Miami Newspaper Tells Tale of Heroic Psystar Founders & Their Battle For Mediocrity

The Pedraza brothers: Two men fighting the good fight against a corporate behemoth bent on controlling our technical lives - a company willing to trod upon Lady Liberty in the process with their "millionaire lawyers" riding around in their Bentleys and Jaguars and stuff. Sniff...It's a story for the ages.

Or so The Miami New Times would have us believe. The Pedraza brothers are the owners of Psystar, and the New Times has published an ode to these two secondhanders that reads somewhere between a love letter and a fairly tale, mixed with a splash of yellow journalism.

For instance, read this passage: "Robert cracked the code behind Apple Computer's elegant operating system, OS X. It's the engine that drives iPhones, MacBooks, and all the other shiny white toys the world loves. For more than a decade, the Silicon Valley firm has coded its operating system to work only on the firm's expensive hardware."

And this one:

"For hundreds of buyers -- and lately a score of copycats in Los Angeles and around the world -- the brothers' bold move has meant freedom: Mac's acclaimed software has been liberated from its pricey hardware."

First of all, a note to the reporter, Tim Elfrink: It's Mac OS X. And it's Apple's Mac OS X, not Mac's OS X. This dude is one of those folks who uses "Mac" as the company's name some of the time.

Anyway, look at the use of the phrases "expensive hardware" and "pricey hardware," which are used to put a bias in the reader's mind. The brothers, on the other hand, strike a blow for "freedom," and make "bold moves," biased phrases intended to set them up on a pedestal.

Likewise, Psystar has a "tiny warehouse," while Apple is a "giant firm." Apple also employees "millionaire lawyers," but the brothers will fight, "because they think the courts will eventually agree with them, and maybe most of all, because they don't like a bully telling them what to do."

Apple is a "bully," and that concept is presented not as the opinion of someone being written about, but rather as a known fact as presented by the reporter.

All in all, it's a six page report - six frakking pages - three of which detail how the brothers overcame having a father who was jailed for drug-related offenses, but triumphed over their resulting poverty to eventually form Psystar. It's real tear-jerker stuff, to be sure, especially the parts about what great students they were, and the near-death experience Rudy Pedraza had in a traffic accident that helped him find focus in life.

Bah. It's a bunch of crap. Not the details - I don't know the Pedraza brothers from Adam - but the tone, the language, the lack of understanding of some basic issues, and the brazen attempt to cast these two as heroic Davids fighting a corporate Goliath, all without any context for what's really at stake. The whole thing isn't worth the digital ink it's printed on, let alone the trees that died for the print version of the damned thing.

So please allow me to provide that context. I've been wanting to write something about why I think it's very important for the computing industry as a whole for these two sacks of crap to lose, and this is a good excuse to do so.

Psystar, reporter Tim Elfrink, and other defenders of this company have made much about how we, as buyers of Mac OS X, should be free to do with it as we please once we've bought it, whether or not Apple's EULA says otherwise. On the face of it, this seems like an easy argument to get behind, perhaps something like the argument against record labels who didn't want us to be able to rip CDs to our computers.

There's no real comparison between those two situations, however, and the biggest aspect of this is that because Apple sells Mac OS X as an OS for its own hardware, the retail price of the OS is heavily subsidized by the profits Apple makes on that "pricey" and "expensive" hardware. Mac OS X has always been less expensive than Windows, despite Microsoft's substantially larger economies of scale.

Apple can afford to do this because it, alone of all the computer makers on the planet, is able to sell its hardware at a premium, and that premium pays for all the R&D Apple does and the development of Mac OS X. In other words, you don't get the awesomeness of Mac OS X without Apple's hardware business.

Companies like Psystar, PearPC, Quo, and the other would-be cloners are just leeching off of Apple's hardware business, especially with Snow Leopard, which was priced at the retail level (at US$29) as an upgrade from Leopard. Were Apple forced to allow companies to sell Mac clones, the retail price of Mac OS X would have to increase if Apple's hardware business were to take a hit.

This stuff doesn't occur in a vacuum, something that Mr. Elfrink doesn't seem to comprehend, despite having the audacity to preach at us under the guise of journalism. (Yeah yeah yeah, I'm preaching, too, but I'm doing so in a flat-out opinion piece, not a news article).

The biggest reason, however, that I am praying to the gods I do not believe in for Psystar to fail is not that I own a few shares of AAPL (I do, but that's not the reason), it's because far from thinking these guys are trying to liberate us from Apple's tyranny of heavy-handedness, I see Psystar as trying to chain us to the tyranny of mediocrity.

The Mac is awesome, in my opinion. I love the platform. The platform consists of two elements, hardware and software, that work in harmony. They are able to do so because Apple controls both of those elements. Mac OS X has to work on a narrowly defined field of computers, and that allows Apple to ensure that it does so.

Windows, on the other hand, is good enough for some folks, and hundreds of billions of dollars every year are spent by companies and individuals on an army of IT chimps many tens of thousands strong around the world whose job is to deal with all the problems inherent in an ecosystem where hardware is controlled by hundreds of companies and software controlled by another.

Yes, that camp gets the benefit of cheaper (and almost always uglier, but to each his own) hardware and a choice of vendors, not to mention not having to deal with a company as arrogant as Apple can be, but we Mac users have chosen instead for a proprietary ecosystem where things just work.

The greater expense to enter that ecosystem (in the form of more expensive computers that don't suck) pays for that "just working" thing, and at the same time limits Apple's reach to a small percentage, but profitable percentage, of the market, even if that percentage is growing. For us, it's an easy choice.

I laugh at the way Windows people deal with what I think is computing mediocrity, just as many Wintel-heads laugh because they think I pay too much for my computer. Whatever, it's a wide world, and there's plenty of room for both approaches in the market.

Psystar, however, wants to take that choice away, and chain us, instead, to the same mediocrity that is inherent to any open-licensing model. That they would destroy the very source of their hacked up pieces of crap is, apparently, lost on them. That destruction would either take the form of higher prices for Mac OS X, the same sorts of onerous registration methods like those employed by Microsoft, or the breakdown of how smoothly Mac OS X works on legions of crappy hackintoshes.

Of course, what would really happen is that Psystar would be out-Delled by Dell, Emachines, Asustek, and maybe even HP, and would find itself quickly ignored by both the computing-buying public and the media, and even by all those smack-talking bloggers that Tim Elfrink complains about in his article. Nobody wins if Psystar wins, not even Psystar.

What would be even worse, however, is that if Psystar were to win, the courts would basically be ruling that proprietary systems are a no-no. That, to me, is simply unthinkable. We've seen what kind of crap we have to deal with in open-licensing models in the computing world. I'd like to see more proprietary competition in this market, not less.

While that's not likely to happen at this stage of the game, forcing Apple to allow cloning would be a major step backwards for everyone.

In the meanwhile, shame on The Miami New Times and Tim Elfrink for a poorly researched, and even more poorly presented piece of bad journalism.