Giving up on Macs

For a short time, I had an iMac Air M1 laptop. While I have to admit that the Apple system and the M1 chip impressed me a lot, I won’t keep that system. The reason can be summarized as the huge compatibility problem between Apples private garden and the outer world. But there are also issues with the system itself and the cloud services it offers or rather enforces.

This is by no means going to be a rant against Apple, at least I try not to let it become one. Their products are great. They are on the expensive side, but there are Windows laptops and Android smartphones with worse specs in the same price range. The common theme for Apple seems to be: What works, works well. But there are too many things that I do not like because they simply don’t work. Let me explain.

The compatibility issue has many facets. The last one that I encountered was indeed the nail in the coffin, and the end of my friendship with Apple: The Mac was unable to read my USB drive formatted on a Windows computer. Okay, you can format on the Mac. Windows can read this. I used the disc like that for a while until I found more and more corrupt files. The exact reason is impossible to detect. One possible culprit could be the indexing that Macs perform for minutes by default, in conjunction with my impatience. But it could also just have been the handling of the device on the Macs or on Windows. I never had such problems in the Windows ecosystem.

There were numerous issues with the M1 chip. It seems that this new technology is not supported widely. There is a translation tool, but it failed to work on many of the programs that I wished to use. Often, there is a work-around. An example is the Anaconda Navigator. You can use the Anaconda tools nevertheless. But frequently, there is no M1 version available. This may sort itself out with time.

One other problem is something I am not very proud to tell you. I could never get used to the four modifier keys of the laptop. And Macs seem to rely very much on the ability of the user to remember those key combinations. I always forgot which modifier with which key would scroll a page up, go up one directory, or delete a file on the desktop. Moreover, it is close to impossible to fluidly program or write Latex, even if you remember that the curly bracket is hidden under the number 8. If I continued to program for Macs, I’d have to connect an external keyboard with a reasonable layout.

The default use of Apple’s cloud service was also giving me more troubles than help. If you are willing to pay for sufficient storage, it might work well. But for free, you can’t use it. It took me a while to stop it from synchronizing my desktop. That is really a nuisance because you get asked every time you move a file from the desktop to your file system. I seem to use the desktop in unintended ways, more as a short time storage than a dashboard. In the end, I switch off the service completely, which Apple does not seem to like me doing, and complained here and there.

Speaking of the file system, there are also some system programs which seem to be unwilling to use all files on the disk, including the connected Google Drive. I was very dissatisfied with the behavior of the Photo app. The previewer is also very restricted and just shows the current file it just opened, unable to skip to the next one. I admit that all these problems might have to do with me coming from Windows, and not having enough patience to learn the new system or install a proper app. By the way, there seem to be less free apps for the Apple. I especially dislike the in-app payment, which makes it impossible to judge the real costs beforehand.

I did not talk about the iPad, which I also had and still have. This is again another marvel of technology. But I prefer a more open file system. Android is already not easy in this respect, but the iPad was a nightmare to me. After a while, I learned how to get the files where I want them, mostly using my Google cloud service. Still, that could be easier. And iTunes did not help either, by the way. It transferred photos at a rate of one per 5 seconds.

In summary, I can easily imagine that many users are satisfied with the Mac or the iPad. As I said, they are great systems. They are just not for made for my work.

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