Last Year on My Mac: Out with the old, in with the new

I was half-expecting a Christmas card from Apple this year, given the amount I seem to have spent on hardware upgrades. In the Spring, I bought an iPad and a MacBook Pro, in the autumn an iPhone XR and an iPhone 7, then in the winter an iMac Pro. In the coming month or two I’ll be replacing my first generation Apple Watch with a Series 4, which should complete my hardware roulement. If that doesn’t see Apple’s stock price on the rise again, I’ll be greatly disappointed.

Over the year, my Macs haven’t been exactly idle, either. I seem to have developed at least eighteen new apps and tools for my Downloads page, as well as updated all the previous ones several times. Those apps new for 2018 include SearchKey, SearchKeyLite, SystHist, Revisionist, RunT2M2, Precize, alisma, Cirrus, DeepTools, 32-bitCheck, Bailiff, Scrub, UTIutility, RouteMap and Whither, Nalaprop, Taccy, DelightEd, and most recently of all Signet.

I suppose that makes it a good year all round. Of those, SystHist, Cirrus and 32-bitCheck have become particularly popular, joining the ranks of LockRattler and Consolation as favourite downloads.

Just lately, a few have taken to dissing some of those apps. Rather than offer constructive criticism as comments here or privately, some get their pleasure from vomiting bile over web pages or in tweets.

I primarily develop these tools because I want them myself and can’t find an existing app to do the job, then feel that others might welcome my sharing them. If you don’t like something, don’t use it, that’s your choice. It’s not like you could feel cheated and want your money back. If you think that any of those apps or tools should be improved, have the decency to say so here, and I’m very happy to listen. But if you don’t have the guts or the decency, then please don’t use me to express your frustrations in life.

It has also been a good year to be using Macs and iOS devices. Apple has clawed its way back after the debacle of High Sierra, and I’m really enjoying using, and exploring the features of, Mojave.

There is a note of caution here, though. When you trade your £/$/€ 25,000 car in for one costing almost twice the price, you expect it to be plusher and better in every respect. If Apple seriously expects to sell Macs costing upwards of £/$/€ 5,000, then macOS needs to be of comparable quality. Mojave is getting there, but there are still plenty of silly bugs which Apple needs to fix, which means investing in macOS engineering, not just supplying iMac Pros with sexy black extended keyboards and charging cables.

It also means improving the whole Mac experience, particularly the App Store.

I have struggled this year to reconcile Apple’s image in its retail stores, and their new drive to bring users in and teach them skills, with its App Store experience. Apple’s app stores (iOS and macOS) have happily sold apps such as Adware Doctor which stole users’ private information, despite Apple claiming repeatedly how important privacy is in both iOS and macOS.

Apple’s app stores (iOS and macOS) have happily sold and even promoted apps which essentially do nothing except generate their developers – and Apple – income. Their sales figures are also readily manipulated by simple strategies such as giving an app away free, paying others to promote it by downloading it greatly and posting five-star reviews, then starting to charge for it.

Apple is careful to select third party products for its retail stores which it feels have quality comparable to its own hardware, and don’t we seem happy to pay for them. But there are no signs of any curation or even proper screening of products which are sold online in the app stores. With the advent of notarization Apple needs to be much more careful as to what it sells in its Mac App Store in particular, and what is deemed more appropriate for the developer to notarize and sell independently.

And please, let’s have a properly designed and tested App Store app which can at least get simple date calculations right.

Apple’s challenges for 2019 are to deliver the new iMacs which were so conspicuously absent from 2018, and the long-awaited Mac Pro. It also needs to deliver Time Machine 2.0 and improved security in macOS 10.15, but above all to transform its app stores to the same quality as its retail stores.

Finally, the New Year is traditionally a time of reflection for those who passed away during the Old Year. Let’s pause for a minute or two and remember the protection once afforded to our Macs by XProtect and MRT, and wonder what Apple will release to succeed them, and when.