Ditching Apple

Bailing on the Apple Ecosystem

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Hackaday is as close as I get to social media and it sorta fits with hacking. I have to get everything I do on OS X onto an Ubuntu platform. So this project is part rant and part experience with getting it done.

I've been a fan of Apple's hardware since the early 2000's when they first introduced OS X.  I had enough of Windows, its inferior architecture, and poor stability.  OS X was stable, fast, and under the hood was Unix.  The PowerBooks were better than anything else out there and with Virtual PC ran Windows better than on a native machine.

I followed that model for years.  Running whatever I could native on the Mac and Windows specific stuff in the VM.  Over time Apple improved the PowerBooks - especially their serviceability.

Then came the Intel based MacBooks which made life even better.  They were easier to service, fast, and just as stable as their predecessors.  VMware introduced Fusion and all was right with the world.

But Apple wasn't content.  They forgot that part of their success came from machines that worked in the mainstream and were better than everything else.  Things got smaller, pricier, and less stable.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world caught up.  Microsoft finally figured out how to make a stable and mostly useable OS.  Linux matured and Google released Android.  Vendors from all walks of life started publishing apps that ran on them.

So now Apple offers to replace the battery in my 2015 MacBook Pro for a recall.  Great, but I have to part with it for two weeks?  Seriously?  What kind of service is that for a machine that costs twice as much as a comparable Dell or HP?  In what universe does Apple think that's okay - to replace a battery????

Then I looked at ifixit's instructional:  72 steps and half the machine has to come apart.  Heck, I can replace my iPhone battery with less work & risk than that.  That's just bad engineering.  A battery is a consumable and should be easily serviced.

Time to move on to a cheaper and just as functional platform.  The plan is to move to a late model Dell (like a 5580), install Ubuntu with VMware workstation, move the Windows VMs I have on the Mac, and setup an OS X VM and do a P2V of my Pro.  That will allow me time to migrate everything native to Ubuntu or Windows.

Oh, and uh, the Dell 5580 battery can be replaced in three steps and about five minutes.

  • Conclusion

    Brian Cornell10/31/2019 at 17:16 0 comments

    So I've been on Ubuntu 18.04 for a few months and have become quite comfortable with it.  The biggest pain point has been adapting to the Dell's keyboard layout and developing the muscle memory for Ubuntu's keyboard shortcuts.

    The second biggest pain-point is PDF support.  On the Mac I used Preview for all kinds of stuff - from signing (placing graphic of signature) to manipulating pages (inserts from other files, deleting pages, etc.).  I never realized how bad the support for these features are on other platforms.  It's not just Linux but Windows too: even the 'free' Adobe reader doesn't let you do what Preview does without paying to upgrade.  Apple got that one right.  So far this is the main reason I have to fire-up the OS X VM.

    Would I go back?  No way.  Ubuntu has its quirks but I have yet to get a panic or freeze.  My two gripes are WIFI only rejoins about 50% of the time waking up (you have to turn off & back on, sometimes twice) and the keyboard mapping for suspend is right next to the FN+END key (Insert); but that's somewhat of a muscle memory thing.

    I'm committed now: I sold my 4-year old MB Pro and got more for it than the 2-year old Dell that replaced it.

  • Conversion

    Brian Cornell09/30/2019 at 03:05 0 comments

    I've been using an Ubuntu platform exclusively for about two weeks, and about three weeks total to make the switch.  There was pain (much of it learning curve) but so far it's been worth it.

    I bought a used Dell Lattitude 5580 with an I7 CPU, 32GB RAM and 500GB SATA 3 drive.  It's mostly a solid machine.  The screen is crappy compared to the Mac - about 1/3 the resolution (1366x768).  The other anoying thing is the trackpad:  it's left offset to accomodate the numeric keypad which I doubt will see use.  The nice thing is that I now have a plethora of vendors & machines to choose from.

    The plan was to setup Windows & OS X VMs using VMware.  Workstation Player, interestingly, is free for private use.  And with the DrDonk unlocker ( you can build & run OS X VMs as well.  It's interesting that you have to buy Fusion for Mac which is essentially the same product.  I suspect it has to do with Apple's more restrictive licensing.

    Getting Ubuntu installed with a basic setup was easy.  For an open-source, free OS, they've done a really good job.  It checks all the boxes for security, GUI, application integration, and a nice ecosystem.  It does have some quirks and there are a lot of extensions to add to mimic the experience of the Mac (silly things like the date/time & CPU load display) - but overall a good experience.  It is solid - no panics, or drive corruption on the few occasions I did lock it up (VMware driver problem).

    Originally I thought I'd need the OS X VM for some time since I have a large iTunes music library and still use an iPhone.  Probably the most painful part of the conversion experience - failing to get the iPhone to sync in the VM changed that.  I tried all the hacks - USB 2.0, usb.quirks settings, etc.  Nothing worked.  I finally decided that my iPhone 6's days were also numbered and it would be better to dedicate effort to getting my music library converted.  Then I'd only need the OS X vm to migrate pictures which isn't a big deal (just time consuming).

    Here's a run-down of how I've dealt with many of my big ticket items.

    General approach for apps like mail, calendar, music, etc.  Stick with distributed programs when possible since they are most likely to be well supported and open, and have a long life.

    Stream I/O programs - e.g. GPIB.  There are some sublte differences from BSD kernels that gave me fits.  I am not a developer so this was a painful part of the learning curve.  BSD specific programs will also need LIBBSD support.  LIBBSD-DEV is needed for compiling.

    Bluetooth communication with embedded SOCs.  I haven't been able to get a Microchip RN4677 BT module to connect using SPP.  Successfully pairs and can initiate connection with RFCOMM.  BTMON trace shows BTCON initiating disconnect after L2CAP setup & exchanging modem parameters.  Maybe debug with PICTAIL so can see if module is sending error data to RS232 side.

    Same module works fine with OS X & FreeBSD so this is dissappointing and kind of a big deal since I do a lot of bench testing with a combination of GPIB and BT controlled gear from a central console.  My workaround is to use an ancient Macbook.

    iTunes.  Major disaster.  Library has a lot of 'Protected AAC' files which nothing else can play.  All of the posts out there describing the use of iTunes Music service to download these songs from the cloud after deleting the protected AAC and getting a 'Purchased AAC' are hogwash.

    I wound up buying Tunefab's converter.  The catch is that to convert a song it must be played - Tunefab installs an audio driver that pipes the digital audio to its engine that writes out a file in your favorite format.  It took three days to convert.  Audio books are the same - that took 12 days.  I setup my Mac in a corner and just let it run.  When done...

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