Jump to content
Whatbird Community

Mitch's Musings - 2018 Apple MacBook Misgivings

Recommended Posts

Mitch’s Musings - 2018 Apple MacBook Misgivings
Tasty new tidbits about smartphones, technology and the future. 

July 12, 2018. Over the 4th of July weekend, I realized I'd been using my late-model 2016 MacBook Pro (4-core i7-based CPU, pre Touch Bar and pre butterfly keyboard) for almost 2-1/2 years. Clearly it's time to treat myself to an updated laptop. To my pleasant surprise Apple announced a summer 2018 refresh to the Macbook Pro line of laptops. This new Macbook offers, if your willing to pay the price, the more powerful 6-core Intel i9 CPU, up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM, and much larger SSDs up to 4TB. I visit the Apple online store and discover the laptop I want--2TB SSD, 32 GB of RAM and the faster of the two GPUs--will cost, with AppleCare, about $5,000. Am I seriously ready to plunk down $5,000 to buy a new 2018 MacBook Pro?

July 17, 2018. Dave2Dtv, a personality on YouTube, releases a video--MacBook Pro 15 (2018) - Beware the Core i9--were he determines Apple has held back the speed of the MacBook's i9 CPU to keep it from overheating. The end result, according to Dave, is that the computer is way slower than it should be. As a dramatic example, he puts it in a freezer and shows how much faster it runs. Throttle-gate begins. Dave discusses other features that disappoint him; the Touch Bar is a useless feature looking for a solution, the silicon pad added to the keyboard is not effective at keeping dust or improving the feel of typing on it and the GPUs for graphics are not all that high-end.

July 18, 2018. More research on the web I discover the battery is larger but the time to discharge is still less than 5 hours (even though Apple claims its 10 hours), the MacBook needs expensive dongles to connect legacy gear (It only has USB-C ports, no thunderbolt or USB 2 an 3) and it struggles with hard core game play. Do I really want to buy this beast? 

Has Apple Lost Its Way?

This raises questions I'd rather not think about, but must. What's this say about the future of laptops inside Apple? Is this the same Apple that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created 40 years ago? Don’t get me wrong—Apple is an amazing company, unlike any I've known in my lifetime.

"Long before most of iBird’s customers were born, I bought an Apple 1 computer
from Steve Jobs while he was still in his garage." 

The baby boomers among us remember Apple's shocking first attempt to completely alter how we use computers with the gorgeous pre-Macintosh GUI-based Lisa. Back in January of 1983 I bought 2 fully-loaded Lisa’s for our publishing company The Waite Group. The price then was $9,995 (which would be $24,600 in 2017 dollars). The only reason I could splurge was that I’d just signed a $1,000,000 contract with the New York publisher New American Library to write 15 computer books for them. So what was $20,000 in hardware when I had 50 times that in the bank? I’ll save the results of this crazy purchase for a future story but the point is the Lisa’s were an amazing view of the future of personal computers and of Apple. They showed us that the world of green text command lines were about to be replaced by the mouse, windows and graphics. It took several years before Apple and Steve got the Macintosh formula right but once they did, and Bill Gates copied the Mac with Windows, the world shifted forever. 

Apple laptops were just as good as their desktops and for many years they defined what mobile computers looked like. Eventually Apple went though hard times, Jobs left to start a new company, called Next, and meanwhile Apple came close to going bankrupt. Then Steve returned, and with a new enthusiasm coupled with wisdom, took Apple to new heights. The iPhone was a crowning achievement that, for the last 10 years, has given Apple a tremendous lead over every tech company on the planet. 

Sadly, in October 2011, Steve sadly passed away. Thought it was not apparent, at that point Apple lost something no one has adequately described. Steve Jobs had a unique gift that allowed him to envision products that would delight customers, and he could manage teams to create the hardware and software that made these dreams a reality. In my opinion, since his death, Apple even with it's billions of dollars in the bank, has not shown they know how to fully reproduce his remarkable set of skills.They can get 50% there. But that’s just not enough. 

And nothing appears more of an example of this epic fail than the 2018 MacBook line. 

July 23, 2917. A few days later Dave posts a new video that attempts to clarify what he was trying to say in his previous video. He still maintains that the 2018 i9 6-core MacBook is still not properly cooled. The video shows a number of tests comparing the new 2018 i9 6-core video to the slower i7 4-core MacBook. Warning: this guys talks really fast! Bottom line is that the new MacBook is still slowing the CPU down when it gets hot, but if you use it for certain kinds of work you won't be disappointed. He does not address all the other things I mention like the keyboard, the battery life, the useless Touch Bar, etc.

July 24, 2018. MacBreak Weekly 620, How How is My Mac? Also The New Screen Savers 166 New i9 Macbook Pro Can't Take the Heat? You all know I am an avid fan of Leo Laporte's TWiT TV Podcasts. The coolest thing to me about Leo's episodes is that he has an insatiable appetite for buying new hardware and testing it on the air, then gathering the reactions of experts about his results. In this particular show Leo bought a high end 2018 i9 MacBook Pro with 32 GB of RAM and ran it though its paces to determine if, in fact, Throttle-gate was justified. One of the conclusions that Leo and his experts come to is pretty amazing and is as follows. Apple is build's its own ARM silicon chips for the iPhone and iPad; but for the MacBooks it relies on Intel and its 8086 line of CPUs. Here's Leo and his gang's current theory: Apple is working on an ARM chip to replace the Intel silicon in the MacBook line; but its not ready yet. Meanwhile Apple was getting bad press from customers complaining that Apple had not updated its laptop line in many years and Windows laptops were exceeding the performance in the marketplace. So, Apple then decided on a interim solution--they would produce an update with the more powerful i9 chip--knowing that in 2020 they'd bring out a radically updated ARM based MacBook that would blow this 2018 i9-based specs out of the water. 

July 20 - 24, 2018. Various Reviews of the 2018 MacBook.  Below are a number of reviews I read that discuss Throttle-gate as well as give strong opinions as to the value of the Macbook. 

July 27, 2018. Apple issues update to fix throttling. Responding to the Throttle-gate uproar Apple releases an update to the Macbook OS that supposedly fixes the issue with slowing down the CPU. However, while it does help fix the slowing down, it does not fix the heavy load testing that Dave2Dtv first posted on YouTube. Apple blames the issue on a bad "digital key." Our question is how could a company of Apple's size and stature make such a bone head mistake? Apple's official statement: Following extensive performance testing under numerous workloads, we've identified that there is a missing digital key in the firmware that impacts the thermal management system and could drive clock speeds down under heavy thermal loads on the new MacBook Pro. A bug fix is included in today's macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended. We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems. Customers can expect the new 15-inch MacBook Pro to be up to 70% faster, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to be up to 2X faster, as shown in the performance results on our website.

References to all Links. Here is a summary of the research I did for writing this story.

Conclusion: What Would Steve Have Done
There is no question that Apple believes a “thin” laptop is the most critical factor in how the public judges the MacBook. Apple is not alone in this belief; the entire PC industry is caught up in a thinness war. But in forcing the new MacBook to stay thin, Apple refused to redesign the MacBook case so that it could cool the i9 CPU. Instead, they throttled the speed of the CPU when it gets too hot, which results in limiting its overall processing power. What would Steve Jobs have done given this predicament? I believe he would have designed a new case that allowed a cooling element to be added when the customer needed it. It could have been a snap-on hardware device with extra fans; or it could have been a faster graphics processor with fans. Maybe he would have reinvented the way laptops are cooled like he did with Gorilla Glass for the iPhone. Who knows? But for sure he would NOT have released a crippled laptop.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Awesome summary.  

A few add-ons from my perspective - 

I switched back to the Mac platform as Microsoft start losing its' way with Windows - usability issues, quality issues, an awful update process, etc. and, as Apple had the market cornered in these respects, I was willing to pay the extra to get it.   No more.  My current MacBook Pro will be my last Apple laptop product.   Back to PC land for me - Microsoft is going (albeit slowly) in the right direction in terms of usability and quality and price point, and Apple is going the wrong way.  The difference in cost (and lack of compatibility with the inevitable MS apps I have to use for work) no longer make it a good option.   On the apps side - Office products are getting more and more incompatible, SharePoint is no longer useable from a Mac, and now Apple is going away from the Intel chip set (and as a result I'm guessing will spur even further incompatibility on the Office apps side).   

And the latest - my own Mac triggered a brute force attack against itself (the wonderful keychain tool).  It triggered so many login attempts in a short period of time our threat protection software locked all my accounts.  And since it was triggered by what was considered a friendly (i.e. not external internet based source) - threat protection didn't block it. 

Granted much of this is because we try to use a Mac in a business environment - for which it was never intended, and is getting further away from.   Maybe a different story from the consumer view of things.  

Edited by Dan
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dan fabulous post and really helps to see what the determining factors are for your decision to leave the MacBook and return to Windows.

No question Microsoft has done a good job in getting Windows 10 back on the track it was originally intended to race on. And for sure the prices, if you ignore the Surface laptops, are so much lower than Mac hardware makes it so more compelling. I still have issues with the Windows UI, one that bothers me a lot is the brute force way updates are installed. And I still prefer the smooth nature of Mac OS, and find my productivity is so much better than on Windows. But I am not as price sensitive as most people, and now that Apple fixed the Throttle-gate issue I am back to buying the MacBook 2018. B

I've never heard of a Macintosh triggering a brute force attack against itself and that would certainly make me crazy and mad. But I have had issues with Keychain, ones that even Apple could not fix. (like it forgetting passwords). 

I'm curious what you mean by lack of compatibility with MS apps? I use all the Office apps on my iMac and so far haven't see any issues. But I may not be pushing things as hard as you in a business environment.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd slightly lower my list of negatives with the new MacBooks as follows:


Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 9.47.16 AM.png

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey folks, this is a simple case of bad engineering, and bad testing. Apple can say and do whatever they want. But, its absurd to reduce performance of ANY product that is designed FOR PERFORMANCE! Right? We buy these state of the art VERY expensive Apple products because we want the best in performance, design, and support. And like Mitch said, this is not the case anymore with Apple. 

Apple fans have always had a bit of a love hate relationship with Apple products. We all know they rev products very quickly, cut out 3rd party developers to control their systems, but everyone loves them so much, we still buy their hardware. 

That all said, I am a computer scientist and electrical engineer, I know Steve Wozniak very well, met Jobs a couple times as a teenager, but don't know him intimately. But, I can tell you one thing the Woz would NOT let this machine anywhere near a customer with this kind of thermal engineering design flaw. Moreover, if through countless acts of incompetence and lack of testing, somehow this product made it out with this heating problem, Woz would demand that some ingenious engineering solution be done, and every single laptop with this fix would not only run 100% full speed, would do it COOL, and would be able to survive over clocking like every damn PC on  the planet.

Let's face it -- this isn't the Apple we knew -- never will be again. I am a game developer and I could say the same for Atari, no matter how much I miss Atari from the 80s which as many know was more or less was the origin story of Apple (Jobs learned from Nolan Bushnell about much of the DNA that created Apple ideals), Atari is DEAD. 

Apple isn't dead -- but, it's soul is gone. There will never be anyone at Apple that will throw a FIT if something isn't right, be willing to spend imaginable amounts of money to make things PERFECT -- Steve Jobs was that guy, he kept Apple honest, at least his vision of it and kept his engineers scared enough they did the best job they could!

So, Apple made a big mistake, I think the community will have a number of hacks and fixes to the problem, but rest assured Apple will NOT take responsibility for it.

In the meantime, pick up a laptop cooler, and don't play in the sun :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do much prefer the Mac UI over Windows - look/feel and actual productivity saver.   And the number of supported gestures on the trackpad makes a mouse nearly obsolete for me.   And so much "simpler", way too many options in WIndows to worry about.  But you are correct, brute force updates?   I had an update once take 17 hours and I had no choice as it triggered it while shutting the PC down in my office.   I had to carry it out of my office, set it down on the seat of my car so it would continue updating on my drive home, carry it into the house still updating, etc.  

And AndreLamothe's comments are spot on. 

I worked at Cisco Systems for about a dozen years, during which time I hired several people from Apple.   They tell me that in no way would today's problems at Apple have been tolerated under prior management. 

So grudgingly back to WIndows I go.   Not because Windows is attracting me, but because Apple is chasing me away. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Andre's comments hits all the main points, especially the love hate relationship. As a developer I love Apple's tools and the great SDK, especially compared to the other other game in town, Google's Android. However its not always sweetness being part of the Apple success story. Still I do feel proud that our iBird family of 15 apps contributed to Apple being the first company to hit a $1 Trillion valuation.

Andre is right that Woz would never have allowed a product to be launched with such terrible thermal engineering. He would have demanded it go back to the drawing board and would have come up with some kind of magical solution. 

Dan I hear you on the Mac superior GUI over Windows. For that reason alone I won't be switching. But the Windows update approach is really brutal, I've had it interrupt a session that had been running on Windows for 10 hours. At least Apple's updates let you decide when you want to update and to even NOT update. Windows does not give you a choice any longer.

While clearly the management under Tim Cook is a totally different breed from that of the past, its pretty clear that the old management would never been able to handle selling 50 million phones every quarter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...