How Apple Broke my Heart

Yes, it’s true: I’m no longer an Apple guy. In fact I can hardly stand Apple, and I’m retiring my Apple devices one by one. I’ve deleted their software, cancelled my subscriptions. I will never give them another dime if I can help it.

What has brought me to this point? Well, let’s start with a little ancient history.

My computing history #

My first computer was a Lenovo laptop, on which I installed Ubuntu. I was twelve at the time, and building my own computer was a life changing experience.

The computer worked well, but it needed a lot of maintenance. Every week a new problem appeared. I learned a lot in this time. But there were weeks where I wasn’t able to do anything other than work on the computer, which was annoying.

I also worked on computers owned by my parents, all Windows machines. They had a similar problem: their hardware was old, and Windows updates often broke things.

My first apple computer #

When I purchased my first Apple computer (a 2012 Macbook Pro), it was a breath of fresh air. It just worked. Updates happened in the background, and rarely broke anything. They were fast and slick and made you look cool in coffee shops.

I loved it. I was an Apple fanboy for the next decade, investing countless thousands of dollars in their hardware. I purchased phones and pads, software and services.

I’ve since worked at four companies that purchased Apple computers for me. Tens of thousands of dollars invested. At the time, they seemed miles ahead of the competition.

But my youthful infatuation has finally met with reality, and has found Apple lacking. How did this happen?

How did this happen? #

I loved Apple, and was willing to forgive many small wrongs. But they’ve made many disappointing decisions in the last few years. Ever since Jobs died, I’ve felt less and less connected to Apple as a company, and I feel like a dog that has been kicked enough times to finally risk striking out on my own.

What decisions have disappointed me so much? Oh let me count the ways...

Lack of privacy #

I love the internet. It’s a wonderful tool for human flourishing. But I hate the privacy consuming monster that much of it has become. Privacy should not be a luxury reserved for the rich, nor is privacy something that only the lawless should care about. Surveillance tech has gone way too far, and much of that has been because of Big Tech.

Apple does have a better record than others, which is partly why I stuck with them for so long. They've made better privacy decisions than most tech companies. But like Google, they pry into your stuff way too much. And because of the walled garden that they have created, your privacy is only as good as their willingness not to look.

Let’s see what the Times has to say about Apple’s privacy decisions:

The iPhone is a gluttonous collector of user information. The devices beam location data as well as information about Wi-Fi usage and internet usage to Apple’s servers, even when we think the devices are slumbering. That type of data opens up iPhone owners to alarmingly accurate tracking by third parties, including their whereabouts, political leanings, job and family status, ethnicity and net worth.

Oh… yeah. “A gluttonous collector of user information”. Sounds about right. It’s like carrying a venomous snake in your pocket: seems cool, until it bites you in the face.

Should billionaires own our data? #

I know a lot of people who were upset about the news that Elon Musk is (possibly?) buying Twitter. I think there’s a lesson there: we put too much trust in silicon valley billionaires. I don’t want my data to be sold to the highest bidder, to do with as he pleases. I don’t want to trust in the good graces of a billionaire or bureaucrat. (which billionaire makes no difference to me)

Anti-user software #

There’s an inherent problem with virtually all silicon valley software, and I’m here to tell you about it.

Programmers know that storing passwords requires multiple levels of protection. We no longer store passwords as text on our servers, because someone could break in and download all of them. We create elaborate programs to encrypt the passwords in our databases, so that no one can see the plain-text password of a user, not even the creator of the software.

If we do that for passwords, what about the much more valuable data that the password protects? Shouldn’t that be protected too?

They’ve locked the doors, but left the windows open. And it doesn’t take much to sneak through those windows and steal your valuables.

Any user data that you say is “secure” should be encrypted, preferably with a key that the user controls. This is easy to do now, and many privacy-respecting companies are doing exactly this. But Big Tech companies don't do that, and we know why: they want the ability to see your data.

But nothing to worry about, their privacy policy says that they won’t look. They choose not to look. For now.

Anti-competitive #

One of the most monopolistic companies of our time is Microsoft, founded by the power hungry monopolist Bill Gates. They set a high standard for anti-competitive software. But they were caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and that taught the other big tech companies a valuable lesson: don't get caught.

An XKCD comic mocking anti-competitive legislation.

I think it's fairly obvious that other big tech companies have the same anti-competitive tendencies that Microsoft does, but they’re more discreet about it (or they have better lobbyists?)

Apple’s App Store is one of the worst of the bunch: if you don’t obey Apple’s rules and give them their 15% cut (recently lowered thanks to lawsuits, unless you're unlucky enough to be Epic Games), you can’t build apps for iPhones. There’s no legal way to get around this.

Android phones have their own problems, but at least you can get around the Play store if you want to. You can download app packages and install them on your android phone, with no help from Google. I can’t believe I’m giving props to Google here, but it’s much better this way.

There’s never been a better time to switch #

There are a few Mac apps that I'm going to miss, and several companies. Mac apps are some of the prettiest, and they’re generally well put together. Not the ones that Apple develops (any more), but companies like the OmniGroup, Panic, Alfred, BetterTouchTool, they’re great companies. I'll miss the joy of working with these apps.

But with the exception of these Mac-exclusive companies, most apps these days work surprisingly well on Linux, or have very good alternatives. Many of the apps we use day-to-day are now online, no longer limited by platform. I was able to find good alternatives almost immediately upon switching to Linux, and it didn't take me long to start to prefer many of the Linux alternatives. Few things are as polished on Linux as they are on Mac, but I would gladly give up a small amount of visual polish for all the benefits I get from Linux.

And some apps work better on Linux, such as Docker. Docker on Linux is at least ten times faster and more efficient than on Mac. I used to painstakingly shut down all Docker containers before switching projects, to keep my MacBook “Pro” from crashing. They run constantly now on my Linux machine, with no slowdown or overheating.

Apple’s hardware isn’t what it used to be #

It used to be my impression that Apple hardware was the best. Sure you paid a little more for it, but it always worked out of the box, and didn’t require a lot of fiddling. My first computer was an old Lenovo, I installed Linux on it, and was constantly working on it. Apple computers, back in the day, never required that.

Sadly, that seems to have changed. I purchased a new MacBook Pro three years ago, in 2018, and I’ve never been happy with it. It’s clunky, it’s slow, it frequently crashes on me, and the battery has never lasted more than an hour or two. It’s a bad laptop, probably the worst I’ve ever used (except the ancient Lenovo). When I finally bought a new computer and started using my System76 Thelio full-time, it was a breath of fresh air, akin to my first experience with Apple.

Cooling problems #

Apple also has a long history with cooling problems: they sacrificed speed and efficiency for thinness, to make their computers look as thin as possible. That rankles me. My laptop was always overheating and throttling itself to prevent more overheating. That was a big reason why it was always so slow, because any app of significant size caused it to overheat.

Perhaps I got unlucky, and perhaps Apple has fixed much of this by now. I’ve heard that the M1 Macbook Pros are excellent, much quieter and more powerful (although they may still have significant throttling problems). I suspect they were working hard on Apple Silicon in 2018, and that’s why I ended up with a junk laptop. But love lost once is often lost forever, and wrestling with that monster for two years made me think that perhaps there was a better way.

And I was right.

Linux is better than it’s ever been #

I have been incredibly surprised and delighted by my experience with Linux so far. I’ve been using Pop!_OS, and I think it’s the best operating system I’ve ever used. Updates happen automatically, you rarely have to reboot, and customization options are truly endless. You don’t have to put up with anything in Linux: if it annoys you, you can change it. Icons, mouse cursors, window managers, even login screens and boot loaders (whatever that is) are all 100% customizable by you.

I’ve been experimenting with a window manager called awesome, and it’s easily better than any Mac window manager I ever tried (and I tried a lot of them). It makes me faster, helps my RSI, and gives me joy. Can’t ask for more than that.

I’ve definitely been getting into the weeds here, but it’s also nice that you don’t have to customize anything. Pop! works great out of the box for most people, no customizations required. I worked with stock Pop! for at least six months before I was comfortable changing anything. You can customize anything, but you don’t have to.

The gaming situation #

One last note about games: I don’t do a ton of gaming, but I have built up a pretty impressive library of Steam Games over the years. However, Apple recently disabled support for 32 bit apps on my computer. In a single update, I went from 200+ games at my finger tips to less than 100.

Not cool Apple. Not cool at all.

Funny enough, thanks to the power of Proton, all of those games and the few Windows-exclusive games I own work beautifully on Linux. Who knew we would see a day when Linux was far better for gaming than Apple? In one fell swoop, Apple has gone from a decent gaming computer to a truly abysmal one.

These are the kinds of anti-user decisions that drive me nuts, regardless of the reasoning behind them.

In summary #

Apple has gone from a company that put their users first, to a company that doesn’t seem to care about their users. Their recent decisions have made it more and more clear that they care mostly about their bottom line. And I’m done supporting that crap.

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