RetroMacCast

Where great old Macs live again!

I've joked about waiting for the death of the iPhone for several years. I held some hope that such an event would force Apple to pay a little more attention to its professional customers and my beloved Macintosh.

I am excited to announce that the press vultures have begun circling!

[New York Times] iPhone Sales Drop, and Apple’s 13-Year Surge Ebbs

Apple stock posts longest losing streak in 18 years

Maybe Apple is about to be "beleaguered" all over again. While Mac OS X has matured and the personal computer industry is pushing fewer units than ever, the Mac is now the amongst the most popular platforms for software ....

In the unlikely event that Apple is searching for ways to appease (read: induce spending from) technical hobbyists like me and developers who don't care about watches—people who live for Mac OS X and Mac hardware—here's my wish list.

1) More focus on Mac OS X fixes and optimization.

10.7 and 10.8 offered little more than a larger memory footprint and gimmicky touch gestures. My praise for 10.11 comes only after the performance regressions and bugs of 10.10. You're carrying what was once a jewel of stability and ease of use, Apple. Please be careful. (Bonus points if future releases are less enterprise-hostile.)

I'm happy to see Apple already reverting some things: mDNSResponder after discoveryd, and the interface of iTunes 12.4… sort of. At least they're trying.

2) Do something—anything!—about big, bloated, slow, omnipurpose iTunes.

Anything except the random, flashy interface changes in iTunes 12.0, that is.


3) Bundle wired input devices by default
.

Wired input devices are simpler and more reliable, just like Mac OS X used to be. And then there's the waste: for years, Apple included four disposable AA batteries with every desktop iMac. Yes, the same Apple that likes to brag about its environmental record.

The Magic Keyboard and Trackpad have built-in rechargeable batteries, but those will eventually lose their ability to hold a charge. That's a lot of Magic Devices in the trash in the very near future.

4) No more crippled input devices.
The new Magic Keyboard is neither more stylish nor more functional than its predecessor, and its typing action owes a debt of gratitude to the dead flesh keys of the ZX Spectrum.

5) Features everyone can understand and find useful.

About this 3D Touch and Force Touch stuff: what happened to simple features that even my mother could immediately understand and find useful? This is not the same Apple that so vociferously adhered to the “one button mouse” human interface research it performed in the ‘80s.

What problems do these technologies solve? Apple marketing touts their transformative effect on Apple's video editing tools. Would these be the same tools that professionals abandoned en masse because they were toylike and underpowered?

6) Fire Kate Moss as head of hardware engineering.
Useful: An iPhone that lasts more than one day on a single charge.
Not useful: An iPhone that's 90 nanometers thick.

Useful: A desktop computer I can service and upgrade for years.
Not useful: A desktop computer—an object that is rarely moved or transported—that is razor-thin and held together with glue.

Useful: The MacBook Pro, a thin but full-featured desktop replacement.
Not useful: The MacBook, an LCD screen with a port.

Jony, you seem like a nice guy, but please… stop.

7) Serviceable hardware.
Yeah, yeah, Apple is all about using recyclable materials. Aluminum and glass are all fine and well but e.g., printed circuit board recycling is neither widespread nor highly effective.

The 2004 iMac was a shining example design for serviceability while the current iMac is essentially a disposable product. Would you like to brag about your environmental record one more time, Apple?

8) Options for pro customers outside of the video production field.

The expensive dual workstation-class ATI GPUs that are part of the 2013 Mac Pro are completely useless for a large number of potential customers.

If we can't have slots, how about a low-cost graphics option? You didn't have a problem shipping a GT120 with the base Mac Pro back in the day!

The alternative used to be a quad core Mac mini but that quietly disappeared, which brings us to…

9) Macs that don't suck.

The Mac mini is now restricted to a dual-core CPU. The base iMac is disastrously underpowered. How do these benefit anyone? 

10) Ports.

Plural.

11) No more exercises in futility.

Ping. Connect. MobileMe. Apple Maps. iCloud outage after outage. The Mac App store. When you can't even maintain your TLS certificates and your longest-standing and most fanatic developers say that they can't sell powerful software through your crappy store, maybe you should give up and stick to what you do well. 

You've got my number, Apple.

—Derek, 05-June-2016

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Thought for the day: “Companies that lose their way build monuments to themselves.” Think "self-congratulatory Apple product book", Apple Campus 2, and the particularly smug notion that people's lives would somehow be enriched if they could buy Apple products directly from their Apple Watch.

   •   •   •   •   •   •

The press vultures are getting closer. How about those 2016 MacBook Pros? Just a few days after the announcement, these were the four consecutive newest stories on AppleInsider (November 4, 2016):

  • Apple SVP Eddy Cue sells $37.5M in AAPL stock
  • Three Apple PR specialists leave company for new jobs at Ford, Tesla
  • Apple offers 25% off LG UltraFine 4K and 5K displays for limited time
  • Apple cuts prices [for a limited time] on USB-C & Thunderbolt 3 gear in response to MacBook Pro backlash

I'm always saddened when Apple suffers but they deserve everything they get for the next five years.
When I see headlines like, "Oppenheimer analysts: 'Apple lacks the courage toe lead the next ge..." I shake my head. I don't care about innovation, which I refer to as "the I-word" because it's used to death and is now meaningless.

The new MacBook Pros spit in the face of items 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 (see parent post). I don't care about I-word products or super-thin products with ports too far ahead of their time. "But they dropped lots of legacy stuff on the original iMac!" I hear you cry. Let's examine that.

Technologies Apple dropped from their new desktop consumer product for 1998:

  • RS-422 serial ports (compensation: onboard 56K modem)
  • ADB (compensation: bundled USB keyboard & mouse)
  • 25-pin SCSI-1 (USB storage was far less complicated and ultimately less expensive and easier to connect)
  • Internal floppy drive (home & education users cared; nobody else did)

I Was There at the time and the press definitely latched onto the absence of the floppy drive. In my experience, most home users of that era never owned an external SCSI hard drive--no issues there. If you were a pro user with a lot of SCSI devices, you went for a Power Mac G3, maybe with a SCSI card. Problems gone.

Now imagine the original iMac (or worse, the 1999 blue & white Power Mac G3) axed all the remaining standard connectivity all at once:

  • Sound in/out
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • onboard 56K modem
  • 2x IDE
  • 2x SODIMM
  • separate power input socket
  • Mezzanine slot
  • (later on) FireWire

Now imagine the replacement for those ports were replaced with a single type of brand new port (read: you're going to be buying $225 worth of adapters). Also consider that this new port is easily conflated with USB-C, which is in itself a minefield of problems that might short out a single port, or the whole machine.

Apple... please. Stop making greatly insane Macintoshes.

—Derek, 03-Dec-2016

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