Individual Entry

Apple Design?

De- De-
A prefix from Latin de — down, from, away; as in debark, decline, decease, deduct, decamp. In words from the French it is equivalent to Latin dis — apart, away; or sometimes to de.

Sign Sign, n.
That by which anything is made known or represented; that which furnishes evidence; a mark; a token; an indication; a proof.

Put them together and design means: away from a mark? It seems that way lately with Apple and its products.

I fell in love with Apple's products. Much like the good old days of d|i|g|i|t|a|l gear, Apple's gear had always been well engineered and designed. Apple's was also very "sexy" gear too. Apple, from the get-go, managed to steer clear of and well away from the stigma of that ugly eyesore cluttering the desktop and the space below it that was the IBM-PC and its clones. Apple's interesting designs were thoughtful, functional and aesthetic.

When I would tote my 17" Apple Powerbook around out in public people would remark, "Wow! That's a beautiful laptop." It was, at least in my opinion it was, and it still is. The all aluminum appearance — the shell casing, the screen frame and the keyboard — was a very handsome design indeed. However, when the new MacBookPro arrived on the scene, Apple reverted back to an old black keytops design. The new MacBookPro is still a very aesthetically functional design; in fact, being born of a single slab of laser cut and milled aluminum is even more sexy than its predecessor and it's much sturdier too. However, it seems to have lost, at least at a first glance, some of the allure of the all-aluminum Powerbook. At least when I ordered my MacBookPro, I ordered it with the matte screen which has an aluminum frame, unlike the black frame of the gloss screen. As much as I would have liked to have seen the MacBookPro with aluminum keytops, I suppose I can forgive Apple this de-sign.

There are some recent Apple designs which I cannot, however, dismiss. Let me expound on these.

The new Apple flat aluminum keyboard. Beautiful, very aesthetically functional and so thin. Gone is the ugly plastic monstrosity that was the former Apple keyboard and, for that matter, almost every other manufacturer's keyboard offering. However, the decision to put a fixed USB connector cable smack in the middle of the keyboard was, in my opinion, a poor design decision. There are two USB ports, one on each side of the keyboard, neither of which can be used to connect the keyboard to the system which means that one could not cut off the fixed USB connection cable. I contemplated modifying the keyboard too but, after googling the web, I learned that this keyboard is glued together. Almost every reported attempt at opening the Apple keyboard has also reported that it rendered it non-functional thereafter. C'est la vie. I will have to learn to live with this Apple de-sign. And why?

Another Apple design decision -- the wireless keyboard. I have toted an Apple bluetooth wireless keyboard around for years. The older white-plastic Apple bluetooth wireless keyboard worked and it continues to work quite well for me. However, it is heavy and bulky. When the new flat aluminum keyboards were announced, I waited with excited anticipation of the announcement of its equivalent in bluetooth wireless form. When the announcement was finally made, I was greatly disappointed and dismayed. The new flat aluminum bluetooth wireless keyboard lacked the alternate keypads! Hell, that's why I toted about the old Apple bluetooth wireless in the first place! Who needs a wireless version of the Apple Mac laptop keyboard? I, as well as many others, used the Apple bluetooth wireless keyboard — a full keyboard — because using the embedded alternate keypad in the laptop keyboard was cumbersome, awkward and error prone. The solution, in this case, was the full Apple keyboard tethered with the USB cable fixed in the middle of the keyboard that I just foretold above. Another bad Apple de-sign that I will have to learn to cope with.

Snow Leopard is out of the cage! I have not upgraded to Snow Leopard, yet, but there are reports of some discontentment amongst those who have. I have never had a need for or used Appletalk, but there are a great many Apple users who have or do. In Snow Leopard, Apple chose to disband with its age old Appletalk protocol. It is no longer supported or included in the Snow Leopard distribution. I cannot see why Apple made this decision. It's only a small bit of software and, even if Apple considers it old and or antiquated, what would have been the harm of including it as unsupported prior-version functionality? Yes, another bad de-sign.

The latest Apple faux pas, and I believe this to be one of the most heinous, is its MacBook Air SuperDrive. Another beautiful and aesthetically functional offering from Apple. It's aesthetic and functional, it's thin, and it's ever so portable. I recently purchased one because the SuperDrive in my wife's 20" iMac refused to continue to burn DVDs. She got many of miles (or DVD-Rs) out of that SuperDrive, so I'm not complaining about its longevity or not-so-longevity. My issue is with the MacBook Air SuperDrive. Here was another Apple offering and what company doesn't want to keep the business and money in-the-family? Evidently, not Apple. So, I stopped in at the local Apple store at the Freehold Raceway (where I'm well known and received, thank you Apple) and I purchased the MacBook Air SuperDrive — a USB (and I loathe USB) external CD/DVD reader and writer. Who would have thought that it wouldn't function with or be compatible with any other Apple computer sporting a USB 2.0 interface? Well, as it turns out, it will not function with anything other than an Apple MacBook Air laptop! Surprised? I sure was! It turns out that Apple took a standard USB to ATA interface, which sits inside the enclosure, and flashed its firmware so that it would only respect connections with a MacBook Air. How dumb is that? Here's a really fine option for Apple product owners, perhaps with needs not unlike the needs that prompted me to make the initial purchase, that cannot be enjoyed by Apple product owners unless the product owned is the MacBook Air. Their only option is to purchase third-party. My wife returned the drive to the Apple store where the clerk there remarked that more of these MacBook Air SuperDrives come back for refund, for the same reason the one I purchased was being returned, than go out and stay out. That, my friends, is a really dumb de-sign.


While researching why the MacBook Air SuperDrive would not function with the 20" iMac or with my 17" Powerbook or my 17" MacBookPro, I came across a site detailing how to hardware hack the MacBook Air SuperDrive to make it function with any system sporting a USB 2.0 interface. For the modest sum of US$9.00, one can purchase a USB to ATA interface that is not intentionally flashed to limit its capabilities to replace the interface which is intentionally flashed to limit its capabilities to the MacBook Air. If I was stuck with the purchase, I would have opted to give the hardware hack a go. For those who may be interested, here is a link to the article discussing the hack. In some ways, I almost wish that Apple would not have allowed the return of the MacBook Air SuperDrive because this little hack looks like it would have been fun to implement.


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