Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Apple Yosemite Release: The Horror

So yesterday I went ahead and installed Yosemite on one of my systems. Normally, I'm skeptical of installing a newly released Apple OS as history tells us that critical functions tend to break (like printing a few releases back). In this case, however, I was drawn in by some of the continuity features. Even then, I did some research online and came across few people expressing concerns about the potential for buggy behavior.

Overall, the install went smoothly -- I didn't encounter any hick-ups -- and so far, I haven't come across anything that you would consider a bug. And yet, I have no glowingly positive things to say about Apple's Yosemite release. Instead, and let this be a warning to you before you update, my list of really stupid, sucky stuff that Apple is doing continues to expand.

Here are just a few of the things that are wrong with Yosemite:
It's a reskinned OS that looks a lot like iOS7/8. While somebody somewhere may like this design, it makes me wretch every time I look at the screen. It looks like somebody stole the color palette from a pastel parrot. Apple and much of the publishing world refer to this as a more modern, flatter look. But for me, if it doesn't do anything else, the desktop version really magnifies and drives home how terrible this approach is.

When they rolled it out on iOS, the bullshit that they were spewing was that "it's designed to show off the awesomeness of our Retina displays." But it doesn't. That's why they came back around with bigger fonts and stronger colors post iOS7 release. With the desktop version, what you get is a wash of white, washed out colors. There is no contrast, no definition. When I fired up my laptop this morning, my Apple email client made the screen look like one big white screen.

Contrast this interface design with virtually any video game you've seen. The majority incorporate 3D graphic elements designed to add to an encapsulated, immersive experience. The problem with the current interface -- regardless of how they push it -- is that it's not easy to distinguish different elements in the interface. Your eyes don't know where to go. You can't just tell the difference between one element and another. The bullshit that they want to tell you is that, "you get used to it", but we've have over a year of iOS7 to disprove that notion. With Yosemite, they've doubled down on this line and it's horrible for the desktop experience.

When Steve Jobs passed and they put Jony Ive in charge of software design, one of the things that they talked about was more of a unified hardware/software design. To me, this feels like designer sans editor. If I didn't know better, I'd think that the purpose of the interface design is to show off how elegant that the hardware design is -- rather than a platform that makes interacting with software easier.

But, beyond the overall interface rant, let's dive into a few specifics.
A simplified Safari interface. I guess the browser interface has just become too crowded or too complicated for some people. With Yosemite, they've removed all of the old bookmarks, search windows and other stuff associated with it. It's so empty that, when you first look at it, you'll swear that important stuff is missing, like you've been popped into one of those windows where you no longer have navigation control.

But for me, the worst thing about it is the way that they've changed private browsing. On most of my systems, once I launch Safari, I turn on private browsing. I use this to prevent cookies. I also use the "reset Safari" regularly to purge the browser of any auto-executed chunks of code that I might have picked up. Now, you can selectively launch either a normal Safari window or a private window, but it's harder to launch a private window. Even if you are in private browsing, if you open a new window, it's not private. While there is a preference pane that tells Safari to launch with a private window, it appears that that only works on launch. After that, you're back to tracked. Brilliant.

Put into more basic terms, you need to actively monitor your state or you may find yourself surprised by an unintended state change.

Another one that, admittedly, is a carry-over from Mavericks version is this idea of getting rid of scroll bars on windows. It's as if, after 20 years of computing and using this tool that helped us get through extended pages of content, some genius designer said, "I hate them. They are ugly. They ugly up my beautiful window design. Let's make them go away. Damn the utility." Fortunately, this is one of those features that you can change behavior on in the interface controls, but why we had to go there is really beyond me. What is it with scroll bars that seems so maddening that the designers just keep wanting to change it?

Transparency is kind of overrated. A perfect example of this is in Safari, again. Opening multiple tabs in Safari now means that you have several transparent tabs at the top of the window, but with the active one just a bit more white than the rest. While some might argue that it makes the tabs more background, what it also does it make it more difficult to tell which one is active. At a glance, it's not exactly straightforward which window you are in -- and that means you're concentrating on the interface instead of using it as a tool.

Perhaps equally annoying, somebody decided that Safari should simplify the URL shown in the navigation/search window. Instead of showing the full URL of the page you are on, the browser window only shows the top level domain -- in case you forgot what it was. It's like "web browser brought to you by the branding board of the Internet". Let's not forget that monitoring your prage URL is not only a good security practice, it's one of those things that's kind of essential for a lot of web development work. Fortunately, there's a check box to disable this bit of brilliance. Come to think of it, I think the guys over at Mozilla first started doing this and I had to disable it in Firefox as well. So -- original idea, no... doing the same stupid thing when somebody else already did it... again, Apple, I expect better.

If you can't say something nice...
In one of the creative writing classes that I took, the teacher insisted that we open our comments about a specific piece by saying something positive about the work. Since I've already opened and commented, I'll close with a positive. I like aspects of the way that they've updated they've updated the dock in Yosemite. Now, it's easier to actually tell if an application is open. Before, they used a white dot underneath the app to indicate open, now they use a black dot. Finally, something I can see.

No comments: