Whose computer is it, anyway?

The latest updates released by Apple for its Mac computers as well as its iOS and iPadOS devices are increasingly making it harder for people to manage their device the way they want. In essence, Apple is now dictating that you must not, indeed cannot, restore any device to a previous version of its OS. In the world of politics we would call that dictatorship and it is despicable.

So, you are the proud owner of a Mac or an iPad. That means you have shelled out a good deal more for your computer, tablet or smartphone than you would have for another make — and system — device. Until about two years ago, and after having owned Macs for some 28 years, I would have wholeheartedly agreed with anyone who claimed Macs, and especially macOS and all other OSes Apple releases from its trillion-dollars idea factory, are superior to PCs. They were more user friendly, more intuitive to use, usually built to much higher quality, etc.

That has all changed. The latest upgrades and updates to Apple’s OSes have created an environment where you, the owner of the device that runs it has no authority anymore over what you do with the product that’s legally yours and yours alone. This process of intrusion and taking full control over what you do with your Mac, iPad, iPhone ot Watch, and the way you do it, has been going on for longer than two years, but it is only now becoming a real problem for many people.

I have recently run into a few examples of Apple’s dictatorship myself. Although my experiences don’t necessarily concur with yours, there are two observations that I would like to draw your attention to…

First of all, I have 28 years of experience as a technology journalist in the broadest sense of the word. I covered pretty much everything from enterprise technology to personal apps, as well as the business side of it all. I witnessed from the front row how the desktop computer evolved into the device as we all know it to be today. It makes me a privileged observator and, I dare say, an expert witness.

Secondly, with every update Apple releases the number of people that is dissatisfied where this is going, is growing. It’s no longer a small group of users who are complaining about minor issues. It’s increasingly a group of people who are using Apple’s technology to manage health issues (e.g. Bluetooth connected blood pressure measurement devices), transportation (e.g. calling with an iPhone while you’re driving) and everything else that we do in our daily lives.

With the latest update of both macOS and iOS / iPadOS, Apple is further intruding into our life. The very least we may expect then is that everything works near-perfectly. Instead, Apple’s latest updates are as buggy as Mac OS 10.7, 10.9 and 10.11 combined. An example is Safari. If you use 2 Factor Authentication (2FA), Safari has become unusable — but only if you use something else than a Yubikey. If you have an OnlyKey, you’ll be out of luck. Safari will not only not recognise the OnlyKey as a security key — despite the fact that it has a higher security level — it will also refuse to honour the Cancel button that is on the popup dialogue. And that will actually force you to Force Quit Safari because there’s no escaping the dialogue as the Cancel button doesn’t work.

That “feature” is buggy but that’s not the worst part of it. The worst is that the dialogue is totally, utterly useless and does absolutely not need to be there! The 2FA communication is not between the browser and the website. It’s between the security key and the website and Apple has no business sticking its ugly, huge nose in the process at all.

Another example is iPadOS 15.4. It will work on an iPad Air 2. That’s the one I am still using today, and I know that’s an old model but I don’t use it often and I don’t need the power of the new iPads — yet. The Bluetooth connection to my mid-207 iMac (yes, an oldie as well in Apple’s distorted time experience) worked fine with iPadOS 15.3.x. It falls apart completely with the much touted — by Macworld, anyway — newest iPadOS 15.4. There’s no connecting, no pairing as the iPad now insists my iMac is too old to be recognised by the Bluetooth module.

No problem, I thought, I can restore to an earlier version using a 15.4.1 IPSW file and a procedure that is documented on a website that supports people who want to downgrade their device. In a normal, free world you would think it’s your business if you want to risk ruining your iPad when this process goes awry. Not so in Apple’s world. I downloaded the file, followed the procedure and everything went fine until I clicked the OK button for “restoring” to an earlier version.

Up popped a dialogue with only one option — one that forced me to accept that Apple forbids me to downgrade my iPad to the version where I could use Bluetooth for anything from AirDrop to Bluetooth MIDI.

And you know what the most sour part of all this is? It’s not that Apple does what it does. It’s that we, its customers and users, are the suckers who buy into Apple’s dictatorship because — check what’s relevant to you — we love the design, we have a lot of money invested its eco-system, have been using it for 28 years and don’t want to switch back to Windows or learn Linux which is a small niche of enthustiasts anyway.

So, Apple, up to the next trillion, but beware: After hubris comes the fall.

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