2012-12-27

Steve Jobs' biography

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (522695099)

I've had norovirus since Saturday night. That first night was the worst, and it got much better after the first 24 hours. Now I feel achy and tired. During my convalescence, I've been reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, which I borrowed from Wayne at work, after I saw him reading it at lunch time. I've always sort of admired Jobs.

Anyway, Wayne said, 'Jobs wasn't a fan of openness, so you won't agree with him on his end-to-end control of the system'. Indeed, there is a running tension in the book between open and closed systems. I wonder if there is indeed a contradiction? The book was a bit loose with its idea of open and closed, citing Microsoft as taking the opposite approach to Apple by licensing Windows to run on any PC hardware. To me, Windows is not open, it is firmly in the proprietary camp. Openness can't be nailed down entirely, but from a legal point of view I'd say that any code should be Open Source, open standards should be used, and any content should come with an open content license such as the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence. Ideally the hardware itself should be distributed under an open hardware licence.

So, under this definition of openness, is it possible to give the user the integrated user experience that Apple claim to give their users?

I'd argue that GNU / Linux distributions such as Debian, with it's package management system, give a much more seamless experience that either OSX or Windows when it comes to installing / un-installing software. With Debian you install all software in a standard way, from a standard repository and then the system keeps it up-to-date for you. Everything works together. With Windows and Mac you have to hunt around on the internet for the correct version of the installer for your OS version and then download the file and then run the installer. When an upgrade comes out, how do you know? It's never been clear to me why Windows and Mac users put up with this. Perhaps Macs and Windows have 'app stores' now. Welcome Apple and Microsoft. Seriously.

Okay, I think I got a bit carried away there. Supposed to be reviewing a book.

Jobs' difficult personality, together with his illness later in life, gives a sadness to the book, but his can-do attitude is inspiring, and his passion for design struck a chord with me.

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