Lost post: Apple “community”

This is a ‘lost post’ that I found unpublished when fixing up my WordPress install. I wrote it about six years ago, and I’m not sure that much has changed, except that I don’t find myself needing help with the basics so often…

I can’t decide whether the bits of “Apple community” I keep encountering reinforce the idea that Apple is as much cult as company, or whether its just confirmation bias, but it’s getting on my nerves.

I’ve become increasingly enmeshed in the Apple universe, particularly in the past year. I’ve had a few iPods over the years, so my legacy music collection lives in iTunes. I bought an iPad a little over a year ago, and found that a thin, light, always-connected internet device was something I could really use. I’ve collected a selection of smartphones for work and am using an iPhone now as my primary.

I’ve always been PC-based at work, but even that’s about to change. Thanks to a 32bit-only Windows install image and both the gradual migration of my tools to 64bit only and the need for more memory, I’m switching the Mac. Ironically, I’m switching to Mac just as “serious” video people seem to be switching back the other way — Final Cut Pro X doesn’t seem to be working for production houses who were using Studio/Server, and Apple have been neglecting/killing off their pro hardware for a while now — but for my uses, that’s not such a big deal and I may continue to use Premiere on Mac anyway. I’m also picking up a personal Mac while I’m on.

Now in “professional” discussion spaces, the conversation does tend to be more rational but whenever I search for a “how-to” for any of my consumer devices, I invariably see a conversation which looks a bit like this:

OP: “Hi Guys, I want to <do a thing> but not by <a method the OP can’t to use>. Any ideas how?

1P: “That’s easy, you just <method the OP doesn’t want to use>

OP: “No, I want to do it without using <method>

2P: “The best way is to <differently worded explanation of the OP’s do-not-use method>

1p: “Why wouldn’t you want to use <unwanted method>? Why make things difficult?”

OP:<reasonable explanation of why they can’t use the suggested method>

2p: “That’s stupid, just <unwanted method>. If you want to do it stupidly, use WinBlows”

3p:<Alternative method which ignores the problem with the first method and therefore doesn’t help>

4p: You can’t do it, because Mac users are sheep/Use Linux/trolling

Everyone: *bun fight*

Additionally, if the thread lasts for more than a single page, then at some point there’ll be an argument over iOS sales vs Android sales, market cap, lawsuits, icon design, profitability and favourite colour. If it gets to a third page there’ll be additional arguments about the Metro UI, Mountain Lion and the tabletisation of everything. And skeuomorphism.

Jokes aside, my anecdotal observations suggest that not only is there not much help around if you deviate from the standard method, but that a non-trivial elements of the community sees it as a bad thing to even try. I’m not so worried about finding workarounds in things like Final Cut, Motion or Keynote — there are plenty of “professional” forums covering that sort of thing where people are pragmatic about getting work done. My main concern is that, as I’m acclimating to OS X, I’m going to want to rapidly dial-up my knowledge of how the OS works, its tricks and secrets etc. And it seems that at a general level, that might be harder.


So long, Veer :(

For a long time, I’ve enjoyed finding imagery via Veer.com. Well, ok, perhaps “enjoyed” isn’t quite the right word. Anyone who has spent an afternoon viewing 6,000-7,000 photographs of too young, too pretty and entirely too sharply or provocatively dressed men and women will know “enjoyment” isn’t what you feel. When you’re looking for images to represent the serious work of a remuneration committee, a bunch of permatanned 20- and 30-somethings grinning goofily at pie charts or all clustered around a single laptop (is technology rationed in stockphotoland?) doesn’t really work. Neither does the oh-so-typical “one person in the room who spotted the camera” group shot.

Aaaanyway. I could ramble for hours about the shortage of credible, 50ish, focused businessfolks in candids, and even longer on attempting to include Indians, Southern Europeans or non-US diversity in general, and briefly-but-passionately on the continued existence of the “pretty-young-woman-takes-orders-from-an-older-man” shot, but I wanted to write about Veer.

I liked their search engine system — it wasn’t perfect, but I liked it. I liked that I’d find images which weren’t in Getty’s vast library, images I could use on a regular basis. I liked the site design. I liked the super-friendly European telephone support people, who were always able to solve the problem (and several of whom sounded…rawr). I liked their crazy side projects, the blog, the merch, the various silly things they did in addition to the main type-n-images focus. And then they were acquired by Corbis.

Fast forward a little while, and the dismantling of Veer as it was appears close to complete. Don’t get me wrong, Veer.com is still there, and it still has much the same site design. But Corbis have apparently decided that Veer is to be its *budget* brand, for microstock and the like. They’ve even introduced Veer “credits”. Example: a search today, looking for technology images with a Middle East slant wasn’t especially productive. Even with the “illustration” option unticked, it was about 50% cheapy map outlines and flag buttons made in photoshop.

I guess that means searching only on Corbis.com in future. Which is fine, but I *liked* Veer, for more than just the list of things above. It seemed small, and a bit personal, and a bit creative, and it was useful to me and I liked it. And now it’s not anymore.

Valid business reasons, economic downturn, consolidation in the market, blah blah I DON’T CARE. I won’t be weeping into my whiskey tonight, but my image searching duties are now even less appealing.

I hate Valve

Well, alright, I <3 Valve. If you play PC games at all it’s very difficult not to love Valve just a little bit. They’re so unashamedly keen, and successful, and funny, and community-minded, and clever with PR, and, and, and stuff, that you can’t help yourself.

But I bloody HATE the sales they have on Steam.

“But why would you hate the opportunity to pick up games at a discount? Are you STUPID?”, I hear you ask?

Because I am weak. That’s why. So there was/is a July 4 (date format snerk) sale which I spotted the other day. And I ended up buying three games completely randomly, because the were “cheap”. Only as well as being “cheap”, they were also, well, “shit”.

The best of the bunch was Rainbow Six: Lockdown. I was pretty excited when I saw this, as I think I own ever game in the series, from the original almost-a-strategy game Rainbow Six (and the Eagle Watch expansion) on PC, through Rogue Spear (and expansions), Rainbow Six 3 and the “Vegas” games on Xbox 360. And, while I loved the “devise a route through the map and control it with gocodes” play of the original games, in which you could even opt to have the AI play *your* character and restrict yourself to an OpsController role, I *also* loved the more action-focused later games.

Lockdown, I didn’t recognise. So what if it’s a couple of years old, more R6! Great! *Buy* *6Gb download*. Oh, waitaminute. Wasn’t there a *really* shit game in between the strategy and the action. Where they got everything wrong, and it didn’t work? Yes, there was. It was Lockdown. It’s dreadful, it’s clunky, it jitters and stalls on my dualcore PC, it looks bad, it sounds bad, it plays worse and it smells. Still, at least it was cheap. Sigh.

And then there were the Gothic games. Gothic 2 and Gothic 3, in a pack, together, for cheap. I’ve heard of those, vaguely. I’ll give them a punt. ~10Gb download, for the pair.

Imagine if you were to concoct the ultimate RPG from all the best bits of other RPGs somehow fused together in a way that actually worked: the writing from Planescape or maybe Baldur’s Gate, the depth and complexity of an original Fallout, the shiny graphics of a Fallout 3 or a Mass Effect (having first taken the sticky labels from the designers’ screens that hide every colour except brown, blue and red). Throw in some of the better Bioware dialogue, have Obsidian do rewrites but someone else do QA, and on and on. Imagine the wonder you’d get.

Now imagine what you’d get if you combined the leftovers.

That’s probably a bit unfair, as I haven’t played Gothic 3 for more than about 10 minutes, but I don’t think I can. The controls are horrible, the voices dreadful, the script (what little I’ve seen of it) it painful and if the combat blossoms into something wonderful later, it was probably a mistake to make me kill 30 or 40 orc-things by clicketyclicketyclicketying before even telling what, why or how.

But it was cheap.