Gaming, Linux, Programming by day. Atheism and tolerance by night. Sci-Fi television all hours of the day.
I was (horn-tootingly) one of Android’s earliest adopters. I bought a G1. Remember the G1?
At the time, Android was crap. There’s no denying it. Nobody could deny it. But it was a smartphone that wasn’t Apple, so I was happy.
At the time, I was one of Google’s biggest fans. I happily stalked Google Labs (remember Google Labs?) and signed up to beta test any new product that was in the works. Yes, that includes Google Wave.
For me, Android was a dream come true. An open-sourced mobile OS that integrated with everything I already used, leaving me with a pretty carefree environment that did exactly what I needed. Sold.
After the death of the G1 (which was a pretty nice phone at the time, but quickly got outstripped), I went to the Samsung Galaxy S. The first one I had was faulty. It wouldn’t turn off. Literally, if you turned it off, it would turn itself back on. If the battery died, it would just power-cycle until the end of time (or until the battery was 100% dead, whichever came first). I got a second one, which I still have.
The Galaxy S is horrible. No. The hardware isn’t horrible (or wasn’t at the time). The Samsung-flavored Android on it is horrible. Starting it up takes forever, because it does this media scanning thing (twice) during which no other processes can really get underway. This was never fixed. Further, the Galaxy S is notoriously difficult to root, and Samsung is slow as balls at rolling out OTA upgrades. And of course, there was the horrid bloatware.
I was starting to despise the mobile atrocity that I carried in my pocket, and then something magical happened.
The Nexus 7. A Google-created tablet, with Android in its original form, with no pesky third party crap getting in the way. I pre-ordered the device, and was astonished that it came pre-synced to my Google account, and greeted me by name when I turned it on for the first time. It was fast, inexpensive, and running the gorgeous Jellybean before anything else was. Not to mention that it has a killer battery life. I can sometimes go days without charging it.
I loved the Nexus 7 to such a degree that I canceled my cell plan and reserved the Galaxy S for emergencies (or nights out drinking) only.
The Nexus 7 was yet another solution to all of my problems. I’ve also saved about $1500 by canceling my cell plan and using fun workarounds to making phone calls.
And then last week, disaster struck. Kitkat happened. The first thing I noticed was that the stability and speed of my system plummeted. The launcher began crashing for no reason, the SwiftKey keyboard was even more sluggish than usual, and switching tasks seemed like something I was no longer supposed to do.
The native email app is now so out of sync it may as well be a carrier pigeon, and the home screen widget for it is even worse (it only updates once or twice a day, it seems, and there are no settings for it to see what the problem might be). Using my tablet as my preferred method of sending and monitoring emails is now a distance memory. It’s back to webmail, of all things. Remember webmail?
Google Now, which is a neat idea despite how creepy it is, is an oxymoron too. It takes so long to start up the app that I can usually open my laptop and perform my search from there faster. And of course, once I actually get the search results in Now, it may or may not decide to actually do something when I click the link I’d like to follow.
It all started with Google+, another Google product I jumped on with full abandon, closing my Facebook and Twitter accounts, certain that all of my friends, who all talked so much about how horrible Facebook was, would do the same. But they didn’t. And Google+ then got weird. Its enormous cover photo, increasingly bizarre UI, and lack of consideration for out of date hardware (my laptop from a few years ago can barely load the thing) drove what few users it had back to Facebook (or for those as stubborn as me, to Reddit and Twitter instead).
Plus was a flop, so Google decided to pull a Microsoft and force it down our throats. All of a sudden, everything was supposed to integrate with Google+. Yet for all of this focus, Plus was never given the polish that would have made it a good candidate as usurper of Facebook. The app (like all of Google’s apps for its own damn OS) never synced properly, and the magazine layout was not conducive to smaller screens. But bless them, they kept trying.
Then they started making bad decisions. Well, started making bigger, more visible bad decisions. They started disenfranchising those of us who always loved them. Reader was a big blow to a lot of people, shutting down Labs was a disappointment too. In short, Google got greedy.
I interviewed with Google a few months ago. The interview was so tough that I was forced to drink afterward. I didn’t even make it all the way through the interview; the guy stopped it before we got to any questions about the language they contacted me to talk about. “Ok…we can probably just skip the C++ questions,” was what he said. I am clearly not Google material. I’ve come to terms with this.
If Google is setting their hiring bar so high, it’s clear they should have some good talent working under them. So how do some problems go unfixed for…like… ever? Let’s take a look at Google Voice, for instance.
Google Voice, one of the products I still love wholeheartedly, was something I actually sold both of my parents on, and has saved all of us tons of money. I use it for pretty much everything I do in the way of contacting people. It’s an absolutely fantastic product.
And Google ignores it. It’s gotten no love since its inception. The Android app has never improved, and still doesn’t sync with their servers in any meaningful way. If you read a text on your computer, it will never push that event to your device. You have to go to the device, open up the app, and manually refresh to pull these changes. Seriously. And it’s been, what, three years? (Note: since Kitkat, this behaviour is even worse). When I fire up my oft-ignored Galaxy S, it actually sends push notifications for every single text I’ve gotten since last time I turned the phone on, which is usually a sizable amount since I only turn it on about once a month. But…I’ve already read all of them.
Instead, they’re focusing their efforts on pimping out their list of verboten words, or badly parsing HTML in Google Currents, instead of having someone work on what everyone has been asking for since Voice’s inception: MMS.
But it’s unstoppable. And that’s the danger of open sourced software. Obviously, OSS is pretty much all I’m about in life, but it does have its pitfalls. Android will never go away. Third parties will keep developing for it and making their own paltry flavours (I’m looking at you Samsung), that may be years out of date with the latest core. App developers don’t want to deal with it because they have to take into account all of these discordant versions running rampant, so Android apps are usually far behind where their iOS counterparts are.
But because third-parties can do what they want with it, and become competitive with iOS, they will continue to consume it. And what third parties provide, consumers will buy.
But now Google has even started to ruin its own OS. No more third parties needed in order to do that.
I wish I knew. Personally, I’m thinking of abandoning smart technology altogether.
Tomorrow marks another Black Friday.
Don’t buy anything.
Why? Because the black Friday greed reaches higher planes of insanity every year and there is no reason to be a part of it. There is actually a website called Black Friday Death Count, and what’s worse? IT ACTUALLY HAS NUMBERS ON IT THAT COUNT PEOPLE DYING FOR A SALE.
Every year, this behaviour gets worse. The event gets bigger, and more people complain, but if people really considered it a problem, and refused to participate, retailers would take the hint.
Don’t be fooled by half-assed attempts of good will
Nordstrom, for instance, has giant signs claiming that they’re good guys for not opening on Thanksgiving this year. They have never opened on Thanksgiving. They are cashing in on easy marketing because of this. They’re still contributing to the problem.
Columbia Sportswear is offering workshops on how to repair your own clothing instead of buying new. While I applaud their actions here, they are still getting you into their store, and offering tantalizing deals.
Don’t go into debt for no reason
You don’t need that new TV. Or maybe, maybe you even do. Just wait until after the holidays. You can last another 5 weeks. Things will be even cheaper then, and for higher quality merchandise. Retailers count this time as the red season because many of their transactions are returns; thus, much of the product goes on sale to balance the books.
If you celebrate Christmas, encourage your family to go small this year. I speak from experience, when I asked my mom a few years ago if we could just skip it altogether. We decided not to skip it, but really only bought presents for the dogs, as we enjoy watching them open gifts. Even as someone who doesn’t “celebrate Christmas”, it became a holiday I enjoyed because it meant delicious breakfast and board games with my family.
Most people continue the tradition because they believe it is expected of them.
Talk to your family. Encourage them not to buy you anything. They might actually be relieved.
On that same note: Request that any money that would be spent on you be donated to a charity of your choice.
If you’re comfortable being a bit of a dick, you can also tell them that any material goods given to you will be donated. This can hurt people’s feelings though, and I don’t recommend it.
Many people say, “But I just love giving gifts!" This is wonderful. You should continue to give gifts, but remember that you can give gifts at any time, not just in December. Everyone also already knows that you can still give gifts without dumping your funds into cheap crap that doesn’t mean anything. If you aren’t crafty enough to make something (I know I’m not), then give experiential gifts. Tickets to an event, a nice dinner, a membership to a museum or an organization you know that person supports. If you live far away, give the person a date that you’ll be coming to visit.
The best gifts don’t need to be bought on sale. And therefore, you can (and should) skip the holiday shopping madness. If that’s not entirely avoidable, then at least skip Black Friday.
C@J will not buy anything on Friday. Support a saner holiday season!
After last week’s Kickstarter for Cyan Inc’s new game, Obduction went viral (and yes, I kickstarted that because…of…so many reasons), I felt a wave of nostalgia for the Myst series, and decided they needed to be played again.
Sadly, Steam only had Myst, Riven, and End of Ages available. Apparently Exile and Revelations haven’t yet heard that the
bird Internet is the word. That said, I played through all three that were available over the course of just a few days.
This was made easy since I played Myst and Riven so much when I was 12-15 that I remembered the solutions to most of the puzzles. Nevertheless, as an adult, it was great to see the story unfold and have a new appreciation for it (not to mention the patience to actually read all of the books).
End of Ages was a new experience for me, never having played anything past Exile and holy shit. It was amazing. I managed to get through it with only 3 hints (and all in the second Age). The story was incredible, and the environments sublime. The character art was pretty bad, but being that they’d never actually done rendered characters before, it was forgivable (though their live actor approach would have served the game so much better).
All that was really to say that the Myst series holds up incredibly well (with the exception of the inability to play Riven on anything other than 640x480, which is a strain on the eyes, to be sure — Myst thankfully has an updated version — realMyst) and makes me incredibly hopeful that Obduction will fill the 32 year old me (they estimate a release in 2015, and oh by the way I turned 30 over the weekened) will be just as excited, twenty years later, as the 12 year old me was when I first put Myst in my Panasonic 3DO.
If they can make games that can age 18 years and still capture the imagination and emotions of players who have already been through the adventure countless times before with technology available in 1995, I cannot wait to see what they’ll do with today’s tech and resources available.