Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Benefits of Open Source, or Why the iPhone Will Continue to Suck

I am doing less direct development using Mozilla tools lately, but a recent trip to British Columbia has brought home to me, again, why Mozilla is important.

I am doing iPhone development and will, in the future, be doing Android development as well. But I was surprised that, on most of my trip, my iPhone was useless. I often did not have cell service, but when I did, I had no access to network-based services. Apparently I would have had to connect via Rogers and pay roaming charges and I was unwilling to do so. This is the problem with a single point-of-failure in the Internet. This is why we do not have one company, like Apple, running the Internet. Apple is seeking control of the iPhone market for obvious reasons, but this costs us as consumers. We should, as we pay those ever-increasing monthly charges, keep this in mind. Really, the fact that we cannot have data services everywhere is just sad. Companies would rather offer less and control more of it than offer more to consumers if they lose some control. And let's not even talk about how bad the App Store is for finding things. Please. There's to much and it hurts to talk about it.

I am also recently using Chandler for my calendar and for keeping track of 'to do' items. It is an interesting app and I went to see the latest dev versions of it and see about building it. Apparently, I have a level of expectation about open source projects. Apparently it is not worth it to interact with the source unless it builds like Mozilla. Chandler development is Linux-only, and while I could upgrade to the version of Parallels I need (since VirtualBox does not see to do enough for me) and build it that way, I find myself unwilling to do so. Despite my ability to complain about the quirks of building mozilla tools, it seems to work better than most alternatives. But I really only complain loudest about something when I like it. This may not be obvious to people to whom I complain.

It turns out that being connection-less for a time is a good thing, though. It makes you think about the value and cost of being always connected. When I was working for Mozilla, one of the things that was a problem for me (though I did not realize it at the time) is that Mozilla's offices are on-line all the time. It is too easy to be "at the office" every day, all day. Reading most Mozilla posts you see how the veterans deal with it, so that they can keep their families, their friends and their sanity. It probably would have been easier to focus if I had not found the information ecosystem around Mozilla to be so rich and fascinating. One has to balance finding that connection with a new friend in Europe with the need to get things done. It is easier, for now, working for myself, but I will have to figure this out someday. We'll see.