Jay Little
Penguin's Side Piece: How and Why I Became a Part Time Apple Fanboi

09/26/2023 20:15:34

While most of my readers probably think of me as being some kind of massive die hard Linux loving Penguin, the reality is that outside of servers, laptops and desktops I don't use Linux very much. The purpose of today's post is to detail the reasons and the journey of how I have basically become an Apple Fanboi nearly everywhere else.

Let's start with a disclaimer: If you want to email me or send me a message on Mastodon telling me how stupid I am for trusting Apple, well, okay. So be it. While I wholeheartedly agree that trusting any form of proprietary software in this day and age is a foolish choice that will eventually bite everybody in their ass, the flip side is that sometimes you just need convenient tech to rely upon in certain scenarios.

Believe me, I totally agreed with this stance just a few short years ago. For many years my only real relationship with Apple was due to my choice to utilize AppleTVs on all of my televisions. The built-in software on Smart TVs is generally terrible and eats your right to privacy for breakfast. I refuse to use any of them at all short of performing basic configuration and switching video inputs on the television. For the record all of my current Smart TVs run Roku software, who are well known gluttons when it comes to the data of their users. LG, Samsung and Google powered televisions are no better in this regard.

Anyway - so what happened? Why did I suddenly switch from just using AppleTVs to now using an iPhone, an iPad and dumping all of my Amazon Echo devices for HomePods last weekend? Well now that's a bit of a story and probably one you've heard before.

Basically it's the ecosystem and how all of these things interact. Having one type of Apple device doesn't really suck you in that much because you don't really get to experience a ton of those benefits. For example, AirPlay is meaningless in the single device type scenario. However once you add an iPhone, you can play with that and experience it. That didn't really snag me though because very few of my workflows start on the AppleTV or the iPhone so that particular tech didn't mean much to me until this past weekend when I bought the HomePods.

Now I fucking love AirPlay. Because it allows me to easily send content from my iPhone to my HomePods. Yeah sure I choose to use Podverse on iOS instead of Apple's craptacular Podcast app and the HomePods don't support directly interacting with Podverse, but guess what? I can start playing my Podcast queue on Podverse with the iPhone and send the audio stream to one or more HomePods. Imagine walking through the house listening to the latest episode of Linux Unplugged and Coder Radio by Jupiter Broadcasting playing on all of your HomePods in perfect sync.

Spoiler: It was fucking glorious. But of course it is also totally optional, right? Yeah sure. Could I have accomplished this task using the Amazon Echos that my HomePods replaced? Probably. Was I willing to give Amazon access to everything they needed to accomplish such a task? Hell the fuck no. The same goes for asking my HomePod what my wife's current location is. This is awesome when I'm trying to time dinner being ready for when she gets home from work because I don't have to use my hands to mess with the "Find My" app on an iOS device. Sure I might have been able to give Amazon that kind of access, but only a fool would do so.

That brings me to my second disclaimer: I don't consider Amazon and Google powered products to be real alternatives here so I would prefer that any response / rants that revolve around suggesting those products as alternatives get smothered in the crib before you attempt to raise them up and put them forth as actionable arguments because let me assure you: They will fall on deaf ears.

Both Amazon and Google are a pestilence on our modern tech landscape. They feed on data generated by your every waking moment of interacting with their tech so that they can either enable others or directly attempt to sell you more bullshit that you don't need. The world will be a better place when both companies are finally held to account for their wide variety of well-documented and objectively terrible behavior and there is no counter-argument that will convince me otherwise. Short of shopping on Amazon.com (wife-required... for now) and watching videos on YouTube.com on Twitch.com, my interaction with other products these companies offer is now quite minimal.

"Jeez Jay, you sound a bit like a grumpy old man"

Yeah I do, don't I? Fun fact: My therapist made a similar observation in our session last week after I made a joke that my mental age was 12 despite the fact that I'm turning 44 next month. I won't go into details about the rant that inspired her comment, but she wasn't wrong.

In any event, I love the way all of this shit works together. Of course my recent transition to HomePods would not have been possible without the use of HomeBridge and its wonderful plugin for Govee products (which my house is freaking full of at this point). That is the glue that makes all of my smart lights and smart plugs work with Siri on the HomePod. I even managed to get my legacy MotionEyeOS powered front door webcam hooked into Apple's HomeKit this way.

Of course I have an iPad too. In fact, I am actually typing this blog post on that iPad while smoking a cigar at my favorite local haunt, the Cameroon Lounge. For me when I purchased the iPad, it wasn't an ecosystem play. Rather it was a "I'm tired of shitty eReader hardware dying on me" kind of thing. It was either buy an iPad or buy a new Kobo eReader six months after the previous "new" eReader I purchased decided to enter an endless reboot loop after some update. So at that point I decided to give an iPad Mini a try because it could easily access both my legacy Kindle and current Kobo eBook libraries via the use of apps so it seemed like a logical choice.

Thankfully the lack of an eInk screen has not proven to be particularly problematic for me, so the iPad is doing quite well in this regard. It is also my go-to computing device for Cameroon trips because its small and portable. I sometimes also carry around a Logitech MX Keys Mini keyboard because it works perfectly with the iPad over bluetooth but can still be used in my home office via bolt dongles on several machines due to its multi-device support. I got a nice little case for it too because that makes it a bit less annoying to carry around with the iPad.

Oh sure I bought an Apple Pencil and got the special Paperlike matte screen protector for it just in case those things wet my whistle... but thus far they haven't. This is a writing and a reading machine for me. It also is useful for referring to retro game walkthroughs and hints while playing retro games on the big screen TV in my living room, because it takes up a tiny bit of space and has amazing battery life, so there is that.

So what's the take away here, that I have more money than brains? Maybe so. But overall I like the way all of these elements work together and I'm genuinely impressed over how easy they were to slot into my existing computing lifestyle. While my hatred for MacOS essentially insures that I will never transition to becoming a full on total and complete Apple fanboi, I think most would agree that I'm not too far from that point.

In actuality the real take away here is that proprietary technology can be useful and appreciated on a limited basis even for a grumpy old Penguin like myself. Game Consoles are also a good example of this concept. These pieces of tech provide immediate benefits that end-users can and do appreciate while sacrificing some immediate freedoms and the ability to react accordingly when the process of enshittification eventually catches up to all of these products. Which it will. It's just a matter of time.

Playing this game is all about the timing. In terms of today, I am content with my large investment in the Apple device ecosystem because it brings me joy when I fire off a "Toad the Wet Sprocket" listening session on the HomePods at home, transfer it to my phone, have it automatically resume in my car and then transfer it back to the HomePods when I return home and have it resume there.

That having all been said, you'll have to pry my Linux servers, laptops and desktops out of my cold dead hands. When it comes to traditionally open computing platforms, I won't go back. Not ever. I have spent entirely too much time (on the order of decades) fighting that battle for retreat to ever become a viable option for me. Thankfully Linux on the server rules the roost nowadays and on the desktop and laptop is an amazingly viable alternative, regardless of what the naysayers tell you.

So what Apple upgrades await me in the future? Other than a possible Apple Watch purchase at some point (Annette already has one and I will almost certainly eventually pick up a cheaper model like an SE once it gets refreshed again), probably not a whole lot actually. I'm pretty well stocked up on Apple tech and I'm firmly committed to not riding the yearly upgrade wave unless there is a really good reason (e.g. a lack of future software support for an existing device or a device reaching the arbitrary age of five years old).

To be clear, the Apple tech isn't perfect. For example, it took three hours and a few reboots to setup and fully update (17.0 as of this writing) my HomePod 2 (shipped with 16.5) and the three HomePod-Minis (shipped with 15.x) I purchased this past weekend. It was a frustrating process but once I got through it, everything has been tip top and I've been having a great time exploring what these devices have to offer.

Perhaps one day we will live in a world where Linux / FOSS powered tablets, smart phones and smart speakers all working together is coherent a sobriety-driven reality. That would be pretty sweet. Until that day, this is how I am planning on handling the in-between.

Your mileage may vary ;)

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