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Why I hate Apple

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Message Michelle Solmagnus
I studied at university when the field of Computer Science was young and before the internet had met the marketers. Apple, Steve Jobs, Microsoft and Bill Gates were already known but things were still developing. Not every student could afford their own computer so many of us used the University's computer labs. I preferred using the Mac labs simply because they were generally empty when the PC labs were full.

Over the years I held no Apple versus PC ideals but convenience and price generally led me down the PC path. I liked the Apple products and still do. I bought a MacBook Air recently so that I could do iOS development. It's a beautiful product that arrived in a beautiful box I couldn't bear to throw away. I'll definitely put that box to some other use. I thought the machine was too expensive but I wanted the right tools for the job.

My experiences with Apple haven't been altogether bad. Therefore, it hardly seems rational that I would feel so passionately against them. What triggered my awareness of this malaise was that, on trying to activate my developer membership, I encountered an error page that contained very poor English grammar and spelling. I assume Apple, like other corporations, use cheap labor for whatever functions they can get away with in order to maximize profits.

Then I recalled a recent trip to the Apple store to buy an adapter that probably retails for 20 times more than it costs to produce. I was confronted by a store full of Apple Genius's scurrying around. It took two geniuses, oozing a sense of technical superiority, to get the adapter I had asked for from the store room. One of them was a little too much genius to bother with things like giving an accurate price. The devaluation of terms like genius, expert and guru by corporations such as Apple bothers me.

I worked for a good many years for another big technical corporation. They also threw the terms 'expert' and 'genius' around far too easily. I always cringed at being branded the expert after five minutes on a project. Certainly, we were all highly skilled and educated to degree level; some were geniuses; some were all image - there for a free ride but many were simply clever, innovative and dedicated. In the end we documented our life's work, our expertise and handed it over to the anonymous cheap labor force in India as they closed the doors very sensitively behind us. It becomes easy to give it all away when everyone's an expert, but what are we giving away?

I had not the heart to do it all again for another corporation that differed in little more than name so I went freelance. I read books such as 'The 4-Hour Workweek' by Timothy Ferriss extolling the virtues of outsourcing with the aim of working for 4 hours a week and living it up for the rest. These ideas on outsourcing surely trickle down from the big corporations. I can't be the only one who thinks these sorts of ideas are ultimately unsustainable. I'm no economist but at some point don't we all become poorer, and not just metaphorically, by doing everything on the cheap? If I take the most positive and rosy view where we elevate the global oppressed from their poverty through our outsourcing, don't we equalize earnings and in that case doesn't everything become more expensive?

I found myself living in a garage working very long hours trying to eke out an existence from doing web development. There are freelancing web sites where pretty much everybody is looking for the most work at the lowest price. Some even openly want something for nothing. I'd put myself through university, spent years paying back the student loans, worked long and hard to build a career and keep myself up with the latest developments and I was competing with the unknown multitude with a computer, an internet connection and an ability to copy and paste other people's work. After all, the client sees the web page with little idea of what's under the hood.

I had lost so much of what was important to me. I was disillusioned and wanted to get out of the race to the bottom. I had decided to develop iOS applications but found I couldn't afford the equipment. In an act of quiet desperation, I wrote an email to Steve Jobs. I suppose I wanted to put a face on the anonymity. I wanted to believe in something again. I wanted to think that maybe there is a corporation out there that has values even though I pretty much suspected any such notion was simply an illusion created through marketing spin. I never got a response of course and never really expected to.

I eventually saved up enough to buy for the tools I needed from Apple. I have to find a way in this outsourced world. I have to keep believing that things like quality, achievement, innovation, integrity, education and the relative freedom to think are the keys to making a good living and that making a good living, for ourselves and our loved ones, being proud of what we achieve and the things we make, helps to keep us happy.

When a client dumps me for a $4 per hour sweat shop agency; when a client doesn't pay me after I've put in long hours on their project; when I'm working well into the night just to keep my head above water in this world; those are the times I'm tempted to give up my ideals. Yet they aren't simply ideals, they are my heart. 
It was on one of those days I encountered the Apple web page errors and, rightly or wrongly, held up the Apple as the symbol of the fall of humankind.
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I work as a software developer. I like to write articles as well as software but generally for my own enjoyment than for publishing. I also like to draw and paint and generally be creative.
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