My frustrations with Apple’s new Macs

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So Apple released their new Macs with Apple Silicon now, and while I was really looking forward to this transition, there are things that just irk me and make me hold off from purchasing.

What was released?

Apple put out three new computers, that all feature on new System-on-a-Chip (SoC), named M1. It’s a 13″ MacBook Air, a 13″ MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini.

Unlike with their previous transition from PowerPC to Intel (2005 f.), Apple aren’t changing their branding here. The main difference between the MacBook Air and the Pro are that the Pro has a bigger battery for supposedly crazy long battery life, a fan, and the TouchBar. They all, including the Mac Mini, have two USB 4/Thunderbolt ports (the Mac Mini thankfully adds two USB-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI 2.0).

Apple harps that these new models are sooo much faster, and early benchmarks seem to confirm that. Now, that’s great – and the massive increase in battery life (Apple says these machines are going to last up to 18 hours (MacBook Air)/ 20 hours (MacBook Pro)) is also awesome.

So what’s your problem?

Repairability and upgradability

Earlier this year Apple went big on boasting what they are doing for the environment. They also previously were big on showing off their recycling efforts. Now what’s better, than recycling? Right, reducing!

Modern Apple Hardware (including, but not limited to MacBooks) seeks to make user/self repair and repair by 3rd parties impossible. Now while there are good reasons for this (protecting the brand by ensuring a good experience), it still is likely leading to more e-waste than neccessary and thus bad.

Bad Default specs

Random Access Memory

It’s 2020. While 8GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD as defaults may be justifiable for people that are looking for a MacBook Air, it’s just a total joke that they even offer that as default for their “Pro” branded offering.1 It’s almost like no one at Apple ever uses the RAM-eating shit-fest the modern web is, or if, they only use it in their own Safari browser (that is, the parts of the web that work in Safari).2
Now, a lot of RAM use may go to Electron-based apps, that may be replaceable by more RAM-friendly iOS apps now (assuming the app developers allow runnning their iOS apps on the Mac), which might drop RAM load. Still, 16 GB as a default with 32 GB as an upgrade option would have been the right way to go, ensuring long usable lifetimes for these new computers.

SSD / File Storage

When you boast that your new hardware is great at multimedia work, please, for the love of god, supply reasonable storage options. While a 2 TB maximum is ok (not really for the ‘Pro’, admittedly), it’s just crazy expensive at 800 USD (896 EURO) upgrades. And you have to choose your size when you buy it, you can’t upgrade afterwards.3

Now, they have some reasoning for that. But why not go the Microsoft route, and allow upgrading by having an empty m.2-slot or even something proprietary, that’s user accessible for later upgrades? Why not at least allow an option for slower storage (e.g. by adding a microSDXC-card slot), for all the people who want to keep their family photos on device?

Pricing

Last but not least, pricing. I don’t want to make this about their bad european pricing4
I love the Mac5, and I would love for it to be more affordable.

Apple is able to deliver great products at affordable price points, as evidenced by their entry level iPad. I want Apple to adopt a strategy that allows them to gain market share, because I do strongly believe that they offer something great with the Mac, that enables people to do more with there Computers without these being as “dumbed down” as the mobile platforms.

Switching to their own Apple Silicon is considered to likely increase Apples profit margin by quite a bit, yet they kept pricing mostly the same. This, as I believe, is going to harm them in the future, if they want to cut on their margin to offer products for the Everyman or education (in a push for market share or against Chromebooks) and not just their usual high-income bracket – shareholders would likely have questions and not approve.

Conclusion

I won’t buy a laptop for almost 2000 EUR unless I am certain to be able to use it for at least 4 years as my main machine. I am not sure that a 16GB RAM MacBook Air or Pro can deliver that, so I will just sit tight and wait for their next announcement.

Also, I have little hope that they are going deliver a cheaper, entry level MacBook (at least for education), and clear up their “Pro” branding problem. Long term they should refocus more on customers, deliver hardware that makes their environmental claims more credible, respect the right-to-repair more and bring their mission of preserving user privacy to everyone.

Unfortunately, Apple seem to be too obsessed with their bottom line to care enough about anything else.

  1. The MacBook line generally has had serious branding issues for since the introduction of the “not really Pro” 13″ MacBook Pro. []
  2. The blame is on the web developers here that don’t do a proper job and build incompatible websites, not on Apple. []
  3. It’s been like this since 2016, I know. But it’s still terrible. []
  4. If you were to use the current exchange rate, add german sales tax of currently 16 % you would end up at 980,81 EUR for the 999 USD Macbook Air, not the 1100,50 EUR they ask for. []
  5. I am very much a Linux user, too, but I won’t get into the additional problem with only being able to VM my Linux needs here in order to keep this piece more concise. []

Thoughts on “Spring Forward”

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1. The Event.
While it has been noticed that Tim Cook seemed to feel really comfortable on stage, it was too long. For me it started with a real downer. I don’t care about HBO, as I live in Germany. Then, the MacBook. Leaked before, still exiting. Nice engineering. But why rub the gold in peoples faces from the beginning?
Then the watch. First that model, Apple showing that it cares about the world. Confusing, though: Showing that Apple Watch helps rich white people running in Africa feels like a strange message to me. And that excitement. Oh, that must have been true, as she will have a blog on apple.com. At least there was a woman on stage. Then Kevin “Adobe Flash” Lynch showing off a ton of features. Some useful for wealthy people (Apple Pay, Hotel Room unlock), others creepy (send your heartbeat), others whimsical (Draw your dick a cute message). Pricing. The “Edition”. I would rather buy a car for that money, or a great bicycle.

Continue reading “Thoughts on “Spring Forward””

iPad 2. First Impressions

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So I got myself an iPad 2, to be precise the one with integrated 3G, in order to be connected everywhere.

Why, you may ask, did I do that? Why didn’t you buy a nice honeycomb tablet?
Or a MeeGo tablet, like that good old WeTab? Well, first of all, I have been noticing that I have noticed that I have become real picky about bad usability, and Honeycomb IMHO isn’t that great in terms of that – and as I felt like I would need 3G for my use case, the otherwise o.k. HP TouchPad didn’t seem exactly suitable.
Besides, I am now in the media business and at least as far as the German market is concerned, the iPad is currently THE content platform – almost the only.

When I unboxed it, I became very excited, after having installed iOS 5 on this device, I knew I had entered the often mentioned reality distortion field, that Apple devices are known to impose on their users.

Right now, as I am writing this, I am less than overwhelmed, as I stumbled on a few annoyances, despite those that I expected anyway (iTunes, being forced to spend money in the App Store to have an usable device after all, there isn’t even a voice recorder preinstalled), and so on. The most annoying thing I stumbled upon: if an app (or media file in iTunes) is larger than 20 MB, you will be forced to download this over WiFi, which simply doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I can’t understand why this is so, as downloads in the browser work nicely without any hassle, no matter how large the requested files are – while a warning would certainly be nice to those with a very limited data plan, being forced to find a hotspot near you is a real PITA.

On the other hand, everything is really smooth. I had a few apps that didn’t work too well (itself or in combination with that new split keyboard), some even crashed, but that maybe related to the new features and thus changes Apple introduced with iOS 5. In general, everything’s smooth, and those Music and painting apps are something I’ve been longing for for quite a long time, so I really enjoy that.

But then, there are those mixed feelings again, because of all these limitations, the fact, that I miss certain open source apps and know that it’s virtually impossible to ever use them on this device (more unlikely than it would be on Android, whether it would even be easily doable on the HP TouchPad using the homebrew software Xecutah) – I don’ t really know whether I will actually keep this tablet, which doesn’t lead the tablet market for no reason.

I will keep you updated about me and my iPad – don’t worry, it won’t be more often then, say, monthly.

Apple introduces the iPhone 4S

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Apple held an event to announce its latest iOS products today. As these products are still market leaders, this certainly is an important day for the whole mobile computing industry.

Many people expected a new iPhone 5, changing a lot. With me being far from being an Apple fanboy (I like the culture they bring in their products and love the fact that they announce late so that it doesn´t take ages from announcement to delivery), I was hoping for a new impulse to the smartphone market, not really knowing, what exactly I was hoping for, maybe I was just hoping for something great because it took Apple so long to get this new iPhone out.

Unfortunately, this didn´t happen. Apple just announced the iPhone 4S, a spec bumped iPhone 4 – new 8MP camera (impressing!), Apple A5 chipset (dual core is flagship standard nowadays), new dual mode chipset (nice for US people), new 64GB storage option. Aside from software news (which are interesting and certainly change iOS a lot), that´s it.

After all I don´t know whether there´s a reason for disappointment: We´ll see an iPhone 5 or 6 next year, probably in June already, and that thing might “change everything again”, as Apple will likely put it. What I know is that there is disappointment out there – I tweeted this, and considering the extremely low follower count this blog has, it was retweeted really often (you´ve got to add a large number of RT´s and ” ” quotes).

More on the iPad.

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iPad

What I have been reading during the last hour, was a lot of criticism, lots of people seem to be disappointed of the iPad.
Well, that´s pretty much normal, afair – take a look at all these latest launches of Apple products. All these rumored features in the time before whispered by tons of experts and “experts” are too much to be delivered at one launch – and no one would expect any other company to bring that much innovation to the markets in single products.

Of course it is dissapointing that the iPad does not support Videochat, does not support Flash (I do not believe that Flash is the best technology for flash video, anyway), is unable to beam you to the Maledives – oh, wait, that wasn´ t rumored? I am so sorry.

The dissapointment is the lack of multitasking – but I do believe, that Apple will add that, once they have it worked out in a way that is appropriate for such a tablet device. But still, even though I do not love Apple: This is the best tablet to date, and it will most likely be the best tablet when it will be available. Of course, the hardware is not perfect, a flat bottom would be better for on table use, iPad is a bit heavy, or think of a second dock connector for keyboard use in landscape mode (which was much more laptop like). And the screen will (compared to PixelQi solutions) suck at outdoor use I bet. Or more video out options, like Display Port or HDMI. I don´ t have to mention that I would love USB Host on a device of that size, do I?

All nice to have, but not that necessary – because it has Apples software on it, which is just impressive and has huge competitive advantages like all the iPhone Apps and iTunes. No other company will (ever?) be able to offer those.

And let´s not forget one other thing: This is a home entertainment device rather than a mobile companion device – battery life, the screen – all this makes it a device for at home use, particulary when you are on holiday and stay in a cabin or so. A leisure device with some sunday work features. Maybe I am wrong here, and I believe future iPads will be different, better.

Let´s be realistic: This is Apples´ first torpedo to sink netbooks (meaning: the devices between notebooks and sub 4 inch devices. Not perfect, it will most certainly miss its target, the ship will not sink. But better be scared of the next one. The iPhone 3GS was the one that sold best until now – I believe a 3rd generation iPad will be similar. If Apple just listens a little bit to the complaints of the people, this generation will sell more than O.K. and future iterations will be .. just fantastic, at least as far as sales figures go.

Looking for a new laptop

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Though I found an ebay seller, that offers the SmartV5 MID, I am afraid I cannot grab one for an early review, as I think a new laptop is more urgent – my current one, a HP Compaq nx6325 is over three years old now and it was a low end offer back then (at least mine with its Sempron CPU).

Before I had a look at the notebook market, I made a list of what I would like to have. At first I want a non glossy non 16:9 display, preferably high resolution (being fed up with XGA), and would prefer a non glossy casing as well – I hate to look at fingerprints all the time. Besides this, before we talk about the insides, I would like a well built laptop, looking rather classic, something alike Thinkpads or older MacBook Pros. The insides – dual core, preferably a recent chipset, graphic performance is nothing I really care about (I rather care about good loudspeakers as I am used to my HPs Altec Lansing Speakers), so integrated graphics would be fine, loads of ram and a big enough hard drive (200GB at least), and that machine should be able to last more than 3 hours on battery and not cost a fortune.

Well, turns out that the insides aren´t the problem at all – e.g. there is a variant of the Lenovo Thinkpad SL500 that would fit my needs almost perfectly, though it is said to be less sturdy than the more expensive Thinkpad offers – but then, it turns out that it does not run Linux that well – ACPI implementation appears to be rather bad and some other issues – as Linux is my primary OS it is a no go.

Then there are some Acer Travelmates, but actually I find them all ugly besides the Timeline series – and as I have to look at that device almost every single day for about 2 years, ugly devices are a no go. The Timeline ones are nice, but they don´t contain a DVD drive besides the 15,6 inch one (I admit that I rarely need such a drive, but I need it often enough that no external drive would be annoying (especially in use at home, as it is one more thing you are supposed to have on or near to your desk)) – which has something i want to avoid, as this one has a none centered keyboard due to additional number keys i never even use on desktop keyboards, then 1,4GHz dual core does not sound that fast (and my next notebook is about to last for years on my desk) and a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution at 15,6 inch is just disappointing.

Then there is the brand name which is printed on my current laptop, HP – I could of course go on using them, maybe again an AMD offering (though Intel is quite ahead). Their new HP ProBook 6545b will be available in Germany soon, but.. the keyboard. Really, I don´t want those number keys, rather a better sound system or something like that. Besides I would have to go with 1600×900 pixel resolution, which won´t be that affordable.

After all, the offerings on the market are that disappointing, that I have started to think of buying a early 2008 MacBook Pro – I always loved their design, even back when there where Powerbooks – and now I am watching ebay every day. After all, they have an ok screen resolution, are non glossy and certainly well built. And running 3 operating systems would be nice, wouldn´t it?