Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Drinking Apple's Kool-Aid

In 1999, Apple released OS 10.0 (in market-eese, OS X). I acquired my first Mac in 2000 and it came with OS X 10.1. The reason I dipped into Apple's user-hostile world was because I had been unable to find a reliable Windows-based nonlinear video editor. I'd tried several, including several versions of Adobe's Premier, and every attempt was met with frustration, failure, and non-functional features. Hell, Adobe promised that Premier would be able to communicate with Firewire DV video cameras across three versions of the program. Each time, Adobe came up with another excuse and another useless program. Finally, I accepted that Final Cut v3.0 was the best option available and started campaigning to have someone else buy a Mac for me. In the end, a television station I worked for bought me a G4 and the State of Minnesota bought my software as part of an audio project I did for the DPS and the station.

Over the next eight months, I dove into Final Cut and OS X and became something of a fan of my new system; right up until my OS support guy installed OS X v10.3.6 and I lost eight months of work. He'd done everything the way Apple designed it, but something about the way the old system had been installed was incompatible with the new OS and that caused the backup system to be incompatible with either the old OS of the new OS and every bit of my work was lost. He was embarrassed. I was pissed off. Between the two of us, I was in worse shape. For almost two years, my G4 sat mostly idle in my basement while I was stuck working in the station's dinky, crappy-sounding edit rooms and wrestling with my school's Pro Tools/Mac stations and all of their buggy features.

I was inspired, during all of this funtime, to discover for myself why so few virus authors bother with writing bugs for the Mac: "why bother, Apple will write one and build so many into the next version of OS X." In fact, watching Apple users convulsively reboot programs and their computers every few moments is a weird demonstration of human denial. "I never have to reboot my Mac," users will tell me while they wait for their Mac to reboot. It's freakin' weird, at the least.

Windows users are less deluded, I think. Most of us hate Microsoft, generally, and Bill Gates, personally. We're aware of the system's many problems, the likelihood that a Russian virus author can steal our identities and personal fortune every time we buy a book on Amazon.com, the fact that only an idiot would upgrade to Vista or Windows 7 until the OS has seen at least one significant Service Pack (to use Microsquash's odd designation for "massive bug fix"), and we realize that backing up our data on multiple storage systems is barely protection against the inevitable death of everything we own on magnetic storage media.

I can't remember ever hearing a Microsoft user rant about Bill Gate's magical powers of marketing wizardry, even though Microsoft operating system and Office owns around 93% of the personal computer market. Steve Jobs, with his paltry 3-5% of that same market is regularly worshiped by Apple's Kool-Aid'ers as "a marketing wizard." This is the same "wizard" who needed a $150 million "investment" from Microsoft and a dramatic upgrade in Office for the Mac in 1997 to save Apple from vanishing into Osborne/Atari/Compaq history. Of course, Microsoft was worried about becoming a monopoly and getting the AT&T Breakup treatment from the Justice Department. Microsoft was not worried about serious competiton from the computer "for the rest of us."

When I bought my Mac, the only bits of software I installed on the machine were Cubase 3.0 and Pro Tools v6.4. The school where I teach is a Mac-centric place and I needed to know how to use the software the school used if I wanted to work there. Cubase runs on both Windows and Macs, but it runs a lot more reliably on Windows. Pro Tools also runs on both systems, but that older verison was remarkably similar to a virus installation on Windows while running fairly reliably on a Mac. ("Fairly reliable" means not as reliably as location recording requires, but better than a total disaster.) A company, later purchased by Adobe, made a program called "CoolEdit Pro" and that was the most reliable recording program I'd used at that time. Cakewalk's Sonar had the kind of features that programs like Logic and Pro Tools v8.0 have now, but it was also insanely, frustratingly unreliable.

At the same time, I knew several professional studios that had no intention of upgrading to future versions of Mac OS or Pro Tools because they were satisfied with their functioning systems and watched with amazement at the rest of us who upgraded and lost all function with the various random, user-useless OS and program upgrades. I wrote an article at about that time that posed the question, "every software company in the industry went broke and vanished tomorrow, who would that inconvenience?" I'm still waiting for an answer. Around that same time, Microsoft was lamenting the fact that a majority of its business users were not only slow to adapt XP, but many were chugging along with Windows for Workgroups v3.11 and hadn 't even considered Win95 or 98 as a worthwhile "upgrade."

My latest bitch about the Mac is the every-edition pointless change of mind about the ideal disk format. OS 9 recommended "Mac OS Standard"for backwards compatibility and "Mac OS Standard" (HFS) for forward compatibility. OS X 10.0-10.2 recommended Mac OS Extended because of the "advantage" of built-in disk optimization. 10.3 recommendations were "Mac OS Standard (plain old HFS) is no longer a disk format option, only HFS+ (with or without journaling) and UFS." About half of the 10.4 "updates" were catestrophic viruses that could cause all manner of lost information, but Apple still recommended HFS+ formatting. OS 10.5 absolutely forbids installation of the OS on any disk that is HFS formatted and requires the user to reformat the drive for OS installation. With all of this yanking around, not a single user benefit was derived for moving from one non-standard system to the next. It's just Apple's way of reminding us that we're suckers for drinking their Kool-Aid.

With every pointless, feature-less, system-slowing Apple OS upgrade comes the obsolescence of most of our programs, plug-ins, and the opportunity for massive file loss and storage system damage; all the characteristics of a virus infection. You gotta love that. Yet, Apple fanatics view each of these likely catastrophes as the "coming of the savior." I have to wonder if the primary requirement for being an Apple customer is having a memory shorter than a working-class Republican Party member?

Every marketing con-artist in the history of humanity has been looking for customers like this--wealthy, gullible, and forgetful--and Apple has found a way to make this clan identify, personally, with their products. The only other brand I know of with such committed customers is Harley Davidson. Come to think of it, those two companies have a lot in common. Think about it.

The longer I own Apple products, the less I like them. Apple’s bug-filled, over-priced, mid-tech, low-reliability, planned-obsolescent products are the epitome of everything that is wrong with modern technology. No other company has gone so far providing so little value, outside of ENRON or Citibank. Even those companies finally lost credibility when their management and “products” were found to be worthless. When Apple’s products fail to provide the promised value, Apple comes out with the next generation of crap and their shortsighted fanatical Kool-Aid drinkers dive into the punch bowl as if they’d developed a taste for technical cyanide.

Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.