Saturday, April 10, 2010

A step too far

I haven't ordered an iPad and I'm not sure I will. It looks lovely but I can't justify spending hundreds of pounds on something to browse the web from my bed. Maybe when they make version 2 and I've found out what the compelling use case is.

But at the back of my mind there is also an unease about what the success of the, increasingly locked down, iXXXX machines means. At each step Apple have, rather than loosening the reins, tightened them.

Locking down the iPhone OS seemed relatively justifiable to me. My iPhone is, first and foremost, a phone. I'm happy to make a lot of small compromises to ensure that it works well in that role. Compromises I wouldn't dream of accepting in a laptop.

But I wonder whether those compromises are the very things that have robbed me, despite my familiarity with Objective-C & Cocoa, of any desire to build for the iPhone platform. It doesn't feel like a playful space to be in.

Now it would appear that Apple are trying to control the tools used to build applications for the iPhone OS platform, blocking developers from using things like Flash or .NET even as creation tools.

Nobody who knows me will be under any illusions that I have any love for Flash, Adobe, .NET, or Microsoft. I don't want to see applications written using those tools on my devices. I'd rather people learned the native platform and used Objective-C & CocoaTouch directly. But I wouldn't wish it to be so at gun point.

Apple appear to consider complete control and dominance of the platform as the No.1 priority. It's understandable I guess, why let other people drive your agenda. But, at the same time, if they successfully execute this strategy I wonder what kind of sterile future we are looking at. Innovation grows in the cracks and Apple appear to be plastering over them as fast as they are discovered.

So part of my problem with the iPad is that it's not really a computer. It's more of an Apple-terminal, nice but expensive. And I don't just mean the price ticket.

10/04/2010 09:24 by Matt Mower | Permalink
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Planet Piano

I took up piano lessons in January 2009. I have an hours lesson every week and it's been great. I went from being convinced I would never be able to play anything to surprising myself by the complex things I can do. My sense of rhythm, always an embarrassment, has developed into something that can pretty much keep time (at least at a quaver level) without me thinking about it. In short the idea of being a musician now seems like a matter of sweat.

I've started listening to a new podcast, Planet Piano, by Dan Starr who, as well as being a veteran teacher, has produced a book for adults learning piano that I bought recently. The topic of the first podcast is, loosely, can you learn piano online?

For me, having a teacher, is essential for a number of reasons:

  1. I want to learn the piano but I also want to do a range of things like build synths in Reaktor, or learn to produce music, or read psychology books, or watch The Mentalist on TV. Having a regular lesson with a teacher gives me a focus for practice.
  2. Keeping me motivated when I feel like I am failing or falling short. Reminding me that what I am doing is really hard and that it's normal for me to make mistakes, have problems, etc...
  3. Keep me interested. He's taken me into blues piano which I would never have considered myself and it's been very interesting.
  4. Tell me how I am making mistakes (I may hear that I'm playing wrong and, yet, not know exactly what I am doing) and suggest things I can do (or not do).
  5. Answer questions. And the great thing about my teacher is that he's not afraid to say when he doesn't know
  6. Be a partner in my labours. Piano is a skill of performance, at some level it's nice to have someone else there when you get a part right and tell you that you did.

Dan thinks learning online is fine if you already play piano and are looking to add new style or techniques but for beginners having a teacher is best.

I'd go further and say that learning to play piano entirely, based on online lessons, seems like it would work about as well as learning karate (another hobby of mine) from the web or videos. You can follow the moves but it's a shallow kind of learning. A teacher, in a regular class, offers so much more than that.

I can say with some certainty that without my teacher there is no way I'd be playing so well (relatively speaking) or so often as I am now.

10/04/2010 10:29 by Matt Mower | Permalink
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