[Humanist] 24.376 iPad apps by us

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Oct 2 23:15:44 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 376.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 2 Oct 2010 16:09:01 +0100
        From: Timothy Hill <timothy.d.hill at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.375 iPad apps for us; Goodreader
        In-Reply-To: <20101001203937.0FA5688921 at woodward.joyent.us>

> I think there may be an advantage in developing for a proprietary hardware platform such
> as the iPad despite any moral distaste you may feel. Writing iPad applications seems
> to be relatively simple, and even fun. So any loss of development effort due to future changes in
> the system won't be any more costly than maintaining a more stable product that makes use of
> existing convoluted standards.  What I'd love to see (and probably never will) is one standard
> and one language for web applications that handles everything from server to client. Until we
> see that I will resign myself to developing for the inevitable rubbish bin, so long as my product
> gets consumed by a few users on the way.

If we're going to continue contrasting the happy realm of iPad
development with the standards-strewn wasteland that is web dev, I
feel honour-bound to point out that it is typically not the
*standards* that are convoluted, but the technical hacks that are
required to smooth over all the non-standard-compliant "features" and
implementations introduced by manufacturers. In contemporary terms,
this essentially means trying to cater for Internet Explorer 6 - a
broken browser whose continued relevance to the interwebs a decade
after its introduction is testament to the staying (and time-wasting)
power of platform lock-in along the lines I described in a previous
post.  Pinning the difficulty of web dev on the standards is a bit
like blaming the laws for all the crime we see about these days.

As for writing iPad apps being 'simple, and even fun' ... well, to my
naive eyes the iDevice development environment appears not entirely
dissimilar from other and earlier fun'n'easy GUI dev tools like Visual
Basic and Flash MX Components. Doubtless the iOS suite is more
sophisticated and intuitive than these earlier efforts. But experience
suggests that the designers of such tools do not typically have a
humanities use case as their foremost consideration when they develop
them - so do bear in mind, as you watch durability, portability, and
arguably morality, dwindle to a small point in your rear-view mirror,
that Your Mileage May Vary. Very considerably.

And finally, as what is evidently going to become my very own Carthago
Delenda Est - I am surprised at the repeated ease with which Android
has dropped out of the conversation.

Timothy Hill
Centre for Computing in the Humanities
King's College London

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