A terrifying GUI
Tonight Sushu brought home a copy of Manga Studio EX. The box cover proudly proclaims that it is for creating "Manga and Comics". Oh, that's good; I was afraid it could only be used for one or the other, since they're soooo different.
(The adoption of the word "manga" into English, even though we already have the word "comics", and the use of "manga" even for comics that aren't Japanese... it's weird, man. Somebody should write an essay.)
Manga Studio provides enough screen tones, speed lines, and cliche effects (from blood splatters to windborne cherry petals) to satisfy any unoriginal artist who wants to make their "manga" look like every other "manga". This isn't exactly one of my aesthetic goals with Yuki Hoshigawa, but I was still excited to try out the software and see if it had anything useful that could streamline my production process.
My excitement lasted until I got my first good look at the user interface; it was then replaced by sheer terror.
Look at this. Every menu has sub-menus. Every tool in the tool palette has sub-menus. The big palette on the right has tabs within tabs. The main window has "story" and "page" tabs and choosing the other one changes all the buttons at the top. There are millions of tiny icons and I have to mouse over each one and wait for the tooltip to pop up in order to have any clue what they mean. Let's not even get into the multi-tabbed "Properties" dialog.
Where does one even begin learning an interface like this? There's no tutorial, no basic mode, no clue how to identify whatever subset of features I would actually want to use.
I would rather have to learn a new programming language than try to figure out this interface. Compared to modern content-generation GUIs, learning a programming language is easy. At least in learning a language I can find a tutorial that will start with "Hello, World" and walk me through one keyword at a time until I know everything. If I was in the UNIX shell I'd at least have tab-to-autocomplete and man pages to help me figure stuff out.
That's right: GUIs like this make me long for the relative user-friendliness of a command-line interface.
Laptop buyer's remorse
A couple weeks ago I bought a
Hewlett-Packard TouchSmart tm2-1070us Notebook. This is a laptop with a touch-sensitive screen, that can swivel around and fold down over the keyboard to turn the laptop into a tablet.
I thought it would be a cool thing to help with drawing comics, since I could draw right on the screen. Also, I haven't bought myself a computer since 2002 (every computer I've used since then has been one lent to me by whoever I was working for at the time). I thought maybe it was time to have a computer of my own, to separate my work stuff from the rest of my life. Finally, I also wanted to get away from Mac, as Apple has been turning evil lately and I don't want to support them any more.
I started regretting the purchase almost immediately. I brought it back to Fry's (return policy: full refund minus 15% restocking fee within 14 days) less than a week later. Should really have done more research first.
Here's a list of what was wrong with this computer.
The hardware sucks
There's no optical drive. I didn't realize this until I got home. I guess I should have read the box more carefully or asked the salesman, but it didn't even cross my mind that you could sell a computer without a CD-ROM drive these days. So yeah, it needs an external CD-ROM drive to install software or play a music CD or anything.
Even with an external CD-ROM drive hooked up, I couldn't get it to boot from a CD. I went into the BIOS and made that drive first in the boot order, but it didn't seem to make any difference. This meant I couldn't install Ubuntu.
The trackpad is a nightmare. It's the kind where the bottom part of the trackpad is meant to double as the mouse buttons, but the whole surface is touch-sensitive and pressure sensitive. This means it's extremely easy to
click when you wanted to move, or move when you wanted to click. (The Macbook Pro gets this right: it has the button separate from the trackpad, so you push the button with your thumb while moving the pointer with your fingers. You can drag two fingers to scroll. It works great.)
On the HP, supposedly I can drag two fingers to scroll, but sometimes it works and other times it doesn't, and I can't figure out why. Sometimes when I drag with two fingers the mouse pointer stays put and turns into a four-directional arrow symbol. I don't understand what this means. Supposedly I can move two fingers apart or together to zoom in or out, but that is also extremely flaky, sometimes working and other times not.
But it's not just the advanced features that don't work. When I go to click on a close button, half the time I miss because the act of pressing down on the mouse button part of the pad moves the pointer off of the button, so I do something else instead. When I try to put an insertion point in text, the point randomly jumps around, sometimes selecting big chunks of the text. Sometimes it brings up the context menu as if I had right-clicked. Dragging a scroll bar is fraught with perils. If I try to hold the button down with my thumb and move the pointer with my index finger at the same time, that means I'm touching the pad in two places, which means unpredictable behavior. The pointer might randomly jump halfway across the screen, or it might not move at all.
I have no idea what to expect when I touch this track pad. All my habits are dangerous now. It's at the point where I'd rather pick up the stylus and poke the screen with it than use the track pad, even if I'm in laptop mode and just trying to click a link.
Actually drawing with the stylus on the screen is pretty good, but using it to click links or select from menus or otherwise interact with a standard GUI is very annoying because the part of the interface I'm looking at is covered up by my hand and the pen, and because the standard GUI rendered on a laptop screen has targets that are physically very small, and sometimes the stylus is registered as a couple pixels off from where I think it is due to my viewing angle. I miss targets a lot. But in tablet mode, that's the only way to click things. (It's still better, slightly, than using the trackpad.)
There's a toggle button on the right edge of the laptop between the power button and the SD card port, which turns the wireless connection on and off. I discovered this by accident, because this button is in the perfect place to be hit by accident when you with the thumb when you're just trying to hold the computer in tablet mode. And then the next time you go to load a web page it suddenly doesn't work, and you don't know why. Now that I've figured out this button, I have to carefully avoid hitting it, forever. Why does this button even exist? Why would you put an "accidentally turn off my wireless internet" button on the hardware? (There's actually TWO such buttons, since the f12 key ALSO does the same thing). The cases when you need to turn off wireless internet on a laptop are exceedingly rare, and can easily be handled through software controls.
The back of the screen and the area below the keyboard both have this stupid spirally abstract cloud pattern etched into them. It's not printed, it's not a sticker that you can peel off, it's actually permanently etched in, like with a laser or something. Who asked for this nonsense?
Probably due to the weight of the touch-screen hardware, the machine is very top-heavy when in laptop mode. It's hard to balance on my lap because it keeps wanting to fall over backward.
The software sucks
I remember when you'd buy a new computer and it would boot to a BIOS screen, waiting for you to configure the drives and install the operating system. It was a little more work to set up, but it gave you a pleasantly minimalistic setup at first. You started with the bare minimum and added things as you needed them.
These days you have to spend the first couple of days just de-gunking a computer from all the ad-ware and useless crap that's pre-loaded at the factory before you can use it. Bahhh. Everything is popping up dialog boxes at you, begging for your attention,trying to get you to buy Norton Antivirus or whatever other crap software paid Hewlett-Packard for advertising space. You configure your network settings once in the Windows wizard that pops up, and then as soon as that's gone a Hewlett-Packard wizard takes over and asks you the same questions all over again, except it's also trying to get you to buy stuff.
HP has started using this horribly inappropriate "Nightmare before Christmas" font on all their stuff, with the slogan "The computer is personal again!" Whatever, guys.
There's a button on the edge of the screen that rotates the screen orientation 90 degrees each time you press it, so that you can use the tablet in portrait mode or landscape mode. That's fine. But for a while, every time I touched this button, a program called "BumpTop" would take over my screen for no reason I could understand. It would launch into some kind of stupid tutorial and I would close it. By the fourth or so time that BumpTop came up and took over my screen, it said "You are now done with the tutorial". Which of course I wasn't, but it had apparently been advancing through the tutorial each time I closed it. I finally uninstalled BumpTop (actually Sushu uninstalled it for me to get me to stop bitching about it).
BumpTop is an amazingly useless piece of showing-off-ware. I wrotea separate rantabout BumpTop and why it's useless and fundamentally misguided.
Besides BumpTop, other useless software that showed up to beg for my attention included two wretched things called "HP Advisor" and "HP TouchSmart" which are installed and taking up space in the windows taskbar by default. Hp Advisor appears to be a combination of adware and redundant interface to things you can do through the Windows control panel. HP Touchsmart is an overblown and redundant full-screen touch interface for browsing multimedia files. Whatever. It also has a 'browser' button which launches IE full-screen, and - this is the weird part - Hulu, Netflix, and Twitter buttons. Those are websites; I don't need a special button to launch them, though I'm sure they paid HP nicely for the privilege. The weirdest one is Twitter; when I think of things that would benefit from a full-screen touch-enabled interface, Twitter isn't anywhere on the list. What possible purpose does this serve?
Windows 7 (which, amusingly, has an internal verison number of 6.1) appears to be, at least, no worse than Windows XP; it just sucks more memory and randomly changes parts of the interface around so you have to relearn everything for no real benefit. The hourglass is now a blue ring exactly like the ones the moai heads spit at you in Gradius. Every icon in Windows Explorer now gets a little check box when you select it, which is just confusing; it turns out that this is an alternate way to select multiple files at once, if you
don't want to shift-click, control-click, or drag a box around the files. That would have been a great innovation for, say, 1990, when the conventions of selecting icons were still being established, but it seems like a weird thing to start messing with now.
I do appreciate that Windows 7 didn't blue-screen-of-death on me five times in the first day like Vista did. That's a definite improvement.
I actually like the Windows 7 feature where you can drag a window to the top of the screen to full-screen it or to one side of the screen to half-screen it. The latter makes it easy to compare two windows side by side, which
is the only real use case for non-fullscreen windows anyway.
My plan was to wipe Windows 7 and install Ubuntu, but since I could never get the laptop to boot from a CD-ROM (see above), I couldn't do this.
Manga Studio really, really sucks
I'm splitting this part into a separate blog post because there are so many reasons that Manga Studio sucks.
Suffice to say here that the unreliable trackpad input, the clunkiness of Windows 7, and the horrible UI failure that is Manga Studio all combined to make an absolutely miserable, frustrating, hair-pulling out experience that had me doing more swearing and nerd-raging than drawing.
The only way to make it usable would have been to hook it up with an external CD-ROM drive and an external mouse (thus defeating the purpose of a tablet computer), wipe Windows 7 in favor of Ubuntu (providing I could figure out how to make Ubuntu compatible with the touchscreen and pressure-sensitive stylus input), and replace Manga Studio with some other software. But GIMP is equally horrible interface-wise and Photoshop doesn't run on Linux, so I don't even know what software that would be.
That's why I declared the whole thing a failed experiment and brought the laptop back to the store.
Manga Studio: The Epic List of UI Failures
I've heard people defend Manga Studio as "power-user software", like "It's for experts, and it's super powerful, so of course it has a learning curve".
No. I know all about making tradeoffs between learnability for beginners and efficiency for experts. I know what software looks like when it takes the path of "hard to learn but very efficient and powerful once you learn it" (like, say, Emacs) , and this ain't it. The Manga Studio interface just gets stuff wrong. It's egregiously bad for no reason. Most of these usability problems would harm experts just as bad as they harm beginners.
Here's my ever-expanding list of UI mistakes and bugs in this wretched application, organized by sub-categories.
- Can't open a file that's not the right file type; you have to import it. Can't import a file if you don't have a page open. Why not just create a page for the user in this case?
- (Windows version only): That horible window-inside-of-window interface is back and ready to party like it's 1995!
- Every time you open the damn thing it makes a new blank document, and when you go to close it, it pops a dialog to say the blank document has been changed. No it hasn't, you liar.
- It asks me if I want to save every time I change pages. (THE ANSWER IS YES. DON'T ASK ME, JUST DO IT). Oh, maybe it's a good thing to not save changes, because you throw away my undo history whenever changing pages, which means I can't go back to a page and undo something. The right behavior would be to always keep undo history while continuously auto-saving.
- Many layer options, such as the color depth and raster/vectorness of the layer, can only be set when creating it. If you mess up, you have to delete the layer and do it again! (not actually true, I found how to change this).
- I've got layers called "Layer" and "Layer" automatically included underneath the bottom layer of my drawing and I don't know why.
- If you make a layer tones instaed of grayscale by mistake, there's no way to change it back afterwards. You'd have to redo it all. This is extra annoying since tone is the default, it's not displayed anywhere once you get past the 'create layer' dialog box, and it's never what I want.
- To make panels, you go into the general tab of the tool options window for the shape tool and click a tiny cryptic icon to turn on a special mode and then drag the rectangle tool to create a folder of layers. (Why are panels not a top-level tool of their own, given that this is called manga studio? And given that some of the top-level tools are much more specialized and useless?)
- The "panel ruler cutter tool" which exists to chop one panel into two panels along a straight line (cuz you do that all the time, right?) deserves a slot in the main tool pallete. (While the panel tool isn't even a tool, it's a suboption of Rectangle.)
- When you drag a corner of a panel, it moves JUST THAT CORNER, turning your panel into an ugly trapezoid. It doesn't resize while keeping it a rectangle like you would expect. I still don't know how to resize a panel while keeping it rectangular, which you would assume would be the default.
- When you have a panel selected, it's got a red border around it that looks just like the red border for resizing selections, so you think it's to resize the panel, but no. Dragging it does nothing to the original panel -- but sometimes randomly creates new tiny panels elsewhere on the page! I'm still not sure what it's for, but hey! Why not use the same visual to represent two completely different concepts! That's not confusing or anything.
- Giving me tones when I want gray. Making it impossible to eyedrop up a
tone (unless you turn on a checkbox in the eyedropper tool options window, and sometimes that even doesn't work. I still don't know why).
- Two different types of color picker in the same window, which disagree with each other. When you eyedropper a shade of grey, it changes the bottom scale but leaves the selection in the top color picker alone. When you click a shade of grey, it changes in the top color picker but not in the bottom scale. This means that the actual color is dependent on which interface you used last, and you can't tell by looking at the window what color you're going to get when you paint something.
- Sometimes the paint bucket turns into a "No" symbol and won't paint. Why's that? Oh, somehow my text layer got selected.
- There's a copy of my colorz layer called "Colors Copy" that I didn't create.
- To eyedrop a color, I have to know what layer the color is in and have that layer selected. Sometimes that still doesn't work; the eyedropper
can fail for a lot of reasons I still don't understand.
- Paint bucketing in a secondary layer with "browse all layers" turned on, i can very easily dump paint through all my lines without anything visible happening - I only find out later when it's to late to undo that I now have a duplicate of the lines layer in the color layer, so when I try to erase something in the lines layer it doesn't seem to erase and I think I'm going crazy.
- Not obeying my choice of font, because the "Use Style" checkbox is checked by default and it apparently means "Ignore whatever else I say". This is an amazing interface innovation: Having the obvious parts of the interface disabled by default until you dig through dialog boxes to find the magic check box that's overriding them.
- No way to search fonts or type the name of the font you want; you have to scroll through the menu one by one. Oh, but there are "up" and "down" buttons next to the font selection that let you blindly go through the alphabetical list one at a time. How would those ever be useful?
- When I try to change the font size of text that's already typed and selected (as opposed to setting the font size first and then typing), sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I can always resize text by dragging the border around it, but then I don't know how much I'm resizing it by and so I can't match it with the size of the other text. I really want to enter a point size.
- Also, when I type into the "text size" field to set the size, that field keeps focus (with the modal "text properties" dialog box still up) so now when I try to type my actual text nothing happens because it's trying to put the ltters into the text size field and it's rejecting them. You have to notice that the text size field has focus and then de-focus it by clicking other random parts of the dialog box. And no, if you dismiss the dialog box you go out of text edit mode.)
- Double clicking to select a word in a line of text selects the whole line and not just the word, unlike every other application in the world.
- Having a way to make thought clouds, but no way to make the "bubble trail" from the thought cloud to a character's head! I know this isn't used that much in Japanese comics but there are so many other obscure and useless options that I'm surprised this basic one isn't included. You have to draw each circle manually if you want the bubble trail.
- Yes, thank you for making my speech bubble transparent, randomly. Transparent speech bubbles that let the grey background show through are just so useful. Thanks for having no controls for me to change this and no clue to why it happened. (Sushu figured it out: the text layer I created got inserted under the color layer, for some reason, so the colors were being drawn (translucently) over the top of the text).
- The edit menu has both "copy" and "Copy to another applications" (sic). Aside from the grammar, why are these separate options? Why can't you make one copy command and have it work right no matter where I'm copying to?
- You're in a hidden mode whenever a properties dialog box is open. It looks like a floating modeless dialog box, but it prevents you from doing anything to your picture. Also you're in a hidden mode when you're importing a picture or editing text - you won't understand why nothing sems to work until you click "OK".
- The scroll bars stretch way out into a grey void outside your picture. What posible reason is there to scroll out there?
- I try to copy an image on one page to another page. I select it and make sure to have all the layers hilighted, then do a copy, and... whaat? now I got duplicate text layers on this page? Which are rotated relative to the visible ones? What did I do? I can't undo it! (Solution: close file and reopen without saving).
- When you try to draw and nothing happens, it could be because there's an
offscreen selection somewhere. Or it could be because you have the wrong layer selected. Or it could be any number of other reasons I haven't figured out. Anyway, I'm constantly having to stop and figure out why my drawing tools aren't drawing. It's a never-ending adventure with Manga Studio!
Things I DO like about manga studio (a much shorter list)
- Single key shortcuts for switching tools and increasing/decreasing pen size
- "coloring inside the lines": When you have a selection up, you draw only inside the selection. This is very powerful combined with the magic wand to select an area of color and the fact that you can select on one layer and then draw (still bound to selection) on another layer. You can also polyline select and invert selections. There's a bit of a learning curve to figuring out how to use all these tools together, but they are a powerful combination.
- Infinite levels of undo (unfortunately these go away as soon as you switch pages, bah)
- Being able to use multiple translucent layers, and vary the opacity of each layer individually, lets you get some powerful effects (like the rain streaks, the reflection outside the window, and the pool of light from the window all in my most recent comic)
- I like that I can set a panel boundary, then pull in an image from elsewhere into the panel, and it's clipped at the panel edge, but the rest of the image is still there, just hidden, so I can easily resize and position it until it's clipped the way I want. (And I can also pull out individual layers such as dialog balloons and put them above the panel layer so they spill out the edge).
- You can enter some text and then hit "generate dialog balloon". It creates an object that can be resized, and you can add straight or curved tails and reposition them wherever. It's got some weird quirks but the underlying idea is exactly how you want a dialog balloon to behave and is a lot better than any of the ways I tried to do them before.
I got an email from my mom complaining that Firefox 4 wouldn't work with TurboTax. I decided to investigate.
If you go to turbotax.intuit.com with Firefox 4 and try to use it, you get this screen:
First of all, "System Requirements"? For a website? Something is fishy here.
It seems that TurboTax has built a completely pointless and arbitrary wall based on user-agent sniffing, in order to block users running browser versions or operating system versions that they don't approve of.
User-agent string sniffing is poor programming practice and should not be done at all. Not only is TurboTax doing it, they're doing it wrong. Most sites that look at the user-agent string do so as a way of compensating for differing browser features or differing CSS implementations. It's not the best way of doing that, but whatever. What really bothers me is that TurboTax is using this bad coding practice to exclude people from their website, which is contrary to the whole point of the World Wide Web.
Let me be clear: A website has no business telling me what browser I can or can't use to view it. That's like, I walk into a store, and somebody there looks at what brand of shoes I'm wearing and says "Sorry, you can only come in here with Nikes, Reeboks, or Adidas. We don't support Keens." My choice of shoes is none of their business and my choice of browser is none of TurboTax's business.
It gets even more ridiculous, because TurboTax is blocking the most recent version and demanding you use an obsolete version instead. This is backwards. I could see maybe imposing a minimum version, but who's ever heard of a maximum version? And not just Firefox either:Firefox: They require Firefox 3.0, or Internet Explorer 8.0 (IE 7 on some OS versions). They don't list a version number for Google Chrome but you'll get the same page if you try to use the latest version of Chrome, too.
So the browsers they require are all at least a version out of date, and if you try to use a more recent version of either browser (Firefox 4 or Internet Explorer 9) the site will block you claiming it doesn't support "beta" versions. Neither Firefox 4 or IE 9 is a "beta" anymore, and TurboTax bloody well knows this - both have been in the tech press for months! TurboTax has had plenty of time to fix their stupid wall.
Asking users to downgrade is not just insulting, it's dangerous. Firefox 3.0 is almost two years old at this point and we wouldn't recommend anyone using it anymore as it's out of date and does not have the security fixes in more recent versions; using it makes you more vulnerable. Same goes for IE 7.
Now for the cherry of stupidity on top of this failure sundae: See those buttons that TurboTax provides to download "supported browsers"? Guess where those take you? To the download pages for the latest versions, Firefox 4 and IE 9, of course! Which they don't support! Those buttons are completely meaningless. Not only are they asking people to downgrade their browser version, they're giving them incorrect instructions for doing so.
All this is completely unnecessary. There's no reason their page needs to care about your browser version at all. If you fake the useragent string (make Firefox 4 report itself as Firefox 3) then the page lets you through, and it works just fine. There's no actual problem with using an up-to-date browser, if they would just let you in. They just decided to block some people out for no reason. It makes me furious that they actually paid a programmer to add this check which serves no purpose except to block out people who could otherwise use the website; if they had just left it out, everything would have been fine. It's web development malpractice is what it is.
I tried to figure out how to get ahold of somebody there so I could point out that their site is broken, but the "contact us" link doesn't actually tell you how to contact anyone. Typical big-company attitude; the last thing they want is to have to talk to customers or fix anything. They're hoping that they can fool users into thinking the problem is with the user's computer instead of with TurboTax's broken-on-purpose website.
I would not trust TurboTax to handle my taxes correctly after seeing how badly they screwed up their website. Just sayin'.
Why I Hate iPads
In the comments to a previous post, Ben asks:
"What's wrong with iPads?"
iPads crushed my dream of being a software usability guy.
It's hard for me to find the words to express why, so bear with me while I try to explain what iPads meant for my career.
My professional life in the software industry (first at Humanized, then at Mozilla) was all based around one question. It went something like:
"How can we make computers easier to learn without making them less powerful?"
"How can we give users more power without making their software harder to use?"
By "power" I don't mean gigaflops, I mean something more like the "empowerment" sense of the word. Creative power. The potential of computers to help people create things, to be a producer and not just a consumer of culture, to be smarter and more efficient and more connected and maybe even more able to self-organize and demand change from their governments or whatever. All the potentials that people used to mean when they talked about the "computer revolution".
By making computers easier to use without dumbing them down, that power could be democratized, made accessible to more people. That was my theory, anyway. Thinking about it that way made me feel like I was working on something important. The idea of this search was the source of my job satisfaction.
(Naiive techno-utopianism, in retrospect.)
When the iPad came out, at first I ignored it. Why would anybody want an iPhone that was too big to fit in your pocket and doesn't make phone calls? I had zero interest in iPhones and iPads seemed strictly inferior. I figured they'd disappear without a trace within a month.
When they started getting popular -- when every other company in the industry started scrambling to follow Apple's lead -- I slowly realized the horrifying truth:
The computer industry was no longer interested in searching for a balance between power and usability. The new trend was to make a thing super easy to use by taking away all of the power. Instead of making computers easier to use, they'd give people things that are not really computers anymore, but appliances.
Yeah technically they're "computers" in that they have a Turing-complete CPU inside them. But tablets are what you get if you strip away everything that made me interested in computers in the first place -- the ability to hack the thing, to reprogram it, to run whatever software you want, to use it to make creative works and share them.
Instead, with iPads and the "app store", it's Apple, not you, who decides what software you are allowed to run on this machine that you supposedly own. (Which by the way is far more restrictive than anything Microsoft ever did at its most monopolistic -- at least Microsoft would let you distribute whatever software you wanted for Windows. They might clone your product and crush you if you got too successful, but at least you were allowed to try.)
Also, the touchscreen UI and lack of a real filesystem or decent inter-app communication channels make it terrible for trying to create any kind of content. Trying to type words on it sucks. Trying to draw on it sucks. (Yes, I know you can attach an external keyboard. Congratulations, you've created the world's crappiest laptop.) The touchscreen UI is really only good for poking icons and panning/zooming through static content. It's an interface optimized for passive consumption.
Ironically, when I first heard "Apple is making a tablet" I imagined a thing optimized for drawing on. You know, like with a pressure-sensitive stylus and high-quality art software. Silly me; that's what Apple of 1984, the company focused on education and creativity, would have built. The Apple of 2010 is focused on being the middleman for streaming music, games, and TV shows, so that's what they built. An appliance for consuming streams of corporate-approved entertainment product.
iPads and other tablets are more similar to a new kind of television than to the computer revolution I imagined. The industry's recent obsession with them -- the "post-PC era" -- is a direction I have no interest in following. Feel free to laugh at me for being an old fogey who can't adapt with the changing times, but I wanted to make computers easier to use, not replace them with fancy TVs. If the industry doesn't want that anymore, then maybe I had no place in the industry.
Ultimately, the iPad posed a serious philosophical challenge to my whole narrative about democratizing the creative potential of computers. If the iPad got really popular, if most people saw this new appliance class as an acceptable substitute for a computer, that meant that most people are not interested in hacking or creating -- they're content with a locked-down, corporate-controlled internet media consumption device. The computer revolution I had imagined was never going to happen, because the people I thought I was fighting for didn't want it.
April 2010, when the iPad was released, marked the beginning of the end of my software developer career. I spent another year and a half trying to figure out some way to respond to this philosophical challenge, some way to fix my narrative, to get my job satisfaction back, to imagine a future for myself in that industry. (Tablets were not the only trend driving this; equally distressing was the software industry's move to an advertising-centric model that I find ethically dubious. But that's another blog post.)
By fall of 2011 I had given up. I'd accepted that my dream of being a software usability guy was based on phony assumptions, and that the role I had imagined for myself had no place in the post-PC era. I hung around Mozilla long enough to finish up my projects and then I walked away from the industry.
In short, iPads challenged what I thought computers were all about. They made me re-examine why I was ever interested in computers in the first place. And in that re-examination I realized that most of my reasons were no longer valid.
So maybe it's not quite right to say I "hate" iPads. Maybe I should really be thanking Apple for making me realize that software was not the right career for me and giving me the impetus to break away and search for something new.