On La Dolce Vita

July 13, 2008

Roger Ebert reflected recently on his 46-year journey with La Dolce Vita. His musings recall my own experience with Fellini’s film…

More than a decade ago, I remember the experience of being drawn to the screen — literally pulled closer to the television — as La Dolce Vita unfolded. Something in its velvet frames of black and white spoke to me… something, perhaps, about the quiet hunger for connection, for meaning — a reflection of my own thrashing struggles at the time.

In the years since, I’ve seen the film countless times, including an all-nighter infinite loop playing as I packed (and tried to practice my very rough language skills) for a trip to Italy. Today, the film’s thread of unquenchable loneliness doesn’t resonate as sharply as it once did — marriage and, I hope, a measure of maturity have helped to soften those pangs. But I still recognize the experience as a part of me, inseparable, I suppose, from being human…

The (Gradual) Fall of Adobe

March 25, 2008

Like most designers, I’ve faithfully upgraded my Adobe software (and that from its precursor companies Macromedia, Macromind and Aldus) over these many years. Despite the occasional missed upgrade cycle, I’ve looked forward to the feature and interface improvements which leapt (or, at times, limped) out of the labs.

But today, after another Photoshop crash in OS X and the ongoing death-by-a-thousand-cuts ordeal of workarounds for unfixed bugs, I’m left wondering… when did Adobe’s software become so bloated that I’m driven to look for alternatives?

It’s not just the bugs — even the intended behavior of the software smacks of a certain take-the-captive-customer-for-granted arrogance. The CS3 software updater is one particularly intrusive and unfriendly example, with its incessant interruptions and insistence on forcing the user to quit other apps just to install minor updates.

Apparently, I’m not the only one feeling this pain. The emergence of quick and lean alternatives like Pixelmator and Acorn — which are gaining some thoughtshare, even among design pros — signals a simmering dissatisfaction with the behemoth that Photoshop has become. Analogous competitors are showing up for other Adobe packages like Illustrator. While these newcomers are only suitable for smaller tasks and aren’t yet capable of replacing the Adobe apps, the best of them are not unlike the Photoshop of old in their capable simplicity and development nimbleness. Some may yet grow up to become muscular rivals.

Given Adobe’s demonstrated ability to deliver when it’s under the gun of real competition (e.g., Lightroom vs. Aperture, Premiere vs. Final Cut), these upstarts may be just the impetus needed to clear the barnacles dragging down the old flagships.

Now then, where’s my credit card so I can download that copy of Pixelmator…

Adobe launched the Photoshop Express beta shortly after I posted. Though its networking features and online venue show that it’s targeted a bit differently than the other software I discussed, it’s clearly worth a look.