A Paladin’s Reflection: My Entrance, Experience and Eventual Departure from the Apple Ecosystem…

Apple Inc

Apple Inc

This weekend marks the end of an era for myself. It’s the end of the hooks of Apple, iOS and their entire ecosystem in my life. What began with the gift of an iPod Nano so many years ago will now ends with my iPad being given to someone else this weekend. I decided last night that I wanted to sit down and write about my experiences with the Apple ecosystem. I also wanted to explain why I’m leaving, as some friends have expressed confusion on this subject. Finally, I wanted to take a close look at my own actions of why I bought into the Apple culture as well as thoughts about the future for technology in my life. I have some harsh things to say towards myself as I had made mistakes. I hope that by writing this, I can prevent people from making the same mistakes. Without further ado, let’s get into this post.

Why Did I Get Into iOS in the First Place?

iOS7

Frankly, because I was immature, inexperienced and probably naive at the time. My personality back then was a lot different than it is now. For years, I had been dealing cheaply sold Windows computers that would frequently had tech problems I’d need to solve. That was frustrating at the time and I didn’t deal with the frustration well. At all. Back then, I just wanted everything to work. I wanted to play World of Warcraft, Starcraft or some other game I was playing at the time without having to worry about a blue screen of death. I was looking for something, anything to get me out of the shoddy experiences I was having. Apple became that ticket out when I was gifted my first iPod Nano for Christmas. I loved the design and still enjoy the design of iPods to this day, even if I don’t personally use them.

I don’t regret too many things I’ve done in my life, but I’ve always regretted buying my first laptop. I had convinced my parents that it was a good idea. At the time, I really thought it was. My first laptop was a Gateway 17″ “Gaming Laptop” for highschool/college. However, I still had to pay for it with my own money. Money, that should have gone to something else. Like a cheaper laptop for instance. I thought it was a great idea at the time but later regretted my purchase. It was heavy, bulky and had plenty of heating problems. It was sent back to Gateway several times to fix the cooling system. After owning that laptop, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to play core games that I should own a gaming PC. If you do core gaming, that’s the best experience anyways. You really can’t be mobile, you have to have all of this equipment in order to have the experience so you might as well get a case that can keep itself cool for long periods of time. I shouldn’t have bought that $2,000 toy but I can’t change the past. I can’t berate myself too much though, as it did get me involved in MMORPGs and other socializing that I so desperately needed back then. It helped me grow as a person and I made some for-life friends thanks to that laptop. So, maybe $2,000 is a small price to pay for friends. At any rate, it fueled my wish to leave Microsoft behind and get into the “magical” world of Apple products.

Yes, I fully admit that I bought into the hype of Apple. After all, I was fed up with Windows and thought that Apple was my ticket out of technology hell. It was, for a short time, a breath of fresh air. My iPhone and iPad worked very well for my needs and I couldn’t wait to see what was next. I wanted to be on iMessage, FaceTime and other cool Apple services that were coming out at the time because a lot of my friends were as well. I wanted simple, easy to use and pretty all in one package. Apple provided that to me and for a time I was quite happy with my gadgets. I was even planning on getting a MacOSX device at some point. Then, things changed and I wanted out.

Why Leave Now?

As time passed, my devices began having more problems. Programs crashed, iCloud constantly bugged out and I had little choice over my experience in iOS. I also began to notice that Apple’s garden wasn’t as great as I thought it would be. There were articles that come out against them about how they had kept certain apps from entering the App Store simply because “they weren’t comfortable with them”. I talked about this a while back. I had also built my first desktop computer during this time and experienced the best that Windows had to offer. My technical skills also kept improving. I quit whining about how “Windows sucked” and got rid of my attitude. I won’t deny, that feat took a long time to accomplish. I had also gained the ability to deal with difficult customers after being tempered by several years of lousy customer service jobs. So combine that altogether and I then realized that the Apple experience wasn’t right for me.

iOS 6 Logo

I’m leaving because I decided to take ownership of my life. Not just in the physical but also the digital world. Building my first computer was fun and exciting! To be able to use something that you build with your own hands still gives me a warm feeling, even after building three desktops now. I decided that Information Technology and Computer Support was where I wanted to be in my professional career. I also didn’t want to be under the control of one company anymore when it came to my devices. Apple didn’t help it’s case either when it started fragmenting it’s userbase with arbitrary restrictions and clamping down on the experience as much as they could. The last straw was the ridiculous decisions Apple made with iOS6. I could no longer tolerate Apple’s direction. So, earlier this year I sold off my iPhone 4 and bought a Samsung S3 and I haven’t looked back. My iPad is the last device to go and when it does, I’ll be uninstalling every bit of Apple software off of my PC. My plan is to replace it with a next-gen Chromebook in the next couple of weeks. I wanted to leave and build my own technological experiences. I wanted to go Free and Open Source.

Why a Chromebook?

chromebook-logo

Why? Because I realized all I really want out of a mobile device is access to a full version of Chrome. I mean, think about all those apps you have installed on your mobile device. I’m willing to bet that the large majority of the apps you have installed have a web counterpart or could be made into a web app if they haven’t done so already. You probably have Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Email, your favorite instant messaging app, Google Maps and Spotify/Pandora among others. Apps on mobile devices are really only there to make up for the limitations of mobile browsers. Heck, Apple initially felt that apps installed onto their iPhones were unnecessary and people should just be using Web apps if they wanted extra functionality. However, they added an App Store later because mobile web apps had terrible performance. If iPads or Android Tablets had full desktop versions of Chrome, Firefox or whatever browser you might prefer, they wouldn’t need most of the apps you install on them. It’s why I’m excited about projects like Firefox OS. An open source phone that gives you access to the web without strings attached. I see potential in the phone now more than ever before because mobile web apps are actually pretty good now. Will I get a Firefox phone? I haven’t decided.

ChromeA Chromebook is an attractive offer to me. A full version of Chrome running on a cheap laptop without any Windows installed or other related crapware. Add in the ability to write blog posts offline, a good keyboard that’s always attached, a very long battery life and that’s all I’ll ever need when I’m mobile. The rest of the features are just icing on the cake. I’ve heard it constantly stated that Chromebooks are pointless without the internet. Hate to break it to you guys, but so are iPads and Android Tablets. The moment my iPad is offline, most of my apps aren’t usable. Sure, I can play music and watch locally stored videos but so can most other devices. Combine that with the limited size of the hardrives and there’s only so much you can store in an iPad offline. As for gaming on my mobile devices, I really don’t care about mobile gaming in general. Heck, I haven’t enjoyed mobile gaming in a very long time due to the sorry state of affairs they’re in. It’s really hard to enjoy such shallow experiences the Play Store has to offer for more than few minutes. If I’m offline for a weekend for whatever reason, the iPad is not the first entertainment device I think of. Finally, the main reason I’m getting a Chromebook is that I’ll finally be able to do serious work on it without having to wait to return to my desktop. With my iPad in College, I always had to wait until I got back to my desktop because there were things that had to be done that the iPad is restricted from doing. It’s why I don’t recommend iPads as college devices anymore.

Still, buying a Chromebook means buying more into the Google ecosystem. I am worried with putting more faith into Google when so much of my internet experience is already run through them. My main browser of choice is Chrome. The tabs that are most often open in Chrome are Gmail, WordPress, Google+, Netflix, Google Music and YouTube. My main search engine is Google. That’s a lot of information running through Google’s servers. That’s a little concerning considering Apple didn’t have nearly that much information running through them even at the height of their influence in my life. However, I do have an opt-out as the Linux community has built a version of Linux that runs off of Chromebooks. So, if I decide I no longer want to run ChromeOS off my device, I can move it to Linux. I don’t have that option with my iPad. I doubt I’ll ever buy a Tablet/similar device that doesn’t have an open source version available just in case.

Thoughts about Apple:

Apple App StoreI think I had to be a fanboy about something once in my life and Apple became that for me, even if it was for a short time. That way I could at least experience what that’s like. I’m sure I’ll be called a fanboy of something sometime down the road even though I won’t be. For me, life is far too short to latch onto something fictional and make it into my own personal religion. So what about Apple, well, I remain conflicted about Apple. I’m conflicted by how they enact strict control over the user experience, their attitude towards games is archaic and I feel they lock down their OSes to the point that it hurts developers and users alike. But are they entirely in the wrong for conducting themselves in that manner? No. At the end of the day, it’s up to the users to decide if MacOSX and iOS is right for them and clearly many agree it is. Who am I to argue with them?

In my business and any future jobs I take, I will still treat Apple and its users with the same decency and respect that users of Microsoft and Linux technologies get. I do not think any less of people that choose Apple products for the right reason. If it’s the right tool for the right job, then all the more power to you. Myself, I’ll continue to keep up to date on what Apple does so I can do a better job for my potential Apple clients. The same goes for Windows users. After all, these OSes are going to be around for a long time so I’ll need to keep up.

Future Technology Goals:

Linux

My short term goal is to move all of my electronics, computers and applications/services over to Open Source & DRM-free alternatives. My older desktop has already made that move and is running entirely on Linux. My current machine still has to be on Windows for gaming and video editing but I’m planning on setting up a dual-boot Windows & Linux install soon. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to move my gaming and video editing over to Linux soon, but it depends on several factors. There is one exception to making everything open-source/DRM free and that’s media content such as TV, Movies and Gaming. I’m ok with running services on my desktop like Steam, Netflix and Google Music but…

Valve

Valve

I have a lot of thoughts about Steam that I want to cover later but I’ll briefly talk about it here. While Valve has made a great leap to support the Linux community and true cross-platform gaming, there are some remaining issues that I can’t ignore. The main issues include their use of DRM, some of their mind-baffling corporate decisions in the past and their stance of being gate-keepers to Steam. While not all of Steam’s games use DRM, enough of them do to be concerned. After all, if Steam suddenly went and dieds, how many games would I lose access to? Having my entire gaming experience dictated by Valve is more than a bit concerning, even if they are very pro-consumer. Which is why I buy some games from another service called GOG.com. They’re great for having an anti-DRM stance, cross-platform support and for making older games playable on modern machines. But, I hope that they will change their mind sometime soon and start supporting Linux. In general, I’m ok with content like this not being DRM-free so long as the DRM is fair to me as a consumer and doesn’t punish me for buying it legitimately. I’d prefer games to be as completely DRM-free as much as possible and will continue to buy as many as I can that way.

Google PlayUltimately, I want to control how I consume my content without the shackles of Windows or DRM. Music is already there as DRM music hasn’t been sold in a long time. TV and Movies have a very long way to go and their respective industries need to wake the hell up and embrace the change that is coming. Otherwise, the piracy market will swallow them whole like it almost did the music industry. Until they do, I refuse to buy anymore TV or Movies until I’m only required to pay for a movie once and watch it however & whenever I want. That means I don’t have to pay for the same movie again and again just to watch it on an iPhone or Samsung S3. Or, pay for a movie again because I no longer want to play it through iTunes. I mean, how silly is it that I cannot watch the movies or TV shows on the same PC I bought them on just because I don’t want iTunes installed anymore? Extremely. I already stopped buying TVs or Movies a couple years when I put my foot down. Now, I’m strictly getting my content through services like Netflix or Amazon Prime until this all sorts itself out. Yes, these services have DRM but I believe it to be a fair compromise between us and them. I pay $7.99 a month to “rent” movies on my mobile and computer devices. That’s a service I can agree to paying for. So, for now, I’m ok with that.

My long term goal, after moving over to Linux and FOSS, is to be able to read the code of programs well enough to screen them myself. I want to be able to determine how each program works on my own so I know exactly what they’re doing. Technology is so pervasive in our lives that we can’t just simply install programs and expect it to be fine. We almost run our entire life through technology in some way and to not take the personal responsibility is, well, irresponsible. Will I ever achieve this goal? Hard to say. Past evidence from college suggests no, but hey, maybe I’ll be able to do it on my own. I think it’s a worthwhile goal to strive for even if I never achieve it.

Final Thoughts:

I hope you read this and took something away from this post. My main hope is that you make an informed decision on your technology purchases. Even if you decide to go and get an iMac, make sure you’re buying it for the right reasons. Make sure you’re buying it because Final Cut Pro is the right tool for the job. Make sure you dive into Linux because you want to control your own experience. Well, you get my point. There are no excuses left for not being informed about technology. There are no reasons you can’t do your own research. You have a choice in the matter, so make an informed choice and you’ll have a happier life. Trust me. I know. Yes, it’s a difficult world to wade through but it’s all the more important that you begin learning about it because it has a lot of influence over your life. Unless your Amish but then I have to wonder how you’re reading this…. 😉

Until next time, I have been the A Paladin Without A Crusade so do please share this if you thought it was great. If not, let me know why in the comment section below…

-KingIsaacLinksr

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