The Apple “Enforced Computing” Report

June 13th, 2012

More and more, I see nonsensical articles from alleged tech pundits catching fire online. These hacks make outrageous comments, somehow imagining they are being relevant, or at least controversial enough to attract attention. More often than not, they will regurgitate some myths about a company, often Apple Inc., and expand upon them as if they were true.

So there’s an article from a certain highly confused writer — and there will be no link here — in which he refers to Apple is delivering a “rabbit hold of enforced computing” in explaining why Microsoft isn’t betting the farm on Windows 8. He has succumbed to the illusion that Apple’s so-called walled garden restricts what people can do on their Macs, even though he seems to be confusing OS X with the iOS. Even then, he’s very much off base.

Sure, Apple curates the software you buy in the App Store. But that doesn’t mean that there are any significant restrictions that impact most of you. For the few who want to run a handful of apps that Apple wouldn’t allow, there’s always jailbreaking. In the scheme of things, I suppose it would be nice to have a back door to running unapproved apps, but since Apple continues to enrich the platform, I don’t feel that I’m somehow restricted. That the vast majority of iPhone and iPad users love their machines argues against the illusion that they are being forced to do things they don’t want to do, and not do things they want to do. Besides, having the apps examined before approval helps prevent malware from seeping through, and the apps at least have to meet a minimum threshold of usefulness.

Unfortunately, the alleged pundit in question doesn’t seem to understand the difference between desktop and mobile computing platforms (and maybe Microsoft doesn’t either). That’s the reason for confusing the structure of the iOS with OS X.

Yes, OS 10.8 will deliver a Gatekeeper feature, which can, in theory, limit the apps you run on a Mac. But there are three options, one of which allows you to run anything, just as you do now. And a context menu option lets you bypass even the most severe restriction, which is to limit yourself strictly to apps you get from the Mac App Store. Regardless, once an app launches the first time, there are no further impediments to using it on your Mac. More to the point, there are loads of third-party utilities that allow you to customize your Mac extensively, by making changes in the Unix core. Sure, some of those changes may cause you trouble, but those utilities usually have a restore feature to fix the damage. If you use Terminal directly, though, you are free to screw things up for yourself without Apple coming to your door to rescue (or take) your Mac. Enforced computing indeed!

In any case, the silly article in question goes on to discuss Microsoft’s unfortunate obsession with widgets and some extremely questionable desktop elements over the years, along with a few lame attempts to tamper with the traditional Windows desktop. One notorious example was Bob, which made you wonder how Microsoft could have been so foolish as to think it would ever catch on.

Now Apple has played with widgets too, in the form of Dashboard. It’s still part of OS X, but it stays out of the way unless called upon. You never have to deal with it otherwise, since it’s not in your face. By the way, I’m down to just three widgets, one of which, a utility to check running system processes, seems to have problems with the Mountain Lion prerelease.

Rather than give up on widgets, Microsoft has taken their obsession to the most extreme level possible, with the Metro layer of Windows 8, where you have widgets, or tiles, running rampant on your PC’s display. While I suppose Metro works well enough for people who don’t have lots of apps in Windows Phone, it is a poor choice for a personal computer operating system.

Now the blogger in question also admits to having concerns about the usefulness of Metro, but posits a solution, that some third party will offer a way to hide Metro and restore the traditional Windows desktop shortly after Windows 8 is released. What this means is that you will supposedly be able to enjoy “the faster boot times and higher reliability of the Windows 8 experience,” but you won’t have to contend with Metro.

So let’s see here: You will allegedly want to upgrade a PC to Windows 8 to boot the computer a little faster, or maybe shave a few seconds when you restore the computer from idle mode. Maybe Windows 8 will need fewer restarts. Is that it? Is that any reason to buy an OS with a poor user interface, and then pay a shareware developer to get rid of it?

I hate to use the term galactically stupid, but I really don’t understand the logic here. If Windows 8 isn’t a useful upgrade, my advice to Windows users is don’t upgrade! You shouldn’t depend on some third party hack to make it worthwhile.

All in all, I hate to predict failure. But Windows 8 is going to be a hard sell for Microsoft, especially for the enterprise. They need to have a Plan B, and that plan definitely should not involve a third-party Metro remover.

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7 Responses to “The Apple “Enforced Computing” Report”

  1. Turner Bain says:

    I always wonder how some OSX users can operate their Apples because of the way they gunk up the desktop. There’s even a way to customize the cursor so that it is Jesus on the cross floating around. Such is the way with Windows fans I have concluded. People get used to navigating all the encumbrances and ‘normalize’ the navigational experience. Like a kid who lives in a household with a few geriatric relatives and a cousin or two who shouldn’t be let out the door without escort. To get from the kitchen to his bedroom, he has to choose between Aunt Bertha Mae in the living room who always wants to pinch his cheek, or Uncle Rabble in the den, who makes him stop and listen to a lecture and a story about when the world was a better place. When all the poor boy wants to do is close his bedroom door and blast off into the galactic wonderland of the www. If you ask him about the situation he explains that that is the way the world is.

  2. DaveD says:

    I am always perplexed how Vista users quietly faded into the background when they never got a deserving free upgrade to Windows 7, a big service pack. Will there be a free downgrade to 7 for new PC purchase with Windows 8?

  3. dfs says:

    Turner, a lot of us think that the ability to customize our Mac is one of its strongpoints, so we don’t have to live with a one-size-fits-all interface. Look you buy a house or rent an apartment, you choose some curtains and hang some pictures on the wall, right? You’re going to be inhabiting that place a lot of the time, so you care about crafting an environment that suits your case. Sure, you look at somebody else’s Mac, you wonder how he can operate it. He looks at yours, same reaction. So? He’d probably hate your choice in curtains too. And it’s not just cosmetics, a lot of us like to add utilities to make our Macs work the way we want and each of us works in his own idiosyncratic way.To me, this ability to customize the Mac is one of its strongest selling points.

  4. ccllyyddee says:

    I wasn’t commenting against setting up your Mac to suit your purposes. What I was doing was comparing how some people like to gild the lily. What I was trying to say about why Windows users put up with the product is that is what they have become used to.

    I seldom use Windows and am not familiar with operating it, but every time I do there is some complication that I have to steer around., restart, or yell help for the resident savant. On the basis of looking at other people’s Lion desktop I was under the impression that it had become like Windows, but with Album view. Apparently, that was the choices they made in setting up their preferences. Watching the big show in San Francisco, I saw that the presenters had set up their presentations showing desktop like I use my Snow Leopard.

    I do hope that I can minimize the dock, keep it on the right side and do away with the glass shelf and have Dock appear only when I cursor over there, like I do now with OS 6.

    Occasionally, Apple will go off on some tangent other than minimalism, but I notice that the Cupertino crowd are mostly self-correcting, without even consulting me. I am a big user of third party apps, also, mostly free ones, but I like the idea that the ones in the store have been checked for malfeasance.

    Comparing Apple’s Nurse Nanny and Window’s Big Bruce Orderly, it seems that Apple offers more options for individual preferences. Most of my issues are with iTunes, but its interface is nearly as old as I am.

    As I wrote, I am not all that familiar with Windows. I took classes for basic operations and the wonders of the office program, but I never used them, and find that the programs that come with OS and the ones from google and others work quite well for me, without having to employ a ‘translation’ program.

    • @ccllyyddee, The key here is that there are loads of ways with which to customize a Mac. It’s not as granular, and horribly confusing, as the Windows platform. But third-party utilities give you lots of power to mess around. Once Windows 8 is out, I suspect a lot of PC users are going to be busy looking for ways to dump Metro, or revert to Windows 7.

      Consider that, at last count, over 40% of Windows users still have Windows XP. As of now, 40% of the entire Mac user base is already using Lion, most of the rest have Snow Leopard, and the number of people on older systems is fairly small.


  5. ccllyyddee says:

    Apple seems to have a minimalist design philosophy. I’ve noticed that features that are less than ‘ergonometric’ become more utilitarian with the progression of versions. I bought a Time Capsule early on, and it took a 3 hour phone conversation with an Apple voice to get the damned thing to do what I wanted. It just wouldn’t go without both being hooked up via ethernet and Airport. ( It took a while to get the voice to understand that I did not have a wired connection to the internet. There is such a thing as being too urbanocentric. White mice is my derogatory comment.) I couldn’t dedicate my computer’s Airport because it was necessary for the Wifi internet connection via Verizon MiFi card. Time Capsule isn’t compatible with Verizon, etc. Likewise, I couldn’t connect the Verizon card via USB to Air because the Time Capsule required the Ethernet connection also. After we managed to ‘straighten’ that out, I would keep getting Time Capsule errors and not functioning notices. I gave up in disgust and filled the Capsule with movies and iTunes data, put it away and didn’t take it out for several years. When I was reorganizing every thing 9 months ago, I cranked it up, looked up some information in Support, and voila, it now does what I want. I can turn off Capsule’s Airport with a button in a window. As far as design, I think Apple missed a great opportunity by not making Time Capsule an USB powered hub with Firewire, latest USB’s, etc., along with stackable disks for use as external disks. Sometimes Apple seems focused too far in the future and misses selling a lot of interim products. Hopefully, some day soon one will be able to buy externals that are seamless with the mac.

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