Well, this sucks

I’m at Convergence, which definitely does not suck and has been enjoyable so far, but I’m also becoming untethered from the Internet, which sucks horrendously. There are two problems so far.

One: I can’t connect to the hotel internet. Have you ever noticed how even the cheapest little hole in the wall motel will just give you free wireless that works, while every upscale hotel insists that you enroll in their special program to get the slowest possible internet connection, and then offers you faster connections at a price? All the extra layers and attempts to squeeze more money from you reduces reliability. I’m at a Hilton. Hate it.

Two: Fucking Apple. Speaking of high priced screwups, I HATE APPLE’S WEIRD CABLES. The charging cable for my iPhone/iPad, which is an official Apple cable, is disintegrating and has stopped working. Their computing devices will keep going for decades — my laptop is getting up there, and is fine and functional — but you’re going to have to get a new power brick every year, because the thin cable immovably attached to it will crack and fray. The charging cable for my iWidgets is even worse, and woe unto you if you buy a third party cable, because they have to be Apple-certified, and half the time they don’t work.

Their machines have code in them to sense some secret handshake from the cable, because I get messages when I plug them in to the effect that this is not an Apple approved “device”. This one nuisance is about to drive me out of Apple’s ecosystem, after 35 years of loyalty.

Anyway, it all means I have a laptop that won’t connect to the Internet, and a phone and tablet with batteries slowly dying because I can’t recharge them.

My god, I might have to interact with a purely physical world at the biggest SF conference in the upper Midwest. Will there be things to do? How will I survive?


  1. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    Yes, I’m completely disgisted with Apple’s cables, especially the laptop power. I’ve never had to buy a replacement power supply for a Windows laptop and I’ve bought several for Mac.

    Even if we bring them to the local electronics recycling drop off, it’s an environmental catastrofuck.

    I was so sad when the US (and then Canada) refused to join the WEEE directive. You can Google it, but essentailly electronics manufacturers are responsible for their ultimate waste. You’ve all seen the logo, I’m sure.

  2. zenlike says

    Their computing devices will keep going for decades — my laptop is getting up there, and is fine and functional

    I have, by some accident, one of their computing devices, one of the aforementioned iPads, and it is indeed working perfectly fine. Functional, however, is another thing altogether: no more OS upgrades, and increasingly less apps that support the old OS. And now the older versions of the apps I have still installed are starting to refuse to connect to their hosts, so they become useless. So I have a perfectly fine piece of computing equipment that I am forced to dump in the wastebasket because it is almost not functional anymore. I will not be replacing it with a similar device from the same manufacturer, that’s for sure.

    and woe unto you if you buy a third party cable, because they have to be Apple-certified, and half the time they don’t work. Their machines have code in them to sense some secret handshake from the cable, because I get messages when I plug them in to the effect that this is not an Apple approved “device”.

    I now get the same message, even though it is supposed to be Apple approved. Yeah.

  3. says

    You should get a wireless router from your cellphone provider. Then you won’t need the hotel Internet at all and you can get service anywhere you lug your computer to. There is a monthly fee but if you bundle it with your phone it isn’t much. My service is reasonably fast.

  4. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    P.S. Re the Apple laptop power. It’s a bit of a pain, but you can build a strain relief for the part of the cable that always dies.

    The one I have now uses the spring from a ballpoint pen.

  5. darth314 says

    Change to Unbuntu and install it on the cheapest hardware you can find and everything will be good.

  6. chrislawson says

    I abandoned the Microsoft gouge for Apple years ago, but as Apple became more successful, it started adopting anti-consumer practices that were different to MS’s but just as pernicious, so this year I switched to Linux. There’s a bit of a learning curve and the software base isn’t as impressive, but I’m very glad I made the change.

  7. dougm says

    Go to the front desk or concierge and ask if they have a charging cable in the lost and found. People are always leaving the cables in the rooms.
    I have found charging cables for my devices in this way in the past.
    Good Luck.

  8. says

    “Their computing devices will keep going for decades”
    Not if you expose them to Helium. Seriously helium will crash an i-phone so hard it takes a week to recover. Apple’s “cool” design philosophy led their engineers to use a MEMs oscillator instead of a conventional quarts crystal oscillator and now you can kill an i-phone or i-pad with helium. Helium is literally the most inert thing in the universe and somehow they managed to find a way…

  9. garnetstar says

    I’m experiencing the same disenchantment after decades of Apple hardware use: it’s becoming so restrictive and gouging that it’ll soon not be workable for me anymore. (Not to mention their increasingly ridiculous and useless software.) I won’t be their customer much longer.

    For the laptop power bricks, @4 has the right idea. For a more long-lasting one, there’s an item called Fray Fix (I think it’s about $16 for laptop bricks) that adds a real, permanent, support protector to both ends of the cable (near the brick and at the charger end). LIke Apple should have done in the first place, in fact. Really extends the brick’s lifetime, especially if you’re travelling.

    There are also Fray Fixes for the Lightning cables for i-devices: if you then have to buy an over-priced Apple cable just to get the device to charge, at least the cable lasts a long time.

  10. JoeBuddha says

    I abandoned Apple back in the original Mac days. I needed to develop an app for the Mac, but the development system was several thousand dollars even back then. Never touched one since. My cell-enabled Android devices and my Surface do just fine, thank-you.

  11. says

    They have the warning about 3rd-party cables directly because of a fairly moronic verdict in the European courts. There were no warnings about cables when they first brought out Lightning. Then some idiot bought one of those super-cheap no-brand unlicensed-and-not-up-to-spec charger from a shady company in China and left his iPhone plugged in overnight, causing a fire, and the European court system ruled that since Apple didn’t have warnings about third-party chargers and cables, they were liable for damages, and so they rolled out an update to iOS that added the warning messages.

    There have been similar rulings about upgrades and replacement parts — if you don’t make it as hard as possible for users to work on the equipment, then the European court system says your warrantee has to cover user-modified equipment — which has at least strongly influenced Apple’s policy on batteries and so forth. (And no, I don’t know how PC manufacturers manage to avoid this, I just know that Apple has been sued successfully by people who built FrankenMacs which then caused disasters, and has at least used this as an excuse to seal the internals and solder components down. There’s probably some sort of exception if your machine is just a collection of parts which can be purchased individually, which most PCs are.)

  12. says

    I found a Target near the hotel & got a new cable that works. I still feel like I’m being nickel-and-dimed by the richest company on Earth.

    And yes, my next computer will be generic, mostly non-propriety, and running Linux.

  13. jonmelbourne says

    Linux, wow – you must have a LOT more free time than I expected you would if you’re planning to go Linux :)

  14. says

    PZ: No it won’t. You might say that now, you might even mean it. But just like a battered woman, when the day comes you’ll go back to what you know and (believe you) deserve.

  15. says

    Shortly after the original Macintosh was released with 128K and the rumors of a “fat Mac” with a whopping 512K were rife, there was a booth at the West Coast Computer Faire demonstrating a hard disk peripheral to give the Mac some actual storage beyond the single 3.5″ floppy drive (not that it was all that floppy). The computer press reported two Apple employees goggling over the after-market hard drive, one saying to the other, “That wasn’t supposed to be possible!” That is, I presume, not possible till Apple had their own Mac hard disk for sale. Apple is as proprietary as it is possible to be.

  16. cyberweez says

    Love Apple! Hate their charging solutions….Sidebar: Do you still have those Pharyngula t-shirts available with the octopus (squid?) on the front?

  17. AstroLad says

    More than 40 years ago when I learned that Apple bought specially crippled floppy drives so you couldn’t get them from anyone else, I vowed to never own an Apple product. Never have. Never will.

    Late 70’s (contemporary with the Apple II), I built my own systems from scratch. Ported CP/M to my 8080, and later Z-80 boards. Wrote primitive monitors for a couple of early 16-bit microprocessors. All that got me started in computer engineering, rather than being just another coder.

    At home I switched to Linux from Windows maybe 10 years ago. Now I only boot Windows for tax software and a couple of telescope control programs that are not yet fully migrated to Linux. At work it’s maybe 60-40 Linux vs Windows. One FPGA design package I use is Windows-only, and I can only get to much of the company network from Windows. I frequently start documents in LibreOffice on Linux and convert them to MS Word when they have to be released.

  18. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    This one nuisance is about to drive me out of Apple’s ecosystem, after 35 years of loyalty.

    That’s been their way of binding their customers for ages, with chains of incompatibility. I owned an iPod about 15 years ago (2nd generation, I believe) and its battery died. Never again will I buy on of their products. I think I’ll soon get an iPhone from work because that’s what they happen to have there for office work, but I will never buy something from them for myself again. I… like… being able to just buy replacement parts and apply/put them in myself. I really like it! My desktop PCs graphics card bricked about a year ago and you know what I did? Bought a new one. Opened the case. Removed the broken one. Put in the new one. Solved. I… really like that.

  19. whheydt says

    If only the EEC had put some teeth into the demand for one phone charger standard connector (everyone but Apple went with USB microB…which is big part of the reason the Raspberry Pi Foundation originally went with microB power).

    Apple is big on “walled gardens”. That’s the primary reason I avoid them. That and overpriced equipment that consists of otherwise generic components with a few proprietary bits thrown in.

    If you want to give Linux a whirl, wait a few weeks (when the supply channels fill up and the initial sales surge dies down) and get a Raspberry Pi 4B. For desktop work, get the 2GB model (list: $45). (The 1GB is presumed optimal for headless operation and the 4GB version for doing serious development work.) Install Raspbian for the OS. If possible, get and use an A1 class micro SD card. The RPT has put an inexpensive video cable–microHDMI to HDMI, $5–on the market to go with. (The Pi4B can handle one 4K60 video output or 2 4K30 outputs, it has two microHDMI connectors.)

    Plus, the RPF forums offer lots of support if you have problems. (Having an officially released and well maintain OS plus a very active support forum are probably big reasons why 27 million Pis have been sold, and the factories are making over 15K of them per day at the moment.)

  20. says

    For what it’s worth, there are some signs that Apple are starting to get with the program in terms of universal charging – ie: adopting USB Power Delivery (USB-PD) over USB Type C (USB-C). This is of no comfort to people who have current-generation devices, of course, but the surprise adoption of USB-C instead of Lightning on the latest iPad Pro has given me some hope (the latest generation of Mac laptops all have it also).

    I don’t use Apple products for completely different reasons (their software walled garden, mainly), but at least they seem to be starting to see the light.

  21. says

    @#17, AstroLad:

    So, in other words, to avoid the threat of overpriced technology, you’ve spent far more money in the form of uncompensated time than you would have spent if you had just bought the other stuff in the first place, and had to focus a lot of your life around making it work, a “solution” which isn’t viable for most people and leads to suboptimal solutions like desktop Linux (shudder).

  22. F.O. says

    Would have never imagined The Vicar being a corporate shill. XD

    I’ve been using Linux exclusively* for more than 10 years, Macs don’t make sense to me and I find them extremely frustrating to use.
    Windows instead manages to be outright insulting.
    Linux is far from perfect, Ubuntu’s quality is sliding down so every now and then I do try to use Windows or Mac, and every time they frustrate the shit out of me and go back to Linux.

    Videogames! I used to need Windows to play Warframe, but now with Steam Play / Vulkan I can play Warframe under Linux and it just works.

    Their machines have code in them to sense some secret handshake from the cable, because I get messages when I plug them in to the effect that this is not an Apple approved “device”.

    And the best part? You paid for it. You paid for the time engineers spent make life more difficult for you. Capitalism at its best!

  23. says

    @PZ: Regarding the FuD spread by some previous commenters about Linux, I converted some customers’ computers to Linux Mint when the torment from malware in that other operating system became too much. And they lived happily ever after. … ;-)

    Just test your external equipment beforehand whether it is compatible with your chosen Linux distribution, especially printers/scanners.

    Shameless PR for Mint from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Linux Mint 19.1: The better-than-ever Linux desktop

  24. lochaber says

    I used to be a bit of an Apple fanboy, until I had an issue with a refurbished MacBook that had all the symptoms of others that were being recalled, but wasn’t eligible because the recalled serial number was nonexistent. Mostly I was bitter that my fairly pricey Mac only got two years before it bricked, but I also didn’t like how the company was focusing on the iPhone and planned obsolescence. (for what it’s worth, I used my ~2000 MacBook for nearly a decade, and it was still working (if slow…) a couple years ago when I took it apart for the hard drive.)

    So, I ended buying a cheap MS laptop on sale, and started using Linux. I’m not really much of a computer person, I don’t know anything about programming, but using Linux now isn’t too difficult. I’ve had the easiest time with LinuxMint. Once in a while I have some issues, but it’s usually because I’m trying to mess with something, and I neglect the part about backing up… :/

    there are also a lot more games available on Linux now. I’ve heard this is partly due to the influence of Android, but I don’t know enough about that sort of thing.

    Everything nowadays is primarily GUI, so if you can use one desktop OS, you can probably adjust to another one without much difficulty. Also, updating Linux is pretty easy, almost automated, and it doesn’t require any downtime, unlike Windows…

  25. says

    #17 AstroLad wrote:

    Now I only boot Windows for tax software and a couple of telescope control programs that are not yet fully migrated to Linux. …

    @PZ: Legacy software can often be run under Linux in a virtualized operating system, e.g. via VirtualBox, which usually comes with the Linux distribution.

  26. anthrosciguy says

    While there’s some Apple and hotel wifi complaining going on, here’s a couple of real annoyances. The last few years I’ve been using an iPad and a Nexus 7 while traveling overseas, plus an iPhone (5s) more recently.

    When the Apple devices sleep, they often will not reconnect to the wifi and thence to the internet unless they’re rebooted. The Nexus doesn’t have this annoying problem. In addition, the Nexus has noticeably better wifi reception than either Apple device. In a hotel where the Apple device has to be walked down the hall toward the lobby ten yards, the Nexus will connect just fine.

    As far as other features I find good pluses and minuses to each of these devices, but the two Apple devices are far worse when it comes to wifi.

  27. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    Setting up wifi is something I dread on non-linux systems. NetworkManager lets you change everything about the connection properties. EVERYTHING. Setting up a Nintendo Switch or iPhone means retyping a 63 character random sequence on a tiny touchscreen keyboard because they still do not support WPS citing ‘security concerns’ about the PIN version. When I changed over from 802.11n to dual-band 802.11ac, I had to rename the old-2.4GHz network SSID just to avoid re-entering passwords for more numerous 5GHz capable iPhones since they cannot change any properties (not even show then copy-paste the old password). This meant only my linux netbook, an old PC running Win10, and an old iPhone had to change the 2.4GHz SSID to get networking working again. Fixing my netbook wifi was literally five clicks to get the cursor in the SSID text box, the keystrokes “-24G”, one more click to save the change, and one last click to close the top window. The Win10 box was next in difficulty because it makes it damn irritating to change anything useful about network connection properties like SSID, but it at least can support push-button WPS after a bit of walking back-and-forth between PC and router. Reconnecting the old iPhone was me manually typing in 63 characters while sitting at my netbook after copying and enlarging the password in a text editor; took a few tries because of losing track of what was entered into the phone before it got hidden by the UI.

    Another thing I love is the Debian/Ubuntu package system (apt; some other package systems have good reputations but not always as many packages available), although the Ubuntu Software Center or whatever it is now called is fairly garbage. Started using aptitude a few months after first trying linux full time about 12 years ago and will likely never go GUI for that ever again. The Win10 PC is almost always turned off because… just check for updates when I tell you to, then fucking download and update what I want, when I want you to do it. And why always hundreds to thousands of megs of data for each little update? Seriously, a linux kernel and full headers is always under 500MB archived and I can easily revert back to using an older version if something breaks.

  28. says

    My desktop was explicitly built to be fully capable booted to either Windows or Linux – which is to say, an all AMD build, as FUCK Team Green’s Linux drivers. I can’t stand proprietary horseshite, which is why I’ll never buy Apple or NVIDIA. I really need to get around to setting up that Mint partition…

  29. andyo says

    Careful what you wish for though. We who have been playing the USB-C game for years now (Android) have been wishing for an MFi-equivalent certification process for USB-C given the dangerous Wild West that the USB-C landscape has been, especially in the beginning. Cable and adapter manufacturers were adding the wrong resistor to USB-A to USB-C cables/adapters, prompting the device (USB-C) to force the charging port (USB-A) to output 3A.

    As a reminder, USB 2.0 computer ports’ spec is 500 mA and 3.0 is 900 mA. USB-compliant A ports with quicker charging (according to the USB Battery Charging 1.2 spec) can output up to 1.5A with data, and most modern chargers’ ports are rated for 2.1-2.4A. You see the dangerous problem there. It wasn’t just a one-off either, manufacturers seemingly were doing it on purpose, and it became such a big problem that Amazon had to intervene, and all these manufacturers started making better cables basically because a sole Google engineer was paying attention and gave a crap (it started on his Google Plus posts, no less). It could have easily gone the other way and we’d have learned the hard way to ask for certification.

    MFi does “just work”. Now that Apple is moving to USB-C and Google has pushed for it for a while, and brands are certifying their devices with the USB IF (though not as thorough certification as MFi, it’s something) there will be more reliability, hopefully.

  30. John Morales says

    Huh. All this chatter about computers, and nothing about hotels and their wifi policies.

    Goes to show.

  31. Curt Sampson says

    I had to start using a Mac again (after an, I dunno, 15 year lapse) a few years back and I was stunned at the kind of poor quality things for novice users that somehow leaked through their system. Two examples:
    1. During the setup process, I was presented with a prompt to press a key with an interesting icon (several short horizontal bars joined by a longer diagonal bar). No such marking existed anywhere on the keyboard of my Mac. I was about to turn to Google when I realized that I of course can’t just type in “mysterious symbol.” Eventually I asked someone and found out that people are supposed to magically know that when they see ⌥ they are supposed to know that means the key labled “option” and “alt.”
    2. Installing software is not yet at the point where Microsoft had it with Windows XP. In Windows, except in very special circumstances, you download the installer, run it, and it handles getting everything installed properly for you. With a Mac that happens occasionally, but more often you’re given a “disk image” that you need to open and then correctly drag certain files out of that into a special folder somewhere. And there’s a third one I encountered a few times that I can’t remember. (And let’s not even get into what happens if you want to install any of the thousands of open source packages that pretty much all Linux systems give you one-click installation for, along with a pretty good guarantee that you’re not installing malware. There’s a reason that Windows and Mac need AV software and Linux doesn’t: we generally don’t need to download random stuff from all over the Internet.)
    3. And don’t even get me started on the cabbalistic “pad gestures.” But that’s pretty much expected from the company that turned the obvious “three mouse buttons = three easy affordances for users to experiment with” into introducing double-clicking, something which the world had not seen until the Mac and for which they had to include a special tutorial.

    There’s plenty more, but all this pretty much firmed up my opinion that MacOS these days comes well second to Windows 10 for a good, “just works” end-user experience, which is all the more dramatic given the much wider variety of hardware Windows has to deal with. I can’t give a good evaulation of popular Linux desktop environments versus either because I don’t use them (I’ve had my own heavily customized X11 desktop arrangement for almost as long as Linux has existed), but it doesn’t strike me as particularly different from current MacOS or Windows 7 (or maybe even XP); they all have a good share of infelicities that you learn to deal with and live with. Switching is more or less like Bruce Leverett’s (compiler) system overhaul, “in which all of its major weaknesses have been exposed, analyzed, and replaced with new weaknesses.”

    I don’t know if a Rasperry Pi 4 would be up to giving a good desktop experience given the requirements of modern software (especially, web browsers). Certainly the 3 utterly fails at that, especially when using an SD card, because even the best SD cards are dog-slow. Consider something like the Pentium N4200 version of this Liva Z (the Celeron ones are slugish) with maybe 8 GB of RAM instead of 4. (The onboard 16 GB SSD works fine if you dont’ want to spring for a larger M.2 drive.) I used that as my primary desktop sytem (for software development as well as web etc.) quite happily for over a year. (Note that the displayport runs 4K 60 Hz just fine, but a second 4K monitor on the HDMI port will be limited to 30 Hz due to the HDMI standard it uses.)

    Or just buy a ten-year-old Thinkpad, bumping up the ram and putting in an SSD, if you’re ok with a laptop. They’re pretty bulletproof and dirt cheap.

  32. magistramarla says

    This makes perfect sense to me. My computer (and cyber security) expert husband refuses to ever own an Apple product for many of the reasons that have been cited. He always uses Linux (quite successfully), but I have never liked it.

  33. stormfield says

    I retired from the graphics industry that calls for one to be proficient at Mac, Windows and Linux. I was plant tech support so everyday was any machine running any operating system. Without a doubt, the most frustrating, time consuming hassles were Mac workstations. Industrial printers ran Linux. Fast and stable. Microsoft was an office/sales thing. All of the usual Microsoft miseries but well understood. Only Mac could consume time and money just to fix minor items. Hardware was not the equal of well spec’d Windows and Linux machines.

    I admit that this is anecdotal commenting but it was 11 years of my job.

  34. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Golgafrinchan Captain wrote:

    P.S. Re the Apple laptop power. It’s a bit of a pain, but you can build a strain relief for the part of the cable that always dies.

    You can also use the mouldable rubber glue Sugru to make a makeshift strain relief if you’re stuck with one of these. I’d still maintain that you shouldn’t have to, and if Apple didn’t constantly refuse to put them on their cables, you probably wouldn’t have to. Strain relief may be ugly, but it keeps cables from breaking prematurely, but since that conflicts with the aesthetic of industrial design, they have to be eliminated. Apple is the trendsetter, so everyone else follows suit, and that means we’re all stuck with this bad decision.

  35. Kip Williams says

    Longtime Mac user here, recently switched to a Dell. I observed back in the 90s that a PC is like a dog: once in a while, it gets sick and has to go to the vet. A Mac is like a cat: it yacks something up every couple of days just to keep the tubes cleared. They’re lovely little things when they work, but even without the gangbang of meltdowns (across three different machines), I was getting tired of Mac and their “everything goes”* philosophy. (*That is, everything goes out, so that we are thin and elegant. Who needs a CD/DVD drive? Who needs USB ports? Who needs a hard drive? They clutter up the pristine simplicity of our Big Idea!) I also got tired of them deciding what I could and couldn’t do, but that’s a story too long for a comment.

  36. wzrd1 says

    Yeah, had to design workarounds for specific hotel infrastructure and I use that term loosely.
    Had to go, at root level, to edit specific configuration options, as far too many hotels use WPA1 and WAP as preferred, which fucks *nix boxes at times.

  37. says

    As far as cables go, one word.


    They make great cables, cheaper than Apple’s, just as good, and with many more options. Not sure how easy it is to get ahold of their products at retail stores, but Amazon often runs deals on their products. I bought a couple of their 6 foot cables for my iPhone/iPad. You’ve never known freedom until you have a six foot cable :)

  38. jennyjfwlucy says

    “No it won’t. You might say that now, you might even mean it. But just like a battered woman, when the day comes you’ll go back to what you know and (believe you) deserve.”


    Crawl back under your rock and make fun of battered women with your Nazi/MRA friends.

    PZ, seriously? Other commenters, seriously? No one even noticed this? Or cared? Atheist geeks, you suck even here just as much as you ever have.

  39. ck, the Irate Lump says

    jennyjfwlucy wrote:

    Other commenters, seriously? No one even noticed this?

    Didn’t notice it. Not sure if I even scrolled past it. But I agree that the reference to battered women was unnecessary and trivializing. There’s plenty of other ways of expressing the same idea without that.

  40. EigenSprocketUK says

    No-one noticed?

    Yes. This thread of comments is the weirdest I’ve seen on Pharyngula for a long time. Who cares why someone gave up on Apple 30 years ago, why someone now blames Apple for decisions made by the USB consortium, or why computers don’t work the way one expects a completely different design from a different decade to work? It’s not a good look when disinterred 70s jokes about wife-beating are inexplicably less noteworthy than complaining about losing floppy diskette drives and three-button mice.