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Feeling like Don Quixote

written by Mickey on 2020-06-25

For some years now, I have been feeling like Don Quixote fighting against windmills. This is a multidimensional feeling that has its roots in both personal and professional circumstances. With regards to personal issues, I won't go into details as I want to keep this blog free from politics, society, and economics.

With regards to professional circumstances, something that bugs me a lot is that I seem to engage in fighting wars that can't be won. Free software lost a lot of wars, most notably though in the mobile sector. As I have complained more than once before, over the last decade, the phone and tablet world has become much less free. Even big companies struggle these days and it looks like we're stuck with a duopoly for a long long time.

Today though I want to complain about one of these two players, namely the Apple development platforms. By 2013, software development for Apple devices was a lot of fun. We had a great mature language, nice frameworks, and a big market to try out all kinds of ideas and ways to make a living. For some reason though this changed, when Apple introduced the Swift programming language. It split the developer world and alienated a lot of the veterans.

The claims of better readability, performance, and what not could not be achieved. In fact, I (and a lot of people not wearing rose-colored glasses agree with me) think, what has been proposed as a way to flatten the learning curve is actually harder to learn and less readable.

For the major part of the last years I ignored everything Swift, hoping that for the remainder of my professional career (lets say 20 more years, if all goes well) Objective-C would be at least well enough supported that I could continue writing programs -- even without a vibrant open source community (since most folks have switched to Swift immediately and despite popular belief mix and match is not a thing) and proper API docs.

Last year though the first swift-only frameworks and a whole new approach for semi-declarative UIs appeared. SwiftUI -- they even named it like the programming language sigh. This year they are "moving forward" by deprecating more Objective-C frameworks and introducing SwiftUI as the one and only way in some places.

It's now clear to me: It's either I leave the platform or I stop trying to achieve perfection with a certain -- restricted -- set of tools but rather walking their rocky road. And I must confess, I still love the Apple platform so much that I give up fighting aginst the windmills and start from scratch. Learning SwiftUI. Learning Swift.

On a slightly related note: For a new contract, I have to revisit the successful build system I co-founded 20 years ago: OpenEmbedded. Though being quite rusty (left the project 11 years ago), I'm looking forward to finding out what the community made out of it.

Stay safe and healthy.