Love my Mac Starting to hate Apple.

Keep it up, Apple, and I’m going back to Windows.

I was a Windows customer for many years.  Despite running virus/malware protection and being pretty good at doing the right things security-wise, I had to completely rebuild Windows at least once a year — and it usually happened when I really didn’t have the time for it.  It happened one too many times and said, “that’s it,” and I bought my first MacBook Pro. (The last Windows OS I ran on bare metal was Windows XP.)

I made the conversion to MacOS about 4+ years ago.  During all this time, I have never — never — had to rebuild MacOS. When I get a new Mac, I just use Time Machine to move the OS, apps, and data to the new machine.  When a new version of the OS comes out, I just push a button and it upgrades itself.  I cannot say enough nice things about how much easier it is to have a Mac than a Windows box.  (I just got an email today of a Windows user complaining about what he was told about transferring his apps and user data to his new Windows8 machine.  He was told that it wasn’t possible.)

My first Mac was a used MacBook Pro for roughly $600, for which I promptly got more RAM and a bigger disk drive.  I liked it.  I soon bought a brand new MacBook Pro with a 500 GB SSD drive, making it cost much more than it would have otherwise.  (In hindsight, I should’ve bought the cheapest one I could buy and then upgrade the things I didn’t like.)  It wasn’t that long before I realized that I hadn’t put enough RAM in it, so I did.  (I didn’t account for the amount of RAM that Parallels would take.) 

My company’s second Mac was an iMac. After we started doing video editing on that, we decided to max out its RAM.  Another MacBook Pro had more RAM installed in it because Lion wanted more than Snow Leopard, and on another MacBook Pro we replaced the built-in hard drive with an SSD unit and upgraded its RAM.  We are still using that original MacBook Pro and it works fine — because we upgraded to more RAM and a better disk — because we could. It’s what people that know how to use computers do — they upgrade or repair the little parts in them to make them better.

The first expensive application we bought (besides Microsoft Office) was Final Cut Pro 7, and I bought it at Fry’s Electronics — an authorized reseller of Apple products.  I somehow managed to pay $1000 for a piece of software that Apple was going to replace in just a few days with a completely different product.  Not an upgrade, mind you, a complete ground-up rework of that product.  Again, anyone who followed that world knows what’s coming next.  I wish I had known at the time.

First, Apple ruins Final Cut Pro

For those who don’t follow the professional video editing space, Final Cut Pro was the industry standard for a long time.  Other products eventually passed it up in functionality and speed, but a lot of people hung onto Final Cut Pro 7 anyway because (A) they knew it already and (B) it worked with all their existing and past project files.  They waited for years for a 64-bit upgrade to Final Cut Pro 7. 

Apple responded by coming out with Final Cut Pro X, a product that was closer in functionality to iMovie than Final Cut Pro  — and couldn’t open Final Cut Pro 7 projects.  (In case you missed that, the two reasons that people were holding onto Final Cut Pro 7 were gone.  They didn’t know how to use the new product because it was night and day a different product, and it couldn’t open the old product’s projects.)  FCP X was missing literally dozens of features that were important to the pro editing community.  (They have since replaced a lot of those missing features, but not all of them.) And the day they started selling FCP X, they stopped selling FCP 7.  Without going into the details, suffice it to say that there was a mass exodus and Adobe and Avid both had a very good year.  (Both products offered, and may still be offering big discounts to FCP customers that wanted to jump ship.)

But what really killed me is what happened to me personally. I thought that while Apple was addressing the concerns that many had with FCP X, I’d continue using FCP 7.  So I called them to pay for commercial support for FCP 7 so I could call and ask stupid questions — of which I had many — as I was learning to use the product.  Their response was to say that support for FCP 7 was unavailable.  I couldn’t pay them to take my calls on FCP 7. What?

So here I am with a piece of software that I just paid $1000 for and I can’t get any help from the company that just sold it to me.  I can’t return it to Fry’s because it’s open software.  I can’t return it to Apple because I bought it at Fry’s.  I asked Apple to give me a free copy of FCP X to ease the pain and they told me they’d look into it and then slowly stopped returning my emails.  Thanks a bunch, Apple.  (Hey Apple: If you’re reading this, it’s never too late to make an apology & give me that free copy of FCP X.)

Apple ruins the MacBook Pro

Have you seen the new MBP?  Cool, huh?  Did you know that if you want the one with the Retina display, you’d be getting the least upgradeable, least repairable laptop in history?  That’s what iFixit had to say after they tore down then 15″ and 13″ MBPs.  You won’t be able to upgrade the RAM because it’s soldered to the motherboard.  You’ll have to replace the entire top just to replace the screen — because Apple fused the two together.

When I mention this to Apple fans and employees, what I get is, “well it’s just like the iPad!”  You’re right.  The 15-inch MacBook Pro is a $2200 iPad.  This means that they can do things like they do in the iPad where they charge you hundreds of dollars to go from a 16 GB SSD chip to a 64 GB SSD chip, although the actual difference in cost is a fraction of that.  Except now we’re not talking hundreds of dollars — we’re talking thousands.  This means that you’ll be forced to buy the most expensive one you can afford because if you do like I did and underestimate how much RAM you’ll need, you’ll be screwed.  (It costs $200 more to go from an 8GB version to a 16GB version, despite the fact that buying that same RAM directly from Crucial will cost you $30 more — not $200.)

Apple’s response is also that they’ll let the market decide.  You can have the MBP with the Retina Display and no possibility of upgrade or the MBP without the Retina Display and the ability to upgrade.

First, I want to say that that’s not a fair fight.  Second, can you please show me on the Apple website where they show any difference between the two MBPs other than CPU speed and the display?  Everyone is going to buy the cheaper laptop with the cooler display, validating Apple’s theory that you’ll buy whatever they tell you to buy. (Update: If you do order one of the Retina laptops, it does say in the memory and hard drive sections, “Please note that the memory is built into the computer, so if you think you may need more memory in the future, it is important to upgrade at the time of purchase.” But I don’t think the average schmo is going to know what that means.)

Apple Ruins the iMac

I just found out today that they did the same thing they did above, but with the iMac.  And they did this to make the iMac thinner.  My first question is why the heck did the iMac need to be thinner?  There’s already a giant empty chunk of air behind my current iMac because it’s so stinking thin already.  What exactly are they accomplishing by making it thinner?

One of the coolest things about the old iMac was how easy it was to upgrade the RAM.  There was a special door on the bottom to add more RAM.  Two screws and you’re in like Flynn.  Now it’s almost as bad as the MacBook Pros, according to the folks over at iFix it.  First, they removed the optical drive.  Great, just like FCP. They made it better by removing features!  Their tear down analysis includes sentences like the following:

  • “To our dismay, we’re forced to break out our heat gun and guitar picks to get past the adhesive holding the display down.”
  • “Repair faux pas alert! To save space and eliminate the gap between the glass and the pixels, Apple opted to fuse the front glass and the LCD. This means that if you want to replace one, you’ll have to replace both.”
  • “Putting things back together will require peeling off and replacing all of the original adhesive, which will be a major pain for repairers.”
  • “The speakers may look simple, but removing them is nerve-wracking. For seemingly no reason other than to push our buttons, Apple has added a barb to the bottom of the speaker assemblies that makes them harder-than-necessary to remove.”
  • “Good news: The iMac’s RAM is “user-replaceable.” Bad news: You have to unglue your screen and remove the logic board in order to do so. This is just barely less-terrible than having soldered RAM that’s completely non-removable.”

It is obvious to me that Apple doesn’t care at all about upgradeability and repairabiity.  Because otherwise they wouldn’t design a system that requires ungluing a display just to upgrade the RAM!  How ridiculous is that?  And they did all this to make something thinner that totally didn’t need to be thinner.  This isn’t a laptop.  There is absolutely no benefit to making it thinner.  You should have left well enough alone.

Will they screw up the Mac Pro, too?

I have it on good authority that they are also doing a major redesign of the Mac Pro (the tower config).  This is why we have waited to replace our iMac w/a Mac Pro, even though the video editing process could totally use the juice.  But now I’m scared that they’ll come out with another non-repairable product.

Keep it up, Apple, and I’m gone

Mac OS may be better than Windows in some ways, but it also comes with a lot of downsides.  I continually get sick of not being able to integrate my Office suite with many of today’s cool cloud applications, for example.  I still have to run a copy of Windows in Parallels so I can use Visio and Dragon Naturally Speaking. 

You are proving to me that you do not want intelligent people as your customers.  You don’t want people that try to extend the life of their devices by adding a little more RAM or a faster disk drive.  You want people that will go “ooh” and “ahh” when you release a thinner iMac, and never ask how you did that, or that don’t care that they now have to pay extra for a DVD drive that still isn’t Blu-Ray.

Like I said when I started this blog post.  I like my Mac.  I love my new iPad Mine, but I am really starting to hate Apple.

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Backing Up The Cloud

"The Cloud" has changed the way I do business, but I'm not always sure how I should back up the data I have "up there."  So I thought I'd write a blog post about my research to address this hole in our plan.

Truth in IT, Inc. is run almost entirely in the cloud.  We have a few MacBooks and one iMac & a little bit of storage where we do our video editing of our educational & editorial content, as well as our ridiculous music video parodies.  But that's it.  Everything else is "out there" somewhere.  We use all of the following:

  • Salesforce.com: CRM
  • Liquidweb.com: Managed web hosting
  • Virtualpbx.com: Phone System
  • Sherweb: Hosted Exchange Services
  • Quickbooks Online: Online bookkeeping & payroll
  • Q-Commission: Online commission management (talks to Salesforce & Quickbooks)
  • Act-On: Marketing automation system
  • iCloud: Syncs & stores data from mobile devices
  • File synchronization system with history*
  • A cloud backup service for our laptops*

We have data in salesforce that is nowhere else, and the same is true of our web servers, email servers, & laptops.  Did you know that using salesforce's backups to recover data that you deleted is not included in your contract, and that if you need them to recover your data (due to your error) it will cost at least $10,000?!?!?!

I want my own backups of my data in the cloud.  I don't think we're alone in this regard. I therefore took a look at what our options are.  The process was interesting.  The following is a copy of an actual chat session I had with one of our providers:

curtis preston says:    
one question i've wondered about is how people back up the email that is hosted with you
<support person> says:    
You mean when they lose it?
curtis preston says:    
Let me put it plainly/bluntly: Scenario is you do something wrong and the exchange server i'm hosted on dies and your backups are bad.  What can I do in advance to prepare for that?
<support person> says:    
Well, when using Outlook there is always a copy on the computer that is made that could be used
<support person> says:    
And to be extra-sure you can create backups from time to time
<support person> says:    
but we have a 7 days of backup on a server so the chance both the main server and the backup cannot be backup is pretty low
<support person> says:    
Everything is really well backup here you don't have to worry

And that pretty much sums up the attitude of most of the vendors, "We've got it. Dont worry. That's the whole reason you went to the cloud!" Here's my problem with that.  Maybe they do have it; maybe they don't.  If it turns out they don't know how do IT, there's a good chance they also don't know how to configure a backup system.  I'd like to have my own copy in someone else's system and I don't mind paying for the privilege.  It turned out that all but hosted Exchange had what I would consider a decent answer.  (As far as I can tell, it's not the fault of our provider; Multi-tenant Exchange has some things ripped out of it that create this problem.)

Backups for cloud apps

There are actually a lot of solutions out there to back up cloud applications.  Here's what I found:

  • Salesforce can be automatically and regularly backed up via backupify.com, asigra.com, or ownbackup.com.
  • Gmail & Google Apps can be backed up via backupify.com.
  • Quickbooks Online can be backed up OE Companion
  • Hosted servers or virtual servers can be backed up via any cloud backup service that supports the operating system that you're using. 
  • Laptops and desktops can also easily be backed up by most cloud backup services. 
  • If you're using a file synchronization service, those files will also be backed up via whatever you choose for your backup solution for your laptops & desktops.
  • Offline copes of Outlook data can be used to restore lost Exchange data, but it seems clunky, and you need to make the offline copy manually.

Does the lack of backups for the cloud serve as a barrier to the cloud for you or your company?  Or are you in the cloud and you have the same worries as me?  Is there a particular app that worries you?  Tell me about it in the comment section.

*I don't give the name of either of these for various reasons.

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Amazon Glacier: Cheap & Mysterious

It's a penny per GB per month saved to multiple locations and that's all you need to know — or so Amazon.com believes. I think Glacier sounds like an paradigm-shifting service that I already wrote about when I first heard about it.

For those who haven't been following, here's a summary:

  • It's $.01/GB per month of data stored in Glacier
  • There are no upload bandwidth charges at all
  • There are no download bandwidth charges — as long as you don't exceed a daily pro-rated quota of 5% of your total storage.  (I believe this should translate into no download bandwidth charges for most people.) 
  • Amazon says that Glacier was designed to provide an "annual durability of 99.999999999%"  It's here where things get interesting and mysterious.
  • If you ask to retrieve an archive, it takes a few hours to assemble that archive for downloading.  Amazon says that "Most jobs will take between 3 to 5 hours to complete."
  • If you delete archives that are less than three months old, there is a charge.

I think the pricing is awesome. I also think the durability sounds awesome.  I'm just not a huge fan of what happens when you ask them what that means.  Before I get into my direct interaction with them, I want to point out a few things from the website.

On one hand, the availability numbers for S3 and Glacier are the same.  What's not the same is how they explain those numbers.  Are the explanations different because the implementations are different?  Or is it just an oversight?  The following are direct quotes from their website (italics added):

Q: How durable is Amazon S3?

Amazon S3 is designed to provide 99.999999999% durability of objects over a given year. This durability level corresponds to an average annual expected loss of 0.000000001% of objects. For example, if you store 10,000 objects with Amazon S3, you can on average expect to incur a loss of a single object once every 10,000,000 years. In addition, Amazon S3 is designed to sustain the concurrent loss of data in two facilities.

Q: How is Amazon S3 designed to achieve 99.999999999% durability?

Amazon S3 redundantly stores your objects on multiple devices across multiple facilities in an Amazon S3 Region. The service is designed to sustain concurrent device failures by quickly detecting and repairing any lost redundancy. When processing a request to store data, the service will redundantly store your object across multiple facilities before returning SUCCESS. Amazon S3 also regularly verifies the integrity of your data using checksums.

Q: How durable is Amazon Glacier?

Amazon Glacier is designed to provide average annual durability of 99.999999999% for an archive. The service redundantly stores data in multiple facilities and on multiple devices within each facility. To increase durability, Amazon Glacier synchronously stores your data across multiple facilities before returning SUCCESS on uploading archives. Glacier performs regular, systematic data integrity checks and is built to be automatically self-healing.

On one hand, these appear to be two different wordings of the same thing.  However, note that it says that "S3 is designed to sustatin the concurrent loss of data in two facilities," but it does not say that about Glacier.  Secondly, notice the addition of the words "average annual" to the durability guarantee.  Is the data in Glacier less safe than the data in S3?  Or is this wording simply an oversight?  What happened, pray tell, when I started asking questions? First, let's talk about the questions they did answer.

I mentioned that I see that a retrieval request is only available for 24 hours, and asked what happens if the data set is large enough that it takes me longer than 24 hours to download it?  Amazon's response was basically, "don't do that."  (They said, "We anticipate that customers will size their archives in a way that allows them to comfortably download an archive within 24 hours once retrieved.)  This is therefore something you're really going to want to discuss with whomever is providing your interface to Glacier.

I als

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