Then End of Apple as We Know It?

I started programming around 1980 -- my friend had recently upgraded his home-computer to an Apple ][ leaving his Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III available and for-sale.  It's what I learned to program BASIC on and it served me well until I moved over to the Atari line of home computers, culminating with a 1040STe that got me through my programming classes in college using Mark Williams C.

But I always had envy for my friend's Apple who, over the same period of time, continuously improved his Apple ][ by upgrading to later versions.  I even went with him to the local computer store, which was an authorized Apple reseller, barely containing my envy and, in no small part, simmering rage over out-of-reach computers, shiny on the shelves, priced at a cost more than the value of any car I'd ever owned to this point.

Years passed and, finally, I made the leap into the Mac world with my purchase of a Cherry iMac.  I was indoctrinated into the world of System 7, I believe, and kept this iMac for a couple years before plunking down a significant amount of cash for the Apple Cube.  I actually ordered the Cube within two-weeks of it's discontinuation announcement.

From the Cube to the first-generation Mac Mini - which I used mainly for work, as a LAMP developer.  From the Mini, came my first iMac, a 24" white iMac, which I eventually melted playing WoW -- the graphics card just died one day -- and so I upgraded to a 27" Aluminum iMac I7 -- the same computer I am using today.  Somewhere in there, I acquired a 12" aluminum Mac Book, which was well used for about 10 years before it finally imploded.

Over the last couple decades, as a Mac user, I've been more than happy with Apple and their products.  I've never been a raging fanboi, or even a card-carrying member of the cult of Apple - but I did also purchase every generation of iPod, and iPhone through the 4S.  (I quit using the iPhone when I moved to Mexico early last year because AT&T.)

I've used Apple computers at work as a development platform, and at home as both main mainstay and a gaming machine.  Although, in the last couple of years I've moved my gaming over to a home-built PC on Windows 7 -- basically an XBox with a keyboard.  My work platforms are now Ubuntu Linux which are installed on both my work laptops.  I also use Ubuntu on my EC2 instances, and CentOS on my EC2 clustered machines.

I've upgraded to, and through, every version of OS X up until Mavericks.  And all have performed flawlessly... until Mavericks.  And now, my decades-long stance of explicitly, and implicitly trusting Apple in everything they engineer comes to an end.  The Mavericks release, sadly, has reduced by faith in Apple to a level just a notch, perhaps two, over Ubuntu Linux, and a couple notches over the crapware Microsoft calls Windows.

And I pretty much blame it on the death of Steve Jobs.  To be brutally honest, when ol' Steve was at the helm of Apple, you knew, without hesitation or doubt, that anything being released under his watch was fairly solid.  Sure, there were some issues in every release, but Apple was pretty decent about making sure basic functionality worked, and worked well.

I installed Mavericks the day after it became available and was somewhat impressed with the new look-and-feel of the OS upgrade.  Not a lot, to be sure, in terms of the UI experience, but Apple promised other features which prompted my decision to download and install the upgrade.

Now, to be sure, I don't use my iMac for much more these days than email and web - something an iPad could do just as well.  But there are times when I need to drag out Omnigraffle for work documentation, or... email... and did I mention browsing?

Yeah... pretty much limiting my iMac use now-a-days since all the heavy lifting has been moved over to Ubuntu.  (Note, I'd use a Mac gladly -- but I just can justify shelling out a couple grand for a laptop when I can get a Dell for half that, with SSD and maxed-out memory.)  

So, (trying to reign-in the old-man rambling...) I was horrified when I discovered that Mail, under the Mavericks upgrade, simple didn't work.  I mean, it loaded fine, and loaded my gmail accounts fine, and some other email accounts I have... but then it just, inexplicably, stopped working.

As in, no new email.  Overnight, I usually get about 20-30 pieces of mail.  Day 2 of Mavericks, I awaken and find... no new email.  Weird.  I hop into Chrome and check gmail and -- yup -- there's new email.  Alt-Tab over to Mail and get-me-some-messages and... nothing.  Restart email and I pull all my mails.  Weird.  Stopped thinking about it.

Until the next morning... when everything Mail was, again, autistic.  Repeat the process of restarting and download Mail and now I'm getting concerned.  So I google Mavericks+Mail+problems and immediately get hits on other peoples having similar problems.

Side note - one reason why I don't use the Apple forums very much, except for searching for solutions is that it's a community-driven resource.  I've reported various issues to the forums over the years but, as time drags on, I get less tolerant of Apple's rather draconian editing practices coupled with their policy of "Admit nothing - deny everything" attitude towards problem reports.  

Since the main reason why I use my iMac is not longer trustworthy I start checking out alternative to solutions to the Apple Mail client -- all the time I'm wondering, how the hell do you break something that was working so well before?  More to the point, since I'd read about "known" issues with gmail -- how the hell do you release something so thoroughly untested like this?

And that pretty much led up to the epiphany moment which spawned this blog post.  Steve Jobs died, man.

See, there's no shortage of articles on "Steve Jobs, Perfectionist" out on the net.  It was well known that Steve pretty much micro-managed to the point where Apple fanbois could be fanbois and the cult of Apple could be a respectable cult.  Because, under the Jobs administration, hardware and software worked.  (Apple Maps not withstanding -- but was that really a Jobs release? Hmmm...)

I mean, I know I'm simplifying this a tad, but bear with me... the thesis statement is looming large...  

Quick!  What's the name of the Apple CEO who replaced Jobs?

Yeah.  I don't know either.

See?

I think Apple has gone the path of the corporate black-hole of profit over product (quality).  They've determined what the acceptable (to them) number of product glitches for a given sub-product and, regardless of the magnitude of the issue, they're not going to blow past a release date (because stock) in favor of not-installing a product upgrade on an end-user's beloved machine that has all the characteristics and functionality of a virus. (I'm looking right at you, Mail.)

So, back to Mail - a couple days after stop-start Mail games, while Mail was doing something extremely time intensive, I hit the gmail account on the browser again and, just for fun, I open my gmail spam folder.

Holy shitsnacks.

My spam folder is full of not-spam!

I mean, emails from work, family and friends are strewn about my spam folder with wild abandon.  Since Apple Mail is the only client I use, somehow the Mavericks version managed to (randomly) mark email, from trusted users (address book) as spam.

What I am watching for now is this -- the exodus, the brain-drain, the announcements from Apple of resignations of top, long-term, employees -- usually filed under "personal reasons".  See, when you've spent most of your career in an environment where you engineer quality into products - emphatically and almost religiously -- and then the corporate culture starts to shift to this "fuck it - it compiles - ship it - we can't miss this date" attitude, the gear-heads are going to walk.

When you have an engineering team that's so proud of their product that they injection-mold signatures from the team into the inside of a computer case, well, you understand that your money is well spent and that those same engineers will stand behind their CEO who stands behind all their products.  Not just the ones you can stuff into a pocket.

I hope this downslide of product quality doesn't continue - seriously - because Apple is still the one bright light in a sea of mediocrity. 

Mail isn't the only aspect of Mavericks which is broken.  Google it.  You'll see a plethora of other problem reports on sub-system components that will simply boggle your mind and leave you wondering "How in the hell did this make it out the door?"

Mavericks would have never been released under the Jobs' administration.  It shouldn't have been released under what's-his-face's administration either.