Tuesday, July 03, 2012

On the IPad

I have a pretty bad opinion of Apple products: expensive pretentious gadgets that impose all kinds of restrictions upon the user. So bad, in fact, that I delayed saying anything about the iPad I got from work until I was certain I wasn't completely biased. I mean, so many people using iStuff can't be wrong; it had to be me.

But today the bubble just burst. I lost so much time searching for simple apps that open one type of file or another, only to be reminded again and again that Apple doesn't support that kind of file. Why does Apple need to support anything? I just want the app that opens it. The "there's an app for that" meme doesn't seem to apply to most of what I want!

Basically, what I desire is to have access to the files I copy to the pad with the best software available for those files. I don't want to use iTunes, I don't want to split my files based on type and most, most of all, I want to either use paid or free applications, not something in between, like a diseased mutant.

Oh, maybe you didn't know about the "freemium" ecosystem on the iPad. You go to their AppStore application (a software so bad that it forgets the options you chose if you change the search string) and you select if you want applications for IPad and/or IPhone, free and/or paid, based on user rating and category, etc. You see something free that you like, you install it, only a button away, then you start using it. It may be a game or a utility and at first it is all well. And when you want to get a better weapon, continue to the next level, finish the workflow a utility is supposed to support, you get a "buy the full version". This is called "freemium", a disgusting offspring of shareware applications that makes that look benign.

You have the option to "jailbreak" your iPad. There is an app for that (hee hee), many in fact, that hack your Apple jewel and turn it into something that you have full access to. You get a Linux like command line, a place where you can get a lot of the software you want and need, all a button away. Apple does not like that. At every step of the way they will try to fix their broken machine in order to stay broken. So no, my naive friend, the iPad doesn't work like a computer not because they couldn't do it, but because Apple forced this on you. If I didn't give the pad to my wife, I would have jailbroken it for the principle alone.

But why? would somebody ask. What has Apple to gain from maiming their own device, creating crappy applications for a small tablet that costs as much as a decent laptop? It is all because of the AppStore, of course. If they can make a zillion assholes sell you useless junk that my 386 computer did better in the day, they can share a bit of the profit. So not only they rip you off with their cheap device made by labouring children that barely get something to eat, they keep getting money off of you, a trickle at a time. And, because you don't have complete access to the machine, they can force whatever software they want, unsecured, crap, cheap, but one that you can't hack, can't crack and can't use until, yes, you pay them.

Today I searched for an hour for an iPad application that would read .lit files. Yes, the Microsoft ebook format. There are CHM readers, why can't there be LIT readers? Apparently the "Steve" way is to convert the lit files to .epub (on the computer that I have to have in order to use the pad) and then copy them (with iTunes, not directly) in the ebook reader sandbox. If it happens for me to have a movie or some text files and maybe a picture in the same folder, I cannot access it with the epub reader, I have to move everything in its place.

Luckily I found something that even slightly resembles what I need: FileApp it is called, it allows for me to copy files to my Pad via FTP. I can open them, and that means they get copied where the program that uses them needs them (even if they are 4Gb of DVD image). Not a perfect solution, obviously. And you still need applications that can open the files you own without having to convert them.

I hope Windows Surface will be a huge hit, something that would sweep this crap away. Apple can buy Facebook and go to hell together to rot. When Android will be what Linux is today and Windows will be.. well, Windows, and the iPads will be relegated to the bottom, with all the other mini game consoles, then I will be content.