Monthly Archives: November 2010

Being autistic

My good friend Seebs just wrote an excellent blog entry about autism. I should add that although he shares many quirks with Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, Seebs is by no means annoying or unsympathetic. Quite the opposite. He just doesn’t pick up on emotional cues easily, so you have to be direct with him. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s also absolutely, completely non-judgmental, which makes it easy to be yourself around him. He’ll never consider you a bad person; there’s no such thing in his world. Though he’s discovered the hard way that there are people who shouldn’t be trusted to not steal, or who can’t be expected to be honest, or who otherwise aren’t good to have around for a particular activity for whatever reason. But he never holds a grudge or takes things personally.

Defective Battery

MacBook Pro battery, with cells inflating like a balloon

MacBook Pro battery, with cells inflating like a balloon

Our laptop worked fine for its first three years, but this summer it started having trouble charging and it wouldn’t hold its charge. We bought a new battery, and it still refuses to charge most of the time. So once the new battery charged this weekend, we decided to charge the old one as a backup. This is what we found it had done in the last several months. (We’re recycling it right away.) In the picture, the normal looking cells on the left are perfectly flat, rather than puffed up like a balloon and buckling the enclosure.

Hooray for the living dead: GNUStep

Back when Steve Jobs was CEO of NeXT, and it wasn’t clear that the company was going to survive, open source developers cloned the company’s crown jewel, OpenStep, with GNUStep. Then OpenStep morphed into Mac OS X, and GNUStep was largely forgotten.

But the great thing with open source software is that nothing gets completely lost. Sony’s working on a software platform using GNUStep on top of Linux.

There are good technical reasons to use GNUStep, and for a long time the biggest reason not to was that having to to learn an obscure new language (Objective-C) scared away a lot of developers. My guess is that the fact that Apple has convinced so many programmers to use Objective-C for iPods made an impression on Sony. That and the fact that Apple has shown that Objective-C works well on low-power devices.

Several years ago, if you wanted to write portable code, you used C. If you were careful, it could run on Macs, Windows, and all the servers and mainframes. Typically, the UI would be a native app, and everything else would be cross-platform. With cell phones, that’s no longer the case. On Android, you have to use Java. On Palm/HP’s WebOS, it has to be JavaScript. And until a few months ago, iPhone apps would be automatically rejected if not originally written in C/C++/Objective-C. This made it impossible to write even a few lines of code that run on multiple machines.

This makes me suspect that Sony has decided that if they can get cross-compatibility with only one platform, it’s Apple’s.