The Problem with Apple

Apple hardware/software and related topics.
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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby japes » Mon Mar 06, 2017 1:00 pm

This is a forum of old computer nerds, nerding out on (mostly) old hardware. I don't think Apple Inc., regardless of removing "Computer" from their name believes they are a hardware company. I would argue they are a computing company, they might suggest they are a solutions company.

The OP mentions Apple makes fistfuls of money on hardware where Microsoft makes money on software. This is not at all true. Apple spends significantly on research, design, and development for hardware. I'm certain Apple sells software for their hardware at a lower cost than they spend developing it by building that cost into the hardware purchase price. For example, when was the last time anyone paid to upgrade macOS?

I would argue that Apple sees the hardware as a component of the computer or solution. Just like an automotive technician might replace a failed control unit, sensor, or alternator in a car...Apple replaces the software, accessories, or computer. To them the computer is the component level, just like a graphics card might be a replacement unit to a PC enthusiast - Apple has moved forward. Consider devops methodology of servers being disposable cattle that are replaced, not nursed back to health like a pet.

In a portable especially, but I think the desktops too (iMac - the desktop made from portable parts), aside from spinning storage still in the iMac there isn't much to fail if initial build and component quality was there. Apple still plays a game of different hardware configs which invites the interest in upgrades. They should probably stop that and simplify the product line up as they've allowed it to balloon out of good/better/best that they were maintaining. Yes I believe there is room for a MacPro workstation with upgrade/expansion capability, but looking through the Apple lens it doesn't matter for the bulk of the machines. Maybe they should install mac memory in all systems and you can pay for it later, CoD like IBM systems? (okay, maybe not)

Is it a waste? Maybe, but not really if the end user wants to upgrade anyway. Sure, the useful life of hardware is longer than it used to be, after all I'm typing on a 4 year old MBP (Late 2011 model, MacBookPro8,2). Maybe it makes sense to be able to repair a broken screen? On the other hand if machines aren't failing significantly during the desired lifespan why does it matter, just provide a proper recycling program.

I think one of my biggest gripes is the welded on storage device. This means you must have backups to recover from any repair. Further, if you want to take advantage of leasing and warranty services you will loose physical control of your data when you hand over the hardware. For a working machine at the end of lease you might trust an erase procedure. For failed machines you must have enabled encryption with keys stored or secured off the hardware or trust the warranty/leasing/service provider to not leak your data.
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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby Raion-Fox » Mon Mar 06, 2017 4:53 pm

I disagree with Japes and Guardian both in that it is the future to consider a computer a single integrated component. That is plain retarded in an assertion. The future is not this way. I won't let it. And considering how other manufacturers handle it, Dell, Lenovo, HP and so-on for laptops and desktops continue to be user repairable and upgradeable, then Apple is not the future. They're already moving to mostly an iPad and iPhone market as their margins are more on those devices than their Macs. But, discrete computers like laptops and desktops will continue to be around for decades. So Apple executives will continue to let the Mac line languish, do their drugs, probably including black tar heroin, while the rest of the industry makes advances.

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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby guardian452 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:00 pm

Eventually mac will run ARM. I think that is inevitable. Perhaps a macbook will look like an ipad with a hinge (the little ones already do) , a mac mini/pro will look like an appleTV, an imac will look like a slimmer version of a regular imac, they may make an ipad pro run the same macOS and the only differentiator from a regular ipad is in software (maybe more ram etc).

The people that like apple will still like apple. You will still be miserable. Apple will laugh all the way to the bank. Itunes will still suck donkey balls.

c'est la vie.

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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby Raion-Fox » Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:10 pm

guardian452 wrote: You will still be miserable.


Nobody's miserable. I'm just exasperated with people still buying their crap. I've already begun my own ecosystem with FoxBSD. A place where people who want to make it into another Linux or MacOS are not welcomed.
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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby guardian452 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:37 pm

Some people like buying their crap. I even like buying their crap, but their mac lineup is certainly in a rut right now. It hardly seems worth getting exasperated over. Apple's continued existence has nothing to do with foxbsd or any other PC vendor of your choice.

japes wrote:The OP mentions Apple makes fistfuls of money on hardware... This is not at all true.
Wait, wut? :shock:

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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby Elf » Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:19 pm

josehill wrote:While I personally prefer systems with upgradeable RAM instead of soldered RAM, a major driver (if not the main driver) of soldered RAM across the industry independently of Apple is the need/desire to support various "trusted computing" security specifications. [...]

Ah, interesting! I wasn't aware of that. It certainly would significantly impede cold boot attacks, although I wonder whether you couldn't still just shear off the chips and drop them in a BGA socket. You have to think you're dealing with a committed attacker at that point, anyhow. Encrypted RAM always seemed to be the real solution, but of course that becomes expensive to do at memory bus speeds.

Personally I never bothered worrying about physical attacks, it seems like a losing battle.

guardian452 wrote:[...] But even tech-savvy users often find this unattractive. It's an investment into an old computer which has little residual value and pales in comparison to the latest models.

I don't find that to be as true nowdays. Computers have been "fast enough" for quite some time, where the available memory and CPU power vastly exceeds what the "average" user can make use of. The desktop I am using now was top of the line in 2013, and it's still so fast (even with heavy duty workstation applications like Adobe Photoshop with 400+ megapixel images, Avid Media Composer for video editing, Davinci Resolve, etc.) that I have no inclination whatsoever to buy something new. I can't see that changing for the next few years either. I think desktop computing has, for the most part, plateaued.

guardian452 wrote:So apple forgets those people. They are still bragging about how long their old mac pro tower lasted anyways.

Well, again, it's not even all about the end of the lifecycle. With the exorbitant prices Apple charges for RAM and mass storage, back when the people I knew were still buying Macs, you would buy them with the base amount of RAM and mass storage, chuck that, and install cheap aftermarket stuff. Nothing to do with trying to eke life out of an old machine, just pure economics. Grandma isn't going to do it, but teenager and parents have a good chance of wanting to. There's certainly enough of an industry around aftermarket components to suggest it isn't exactly a niche market.

guardian452 wrote:A monolithic device saves Apple money. The machine becomes cheaper to build because there are fewer parts, fewer configurations, fewer assembly steps, fewer connectors, and fewer electrical interfaces. [...]

Again, I find this doubtful for the Macbook Pro and iMac. They have to fork their assembly line for each possible combination of RAM and mass storage device. It's cheaper if you have one or two configurations, but I can't see how it would be cheaper if you have 16.

guardian452 wrote:They were never using any COTS parts like SSDs anyways. When you work with their scale, they make *everything* themselves.

Regardless of scale, making everything yourself is not economical (although it certainly might be egotistical). Connectorizing for SATA or M.2 and using your volume purchasing power to beat down the price on something that's already a commodity is a lot cheaper than trying to do some crazy bespoke storage device. Besides which the lifecycle concerns are crazy, given that mass storage is the most failure prone (and least future proof) component of a modern computer. Can't easily remove it to back up, to restore data, to replace. These aren't concerns that only affect some class of technically elite users...

guardian452 wrote:It becomes more reliable, because connectors are another point of failure. Unseated or loose components also cause failure even if it can be easily fixed by reseating it's another warranty ticket at the genius bar and another failure in the eyes of the customer. Worse, a loose component can cause a intermittent fault difficult to diagnose.

While technically true, I think the impact of this is overstated. Soldered chips have their failure modes as well, and well designed connectors for RAM and mass storage are regularly in use today without being a big source of issues.

guardian452 wrote:Specific to batteries, if the battery assembly is not user-replaceable it does not have to meet stringent safety standards when removed from the machine (e.g. crush, bend, short-circuit, etc) requiring a second bulky enclosure within the enclosure of the machine.

Again, true, but the battery was considered not user serviceable without making it hard to remove when the case has been split, as for repair.

guardian452 wrote:If the machine is portable in anyway it will be subject to drops and vibrations just like a cellphone and you just answered your own question there.

I think we are talking about two different sorts of vibration. I am referring to stuff like Mil Std. 810G vibration resistance, e.g. electronics for use in offroad vehicles. You end up with laptops like this: http://us.getac.com/notebooks/X500/features.html A Macbook definitely doesn't make the cut.
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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby guardian452 » Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:05 am

Elf wrote:
guardian452 wrote:[...] But even tech-savvy users often find this unattractive. It's an investment into an old computer which has little residual value and pales in comparison to the latest models.

I don't find that to be as true nowdays. Computers have been "fast enough" for quite some time, where the available memory and CPU power vastly exceeds what the "average" user can make use of. The desktop I am using now was top of the line in 2013, and it's still so fast (even with heavy duty workstation applications like Adobe Photoshop with 400+ megapixel images, Avid Media Composer for video editing, Davinci Resolve, etc.) that I have no inclination whatsoever to buy something new. I can't see that changing for the next few years either. I think desktop computing has, for the most part, plateaued.
There's more to computer value than bungholiomarks. Hell, the mac pro hasn't changed in 3+ years and apple is still charging full retail for it! Whether real or perceived depreciation, the old stuff is worth less.

Which would you rather have: -a brand-new mac pro purchased from the apple store for $3000. or -a used but "cleaned up" mac pro the exact same spec, purchased on 02/2014 (over 3 years ago) and available used on ebay for $2000? I'd pay the extra $1k all day long. When it mysteriously doesn't turn on one morning you aren't out cold $2000. Besides, even tho the spec never changes they are still making production improvements.

Elf wrote:
guardian452 wrote:So apple forgets those people. They are still bragging about how long their old mac pro tower lasted anyways.

Well, again, it's not even all about the end of the lifecycle. With the exorbitant prices Apple charges for RAM and mass storage, back when the people I knew were still buying Macs, you would buy them with the base amount of RAM and mass storage, chuck that, and install cheap aftermarket stuff. Nothing to do with trying to eke life out of an old machine, just pure economics. Grandma isn't going to do it, but teenager and parents have a good chance of wanting to. There's certainly enough of an industry around aftermarket components to suggest it isn't exactly a niche market.
Apple obviously doesn't want to cater to that market anymore. Their ignorance seems to be working well for them. RAM requirements have also largely plateaued, like CPU requirements did close to a decade ago. Technology drivers today are new applications like wearables, internet-of-shit devices, mobile (smartphones). NOT the ever increasing PC arms race. Will VR cause another push forward? Perhaps, but apple doesn't play in that space, anyways. My MBP with 8gb ram in 2014 is still sufficient in 2017 and will be thru 2020+. I'm typing this on a thinkpad w520 with 8GB ram and it runs solidworks 2016 fine with all the fixin's and everything turned way up on two 4k monitors. A 5 year old laptop. It has not been upgraded in any way, same as it was 5 years ago complete with tiny 128gb SSD. No upgrade necessary. Apple want you to buy RAM from them at a premium price so they can make more money. They also thankfully don't sell 2GB machines anymore, so the people that just want the cheapest simplest thing and can't tell RAM from their toaster don't think apple is a hunk of junk. (they need to kill off spinning disks, too, for the same reason).

Elf wrote:
guardian452 wrote:A monolithic device saves Apple money. The machine becomes cheaper to build because there are fewer parts, fewer configurations, fewer assembly steps, fewer connectors, and fewer electrical interfaces. [...]

Again, I find this doubtful for the Macbook Pro and iMac. They have to fork their assembly line for each possible combination of RAM and mass storage device. It's cheaper if you have one or two configurations, but I can't see how it would be cheaper if you have 16.
Another part of modern apple's philosophy. They don't have 16 configurations. They have two main configs (e.g. i5+8gb, i7+16gb, that's it) and a couple BTO options like SSD size, and that's it. You're forgetting that every different color ipod, every storage tier iphone, etc, is already a different SKU. How many hundreds of styles of watch bands does apple have? That's part of being good at retail. Apple is *very* good at retail. Different configurations exist only to lower the advertised price (Wow! iPhone for only $649!) and boost ASP (everybody spends close to or over $1k by the time they get the model and accessories they want, and the difference between the number on the receipt and the advertised $649 is darn-near 100% profit). For apple it was never about user ("consumer") choice. Not since the imac era started. If apple could make more money selling one configuration, they would. Ideally a rock with engraved apple logo on it.


Elf wrote:
guardian452 wrote:They were never using any COTS parts like SSDs anyways. When you work with their scale, they make *everything* themselves.
Regardless of scale, making everything yourself is not economical (although it certainly might be egotistical).
They buy flash chips at greater scale than any other storage vendor. The commodity is parts that are already in use in iphone, already purchased in hundreds-of-millions for iphone.

Elf wrote:
guardian452 wrote:It becomes more reliable, because connectors are another point of failure. Unseated or loose components also cause failure even if it can be easily fixed by reseating it's another warranty ticket at the genius bar and another failure in the eyes of the customer. Worse, a loose component can cause a intermittent fault difficult to diagnose.

While technically true, I think the impact of this is overstated. Soldered chips have their failure modes as well, and well designed connectors for RAM and mass storage are regularly in use today without being a big source of issues.
well-designed connectors are expensive. Chips are still soldered to the PCB regardless of whether it is on a connected daughterboard or the main logic board, so that failure mode is present regardless.

Elf wrote:
guardian452 wrote:Specific to batteries, if the battery assembly is not user-replaceable it does not have to meet stringent safety standards when removed from the machine (e.g. crush, bend, short-circuit, etc) requiring a second bulky enclosure within the enclosure of the machine.

Again, true, but the battery was considered not user serviceable without making it hard to remove when the case has been split, as for repair.
Cost savings and durability. battery failure: https://medium.com/@dourvaris/my-2015-m ... .r9u71fjex
Li-Ion batteries are like a bomb. The more secure apple can make them, the better. The glue they use also allows for some expansion and reduces mechanical stress on the cell itself. I'm glad I don't have to deal with them (we use LiFePO4). Surely apple will settle damages no questions asked, but it's a powerful reminder of how much energy they are putting into a very small space. Apparently, they really don't want people putting in 3rd party parts. Although I didn't see any damage to that disk so good chance it's alright, the writer doesn't know until he tries.

Elf wrote:
guardian452 wrote:If the machine is portable in anyway it will be subject to drops and vibrations just like a cellphone and you just answered your own question there.

I think we are talking about two different sorts of vibration. I am referring to stuff like Mil Std. 810G vibration resistance, e.g. electronics for use in offroad vehicles. You end up with laptops like this: http://us.getac.com/notebooks/X500/features.html A Macbook definitely doesn't make the cut.

I tried Getac and they are quite flimsy in real world compared to Toughbooks or even bog-standard thinkpads. Haven't had a dell xfr yet, the price is too high for a basic configuration. But Panasonic has far-and-away the best customer support and parts availability which is most important to me.

iPhones certainly are NOT mil-std-810g certified, either.

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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby japes » Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:20 am

Elf wrote:
guardian452 wrote:A monolithic device saves Apple money. The machine becomes cheaper to build because there are fewer parts, fewer configurations, fewer assembly steps, fewer connectors, and fewer electrical interfaces. [...]

Again, I find this doubtful for the Macbook Pro and iMac. They have to fork their assembly line for each possible combination of RAM and mass storage device. It's cheaper if you have one or two configurations, but I can't see how it would be cheaper if you have 16.


It's 2017, BTO can ride down the same assembly line as the 2-3 std configs and pop out the other end with a shipping label with your name and address. Manufacturing has come a long way and forking out for different features isn't necessary. Just like cars. On the retail side they just stock 2-3 models.
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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby Y888099 » Sun Mar 19, 2017 6:43 am

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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby Dodoid » Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:49 pm

I spent $1300 CAD on a refurb Retina MacBook Pro around the middle of 2015. It was an OK laptop, and I actually like Mac OS (I use a Hackintosh as my primary desktop). I used it for a while, and it was alright, but for $1300 I was a bit surprised that it was just "alright".

The battery wasn't great and yet the CPU was only marginally faster than the Core 2 Quad I used to use. The trackpad was fine, but force touch was absolutely useless and I still carried a mouse everywhere. The keyboard was really quite terrible, but I hadn't used anything better at the time so I didn't really have an opinion on it. It didn't really have enough RAM for Final Cut Pro, one of the main reasons I bought it. The SSD was fast but only 128GB, so I ran out of space the second I synced my Dropbox and installed a few programs. The size of the screen and body was awkwardly perched between "really portable, don't expect screen real-estate" and "you can use this like a desktop if you want to".

I had sold all my other modern laptops to pay for it, so I brought it to school as my school machine, but it got beat up and badly scratched from being carried in my backpack after just a few months. I also carried it everywhere with me, as if it was left alone at school it was a huge target for theft.

A few months into the school year I said "screw this" and bought the cheapest $190 ASUS craptop I could find. The battery lasted twice as long, the keyboard was roughly par, the trackpad was a little worse but of course I still carried a mouse, it performed well enough to browse the web, and the device fell firmly into the "really portable" category. For less than a sixth the price, I had found a laptop that that while I wouldn't say was better, seemingly made more sense.

Still, the MacBook was better for non-school laptop use (the ASUS was pretty useless for anything more than web browsing), and the fact that it was an alright laptop still stood.

Around last spring I decided to try out a ThinkPad after reading a bit about them online. I had two old ThinkPads mixed into my "OLDER LAPTOPS, WORKING" pile at the time, a 390x (not to be confused with the graphics card) and a 701c, but neither was really suitable for anything modern. I bought a used R61 on Kijiji for $40. Even though it was old-ish (2007 or 2008, I think) and kind of thick, the size made more sense. The screen was low-res, but big enough that while it wasn't super portable (I had my ASUS for that), I had more screen space to work with. The keyboard was excellent, actually the best I had at the time and the first time I actually thought about a keyboard as more than a $8 commodity input device with no variable characteristics. The TrackPoint was not only better than the MacBook's trackpad, it was almost as good as a mouse. It certainly didn't perform as well as the MacBook, but I began to carry both machines a lot of the time. I liked the $40 ThinkPad more than the $1300 Mac.

I read a little more about ThinkPad models and decided on an X220, which I bought shortly after the R61. After buying the (almost as powerful) X220 for something like $200 (similar price to the ASUS), the MacBook sat on my bedroom floor, plugged into the wall and powered off until I sold it a few months later. Got $800 for it, don't plan to buy another Apple product unless they make something that's more than mediocre.
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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby Elf » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:09 pm

I just saw something funny in the "form over function" department, today. Apparently Macbook power supplies these days have two-prong "short plug" configurations that cause them to float at a high voltage with respect to ground?


as an electrical engineer i can catagorically state that there is a fault on all metal bodied Mac's where there is a "Short to Ground" - a electrical leak to the case which is the earth/ground

this doesnt happen when using the long power lead with your DC Converter because the Mac is then earthed.


Certainly not the only example of a consumer product like this, but wow... I guess it was too much for them to bulk up the adapter a little bit and stick on a third prong.
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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby japes » Tue Mar 21, 2017 1:14 am

Elf wrote:I just saw something funny in the "form over function" department, today. Apparently Macbook power supplies these days have two-prong "short plug" configurations that cause them to float at a high voltage with respect to ground?


Grab a high impedance meter and you can get a reading on just about any switching power supply because of the Y capacitors, just like it says in the eevblog forum. I think I actually blew a LED on a cheap ebay/china SMPS doing something like V+ to ground through the LED. I tested a few others I had around work and found the same. Not really an Apple problem (or not specifically). The available current is really low, but if you find yourself in the path and especially with some sweat or dirt+moisture it's non-zero.
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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby Elf » Tue Mar 21, 2017 11:45 pm

japes wrote:Grab a high impedance meter and you can get a reading on just about any switching power supply because of the Y capacitors, just like it says in the eevblog forum.

Well, just about any ungrounded switching power supply. Important distinction! When grounded, the leakage currents (intentional, via Y caps to Line / Neutral, or otherwise) are nicely drained away.

When ungrounded the Y capacitors are just forming a voltage divider between Line and Neutral, with the chassis in the middle, which I never really thought was kosher, but appears to still be allowed under UL1950 as long as the leakage current is less than 250uA. Enough for that "tingle," or even in one poster's experience, "significant pain."

It seems sort of cheesy to me since they are just relying on sinking all those otherwise radiated emissions to Line/Neutral via the Y caps (in absence of the ground), to pass EMI standards. It could have been grounded except they wanted to keep a slim two-prong flip out design; thus "form over function." I always thought that the Y capacitors were exclusively for sinking things to a proper equipment ground, and wouldn't have expected to find them arranged like that in a potentially ungrounded design. But then again, I was never trying to get away with things either in the electronics I designed. I'd always overbuild and overprotect, and would rather end up with a 20 pound metal brick of a device than to try and just skirt by on meeting standards.

I was curious enough to go try to find a Macbook with an ungrounded two-prong setup today and measured it, on US line voltages. It actually took some work to try and find a two prong plug; everyone was using the longer three pin grounded cord instead and had chucked their two prong plug away.

From the Macbook case to ground: 56.35 VAC and 82.6 uA, going at times to about 118 uA. Not too bad I guess. It didn't bother me. Of course a lot of the people complaining also live in 240V countries.

You are right that it doesn't appear to be an Apple specific issue though. Looking around, it seems Dell also had similar problems, and a few cheap and cheesy ungrounded SMPS cubes for USB charging that I found were also well above ground, although with nothing near the same leakage current as the Macbook. I think I wasn't as aware of it since I don't have any of those cheap power supplies at home. Anything I can find at home here with a switchmode power supply is grounded, and all the cheap wallwarts or USB chargers go in the bin immediately.

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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby robespierre » Wed Mar 22, 2017 12:57 am

Yes, I agree with all the above. One other problem with leakage currents is that they interfere with capacitive touch sensing, leading to problems with tablets and the new multitouch notebook pointing devices.
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Re: The Problem with Apple

Unread postby japes » Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:20 am

I have a GFCI in the garage that trips whenever I plug my O2 in if it was unplugged for very long. I suspect Y caps inrush current, once there's a bit of charge it's fine....you know, after I crash my install server plugged into the same circuit.
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