the people at the next table are playing chess. two guys playing chess at a coffee house, how cliché is that? they've got one of those chess clocks, where you have to press a button after you've made your move, which makes the other guy's button pop up. a timed game, so they're probably serious players. that clock looks intimidating. the other guy presses his button and yours pops up, taunting you. "how long is it going to take, pal? you aren't a wuss, are you?"
sorry i haven't been around much lately. i never miss anything that shows up on my friends page, and some of you have no doubt noticed that i occasionally comment, but by and large i haven't been wasting nearly as much time on the webbernet as i used to. i am coding my brains out, trying to finish my first big mac app.
i have been working on this one project, on and off, for five years. i hope i am in the home stretch. it always takes a big push and lots of concentration to do that last five percent of the work. coding at the level i am at now, where i'm trying to do something that is way, WAY beyond my abilities, is the most all-consuming thing i've ever experienced in my life. i wish i didn't have to be so single-minded about it, but i don't think there's any other way. i'm not good enough to do this with only part of my brain. the code is inexorably pushing out all the emotional, people-oriented parts of me, so it can have one hundred percent of my attention.
a few months ago, hohum wrote an entry about how her programming class warped her brain and made her see the world in a mechanical way, and she didn't like it. yep, that's what happens all right, and i am not crazy about it either. once i get all the initial coding finished, when there's nothing left to do but sand down the rough edges, then i think i'll be able to rejoin the world occupied by all you messy humans.
i have resolved not to write anything too technical in my blog, i save those for my multiple lengthy rants in alt.internet.talk.haven. but all i can think about right now is software, so i guess i'll write about the human side of it. i call this A Tale Of Two Users.
beos is dead, but my usenet newsreader that runs on it, pineapple news, is still used by a couple hundred people, i'd guess. i get the occasional paid registration even today. here's an excerpt of a comment somebody left about it recently on bebits:
Getting the news takes forever, the same newsserver work much faster using windows. I am not saying it is a bug in Pineapple I just say it is much slower. By other newsservers this problem does not occur. I personally find the downloading from the oldest news first, inconvenient, when I look for some "news" I wanna see it and don't want to download 100.000 postings before finding it.that's not the type of user i'm writing for. it's like he was standing over my app with a stopwatch, trying to find things wrong with it. penny wise and pound foolish. to that type of person, i'd say: go back to windows. the fringe of the computing world is not for you.
here's an excerpt of a comment left by another user, on my newsgroup:
I have been looking for a replacement for NewsHopper, the commercial news reader I've been using since 1996 for Mac OS 9 and in the Classic Environment in Mac OS X. So far, I haven't come across anything that lights my fire for Mac OS X, although Gunnar, an open source project at SourceForge looks promising, but is unfortunately far from being able to provide some essential features. I've tried the dozen or so others, but they typically can't handle offline reading, provide non-intuitive "reading flow" or lack essential features for archiving and filtering. The only better news reader I have come across on any platform is Pineapple News on BeOS.now, there's my target audience. note that this guy is from the mac world, where users tend to value the overall experience rather than worrying so much about which program is the fastest or has the most features.
it's not that the first guy's complaints aren't valid. yes, pnews is slower than other apps at certain things, but not cripplingly slow. it's not anywhere near finished, it's got maybe sixty percent of the features it should have. but people who value a good software experience can get past the flaws and see that it has a good heart. it's internally consistent and easy to understand. it never, ever crashes. my earliest users all had the same four or five complaints, so i plugged all those holes, now pretty much everybody who downloads the program for the first time is able to get it to work without much fuss. i'm not much of a software engineer, comments like "not the fastest" tend to go in one ear and out the other. the human interface though, that interests me quite a lot.
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.that's me folks, the quintessential unreasonable man. the trick, i think, is picking your battles. it does me no good to rail about things like the fact that my powerbook has a trackpad when i'd rather have a trackball. being unreasonable is only productive if you know of a better way. if you can't be part of the solution, then you're nothing but a whiner, and you should shut the hell up.
-- George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950), Man and Superman (1903).
i have to admit, the mac is my second choice. if i had my druthers, i would still be programming for beos. but be went out of business and beos is dead. i can't live in the past, it's a very frustrating existence, but i can bring a little bit of the beos ethos with me to the mac camp. i have a somewhat different mindset than the typical mac user, and i think i've got a few tricks up my sleeve that they are not yet hip to. the mac camp is already the fringe, and i'm not aligned with them all that well, so i guess that makes me the fringe of the fringe.
good lord above, am i ever sick of being stuck in this backwater state. interesting things are going on out there in the world, and they're all passing me by. this is my way out. i'm not taking one of those dinky mcjobs that rob your soul. i had my brief seven-month taste of how things are done in the big leagues, and now i'm spoiled. i'd rather stay trapped here in purgatory, stewing and scheming. i am going back in at the top.