Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

Kingcoherent

macrumors member
Original poster
Aug 30, 2022
60
54
/rambling_rant
The incredible and astute Cory Doctorow coined the word enshtiffication (******tification: The 2023 Digital Word of the Year), mostly to describe how online communities would be destroyed by predatory business models (e.g. MySpace, Twitter). There's a great article in the FT for those who have a subscription ('******tification' is coming for absolutely everything) and a free one in El Reg here (Cory Doctorow has a plan to wipe away the ******tification of tech).

The problem has spread far beyond social media; as much as twitter was fun for a bit I don't see as the end of the world. It now encompasses most of modern capitalism. And one of the biggest drivers was the DMCA and advent of DRM. Social media uses network effects to keep people on a crap platform: if all your friends are there, you can't move until everyone moves. DRM can lock you into a much larger ecosystem, with significant sunk costs.

I first moved to Apple at the turn of the century (god that makes me feel old). The Microsoft ecosystem was a terrible, insecure, buggy mess. Microsoft's stranglehold on office apps made it hard to use anything else at the end of the nineties, Linux really wasn't slick enough for more than tinkerers. MaxOS X was a breath of fresh air; built on an open foundation, but with a slick and well performing UI. And for my hobby, making music, the Mac was an ideal platform (starting with dual booting into OS9, but before long X had everything I needed running locally).

The advent of the iPhone was another revolution, although one I was late to adopt (it was only when my Nokia E63 died did I switch). Shortly after I got an iPad.

At this point I was firmly set in the Apple ecosystem. The convenience of all devices (for the most part) seamlessly talking to each other, sharing content is really useful. I also started to use the iTunes Store for content. I prefer to "own" the content I consume, and being able to avoid stacks of vinyl, CDs and DVDs cluttering up my house was a huge advantage (I also used other stored such as Beatport and Boomkat for music, which generally had more of the niche music I listened to). I was slow switch to subscription based streaming, and instead would buy the odd series on discount I wanted to watch if it wasn't available on the BBC's iPlayer. Fast forward fifteen years and I've accumulated a lot of digital stuff. And here's where the rot starts to set in.

Apple's customer service on the App Store is definitely worse than before. Ask for a refund if there's been a problem or mistake and there's no longer a human on the end to help: money down the drain. The lack of explanation leads to a hugely frustrating customer experience.

The apps for music and TV are now predominantly skewed towards watching subscription services. Own your own content and you get a crap, clunky UX (never mind whether it was purchased through Apple's own store or not). Even on the Mac itself it's getting harder and harder to use apps not distributed through the App Store. You still cannot add an MP3 to the iPhone's library from the iOS filesystem, you still need to go via iTunes (the iPod was introduced in 2001, more than twenty years ago).

Furthermore, Apple appears to have learnt nothing from Microsoft's anticompetitive behaviour in the 90s, and the regulator responses. Their anti-developer behaviour is getting worse and worse (see the new "terms" to comply with the DMA in the EU). Interestingly all of our junior developers (at the place I work) now avoid Apple on a personal level, preferring Linux and Android. This is a significant shift from just five years ago.

Don't get me wrong, there's still a lot that's good about Apple, but it's no longer great. The hardware is mostly superb, the software is not and the service is crap. Another example, where I work we get our staff maxed out MacBook Pros with Apple Care - the charging cables break and the only way to get a replacement is to book in at a Genius Bar. We're not huge spenders as the company is still quite small, but that level of dismissive service really makes me want to find an alternative supplier.

What do people do to avoid vendor lock-in with digital platforms?

Are there digital media players available for the Apple Ecosystem that provide a decent user experience for all DRM free content? Is there software from an alternative provider that lets you view downloaded video content from Apple?

What is the state of desktop linux and open source mobile operating systems (e.g. stripped back Android), that give a good experience for light home usage?

Has anyone tried alternative computer, tablet and phone suppliers recently? Are they just as ******tified?


In the meantime I've lost patience for my personal use. Today I removed the payment option from my Apple ID and cancelled all recurring subscriptions going through my account. It costs a ton more to buy through Apple, that extra is only worthwhile if they're able to provide some level of customer service. I'll keep using the hardware, since I don't yet see a viable alternative.
 

Kingcoherent

macrumors member
Original poster
Aug 30, 2022
60
54
On the anticompetitive behaviour front I'm talking about the various troubles Apple has had recently regards hate Spotify ruling, but also the App Store. Apple is currently fighting many battles with developers on its own platform and with regulators in. the US, EU and the UK. It has already had findings made against it - so I don't think it's too controversial to say that it's engaging in anticompetitive behaviour. But mostly it's an attitude thing: Apple's response to the Spotify ruling was like a jilted teenager. Sadly, they have learnt nothing from the rulings against Microsoft in the 90s that (arguably) saved Apple. Yes Apple stock pays dividend for now, but the spark of innovation is lacking (I saw them compared to the Balmer years of Microsoft on LinkedIn yesterday, and I don't think that this is that unfair!).

However, my main gripe is that the anticompetitive behaviour from Apple just leads to a worse user experience. The Music app on iOS makes it really hard to enjoy music that you already own (constantly being pushed to use Apple Music instead of just browse what you have); it is a noticeably worse user experience than pre-Apple Music. The TV app is a worse experience for watching owned film and tv, and the new store makes it harder to find missing episodes and buy them effectively; instead you are pushed to streaming services, with a strong preference for Apple's own streaming service. The user experience is particularly frustrating on AppleTV, where it forgets where you have watched in a series and forces you to sideways scroll through every season of a series each time you go back to a series (I've been re-watching the Wire, which I own the box set to - but it applies across the board).

Sadly this ******tification is across the board, all providers suffer from the same problems. I still like Apple because it's the best of a very poor bunch. But I resent the vendor locking to an ecosystem that's getting worse.
 

bzgnyc2

macrumors member
Dec 8, 2023
99
127
What do people do to avoid vendor lock-in with digital platforms?

Are there digital media players available for the Apple Ecosystem that provide a decent user experience for all DRM free content? Is there software from an alternative provider that lets you view downloaded video content from Apple?

What is the state of desktop linux and open source mobile operating systems (e.g. stripped back Android), that give a good experience for light home usage?

Has anyone tried alternative computer, tablet and phone suppliers recently? Are they just as ******tified?
Many of the same thoughts these days...

What do people do to avoid vendor lock-in with digital platforms?

The modern world is making independence an extra job while dependency is becoming frictionless. It takes constant vigilance and there just aren't solutions yet in some cases. The first thing is do you really need (to depend on) this? What did you (or others) do pre-iPhone? Most of these things have little effect on life expectancy, well-being, or even net productivity. Sure online banking is faster than going to a branch but then most people seem to spend the benefit checking all their banking apps every day.

I turned off Location Services when I reset my phone some time ago with plans to selectively turn it on for a few apps. But then I never did and found I'm still alive. A little more data entry when I use Apple Maps/etc but it's not like I didn't navigate the world pre-GPS. For those who drive and/or whose cars don't have GPS this might be too much to sacrifice but the idea is you should at least challenge your need for these things.

Second, is this something you can own (historically documents, music, movies) or inherently a subscription (e.g. Internet, news)? If the latter it's okay and just be prepared to pivot/have alternative when pressed (e.g. you are likely have at least 3 different technologies to get Internet these days so cable internet is less of a monopoly even if its the best option at the moment). On the former, I believe worth the extra time to try to own/avoid lock-in.

The number one thing is keeping all the content I create on my computer in open formats (text, PDF, PNG, etc) - or at least formats that can be read by multiple vendors (DOCX, XLSX, etc). My problem with the iPad is they keep the things you create in their system (e.g. your creation is treated like a preference file embedded in their app) in their formats. Similar with web-based applications. They quasi-own your content and you end up leasing it back.

I know everyone loves Spotify/Apple Music/Amazon Music, etc but I prefer to hold the music I like and not depend on subscriptions to retain access (perhaps to the edition I like or in some cases to the artists I like). The prices are only going to go up and what are you going to do when they do? As opposed to younger generations, I had already built my music library up over the years by the time Spotify was a reasonable alternative. Not sure what I would do if starting out now and my options were Spotify @ $11/month or buying $5K in music. In any case, almost all music is available non-DRM in open formats and there are numerous players for alternative platforms.

There are some great video and movies that I wouldn't mind owning but this is getting harder. DVD quality isn't bad but not 1080p (or 4K for those for whom that matters). A lot of new content appears streaming-only. As such I still haven't replaced my DVD drive even though it would be smarter to buy DVD of content I want to load on to my computer. Video and movies appears to be the biggest unavoidable content lock-in these days and don't see any solution in sight.

I haven't found a complete alternative for my iPhone or Mac. There are some open source phones (e.g. Purism, Fairphone, etc) but no one has said they are ready for prime time yet. Getting just iTunes<->Music / iPhotos/Camera level of integration doesn't appear to be there plus you're back to SMS/MMS, TBD on VoLTE and/or WiFi Calling, and of course no apps. It's not like Morse Code days though you might feel like you're going backwards 15 years.

I think MacOS still makes for the best desktop OS. Windows is probably the closest alternative but not sure in any way a step up other than commercial application availability. OpenBSD looks clean but close to 0 commercial applications and no Linux compatibility. Linux is of course open but getting messy and still limited access to commercial applications. I don't consider any solution that requires administering Windows (e.g. running it in a VM or dual-boot) a viable alternative.


Are there digital media players available for the Apple Ecosystem that provide a decent user experience for all DRM free content?

Music or video? There are interesting alternative music apps for MacOS but can't recommend one in particular as so far iTunes with anything iCloud/Apple Music disabled works fine for me.

Is there software from an alternative provider that lets you view downloaded video content from Apple?

Afraid all video content downloaded from Apple, historically and for the foreseeable future, is locked into their DRM. There are services that claim to remove but not one that I would give my credit card.

What is the state of desktop linux and open source mobile operating systems (e.g. stripped back Android), that give a good experience for light home usage?

Their recent desktop/GUI look pretty good and reasonably modern. Plus there are so many to choose from...

I think for browsing you should be fine. Streaming too but then you're getting back to platform lock-in. I think there are enough music players for Linux that you could find one that you like for playing your own DRM-free files. VLC also works fine for playing DRM-free video content and sure there are others. Less clear about syncing across devices and the like.

Has anyone tried alternative computer, tablet and phone suppliers recently? Are they just as ******tified?

I haven't done any hard tests but my desk investigations so far suggest they are but in different ways. Maybe fewer subscriptions in exchange for more ads/data brokering. Or less streamlined/integrated (e.g. Linux, open source phones).
 

turbineseaplane

macrumors G5
Mar 19, 2008
14,711
31,341
I resonate with this immensely

For now I’m just using whatever works best and can also work across platforms

I’m still using iCloud and Apple photos for that reason

I do still use an iPad mini and iPhone 13 mini
I would gladly switch to a different phone of any kind if it was smaller

On the desktop I’m using Windows 11 of late, because I refuse to be extorted by Apple for ram and SSD upgrades at 10X markups.

For a laptop I still use my 2015 15” MacBook Pro… it’s getting a new battery this weekend in fact!

Music….have never stopped purchasing and collecting it in my curated personal library. I never will stop doing that. I really only use streaming for casual listening or to listen to something somebody recommends to me to see if I like it. I can’t stand having to deal with always needing the Internet connection or having content change or disappear at the whims of streaming services.

Similar situation for video as I’ve been running a Plex server since about 2011 or so
 

turbineseaplane

macrumors G5
Mar 19, 2008
14,711
31,341
Big weekend for me - game changing really

I tweaked my hardware and resurrected my Hack on Monterey with an RX 6600

Then I put my 2015 MBP back on Monterey with a new SSD (SN770) and to say I'm "thrilled" is an understatement

I think I will be on Monterey for a long long time
It has the perfect mix of "new stuff that works fine" like messages and photos and icloud, but still has the old style System Preferences and I can use things like Retroactive to still use iTunes

(I HATE -- with a very strong passion -- the new Music and Settings apps)
 
  • Like
Reactions: Technerd108

turbineseaplane

macrumors G5
Mar 19, 2008
14,711
31,341
Houston, we have a (good) problem..

I've discovered IconChamp 👀

Screen Shot 2024-03-11 at 13.44.27.png


and TotalFinder (again)

Screen Shot 2024-03-11 at 13.49.43.png
 
Last edited:
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.