Sunday, January 28, 2018

Why my next laptop isn't gonna be a Mac, either

I'm typing this in an early build of TenFourFox Feature Parity Release 6. This version contains speculative fixes for hangs on Facebook and crashes with textboxes on some systems, plus tuned-up UI, accelerated video frame colour conversion and -- the biggest feature -- basic adblock integrated directly into the browser core. The basic adblock is effective enough that I've even started running "naked" without Bluhell Firewall and it's so much quicker that there's no add-on overhead. I have some more features planned with a beta somewhere around mid-February. Watch for it.

Meanwhile, Raptor has announced their first production run on the Talos II has begun, their big, beefy, open and fully-auditable POWER9-based beast -- check out this picture of their non-SAS production sample motherboard. I'm really looking forward to mine arriving hopefully sometime in February. It's been delayed apparently by some supplier shenanigans but if they're moving to mass production, they must have enough parts to get it to us early orderers (my order was in August 2017).

I bought the Talos II because I wanted something non-x86 without lurking proprietary obscenities like the Intel Management Engine (or even AMD's Platform Secure Processor) that was nevertheless powerful enough to match those chips in power, and the only thing practical and even close to it is modern Power ISA. It had to be beefier than the Quad G5 I'm typing this on, which is why beautiful but technically underwhelming systems like the AmigaOne X5000 were never an option because this 11-year-old Quad mops the floor with it (no AltiVec, wtf!). It had to be practical, i.e., in a desktop form factor with a power draw that wouldn't require a second electrical meter, and it had to actually exist. Hello, Talos. It was pretty clear even before I decided on the specific machine that my next desktop computer wasn't going to be a Mac; I briefly toyed with gritting my teeth and waiting around for whatever the next iteration of the Mac Pro would be, but eventually concluded pro users just weren't a priority demographic to Apple's hardware designers anymore. After all, if we were, why would they make us wait so long? And why should I wait and pay buck$$$ for another iteration of an architecture I don't like anyway?

But now I'm not sure we're even a priority to their software designers. Here's where I lost it: from the idiots who couldn't even secure a password field properly came their bloodyminded attempt to improve the security of the operating system by removing command line telnet and ftp (directly from the Apple CSR, "it is not possible to access FTP through the terminal, because High Sierra is a more secure operating system" [sic]) -- and they even screwed the removal up.

That's the absolute last straw for me. Sure, as someone who actually uses them on my internal network, I could reinstall them or anything else Apple starts decommissioning in Homebrew (right up until Apple takes some other component away that can't be easily restored in that fashion, or decides to lock down the filesystem further). Sure, hopefully if I upgrade (I use this term advisedly) my Haswell i7 MacBook Air from Sierra to High Sierra, I might not have too many bugs, and Apple might even fix what's left, maybe, or maybe in 10.14, maybe. Sure, I could vainly search for 64-bit versions of the tools I use, some of which might not exist or be maintained, and spend a lot of time trying to upgrade the ones I've written which work just fine now (breaking the unified build I do on my G5 and being generally inconvenient), and could click through the warning you'll now get in 10.13.4 whenever you open a 32-bit app and leap whatever hoops I have to jump through on 10.14 to run them "without compromise."

Sure, I could do all that. And I could continue to pay a fscking lot of money for the privilege of doing all that, too. Or, for the first time since 1987, in over thirty years of using Macs starting with my best friend's dad's Macintosh Plus, I could say I'm just totally done with modern Macs. And I think that's what I'll be doing.

Because the bottom line is this: Apple doesn't want users anymore who just want things to keep working. Hell, on this Quad in 10.4, I can run most software for 68K Macs! (in fact, I do -- some of those old tools are very speedy). But Classic ended with the Intel Macs, and Rosetta crapped out after 10.6. Since then every OS release has broken a little here, and deprecated a little there, and deleted a little somewhere else, to where every year when WWDC came along and Apple announced what they were screwing around with next that I dreaded the inevitable OS upgrade on a relatively middling laptop I dropped $1800 on in 2014. What was it going to break? What new problems were lurking? What would be missing that I actually used? There was no time to adapt because soon it was onto next year's new mousetrap and its own set of new problems. So now, with the clusterflub that Because I Got High Sierra's turned out to be, I've simply had enough. I'm just done.

So come on, you Apple apologists. Tell me how Apple doesn't owe me anything. Tell me how every previous version of OS X had its bugs, and annual major OS churn actually makes good sense. Tell me how it's unfair that poor, cash-starved Apple should continue to subsidize people who want to run perfectly good old software or maintain their investment in peripherals. Tell me how Apple's doing their users a favour by getting rid of those crufty niche tools that "nobody" uses anyway, and how I can just deal. If this is what you want from your computer vendor, then good for you because by golly you're getting it, good and hard. For me, this MacBook's staying on Sierra and I'll wipe it with Linux or FreeBSD when Sierra doesn't get any more updates. Maybe there will be a nice ARMbook around by then because I definitely won't be buying another Mac.


  1. quad core

  2. I hear you. I've moved all I could of my workflow to platform-agnostic open source tools as much as I could.

    I still rely on old versions of proprietary software here and there. But when the time comes to retire my G5 (and funds allow for a Talos), I'm hoping to be able to cover all my use cases with the simplicity and elegance I need.

    I didn't update to the newest Mac OS on my only Intel Mac just because it is such a pain to use. I had to help my brother create disk images to run applications that break with the new file system and get to the old gold standard of turning on the computer and getting a clean desktop so you can work.

    Apple is learning from Microsoft and creating an OS that gets on our way, and forgetting with Microsoft that no one turns a computer on to run Mac OS or Windows.


  3. This... font... omg. I can't even read the article.

    1. Just zoom in. Why comment on such minutiae?

  4. You're right that Apple has pushed aside pro users. My last and final Apple laptop is the one I am using now, a 2012 Macbook Pro running 10.11.6. I can't get over how the new Macbooks are missing all the ports I use. Other professionals in my field (graphic design) are doing the same and investing in generation old Macbooks for the same reason. I still have and use a few powerpc just because they run older software I use with so much stability and ease. Thank you for putting out this browser for us.

  5. All this is (in part) the reason why I'm still using a PowerBook running 10.5 as my primary computer, and intend to do so as long as possible.

  6. I luckily don't need a powerful laptop, but I took the Hackinstosh route five years ago (actually starting with a Dell Mini 9 ;-) ) and I don't think I'll ever change my mind... (my Desktop has cost me about 500€, say 600€ with the SSD I've added later on and I'm still quite happy with it.

  7. I feel ya. For me OSX ended at 10.6 on intel. After a 5k mbp got dumbed down post firmware upgrade to stop it chernobyling to death (later there was a class action..but hey!) to being outrun by the same generation 1700$ ibook over. Also the dev tools started to really annoy me. Sad, but I get it.

  8. Sad story, but I agree. And then there is this:

    But then, what do you expect from a company where the CEO states that his vision for computing is an iPadPro with plastic keyboard ?

  9. I understand where you are coming from, I have similar thoughts. My late-2013 retina MBP has remained on Sierra, as I've yet to find a compelling reason to update to the buggier new version.

    Baffles me why they've removed telnet and ftp. Still commonly used tools with virtualised servers, appliances that don't run a GUI.

  10. macOS is still OK, if you need ProTools or Adobe or Maya, Ableton...

    I wrote a book about Windows NT, in an attempt to understand it. That was 25 years ago, and I still don't understand it, although it seems to be getting better. I believe that forcing Windows 10 into mobile platforms and ARM SoCs is forcing them to clean things up. Rather like macOS had to go on a diet to ship iOS.

    Sure, as a science-type applications programmer, I use Linux a lot. But I prefer the Mac as a platform most of the time. I have ported Linux applications to macOS, via MacPorts and Portage and some Homebrew, and there again things seem to be converging.

    Which is to say, strange as it may seem, that everyone is converging on Linux.

    I have been using Fedora on my little laptop. But the only Linux I know really well is Gentoo/Funtoo. As such, I like the system architecture of Chromium OS, and yet the user-level model is untenable. Plan9's "everything is a file" is closer to usable than "everything is a cloud".

    On my Project List is an audit of macOS, removing everything that is still subject to the GPL. The reason that these tools are rotting is that Apple does not want to stumble over GPL3, and nobody (that would be us) uses those tools anyway.

    Debian is surprisingly solid on my G4 machines. But they are dropping support for ppc32 and ppc64le...

    If you want a current, Linux 4.15 system with GCC 7.3 and SSP PIE etc sanitization, I have a Gentoo Mac G4 box running now.

    1. getting off-topic: Would you be willing to share your Gentoo experience ?? I've procrastinated installing linux on my Ibook G4 (System Version:Mac OS X 10.5.8 (9L31a) Kernel Version: Darwin 9.8.0) but feel ready to do it now.

  11. For me, there's nothing as depressing as going into an Apple store and seeing the affluent/decadent culture of "pay-to-be-respectable" pretense.

    A couple of years ago, thought about working at the Genius Bar (might be a good extra income), but on speaking with the manager, and showing him my experience with Mac systems, he zoomed right in on my work setting up compatibility between newer and older systems, and said I "wouldn't be a good fit" because they are devoted to keeping their customers on the "Cutting Edge" (selling them something new as often as possible).

    But Microsoft isn't any better. On chatting with support because my Hotmail (that I've had for 20 years) is just out of control on what it sends to junk-mail - like important correspondences I've subscribed to, the tech replied "It's not for you, the user, to decide what is junk mail"!!! So they assume the right to tell me what communications are permissible.

    At this stage for serious work, I'm finding a way to back-port or use open-source. The big-shots Apple and Microsoft are little more than Deep-State Entertainment/Surveillance complexes.

    P.S. Solus OS Linux is looking very promising. Finally getting rid of dependency hell and allowing individual apps to keep the models they need, and its a rolling release specifically designed to co-install beside Windows and OSX on EFI machines.

  12. I would like to thank all people who have contribuate to this webbrowser. I can use as longer i can a G5 powerPC Mac OX X 10.5.8 in french language.

  13. On Intel, I just reluctantly upgraded to El Capitan from Mavericks, the main reason being the Spectre and Meltdown fixes. High Sierra came with so many bugs, and Sierra doesn't offer anything that I need. Also, I can finally use software like Office 2016.

    For a long time, Mac OS X clearly beat Windows, be it an insecure XP, buggy Vista or confusing 8. With Windows 10, though, things are much smoother. There are privacy concerns, but changing settings lessens the issue. In any event, Windows 10 was released in July 2015, and while it does receive incremental upgrades, the system remains Windows 10 at its core.

    macOS, however, had three major OS releases since September 2015: El Capitan, Sierra and High Sierra. These bring so many changes that I worry about apps not working in newer versions. I'd rather see an LTS option like with Ubuntu. I will be trying 18.04 LTS. I need a secure, stable OS, not bells and whistles.

    I'm not in any way defending Windows or Ubuntu 100%. Each system has its own strengths and weaknesses. However, I'd like to see Apple return to its days of offering a strong, reliable and dependable OS. Make macOS focus on that, not on iOS gimmicks. Give us an option to restore the old theme (Lucida Grande and skeuomorphism) if we want it; I want a professional look, not a baby toy, and so I use the Lucida Grande font script. There is competition. Apple should give us a pro system worth the premium to get work done.

  14. Windows/mac-lite user here, I hate to say it, but we (as in, the people who think of a computer as a keyboard, mouse, monitor/laptop screen, CISC-type CPU with discrete graphics (or integrated)) are no no longer Apple's target demographic. Look at their ads for the iPad, involving the girl who responds to her neighbour asking "what's a computer?", it clearly shows Apple doesn't care about the mid to super advanced user and just wants everyone to eat s***waffles with their entire macOS and iOS ecosystem.


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