March 28, 2015, 6:51 p.m.
IT | Rants

Full Circle - Mac Becomes Windows

Almost fifteen years ago I switched from Windows to Linux, as I was very frustrated with the way Windows turned out to become. Linux was perfect, apart from the fact that it cannot be considered a professional workstation platform due to the lack of business applications and the constant fiddling necessary to do even the most basic of tasks. So I have switched to Apple Macintosh about 12 years ago. Since then I have never looked back, until now.

Perhaps it is because Steve Jobs is no longer at the helm of Apple, who knows. All I know for a fact is that the quality of the Mac OS X platform has taken a turn for the worse. I am particularly referring to my "brand new" Mac Pro (Late 2013). Mac Pro had always been the pinnacle of Apple's computing platforms. Not necessarily the most innovative, but certainly built for their purpose - to be a workhorse workstation for professionals that demand the ultimate from their machines. They are ridiculously reliable, redundant, fast and scalable. But all that changed with the Mac Pro 2013.

In the beginning I was excited that finally Apple released an update to their ageing 2010 model Mac Pro. By 2013 their Mac Pros were using grossly outdated Xeon processors and were pretty much obsolete. Since I was already invested in the Mac OS X ecosystem, I could not just switch platforms. Besides - I loved their new laptops, both the retina MacBook Pros and the MacBook Airs. When they announced the new systems in late 2013 I placed an order for an almost maxed out system. It consists of one 6-Core Xeon 3.5GHz E5-1650v2 CPU, 64GB RAM, D500 AMD FirePro GPU and a 1TB SSD drive. Build and price the model for yourself - it works out to CAD 6300 before taxes. It is a lot of money for a computer. To top that off I have two 27" Apple Cinema displays connected to this machine - one via Thunderbolt and the other via the older Displayport interface.

I have been upgrading my OS to the current Yosemite (10.10.2) to ensure I benefit from the latest advances in performance and bug fixes in the OS. However, since I got this new Mac Pro and moved to Yosemite I have had nothing but endless trouble. Below a summary of my troubles:

  1. Every couple of weeks I would arrive at a Mac that has a dead keyboard. I never turn the system off, and it never sleeps. So getting to a machine with no keyboard is quite frustrating. Turns out ALL the USB ports on the displayport screen (where the keyboard is plugged in to) randomly stops functioning. Rebooting usually fixes the issue. So eventually I moved the keyboard to the Thunderbolt screen.
  2. Every couple of weeks I would arrive at a Mac that has a dead keyboard. Turns out ALL the USB ports on the thunderbolt screen (where the keyboard is plugged in to) randomly stops functioning. Rebooting usually fixes the issue.
  3. Every couple of weeks I arrive at a Mac that has a dead keyboard, BUT this time... I hook the keyboard up to the Mac Pro's built in USB 3 ports. None would work. Other devices work fine. Perhaps you would suspect the keyboard? Turns out a non-Apple keyboard would work in all the USB ports, but NO other Apple keyboard works. I have tried three known to be good Apple keyboards - none would work in ANY of the internal USB ports. Plug in a non-Apple keyboard - it works. The Apple keyboards work perfectly on another iMac and Mac Mini. Then after a couple of hours the keyboard would suddenly start working. And a reboot does NOT help in this case - not even a cold reboot.
  4. After upgrading to Yosemite, after using the computer for a couple of days I would start experiencing bad flickering in graphic applications such as Helicon Focus, Photoshop, iStat menus etc. It is almost like a buffering issue - perhaps VRAM? If a picture is redrawn on the screen the system would first flash the picture in white or black, then draw the picture, Highly distracting - and was not present in Mavericks. And I did perform a clean install - I wiped everything, installed Yosemite and reconfigured everything by hand - nothing moved over from the old system. Made no difference.
  5. Even before this Mac Pro, and even before Yosemite, I would NEVER get more than 28 days of uptime after which the system would just grind to a halt - not crashing, but everything becomes so slow that I have to reboot.
  6. With the new Mac Pro 2013 and Yosemite, after 3 days of using the system all screen redraws start becoming very sluggish. Switching desktops seem like the 90's. My Pentium II did it faster. Reboot and the system is fine for 2-3 days.
  7. This Mac Pro is EXPENSIVE. It uses all Intel / PC components. Saying it is RISC based is no longer an excuse for its cost (think G5 PowerPC). So I would expect a Mac Pro costing $6300 to perform similarly than say a $5000 Windows PC - to even out the additional cost for its "elegant design and premium materials construction". Turns out to be a big misconception. My 3 year old Windows PC that cost me $3500 VASTLY outperforms this machine. It has a 6 core i7 3930K CPU @ 3.2GHz, 32GB RAM and RAID0 SSD (almost as fast as the Mac Pro's PCIe based SSD). Rendering a focus stack from several 18MP Canon 1DX CR2 RAW files to DNG in Helicon Focus takes 2 minutes 2 seconds on the Mac Pro, and only 1 minute 25 seconds on the Windows 8.1 PC. That may be attributable to the CPU, OS or focus stacking software. Who knows. Who cares. It is what I have, and the Windows machine smokes the Mac. Unacceptable.
  8. I STILL have to work in Word 2013 for Windows as the Mac version is so crippled it cannot do basic things I need for my job. This is not an Apple issue but a platform issue (Microsoft most likely deliberately cripples Office for Mac to keep people invested in Windows - as their biggest profit margin is in Office, not Windows).
  9. I cannot upgrade my Mac Pro. Apple states that with Thunderbolt 2 I can add storage as much as I'd like to, but in real life things are not so straight forward. The new Mac Pro is small and slick, but I need more space than its internal puny 1TB SSD provides. So I have two Pegasus Thunderbolt RAID arrays attached to the Mac Pro. Each unit is twice the volume of the Mac Pro. So my "system" is an ugly bunch of components standing next to each other. And if I want to upgrade the RAM? 64GB is maxed out. What about the SSD? Can't. CPU? Not easily. So in 2 years time if I want an upgrade I need to shell out another $7k.
  10. HFS+ sucks. It is old, outdated, inefficient, unreliable and just plain archaic. NTFS is much better, so too is ZFS. Yet we do not see any enhancements to the filesystem.
  11. Apple is becoming a much larger player than back in the early 2000's. Their market share is already up to almost 14%. Viruses targeted Windows mostly because of its prevalence. This is set to change with almost every second person having some kind of Apple device. And no, Apple is not more secure, it is just more obscure. We all know about security through obscurity...
  12. There was a time when I would boot my Mac and just ogle over its gorgeous beauty. The UI was so fluid, modern and slick. Everything was well designed and extremely pretty, showing its NeXTStep inheritance. Today I find that I prefer Windows's look. At least it is much more consistent. Show me two applications on the Mac that has similar UI's. The core features - windows, borders, title bars, menus etc are all over the place. And what on earth is up with putting EVERYTHING in the title bar? I dislike the Mac OS X UI. It is confused - like a young adolescent that is not yet pretty but also no longer a cute kid. Just ugly pimples.
  13. I used to say that Mac is so cool because I have forgotten how to install device drivers. But that is a partial lie. The other day I tried to print something to my Epson WorkForce 630 printer via WiFi. This was after I reinstalled Mac OS X Yosemite due to a very bad upgrade failure. It took me one hour and a 1.2GB download to get it working. The thing is, with the online distribution of Mac OS X, they no longer bundle all the print drivers. So it is supposed to be downloaded on demand I guess but it does not. I had to figure out that I need drivers - something never needed before so it confused me. Then I had to try and find the drivers on Epson's web site. No luck - according to them the drivers are built in to Mac OS X. So I went to Apple's web site and eventually found the Epson driver pack for Mac OS X in some obscure corner. After downloading 1.2GB of data (and Windows users complain about a large 50MB printer driver download!!) and installing the package, the printer works perfectly well. And so would 200 other Epson models you would never purchase. At least you are future proof.
  14. Apple broke something in their WoL and Bonjour protocol. My firewall shows a frequent switching of IP from my AppleTV as the system goes into sleep mode. This causes intermittent issues and weird names such as Apple TV (4).
  15. The Mac Pro sometimes takes up to 20 minutes to boot. WTF?
  16. Before Yosemite, my WiFi on the Mac Pro worked well. After the upgrade (and this a CLEAN install after a new disk repartitioning), WiFi had serious issues. Time Machine would fail ever couple of days and only a reboot would fix it. WiFi would work, then after 2-3 days just refuse to turn on. Eventually Apple fixed it in 10.10.2. However, with 10.10.3 they broke it again. I have to reboot DAILY now to get Time Machine backups to work due to WiFi failing.

Not sure what the future holds. All I know is I am open to something fresh, like Apple used to be back in 2003.