The iPad 2

I've been meaning to write about the new iPad for a while now. I got it last Saturday and have been playing with it every day since then. The thing is, I don't really know what to say about it. I generally dislike Apple. I dislike their software, their software policy and the way they force their preference onto their users without giving a proper alternative. And most of all, I hate iTunes. Words cannot describe how much I hate iTunes. It's been the worst piece of software on my Windows PC for years. Lately it's gotten slightly better, but you can still see that Apple really doesn't spend a lot of time on making their software perform well on somebody else's OS. Despite my dislike of all those things, I bought an iPad 2.

Why? That's very hard to define for me. If anything, I'd say "because there's a place for it in my life". The iPad doesn't replace any activity for me, instead it extends, improves. Anything that I would do with a laptop but didn't because it would be too [troublesome, awkward, annoying], I can do with an iPad. I use it mainly to surf the net in the living room and to read books before I go to sleep. It's great because I don't have to worry about the battery life, and because it's just so much more lighter than a laptop. If I was flexible enough to stand on my head I'm sure I could still find a way to comfortably use an iPad.

There's practically no flaws in the device. Sure, there's some things it can't do, but everything it can do, it does perfectly. Well, except for one thing: playing videos in any format other than Apple's preferred format. I found two nifty apps that can play H.264 and xvid movies in either mkv or avi containers, but neither is fast enough to handle 720p or higher. There was once an app that would have saved us all: the VLC player for iPad. But Apple pulled it beause it doesn't like open source software licenses. That pretty much summarizes my thoughts perfectly: I love the device, but I still don't like the company.

Still, no one can deny that the iPad is the mainstream tablet right now. And mainstream means bullshit. Ridiculous apps that probably only cost programmers 1 or 2 hours to make, will cost you several euros. For any other platform they would have been free. Applications that do happen to be free will bother you with ads or nag you constantly that you should buy the paid version, because some teenie tiny bit of functionality only works in the full version. Evil people are on this platform, and there is an active need to beware of them, or they will mislead you to spend your money on something idiotic. But that's what the app platform is all about anyway: pure consumerism. Nothing more, nothing less. I mean, why bother making your website accessible for mobile browsers when you can make an app instead and make money on it?

As closing words I do want to emphasize that I really love the iPad. Like I mentioned at the top of this post, it already has a unique place in my life that cannot be replaced by anything else. It even made my mother say she wanted one! And that's part of its charm. It's a wonderfully fine piece of engineering. Well done, Apple.

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iTunes again

Sorry for mentioning this over and over again, but it's just really pissing me off.

Situation: I manually manage everything on my iPod: both music and TV shows. TV shows that I encoded myself specifically for iPod, which cost me a great many hours of CPU time. Now, I want to sync ONLY MY MUSIC so I can make playlist folders again. I *triplechecked that I only selected to sync my music, and not my TV shows, but * ITUNES decides to erase my entire iPod anyway. This is not user error, this is Apple being retarded. Now I have to re-encode hours worth of series, which will take days. If Apple was more flexible they'd perhaps consider to support video codecs that normal people use, but that wouldn't be Apple. It has to be done their own way, in their own format...

I am beyond pissed off. I was considering buying an iPhone after my trip, because I felt it was better than its Android competitors. I still feel this way: the iPhone is a great device. I'm not buying it, though. From now on I am boycotting everything Apple. The inflexibility of their products simply does not agree with me. I know I'm in the minority here, but I'm quite used to that. The image of Apple in my mind is forever linked what negative emotions and bad feelings. Developing for the iPhone and trying to deal with iTunes leaves no doubt in my mind: avoid Apple products.

Oh, and since I'm ranting about shitty software anyway, here's another piece of shit that deserves some trolling: OpenOffice. I've been working with OO Impress a lot recently, cause I don't have MS Office on the Macbook at work, and I need to port presentations back and forth between Windows and MacOS. OpenOffice seems the logical choice, but damn is it shit. I'm a big fan of Java and of open-source applications, but OpenOffice is the ultimate example that open source does not always have great results. It's slow, illogical and counter-intuitive. And it's slow. I know the counter-intuitive part comes from the fact that I'm used to MS Office, but damn. Tell me why, OpenOffice, why do I have to change a global system setting to change the color of a hyperlink in my presentation? Don't you think that's slightly retarded? I know everyone will say "well, it's open-source, why don't you fix it?". Why should I? Powerpoint is better. It does everything I want, and it's much faster. I urge everyone to just get a good MS Office XP license (anything newer or older is worse). It's absolutely worth the money.

I'm a bit surprised at myself for recommending Microsoft stuff. Usually I'm a Google fanboy, but in this case I think Microsoft's products are more comfortable to use (at least the Office suite). I had similar experiences with IDEs, Apple's XCode being utterly abysmal and Eclipse my long-time favorite. By chace I installed MS Visual Studio Express C# today, expecting to get an XCode experience that would piss me off, but in fact Visual Studio impressed me a lot. It's fast, easy to understand, and makes good use of the screen space. It's certainly on par with Eclipse (based on my first impressions).

To summarize: Apple is shit, and don't forget that.

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Stupid

(Thank you all for your positive reactions to my news! I'll post an update about the trip soon :) )

Perhaps you have heard of the greatest unsolved problem in all of history. It is of course the problem of iTunes not being able to create playlist folders on an iPod when manually managing music. I've reported on this issue before, and I'm sad to see that there's no sign of any solution from Apple yet, proving to me once more that Apple is evil and disgusting and we should all stop buying their overpriced products, even though their products are stylish and great and even though I actually like some of them.

Anyway, back to the stupid playlist issue. I came across this thread which offered a (rather nasty) solution to the problem:

1 - Sync with itunes 2 - Make the folders in iTunes, make as many as you can, with playlists inside (not shure if the playlists need to contain tracks, in my case there were tracks inside the playlists) 3 - Turn on 'Manualy manage music' (I did it on another computer) 4 - Hope it will work for you Now I have ~ 300 folders, I CANNOT create new ones but I can move them, rename them, etc. It's a completely different experience. I hate having 1000 albums visible in the program which I use only for managing my iPod content. I use foobar for listening (it can play every possible music format including apple lossless)

(Note also how the Chris person in that thread is completely indoctrinated by Apple, almost unable to believe that there are actually people who don't want to do things the Apple way. Kudos to the original poster for the excellent (and very subtly sarcastic) way of handling the situation.)

Yes, it's a caveman solution, but it's still way better than Apple's solution, because they don't have any. Note that you'll have to sync with iTunes first before this will work, so you will lose all of your music if you don't have it on your PC any more. This is no problem for all of us sitting at home at our main PC, but if you're traveling and don't have access to your main collection then this might slightly piss you off. You didn't think about that, did you, Apple?

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iTunes is crap!

I've said it before, and I will say it once more: iTunes is shit! I don't want to sync my iPod to my PC. iTunes supports that, and it lets me create playlists on the iPod just fine, but then it won't let me create playlist folders. It does let me move my existing playlist folders, but then it doesn't let me move them back to where they were. This post may seem calm, but I am really quite pissed off. This is what happens if you're at the shit-end of a popular company. If you want to do things any way that's different from theirs, then you're screwed.

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