Archive for June, 2012

Why I Don’t Plan To Use Any Apple Products

Well, basically, because of this. If that page offends you, then you deserve to be offended.

And seriously, I have so many completely practical reasons not to use any Apple products:

  1. I don’t want to waste a second of my life on getting used to the weird Alt, Control, Command and Option keys, or whatever they are called there. I’m efficient with using keyboard shortcuts, which are similar in Windows and graphical desktop GNU/Linux environments with Windows-style keyboards. Every time I try to use a Mac, I immediately start climbing up the walls, because the shortcuts don’t work. If you tell me that once I learn them, it gets really natural, then you are defeating the whole Mac idea of “it just works”. Not that I ever seriously thought that it’s true.
  2. I love right-clicking and I hate control-clicking. I know that I can connect a normal mouse with two or three buttons, but the very idea that by default the mouse has only one button because I’m apparently too stupid to understand the difference between right-clicking and left-clicking offends me. And the Mac touchpads come with one button. Mac lovers tell me that I can use gestures to achieve the effect of a right click, but I hate gestures with a passion. Call me old-fashioned if you will.
  3. I’ll have to buy Mac OS X even though I’m not going to use it. I once spent an hour with an experienced Mac user trying to understand how to write Hebrew from right to left properly. I suppose that it’s possible to do it there somehow, but in 2012 I don’t want to waste a second of my time on an operating system in which it’s so hard to figure out how to do such a simple thing.
  4. I do not want documents to scroll the other way. I do not want documents to scroll the other way. I do not want documents to scroll the other way.

And all that – even before I get to the ideological points. For example, that Apple wants to kill the open web with walled-garden apps, that it forces app developers to get approval for everything, that its licenses are among the most obnoxiously proprietary.

That everything made by Apple is unnecessarily expensive just because it’s supposed to be more fashionable. Yes, they probably invested a bit more in design. Yes, they probably invested a bit more in the right alloy. But the main reason for their high prices is not the quality of the product and not even the fact that they are stylish, but because the high price is the thing that makes them more fashionable. This is preposterous and I am not cooperating with that.

Well, yes, Macs have certain positive points. A Mac can run all the development tools that I need – it comes with a usable Unix-style terminal and programming languages, such as PHP, Python and Ruby (I didn’t check, but probably Perl, too). It has a high-quality screen. On the average, Macbooks are usually thinner and lighter. But there are no Mac features that are compelling enough for me to bother to reconsider the above points.

What I really fail to understand is why so many Free Software developers use Macs – but that’s a topic for a separate post.

File System

Dear software industry,

Please stop forcing programs that organize the music on my computer down my throat. I already have a program that does it pretty well. It’s called a file system.

Instead of investing your time and effort in writing pointless software that gets in my way when I want to listen to a song, invest in an education program that will teach the human race how to do basic things with a computer. For example, to understand what a file is.

Thank you.

Uri Avnery and the Israeli Haredim

Uri Avnery is one of the main voices of the Israeli political left. Especially for people abroad – his English blog is frequently quoted in foreign blogs by people who are interested in Israel.

The opinions that Avnery expresses are strong and often unpleasant, but they are legitimate and they are usually have at least some basis in fact.

His latest column, Israeli Mustard, is about the ultra-orthodox Jews, also known as Haredim. It was quoted in Richard Stallman’s blog, for example. And it’s problematic. It’s mostly factual, but it has some imprecisions in details. They may seem unimportant, but they may be quoted and they may form people’s opinions, so I want to correct them. I don’t really care whether it’s intentional disinformation or neglect on Avnery’s side; I just want the corrections to be written down somewhere.

“Haredim [...] are not part of the Israeli state. They don’t want to be.” – Well, not quite. It’s very open to interpretation, of course, but the situation goes more or less like this: There are Haredi leaders and ideologists, who express strong opposition to the existence of a Jewish Zionist state. What is important, however, is what people do and not what ideologists say.

For most purposes they are a part of the Israeli state and that’s how they want it. They mostly speak the same language (more on that later), they mostly vote in the same elections, they mostly have the same identity cards, they mostly ride the same buses. Despite the common rumors, many of them work in the same workplaces, although it’s true that many don’t work and instead spend all of their life in religious studies, earning much of their living from donations and from working Israelis’ taxes.

The Haredim are somewhat comparable in this regard to Jehovah’s Witnesses, although for many reasons they would, of course, hate the comparison. The Witnesses’ ideology is opposed to the modern idea of states, elections, conscription and so on, but in practice they are mostly integrated in the civil life of the states in which they live. From what I heard, the Witnesses don’t vote, and the Haredim actually do. And as far as I know, the Witnesses’ are not funded by taxpayers’ money, and the Haredim are.

“Actually, the Orthodox will never allow their children to join the army, because of the justified fear that they will be contaminated by ordinary Israelis” – again, not quite. Many Orthodox serve already. Patriotism is human, Haredim are human, serving in an army is an expression of patriotism – hence, some of them simply want to serve. Some do this not so much because of patriotism, but because they think that it is a good career move. Some do this with their parents’ agreement and some without. That’s fact. As for my opinion on the matter – well, my feeling is that their number is likely to grow, because it’s simply impossible for them to avoid this completely.

“The separation between the Orthodox and others – between Jews and Israelis, so to speak – is almost complete” – no. It exists, because at least some of them want it, or are pressured into it by their communal leadership. The separation is strongest in the education system: They definitely study in very different schools, and very few of them study in Israeli universities. But elsewhere the separation is weak: They often shop in different stores, but not exclusively. They often live in Haredim-only neighborhoods, but again, not exclusively. There is some separation in transportation, but despite the buzz that this topic generates, it’s actually quite small.

“The orthodox speak another language (Yiddish, meaning “Jewish”)” – no, and this is very important. Some Israeli Haredim speak Yiddish in some social contexts, but all of them know Hebrew. Not just the Hebrew of religious books, but the spoken Hebrew of the streets, the government, the newspapers and the shopping malls. They write with pretty much the same spelling inconsistencies that are characteristic to all Israelis. Of course, being a special and tightly-knit social group, they use some unique expression in their Hebrew, but you could say the same about computer programmers, too. For the most part, the Hebrew of Israeli Haredim is the same language as the Hebrew of the other Israelis. (I’m actually happy that Haredim keep Yiddish alive, but that’s a topic for a different post.)

The last paragraph of Avnery’s post made me particularly angry:

BY THE WAY: when an Israeli Jew is asked by a stranger anywhere in the world “what are you?” he always answers: “I am an Israeli”. He will never, ever, say: “I am a Jew”. Except the Orthodox

Well, this is not even wrong. “What are you”? What kind of a question is that? People don’t ask each other “what are you”, people ask “where are you from”. The answer to that is “Israel”, of course; both religious and secular Israelis say that. In the rare case that I’m asked what is my ethnicity, I say that I am a Jew, even though I’m not religious. So that’s definitely not a “never, ever” situation, as Avnery claims.

This is not to say that there is no discussion about the existence of an Israeli ethnic identity. It exists, and it’s old and passionate. Avnery just describes it very badly. I even agree that an Israeli ethnic identity exists, or, more precisely, co-exists with a Jewish ethnic identity. And despite their lifestyle and the claims of their leadership, the Haredim definitely belong to it. Israeli Haredim are Israeli, much like American Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are definitely American – whether they like it or not.


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