Monday, April 7, 2014

Other GNOME Apps

In recent posts I have briefly covered certain popular GNOME apps, such as Files, as well as other newer ones like Maps, Software or Weather. Today I want to quickly talk about others that are maybe less popular, or that I didn't use before and have adopted due to their recent updates.

GNOME MUSIC

First off is GNOME MUSIC, a simple music player that looks (or should, I haven't been able to get it to work out of the box) into your Music folder and arranges music by Artist, Album and Song through a simple and clean interface.



I find the artist section particularly well designed.





Personally, I rely on Google Play Music to store all my music in the cloud, but for those who prefer a local music player, I believe GNOME Music will be a rather good option, especially if they appreciate a simple interface. Note that I am saying will be, because as of now, it still needs quite a bit of polish before it can become the default player in GNOME.

GNOME PHOTOS

GNOME Photos is a bit of a confusing one to me. Initially I thought of it as a photo viewer, maybe a more powerful version of EOG, but it is not. In fact, it depends on EOG for certain tasks. Photos is a simple picture management tool that only displays images from the Pictures folder, allowing users to create their own albums and choose favorites shots. As was the case with Music, Photos is still a young app and it shows. Performance improvements are necessary when displaying pictures, transitioning from one another, etc. Most importantly, though, my main thing with this app is that I don't see much use for it anyways.



GNOME VIDEOS

Just like Nautilus received a new name, so has Totem, now dubbed Videos. In this last update it has evolved quite significantly, and in the right direction, I must add.



Video files can be imported to Videos and displayed in a grid arrangement. Double clicking on a video file from Files works just as well, but I must admit the visual appeal of this option is rather obvious.



In a surprising and pretty neat twist, Videos offers a few video channels that over a variety of clips, from Blip to Apple Trailers, and apparently some others that have been added recently. I wonder if that will be a trend and more and more video channels will become available without the user actually updating the app. That would be great.



I used to watch Apple Trailers before I started using Linux. Then, because I was testing so many distros, I ended up getting tired of whether the distro would include all the required codecs and the kitchen sink for Apple videos to be displayed correctly, so I started gravitating to watching trailers on YouTube and never looked back. With Videos, though, I have alternatives with none of the hassle.



GNOME SOUND RECORDER

Sound Recorder is a very simple app that does what it's supposed to do. Probably more meaningful in a mobile device, it can be useful in a laptop/desktop setting as well.



As with the rest of the apps, the UI is clean and simple, never getting in the way of what the app is meant to do.



GNOME WEB

Formerly know as Epiphany, GNOME Web is another one of those apps I had decided not to use for a while, but I must admit that its latest offer is quite appealing.



The UI is simply superb. The ugly URL bar is cleverly hidden when not in use, and the way tabs are implemented makes Web the best looking browser I can think of today.





Beauty is important, but functionality and performance are key. In that regard, Web still is a bit rough around the edges. I have seen a few webs which are not displayed correctly, but they were the exception. In terms of loading speed, a few informal tests show it doesn't stand far back from Google Chrome, which is quite a good sign.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

GNOME 3.12 Screencast

A very recent update dropped GNOME 3.12 final and the final product, although not that much different from the GNOME 3.11.9x I had been using up until now, managed to surprise me, so I decided to put together a quick Screencast and share it here.



The main thing I have noticed on the latest update is things going much faster. I am not sure why, but everything is way smoother and more responsive. Menu drop-downs, fade in and out effects, everything is amazingly smooth. Even with more than five apps open at the same time, the Activities Overview effects to show them all up is buttery smooth. In fact, part of the reason why I wanted to record a screencast is because GNOME 3.12 finally provided me with a tool to record my screen activity in Linux as it is supposed to be. The video recording does not drag the desktop to a halt, it almost feels as if you are not recording.

Anyways, I have covered many things about GNOME 3.12 already, so I won't go into detail here. I can confirm that several bugs that were there in the prerelease compilations are now gone, but there are still minor things that don't work as expected.

What I can assure you is that this is, by far, the best GNOME there has ever been and I very much encourage Fedora users to give it a go, they will not regret it. Users of other distros will probably have to wait a bit longer, but please give this latest GNOME a try!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Future of KDE, a look at Plasma Next

Anyone who's curious about the future of KDE will know that they are currently working on the next big milestone. This work is perhaps going quieter than usual in Linux World because the KDE team took the very wise decision to freeze KDE 4.x development, only providing bug fixes and changes on the application framework, while building the new KDE, which we will get a first taste of mid year. Well, we now have a first taste of how that will look like. I will let the video do the talking and share my opinion later.



First thing that comes to mind is that it seems the new KDE will finally deliver on the promise of a Plasma desktop, it seems it is finally complete, which is great. According to their comments, the complexity of the DE has been reduced and streamlined thanks to the use of QtQuick, so contributing and maintaining all of its components should be easier now and performance should also benefit from this change.

In terms of visuals, I don't want to go much into it because I know this is very much work in progress and I know some very talented artists at the KDE camp are hard at work to deliver once again a great visual experience, specially around a new icon theme. I have also heard that support for external icon themes should be improved, something that has always been a bit of a miss for me. What I can say, though, is that the direction they are taking looks very promising. The new calendar and network plasmoids look fantastic, and so does the new menu. Along with a tasty icon theme this thing is going to look superb. Congrats for the great work so far!!

What I don't like, though, is that according to this video, the foundations that make KDE way more complex and difficult to grasp in 2014 remain intact. The Settings window is almost exactly the same, and I was hoping they would use this opportunity to give it a much, much needed redesign. At this stage it's really nonsense that so many categories are there in the window, it's overwhelming for anyone who's not fond of customization. Most users will only care about three or four elements to customize in terms of appearance, so why not just have an appearance category where fonts, icons and themes can easily be found and then bury everything else in that category under an advanced tab? That concept would apply to any and all categories and would make the settings window way easier to grasp and use. In addition, I hope they make all settings fall within the settings window, as opposed to now, where the menu settings are split from the overall DE settings.

Anyways, I will wait for the final release to make up my mind, but I have mixed feelings thus far. Let's wait and see!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What's new in GNOME 3.12

Following this recent trend of mine, where I like to write about my experience using GNOME and Fedora, I wanted to share a few cool things I have found after applying recent (almost final) GNOME 3.12 packages. I have applied these on top of Fedora 20, so if anyone is interested in learning how to do it, please drop a comment and I will share some basic instructions.

First thing I have noticed is how GNOME 3.12 again makes things snappier and more responsive than they were in 3.10. If talking about desktop effects, well, GNOME Shell is not big on them, which I am happy with, but what bothered me was that the few there were weren't looking good. Frame drops and severe lag were all over the place, to the point where the overall experience was hit. Good news, fast forward to the latest GNOME 3.11 compilations and things are smooth and fast, even when having many windows open on the same workspace. The overall speed, from loading the session initially to opening apps and running daily tasks has also been improved throughout. For instance, showing the Activities Overview now loads faster than ever, with little to now delay in displaying all icons.



A very cool and superbly implemented feature is that a software search is now part of the general search feature. This by itself is not news, Unity implemented something along the same lines sometime ago, but that's precisely why I am saying it is superbly done. When using this feature on Unity, right after I get the results, I am desperately trying to find a way to disable it. It's that bad. Performance is ridiculous. However, not sure how they have done it, in GNOME Shell the results appear as if they were part of a local search, pretty amazing.



There have also been changes in the default GTK theme, which now gets renewed tabs and buttons, as shown below.





The user and session menu is another perfectly implemented solution. Intuitive, aesthetically consistent, elegant and concise, only showing the right information within a couple clicks max. Genius.



The Shell menus and popups have become a tad more transparent in this release, which I like.







The new Maps application is nice, following the trend of no bells and whistles, it just works, albeit with limited functionality at this point.



The lockscreen returns mostly unchanged, with the obvious exception of the main wallpaper, which looks great. It changes through the day.





So there you have it, no radical changes, but the continuous improvement is now a trend in GNOME and I must admit I like it more on every release. Up until 3.8 I thought it was fun and had tons of good ideas, it showed potential, but lacked in certain areas. That usually meant that I ended up going back to KDE after a while. GNOME 3.10 was the first release I found 100% complete and with very few weak spots, and 3.12 seems to improve even further. I have been using it exclusively for weeks and I really don't see myself changing soon... Unless the promising work they are doing on KDE5 ends up living to the expectations it's raising!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fedora 20: A Visual Tour

I recently posted a quick article describing some of the Fedora 20 features and strengths. I was in a rush and couldn't get much done in terms of screenshots, but I knew I owed this fantastic release of both Fedora and GNOME Shell a proper show. In the following screenshots I wanted to show mostly GNOME native applications and what it looks like outside the box, perhaps with the exception of a custom icon set and a couple extensions.

The desktop continues to be a joy to watch in Fedora 20 GNOME, so clean and uncluttered. The default wallpapers are gorgeous, like the one I am using here.



The menus have changed slightly, but I personally believe the visual improvement is significant.



With the help of the apps and places extensions, GNOME Shell can feel much more familiar while maintaining its modern look. The former one provides a somewhat classic application menu...



...while the latter helps users access locations easily.



The Activities Menu has also been refined further, looking better than ever.



The search, just like anything else in the Shell in version 3.10, feels snappier than ever, very responsive.



Changing lock and desktop wallpapers is a breeze, intuitive and quite flexible, including wallpapers that change during the day.



The Clocks app has a definite iOS vibe to it, but in a good way, works well and looks good.



GNOME Tweak Tool has also received some much needed attention and it now offers more options in a much better looking UI.



A very interesting little app is Weather, which looks fantastic while offering the usual forecast of one or more locations of your choice.



Files continues to be a favorite of mine. Perhaps very advanced users may miss similarly advanced features, but for the activities a vast majority of users deal with, it works like a charm. It looks as clean and uncluttered as it gets, really!



The new Software app makes a debut in Fedora 20 and what a welcomed new comer it is. Fedora lacked badly of a proper GUI Software Manager and it finally got one.



The list of installed apps is consistent with the Shell approach: simple and intuitive.



Updates are shown here when users proactively open the Software app to check, otherwise they'll show up in a notification and popup window. My disappointment is that this upgrade process always asks for a reboot to apply changes, which brings long forgotten nightmares from the days of being frustrated with Windows.



The settings app continues to offer more options, but I am one of those who absolutely thinks it should merge with GNOME Tweak Tool.



Notifications in GNOME Shell continue to be one of its strengths, delivering just the right information without becoming a distraction. They can easily be configured as shown below.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On Fedora 20

It's been quite a while since my last entry, but I couldn't help but put together a very short post talking about the amazing Fedora 20 and the great work it does playing along well with both GNOME 3.10 and KDE 4.11.

For the last few releases, Fedora has engaged in an ever improving quest to proving that being cutting-edge while providing solid foundations is certainly achievable. It has also managed to become my favorite distro in the process. Let's start by looking at its default flavor.

FEDORA GNOME 3.10

If Fedora's steps to offer continuous refinement, performance and polish are certainly noticeable, they are perhaps even more obvious in GNOME. I last posted about GNOME 3.8, which impressed my quite favorably, but 3.10 is surprisingly another leap forward at each and every level. Looks continue to be further improved, making it an art to create interfaces that are simple yet elegant and beautiful. The GNOME Shell looks modern indeed, but it also feels that way thanks to the heavy cloud integration with Google services, allowing users to integrate their email, calendar, contacts, IM, etc., almost with a single click. Performance is also better all around, perhaps with the exception of the boot and login processes, which feel a bit slow. The application suite is as good as ever, no surprises here.

I can't hide it, I love GNOME and what they are doing with the Shell. This time around, I felt it was so good in terms of looks that I didn´t change a thing, perhaps only the icon pack. The Shell is more robust, consistent and snappy than ever, and while there are things that need work, GNOME 3.10 feels for the first time like a complete and well-rounded desktop for any kind of user, specially after the inclusion of the new GUI software manager. If anything, the only thing I don't like about GNOME Shell 3.10 and its new software manager is its tendency to ask for a reboot every time it has to update software. I am sure you remember how painful this has been in Windows for years and one of Linux strengths was precisely the absence of this behavior. I understand that the new software manager is there mostly as a proof of concept this time around and should be a mature product by GNOME 3.12, but let's just say they better fix it and get rid of the annoying excessive reboots sooner rather than later.

FEDORA KDE 4.11

It's funny how KDE and GNOME offer such opposite experiences, even in what they offer to the user. While GNOME started as a bare-bone experience and keeps adding more and more features with each release to cover gaps, KDE suffers from the opposite problem. It offers an overwhelming amount of options, perhaps too many, all packaged in an environment that has felt shaky and inconsistent for many, many releases.

Fortunately, even if frustratingly slow at times, progress has also been steady at the K camp over the years, and it now finally feels like the mature, consistent, snappy and solid DE it should have always been. In fact, in the comparison KDE probably leads in most areas, feeling faster and (surprisingly) lighter, smoother (it's amazing how good Kwin effects have become) and more complete (K Apps like KTorrent, K3B, Kate, Gwenview or Okular really have no competition in the GNOME World). Even areas that have historically been a pain, like Akonadi, Nepomuk and PIM, work like a charm these days. I was finally able to get my calendar, contacts and email on Kontact to work perfectly, albeit with a more cumbersome setup than that in GNOME Shell. Getting the Plasma calendar to show events worked perfectly as well, gone are the crazy high CPU figures that plagued this functionality and more often than not forced me to disable it. Along the same lines, the inclusion of yet more plasma elements in the desktop makes the experience even more streamlined. It's certainly satisfying to finally see what the Plasma desktop should have always been... Well, 98% of it anyways, as there are still elements that are not fully Plasma yet (The home, clipper and sound menus are still pending, among other things).

So what's my take on KDE? I love it as well, no doubt, but I always have the feeling that it could be better, partly because it's quickly becoming obsolete in many ways, rusty in its excessive complexity. In my opinion, the days of the heavy clients are over. As a power user myself, I truly see the point in having a UI that provides flexibility and plenty of features, but it is no longer acceptable that it does so at the expense of ease of use. Besides, the times are changing...

For years now we are seeing an empowerment of cloud services and applications, which helps users concentrate and interconnect all their data across. Sadly, KDE developers seem to be deaf and blind to how things are being done elsewhere and continue to offer an incredibly overpowered desktop (with all the challenges that entails) when most users will be doing 80% of what they need to do from the browser. These days I have all my music on Google Play Music, do all my emails, agenda and contact management from Gmail, my IM on Hangouts, my RSS on Feedly, my Tweets on Tweetdeck and all the social networking on the respective online portals. Photo management and edition is now possible for free and without any limit in the amount of pictures you upload to in Google+. This incredibly powerful cloud service offers very smart image indexing along with very impressive photo (even auto) edition features. Granted I am no specialist, but whatever results I ever managed to get with GIMP, I get better these days with these simple and fun to use apps. Of course they are nothing but a joke for the professional, but the casual user, which makes up the vast majority, will roughly use 10% of what KDE has to offer. If on top of much better web apps and cloud services, we add the fact that the average user is quickly getting used to extremely intuitive UIs in the form of Android and iOS, it will be increasingly difficult to expect users to care, much less want, what KDE has to offer. In my opinion, once Unity and GNOME Shell finally close the gap (they are younger DEs after all), KDE is at risk of becoming a niche DE.

All that said, I must admit using KDE these days is such a joy for someone like me, who's battled its quirks for so long. Thinks are surprisingly fast and responsive and almost never seeing a crash certainly improves the overall experience. On top of Fedora 20, it even feels faster and more solid than something like Kubuntu 13.10, while still retaining a reasonable ease of use. A novice user would probably enjoy it very much as well while only scratching the surface, but I can't help but wonder if s/he would get lost in the apparently never ending list of options and settings available, many of which most users wouldn't even care about anyways.

AND THE CHAMPION IS...

Well, this is a tough one and will truly depend on each user. For experienced users who have enjoyed KDE in the past, who know its apps and ways around it, it doesn´t get any better (yet) than this. I have tried several distros and I think that what Fedora is doing with KDE is superb. Less experienced users, perhaps those who are willing to try something different and certainly those who care most about productivity, will probably enjoy GNOME better. Its modern and elegant UI, unintrusive notifications and to the point approach are perfect for those who want to sit down and get things done without distractions. Needless to say, Fedora is THE distro when it comes to GNOME, don´t even think of looking elsewhere.

As for Fedora 20, it continues to be my champion distro for the third release in a row. Performance is king, Looks and ease of use continue their ever improving path, and having the very latest from applications is something truly worth experiencing, specially if you come from the Ubuntu realm and have spent hours trying (potentially dangerous) PPAs to get that latest release from that app you love so much. When you get to Fedora, all of a sudden, things just work the way they should.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The beauty of GNOME Shell

Since its inception not long ago, the new GNOME 3.x series has confused some and frustrated others, but more often than not, it has also managed to conquer those few who actually got past the initial quirks and gave it a fair chance. Similarly, its desktop environment, simply dubbed Shell, left a lot to be desired in the early days, mostly because the customization options had been thrown out the window in favor of a to-the-point approach which meant to remove distractions. Unfortunately, such approach was certainly too closed to survive in the Linux realm.

After a few releases, the Shell has seen a lot of improvements, polish and tons of customization options, sometimes through tools like Tweak Tool, or through a plethora of cool extensions. Long story short, customizing the Shell is now simple and the results can be amazing. Most importantly, the results will be what you want them to be, which is really what is all about, right?

In this very short video, I used the built-in screencast feature to record my way through some simple navigation.



Now, here's the desktop. I love how clean and non-intrusive it is. The calendar and the rest of the menus are elegant and very responsive.


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The search feature is very powerful and, unlike that of Ubuntu, very responsive, being as it is limited to local contents. Once again, search results are presented in a clean and beautiful way which is consistent with the rest of the experience.


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The lock screen is nice, modern looking. For those complaining that it was designed exclusively for touch devices, well, that's simply not true. Just hit the ENTER key from here to get to the login screen.


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Nautilus may have been stripped of some advanced features, but for the vast majority of users, it more than does the job. Its simplicity also enhances its looks.


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So there you have it, GNOME Shell continues to work and look better, definitely a great Linux DE which can look pretty!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Android Jelly Bean King at last

At long last, Android Jelly Bean (meaning Android 4.1 and up) has become the most used Android version out there. Android 4 and up together make up for more than 61% of all Android devices connecting to the Google Play Store.



As I write these lines, Android 4.3 is all but confirmed, probably to go live as soon as the new Nexus 7 is released. The long awaited Android 5.0 "Key Lime Pie" version of Android is expected by late this year, and one of the features it is rumored to sport is wider support for less powerful devices. If that turns out to be true, along with the amazing new approach based on Google Services that was introduced in Google I/O a few months ago, the different Google Edition models and the many new devices that will be introduced (all carrying Android 4.2 or 4.3) in the second half of the year, I think it´s quite probable that Android fragmentation will not even be worth discussing by the end of 2013.

In fact, ironically, as Google continues to progress in fixing this problem, it is becoming more of an issue in iOS. Are we just months away from seeing one of Apple´s biggest arguments against Android become a shot in their own foot?

Please visit the Android Developer Dashboard for full statistics.

Friday, May 31, 2013

iMore, the daydreaming site for Apple fanatics

I am an Android user and fan, there´s no denying it. I love Google services, use them heavily and have also been a Linux user for years. Android is the best middle ground between the two, and the work Google and the Android developer community have done since its release is simply outstanding.

Although they are not my cup of tea, I have also used Apple devices, such as an iPod touch 4 and currently an iPad mini. Apple as a company and their devices as a whole represent most of the stuff I dislike about software and hardware in general: Heavily overpriced, dumbed-down, snobbish products developed within a tightly closed and controlled environment. Having said so, I am not one of those who fails to recognize what is good about them, and I must admit there is a lot of that. They are well built and usually do the job they were designed to do reliably. If one adds up insane amounts of dollars spent in brilliant marketing campaigns on top of that, then it´s no surprise Apple does so well as a company. Today, that is.

iMore.com is a site put together by Apple fanbois for Apple fanbois, but they are also expected to be serious and objective, which is what any respectable information media aims to be. This site is a good source of information regarding what Apple will do next, they usually nail it and don´t publish rubbish rumors you often see in other places. On the other hand, they are not that good when it comes to dealing with critics or not so positive news. They will often write opinion articles to demean Android success, Google success or anything that looks like their beloved company or set of products are not "winning".

WHERE I AM COMING FROM

To give a bit of context, I am just a user of Google services and products who enjoys using Linux and likes its open and collaborative spirit. In that sense, I see year after year how Google pushes so many initiatives and projects that help improve software in general and open software in particular, and that amazes me. Stuff like Mozilla, Ubuntu collaboration, the yearly summer of code events that have worked wonders for KDE and other similar projects, Chromium, Webkit and now Blink, and many more are examples of that.

Android uses the Linux Kernel and even the Linux foundation thrives at how successful it is, and while neither Google nor Android are perfect, they are a heck of a lot closer to what I would like to see in technology as a whole than what Apple represents. In fact, it´s important to understand that Google does not have to do things this way. They could be way more greedy, close up their services and develop all of their products much more closely and never invest in open source projects. Luckily, they are not that way, so it is a good thing that we remind ourselves of that once in a while, because I see lots of people taking lots of things for granted and sometimes it surprises me. Does Google want to make money? Heck yes, but it´s how they decide to make that happen that matters, I think.

Anyway, I digress, but I just wanted to give a bit of background so my point of view is better understood. I feel happy to see Android everywhere because I think it is the better option as a whole, not just from a performance-feature level, but also a philosophical one. I don´t hold any animosity against Apple or their products, I just wished they were managed differently.

THE BEST GOOGLE SMARTPHONE

What I don´t like, though, is when people blatantly lie, or tell only half of the story, or simply close their eyes to reality because it suits their agenda. That is exactly what iMore does more and more often these days. For instance, they recently put out an article comparing the HTC One versus the iPhone 5. In that article, iMore claims that the iPhone 5 is a better Google phone because Google apps are smoother in the Apple smartphone. Right, well, that´s simply false to begin with. I own a Nexus 4 and have tinkered with a Samsung Galaxy S4, as well as with an iPhone 5 and my own iPad mini, and the fact of the matter is that Google apps behave almost identically throughout. the iPad mini, with its more humble hardware specifications probably struggles the most, but performance is more than acceptable anyways. To find the difference between the iPhone 5 and the Nexus 4 performance, one must indeed be an iPhanboi, someone so utterly and exclusively impressed by the sheer stupidity of smooth scrolling that can spend hours trying the effect and consistently being amazed by it. Even then, the difference is negligible, both devices are as smooth as it gets, but again, it takes a specific type of person to give this concept such relevancy.

The second argument they make, which is actually implied, is that Google apps in iOS are exactly the same they are in Android, both in terms of quantity and quality. Now, this is another example of dishonestly sharing only part of the information to suit their message. They of course don´t mention that Apple users don´t get every one of Google apps, as is the case with Google keep, My Tracks, Google Play Music, Car Home and others. Similarly, they skip the fact that iPhone users get Google apps weeks, sometimes months later than Android users do. Of course, they also fail to mention that all this Google app joy is only possible until the walled garden police decide to spoil the fun, as was the case when they removed Google Maps altogether.

It is probably obvious to anyone except a misinformed iPhanboi, but the best Google experience is not defined solely by having a bunch of great Google apps. Android users know that it´s not just about having the app, but also about how they use it and the features it offers. Streetview and its compass mode or Google Calendar are great examples.

On an Apple device, for example, one has to download and then sign in to each one of those Google apps, one by one, as opposed to the seamless experience that is core in Android. Similarly, apps have extremely limited sharing abilities, which is one of the nicest features in Android, one that greatly enhances the user experience. On top of that, Google apps are not, and cannot be defined as defaults (although Google are trying some smart workarounds to allow people to trigger Chrome when opening a URL from within a Google app, better than nothing, I guess). Last but not least, even if Google did a great job translating its design principles into iOS, their apps simply look out of place in iOS, offering a flat, modern look that simply doesn´t fit the obsolete skeuomorphism so popular in iOS.

So no, the iPhone 5 is not even close to providing the best Google experience. It takes someone who´s never used a modern Android device for more than five minutes or someone who´s deliberately lying to say so. The iPhone 5 does (thanks exclusively to Google, by the way, Apple has only created problems to users who preferred Google services) offer the possibility to use several Google apps, but it lacks in features, gets the apps late if at all, is always under risk of losing those apps if Apple Police randomly so decides and overall simply offers a sub par experience. One has to wonder, though, how all of these concepts escape an iMore editor when something as insignificant as smooth scrolling is all that important to them... Are they not into small details? I guess they are happy as long as it scrolls smooth enough.

Finally, that comment about being able to use other apps alongside google apps is simply ridiculous. Android users have tons of apps of their own that are similar, if not better, than iOS apps. Like Tweetbot? Well, Android users can enjoy Robird, Carbon, Tweedle, Neatly, Falcon Pro... All excellent Twitter clients, not to mention the official Twitter client app, which gets updated in parallel in both platforms. Fantastical? Well, the Official Google Calendar app is amazing, but there are many other apps like Digical which do a phenomenal job at it. Finally, Letterpress... A game? Really? Come on!

MARKET SHARE IS NOT IMPORTANT, ONLY PROFIT MATTERS

Another one of those phrases iPhanbois repeat like parrots. Years ago, when the iPhone dominated market share, that was such an important thing... which it quickly stopped being relevant when Android took over, of course. At that point, the relevant thing was that Apple was single handedly leading the tablet arena. Yet again, a concept soon to lose any relevancy as that dominance is about to die as Android tablets get in the lead this summer.

That apparently random loss of relevancy is quite an interesting phenomenon, but nothing compared to the idea that losing market share, even if it happens as quickly as it is happening to (once market leaders) Apple devices, is of no relevance to Apple. The guys at iMore want their readers to think that is all good and dandy because Apple continues to make more profit than the competition, even if the difference in profit steadily shrinks when compared to the likes of Samsung. Who cares if Apple have lost the lead in almost any market they compete on? Who cares if the potential profit could have been 2-3 times higher if Apple would have as much market share as Android? Who cares if the Google Play Store is on its way to surpass Apple Store profits in two years (if current estimations turn out to be true)? All those ideas are just crazy concepts only trade investors care about.

The ultimate bold idea, though, is to claim that the past of the company serves as an example to demonstrate that iOS devices have a bright future in front of them. The iMore editor shares a graph showing that Apple makes more profit today out of computers than any other manufacturer out there. This concept is used to try to debunk the notion that PCs killed Macs in the past. After all, the situation is somewhat similar, and if Macs enjoy leading profit today, why won´t Apple mobile devices follow suit? The iMore editor once again strategically forgets certain historical facts, like the surely unimportant event (for him) in which Apple was rescued from certain bankruptcy by Microsoft. The current crisis in the computer market, and the fact that PC manufacturers are turning into mobile devices manufacturers, something that will take time and will make them lose money, is also left out of the picture. Finally, the fact that profit could potentially be many times higher should Apple hold a bigger chunk of the market share is once again irrelevant, how convenient.

WHO KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

Now, I don´t pretend to know what´s going to happen because technology changes by the minute, but I think it is not very intelligent to pretend that the current situation is optimum for Apple, or to ignore the challenges the company faces. Yes, they have had 5 amazing years and such results carry inertia with them which doesn´t disappear overnight. However, it is undeniable that they put together some innovative concepts out, had their cake and were eating it, yet their competitors systematically and quickly managed to turn the situation upside down and left them with a much smaller portion than they probably thought they would have at this stage. The potential Apple had 2-3 years ago was incredible, they had the best seats to the show and had everything to become solid leaders of a rapidly growing market. However, they have consistently failed to deliver in many aspects, have been stale in terms of innovation, specially in the last 2-3 years, and in yet another display of sheer arrogance, like claiming they knew what the perfect screen size was, have failed to understand what people truly wanted. All that resulted in Apple´s lead extinguishing way faster than most could foresee.

Apple was not long ago defining the market, but just a few short years after is now, in most ways, playing catch up. The once perfect skeuomorphism is apparently to go out the window once iOS 7 is out. Rumor has it that a cheaper iPhone is on the way, perhaps even one with an even bigger screen. If those changes become a reality, they will confirm that Apple is no longer so clear on what the right strategy is.

That´s all pure speculation, though, I firmly believe Apple has every chance to become the true market leader again if they make the right choices, but the current situation does not look particularly promising. Looking the other way and misinforming to offer cheap propaganda or downright fanboysm is not the right way to manage a website which supposedly offers objective information. Hopefully the iMore editors will do as good a job when offering opinion as they do when they inform about Apple news. In fact, it would be great if they could learn from other mobile nations editors whose attitude towards criticism and weak spots in the platform they most love are much better.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Remember Vivaldi and Plasma Active? Yes, again!

It´s been roughly eight months since I wrote a bitter ARTICLE about the (hopefully!) upcoming Vivaldi tablet. Back then I discussed the terrible customer focus and business approach, as well as the fact that the idea behind the project is so far off what people are looking for today in a tablet that it is plain obsolete way before being available.

8 months later, what exactly has changed? Well... Nothing, zero, niente, nada.

The project official site still shows no information to help customers understand what happened with their preorders. As was the case back when I wrote my previews article, the only way to get a shade of information on the project, release dates and what not, is to proactively follow Aaron Seigo´s blog and hope that he will release an article sooner rather than later. Ridiculous indeed.

Luckily, Mr. Seigo just published an update on the matter, which you can read HERE if interested.

Apparently, plans are there to upgrade the hardware specifications a bit, but other than that, what we get once again are a bunch of excuses that don´t do much after a year waiting for a device that was first introduced as being imminently available. It almost feels like these guys were jealous at Google after the Nexus 4 selling fiasco, so they want to try real hard to come out as even more unreliable! Well, push no more, people, the jury is out and Vivaldi gets the worst customer service and attention accolade by a long shot!

Personally, I think it is sad that some people are so thickheaded that they have to keep pushing for something that has no future and that, if anything, only has a negative impact in the open standards they claim to defend. As far as the average Joe is concerned, they just want to get a device, so things like these only help cementing the idea that the people behind open source projects and standards are unreliable, unprofessional geeks who´d rather play than delivering results.

If Vivaldi comes out within the next 2-3 months, it seems it will come out around the same time as the second generation Nexus 7, and roughly around the same time as Firefox OS, Tizen, Jolla and even Ubuntu devices become available. The problem is that Vivaldi and Plasma Active are way behind most of them, light years away fron what Android has become... I mean, if the rumors are true, the second generation Nexus 7 is going to be a killer device, with an extremely mature OS, a huge ecosystem and user community and millions of active developers delivering quality software... and it will be available at roughly the same price as Vivaldi, but with much better hardware!

Is Vivaldi really necessary? It´s not the nineties anymore, there are many open alternatives out there, several more in the works. Wouldn´t it be better to simply accept defeat than keep pushing a project that has been and most probably will continue to be an embarrassment?

As I said back in the day, coding in your free time, as a hobby, is awesome. Projects coming out of sheer developer passion, for free, are a great thing, and people understand that they are delivered on a best effort basis. However, when you step up to the next level, start talking about preorders, a price tag, shipping charges, presenting specifications, pictures, demos, etc., then that´s when the game is over and it becomes a business which must deliver to expectations and timelines. That´s where this project has been a huge miss, consistently failing to deliver to its own promises and losing customers in the process, who will probably put their money on options they can trust.

It is great to daydream about openness, freedom, making, playing and living, but the best way to convey that is to demonstrate that one can deliver under those principles. If the opposite happens, then it builds on the idea that only big corporations can be trusted, that closed environments are the only ones that truly work, and so the original intent of the project is jeopardized and the opposite goal is achieved.

If the project is finally released in a short while, hopefully there is something there to make up for the endless waiting, but I highly doubt it. If, on the other hand, it is still not ready within a few months, I hope the project leaders simply understand that it is best to cancel the project, communicate accordingly and let other better managed initiatives carry the open standards flag.