To iPad or not to iPad (or, why FOSS Activists are poor spokespeople)
Apr 4th, 2010 by scaredpoet

Those of you who have been following my site for a while know that I’ve had a bit of a transformation occur over the past three years in terms of my opinion of Apple products. When the iPhone was first announced in January of 2007, I pretty much vowed that I would never get such a piece of junk. I even re-christened it, in childish anti-fanboy fashion.  Everyone from site viewers to my own girlfriend heard my endless rantings about how this was going to be a totaly flop and why my Windows Mobile device was just fine enough for me, kthnx.

Well, that lasted all of a month after the iPhone actually hit stores.  And ever since then, I’ve paid penance for my misdeed buy buying the newest and coolest iPhone every time Steve Jobs decides to tweak the damned thing.

So, it would stand to reason that when the iPad came out, I would be a little more cautious.  And in fact, I was.   Although I was once again highly skeptical of the iPad, I said nothing on here, and pretty much kept my poker face on until I could get my hands on one.  Sure enough, i fell under Apple’s spell again.  Almost.

I haven’t bought one yet.  But I’d say I’m on the fence about whether I should get one for a very important reason: my Macbook Pro was recently stolen, leaving me (at least temporarily) laptopless.  And now I’m stuck in a dilemna: should I blow a ton of cash, load up the credit card and buy one the new MacBook Pros when they next get a refresh?  Or, will an iPad give me just enough (at considerably less cost) when I’m mobile to keep me going until I’m back at home doing serious computing on my desktop?

One thing is for sure: I am not happy with some of the editorializing people are doing about this product. To whit: this Freetard on Boinboing who is telling people not only why he isn’t getting an iPad, but why you should be a responsible consumer and not get one too.

I believe—really believe—in the stirring words of the Maker Manifesto: if you can’t open it, you don’t own it. Screws not glue. The original Apple ][+ came with schematics for the circuit boards, and birthed a generation of hardware and software hackers who upended the world for the better. If you wanted your kid to grow up to be a confident, entrepreneurial, and firmly in the camp that believes that you should forever be rearranging the world to make it better, you bought her an Apple ][+.

But with the iPad, it seems like Apple’s model customer is that same stupid stereotype of a technophobic, timid, scatterbrained mother as appears in a billion renditions of “that’s too complicated for my mom” (listen to the pundits extol the virtues of the iPad and time how long it takes for them to explain that here, finally, is something that isn’t too complicated for their poor old mothers).

This is where Free Software advocates  annoy me, and where they fail in the message every time.  It’s understandable that they have strong opinions and fervently embrace their ideas to the point where it’s a religion.  But calling the people you’re trying to appeal to a bunch of scatterbrained, mindless sheep is not the way to win them over.

I love free software.  When I’m not on my mac, I’m using Linux (specifically, ubuntu, which I highly recommend).  But I also understand that not every single thing that I buy, or that works well for that matter, is going to be completely open and tweakable.  Sometimes the best stuff is designed and built by people, and even business, who intend to make money, and doing that requires at least a partial closing of their architecture to users’ prying eyes.

Some people refuse to buy such products.  More power to them!  I wish them luck endlessly updating their configuration files and recompiling their linux kernel for the umpteenth time.  I on the other, sometimes prefer to use products that allow me to do actual work. And it would appear that Apple’s products, closed as they may be, permit me to do that with a minimum of fuss.  I challenged the free software community to permit people like me to always be able to do the same on their platforms.  After decades of development, they just aren’t there yet,

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