Stuff That Bugs Me About Apple and iCloud


Although I understand Apple’s move to the cloud, there are a number of things that bug me about it, and in fact have been bugging me for a while now, although I have trouble finding the time to put it all in writing.

Here’s a sort of first installment.

Apple TV‘s Schizophrenia

Consider, if you please, the Apple TV.

The current model is nearly dirt cheap and a pretty decent media extender, has a reasonable amount of content available (of course, if you’re in the US, you have services nobody else has, and it bugs me to have to spoof the settings solely for the purpose of being able to access Vimeo), can stream your music and videos from the cloud (or, if you’re so inclined, from your Macs or iOS devices), and yet getting the thing to do something as simple as displaying a set of photos in the right order is endlessly frustrating and truly daft in terms of energy consumption of various kinds.

The thing’s utter reliance on connectivity is depressing, and it’s hard to think of it as something other than a tame hockey puck designed to sell you iTunes TV shows, given that it is so utterly hostile as far as viewing your own media is concerned.

For starters, you have to have a Mac on sucking power off the grid (or get the photos onto an iOS device, which requires forethought and a rather lo-fi definition of photography), and of course Murphy’s Law will ensure that the Mac will be asleep when you want to dig up those photos and not respond to Wake-On-LAN packets (manual or otherwise - not that the Apple TV can actually wake it up on demand).

Furthermore, you have to have iTunes and iPhoto set up correctly and running, plus be up to date on your updates and stock of sacrificial goats.

And even then the blasted thing will never, ever, display photos in order, regardless of file name, modification date, or manual ordering of albums.

I fully expect the next Apple TV to have an SD card slot, at the very least, but I find it a near-criminal lack of user-friendliness that past and current models aren’t able to use USB storage of any kind, ever, unless you jailbreak them.

Because it would make it so much easier (and ecologically sound, not to forget vastly less contrived and stressful) to get photos directly onto my TV (which I actually do, since it too has an USB port, which is unfortunately tied to a hideous and sluggish UI).

Photo Stream

iCloud, Apple’s answer to everything these days, is going to sport Photo Stream, which is somewhat interesting if you rely on an iOS device for photography (or, rather, for creating digital postage stamps), but utterly pointless if you have a decent camera and years of photos1.

I rate Photo Stream about as highly as I rated, say, iCards a few years ago - a cute selling point, but essentially pointless.

Not to mention that I don’t want my kids’ photos in the cloud, thank you.

The death of iDisk and preference syncing

Of rather more interest to me is the rather odd notion that Apple is going to launch a spanking new online syncing server that stops syncing my Macs’ preferences - which means a lot of apps are now trying to implement different (and not necessarily better) alternatives, and dropping any provision whatsoever for generic file syncing.

Truth be told that iDisk is an unmitigated failure as is, but rather than fixing it (or acquiring Dropbox, like the rumor mill circulated a few weeks ago, most likely in an attempt to raise market valuation2), they missed the obvious:

It’s not that people didn’t want to have something like iDisk, it’s that the current implementation put people off using it. If they had gotten it well and truly right years back, Dropbox wouldn’t have become the de facto solution to exchanging files between Macs and iOS devices.

Back to my Mac

Given what I’ve seen so far (both as public announcements and as APIs), another of the most useful and time-saving features of MobileMe got lobotomized into uselessness for no good reason.

I refer, of course, to being able to logging in remotely to your Macs rather than being able to “find” them (trying to find a lost laptop based on the spurious notion that it is switched on, within range of Wi-Fi networks, and not had its hard disk wiped by potential thieves is a rather quaint notion that I find amusing at best).

Because being able to “find” them seems to be the only thing Apple is willing to grant us, despite the amount of times I’ve used it to access my machines everywhere or do remote support for family members.

It’s the second most useful feature MobileMe has as far as I’m concerned (right after mail and calendaring, which are first place ex aequo for me), and yet they never bothered to give us an Apple Remote Desktop client for iOS.

Colophon

There’s quite a bit more on my mind regarding this, and I’m somewhat curious to see if customer feedback is really taken into account (I know it sometimes is, but on such a large transition, and with the company’s future emphasising iOS as it does, I’m not sure it will account for much).

Time, as always, will tell.


  1. I’m going on 50GB of photos and short videos, and being unable to find a hassle-free way to preview, manage and enjoy them using Apple gear is becoming rather more than an annoyance. ↩︎

  2. If you followed that and have any notion of how Apple conducts business, you’d likely join me in finding it rather odd that they tried and failed to acquire someone else. ↩︎