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Things That Go Boom

Such as myths.


Welcome to the Twilight Zone™. Feel a reality distortion field working on you? It's not Spock calling the shots here - it's Steve Jobs and Apple. You don't need to work around Steve Jobs to get caught in his reality distortion field - you need only to own an Apple computer or succumb to the hype. Or own Apple stock.

To some extent the hype is true, but 99% of it is off-base, exaggerated, and sometimes even directly misleading. Apple are experts on capitalising on other people's perceptions of their products and giving the myths their own patented twist. If you're in the market for a personal computer, you should read this article first - if you're a corporate purchaser, you shouldn't be here at all. (If you're a stockholder, read on.)

Let's go.

Myth: OS X is safer than Windows.

No, it's true. Anything is safer than Windows.

Myth: OS X has no malware (viruses trojans worms spyware).

Myth. OS X has always had exploits - it's just that no one cares about them yet. Malware is a business. If there's no money in it, there's no business. Malware is about numbers. Windows has 90-95% of the market, so malware concentrates on it - and not on OS X. Some huge holes have been open in OS X for years without being fixed.

Myth: OS X is the most advanced operating system on the planet.

Well it was. Once upon a time at least. Back when it was called NeXTSTEP and especially when it made the transition to Openstep. No point in discussing that - it's true. Especially developers from other platforms can't grasp that OS X is so far out in front - they've never seen anything like it. Coming down in a direct lineage from Alan Kay's Smalltalk-80, it has everything, including a space-age development environment unmatched even today.

The NeXTSTEP heritage is nearly twenty years old now and it still surpasses anything going - including OS X. NeXTSTEP was designed without compromises, but its history at Apple is nothing but compromises - and consequently fiascos.

In terms of user interface design Apple's OS X lacks the sophistication of its forerunner. In fact Apple have systematically dismantled the sophisticated features of NeXTSTEP with the motivation they're 'too sophisticated'. If that doesn't make any sense to you, don't worry - it doesn't make any sense to anyone else either.

OS X also lacks the security of its predecessor. Time after time Apple have whittled away at the clean cut security of the system in the name of what they claim is 'user friendliness' - the poorest excuse imaginable.

Today OS X is what Anandtech call a 'hodgepodge' - it's a mishmash of a confluence of bad ideas all mixed together in the same overheated computer.

Myth: Apple hardware gives the best bang for buck on the market.

Some Apple hardware is good, but more often than not - especially with 'rev A' issues - it's riddled with flaws, some of which border on the fatal. Apple boxes used to have a life span of ten years as opposed to two years for a Wintel; today it's a toss-up if your Apple box is going to work at all. And don't think buying that expensive AppleCare plan is going to help you. It won't.

If you look at Apple's current lineup you see one machine at the top of the food chain still running powerful 64-bit IBM PowerPC 970 processors - the far and away best processor architecture on the planet. All the other Apple models are back to 32-bit today - and what's worse they're in the camp of Intel, the perennial 'Ford' of the CPU industry. Talk about cheap.

But you won't find this 'cheapness' reflected in better prices. On the contrary: in typical fashion, Apple exchanged one processor for another (cheaper) processor then tacked another 20-40% onto the price tag. Consider yourself screwed.

Apple cannot supply the entire planet with computers. Their computers are made in the same factories as all the Wintel computers. For about the same cost. Except the people at Apple use a lot higher profit margins. Which hold at about 60%.

Apple have four computers in their lineup. That's their strategy these days. One professional desktop, one professional laptop, one desktop for home use, and one laptop for home users.

The iMac is Apple's desktop computer for home use. As everything is moving to 64-bit computing, including OS X, the iMac used to be 64-bit; now it's 32-bit again.

[Don't worry if you can't figure that out either. No one else can either. Ed.]

Apple's laptops are an engineering mess. They can literally burn your skin. We're talking recorded temperatures of 95°C - five degrees short of boiling water.

Apple promise Intel will ramp up a transition to 64-bit CPUs but in the meantime iMac customers will get yesterday's technology all over again. Apple claim the 32-bit Intel processors are faster than the IBM 64-bit processors previously used, but 64-bit processors are always a bit slower, and by now IBM have doubled the speeds of their PowerPC, making them far faster than 'Ford' will ever be capable of.

[And AMD are the leaders on the Intel side - why not go with them? Don't you worry your head about that either. It's yet another puzzle that makes no sense. Ed.]

All the while OS X moves inexorably towards being a 64-bit system. Half of the confused Apple technology goes in one direction; the other half makes a U-turn in the middle of the highway and starts racing back in the other direction - and looks for a country dirt road turnoff.

Apple's laptops are the PowerBook for professionals and the iBook for home users. With the transition to Intel processors the PowerBook was renamed the MacBook Pro (evidently IntelBook wasn't in the running) and the iBook is now the MacBook.

As for these current laptops: 'forget it'. They're riddled with so many critical issues a purchase cannot be seriously recommended, and as the issues have lingered so long, pundits find it doubtful they'll ever be resolved - instead Apple will charge up their reality distortion field again.

For example, these laptops can literally burn your skin. We're talking recorded temperatures of 95°C - five degrees short of boiling water. What do Apple do? Nothing essentially, but today they refer back to a document first published in 1998 which states that 'laptop computers should never be used in your lap because they can become hot' [sic].

Myth: OS X is reliable.

In terms of system stability, this is very true. You will rarely if ever crash or hang or lose resources. You don't have to reboot continually because the system's starting to run slow or quirky. You don't have to reboot at all. This is all very true.

But hold on, for you should not assume this is Apple's doing. For it's not. It's NeXT's work - not Apple's. As any engineer will tell you, if you do encounter an issue with OS X, it will be due to what Apple have done to it since they acquired it from NeXT.

Myth: OS X is secure.

Yes it is secure - at least more secure than Windows. This is inevitable. But it's not secure for the reasons Apple are so eager to cite.

It is not secure because it's Unix. For it isn't Unix. You have to read the fine print here. Apple keep dropping that magic word all over the place, but they call their OS kernel 'XNU' which stands for 'X is Not Unix'. That's how much they believe in Unix in Cupertino.

You might ask why any company would be so foolhardy as to muck about with Unix, but you're not counting on Apple in such case. Time after time Apple prove to be capable of the ridiculously improbable and the improbably ridiculous. For don't assume for one second they've improved on Unix. No one likes to get laughed at. Don't you be victimised in that way either.

Seriously: there are Apple fanboys out there who think Apple are improving Unix. There's a reality distortion field in play here that is perhaps more formidable than anything you've ever experienced before. When reality distorts, it's not reality anymore - not even close. Don't you forget it.

Myth: The introduction of the Macintosh was a great event.

Steve Jobs called it 'a dent in the universe' but it wasn't even a scratch. The Macintosh didn't sell - period. It was only when Adobe's John Warnock invented desktop publishing that they started to sell.

And talk about reality distortion: Jobs was running around Apple HQ talking about the great success of the Mac and neither the board of directors nor anyone else could see where - because the danged thing just wasn't selling.

Under the bonnet the Mac was a mess. Much like Apple have made OS X today. Apple did their best to keep the Mac system closed off and they treated the few independent developers like shit. Microsoft might be a bunch of assholes, but they never treat their independent developers like shit. Apple do - consistently. They don't like people looking too close at what they do.

Myth: An investment in Apple stock is a good investment.

Myth. A big myth. Apple execs are jumping ship like the company was Titanic and selling off their stock by the gazillions. Apple will still not pay out dividends on stock - and if you dare ask about this at a shareholders meeting Steve Jobs will cut you off [sic].

Apple execs make a killing by hyping the company to drive the stock price up and then selling off when the getting's good. They're not interested in the company - only in what they can finagle out of it. It's all hype - a reality distortion field. The big names in Cupertino have all left because they know the stock cannot go any higher. So they sold out before the bubble broke.

Apple are a horrendously mismanaged company. They've had two opportunities to grab the entire personal computer market and both times blown it. The first time was before Windows was a standard, and Bill Gates himself tried to tell Steve Jobs what to do. Steve Jobs typically ignored Bill Gates, and so Bill Gates went out and did it himself instead - and made his billions.

The second time was years later when Steve Jobs was in exile, Windows was in a shambles, and Gil Amelio was running the company. Then Steve Jobs double-crossed Gil Amelio and closed the projects down.

Today Steve Jobs doesn't tolerate nay-sayers on the Apple board. Either agree with him or he'll boot you out of there. Apple stock should be worth a lot more but Steve Jobs just won't play ball. Today he's more interested in iPods and Winnie the Pooh.

Buying stock at this point is a guaranteed loss. If you have stock, do like everyone at Apple: get rid of it now.

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