Why My Next Laptop Will Not Be A Mac

A Melancholic Rant

I recently lost all new contacts I added to my Macbook Pro and all changes I made to existing ones since probably around 2 months ago. Could be more. What happened? I updated to MacOS 10.11 after having given it roughly 1 year to weed out the biggest bugs and culprits. Apart from a few glitches it seemed to work fine. What I did not notice was that my mac lost the contact to my private CardDav server, probably due to a small bug: Instead of taking the port given in the server configuration, it always used port 8843.

But that server was my main contact storage, and so it seems my Mac continued to add any changes to the contacts to some local cache, ready to synchronise it to my CardDav server as soon as it was back. At some time in the recent past it seemed to have lost all hope and decided to just trow away all my changes. Of course I have a backup, but as the changes did not go to my server they are not in the server backup, and I also cannot find them in the Mac’s backup.

It is not the first time that a bug or intentional design decision from Apple has hit my personal workflow. There was the time Apple decided that contacts and calendars should not be synced via cable to the phone anymore (which made me set up my private WebDav server and continue to use it even after Apple un-made the decision a few months later because the user protest would not drown). Sometime before, they dropped the support for the open sync protocol. And then there was the time Apple decided no-one needed to simply drag and drop their PDF onto the iPhone via iTunes anymore — instead users were forced to first import them to iBook and then sync, which made a mess out of my article reviewing process.

There are a few more things, mostly nuisances one can work around, investing a bit more energy than before, though each time giving up a bit of the ease of use that was the reason I switched to Apple in 1996 in the form of a clunky but durable Powerbook 1400cs.

Recently I wanted to make sure an email contact gets a text-only message because I knew he would be reading it on a device that would have made reading an html rich-text mail a pain. I could not find the option in Apple Mail anymore. Maybe it is still here, but has been moved somewhere out of sight. Maybe it really is gone. Maybe Apple Mail automatically sends it back in text-only if not told otherwise. My correspondent did not complain and I forgot to ask.

Another day I was hit by a very persistent and abusive spammer, so I decided to forward their emails to their hosting provider — just to find out that you cannot forward an email in its raw form anymore. You have to copy and paste it. As I said, not really a problem, more of a nuisance you can work around. But, each one of these things is killing a little bit of the ease of use of my everyday tool.

Or think about the MacOS X upgrade a few years back that chocked on LaTeX installs, trying to move and test hundreds of thousands of files during the upgrade one for one, taking days to complete. Obviously no-one important enough at Apple tested the upgrade on a machine that did not have a relatively fresh install, and instead had been used for a few years.

My wife’s MacBook feels more and more sluggish since MacOS 10.10. We added ram but it did not help. A SSD would make a big difference I am told, but, honestly, it already has 10GB ram where 6GB are mostly free. After the MacBook being use heavily for work for more than a week. Ever heard of caching, MacOS X? I am tempted to create a persistent 6GB ram disk with the system on it…

Time moves on as well. I realised that most of my everyday workflow moved away from mac specific programs towards multi-platform tools, to programs that live on Unix or somewhere in the cloud and sometimes are nothing more than an API. Or platforms that are accessed via a web server and where the “native app” actually is little more than a web view. The mac has mostly redrawn itself to my private space — listening to music, a little bit of photo management, a bit of social media. Apple stopped support for Aperture and the missing support for integration of it with other platforms quickly started to generate small amounts of daily pain. iTunes recently made it impossible for me to quickly jump from the song I was listening to, to the album where it was contained. Even the iPhone started to bug me since the last update: Before I could simply get from the lock screen notification to the relevant app with one swipe and my pin. Now I intuitively swipe in the wrong direction first — d*mn, camera… how do I get out of here? Swiping back does nothing! — , then I swipe in the other direction — also wrong, now I get the widget screen. So I need to swipe back (this time it is only a swipe) and I tap directly on the message. Nothing happens. I swipe in one direction, directly on the message. Nothing happens. I swipe in the other one, and only now have the choice to view a simplified interfaced of the app or to respond without any of the options I like to have. And to make things worse, if I unlock without tapping again (why not swiping?) directly on the simplified interface that gives no indication whatsoever that this is actually an option, I still have to manually open the app where I got the notification in the first place!

I know, Android is not the solution. After all the years it still does not support mDNS. Or CardDav/CalDav out of the box. The lock-in to Google is still worse than anything Apple is doing on the mac. So, no alternative there, yet.

But in the world of the laptops I found Gnu/Linux getting more and more usable in recent years. Yes, there are still annoying bugs, yes, some of them seem to be intentional because how can such an obvious security flaw still exist: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/network-manager-applet/+bug/1104476? But at least I have the possibility to fix them if they bug me enough. Hey, I already fixed bugs of software written in ABAP twenty years ago without any relevant experience.

So my next Laptop will not be a Mac anymore. I might get a bit sentimental after 21 years. But it seems with Steve Jobs something else has died in Apple: The thrift to keep the ease of use, to strive for perfection in small things. Even if it means having to cut old customs once in a while. I support that. But that slow adding up of nuisances, of not caring enough for small problems, this is killing my support.

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