My Problem With Apps
I have a problem with apps. My problem is much the same as my problem with the dollar store down the street. My problem is I can’t resist something that costs only a buck.
My daily routine begins with two cans of Pepsi, with which I sit down in front of my computer and reflexively type in my URL to make sure my website is still there. I’ll make a routine check of my e-mail accounts and my social networks; I’ll check for software updates, and then—and this is the pivotal moment—I will either engage in the day’s work before me or fall into the gyre of the one half million apps that now populate the Apple App Store. Icons will sprint laps in my mind. I will give in and binge while the App Store utterly defeats my higher power (I.e., the dollar). I will stare slack-jawed and amazed at page upon page of American ingenuity, the mood diary for the clinically depressed, the many versions of a compass. Will I really have my iPhone handy when I am most in need of a compass? No matter, they are all priced at a penny less than a buck. I tell myself I should seriously consider attending the AA meetings at the soup kitchen down the street, or does the A not refer to app?
At the App Store, an actual, or virtual, app of genuine utility procured early on and at a snip can precipitate a reversal. Otherwise I scroll and click my way through scores of productivity tools, disk utilities, and what’s “new and noteworthy.” I download free trials indiscriminately. I hunt down the satiating bargain. I am both an early adopter and a sucker.
Buying apps is a crapshoot. Rather than being denominated by functionality, most can be more accurately categorized as useless, needless, pointless, or redundant. Regardless, the fun is all wrapped up in the transaction. It’s a numbers game; like playing the tables in Las Vegas, pixels are to a dollar as clay is to a sawbuck. The minimal gestures at my keyboard are like round-edged, coated card stock on felt. It’s only when I leave the table that I recognize my gains or losses. The thing is this: when you play the numbers in Vegas, there is always the chance that you might walk away from the cage with something actual in hand, but walking away from the App Store always leaves you virtually empty-handed. Still, on any given day at my computer I will amass a cart full of needless software and for 10 bucks feel like I just dropped a few thousand. What’s more, I’ve wasted hardly a thing but my entire day.
Useful software of the capital investment variety comes with its own disappointments. Now even premium applications come in the form of something like air; I get a virtual enigma that brings to mind a puzzle without an image of the assembled product on the box. Sure, a $799 purchase has great potential to make my day, but if I’m spending more than $0.99 per any one item, if I’m buying software that’s going to hit my bank account like a brick, I will, as I stare at the bright blue bar that counts down the minutes until my purchase appears on my virtual desktop and asks me if it may be virtually installed, bemoan the fact that it did not come in a box. Should I suppress my wont for immediate gratification and order the physical artifact, it too is lacking. As with all new software, it helps to have a user’s manual. Without a sturdy box and a detailed user’s guide, you can write off free access to any instruction of salient value.
For years now I’ve been wondering what the “de-interlace” feature in Photoshop is all about. The Adobe website’s search engine does not return a relevant response. I ask people and they shrug. Because even the big software manufacturers have given up user-friendly user’s manuals and have taken to sloughing off technical support to the homebound “member” of an online “community,”, which, incidentally, gets you either squat or several conflicting answers or answers that are just plain wrong; moreover, people who spend their time hanging out on software forums are just plain creepy because it is one thing to browse, but to engage, well—; my reticence to dig deeper is a matter of dignity. Maybe prison inmates who use their allotted 15 minutes daily on a computer populate the Microsoft Excel Support Community Forum. If such a person isn’t in prison already, if only the kind of virtual prison that one can fall into, I’ll lay odds he will be; it’s only a matter of time. I am sympathetic; it’s hard to step away from the box.Back