Daring Fireball on the New Macbook Pro


John Gruber’s a smart man and he’s fun to read. I’d like to think this member of the Apple faithful getting stoked over a new laptop would be a happy development. But it appears the new Macbook Pro’s biggest accomplishments are better audio, some design refinements, and efforts to walk back decisions Apple spent years deliberately making. His article’s worth reading, but let’s look ahead to his conclusions.

“It feels a bit silly to be excited about a classic arrow key layout, a hardware Escape key, and key switches that function reliably and feel good when you type with them, but that’s where we are. The risk of being a Mac user is that we’re captive to a single company’s whims.”

That’s because it is silly to feel that way. Apple’s rolling back things that didn’t work without an apology or any recompense to the people affected by bad design decisions enshrined as wisdom by marketing. In lieu of that, they’ve given you a chance to enrich them further so you’re no longer affected by mistakes they won’t admit to doubling down on. You can’t deny their audacity with a blanket of relief. I’d argue they’ve crossed into bad faith.

“The whole saga of the butterfly keyboards — their unreliable switches, poor typing feel, and anti-functional layout — betrays a certain arrogance. The more powerful an organization — a corporation, a nation, a sports team, whatever — the more at risk that organization is to hubris. It’s power that allows one to act on hubris.”

Apple’s entire value proposition is that you set aside any notions you had before you bought into the club, then embrace what Apple gives you. From that point forward anything you do off the rails which they provide is a nuisance to Apple, if it’s not antithetical to the arrangement. It’s not like the functional pragmatism built over decades like Windows, or Linux’s melding of a Unixish foundation with a vast, hyper-eclectic range of choice. Apple’s way is arrogance. Based on their quarterly reports and how customer bitching is replaced by ho-hum acceptance of all but their worst missteps, this is de rigeur to a lot of people. I own an iPhone SE and late 2012 MacBook Pro myself. But if they start doing things that hurt you, it’s within your power to change where your money and attention go.

“We shouldn’t be celebrating the return of longstanding features we never should have lost in the first place.”

God, no. If you insist on hitching your wagon to their space gray star, don’t stop pushing them to be better. Otherwise you’re just paying to be mistreated.

“But Apple’s willingness to revisit these decisions — their explicit acknowledgment that, yes, keyboards are meant to by typed upon, not gazed upon — is, if not cause for a party, at the very least cause for a jubilant toast.”

So Apple engineering their way out of bad choices they insisted on making for years and letting customers eat it is cause for celebration? John, man, there’s a point where it’s okay to be mad at organizational hubris. Jesus. They charge a premium for tools that make your life better, they aren’t a non-profit aiding a community. And if the tools have done their job poorly, you should probably evaluate whether you want to hand over even more money to Apple on the back of an unspoken promise to be less terrible.

“This is a MacBook you can once again argue is the best laptop hardware money can buy.”

Maybe, if you like dongles and you exclude workstation-class hardware.

Oh good, a thing you plug your things into that you have to pack and carry along unless your Mac never has to touch anything

The late 2019 MacBook Pro has no ECC memory support. Connecting anything but type C devices is still contingent on hooking an array of dongles to your premium computer. They still don’t provide a Magsafe-style connector (though there are dongles for that!). If it’s anything like its predecessors, it will barely be serviceable. And the price starts high and cracks the sky.

Can you imagine a LAN party full of these?

user uploaded image
With apologies to Serial Experiments Lain. Image from here.

Thoughts on Impeachment in the Early Going

To play devil’s advocate for a moment, the corruption at the core of the latest Ukraine scandal is real. Unless crack-addicted loser sons of U.S. senators getting offered plum spots on the board of a foreign oil and gas company is more commonplace than I’ve been led to believe, there’s a place that’s soft for digging here. As an attack on Biden it’d probably be fruitful, outside of the irony of Donald fucking Trump making an accusation of nepotism. But that wasn’t enough. Instead of using this fiasco as a straightforward attack on a Presidential opponent, he actually thought pushing the Ukrainians on it was the kind of thing a head of state can do without consequences. This mob idea that “not saying the thing directly while implicitly communicating it anyway” gives one plausible deniability is as stupid as it is cynically optimistic.

It has been clear for months to everyone but Pelosi that the strategy, “Let Trump get away with open corruption and hope he eventually just goes away” wasn’t putting the party in an advantageous position. The optics of protecting the children of the politically powerful from scrutiny are awful. It makes the entire undertaking of impeachment look like a tantrum thrown by the branch in opposition of America’s political oligarchy. Nevertheless, it looks like that’s gonna be the double-edged sword the Democrats wield as they ride into battle now. This is gonna be the latest in a line of exhausting shitshows that’s continued unbroken since election night 2016. It could also give Trump, whose health is visibly failing and for whom questions of fitness for office and emerging signs of dementia are becoming more frequent, an out, if he weren’t such a toxic narcissist that he’d never, ever go willingly from something he believes he earned.

If you’re still on a social media outlet that’s gonna expose you to the churning, nonstop idiocy of it all, for the love of God, get off of it.

edit: Oh, for the love of Jesus.

So long, Stallman

Richard Stallman, longtime free and open source software (FOSS) advocate, has resigned from the Free Software Foundation and MIT following remarks on Jeffrey Epstein and AI expert Marvin Minsky. Good riddance. At the very least he’s an unpleasant, rigid ideologue with petty hangups, with a side of That Roommate from your early twenties who never grew out of it. Stallman has a history of insensitivity toward social issues, frequently hiding from blowback by diving into semantic games, and there are repeated instances of casual sexism played off as “jokes.”

In the ensuing fallout more information has emerged. This Medium post alleges that he was skeevy as hell even thirty years ago in its second section – a grown man threatening to kill himself if an undergrad won’t go on a date with him is not a person I want leading anything. But even suspending that I’d argue the state of Stallman’s reputation outside a cult of braying weirdos trying too late to circle the wagons around him is not bound to any single factor. His downfall has been in the making for years.

There’s the rider fiasco from 2011, outing him as an exacting prima donna. There’s Stallman on video eating something from the bottom of his foot during a speaking engagement. There’s the pedophilia stance he offered a soggy, belated apology for in the past few days. There’s his brittle intolerance for just about anything that could conceivably rub him the wrong way. And ultimately there’s the impression that he’s been enabled to live in a filthy little bubble for decades, heedless of the effects of his words, his appearance, or his inability to compromise in any way on the community he’s vociferously insisted on representing.

At 01:44 Stallman unambiguously eats something from the bottom of his sandal-clad foot. Betcha thought I was kidding.

I don’t know what Stallman will do at this point, and don’t particularly care. “Genius” can’t be defended when the bearer of that honor is also responsible for alienating and discouraging countless others. While I hope the FOSS community moves past him, his removal from power is going to create drama… Let’s just hope things continue moving in the right direction going forward.

Tumblring Ever Downward

Six years after it was sold to Yahoo for over a billion dollars, Tumblr’s been sold to Automattic by Verizon for a rumored three million. In relative terms, that’s buying a used car for a grand and being offered a cup of drip coffee one and a half Presidential election cycles later. It really drives home the point that when the internet’s fundamental economics run on advertising, even a property Alexa ranks within the top 100 sites visited on the web isn’t worth much if it can’t be monetized. Finally, perhaps most egregiously, the porn ban remains in effect. Time will tell if Automattic bothers to enforce that beyond token gestures after Verizon/Oath’s disastrous attempt to sanitize the platform late last year.

News of the World and the Self, 06/27/19

“It’s a strange world, isn’t it?”

Kino Lorber is a video and film distributor who’s done a lot of great work. This week they released a Blu-ray of David Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY, a 1997 thriller-cum-mindbender that’s one of my favorite films. I’m thrilled, and the release sports strong audio and video. For a film with dark, demanding cinematography and which has had a very bumpy history in that regard, it’s great news.

Unfortunately it seems David Lynch was unhappy that Kino got the rights instead of Criterion, and issued the following statement, reproduced verbatim from its source:

Continue reading “News of the World and the Self, 06/27/19”

Doom’s 25. This isn’t quite about that.

Originally I’d hoped to write up a big piece celebrating Doom on the day of its twenty-fifth anniversary. That may yet happen, but after a month-long bacterial sinus infection and twenty consecutive days on antibiotics I’m going to keep my ambitions a little more humble. I’d like to talk about Sigil.

Continue reading “Doom’s 25. This isn’t quite about that.”

Damn It, Jaden

The son of Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith, Jaden Smith has been foisted into the public eye to decidedly mixed results. But his brand was arguably established by his Twitter feed, a soupy mixture of faux philosophy and surely-he’s-stoned non sequiturs. And yesterday, the Huffington Post published an article where he’s asked to explain a selection of his most famous thoughts.

It’s not good, guys. I’m bolding the quote in question and italicizing his commentary, and then I’ve got a couple of things to say. Continue reading “Damn It, Jaden”