Thursday, April 21, 2005

New adiction in the horizon.

So, my time has come and finally after many struggles with destiny I
am becomming a Mac Addict.

It all started when the BF managed to get his hands on a PowerMac G3
B&W ZIF version, rev. A which we promptly upped to 1Gb of RAM, which
created an increible speedup in OS X (It came with Panther, in
American English). Well, I've used Macs before, and I once blindly
installed OS X for a friend in his copper keyboard powerbook (he is
the kind of guy that freaks out when faced with anything new, and
instead of learning the laughingly easy process of installing OS X
over 9.1 in that machine, handed it to me and asked me for help....
can you guys beleive this is a person who works as a netadmin? a Cisco
certified engineer!!! holy gods.)

Well anyhow, back on topic. Originally I was instantly in love with
the old Mac, specially with OS X, being a buff of User Interfaces I
liked what I saw, but for some reason the cache pushed the exitement
of it faaar back into my memory, possibly it was a defensive meassure
it being at the moment impossible for me to afford a Mac to play with,
much less a powerfull enough machine to substitute my daily
workstation needs... I told of this affiction to the BF but we both
forgot it quite fast... that is until "Azulita" ("Little blue one" in
spanish (female) ) entered our lives thorough a friend.

All I can say is that we're both delighted and have started spending
more time together... gathered around the Mac, hehehe. What can I say,
I find OS X to be the smartest UI anyone has ever put over a run of
the mill Unix system, my other big love.. And the BF being a musician
(a group that benefits markedly well from Macs, tought expensively so)
and a lover of design has fallen in love for the little details and
eye candy this machine comes with.

Now let me clear up a little about my last paragraph, I REALLY love
this machine's UI, there are several kinds of UI reactions I get..
Normally I'm an UI buff altough for some reason, shortmindness or
similar I've not perused the field professionally or read anything
about it yet, I am basically a wilder, and what I like to do is to
look at user interfaces and analyze them.

On the side of the bad interfaces there are two basic types, these
interfaces that are so counter intuitive that my primary reaction upon
laying eyes on them and watching them work is disgust or even outrage,
and then there are these interfaces that are usseable, but whose long
term use ends up either reprograming you into a different manner of
thinking, a more obtuse one, not a better one.. or ends up tiring you
to the point in which using the artifact becomes a chore and not
simply a moment in your life or even a pleasure.

As examples of these interfaces I can give i'd assign Motorola phones
to the first type, Motorola cell phones are the best built phones in
the market, and I think no other phone is able to whitstand so much
abuse with elegance as a Motorola can, not even a Nokia which comes
close..... But after only two minutes of grabbing any Motrola phone
(there has not been a SINGLE exception yet) I have the primal urge of
smashing the thing on the floor and jumping on top of it until all
that there's left of the phone is the sole memory.

As an example of the second case, I'd think of Nokia Cell Phones. Yes
I'll use only Cell Phones as my examples, what can I say, they're
gadgets I love, and they possibly have the strictest UI troubles to
address out there in the market (disregarding 80's and 90's musical
synthetizers which usually had to manage an interface understandable
to a musician using only an 8x2 to 20x2 LCD matrix and a few
buttons... my gods that was a load of work). Anyhow, Nokia phones are
really nice phones too, and unlike Motorola Phones everything seems to
have been placed in an arragement understandable by humans and logical
enough, But... it has lacking and tiresome errors, even in the newer
phones capable of matrix menuing the menues feel archaic, no matter
how many colors, animations and icons they shove into the devices,
they're still longer to navigate than is necesary, and some features
are practically inmentionable. It might be true many of these are due
to my lack of knowledge on reconfiguring the phone (well, lack of time
spent doing so actually), but providing a logical interface to the
user at DEFAULT STATE without having to reconfigure the device and
it's functioning is part of what a good UI is, the UI should be
logical by default, not forced to be so after a long battle with
options and tweakings.

Well, resuming my long talk, on the good side of user interfaces I
also can identify two interface types... first these that are just
logical, have a smooth flow, are quick to learn, and work under
basical human concepts and tought patterns that liberate the user from
a long learning process or the task of memorizing dauting lists of
strokes, menues, entries or similar items. A phone that would fit this
category easily is the Siemens line of phones... the Siemens line of
phones have several disadvantages (as a long time owner of several I
should know) but something they do stand appart in is in an almost
perfect UI, confortable, quick, unobtrusive, inspiring, all in all a
great Interface.

The other type of the possitive UI is that which complies with all of
the previously mentioned points, but which with intensive use (and I
mean intensive, not incidental) show you even newer and more
incredible treasures, the interfaces that are streamlined and
confortable to use in general, but that when you intensively use and
learn show you time saving options, confortable strokes, and advanced
shortcuts, and little secrets that once learnt (saddly being advanced
points they mostly do not come naturally) expand your world by two,
these interfaces make using the device a joy, for you do not only get
a responding easy and confortable device, but you get almost limitless
learning from it, discovering which is one of my most marked traits (I
love to discover), in it jewels all the time, it's like never ending

A phone that matches that last part is the Sony-Ericsson phones, from
the first baby the great t68 (i/m) to the newer phones, they always
have something more in store for you. Don't get me wrong, the UI in
these phones is not perfect, there are little details in them that do
not show in Siemens phones or even in other devices like Sagem (a
Siemens lookalike but with a much shallower interface). But the SE
phones never reach a limitation in theyr possibilities, you could have
one for years, and still discover new ways to work in them, new
confortable ways. It's like a ladder, step by step even the first step
is usseable and great, but the higher steps into the stairs offer new
possibilities to the learned one opening theyr horizons, the only sad
point with said interfaces and phones is that all learning experiences
comes from interacting with more advanced users, since the manuals
provided by the manufacturer are always shallow and lack depth and

Mac OS X beats that and goes beyound it... inclusive many of the
tricks of the OS X are intituively learned by someone used to User
Interfaces, no need for manuals, teaching, or searching... I've always
ALWAYS been able to decypher an UI intuitively, and learn how to use
it (not meaning I can automatically learn what some values in the
interface represent and how they are calculated or affect the outcome
of things, since these are the terrain of the type of work the device
does and not the terrain of the UI itself), but with OS X it's the
first time ever that i've been able to not only learn an interface
intuitively, but to also learn it's tricks and secrets intuitively!!!

Bravo Apple, Bravo.

What can I say... I'm sold... we're both about to save for a Mac Mini
for the common tasks, and cpu upgrades to convert Azulita into a
studio workhorse.

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