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The Appler They Are, The Harder They Fall

That creaking sound: is it a soundtrack?

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That creaking sound: is it a soundtrack?

Could it be a soundtrack for Apple's double-feature: releases of iOS and macOS?

4 October came and went. No Catalina yet. But the world of mobile's been tumultuous.

The NY Times already have Apple in their sights. Now both Forbes and ZD join the attack.

Finally - and perhaps this is the most telling blow - the website 'Cult of Mac' came out with a report on iPad that has far-reaching ramifications.

Read on.


It's certainly not to your advantage when the big guns in the media gang up against you. Steve Jobs was the darling of the media: his 'one more thing' made a lot of people a lot of money. Steve cultivated his connections and he made sure those connections knew his views on their positions.

Not so much for Tim Cook.

The New York Times have increasingly condemned (and lambasted) Apple and Cook for what they see as 'authoritarian' and 'draconic' policies, something that cannot bode well.

And now another big gun's come out against Cook and Apple: Forbes, the famous business magazine.

On 14 September, Davey Winder published 'Apple iPhone 11 Buyers Warned As Security Exploit Is Confirmed'.

Five days later, Gordon Kelly followed up with 'Apple iOS 13 Is Full Of Bugs, Reports Warn'.

And on 1 October, only a few days later, Kelly delivered a coup de grace. His piece 'Apple Reveals Serious Reminders Sync Problem In iOS 13' not only shows what's wrong in the Apple production line, but why - his probing look at the lack of logic in Cupertino can provoke parallels to Joseph Heller.

'Apple's recent problems show no sign of abating. The instability of iOS 13 continues despite not one, not two, but three rushed updates. Millions of iPhones have been left vulnerable to an 'unfixable hack' while the company's exciting 2020 iPhone redesign has already leaked. And now Apple has issued a new warning which millions of iPhone owners need to know about.'

This has to do with Reminders.app. But read on.

'The problem stems from the fact Apple has, bizarrely, made Reminders in iOS 13 incompatible with 'earlier versions of iOS and macOS'. For iPhones and iPads, this means any device still on or limited to iOS 12 (iOS 13 cuts off support for two generations) will be unable to sync with the new Reminders app. Moreover, macOS 10.15 Catalina is required for syncing with the new Reminders app and it isn't even available yet.'

'And it gets worse', claims Gordon Kelly. And it does.

'Not only is syncing broken until every device is running iOS 13 or macOS Catalina, Reminders created on iOS 12 or macOS Mojave will be lost when the app is upgraded.'

The explanation from Apple:

'iCloud reminders created on a device that's running earlier software are visible only on other devices running earlier software. When you update that device to the latest software, those new reminders will be lost when you open the Reminders app.

'If you create new iCloud reminders on a secondary device that's running iOS 13 or macOS Catalina, but you haven't yet opened the new Reminders app on that device - for example, if you used Siri to create reminders - those reminders will be lost when you open the app for the first time. To avoid this, open the Reminders app once before you create any new reminders on an updated device.'

Kelly concludes.

'While companies break backwards compatibility with old software all the time, it is not usually with software that was current just a few weeks ago. Moreover, the fact that users face data loss just because they haven't upgraded to a bug-filled iOS 13 or what still remains the current version of macOS, is absurd. If Reminders was going to cause this much trouble, Apple should not have launched its updated form until macOS Catalina was available at the very least.

'So be warned. If you use Apple Reminders across your devices for important notes in your personal and business life, they are currently at risk. And while I'm glad Apple is posting warnings, this farcical situation should've never existed in the first place.'

Kelly had indirectly praised Apple only days earlier - when comparing the beseiged iOS release with its predecessors. And once again he provided the key words 'be warned'.


Kelly wasn't alone, having found similar sentiments at The Verge, Wired, and, notably, Craig Hockenberry who calls it a 'clusterfuck'.

'Luckily, I don't have to use this kind of title often. But when I do, there's a good reason: this year's beta release cycle for all of Apple's operating systems has been a mess. The months since WWDC in June have been a terrible experience for both customers and developers alike and the literal center of the chaos was Apple's iCloud syncing service.'

Hockenberg minces no words in describing the destruction.

'And when I say lost, I mean really lost. Entire folders were either gone or corrupted. Apple's mechanism to recover deleted files was of no help.'

Hockenberrg goes on to suggest that iCloud should never be a 'beta'.

'Because it's a service, iCloud doesn't get to go into beta. It needs to be reliable all the time, regardless of whether iOS or any other platform is in beta test.

'As it is now, Apple is effectively telling you that your storage device will be unreliable for a few months. It's like having a hard drive where the manufacturer tells you it won't work well for ¼ of the year. Would you purchase storage with a caveat that 'the drive mechanism may not work properly during the hot summer months'?

'You don't see these kinds of issues with Google Drive or Dropbox because they don't get a pass while an OS is being tested. Dropbox moved your folders from AWS to their own servers without you noticing even the slightest hiccup. Compare this to the last three months of iCloud in beta.'

To add only that, as Apple's membership in the PRISM club is well known, it's not a good idea to use their cloud services anyway.

Department of Defence

Kelly continues.

'Today Inc broke the news that the Department of Defence is strongly encouraging DOD staff and contractors to stay away from iOS 13. *DOD Mobility strongly encourages you to NOT update, to avoid known Apple iOS 13 bugs*, said the DOD.'

When you start frightening your department of defence, things get serious. Kelly:

'Not only is iOS 13 full of bugs, but it also contains a significant security flaw discovered by security researcher Jose Rodriguez which lets you bypass the lockscreen to gain access to contact information. He recorded it:'

'So while my regular iOS upgrade guide will arrive soon, it is no spoiler to say I will not be recommending anyone upgrade to iOS 13 and you should wait for iOS 13.1 at the very least. All these problems are going to take a lot more than one update to fix.

'You have been warned.'

And that was Forbes. And that's only the mobile chaos.


Ziff-Davis joined in the frenzy. 'macOS systems abused in DDoS attacks', reported ZD on 1 October.

'Up to 40,000 macOS systems expose a particular port online that can be abused for pretty big DDoS attacks. These attacks are leveraging macOS systems where the Apple Remote Desktop feature has been enabled, and the computer is accessible from the internet, without being located inside a local network, or protected by a firewall.

'More specifically, the attackers are leveraging the Apple Remote Management Service (ARMS) that is a part of the Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) feature.'

Then Adrian Kingsley-Hughes comes down hard on Apple on 4 October.

'Apple owns its ecosystem like no other company, from the silicon inside devices to the software that they run. And yet the ecosystem is riddled with weird, frustrating inconsistencies.

'Apple's ecosystem now reminds me of tech in the 90s and early 00s, when everything had its own proprietary charger and cable, and things were messy and clouded in a low-level haze of frustration. I didn't expect Apple, a company that touts simplicity and efficiency, to take such a huge step back.'

Cult of iPad

But perhaps the most telling blow comes, also on 4 October, from fan site 'Cult of Mac'.

Graham Bower tries his darnedest to use an iPad as a computer and fails ungracefully.

Graham tries to reduce things down to the seemingly innocent task of opening two documents in word processor 'Pages' at once.

On iPad:

  1. Open the first file in Pages.
  2. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal the Dock. (Just don't swipe up too far, or you'll enter app switching mode.)
  3. Tap on the Pages icon. (This normally just launches Pages, but when you're already in Pages, it does something different.)
  4. Tap on the tiny plus icon that appears on the opposite side of the screen.
  5. You'll now find yourself in a second instance of Pages that looks just the same as the first but isn't (you just have to know that).
  6. Open the second file.
  7. Swipe up from the bottom again to reveal the Dock (again, not too far).
  8. Tap and hold the Pages icon and drag it on top of the Pages window. (Don't hold the Pages icon too long, or it will trigger something else.)
  9. Let go of the Pages icon somewhere in the middle to create a Slide Over, or on the far right or left of the screen to create a side-by-side view.

On a computer:

  1. Open the first file in Pages.
  2. Open the second file in Pages.

Graham Bower winds up: 'That's why, even though I still love my iPad for things it's great at - like reading books, surfing the web, watching movies and drawing with Apple Pencil - there will always be a space for a Mac on my desk.'

Indeed. And Graham Bower's only a tech writer - he doesn't have to program the danged things. But don't tell Tim or he'll be very upset.


And why might Tim Cook be upset?

Tim Cook doesn't like computers. He says he cannot understand why anyone would have one. He even has adverts where snotty little brats ask in pseudo-innocence 'what's a computer?'

Steve Jobs was fascinated by gadgets, as everyone knows, but he was fascinated by more, more behind the scenes with the gadgets: he was fascinated by technology, and human ingenuity. As his NeXTSTEP tutorials show.

Steve was a 'product man', they say, where Tim is all about bottom lines. But bottom lines only take you so far, until, for lack of substance, they too start to fail.

Perhaps the lack of product savvy at the highest levels is finally making Apple creak. For Apple really screwed up. Bad. And this isn't coming as unexpected to all: Cook's inheritance isn't doing too well, and each desperate move to save face and ignore the facts is only sinking Apple deeper in the quicksand. The most important thing for any enterprise in that sector is that one plays it STRAIGHT, plays it open, and always tells the truth. Those are unfortunately not Cook's strongest suits.

Apple could have been the champion of open source. According to Open Darwin project lead Rob Braun, himself an Apple employee, they faked it - for marketing and PR purposes. Make no mistake: you can fool a lot of people a short time, or fool a few people for a long time, but ultimately you'll be found out. The crash will happen. And it will happen because, at both the beginning and the end of the day, they don't know what they're doing any more than anyone else. Only begrudgingly do they collaborate with the wider community, often incurring resentment and wrath for their policies. This is bound to fail.

Apple could have been the champion of open source. They could have been the heroes of the 'revolution'. They could have led the web into a safe utopian era. Instead they played it for the quick kill, for the easy immediate profit. Life isn't all gadgets, and it's not just bottom lines either.

Apple had the market clout to lead the connected world into a new era. They didn't care about that.

For now, they have incredible market cap. But tomorrow? Do you hear that creaking sound? That sound is engineers who try to wing it, who pull in a few big industry names who don't know much more than they do, and they're all reporting to a CEO who understands nothing and who seriously discourages computer use. What could possibly go wrong?

Apple could have been the champion of open source. But even if they change tack today, go tummy-up and plead with the industry for forgiveness, who will believe them?

No one believed them twenty-five years ago. No one's going to believe them today.

Apple's problem this time, as opposed to 135 months ago, isn't limited to all too many project and platform launches all at once without proper testing and vetting. This time it's far worse. This time they're trying to change the direction of SS Apple right in the middle of a brewing storm - and trying to change to more than one direction all at once.

The questionability of more and more new smartphones all the time when the market's already not only saturated but soaking. The desperate and rather transparent attempt to corner a free software market and capitalise on what in effect is indentured labour. The absolutely hysterical changes to OS underbodies, constantly ripping up the rug from underneath application software, forcing ISVs to concentrate, day and night, on revamping old code instead of using valuable time to dream up new application domains and write new code. Seriously: what's wrong with a company that introduces new macro definitions only to deprecate them and redefine them only a few months later? Things are never perfect, you boobs. Look to the leaders, look to the doyens, the seasoned veterans. Look to IBM. But no. We'll just make this one minor fix and then all will be right again. Famous last words. Apple took on a good system and a potential leader in the universal platform and operating system of the future - and totally blew it. And they keep blowing it more and more for every day that passes. You're watching a train wreck.

Macroeconomics clues us into the fact that markets always have to expand to keep an enterprise in equilibrium. Sort of like climbing an escalator where the steps are slowly going on the wrong direction: you have to keep climbing (expanding) just to stand still. It's one of the dilemmas of 'free enterprise'. Some companies - like IBM and Samsung - manage OK. Other companies who try to ride a bucking one-trick pony, and who traditionally eschew market niches in favour of 'one more thing' announcements all the time: they're doomed to fail. They run out of steam. Oh sure, they get the headlines. They're always good for a headline. But can they be the mainstay of an entire industry? No. They're an amusement at best, forgotten in a day.

So! Will you see a crash tomorrow? Will you see the Paper Empire collapse ignominiously? No, of course not. At this point, you have to consult with Ian Malcolm. This is 'chaos theory'. Nobody knows. That's the key. But things will change. They'll always change. And gradually, slowly, over time, you'll see how Cook's world metamorphoses.

But remember: this didn't need to happen. And in a better world it shouldn't happen.

Apple could have been the champion of open source. Now it's too late. No one trusts them anymore. No major players in the industry believe them anymore. And the murmuring and grumbles outside the 'Loop' are getting only more audible.

About Rixstep

Stockholm/London-based Rixstep are a constellation of programmers and support staff from Radsoft Laboratories who tired of Windows vulnerabilities, Linux driver issues, and cursing x86 hardware all day long. Rixstep have many years of experience behind their efforts, with teaching and consulting credentials from the likes of British Aerospace, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Lloyds TSB, SAAB Defence Systems, British Broadcasting Corporation, Barclays Bank, IBM, Microsoft, and Sony/Ericsson.

Rixstep and Radsoft products are or have been in use by Sweden's Royal Mail, Sony/Ericsson, the US Department of Defense, the offices of the US Supreme Court, the Government of Western Australia, the German Federal Police, Verizon Wireless, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Microsoft Corporation, the New York Times, Apple Inc, Oxford University, and hundreds of research institutes around the globe. See here.

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