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Author Topic: May 2010: Sour Apples  (Read 63954 times)
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« on: May 22, 2010, 07:00:18 PM »

May 2010: Sour Apples

 

Background

My article is late this month mainly because I've been engrossed in my new iMac computer and trying to get the ball rolling with possibly developing some of my software for Mac OSX and beginning some development for the iPhone as well.  As many who read my articles know, I've been writing and selling PC/Windows software like Qimage, Profile Prism, FlashPipe, and TT Dyno for over a decade.  My company is known for its excellent support and feedback dealing directly with customers and the high quality products we produce.  Fueled by my own admitted addiction to my iPhone, a couple friends with Mac computers, and maybe even a clever "Mac versus PC" commercial or two (which I like BTW), I decided it'd be a good idea both for my company and my users to develop some apps on the Mac and the iPhone.  Well, after more than 25 years of programming in the "open source" arena that is PC/Windows, I was in for a rude awakening when it comes to developing for the "closed world" that is Apple.  This article is based on my own research and opinion and explains why after weeks of trying, I have given up on the Mac platform entirely and how Apple has made me a true PC/Windows "fan boy" out of me!

 

The goodness that is Apple

I admit it.  I love my iPhone.  I've also seen a friend or two (although statistics would tell you less than 10% of them own Macs) with their iMacs and Macbooks talk about how nice their computers are and how much easier they are to use than Windows.  I've seen them open and use programs that come with their Macs that I know don't come with Windows and they say "look at what this thing can do right out of the box".  In the back of my mind I knew that you pay a premium for that: I could get a comparable PC/Windows setup that is just as powerful and install a lot of software (and I could pick the software that I need) for about the same amount of money.  But Mac users are so happy with their computers.  It's almost like a cult.  While Macs still don't demand a lot of market share, the percentage of happy customers must be high.  So as an owner of a software company who makes their customers happy too, why not jump on the bandwagon?  What could possibly be the down side?

 

Tight reigns

I guess I never knew how tight Steve Jobs holds the reigns to his company.  After 25+ years of programming on PC's, I'm used to an open architecture.  To me, programming is akin to freedom of speech.  I should be able to create whatever I want and then let the users decide what they need and they'll tell you whether they like it or not based on what they buy.  Apple, as it turns out, is almost like its own country in this regard.  If Steve Jobs doesn't like it, you'll never see it!  Well, not so much for Mac computers maybe, but certainly for the iPhone.  Perhaps some of you are aware of some Apple strong-arm tactics being brought to light in the news in recent months: cash being denied for iPad purchases, homes of Gizmodo editors being raided in relation to leaked "next gen" iPhone articles or what Apple calls a "stolen phone", and Ellen DeGeneres being "forced" to apologize on the air for an iPhone spoof/commercial (a funny one too).  An article on CNN outlines some of the most recent tactics.  It may seem that I focus a lot on the iPhone but I see the iPhone as a device that I could bring into my own company plan.  You see, I didn't just want to develop my Qimage batch photo printing and processing software for the Mac, I wanted to make Qimage for the iPhone as well and link the products together.  I saw it as an opportunity!  But at what cost?

 

The iPhone app store: it's not your iPhone!

When it comes to the App Store, that's Apple's baby.  They keep tight watch on their store and can deny apps based on, well, just about any reason they see fit.  Technically it is their store so shouldn't they deny apps that could potentially be a detriment to the devices they sell?  One school of thought says yes!  Your local grocery store cannot be forced to sell guns or adult videos.  They choose what they sell as their establishment is meant to serve certain customers.  Why should the App Store be different?  Well, the App Store is a monopoly in my opinion.  Unless you want to jail break your iPhone (something that it seems only gutsy hackers and teens actually do these days), there really is only one store.  It's not like you can make a choice.  What Apple is doing with their App Store is akin to selling you a DVD player but then telling you that you are only allowed to watch movies "approved by the manufacturer".  Sure, what Apple is doing is not illegal and some would argue is a even a good strategy, but some people are starting to realize that there are limitations to this strategy.  Some BIG limitations.  It's not your phone... it's Apple's.  You are just using it.  Don't even get me started on how user-unfriendly iTunes is, and how difficult it is to just get simple media onto the iPhone due to Apple's "big brother mentality", or make me ponder why it takes Apple 2-3 hours to perform a backup of about 2 GB of data over a USB port that, by its data rate, should be able to do that task in just a couple of minutes max.

 

The developer side

This article is not meant to dissuade people from buying Apple products.  I know that customers are happy with their purchases and most probably don't care what developers go through to get product brought to the Apple platforms.  But as a developer who owns a small software company, I must care!  From my perspective, Apple is making it Hell for me to do my job.  I applied to the Apple iPhone Developer program, supplying the details requested on the web site where they said it may take "a few days" to get approved, and as of this writing it has been 9 days since filling out the form with my physical mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number and not a word from Apple.  Not even a courtesy "we are working on your application" e-mail!  I've also been keeping an eye on a friend who already has some apps on the App Store.  It has been taking up to a week from submittal until the app even goes into review, and then about half the time the app is rejected for some (in my opinion odd) reason, causing another week delay before they get around to re-reviewing it.  For me, I've been successful in this business by dealing directly with my customers and customer feedback and my quick responses are critical to business.  Apple is making that nearly impossible.  In addition, programming for the iPhone is quite restrictive.  Apple doesn't allow Flash and won't let you develop using anything but Mac computers.  Sound like a monopoly?  Remember how people were turned off decades ago by a certain "other company" who was seen to be trying to monopolize the market?  Now anyone who wants to develop apps for the iPhone must buy a Mac computer to do it.  It is possible to develop iPhone apps on a PC with Windows (people do it for jail broken iPhones) but if you try to submit it to Apple's App Store, it'll be rejected solely on the basis that they "detected" it wasn't written on a Mac!  All this just leads to making my job as a developer much more difficult and Apple has lost a capable programmer as a result.  And there's already talk about developers moving to a more open platform where they have some freedom to do what they do best.  That platform is Android, and it has recently overtaken Apple's iPhone OS as the most used mobile operating system.  And somehow I don't think I'm the only one with my eye on Android!

 

Enough about iPhones.  What about the Mac as a computer?

Okay here's the part that, for Windows users will show me as one who sees the bigger picture, and for Mac users will just show me as ignorant.  It's about my brand new iMac.  I've used it.  And I've really tried to embrace it.  I honestly wanted to give it a fair chance as I saw it as a way to renew my passion for coding on a fresh platform.  I've spent a LOT of time on it in the past couple of weeks, which is the reason this article is three weeks late this month.  So I'll cut to the chase.  I don't like it!  I don't like reaching around the back of the monitor to plug in my SD cards blind.  I don't like the "kiddie keyboard" that comes with it where everything but the arrow keys is performed by some strange "command" or "control" sequence and a distortion of finger presses.  I don't like the funky "no button" mouse that has no tactile feedback for left/right buttons.  I don't like that there is nothing upgradeable about it.  And that's just ergonomics.  The iMac and OSX really don't even work that well based on my own review.  People talk about Windows locking up?  This iMac has locked up cold about twice a week just doing esoteric things in Apple installed software like iMovie, Photo Booth, and other included software. 

The first thing I did when using the Mac was to get on the internet.  While hooking it up to my wireless network was really easy, probably easier than my Windows 7 experience, using Safari (Apple's included web browser) was not.  In fact, in my opinion, the entire OSX user interface is inferior to Windows.  Press the green "+" button in Safari so you can get a broader view, and the Safari window doesn't change size and it jumps halfway off the screen on the lower right so part of the screen isn't even visible.  Download FireFox, click the same button, and it works properly.  Apple "fan boys" will tell you that "+" button is a "zoom" button and that it only expands the window to "as large as it needs to be".  How does Apple know how large the next web page I'm going to view after the current one will be?  I'd like to use my whole screen, thank you!  And every time the iMac comes out of sleep mode, it takes a good 3 minutes to recognize my home network.  If you open "Finder" (Apple's equivalent of Windows Explorer) before that 3 minutes, the iMac locks up completely and you get an endless spinning dial.  The only way out is to hold the power button or pull the plug.  Oh, and BTW, you shut down an iMac by holding the "Control" button while pressing the "Eject" button on the keyboard.  And people joke about having to click the "Start" button to shut down a Windows computer?

I guess the best way to put it is that Macs are great as long as you want to do things "the Mac way".  There is little flexibility there.  I was surprised that, out of the box, the iMac had no clue how to display an MTS video file: the video format used by just about every HD camcorder and HD capable digital camera on the market today.  Not only does Windows Media Player play them happily without conversion and without any extra software, it'll stream them to my other computers on the network and even my 60 inch HD TV via my Xbox 360.  Considering it's limitations and (in)stability and that the iMac has locked up or treated me to access violation type errors more times in 2 weeks than my Windows 7 computer working even harder for 9 months, I can't say that I see the allure of Macs just yet.  Not that my initial Windows 7 experience was any better.  In fact, admittedly I spent more time getting my Windows 7 setup to work the way I wanted it, but I was also using that computer to go well beyond just the "out of the box" functions as I was coding (programming) heavily on that system. 

To me, the "kiddie keyboard", the "funny mouse", iMovie, Photo Booth, the oddball placement of USB ports, and just the overall user experience make the iMac seem, well, just more like a toy than a computer.  Who knows, maybe that's why people like them: they don't feel like "work".  To me, the iMac's "crazy widgets" just seem like something to play with rather than things that make your computer more productive.  The bells and whistles just don't seem to make your computer any better but might make you sit back and say, "Hmm.  That's pretty cool."  I've found little use for the fluff, but I'm not your average user as I must get things done on my computer, and done efficiently.  So if you are a Qimage user and you just asked me whether or not I/we plan to develop a version for the Mac, I probably sent you to this article for the answer.  If you've read the article, I think you have your answer.  :-)

Is there anything I like about the iMac?  Sure.  It looks kinda cool sitting on my desk and I really do like the screen.  The iMac's 1920 x 1080 screen is really sharp and is one of the best monitors I've seen.  So there!  I'll end with something nice to say.  ;-)  As I pack my iMac back up in the box and as it leaves my office to go to a more "deserving" Appleite who can better appreciate it, I find myself a little saddened by its absence.  It's like watching a reality show where you know the guy is letting go of someone good, but he just wasn't able to fall in love with her.  While the iMac just isn't for me, at least in its current state of affairs, I'm not blind to why others might fall in love .  The Apple products are certainly different, and that alone has an allure!  As they say, different strokes for different folks!

 

Mike Chaney

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vsteffel
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« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2010, 07:35:59 PM »

Here's a quote that says as well as any:
#10: Adobe Flash is too proprietary to run on any of Apple’s beautifully open systems (except for all Macs).http://www.enterpriseirregulars.com/17744/top-10-reasons-why-steve-jobs-and-apple-reject-adobe-flash/
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UltraChrome
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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2010, 04:14:42 PM »

Couldn't agree more about the entire product line. I tried to use Apple computers more times than I care to remember, only to always return to the PC. "Cute" just doesn't work for me!
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Owen Glendower
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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2010, 05:09:02 PM »

Thanks for the inside view, Mike.  Sounds like you gave it your best shot.

In another thread, I commented about the Mac fanboys who seem to go out of their way to say, "Tut-tut, this program doesn't run on Macs."  I find that sort of thing tiresome, especially since it appears that 85% of Mac households include a PC: http://www.npd.com/press/releases/press_091005.html
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2010, 07:58:11 PM »

I really hate failing at anything and I really wanted to make this work.  I guess some of us just have "Mac brains" and some of us have "PC brains".  Fortunately for me and my business, less than 10% of the computer users out there have "Mac brains" and from what I saw working as hard as I could work on that Mac for two weeks... I don't see that number going up any time soon!  Steve Jobs seems to have a way to make people want something "trendy" whether it works well or not though.  That's the only thing that worries me: I may not like his company but he is a marketing genius.  Even with his big brother tactics of late, people still see Apple as David and Microsoft as Goliath.  But that may be changing!

BTW, 11 days and counting... not a word from Apple about their developer program that I applied for.  I just can't work in an environment where developers are expected to bow down to the self proclaimed messiah before you are allowed to publish work in "His" hardware.  Now back to my PC to do some real work.  Let (coding) freedom reign... that's how most of you on this forum got your prized Qimage and I have to do what works.  Wink

Mike
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Ernst Dinkla
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« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2010, 09:16:51 AM »

Earlier this month I wrote a short message on the Epson Wide Format list to inform Apple users that Adobe will deliver an application to make profile target printing (sans embedded profile) possible again on OS-X and with normal printer drivers. There have been issues with Adobe/Apple CM and printer drivers on several OS-X versions for some time.

When asked why Adobe couldn't make that possible within its standard application I gave my opinion in another reply. In general stating that Apple doesn't deliver an open platform for developers, not even for Adobe. And Adobe preferring to keep the similarities between applications on two operating systems. Adding that while Adobe's market may be split half on them it is more in the interest of Apple to keep Adobe aboard than the other way around. Just from my perspective as a bystander, not being a developer. Of course this became a Mac<>PC battle, not helped by misinterpreting my messages.

I also wrote: >It also sums up why you will not see Qimage appear on OS-X. Why get into trouble like that if the market share is 4-6%?<
Mike's article wasn't written at that time.

On mouse buttons; my first computers were Acorn models, running Risc Os. Three button mouse.  When it became clear that OS couldn't keep pace with color management, modern printer drivers etc I had to switch to a wider spread OS. The Mac interface and one "button"mouse was a horrible experience compared to Risc Os. Windows 95 slightly better. Both certainly not on the UI quality Risc Os had at that time. My limited budget didn't cope with the Mac prices of that period so it became Windows. No regrets whatsoever if I recall the HELP messages on driver compatibility with every hardware, OS-X, and application changes on the Macs. Add the CM issues that are going on for more than a year.

As I understand it Android comes in many disguises these days, so you have to be careful on the compatibility of an app on more mobile, tablet models. That ARM is the most common CPU architecture for Android is nice, it has it origins in the Acorn/Risc Os world I was familiar with. It will not take long though that a Windows 7 version will appear on the ARM family too, Microsoft will not overlook recent developments in that architecture.


met vriendelijke groeten, Ernst Dinkla

spectral plots of +100 inkjet papers:
http://www.pigment-print.com/spectralplots/spectrumviz_1.htm
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« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2010, 06:09:29 PM »

Quote
I also wrote: >It also sums up why you will not see Qimage appear on OS-X. Why get into trouble like that if the market share is 4-6%?<
Mike's article wasn't written at that time.

That's an accurate estimate, Ernst, according to this:

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/09/12/03/mac_sales_projected_to_grow_26_in_2010_outpacing_pc_market.html

The third paragraph refers to a "4 percent projected total market share in 2010."
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« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2010, 08:18:04 PM »

The third paragraph refers to a "4 percent projected total market share in 2010."

True that article supports what I was saying (and Ernst) but that Apple Insider is funny.  It is such an obvious Steve Jobs petting zoo as they continually try to put positive spins on dismal numbers!  If people got mad at Apple and sales last quarter were zero for Macs, their headline would be "Apple leads industry with 0% hardware failure rate".  Plus half the time they quote things that are obviously negative to the consumer yet they tout it as a positive.  For example, this quote:

"Even more meaningful, we estimate Apple Macs generating a gross profit-per-unit of nearly $340, which is 2-3x our estimate for its peers"

Translation: Macs are overpriced by a factor of 2x to 3x compared to the competition.  Yet they spin this as a positive "for investors".

And that "26% growth" they talk about in the article.  What is that?  Someone has "predicted" a 26% growth of that paltry 4% market share?  That means that somewhere, somehow, Apple was able to find someone who predicted the massive jump from 4% market share to 5% market share.  And the trouble with these predictions are that Apple never updates them so when in actuality it drops from 4% to 3.5%... they don't publish that!  I remember when Apple had 6% of the market just a few years ago.  At that time they predicted overtaking PC/Windows in just a few years.  Now it's 4%.  You do the math.  Cheesy

Mike
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Ernst Dinkla
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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2010, 11:57:32 AM »

The Animal Farm language of Apple / Steve Jobs stretches from ethical standpoints to marketing policies and anything in between.
If it says OPEN, PROTECT, FREEDOM you get a different content than what it usually associated with them.

Another example:
http://gawker.com/5539717/steve-jobs-offers-world-freedom-from-porn?skyline=true&s=i



met vriendelijke groeten, Ernst Dinkla

spectral plots of +100 inkjet papers:
http://www.pigment-print.com/spectralplots/spectrumviz_1.htm
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« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2010, 02:30:50 PM »

What a shame Mike but I appreciate the inside view from a guy like you. I am a Mac user and love them having left my PC behind several years ago. I keep VMware Fusion on my Mac Pro because I have Qimage and there is nothing to touch it on the Mac that I can find. So... thanks for thinking about it, I love my Mac and Qimage and will stick with it the way it is.
Whatever the company though they are in it for the profit and their attempts at saying they do it for their customers is really only an over-simplistic way of saying they have told us what they think we should believe.
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« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2010, 01:33:15 PM »

UPDATE

Now three weeks after I applied to the iPhone Developer program, I log on to developer.apple.com to go to my member account (because I still haven't heard from them and I'm curious).  I'm greeted with this message (typical for Apple websites these days):

Service Temporarily Unavailable

The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later.

Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.


So I wait a few minutes and try again.  I got into my account.  Now after three weeks, they finally updated my status from "we are reviewing..." to this:

We have reviewed your Program Enrollment and have sent you an email asking that you provide us documentation to assist us in verifying your identity. The email describes the type of documentation we'll need you to submit.

OK.  So let me get this straight.  It took three weeks for them to "review" my application which consisted of nothing more than my email address, mailing address, and phone number, just to reply telling me what kind of documents they want to verify a business?  REALLY?  Like the documents are so different for every business that it takes three weeks just to figure out which documents they need?  Even better, they never sent the email they are referring to anyway!  And no, I don't run any anti-spam software!  I searched every email I've received in that time for "Apple", "iPhone", and "Developer" and they never sent any email requesting documentation.  No way they could have gotten the address wrong either because my Apple account is my real email address and that works.

So I have no idea what documents they asked for but it doesn't matter anyway as the iMac was returned for a full refund at Best Buy more than a week ago so I have no plans to contact them again.  Too bad, really, because they make some innovative hardware.  Too bad it is crippled by Apple's own "big brother mentality".  If I was planning to still pursue iPhone development, at this point I would click "contact us" to say "Umm.  No.  You never sent the email."  Then what?  I wait ANOTHER three weeks for them to NOT send an email?  Of course, you would think that instead of just firing off a single email after three weeks and just hoping someone gets it, they'd display the request for documentation on the "Account" tab in my developer account too so if there was a problem with email, you can simply click on "status" under your account to find the information requested.  NO!  This is Apple.  That'd be too easy!

Guess I'll just stick to the user side of things (and only on the iPhone) as the Apple development side is just way too torturous.

Mike
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« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2010, 10:29:11 PM »

I too transitioned from the PC world to a mixed PC/Mac environment, and it took me a while to get the hang of a Mac. It's really a different paradigm altogether. And it does take a while. And while nothing is perfect, the Mac has a lot going for it. It isn't really ease of use, just a different way to look at things and I believe that you just can't do it in a few weeks. It's a little like trying real hard to learn the piano in 2 weeks, after having played the guitar for 20 years. It's just different. Can't be done in 2 weeks.

Don't give up on it, just yet. Get your iMac back and just play with it from time to time. Things may look different a year from now...
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« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2010, 11:35:16 PM »

I too transitioned from the PC world to a mixed PC/Mac environment, and it took me a while to get the hang of a Mac. It's really a different paradigm altogether. And it does take a while. And while nothing is perfect, the Mac has a lot going for it. It isn't really ease of use, just a different way to look at things and I believe that you just can't do it in a few weeks. It's a little like trying real hard to learn the piano in 2 weeks, after having played the guitar for 20 years. It's just different. Can't be done in 2 weeks.

Don't give up on it, just yet. Get your iMac back and just play with it from time to time. Things may look different a year from now...

Think about what you are saying.  A pro who has been in the business for 30 years "can't learn" how to work the Mac in a few weeks?  It's as bad as learning to play a musical instrument?  Why bother then?  I don't think it's about learning something different: I even like different much of the time.  It just doesn't work as well as a PC/Windows.  I learned how to use it just fine.  The problem was, once I learned how to use it, I found it to have major shortcomings compared to PC/Windows.  So the time you are talking about isn't needed just to learn how to operate it.  I think it's just that over time, learned helplessness allows you to accept the backward way that the thing works: do it the Mac way or don't do it at all.  And BTW, this isn't my first time using a Mac.  I've worked with them before and I've used my daughter's school-issued Mac for some time.  This was just the first time that I tried to get any decent amount of work done on one, and it was my first time in Snow Leopard as an OS.  Honestly, 2 weeks was plenty of time to determine that I was not willing to take a severe hit in productivity trying to conform to the Macs idiosyncrasies and Apple's ridiculously restrictive development program.

So no, I will not be going back.  I think the Mac is fine for people who just want something "different" for the sake of being different.  The Mac commercial spoof that made a run on YouTube a while back called "Apple: crash different" and the 6% market share sure make a lot of sense to me now.  I also have no respect whatsoever for Apple's Developer program and their big brother mentality.  So learning the Mac wasn't even what sealed its fate with me: it was the fact that they make life pure hell for developers.  I care about my customers too much to have Apple step in and impose ridiculous inefficiencies on how I work and even how I'm "allowed" to communicate with my own customers.

Mike
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UltraChrome
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« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2010, 04:04:48 PM »

Tell us what you really think, Mike!  Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2010, 02:48:26 PM »

Interesting artice in our local Sunday paper.

http://www.buffalonews.com/2010/06/06/1072906/recent-actions-force-some-apple.html
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