Jan Rychter: blog (electronics, programming, technology)

Who's the sheep?


Cory Doctorow tells us we shouldn't buy iPads. Others join him, whining about how iPad makes us all consumers, sheep, or worse, and how we are headed for a future similar to the one in Idiocracy, where we won't be able to do much except consume digital media.

To all those who complain about how un-hackable the iPad is: what have you hacked recently? Have you actually modified any hardware? Written interesting new software for an existing device? Released anything as open-source perhaps?

Well guess what: I have. I have been using Linux for 15 years, on desktops, laptops, handhelds, servers, tablets and embedded devices. I compiled software, fixed bugs, wrote drivers, improved things. I took to my HP-48G with a soldering iron and expanded the memory. I struggled with Linux on a Sharp Zaurus because I believed in an open device. I had to reverse engineer a Fujitsu tablet and write a Linux driver for a microcontroller that serviced the keys and orientation sensor, just so that I could use Linux on that tablet.

And you know what -- life is too short. I'll be buying an iPad so that I can work on more interesting things than making my hardware work properly. I'll use the device to jot down ideas, read articles, write notes, create presentations, sketch diagrams.

I'm not "losing" anything by buying and using the iPad. Just as I don't have to tinker with the jet engine of the airplane that will take me to London, I don't have to tinker with the internals of the iPad. If I want to tinker and hack, I can build a model airplane or an ultralite. In the computer world, there is Arduino, OpenMoko, and many other similar projects. Tinker and hack to your heart's delight and get educated about how electronics and software work on every level.

But I wonder -- why aren't you hacking and tinkering? Where are those "cool ideas from the creative universe" that you need so badly to give to me to run on my hardware?

More importantly, why aren't you designing something better?

Look at you: you have to actively convince people not to buy iPads. This means the product is so good and people want it so badly, that you have to fight the trend. So why hasn't anyone invented and designed a product that is this good and ships with full schematics and has this all-open architecture you crave?

Why haven't you?

If you actually wanted to write software for your iPad, instead of writing lengthy articles complaining about stuff, nothing prevents you from doing so. Just download the SDK and off you go. Yes, you will need Apple's acceptance to sell your app in the App Store, but it's all about ideals, isn't it, so no worries.

I know. It's easier to complain. But who's the sheep now?