How to Beat Apple at its Game of Relentless Change

| Editorial

Apple is a very large company now. It does a lot of different things that appeal to a lot of different people. Its pace of change is enormous.  However, no one person, not even tech journalists, can engage every technology at every level. There is a way out.

Apple's new campus is so impressive, it's been dubbed a spaceship. Warp speed into the future.

As Apple has explosively grown from a single product company, mainly the Macintosh, to a consumer electronic giant, it has offered a myriad of hardware and software products. Without getting into math, this means that customers who used to be mainstream with legacy technology X become an ever decreasing part of Apple's consumer base. It's just a fact of life. But we can deal with it.

Meanwhile, Apple is under constant pressure to grow, innovate and stem powerful competing forces that seek to copy or leverage from Apple's innovations. This means that a steady flow of new products that fit together into Apple's ecosystem is required.  Howver, we aren't necessarily required to engage them at the same rate. Testing and piecemeal adoption of the best is called for.

Complexity and Fragility

Apple tries to make things simpler and easy within this ecosystem. But only simpler—not simple. One example is iCloud that seamlessly syncs, for example, your bookmarks, contacts, calendar, mail, reminders and notes amongst all your devices. It has been known to be buggy and inconsistent, and botched calendars are infuriating. iCloud Keychain ensures that all your devices are linked together in a consistent chain of encryption and trust. However, having all your banking passwords stored in the cloud, even if it's Apple's, does give one pause given the sophistication and persistence of hackers.

However, as we've seen, all this growth in products and services brings wth it a certain amount of fragility. A good example is the recent snafu regarding a lapsed Mac App Store certificate. See: "Who's Minding the Apple App Store?"

Fragility of the system aside, technology infrastructure changes. There was a time when the Internet couldn't support the wide distribution of video of any kind. Nowadays, we're on the precipice of not only 4K UHD video on the Internet but also a persistent, needful logging of customer viewing. "Got a Vizio smart TV? Here's how to stop it from spying on you." One must constantly size up and put new technologies into perspective.

For the sake of marketing, Apple tends to turn on big systems all at once and hope it all works. That doesn't mean customers should engage in wholesale adoption. Big Systems always have big problems, and the grand scale of Apple's latest Big Thing should translate into only what we need and can effectively absorb to some good end.

The Home IT Game

There is only so much time a person can spend on maintaining one's own home internet technologies. When routers act up, Internet and home Wi-Fi ges sour, it can often require hours of trouble shooting and vexing calls to customer support. Anyone who's been faced with upgrading two iPads and four family iPhones to a new OS, backing them up, plus managing an Apple Watch during the purchase of a new iPhone knows what I'm talking about.

And then there's the backup of the family Macs. Apple's Time Machine app is simple and nice, but when it goes bad, it goes horribly bad. Smart users supplement Time Machine with, for example, Carbon Copy Cloner, a backup technology that creates an external disk that's bootable and has a mirror image of every file, user and system, on the internal drive. But that takes time and consistent attention.

My advice here is to have a very considered approach to the adoption of new Apple products and services. As I said in the intro, just because Apple offers a wide range of products and services to its millions of customers doesn't mean that each customer has to engage in everything Apple offers.

Sometimes, I think that when I hear people saying that some Apple product, say, the Apple Watch is an unnecessary toy, they're realling expressing that their tolerance for additional fuss and system management is exhausted. Other times, when I see people jumping into something new from Apple on day one, say, Apple Music, and expecting everything to go perfectly, I am not surprised when they complain bitterly that Apple is too big and too callous to succeed in the future.

Too Well Connected

A tool, not an obsession. 


We are a well connected society. Somewhere, at some time, nearly everyone we know is collectively doing everything we know about. The temptation to engage further with them and the technology can be overwhelming. But the very act of technology engagement for the sake of fun or keeping up with the Jones, so to speak, belies the notion of the very human things we also need: family, health, service, and time for real relationships and personal growth. That often means activities that remove us from the technology sphere. Only technology rats win the technology rat race.

I have found that many of my readers seem to be adverse to racing forward with the relentless change by Apple. Just recently, I discovered this: "Apple’s iTunes Is Alienating Its Most Music-Obsessed Users." In that article, the author, Jesse Jarnow, points out that the older technology of Apple's iTunes, collecting, managing, and listenning to purchased music, a Thing that Steve Jobs sold us on so well, is being pushed into the background as that increasingly complex and annoying app serves up Apple's agenda, driven by changing user profiles, technology, and competition. It can be frustrating. Companies that offer a sizable niche a way out, like Swinsian, music player can gain traction here.

A Solution

Time and time again, I keep coming back to the idea of keeping one's technology life both moving forward, manifestly simple, and in perspective. That means replacing old hardware as it sags under the weight of new operating systems, but also refusing to engage in everything possible that Apple offers.

It's helpful, in my mind, to think about life's goals first. If one has a particular hobby or interest, such as music, wood working, military history, church activities, art, or sports, and then uses the technology at hand to further develop that activity, then the technology serves a higher purpose. This is, after all, one of Apple's enduring themes. The happiest people I've seen are those who are using technology to support a laudable human endeavor. That necessarily means a serious focus on an end result and dispensing with all the secondary technology gizmos.

The purpose of technology is to facilitate higher human goals. That requires precious time.

In the end, Apple delivers technology, hardware, software and services to improve people's lives. That always means focusing on the human side of what we want to achieve, dispensing with diversions and distractions and leveraging what we choose to use effectively. That entails an explicit need to outright ignore many modern tech services. If we don't do that, the pace, snafus and fragility of modern technology can drive us to distraction and despair instead of creativity and contributions.


Teaser image via Shutterstock.

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collecting, managing, and listenning to purchased music, a Thing that Steve Jobs sold us on so well, is being pushed into the background as that increasingly complex and annoying app serves up Apple’s agenda

Yes iTunes is bloated. Yes it’s annoying. But it has had one effect. I’m seriously thinking of eliminating the ~150GB of music that’s filling up my HDD and just using streaming. In a few years when I replace my MacBook Pro I won’t be able to get the TB scale drives I have now so this is a prime chance to clean up the drive and get rid of something I never use that is taking up a lot of space. The thing is, Apple’s streaming service is of no interest to me. $10/mo is about 10x more than I would be willing to pay for a radio station I only turn on occasionally. The result is that because of the utter unmitigtated disaster that is iTunes, I’m using the CBC News App and the CBC Music App for all of my listening. I almost never buy anything from iTunes any more, just rent a video every few months. On my devices at least the Music App and iTunes Store App are in the Unneeded folder long with other things I never use.

Well done Apple, you have indeed pushed me into the future. Except that at least in this little part of the future it doesn’t include Apple.


Agreed, Geo. The difference seems to me to be that the Apple of the past actually took the time to consider whether or not what they creating was a legitimately better alternative to what was available. You can spin it however you’d like, but they seem to be playing catch up and following existing trends more an more instead of skating to where the puck is headed. It hurts to say it, but I think in many ways they peaked last decade. I still appreciate their stance on consumer privacy, and I still find them the most user friendly in devices and hardware, but something like Apple Music? Don’t make me laugh. wink That is aimed squarely at the formerly radio listening crowd, not music fans. Next up: cable TV? Again, hardly earth shattering. I’m honestly beginning to think the curtain has fallen on a legitimately golden age of tech and that is just that.


Thank you, geoduck; you nailed my sentiments square-on!

I also bitterly miss the cover information contained on my vinyl & CD albums I’ve uploaded into iTunes, & I HATE iTunes’ total lack of any such song/album information for any item I might have found in browsing or in one of my (gawdawful) iTunes searches.


Geo: 150 is lightweight. Mine is punishing the scales [pun intended] at 450. I can’t use streaming because I’m past the 25K “song” limit. Way past.

So I’m tempted to split into “classical” and “other” which for me would be about 50-50 split. But the iTunes “method” of choosing a library is very weird. C’mon Apple - you know how to do better than this. Seriously - you don’t have a way to switch library once you’re running, and the only way to switch is the scarcely-documented option-key thingie. Hel-lo !

Jamie: Apple UI in general is excellent but the iTunes folks must have some secret “in” on Apple executives ! That’s the only plausible explanation for the disaster that is iTunes on Mac (or Windows, I guess, but I don’t have one so I can’t tell for sure).  The iPhone folks have it split much better:- “Music” for playing music, “iTunes Store” for buying music and videos, “App Store” for buying apps.

On OS X it should be:-
- Music for playing music
- iTunes Store for dealing with the store
- Sync for dealing with your iPhone/iPad/etc

The executives responsible for maintaining the existing combo are beyond their use-by date.



But the iTunes “method” of choosing a library is very weird. C’mon Apple - you know how to do better than this.

Same problem with Photos. I have ~170GB of pictures. I’d like to share SOME of this on iCloud Photos but not all of it. There’s no reason any shot older than the last couple of years be out there. On top of that, there’s no way I could upload my Photos library to the cloud. My service provider would just freak if I tried to push a single ~170GB file up the pipe. Yet within Photos, there’s no good way to separate out some pictures without starting a new library. Unfortunately as with iTunes swapping libraries is weird and awkward.


Option key + anything is usually an advanced option for pros to manage a computer. So using it to switch iTunes libraries is probably more of a debugging feature or for when you move your library to another hard drive. Or maybe for Apple’s internal testing team. It is almost certainly not meant to be used constantly by users to segment their music library.

Apple makes some good stuff, but not all of their stuff is so perfect. So I would recommend not trying too hard to hack around the annoyances but rather find some other solution. I’m not a big enough music (or photos) fan to know what the best solution is. This is just general advice.

iTunes - I use it only to sync my iPhone/iPad occasionally. I can stream TV Show purchases directly to my AppleTV and I rarely buy music these days. Plus I can buy it right on my iPhone anyway.

iPhoto - mostly used to offload photos from my phone to my computer. Then I toss the best ones into a few albums which iTunes syncs back to my phone.

iCloud - Don’t use it. Some apps do, but I rarely use those apps. I use Dropbox instead, including in any app that lets me choose the sync provider. I got burned by Apple’s iTools back in the day so I stopped trusting web solutions from Apple. Dropbox gave me a solid way to get data to Mac / Windows / Linux / iOS before iCloud came out. I have no reason to switch.

Apple Music - Not a music fan nor a radio listener.

iCloud Keychain - No. I generally trust Apple but don’t want all my apples in one basket. I use 1Password and Dropbox, which has the added benefit of (a) being cross-platform, and (b) extra features like password generation and viewing passwords on my phone.

AirPort Extreme - I got this as an upgrade over cheap $10-30 chinese routers I had been using. It turned out to be a pain to make it work with the Motorola cable modem I had. A few years later it is now the primary backbone in my house (the chinese routers have all died now) and it luckily works well enough with the modem and ISP I have now, but it still gives a few glitches now and then and does not have as detailed of an admin interface as other products for debugging these things.

No CD/DVD drive - I still have one in my 2011 iMac! I bought an external Superdrive with my MBA and use it also on my wife’s 2014 iMac. While this is following Apple’s way, it is basically a work-around to Apple deciding that people don’t need DVDs anymore. Rather than cable, Netflix, Hulu, or iTunes movie rentals, we tend to use the local library (and occasionally a Redbox). My wife usually watches these on the MBA while working around the house.

Anyway, this ties in well with the other TMO article about limiting the pace of adoption of new Apple technologies. I agree. Pick what works for you and don’t blindly use everything Apple makes just because it is Apple.


It isn’t about the changing face of technology, John, we aren’t talking about luddites. It’s about the ethics, intentions, and short-sightedness of the people involved. If we aren’t careful and conscious moving forward the individual rights of all of us could take a serious beating. I know with your professional background you are aware of those pitfalls, and it seems to me that particular peril is more pronounced than ever.


Greetings, John.

Time only for a quick thought.

I’m not sure that your title accurately reflects the thought thread of your thesis, and might have been more ally titled, ‘How to balance Apple tech with your needs and expectations’. Both ‘need’ and ‘expectations’ are key, if not vital, concepts for appropriate adoption and use of any technology, from Apple or anyone.

Technology, simply put, is a solution to a problem or a need. Not everyone will have a real need for every solution, or technology, that Apple will offer. Indeed, everyone will find that one or more of these solutions are not integral to their work or play. If that is the case, then engaging that solution is no solution at all but a resource-consuming diversion (time, money, sense of equanimity) that could leave one feeling less well off than before that engagement. For those who have that need - and they will know who they are - most of these solutions (not all) will be evident, if not elegant as in simple to use and efficacious.

That leads to the ‘expectations’ component. It helps to read up on what a solution offers to best appreciate which of these best fits one’s needs, as one size never truly fits all, at least not ideally. Granted, not everyone has or takes the time to read, but these solution purchases are investments in one’s own productivity. Macs, iPhones and iPads offer professional grade solutions. Some of Apple’s products, like Time Machine and Photos, are designed for private consumers and not professional grade. Knowing which are which goes far to manage expectations. A little research and comparison would go far to that end.

In my orbit, those whom I have found to be the most dissatisfied, not only with an Apple product, but any fall into two broad groups: those for whom the technology did not address a real need or problem for that individual and for whom, then, the purchase was a diversionary waste; and those for whom that product was not an optimal solution compared to a competing product, either by another company or by Apple. Admittedly, my observations only.

The key is moderation. The tech is there to serve the user and solve the user’s problems, and the user to serve the tech and find problems for the solution to solve.

John Martellaro

wab95: Your title suggestion does fit the article better, Alas, I fear such a title would have garnered roughly 2 page views.


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