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We all know what happened last week in technology. Nothing much, except Steve Jobs died.

I am grateful to Steve Jobs for one thing: He made computers street-credible again. It’s okay to own a computer. It’s okay to use smartphones. It’s okay to use all these these weird gadgets. The apostle of technological coolness told us that you don’t have to be a geek — you can just sit down and work out how to use these computer thingies and get some work done. Or have fun.

But still, I can’t really actually recommend most Apple products, except the laptops are pretty frigging awesome and OS X actually isn’t half bad an operating system.

Now, Richard Stallman blurted something out. The rest of the world collectively inhaled a pea, as we say around these parts.

Now, let me remind people of one thing: it’s plain and obvious that Jobs was a good person in some respects. It’s also plain and obvious that he wasn’t entirely up to good things. Like I said above, I think Jobs did awesome job on getting people interested of computers, but I disagree with some of the technological choices Apple has been pursuing, and there’s a good chance those choices were in large part Jobs’s doing.

Is Apple wrong in pushing DRM and other technological annoyances? Yes. Is it Jobs’s fault? It was. It no longer is. What’s done is done; Apple’s managerial direction is no longer in Jobs’s hands, and we can’t blame him for future mistakes. Apple probably should strive for openness; after all, it was on Jobs’s watch that Apple even got involved in free and open source software in the first place.

If Apple wants to honour Jobs as a prophet of coolness, perhaps they should honour that by keep on doing the actually cool stuff Jobs did. This is not an all-or-nothing situation.

Then, there was another objection. “Stallman has no business being spokesperson of anything”, writes Brockmeier. I disagree on that, too.

Stallman is just one of the Justifiably Angry People of the computer world. He made a personal statement that took a negative tone, because the subject matter just was something that needed a negative tone. He’s angry at proprietary software and all who push it, because, ultimately, he’s right about that, and it’s hard to argue otherwise. Sure, he might have picked a better time.

In the same vein, you can watch Ted Nelson rant about current limitations of how we work with text documents, and say “yeah, it’s true, the current crop of hypertext systems kind of suck, I really wish every document online sat on some system like MediaWiki, but even better still”. Is Nelson a bad spokesman for hypertext systems? I don’t think so. He’s angry, yes, but that doesn’t make his points any less valid. And in similar vein, I recently wondered why the folks at Archive Team were cranky, but that’s, again, justifiable anger. Sites go boom. Backups are important. There’s no way around those points.

Of course, niceness is nice and we should always build things in a civil atmosphere, but I can understand if people sometimes need to vent. Sometimes, things just go out of hand.

So — there’s no harm in pointing out that Steve Jobs wasn’t a saint — he was a great visionary who also had some obvious flaws in his strategy. That was the legacy he left behind, whether you like it or not. We need to live on. Apple needs to live on.


Sent from my GNU Emacs 23.3 and Iceweasel 7 on Debian GNU/Linux