Archives For Apple

my opinion on macos

July 2, 2017

In the last post about iOS, reader Wolfgang Lonien asked:

Would be interesting to hear your opinions about MacOS vs. Linux and BSD. How much of it is open like in BSD, how much is the proverbial “walled garden”?

The answer is complicated, and I’ll answer it in two parts.

Open vs Closed

The commercial version is closed. It’s not open like Linux or BSD. macOS as it’s now known (and was known as Mac OS X in previous incarnations) is closed, along with the many support frameworks and applications that come bundled with it. It’s shipped pre-installed on every Mac that Apple sells, ready to run as soon as the new Mac is powered up. This simplifies things greatly. The problem with this pat answer is that while the official binary version as shipped is closed, Apple has released the source code in a limited form for an open version known as Darwin.

Darwin is the source to an operating system composed from NeXTSTEP (later OPENSTEP), elements from BSD, and the Mach microkernel. NeXTSTEP was the underlying OS for Steve Job’s NeXT computer, the computer he developed when he left Apple in 1987. When Steve was re-hired by Apple in 1997, one of the stipulations placed upon Apple upon re-hiring Steve was that Apple would buy NeXT. Apple then announced that the next official Apple OS for the Mac would be derived from NeXTSTEP/OPENSTEP. It was finally released as a public beta in 2000 as Mac OS X. At the same time in 2000, the core elements were released as open source as Darwin under the Apple Public Source License. The Cocoa and Carbon frameworks in particular, as well as many higher-level tools, remained closed.

Here’s what uname -v shows in ITerm2:

Darwin Kernel Version 16.6.0: Fri Apr 14 16:21:16 PDT 2017; root:xnu-3789.60.24~6/RELEASE_X86_64

In the first ten years of Darwin, up to 2010 and Darwin 8.0.1, Apple released a binary ISO to help install Darwin. After 2010 it has only been released as source code. Apple has never released the iOS variant for ARM.

I’m sure this sounds terrible to the purists, but I personally don’t care. The OS works, it’s solid, and I love the desktop. After over 30 years working with graphical desktop operating systems from Windows 1 through AT&T System 3, IRIX, UnixWare, Solaris, and on through Windows 10, I find macOS to be the most refined of them all. It’s notable that macOS is the first, and only, BSD variant I work with. I’ve tried many times in the past to install Free BSD and Net BSD on hardware and virtual machines, and I’ve given up every time due to one stupid glitch after another with the installation. I have no love for any other BSD except Apple’s macOS.

Walled Garden vs Open Installation

Apple’s macOS has its own App Store where you can purchase thousands of applications. It’s not ideal, and many have complained against it since its introduction in 2011. My biggest complaint is that I can’t update apps purchased outside of the app store within the app store. Biggest example of this is my purchase of OmniGraffle. While the App Store shows I have it installed, I have to go to the Omni Group’s website to pick up (and pay for) major upgrades. Free minor updates come via the application itself. It’s an annoyance, to be sure, but it points to a key positive point: You can install any software you want without having to use the App Store.

I have, for example, HomeBrew, through which I have the latest releases of gcc, python, and R; Google’s Go language, Mozilla Research’s Rust, Oracle Java (version 8 update 131 for now), NetBeans 8.2, JetBrains Toolbox with four of their IDEs, Xcode, Visual Studio Code, Android Studio, PowerShell for macOS, Sublime Text, Iterm2 (because I absolutely cannot stand Terminal), VirtualBox (with several Linux VMs), Office 365, GitHub’s desktop, Unity, Blender, Lightroom, and on and on and on. In short the system is wide open to serious development tools and just about anything that can be installed and/or compiled to work on macOS.

As for the App Store, it’s good about delivering updates/upgrades to macOS and all the Apple tools that came pre-installed. The only thing I’ve installed from the App Store are “minor” applications like Bear (in fact I think that’s the only thing I’ve installed from the macOS App Store). macOS isn’t locked down the way iOS is, and I appreciate that, the same way I appreciate that iOS is as locked down as it is. My iPhone has become a vital part of my personal and work life, and if it wasn’t as locked down as it is now, I’d lock it down hard myself. It’s one of many reasons I switched from Android (Samsung Galaxy) to an iPhone back in 2015. Android is far more easily hackable and rootable than iOS; way too easy.

One More Thing

macOS is UNIX Certified, specifically The Open Group UNIX® 03 standard. I tend to pay attention to standards in my line of work, and the fact that macOS conforms to the UNIX standard, instead of calling itself UNIX-like, adds to the value of the overall computer system I use for my personal and professional work. Neither Linux nor the free BSDs are there, and probably never will be. That doesn’t mean I won’t use them, but then again, it also means I won’t walk away from macOS nor the hardware on which it runs. I depend on all my tools, and I want them to be the best quality tools I can possibly afford. macOS definitely fits in the quality tool category.

my ipad air 2

July 1, 2017

I have a confession to make. I have two iPads, an iPad Air 2 from 2014 as well as the 2016 Pro. I purchased the Air 2 in November 2014, right before my annual trip to Japan in support of Yama Sakura. I’d purchased the Air 2 for the express purpose of moving my photography post processing over to an iPad and away from a 17.3″ Samsung notebook running Windows 8 that I’d also carried with me to Japan. The biggest reason for the Air 2 was its gorgeous Retina Display. The Air 2’s display was the killer feature for me on that device. It just blew the display on the Samsung notebook completely away. In addition to all of that hardware, I still had my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone. I carried every bit of it in a backpack from Orlando to Tokyo, which was where Yama was held that year.

The Air 2 was the second major Apple purchase I made. The first was a refurbished mid-2012 Mac Mini Server. I used the Mini as my initial OS X development platform. I’d purchased a refurbed Mini because by that time Apple had dumbed down the Mini. The refurbed unit came with an Intel quad core i7 and a pair of 1TB drives. Furthermore it came with an easily removable base, which allowed me to boost the initial 4GB of DRAM to 16GB six months later.

Up to the point where I purchased the Mac Mini I was pretty anti-Apple. My wife owned a MacBook, then a modest MacBook Pro, but I stuck to my Linux and Windows systems. But there was something about the design of the Mini Server that I appreciated, and the overall system’s small size but mighty capabilities struck a chord with me. The purchase of the Mini opened a chink in my personal armor against Apple. The Air 2 finished the job by blowing that armor away. I was so pleased with the Air 2 that the next year, when it came time for me to upgrade my Android phone to something more current for the time that I elected to switch to Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, starting with the iPhone 6s Plus. Then later came the purchase of the 15″ MBP and the retirement of the Samsung Windows notebook to my shelf (the way Windows 10 came to the Samsung played a role in that decision as well).

It was with the Air 2 that I came to fully appreciate iOS and the various tools, especially Pixelmator for still images and RePlay for simple videos built from those stills. RePlay was later purchased by GoPro and folded into Quik, but not before I paid to fully unlock RePlay’s capabilities (Quik is now free). I’d also purchased a Pencil by 53 Software, and had the app installed on the Air 2. It was something really cool to work with, back before Apple released their own Apple Pencil. I still use it, but not quite as much.

I’ve included the Air 2’s Geekbench 4 numbers in the table from the last article. At first blush the numbers look rather modest, but I can assure you that the Air 2 was (and still is) a fast and capable iPad. I accomplished and created quite a bit on the Air 2, and I’m still so attached to it that I refuse to give it up.

MBP mid-2015 iPhone 7 Plus 2016 iPad Pro 2016 iPad Air 2 2014
CPU Single-Core 4462 3457 3017 1811
CPU Multi-Core 16005 5872 5082 4297
Compute 38117 12296 14764 7646
Processor Intel Core i7 Apple A10 Fusion Apple A9x Apple A8x
Max Frequency 2.8 GHz 2.34 GHz 2.26 GHz 1.50 GHz
OS macOS 10.12.5 iOS 10.3.2 iOS 10.3.2 iOS 10.3.2