Monday, 17 August 2015

Mac Frustrations and Thoughts on Apple

Two months ago I was asked to install Windows on my girlfriend's MacBookAir4,1 (11-inch, Mid 2011). This is a long overdue post on what a nightmare it was.

Before going into anything, I have to say [1] it's a huge pain in the ass trying to find useful support information on Apple website. Just like their products, the website is a piece of shit. There is no way to specify the model and find all relevant resources for the model you own. All the following procedures were done by following Apple's knowledge base and other articles online thanks to Google.

The MBA comes with EFI support. At the time the latest EFI firmware was from years ago and clearly outdated. Despite the countless threads out there complaining about audio issues. I decided to try it myself anyway. As expected, [2] installing Windows 8.1 in native EFI mode resulted in no sound, for which there was absolutely no fix. (Now there is a new firmware out, a "security" update. I don't believe that it solves any real issue.)

Apart from malfunction of audio chips, [3] the display wasn't working, either. After installation was finished, the Windows desktop turned into a completely black screen upon logon. The solution is to go into safe mode, manually delete the display driver, and restart. This will only get the desktop back.

Since EFI = no sound, and BootCamp = sound on MBA, there is only one alternative I could try - BootCamp. [4] When you create an installation USB media with BootCamp, the progress bar never indicates the real progress. It's simply stuck at the same place forever. Well, not forever, until the creation completes.

What sucks about BootCamp is that it imposes a minimum partition size requirement when you create a secondary partition for Windows. [5] The free space reserve for the primary OSX partition must be at least 8GB. That's 8GB space downright wasted out of 64GB total, the stock SSD capacity. I would not accept a 12.5% drive space loss.

How about adjusting partition sizes after BootCamp installation? I installed Windows 8.1 via BootCamp following all requirements, and shrank the primary partition using GParted Live without actually moving any data. [6] But OSX couldn't even load - displaying nothing but a question mark in a folder. There are some instructions on how one can try to fix the boot problem; I didn't get it working. (Update: seems to be a widely known problem with a fix.)

When downloading OS recovery via Wi-Fi, I closed the lid to do other things. When I re-opened it, the screen stayed black. [7] Apparently the MBA froze or went into sleep and couldn't wake up. Forced shutdown and had to start over.

When reinstalling OSX, I tried making the primary partition as small as possible, in order to leave maximal space available for Windows. At 13.01 GB the installation allowed me to proceed. However, [8] after a restart it said not enough disk space, additional 60MB needed. Bet you didn't know - OSX requires different partition sizes as you go through different stages during installation; the installation fails in a later stage even though it has confirmed enough free space in an earlier stage.

What a fucking stupid piece of shit. Above numbered are the issues encountered in the entire process in the order they occurred. A total of 8 simple things went wrong when one simply wants to recover OSX, adjust partitions, or install Windows.

The series of frustrations is extremely consistent with my prior experiences with Apple products. For example, the iPod 5th generation which saw its buttons break repeatedly after numerous repairs and died all of a sudden and never turned on again thereafter.

In the last decade I fail to recognise any merit in Apple's hardware or software. It always pains me to watch a world of ignorant trend chasers constantly fall for their smartass marketing and substanceless novelty only to get the some of the shittiest products out there. To me, Apple represents the worst performance, cost-effectiveness, workmanship, customisability, design philosophy, and business practices among major manufacturers. The closed ideology has persisted throughout its lifetime and meanwhile utterly disgusted me over all these years (and I'm sure the open source, overclocking, and gaming communities).

Well, fuck the hippies that worship Apple and the root of evil and closedness.

Terrible Experience with Comcast

The "terrible experience" posts may well turn into a series...

I've had Comcast since 2011 in TN and MA except for one year. The overall experience is consistently terrible. Here are some reasons for never choosing Comcast as your ISP (or provider for any other service).
  1. 250GB/month data cap for Xfinity internet plans. For my household the data usage is around 1-3TB/month. I had to switch to business class to get rid of the data cap at my old residence back in TN. Luckily this nationwide data cap is suspended in MA. 
  2. Switching service plan is never smooth . Xfinity and Business Class are two independent departments. Even though the service always comes through the same cable lines, I had various issues when switching from one to the other.
  3. Moving is never smooth, either. If you move to another state, be prepared waste days and months for them to get the billing right, as a representative is only able to deal with things within the state, and is unable to manage or transfer your old account in a different state.
  4. It is incredibly difficult to get the refund to which you are entitled from Comcast, especially when it involves your old account in a different state. Representatives are not helpful in locating the old account and checking final bills and balances. Any service centre you visit or rep you reach over the phone will tell you they are unable to do anything, and when they say there will be a follow-up, there won't.
  5. Service reliability has always been an issue, regardless of location and service class. Service can be down for all kinds of reasons, from inclement weather to construction accident to "scheduled" maintenance.
  6. Never any notice for downtime whatsoever. If maintenance is scheduled there is no reason not  to give prior notice to customers in the affected area. If you call the support line, occasionally the automated phone menu will tell you there is an known outage. You could, of course, call customer service to request a reimbursement for the downtime, but the reimbursement amount is only $2 or $3 which is not worth your time.
  7. Cancelling the service? There is a 60-day prior notice policy. If you don't notify Comcast two months earlier, you have to pay for two extra months. This clause is not in the contract you signed, but in a 18-page ToS to which your contract links.

    This is the point where I came to the conclusion that Comcast is total bullshit, because I never had any issue cancelling my service with any utility, phone, or internet company. Even one of the busiest logistics/moving companies in the country scheduled my service in two weeks.
  8. When a business class contract is about to expire, Comcast renews it automatically without ever asking you. If you signed up for Xfinity online and the OK rates lured you in, the rates automatically go up usually by 40% after the first year.
During the one year when I did not have Comcast, I had RCN instead. The service was more reliable, affordable, and speedy. The only problem was RCN's coverage, or in other words, Comcast's monopoly in Boston area. Most cities north to the Charles River have only one ISP that is Comcast. The Boston area is loaded with outdated infrastructure (cough, the T, cough). Lack of municipal-level fibre networks makes perfect soil for monopoly of evil cable companies. The pathetic thing is, we the residents have no other choice but to feed them.

So, support your regional ISP while you can, if they provide decent service and competitive price.