Apple lets Ive design iOS 7? Is Jony Ive really that good?

What can I say – Personally I thought the iPhone 3G was the peak in quality of iPhone design by Apple. For me, the iPhone 4 and 5 were a huge step back. Sadly, the durability of the device was sacrificed for a futuristic look, despite making the phone impractical and super fragile. At least with the iPhone 5 the back side of the phone is no longer made of glass (what a silly, silly idea!), but it’s still made of aluminium, which again, scratches and bends out of shape quite easily, making the phone look ugly pretty quickly. I wouldn’t mind the black iPhone 5 for example, but I know that soon enough, the scratches on the black edges will expose the aluminium underneath, and make the phone really ugly.

I also thought the Unibody Macbook Pro really sucked when it first came out. The aluminium body is easily scratched, dented, and once bent it is impossible to bend it back into shape. Plus, my model is the one with the really sharp edges, notorious for the “slit wrists” effect (this was fixed in later models, but no apology was issued to those of us who still own the knife-sharp models). Jony then repeated the same horrible mistake with the iPad. My iPad fell on a soft rug a couple of weeks ago, from a distance of only 30cm, and it still got its edges dented and bent (but thankfully the glass did not break). 6 month ago, one of the rubber “legs” on my Unibody Macbook Pro cracked and fell off. I went to the Apple store and discovered they do not sell the plastic leg, but instead replace the entire bottom panel of the laptop. I was shocked. Thankfully I have Apple Care, and it was replaced free of charge, but seriously Apple?! To make things worse, the first MBP Unibody I have (which died and was resurrected) still has black holes to the left of the trackpad, where my left hand rests. Those holes were caused by, surprise surprise, my wedding band! It turns out that when I was using my laptop bare footed, with my feet touching the floor (meaning I was grounded, electrically speaking), micro-sparks would occur between my wedding band and the aluminium casing. Those sparks eventually made deep, visible holes in the casing! I thought at first that it was dirt and I tried to clean it. However a closer look revealed actual holes. It is impossible to fix.

Jony Ive: Those products are used in the real world. They are not sitting in a museum inside a thick glass box. Sure, they looks pretty, but they are not practical. Want to make it practical? why don’t you make future Apple devices using carbon fiber?

I’m sorry but I think Aluminium is an extremely poor choice for the outer shells of electronic devices. Plastic for the iPad would have been so much better! Carbon Fiber even more so. The plastic that was used for the iPhone 3G was fantastic – it was shiny, hard, durable and it looked great. The iPhone 3G also felt way better in my hand. Nobody is going to convince me that carving into aluminium is better than producing a high quality plastic mould. There are enough companies out there producing really beautiful laptops, that are way more durable than Apple’s.

So now Jony Ive is doing iOS 7 User Interface Design? I really hope this is not going to be a “New Coke” moment for Apple. In any case, we are about to find out (In 2 days, to be exact).

Goodbye Apple?

I don’t like the way things are going with Mac OS X. My fears that something was slowly getting worse, were validated yesterday while visiting the Apple Store’s Genius Bar. While my laptop was being checked for issues, I told the Genius who was taking care of me that I have not rebooted the laptop in 27 days. He said that not rebooting might cause instability. He recommended I reboot my laptop at least once a week. When I looked at him incredulously, he called another Genius who was standing in the next stall, and that other Genius confirmed it.

Really? An Unix OS with a BSD Core going unstable if not rebooted every week?

The truth is that I look at the system logs, and I don’t like what I’m seeing. There are things going on under the hood that are quite worrying and annoying. There are too many errors and warnings in the logs. For a company that prides itself on producing cleanly designed products, I would expect the same philosophy would be applied under the hood. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The “rumor” in chat rooms is that in truth, Apple hates us Geeks. That the ideal Apple customer is the typical mindless Zombie user, who buys products because of their aesthetics and because they “just work”. The user who wants simplicity, and who won’t sniff around log files. It feels almost like Apple has become more of an “iOS” company, and is becoming less and less of a “Mac OS X” company.

This caused me to start researching into alternative hardware – a thin & light 15″ laptop that will run Ubuntu Desktop for me, have a quad core i7 processor under the hood, with at least 8Gb RAM, and a very fast GPU with dedicated 1Gb RAM. It is this search that made me realize that Apple’s competition is shooting itself in the foot, and is literally driving consumers away into Apple’s open arms.

However: The non-Apple scene is a mess!

How come? Well, When was the last time you tried to shop for a “PC” Laptop recently? Have you seen how many processor options are available even within a single family of processors? How many Intel i5 and i7 variants are out there? How many GPU Types and Variants are out there? How many types of disk drive standards? Sizes? Speeds? Protocols? Cache sizes? TRIM Support anyone?

The truth is that the moment you step outside of Apple’s realm, you find yourself in a jungle. The “Experts” all have their opinions on what the best laptop/desktop is. Who do you trust? Who do you believe? And for how long will their opinions hold true? Probably not too long…

This reminded me of that research about consumer happiness as a function of choice. It turns out that when consumers have too many options to choose from, they will first be overwhelmed with the selection, and later, they will be unhappy with their selection,  thinking there might have been a better product they could have chosen. But give them just 2 ~ 4 products to choose from, and they will be absolutely happy, believing they selected the best product. Knowing this, let’s look at Apple’s product offerings: You basically get to choose whether you want a light laptop with less features, or heavy laptop with more “pro” features, then the screen size and resolution, and then the amount of RAM and Disk Space, and you’re done!

If only it was so simple with non-Apple hardware, I am pretty certain less people would switch to Apple products.

One thing is for sure: Apple is beginning to disappoint me, and I am now on the look out for a great, thin, sturdy laptop with great specs. It will run Linux for me, and will NOT require a weekly reboot just to keep things “stable”.

 

R.I.P: Mogul (My good old MacBook Pro)

Last week “Mogul”, my trusty old Macbook Pro Unibody (circa 2008, basically the first model that came out) has decided to die a sudden death. 30 minutes before its sudden departure from this world, it helped me locate the address of a local motel where I then spent the night mourning its loss.

When you go through some rough times together with someone (or in this case, some object), you become attached to that object. It’s been there for you, and it served its purpose. Sometimes I feel It’s really like the Rifleman’s Creed, but my version is the version for geeks:

This is my Macbook. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My Macbook is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My Macbook, without me, is useless. Without my Macbook, I am useless. I must code with my Macbook true. I must code better than my competitor, who is trying to steal my market share. I must take market share, before he does. I will…

My Macbook and myself know that what counts in this war is not the software we write, the noise of our marketing department, nor the public relations we make. We know that it is the sales that count. We will sell…

My Macbook is human, even as I, because it is my Macbook. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its ports and its unix. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my Macbook clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will…

Before the universe, I swear this creed. My Macbook and myself are the defenders of my company. We are the masters of our competitor. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is ours and the competitor is begging!

I then started going through the following stages of human grief:

Stage 1: Denial

I thought it was some sudden barometric pressure, humidity, or some weird voodoo in the firmware. Maybe a ZAP to the PROM? Maybe the battery died? Maybe it just needed a charge? I couldn’t believe at that stage that the computer died, even though the signs were not very encouraging. However every day, I tried to turn it on. Maybe today will be my lucky day? I said to myself. But its death was very real :-(

Stage 2: Depression

I was sad and depressed. How could this happen to me? All those days of lost work, how will I ever catch up? What if the data is also gone? My last Time Machine backup is pretty recent, but still, a few weeks old…!

I spent the week without my Macbook pretty sad and lonely. What made this worse, is that I had to borrow a laptop from my dad. Guess what, it was an ASUS laptop, with Windows 7 on it. I was grateful to have a machine to work on, and I did manage to accomplish almost everything I needed to accomplish, but I suffered with that machine. I suffered bad. Microsoft’s platform is just plain horrible, even with their latest “achievement”, Windows 7.

Stage 3: Anger!

At this stage, I was angry. I was angry at Apple, at myself, and with the world in general. Here’s a list of what I was angry at, and why:

  • Apple – Because when I just bought the laptop, the hinge was already loose and holding the laptop at an angle the screen would close on my fingers. I brought it to the shop, and the Apple Geeks said that was normal. But the next Unibody revision saw this problem fixed!!! Grrrr!
  • Apple – Because after a few months, I discovered my optical drive did not work. I discovered this the first time I really needed it (to burn an ISO of a Linux OS that I needed to install on a server). I was traveling at a country without an Apple Store, so I decided I had enough time until my warranty expires, and I burned that ISO on an external burner. I then reached Munich (Germany) with my travels, where I took the Macbook into an official Apple store. They decided my cdrom was fine, and even came up with some logical sounding excuse: I had modified my EFI and the cdrom was affected by this, but when I left Munich I discovered they were wrong. I restored my EFI to the original firmware, and the cdrom still did not work. I couldn’t even boot from a brand new, store bought copy of Snow Leopard!!
  • Apple – Because the laptop only held a charge for 2 hours, even with a brand new battery! When I wanted to use the lower power nVidia, the screen was blinking, and even though many people report this problem, Apple won’t admit a fault in that series of Macbook, and won’t replace the motherboard! The solution: Use the higher power nVidia 9600GT, and the screen won’t blink.
  • Myself – Because I did not buy Apple Care! And if I had AppleCare, I would not have to buy a new Macbook like I did.
  • Myself – Because maybe I wasn’t gentle enough with my Macbook. Although I never dropped it, and for its age, it looks pretty damn near-mint condition.

Stage 4: Acceptance

I had to accept reality – My Macbook was RIP! And the sooner I repair it, or find a replacement, the better. The sooner I can get back to my Mac profile, the sooner I will get rid of the Windows laptop. It has become a holy goal, worthy of my time and energy.

That’s when I started to look for solutions, and I found not one, but two solutions!

Solution 1: I went to a local “Market” and found this cool merchant dealing only with Mac stuff. He had a lot of Apple laptops, but one laptop was particularly interesting for me: An almost new Macbook Pro 15″, with an i7 processor running at 2.66Ghz, 8gb of RAM, and 500gb 7200RPM drive. The advantage: An American Keyboard! This was a dream come true, and cost just 20,000 DHM (That’s around $2445 at the current going rate). I took the S/N and checked that it wasn’t stolen, and was still eligible for AppleCare, and it was! Awesome!

Solution 2: The same merchant told me about some Moroccan berber guy who had a broken 15″ of the same series as mine, and was using it in the desert. His screen was broken, and he was using it with an external display, but he was getting sick of it and decided to replace it. The merchant promised me the motherboard for 2000 to 2500 DHM (~$240). This means that if the motherboard works in my MBP, my wife would have a cool 15″ MBP, which is way better than her regular 13″ Macbook Unibody.

I then formulated a plan: I would buy the first laptop, sell my wife’s 13″ laptop, obtain that motherboard and fix Mogul. My and my wife will then both have 15″ MBP’s!

Update #1: Solution 1 achieved. I am now back online with a new 15″ i7 MBP!!! Now to try and get that motherboard for my dead Mogul before I fly to Russia!

Update #2: My brother flew to Morocco to visit my dad, and he brought my dead MacBook Pro with him back to New York. Here, we found a chinese lab that fixes any dead Mac motherboard for a flat fee of $250. They fixed it and it’s back to life!