This blog is highly personal, makes no attempt at being politically correct, will occasionaly offend your sensibility, and certainly does not represent the opinions of the people I work with or for.
On System Integration
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Robert did have a very good point in his reply to my previous entry. He said "The disadvantage of moving away from Address Book is loosing systems integration. Address Book is used by mail, ical, iphoto, ichat, adium, isync ...".

Well, Robert has actually pointed out one of my deepest disagrement and source of frustration with Macintosh: the fact all all those programs just cannot resist using my data without asking me.

To Apple's credit, they do it much much better than on Windows. System integration, on Windows just looks like a mess, with programs not only using their fellows data, but doing so in some strange ways (to be polite). OSX's system integration is a true example of perfectly designed APIs and a clevertly designed OS. My problem comes from the fact that I am actually against the very idea. I think that system integration should be located, defined and managed by my mind, not by other people's thinking.

Another way to put it is that I am ok with system integration when I can define the rules. On OSX I can't. I cannot tell Mail what to pick up (and how) and what to not pick up...

For a start, on Lucille.v3, my home directory is empty. I back it up during my daily general semi-automatic back up process to have a record of some folders in ~/Library (for instance, until recently, ~/Library/Application Support/Address Book), but ~/Document, ~/Music, ~/Sites, ~/Photos etc. are all empty. Yes, I did move my iTunes music folder and my iPhoto library, not only away from their natural places, but actually on a separate partition.

Reason why ? Well, a couple. Some practical some philosophical. But among them the very reason that I hate when the other citizens in my Application folder just feel entitled to come over and put their nozes into my data, only due to their God-given status of being Cocoa Mac applications.

I know what you are going to think, why would any sensible person be so against System Integration ? Isn't system interation something to look for ? And doubely strange coming from a very mac user !! Isn't System integration the basic reason why they are Mac users in the first place ?

As I said , I do encourage system integration when the core system in my own mind. I do encourage system integration when my ability to make the most of my data is only limited by my imagination. I hate system integration when by trying to help me the computer is just being very annoying.

I do think that moving away from Address Book to yet another instance of Triki (Wiki) was a very good thing. As I said, being able to view/edit my data over the web is something I needed. But there's something much much more fundamental here, the fact that I designed Triki. I know what it does and how it does it, and I can interact with it on multiple layers: high level layers such as the webpage ans widgets when I feel like it, and low level layers such as command line when I also feel like it. If, for instance, the only significant piece of data I want to remember about someone is the picture of his/her's googlemap street, I can just display it on this person's Triki page. More generaly I am only limited by the data that can be manipulated by a webpage. So far I had to put up with the alien design of Address Book. "Alien" with my mind as reference point, of course. But even more importantly, if Triki doesn't know how to do something, I can just open my favorite text editor and just change the code (either the general libraries used by all instances of just the code for this particular instance). This last point is something priceless that all powerful Apple's advanced design will never be able to match.

iCal for instance, is one of the worse thing I have ever tried. But it is not only iCal. I am talking about the entire family of calendar systems (including the web based ones) which simply hurt my mind when I try to use them. For this reason, I have used a simple text file and absolutely rejected everything else to manage my activities for a very very long time. The turning point with Stuart is that I started to be fairly better as web design to make the jump and sqlite has been a blessing.

I could have done all this in Cocoa. I learnt an entire book on designing Applications on the Mac. But yet again, Cocoa is only Mac. I spent must of my programming efforts around web based stuff for this very reason.

I could go on for ever, but something should now be obvious: I do like Mac, but the reasons I like it are only that it is very stable, very well designed and very beautiful. The problem is that I hate when the computer tries to be clever and feels that it has to think for me and, worse, tries to help me (for instance looks up my address book when I want to send an email -- why would it fucking do that !!). I do not necessary modify the inners of the OS (my installation is very standard -- beside a spaceship-like GUI theme, more keyboard shortcuts than it is allowed by law on a computer, and the fact that Users/pxh is the last place you will find anything). But the way I use it, the workflows of my programs, and the general philosophy (if I may) of my everyday use of the computer (hugely protocol based), would scare any sensible person. This said, I much prefer the way I do thing, because in the end my computer thinks like me rather than me having to think like some folks at Cupertino. As a result, the integration betweem my mind and Lucille.v3 is pure harmony, and I don't know anybody who can use their computer and get things done faster than me... (I have never seen Chris using his computer though, given that he is the one who introduced LaunchBar and TextMate to me I have to assume that he pretty much knows what he wants as well ^.^)

In fact Robert said once that my "problem" is that I know what I want. This was a problem only before I became confident in programming my own stuff :-)


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