The Many Joys and Trials of Living in Apple’s Ecosystem

Apple store at Park Meadows Mall, Lone Tree, CO
Apple iMac 2017
Apple iMac. The Great Enabler.

The Particle Debris article of the week comes from Christopher Curley at Business Insider..

I’m not highlighting this article because it’s so terrific. Rather, because it’s so instructive about our Mac culture.

But first, the title. Of course, as I say myself, this is an editorial, so the author gets to express his opinion any way he pleases. So we can take it or leave it.

But I must point out, in my own opinion, that the title has a built-in conceit. I call it the “secret sauce syndrome.” The title presents the promise that the prescient author will provide us with a heretofore unrealized secret that reveals why the Mac is no longer a suitable computer for him, and by editorial extension, us.


The focus of the article is the lack of user upgradeability. The presumed Holy Grail of modern computers. You may or may not agree. But my own thesis here is that there is not a single mention of what the author has achieved with his Macs that is, somehow, negated by the more closed, modern designs.

As I sit here writing, I note that I’m using a nearly five year old Mac. It has never once held me back from my reading, writing, graphics work, or podcasting. When I can’t do those things anymore with this Mac, or it dies, I’ll buy a new one.

So here’s my own opinion on Macs. We cannot worship at the alter of hardware. I know many of you that are still using five or seven year old Macs. And running, perhaps macOS Sierra or older. We’re measured by what we do, by what we achieve with our tools. Being the kid on the block with the latest, fastest Mac is a frame of mind that infects us, likely derived from a materialistic culture. And it serves us poorly.

Strapping on an anti-static, grounded cuff and replacing RAM on a Mac on the kitchen table is something that some people still enjoy. But Apple knows that the vast majority of Mac users are creatives who just want to get down to business. Some say, PC users tinker. Mac users create. (That’s probably an exaggeration.)

During this time of year when so many people remember their blessings, gather with family and friends, and, with a personal, spiritual frame of mind, try to avoid crass materialism, it’s good to remember that the Mac is a glorious tool that invites us, first and foremost, to create. Express ourselves. Bring out the best in us.

The hardware us just the enabler. The invitation. Hopefully, we’re up to the challenge.

More Debris

This next story is also instructive. Take a look before finishing here below.

At first, you may think that the author, the well-known Jason Perlow, is just being a doofus. Or writing a hit piece. I think not.

iPhone XR smartphone available in several colors
Apple’s new iPhone XR.

What this article boils down to is a clash between what Apple elects to offer us and how some users decide to reside on the fringes of the Apple ecosystem. Both parties are to blame.

First, Apple make decisions about how we ought to conduct operations within the Apple ecosystem. There’s a preference for simplicity. If you follow those conducts of operations, all will generally go well. What Apple is not so good at is designing its ecosystem with more flexibility for those who wander off the beaten path. That’s amply demonstrated in the article by how the backup and photos were handled.

But secondly, there are consumers who don’t spend enough time researching and developing their own conduct of operations. When that happens, they make assumptions about How Things Should Be. And that can cause problems. The crisis is then blamed on Apple.

For years, I’ve backed up my old iPhone to a Mac at home, then restored to my new iPhone. It’s been flawless. But for customers who live in the iPhone ecosystem without a Mac, buying a new iPhone can present mysteries and frustrations. Hence, the subtitle of author Perlow’s piece.

Apple’s consumer cloud storage doesn’t just make backing up your device inconvenient. It also makes for a very negative in-store experience.

Stories like this should be instructive for Apple, especially as it ponders the future of iTunes on the Mac, iPhone backup strategies, how much free iCloud storage is sensible, and how operations are conducted in Apple’s retail stores.

kuri home robot
The Mayfield Robotics Kuri is no more. But this PR photo is our future.

Finally, Dan Moren at Macworld takes a sober look at Apple’s future evolution.

This is a well-written article that presents us with an Apple poised to move into the future.

And yet, I can’t help wondering why there are no subtle signs that Apple is preparing itself for a future with family robots. AI is the gateway to our interaction with our future computational devices, be they computers, mobile devices, or robots. And Apple seems allergic to robots perhaps because it’s not keeping up in the AI world. Just a surmise.

We shall just have to wait to see how this all pans out.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

3 thoughts on “The Many Joys and Trials of Living in Apple’s Ecosystem

  • Back when Motorola was coming out with the Starmax Mac clone they did a study and found out that 95% of computer users didn’t upgrade their machines. Even when people complain about lack of upgradability, they don’t upgrade. They just like to feel to do so.

    The phone story – a bit of an unfortunate mess. Hopefully, not too many people affected.

  • Regarding Jason Perlow’s rant…

    Sorry, but there is absolutely no excuse for bringing an iPhone to an Apple Store to trade it in without ever having backed up the device to iCloud or iTunes. It is certainly not Apple’s fault if you get hangry while waiting 40 minutes to complete a full 6GB backup over the free in-store WiFi.

    There may be a fair number of sad people who can’t afford $12/year for 50GB of iCloud storage and who don’t own a Mac. But are we to assume that these same folks don’t own a Windows computer capable of running iTunes?

    Here’s my take: If you hate using the Apple ecosystem so much that you refuse to use either iCloud or iTunes, maybe you should consider getting an Android phone.

  • The first article is puzzling to me since Steve Jobs and the Mac basically pioneered sealed-box design, from the original Mac to the iMac to the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad, all of them scream “no user serviceable parts inside.” An upgradable Mac Pro with actual slots has been dead for years – if you want to add more storage, or a decent GPU, or other devices, Apple’s message in 2018 is still “learn to love Thunderbolt, or go elsewhere.”

    The thing is…. Thunderbolt is external PCI. The Mac Mini has a bunch of Thunderbolt/USB3.1 ports, HDMI 2.0, 10 GB/s Ethernet, and two USB 3.0 ports. Fill those ports and you’ve got a fair amount of expansion, from storage to eGPUs. “But I hate eGPUs, I want a card” you scream. “I want to swap out the CPU for a 32-core monster” you cry. Yep, you can’t fill its insides with cheap or expensive commodity PC components the way you could with the old Mac Pro, so keep dreaming until Apple someday, maybe, makes a new modular Mac Pro.

    The second article makes sense to me – if Apple recommends cloud backups in the Apple store, then they should provide enough infrastructure so that they work well. They could also provide a local backup solution that was fast. I remember backing my phone up to iTunes on iPhone launch day, and it still took half an hour or more. The fact that the author’s home setup took about 3 minutes for a cloud backup indicates this is a highly solvable problem!

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