Tuesday, December 31, 2013

We all change

We all change.
When you think about it, we are all different people, all through our lives.
And that's OK, that's good, so long as you remember all the people you used to be.

These are the final words of the latest Doctor in Doctor Who, the TV show about the humanoid alien that every so often regenerates instead of dying, changing body, face, and character, but retaining the memories of all his previous incarnations.

The words fit perfectly in the context of the story of the show, spoken right before the Doctor's latest regeneration.

But they resonated deep within me, because I can view the various phases of my life in a similar fashion.

We often talk with the Wife about our experience in the US, where we lived in California for 5 years. We have the photos, the videos, the memories. And yet it often feels like these were the lives of different people. We know it was us - but it was a different us.

Just like the Doctor, we seem to have been different people back then. Different habits, different jobs, different friends. Most notably, different characters.

When I move cities, countries, jobs, I change. I am becoming a slightly different person, but keeping all the memories of the past experiences. I was too young to realize that earlier. But now, almost 10 years since I left Greece for the first time, I have a much better perspective.

And that's OK. Change is good. I don't mind being a different person every so often. But now, more than ever, I realize the importance of remembering all the people I used to be.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Η Ελληνική κουλτούρα της Τιμής

Στο πιο σημαντικό βιβλίο που ίσως έχω διαβάσει, το Guns Germs and Steel, ο Jared Diamond αναφέρει πως η εξέλιξη μιας χώρας είναι άρρηκτα συνδεδεμένη με το γεωγραφικό της περιβάλλον, ώστε η τωρινή της κατάσταση να μπορεί να ερμηνευθεί με βάση τη γεωγραφία της.

Την Ελλάδα συγκεκριμένα δεν την αναφέρει. Εδώ και αρκετά χρόνια έψαχνα αυτό το συνδετικό κρίκο μεταξύ της γεωγραφίας της Ελλάδας και της σημερινής της θέσης και κουλτούρας.

Έτυχε να διαβάσω αυτό το απόσμασμα από το νέο βιβλίο του Αρίστου Δοξιάδη, Μισή Μεσαία Τάξη, όπου αναφέρει για τα στελέχη επιχειρήσεων σε αντίθεση με τους ελεύθερους επαγγελματίες:

"Σημαντικό, όμως, είναι αυτό που λείπει από την ελληνική διαδικασία σχηματισμού της μεσαίας τάξης. Λείπουν οι εταιρείες, που απασχολούν στελέχη σε ιεραρχίες που όλο και βαθαίνουν, απαιτούν νέες δεξιότητες, γίνονται πιο παραγωγικές και δίνουν καλύτερες αμοιβές. Σε όλο τον αναπτυγμένο καπιταλισμό αυτά τα στελέχη ήταν η κατεξοχήν μεσαία τάξη, και όχι μόνον αριθμητικά. Ο τρόπος εργασίας και σταδιοδρομίας τους αποτελούσε το πρότυπο της τάξης. 
Αντίθετα, στην Ελλάδα το πρότυπο της τάξης ήταν ο δικηγόρος: ανεξάρτητος, σ’ ένα δικό του μικρό γραφείο, κυνηγά μόνος τον πελάτη, τη βγάζει το πρωί στα καφενεία των δικαστηρίων. Δεν δίνει λογαριασμό σε κανέναν, εκτός από το λογαριασμό του στην τράπεζα, που κυμαίνεται χρόνο με το χρόνο ανάλογα με τις δουλειές."

Γιατί όμως στην Ελλάδα επικράτησε η δεύτερη μερίδα της μεσαίας τάξης (του αυτόνομου), και όχι της εταρείας (της συνεργασίας)?

Η απάντηση σε αυτό το ερώτημα, αλλά ταυτόχρονα και η εξήγηση πολλών ιδιοτροπιών της ελληνικής κουλτούρας, δίνεται από τον Malcolm Gladwell στο Outliers. Το ονομάζει "Κουλτούρα της Τιμής" (Culture of honor):

“Cultures of honor tend to take root in highlands and other marginally fertile areas. If you live on some rocky mountainside, the explanation goes, you can't farm. You probably raise goats or sheep, and the kind of culture that grows up around being a herdsman is very different from the culture that grows up around growing crops. The survival of a farmer depends on the cooperation of others in the community. But a herdsman is off by himself. Farmers also don't have to worry that their livelihood will be stolen in the night, because crops can’t easily be stolen unless, of course, a thief wants to go to the trouble of harvesting an entire field on his own. But a herdsman does have to worry. He’s under constant threat of ruin through the loss of his animals. So he has to be aggressive: he has to make it clear, through his words and deeds, that he is not weak. He has to be willing to fight in response to even the slightest challenge to his reputation—and that’s what a “culture of honor” means. “It’s a world where a man’s reputation is at the center of his livelihood and self-worth.”
Δεν ξέρω αν υπήρχαν ιδανικότερες συνθήκες για να αναπτυχθεί μια τέτοια κουλτούρα κάπου αλλού εκτός από την τουρκοκρατημένη Ελλάδα των περασμένων αιώνων.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Organizing and preserving 10 years of digital photography

In the next month, it will be 10 year since I got my first digital camera, an Olympus C750UZ. Since then I went through a Canon S2 in 2007 and a dSLR Canon 500D/T1i in 2009. In 2008 I also introduced iPhone to my digital photography: first the 3G, then the 4, and now the 5.

I have always been organizing my photos using a nested file system, with folders inside folders. As long as it is done meticulously, such an hierarchical system is the best way for me to keep track of the photos (or any other type of digital media). Solutions like Everpix or simply a timelined photostream  (like Dropbox) do not work for me, neither do keywords or tags. I need to be seeing a physical hierarchy.

My Photos folder has 170,000 files in it, and includes photos from the digital cameras and the iPhones. My root folders are organized by the period of my life: 2003-2008 US, 2008-2010 UK, 2010-2011 Greece, 2011-now UK. Inside each period I have event subfolders: Party at Mike's house, Walk in the Houses of Parliament, Parents visit, etc. All folders start with an ISO format date, e.g. 20130816 - Wife's Birthday, so that the alphabetical order automatically results in chronological order.

In addition, since I travel a lot, I have a separate root folder called Trips. In there I organize all the trips by location: USA, Europe, Exotic, etc., and then the (dated) event subfolders might be New York City, Florida, Chicago, etc.

Each event subfolder has a "Best of" folder in it. After each event, I go through all the photos and pick the best ones, typically 10% of the total number of photos. If it's a major event like my wedding or the trip to Maui, where I have 5000+ original photos per event, I might create another folder "best of best of" with the absolutely 1% best pictures.

Because of the 10 year anniversary, I decided to print 10 photo albums, one for each year, with my favorite pictures. I figured that if I don't do that now, I won't be doing it again due to the sheer amount of data collected. So, in the past couple of weeks I went through my whole photo library, all 170,000 photos, one by one, to pick the best ones. I picked about 2,000 of them. And after seeing my library with such a perspective, I reached some interesting conclusions.

  • The hierarchical folder system I curated in the past 10 years has served me extremely well: If I want to find a specific photo from a certain time, city or event, I can browse to it in a reasonable amount of time. I will stick to that system.
  • Almost none of the hand-picked photos are iPhone photos. Maybe 30 or 40, max, from 1,500 iPhone photos I captured per year in the last 6 years. Smartphone photos look great on the small smartphone screens, but as soon as you blow them up (I have a 27" monitor) the magic goes away. In the short term, they are good reminders of how I spent my time, but in the long term they are irrelevant, with a few notable exceptions.
  • I realized I want to print two types of photos: i) The "Artistic" ones, where I put the effort into taking a quality, artsy photograph. These are typically photos of landmarks, landscapes, objects, and more rarely people (which I may not even know well). ii) The "Candid" ones, which are not necessarily of great quality, but include memorable moments and people. These trigger feelings of past moment to me.
  • My plan to geotag and facetag all of my library failed. However, it *is* possible to manually tag the selected 2,000 photos. It still took me some time, but it was manageable.
  • I had to import my "best of" photos to Aperture for editing. The main reason is that some photos fall under more than one category (e.g. both candids and artistic), and also in original folder. It is hard to keep track and edit 3 or more files in the same way. I export everything out when I am finished though. I also LOVE seeing my photos on a map.
Then there is the issue of future-proofing my photos. They've been around for 10 years already. How can I make sure they'll be around for another 50 years?

There is a new Greek startup called longaccess that aims at preserving our digital lives. One of the founders has a nice post on how he migrated his photo library from iPhoto to Dropbox. I am not sure exactly how they plan to handle the photo archive issue, but here is what I will be doing.

First, I need a feature-rich application to edit and organize my photos and also to have features like geotagging and editing the same photo existing in multiple locations. That being said, I will simultaneously keep storing jpgs on the filesystem level while having an encrypted backup online. 

  • I do not expect the jpg compatibility to be dropped from computers anytime soon (and by soon I mean decades). It is simple enough to be implemented everywhere, and its already been around for more than 20 years. (The same holds true for MP3).
  • Backing up is absolutely essential. The more time goes by, the more precious the photos become. They are irreplaceable if they get lost. I currently backup all my personal files to a NAS in the house and to an online backup service (in this case, my own FTP server at the office).
What I am missing right now is an automated way to link the two processes: having my photos in the feature-rich software, and then automatically exporting them at a filesystem level which can be backed up and accessed by the iPhotos and Lightrooms of year 2040.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kids, revisited

There is a not-so-visited spot along the river Thames that has majestic views of the Houses of Parliament. You get there by crossing the Westminster bridge right in front of Big Ben, and then, instead of turning left towards the London Eye where most tourists go, just make a right. There are about 100 times less people on that side.

We first visited London with the Wife in the summer of 2004 (little did we know at the time that we would return as residents to London 4 years later). We discovered that spot and took some really nice photographs with the Big Ben in the background, such as the one below.

I will return to that in a bit.


I got my first digital camera in 2003. When I got my first dSLR camera in 2009, I wanted to go back and revisit all my favorite places so that I had them in high-quality pictures.

When I got a subwoofer for the first time in 2011, I went back and re-listened to all my favorite songs. The added richness of the sound made me to want and re-experience the feeling of listening to a song right.

The same thing happened when I started to have access to HD content, sometime in 2007. As soon as some of my favorite movies were re-released in HD, I watched them again to experience them more fully.

When our twin girls were born last month, something happened that I never expected. That same urge of re-visiting experiences came back, only this time for life moments. I want to go back to my favorite places and re-live the experiences, but this time I want to do this with my kids. They enhance my experiences. It is a very strange, more real form of excitement.

And so, on the first "major" trip with the kids outside our home, we decided to revisit that spot on the Thames where we took one of our first photos in the city that our kids would be born. This time we had a much better camera and few more years and pounds on our backs.

9 years had passed.

It felt AWESOME.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

A Live Birth

Three weeks ago we had our twin girls born.

I was inside the delivery room for the whole process of natural delivery, which lasted about 20 hours. The final 3 hours that included all the pushing and the delivery of the babies were one of the top 3 life experiences I have ever had (probably the top, but let's wait a few more years to settle on that).

I definitely recommend witnessing a live birth (even more so if it's your own kids). The process is animalistic, brutal and just exhilarating. Words cannot really describe the feeling of watching a human being coming out from the inside of another human being. 

We live in a mostly artificial world with artificial experiences. Most things that surround us are man made objects of our civilization. Some activities remain natural, such as eating, going to the toilet and having sex. Giving birth is taking such as non-artificial activity as far as it gets, a stunning reminder of our roots and our non-civilized past.

It's not easy to explain the awesome feeling we have when we take care of the babies at home every day. Up until a few weeks ago, for as long as I can remember I would come home from work and watch TV, make dinner, or browse online. 

Suddenly, I come home and I help my kids grow up. Feeding them, changing, them, interacting with them. Even though these day to day actions are quite mundane, the purpose of the whole thing is way more rewarding. It feels much more important to help a human being grow rather than myself just consuming stuff. Suddenly, our evenings became purposeful.

Maybe you have been unlucky enough to stay out of work or school for prolonged periods of time. You wake up and have nothing to do, so you start walking around, going online, trying to get hold of other people. It's an almost excruciating process, having to stay at home every day. And suddenly, you find a job and then your morning acquire a purpose: you go to work, interact with other people, you have a common goal, you are contributing to society. You life suddenly acquires meaning.

Having kids is an evening version of that "I got a job and now I have a purpose in society" feeling. 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Switching to OSX

An interesting thing happened the other day.

I forgot my MacBook Air 13" inside the aircraft on my flight back from Greece. I was using only Windows 7 in that machine.

The laptop was thankfully retrieved a week later, but meanwhile I had to travel to Canada within 2 days. As a result, I had to take with me and 11" MacBook Air, which only had OSX installed. This was the first time I continuously used OSX for a prolonged period of time.

I realized I can actually use that operating system instead of Windows. Here are the reasons:

1. There is a certain mathematical elegance about it. A strict, ordered, geometric design, almost godlike. Windows on the other hand still feels like an assortment of code put together. Even OSX application developers seem to care more about the looks of their app, being more consistent with the overall OSX look (much like the design consistency between iOS apps).

2. It is stylistically way more beautiful than Windows 8 (although on par with Windows 7).

3. The multiple desktop experience in OSX is very efficient for me, combined with all the touch gestures to manipulate between applications.

4. Incredible restore capabilities. By pressing command+R during boot, I can connect to a wifi and completely restore my machine from the cloud. No need for discs or usb drives. When I got my 13" Air back, I re-installed OSX and then transferred over my programs and settings from the 11" Air OSX account. I smoothly continued work where I left off.

5. Innovation.

The last point is the most critical one. My workflow under Windows hasn't changed since I started using Windows Vista in 2007. A left side taskbar with program shortcuts, fast switching between apps, gadgets on the right side, done. I am extremely efficient with this setup and two screens. With the advent of Windows 7 and 8, that has largely stayed the same (I had to restore the taskbar in Win8 to regain the efficiency).

In that same period however, OSX has introduced several tweaks that are actually focused on improving my workflow: touch gestures, multiple desktops, full screen apps, notification center, Airdrop, etc. These are features that I actually use and improve my workflow.

Then I looked at the future. OSX Mavericks and Windows 8.1 were both announced in June. OSX will be adding many more useful features I will probably like to use, such as tabs in Finder & notification syncing. Windows 8.1 is adding several nice features in the tablet interface (which I still think it's the best tablet OS out there), but nothing really for the desktop user. It has stagnated, and I feel like Microsoft has given up trying to change anything in the workflow of the desktop user.

Combining all that with the superb support for high-res displays that OSX offers, and the poor outlook of Windows for such displays, I see that Apple is truly trying to innovate in the desktop space and make everyone life's easier.

I'll still be using Windows for a while. But my time devoted to that OS will be shifting.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump

The are two reasons why I love the above painting by Joseph Wright of Derby from 1768.

First, the painting depicts a scientific experiment. These air pump devices were common in the 18th century. Scientists would use them to demonstrate that a candle's fire goes off after the air is removed, or that it is impossible to hear a ringing bell in vacuum. Joseph Wright chooses here a much more powerful experiment: a bird is placed in the chamber, and as the air is removed the bird starts suffocating, flapping around. The operator is looking at us, as if he needs our opinion: "Should I go ahead and remove all the air and see the air dying, or should I put the air back?"

The attendees' expressions are very interesting. The two girls can barely keep their eyes on the suffering bird, while the rest watch very carefully. With the exception of the two lovers on the left who completely ignore the situation.

Second, it is very interesting to know why the painting depicts the scientific experiment.

This is the middle of the 18th century. Newton, the founder of modern science, had lived the century before. Galileo, too. This is the era that marks the beginnings of science, which will lead to the industrial revolution and then onto the modern world.

This is the first time in history that people start becoming aware of science. It is an era where the physicists are still called natural philosophers, because physics is just starting to form as a science. It is the first time that science starts affecting people's lives, pulling them out of the middle ages.

How to communicate science though? Most people are still illiterate, they can barely read. Communication media are extremely limited. Thus, Joseph Wright chooses to prepare a painting about science.

This painting is one of the earliest depictions of modern science in art.

This painting is an effective method to communicate a scientific idea to society.

For all intents and purposes, this painting is the 18th century version of a PowerPoint presentation.

You can admire the painting in London's National Gallery.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Game of Thrones and the United States of America

I started watching Game of Thrones recently. While it is a medieval fantasy world, I cannot avoid thinking that many practices depicted in the series have strong elements of truth from the actual medieval times on this planet.

Most interesting to me is the vast separation of the social classes. Kings are kings, queens are queens, royalty is royalty, and the everyday people (villagers) remain everyday people. There are strict barriers between them and rarely if ever does someone cross to another social group.

I cannot possibly imagine how people of the middle ages must have felt, knowing that never in their entire lifetime would they be able to advance socially. The royal families, which dominated virtually all of the European countries, maintained their status using the very convenient rule that their status is derived by a blood relationship, and not by merit.

Travelling today in the palaces of France, England, Austria, etc., I try to get a sense of how the villagers of the time would look upon them, knowing that they can never get inside. Neither them nor their children, or their children's children. There must have been people that loved their kings, but there must have been people that hated them.

And then the discovery of the Americas happened, and its conquest makes way more sense to me under this prism now. Because the poor villager without any hope of improving his life now is presented with an opportunity to go to a new land where there are no kings, queens, or royalty. He finally has a chance to be judged on merit. And so the first people that migrated to America must have been the people that mostly hated the status of the European royalty.

This is all more evident in the constitution of the United States, which starts with the words "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States". Not to a king, but to a Congress. In fact, the term "President of the United States" was chosen as the simplest, most humble title they could find, as far away as possible from royal terms. The president is someone that simply presides a board, without implying any direct executive powers. (The fact that it became a very powerful title is a result of later developments.)

I have much higher appreciation for the founding fathers of the US now. They looked at Europe and designed a ruling system as different as possible. No kings, no royalty, with distributed power among different bodies, elected from the people. 

It's quite amazing if you think about it. We tend to forget its importance because today we never really feel totally unable to progress in life. We are not meritocratic enough yet, but there is a general sense that if you struggle in life you will be rewarded. Which is why our world is so much better than the middle ages.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Science is not a democracy

In my last post I argued that believing in an anthropomorphic God is not a choice, where the two options are of equal value. This is because there is no reliable evidence yet on the presence of an earthly supernatural being.

Robin Ince recently wrote along similar lines:

There is a gaggle that seems to consider that expertise is an unfair advantage, that all opinions are equal; an idea that people who are experts in climate change, drugs or engineering are given unfair preference just because they spend much of their life studying these things. I do not think it is fascism that heart surgeons seem to have the monopoly of placing hands in a chest cavity and fiddling with an aorta.
We should not trust people just because they are experts, but if we are not prepared to put the time and effort in to understand something, [...] then we are placed in a position where we must defer and try and make the best decision we can as to who we should defer to.

Science is not a democracy; it's an evidence-based meritocracy. It's closer to fascism than a democracy, with the major difference that the expert/fascist earns his status through the scientific method, and not because of circumstances or strength (physical, political, or otherwise).

In science we do not vote or make decisions based on popular choice. There is no choice. At some points in time most people believed that the earth was in the center of the solar system, that matter cannot cross walls, that the universe was eternal and static. But it didn't matter. What matters is what's right and what's wrong.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Apology to theists

I am an atheist.

I used to think that believing in God or not was a choice. I admired people that didn't, and didn't care about people that did.

Not anymore. I have come to think that believing in God should have a definite answer, in the same way that whether the earth is flat has a definite answer. Sure, you can choose to believe that the earth is flat, but that's wrong. It's not a choice.

No one is born an atheist. We have no reason not to believe in God, and atheism is a state that needs effort to be reached.

I, and millions other people, have reached that state through education, scientific reasoning, logical deductions, and by just plainly looking at the data. It boils down to a lack of evidence for the existence of a God.

(God, in this piece, is the supernatural anthropomorphic know-it-all old man sitting in the sky and watching us all. There are other forms of God which can be fine.)

Now here's the thing: In today's world, I don't think this is a choice anymore. Any person who is educated, can reason scientifically and deduct logically, should reach that same conclusion. There is no excuse anymore in our hyper-connected western world with ultra-fast communication systems and access to all of human knowledge. 

So when I see someone that believes in God, I see a person that hasn't gone through the the process of education, scientific reasoning and logical deducting. I have a problem with them. I can never admire such a person fully, because it signifies lack of coherent thinking. My perfect person has to be an atheist.

I don't have a problem with religion per se. Many aspects of religious teachings are great. But when the supernatural part comes in, and I am asked to believe something without any proof, then I cannot stand it. It's not a matter of choice, it's just wrong. I think of such people in the same way I think of people who believe in astrology, homeopathy, or faster-than-light-travel: they are unaware of the truth and thus choose to believe in something false.

It's exactly the feeling I have towards kids that believe in Santa.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ted at the Oscars on how a digital Ted presented the sound Oscars last night:

With five nominees in each category, 10 different outcomes were rendered (Tippett relied on Dell Precision workstations) in a four week schedule. The correct ones were played on the night. Interestingly, in the Sound Editing category Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty tied, which presumably meant that the segment ended earlier than intended and cut back to a live Wahlberg – without anyone at home knowing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

It was the church, stupid

I always wondered why modern astronomy didn't flourish in the sunny, warm climates of the Mediterranean during the renaissance and beyond.

The birth of modern astronomy was dominated by Northern Europeans: Copernicus was Polish, Brahe was Danish, Kepler, Herschel and Bessel were Germans. (Galileo in Italy is the only major exception). In addition, the prime meridian was established in Greenwich, England from all places. All these countries are notorious for the bad weather and the cloudy skies. How come it was them and not their sunnier southern counterparts?

One might argue it was because they were more advanced societies. That might explain the lack of innovation coming from Greece or Turkey, but not from Italy which was leading the renaissance at the time.

Another argument might be that only superpowers with trading activity over sea had motivation to push astronomy forward in order to ensure their dominance in the sea through accurate journeys. That might explain the case for England, but doesn't explain the German dominance, or why Portugal and Spain never developed great astronomers.

And then it dawned on me: it was the church!

The dominance of the catholic church in Rome, and the overwhelming spread of Christianity over the Mediterranean prevented people from innovating in the matters of the skies, as that was supposed to be an untouchable subject determined by God. Innovation did happen in \Italy and Spain but it focused in other, more earthly subject like engineering and mathematics. But for explaining the skies, introducing the heliocentric system, observing the motions of the stars, the church dogma didn't leave much room for thought. Just look at what happened to Galileo, the only one who dared to go against the church.

And that's how the playing field became empty for the Northern Europeans.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Testing Operating Systems

I have been a Windows user for quite some time now (since 1995, to be exact). The only other major OS I used was iOS when I got an iPhone in 2008. But lately, I am using on daily basis a Samsung Galaxy S with Android 4.2 on it, as well as OSX Mountain Lion in my new Macbook Air.

Windows 7.
Still remains my favorite OS. I have adjusted my workflow over the years to be extremely efficient in this OS, by moving the taskbar to the left (for today's widescreen monitors) and adding various gadgets on the right.

Windows 8.
I installed Windows 8 in my laptop and desktop since last October (still keep Windows 7 at work). I appreciate what Microsoft is trying to do by unifying the tablet/mobile and desktop OSes, but it is not usable. I like the improved task manager and copy dialogs, but I never use the new start screen. Instead, I only use the desktop, where I have added extra software to bring back the start menu and the gadgets, i.e. make it look more like Windows 7. I also hate the flat graphics, without the shades and gradients (Aero scheme). It looks uglier compared to Windows 7.

Beautiful OS, but I hate the font rendering they do. In no way does it look better than the Windows rendering in non-retina screens, especially in browser text. It appears blurry to my eyes, and there seems no way to fix it. I want to have OSX as my main OS, mainly because it is the only one that can correctly handle retina screens without having the fonts look ugly or of wrong size. I like the integration with the iOS in iPhone, and how the iCloud settings are transfered, including mail accounts. There are some software that I use that don't run in it, but I don't mind going back to Windows from time to time.

This is by far the best OS I have used. It's friendly, rarely crashes, looks gorgeous on my iPhone 5, and you just wanna lick it. I think that iPhone 5 with iOS6 is one of the most astonishing engineering achievements of our era.

I read multiple posts lately about people switching to Android from iOS, saying that it is now a good enough mobile OS. That is definitely not my experience. It is not as consistent, the navigation is all over the place, and it looks much uglier compared to iOS. Aesthetics are a big deal for me, and I cannot use an OS that focuses only on functionality.