to collate these ideas.

1. The Locations menu item on Mac OS X isn't very elegant. I noticed that my iPhone automatically figures out which WiFi network it is in the vicinity of, and automatically switches to that network. Surely this is easy to implement for Mac OS X? If the WiFi goes down, wait and search for a WiFi network. If it's one you've already been told about, automatically switch Location. But why, you may ask, should the computer not simply switch the WiFi LAN without switching Location? Well, some WiFi networks may require a passwording firewall proxy server to access the web, which is information stored in the Location data set. This is also a weakness on the iPhone...:

2. The iPhone seems to lack anywhere to place proxy firewall information (unless I'm blind). This is important. And if/when you add that ability, it must be able to automatically know that it must only use proxy/firewall information if the user specifies such information at the same time as the phone switches WiFi LAN. So when you leave a LAN that requires a proxy, it must automatically know to stop using the proxy.

3. Have an option in the System Preferences in Lion such that when you Command-Tab, it cycles through the minimised (Exposéd) windows, minimising each in turn and maximising each in turn, perhaps in a circle layout rather than a horizontal bar. Also have an option that when you click in another window, it automatically minimises the previous window to an iconified window of a specific predefined size, and automatically maximises the window that was clicked on, with suitable animations as it zooms from small to big. To see what I mean, take a look at WindowShade(tm)'s "minimise in place" feature, and imagine that combined with Command-Tab, and Exposé.

4. Will Lion be able to resize, move and rotate windows and images with multi-point finger gestures? I'd like to be able to twist my GUI windows at angles. Think Minority Report kind of thing.

5. Rename "Airport" to "WiFi". "Airport" just confuses people. We know Apple was the first to sell and deploy WiFi platform-wide, and that you guys first called it Airport, and therefore that you should have naming rights, but no-one else has followed your naming convention.

6. Allow iOS apps to share documents through a common documents folder, like on Mac OS X. I find it annoying that Dropbox can't give a file to, say, QuickOffice, and that Mail can't search through Dropbox or QuickOffice to get a document to attach. Or even worse, that every iOS productivity app has to have the ability to render PDF, Word, Excel, etc., because it has to be able to handle those files individually inside the program, rather than handing the rendering over to a suitable other program. Eg. if I get a JPEG email attachment, I want to be able to hand it to Adobe PhotoShop Express directly. Surely a system-wide viewer for standard file types - QuickLook - is preferable?

7. Oddities with iOS/Mac OS interaction:
a. Why do we use iSync to synchronise all phones except the iPhone, and use iTunes to synchronise the iPhone? It seems redundant. Maybe make a separate program to synchronise phones, incorporating Imagecapture, iSync, and friends. Then only do music syncing via iTunes.
b. It strikes me as very very strange logic that iBooks' epub files are stored in ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/Books/, and that iPhone app backups are stored in ~/Music/. Surely ~/Library/Mobile Apps/ would make more sense? I mean, if you want to buy Apps and eBooks for the iPhone, why not make that ability part of a standalone iBooks and AppStore for Mac OS X, and reduce the complexity of iTunes, which is rapidly becoming a jack-of-all-trades application? (IE allow the OS X version of AppStore to buy apps for iOS and OSX, and make iTunes exclusively a media player and buyer program).
    Gran:     How do I get books on my iPhone again?
    Me:        You go into iTunes, the music player.
    Gran:     Huh??
Or rename iTunes to "Mobile Device Content Manager". ;-)

8. Why can iPhone 3G not record video? There are some hacks to do it but I'd rather not go that route.

9. Why can iPhone not receive FM radio? I heard that one of the chips in it can broadcast and receive radio. It would be very cool if the iPhone could transmit short-distance FM by default, too, out the box, so that we can play radio via FM to our car radio sets. IE - Griffin iTrip behaviour.

10. Please retain the Terminal and Finder in Lion. These are strong reasons why I still prefer Mac OS X to other platforms. I'm worried that the full-screen interface touted in Lion will make drag and drop between programs redundant or impossible, and land us up with the horrid full-screen behaviour of MS Windows. For me, being able to drag data from one program to another is a great superiority point of Mac OS. I'm thinking that maybe the tunnelling "spring loaded folders" behaviour could be applied to app windows: if a window in any app is iconified, and you drag an icon over it, it automatically spring-load opens to receive the icon being dragged, and then minimises again.

11. Before downloading an App from the App Store, it is very important that we know in advance how large the file is before downloading it. I accidentally downloaded some app and tried to change my mind. But iTunes was adamant that it was going to download that app. It kept telling me that there was "an app available" and it kept downloading it. The iOS app was 200 MB in size. It took almost a day to download (we have slow Internet here). That's really not cool. I tried to right-click the app and choose "stop download" and "delete", but that didn't work; iTunes persisted in finding it and downloading it each time I opened iTunes. If you cancel a download, unless it was paid-for, it should really cancel and stop downloading.

12. A radical suggestion. I really really like the way iOS handles select, copy, paste. In other words: you double-tap something, it offers "select, select all", and then immediately after that, it offers "cut, copy, paste". That makes so much sense. So here's my radical suggestion. Remove the Mac OS menu bar. Completely. Change all menus and menubars to be contextual menus that appear when you tap an object on the screen. Replace the Apple Menu with an Apple logo in the Dock. That will make Windows users happy! Make it possible to move the Dock to horizontally across the top of the screen to placate the System 7 die-hards. I'm suggesting this for Lion.

13. Drop the non-standard USB-ish iPod hardware cable interface and replace it with a standard flat USB 2 interface. This will make charging easier. Make iPhone able to read, mount and play or display contents of attached flash disks in that USB port. Make iPhone appear as a drive, just like iPods do, when you plug them into the Mac via USB cable. I can't access my iPhone via Apple File Sharing and upload my documents to it. iFiles and similar programs are just not elegant. Automatically mounting the iPhone as a drive via Bluetooth, USB or Appleshare over Wifi would be far preferable. Or even DAVFS.

14. It strikes me that Command-Tab, the Dock, and Exposé iconified windows, all are the same thing: small iconified versions of open windows and apps. So if they're the same - then merge them - in the App Launcher of Lion. Pressing Command-tab highlights in sequence through the App Launcher. Pressing the Exposé keystroke brings up the App Launcher. And then, make the App Launcher show not just App icons, but also tiled iconified windows of already-open documents.

15. Surely by now you have enough leverage with the record companies to pressurise them into letting you sell any mp3/AAC files anywhere in the world? This old-fashioned idea that certain music and videos must only be sold in certain geographic locations, is bizarre.

Friday, 1 October 2010

English is an odd language

I've just finished reading a Robin Hobb trilogy at the behest of my wife. Not bad. Interestingly, Hobb uses a number of words I either was not familiar with and/or would not think to use. Here's a list:

ichor - pronounced eye-ker. Ooze from a wound.

lave - wash. Latin: lavare. Apparently it was present in Old English as lafian. Compare: lavatory.

chantey - a naval song. Compare: chant.

prate - to chatter. Compare Afrikaans praat.

salal - a kind of American plant.

hummock - a hump or hill.

cicatrix - a scab or scar.

ensorcel - to hypnotise or enchant. Compare: sorcery.

gelid - freezing. Compare: gelatine and cold.

carom - to rebound. A billiards term.

forefend - delay, inhibit, prevent, forestall.

immure - incarcerate. Latin: in murus, in a wall.

vail - to remove a hat. Compare: veil.