NOTE This site will be going 100% read-only on 1st April 2020. See FAQ for more details.

For the last month I've been using an old 2017 MacBook Pro, with the dang touch bar, at home in the evenings. I realized that if I was going to be intellectually honest about it, I should give setting up the Mac desktop the same go I give setting up Plasma... About a day or two, futzing on-and-off as I find things that needs tweaked.

I set my self a $50 third party app budget and went about improving the Mac UI to try and genuinely learn what the appeal is, what they get right, and what they get wrong.

What they get right

Building the desktop with the use of some of the pro apps in mind, like Final Cut, Logic, Motion, etc., means the system works together under moments of stress and load in a way Linux probably never can. The kernel team is working with the audio subsystem team, etc. Under serious moments of pressure, the Mac really keeps its cool. Mostly because of it thermal throttles!

What they get wrong

The Mac platform fundamentally lives and dies by Apple's interest in it. When they are focused on other things, like the iPhone, or maybe glasses one day, software and hardware for the mac suffer a lot. The knock-on effects of this are still evident on the platform, and I think betray its biggest weakness.

It's a specialist OS.

It specializes in supporting particular market goals for Apple. The yearly release cadence is a small, but simple example of this. They push out annual updates, so they can support things in their broader ecosystem.

But commercial vendors are also able to thrive in this environment. They have an annual reason to get users to buy the next version, and they have a limited target of hardware and software they have to support (Apple kills support for older OSes after a couple of releases). It's quantifiable, it's predictable, and it's a premium customer base.

Intergrating with hardware vendors from eGPU manufactures to speclaized control surfaces is what a specalist OS platform is good at. Its where a singluar voice, direction, and stratigy are most effective.

What can Never Change

But its master is not the owner of the Mac; its master will ALWAYS be Apple and their long-term vision for "the market."

Overtime, the Mac ecosystem will be locked down more and more (the switch to Arm would be a great moment to tighten things down a lot more). Apple will walk that line as much as they can. But we will end up in a future where all applications must be signed and allowed by Apple.

This can never happen general purpose technology stack, or an OS, like GNU/Linux backed by the GPL. Not just because no single mega-corp owns it, but because Apple's culture is to horde their innovation.

View the RAW markdown.