Archive for the 'Thoughts' Category

Sep 18 2020

Apple Silicon: We’re done here

Published by under macOS,Thoughts

I still have a Mac Pro 6,1 – the “trash can” Mac – at work. Since Monday last week, it’s running Windows 10 natively and it also has a VM with Ubuntu 20.04.1 on it.

macOS is gone from that machine completely.

Apple is moving to ARM-based CPUs, and that CPU architecture doesn’t work me on a desktop system. Your mileage may vary, but that’s your mileage, not mine. x86/AMD64-compatibility is a requirement for me on such a system, one of the reasons being that I run virtualized versions of 64-Bit-Intel Linux distributions and Windows 10 in parallel on a desktop system for development and testing purposes.

Big Sur will be the last version of macOS that will run on Intel CPUs. With the timeline that the Apple executives have outlined, at the end of 2022 the transition to ARM will be completed and as we know from the PowerPC-to-Intel transition years ago, the version of macOS after Big Sur will be ARM-only.

Big Sur will not only be the transitional first version of macOS to officially support ARM, it will also become even more restrictive than Catalina, and Catalina already was an overly controlling bitch to work with. Apple not only killed the fun in their platforms, they’re turning them more and more into straitjackets. When your main job is to support the IT needs of hundreds of scientific users, every single day brings you a new example to prove that macOS is the worst platform to support. No, in the reality of a huge work environment, Macs do anything but “just work”. In fact, they are the oppsite of systems that “just work” – and they don’t play well with others at all.

And with the “Apple Silicon” announcement, over night, Intel Macs have turned from a support nightmare to a support nightmare that is also dead meat. If you’re thinking about buying a Mac now, save your money — you will be investing in the past and your new Mac will be short-lived. (But what is not short-lived in the Apple ecosystem?) In two years time, you won’t even get a new operating system version for that box anymore. You’ll be lucky if you still get security patches. Despite all their marketing, Apple has always sucked at long term support.

I decided to pull the plug now. Other members of my team must support the Apple platforms, but I have the luxury that I only need to observe this from a distance. I won’t invest my own time in Apple computers anymore, and I also won’t buy another Apple machine for myself at work. The Mac Pro is now a beautiful designer PC, but it’s no longer a Mac. And believe it or not, that machine feels twice as fast under Windows 10 than it felt when it was running Catalina. I will upgrade the RAM one last time on that system (to 64 Gig), and I will keep using it until it dies of old age (but probably not for very much longer as my main work horse).

Throughout the last 15 years or so, I’ve spent A LOT of my own money on Apple equipment – more than the nominal capital of a German GmbH, which is an insane amount of private money. Luckily, I have given up spending my own money on Apple products years ago already. I’m not trolling when I say that I have written off a large personal investment.

Using Apple systems at work is another story, because I work in a multi-platform landscape, so I still needed to buy and use Macs. As a group leader, I’ve decided to hand that baton over to my younger colleagues: Let them deal with a platform that constantly moves from migration layer and restrictions to another migration layer and more restrictions, and let them try to find a fix for something that worked in the previous release and that Apple decided to break or remove in the current version. I’m tired of it, I want to spend my time on more interesting things.

Apple, we’re done here.

 

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Jul 05 2020

Microsoft Ubuntu

“Microsoft and Canonical have partnered to bring an outstanding value proposition for Ubuntu users on Azure; no other platform has this level of performance, security and platform integration.”
– Christian Reis, VP Public Cloud, on https://ubuntu.com/azure

I’m calling it: In a few years from now, Microsoft will announce the acquisition of Canonical Ltd. and Ubuntu will become an official Microsoft product. Just like they did it with Xamarin and Github.

Truth be told, I even believe that this would be a good thing for all Ubuntu users. But that’s just me, and I have given up on being idealistic and ideological and political about Open Source platforms or software in general.

Software is a tool like a hammer or a screwdriver; you use a tool that fits in your budget to get a job done. I have never seen craftspeople who expected their tools to be “free” (as in beer or speech for that matter), exactly like nobody ever expected craftspeople to work for free.

Nowadays, even Free and Open Source software (FOSS) is mostly used to build proprietary (cloud-based) (subscription) services. Free and Open Source software just makes it more economic for companies and corporations to build these services – but it doesn’t actually help the users anymore to gain a level of independence and sovereignty over their computing platforms. That might still have been the ultimate argument for FOSS in the 1990s and early 2000s, when desktop computers were the big thing. But then came the Internet and it made the desktop computer irrelevant, just like it made the client operating system irrelevant; we only care for the app or the web browser that we use, not for the OS it runs on.

Today, almost everything lives in the cloud – and all the great idealistic ideas behind FOSS from a few decades ago don’t help the user there anymore. Now it’s just about the numbers in the financial spreadsheets.

So, it won’t matter anymore at all if Microsoft will own the most popular Linux distribution on the planet. Microsoft is no longer the Evil Empire that rules the desktop with an iron fist – the Internet destroyed that power a long time ago and it allowed new players to become dominant.

Microsoft now tries to own a huge chunk of the Internet’s true backbone: The data centers that host the Internet’s servers and services, commonly described as “cloud”, and Microsoft even gave it a color: Azure.

“We’re building out Azure as the world’s computer.
— Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft Corporation, in his ”Vision Keynote” at the Microsoft Build 2019 Conference

I believe that the Science-Fiction series “The Expanse” very accurately shows what computing will look like in the not so distant future: Our smart phones will turn into ‘converging’ client systems and all the software and data will exclusively live and run in what we today call “the cloud”. Those smartphones in “The Expanse” can also turn into equivalents of “desktop systems” on demand. There won’t be any local intelligence on those devices anymore. Everything will be streamed from the cloud. And exactly as the show demonstrates, if the cloud is switched off, nothing will work anymore. But this is where we’re headed.

Back to today. According to Microsoft, roughly half of their Azure workloads run on Linux – so it would make sense to own the most popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu. (Yes, Microsoft have an own tiny Linux distribution designed to host Azure services. I just don’t know anybody who uses it.)

Since the 1990s, we have Windows Terminal Servers, now re-branded as “Remote Desktop Servers” – your Windows desktop actually runs on that server that you remote control via a Remote Desktop client.

Then we do not just stream music or movies over the Internet anymore, we already stream the most demanding software that we usually use on a desktop system: Games. We have Microsoft’s Project xCloud, we have Sony’s PS Now, we have Google Stadia, nVidia is also entering that market.

This all demands high bandwidth networks and Internet accessibility everywhere – lucky us, 5G is coming. And if the ISP’s won’t be able to provide 5G fast enough, I believe that Microsoft, Google and other big Internet companies will simply subsidize the network rollout. They need people to be able to access the net from everywhere at any time, and they have the financial resources to bankroll the infrastructure. Who owns the infrastructure controls the world’s computing.

Seriously, Free and Open Source software – or who owns a Linux distribution – was yesterday’s battle.

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