Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why it is I don't like Apple

The other day our laptop got stolen out of our house. Going through the process of getting a new one and dealing with the headaches associated with trying to recover music from my iTunes account has cemented my determination to never, ever, but another Apple product, at any time, ever again (or until they drastically change several of their policies).

I will briefly discuss my experience and then give a short philosophical tirade, followed by a more practical criticism of the arguments on Apple's side.

My old laptop had lots of my iTunes music on it, and was the computer I used to download the podcasts I am subscribed to. When it got stolen, I went for a few weeks without using iTunes to buy new music or download any new podcasts, due to the fact that I didn't have access to it. I wasn't worried about losing all my music because I knew I had copies of all my songs on my iPod, and I planned to copy them back from my iPod to my new computer.

When we bought a new computer to replace the stolen one, I set it up to dual boot 2 operating systems. That is, I installed Ubuntu, the most popular Linux operating system, along with Windows 7. At boot, I get to choose which operating system I use. This setup is useful for many reasons (one of those reasons is that I get nerd cred for using Linux). I promptly plugged my iPod in and copied all the music from it on to my hard drive, thinking that I would just go into iTunes and just authorize my new computer to play my music. No big deal. Wait, what? I booted into Ubuntu and opened Rhythmbox, the open source iTunes equivalent, and added all my music to my playlist. It found all the file info, and organized everything nicely for me, just like iTunes. I used Rhythmbox because Apple has not made iTunes available for Linux. When I pressed play, Rhythmbox informed me that the music I had purchased from iTunes was encrypted and that Rhythmbox wouldn't be able to play it. This is the music that I purchased from Itunes, legally, with my money. Purchased.

Buried in the iTunes Terms of Service, section 10, under the sub-section "Usage Rules," item vii, is a clause that says:

"You shall be entitled to export, burn... or copy... products solely for personal, noncommercial use."

What I was trying to do clearly falls under the category of exporting. I was trying to move music out of my iTunes ecosystem into Rhythmbox for personal, noncommercial use. I naively assumed that good ol' Steve Jobs would allow this. Unfortunately, there is no good work around to get Rhythmbox to play iTunes music. So that really sucked at the time (and still does), but in my haste to get my music playing on the computer, I booted into Windows, opened iTunes, and pressed play. Surely iTunes would figure out what to do. Unfortunately not. A dialog box popped up that told me that my new computer hadn't been authorized to play my music and asked me whether I would like to authorize it. I clicked "Authorize" or whatever, but iTunes didn't authorize my computer to play the music because I didn't have my internet connection set up. So here I was, with an iPod full of music that I thought I had purchased legally, but in reality had just leased, unable to play any of it due to Apple's total disregard for my situation.

When our laptop was stolen, we changed all our passwords for our bank, Facebook, email, etc... but I forgot to change our iTunes password. I had my account set to not ask for the password when I purchased music, and the thieves purchased a few songs on my account. When the charge went to my card, I emailed iTunes support and explained what happened to them and asked them to return my money. It was about $32. Dane from iTunes support emailed me back and said no. What? No? Excuse me? So, instead I asked my bank to cover the fraudulent charge and they said sure. I love me some BECU.

So here it is: Music that I thought I had purchased from iTunes had instead been rented; I can't say purchased because items I purchase become my property, and the vendor no longer can tell me what to do with them. Long after I "purchased" music from Apple, their long and heinous fingers were all up in my business preventing me from using "my" music as I saw fit.

I understand that DRM (Digital Rights Management, which is just technology built in to software and is designed to prevent piracy) is supposed to protect against piracy, but we all know it doesn't really do that. Instead, all it does is prevent law-abiding citizens like me listening to and truly owning our music collections.

Furthermore, Steve Jobs tends to spout off the same nonsense about "Apple gives you freedom..." all the time, when in reality, using apple products, such as iTunes severely limits the freedom of the user.

Hey you hypocrite Steve Jobs, you ignorant goat, how can you defend this behavior? How can you call it "purchasing" music when in reality Apple giveth and Apple taketh away? How can you claim "freedom" under these circumstances? How can you claim to allow exporting of music but in reality, design the software specifically to prevent export? This is how I know you are either stupid or a liar. Likely the latter.

Now, to defend myself:
I know that Apple isn't the only company to utilize onerous DRM technology on their music. "Everybody else is doing it" is not a good reason to do something, so Apple's use of DRM is still inexcusable.

Speaking of everybody else doing it, the computer we purchased as a replacement to our stolen one cost $549 before tax. It comes with the following specs:
An Intel Core i3 processor,
500GB 7200RPM hard drive,
15.6" LED screen,
SD card reader, 3 USB ports, etc...
multitouch support,
etc, etc, etc...

An equivalent, or similarly spec'd Apple Macbook would cost close to 3 times that amount! THREE TIMES AS MUCH! THREE TIMES! For what amounts to an equivalent piece of hardware. Before you comment about how Macs just work, or that that price is a small price to pay for the beautiful user interface or experience, let me just say that I am quite happy with the user experience on my cheap laptop, and furthermore, I reject the notion that Macs "just work." My computer just works too. If a person feels that they are getting an extra thousand dollars of value out of the superior user interface of a Mac, then they ought to purchase one. I do not feel that way.

Another popular argument in favor of Macs is that they are virus-free. While this isn't quite true, let's assume that it is for the sake of the argument. Has anybody other than children and seniors had a virus issue on a PC in the last 8 years? I certainly haven't, and I would argue that the virus issue is, for all practical purposes, a moot point.

There you have it, bring on the comments. Let's hear it.


Kayleen said...

I really enjoyed this post. not that I understood all of it but I do know this much, if you are using Linux, you know what you are talking about. Way to go against the norm and actually smacktalk Apple. :)

Chris Flattley said...

Nice one. I can't stand apple either. I hate iTunes with a passion. I don't use it anymore.

I would never spend extra on an Apple computer or laptop. My
Windows 7/Ubuntu dual boot do nicely for me.

I haven't had a virus issue for a long time now either

Emily said...

Apple is only popular because its has Steve Jobs. But once Steve Jobs started attacking my employer Adobe's Flash product (which is open platform, by the way), I realized that was the end of my neutrality. Apple is so full of itself. I'm sorry you had to deal with all of that!

Adam B said...

Unfortunately, my wife's family are all Mac-heads. Some very adamant about their emotional connection to all things Apple. I've never understood how people could get sucked into cults by charismatic leaders, but Steve Jobs manages to do just that.

They make a pretty product, to be sure, but the costs to lease their products are astronomical, compared to a product I can actually own for myself. The iPad and iPhone won't let you download ANYTHING not approved by Apple. That is ridiculous. I think that eventually, all Apple products will operate in a completely closed system, which will be a detriment to the company.

Oh Google, master of all things open, please build computer operating systems - not just phones.