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Cancelling Amazon Prime

Reading Time: 3 minutes

tl;dr

I decided to cancel Amazon Prime because it’s no faster than standard (included) shipping and has no other perks while being actually more expensive.


Most of the past year whenever I chose to shop on Amazon to make use of the alleged benefits of my Amazon Prime membership and get things faster I ended up waiting much more than if I’d had shopped elsewhere.

For starters, Prime shipping in this country is not next day shipping but 2-day shipping instead. Not that it matters anyway because products take at least 3 days to fulfill. If I order on Sunday, I won’t be getting anything until next Saturday–Friday if I’m lucky.

Shipping for non-Prime customers though it takes a week, somehow it’s fulfilled faster amounting to the same time from buying time to shipping time. I did the test with another account. The only difference is how much time the product spends with the courier otherwise you’ll get your shit at the same time but you’ll actually pay more with Prime.

Furthermore, I strongly believe shipping should always be free. Shopping retail you don’t pay for shipping because you can go get things yourself. Amazon doesn’t have a place where you can go get things yourself –at least not in my region– so why should you pay for their shortcomings. If it had, then I’m OK with Amazon, or any other store, charging for the commodity of delivering the things to you or delivering the things to you at a faster rate (i.e; shipping rates).

Region Blocks

But, you may argue, Amazon Prime is not only fast (or “free”) shipping, the membership also includes Amazon Prime Video, blahblah Music, Twitch and whatnot.

Well, yes but not really. These services are region-blocked. Though you can get a Prime membership easily for another region –and for a moment I had, before I realized I was paying for Prime in two countries– you’ll be billed double. Unlike other services such as Netflix that no matter where you are, it’s one bill, they’ll just change the content. You need to get a new membership for each country you visit and, you need to be in the matching region for the content to stream.

I’m using several tunneling layers for a number of different reasons and therefore I can’t use any of the membership extras.

So now I have no faster than normal (i.e; free) shipping and no extra services because all are region-blocked –even Twitch, I still don’t know what the fuck is Twitch but I saw that my membership included that and when I tried it the sign up failed because of the region blocks– so the last thing one might consider keep paying for this bullshit is small ticket items that don’t qualify for free delivery (though, as I mentioned before, they all should be delivered for free if there’s no way for you to go get them).

Again, not really. Free shipping starts at $600, local currency, but not all products qualify for Prime either. The average minimum is around $150-$200 and we’re talking about very sketchy/crappy products. In order to make you membership worthwhile you’d have to order at least 6 times in a month, I’m being extremely generous, imagining we have an awesome $100-marked product and I’m choosing a month because, in addition to yearly, you can pay monthly for the membership.

What costs $150? A metal reusable straw. A mousepad. In other words: crap. Is that worth the environmental pollution accelerated shipping–yet still slow fulfillment–does? I really don’t think so.

So what are my options? Complaining to Amazon? Of course not, they’d cite the loophole that the 2-way period is for shipping, not for fulfillment+shipping. I’d only get aggravated anyway because only products fulfilled by Amazon whatever the fuck that means –though it strongly suggest Amazon has full control of the shit being inventoried, sold and shipped– and yet they wait a full fucking week to move their automated asses to send shit.

I’m just a single number in a massive client base so they won’t listen to me nor offer any solution whatsoever. The best I can do is to cancel the bullshit, use free shipping instead to save some money and walk to a local store and give the city some business if I need to get fucking metal straws, mousepads and other assorted crap.

I’m just saying…

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Indigo Pro

Reading Time: 19 minutes

Indigo Domotics‘ Indigo Pro is an excellent automation software made exclusively for macOS.

I came across it several years ago looking for more advanced Insteon controller than the first party Insteon Hub.

Being a software solution it’s extremely compatible with anything and by itself it is very stable.

It serves as the base for integration with a virtually unlimited amount of systems through the use of third-party plugins. In the past, this was just a list on their forums but now it was a dedicated section on the website and it was branded as a Store, nothing costs money but the choice of words, at least for me, raises red flags. Furthermore, the fact that they don’t charge for plugins doesn’t mean that the maker of some plugin won’t charge for the use of it. It’s just not policed right now. I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time before this stops being true.

Indigo Pro is priced at USD249.95, previously there was a Lite version but it’s no longer available. The price difference wasn’t that great and it came artificially limited to a few devices only.

But then the company behind it decided it was not sustainable to put out a version every few years because it would keep them from constantly pushing out new features to users and jumped on the subscription model like pretty much every other opportunistic developer these days.

Unlike every other subscription model though, they have not lowered nor have they eliminated the entrance price, it is still among, if not the highest in the market–even for hardware controllers.

Currently the topmost version of Vera is the same price as Indigo Pro, USD249,95. Universal Devices’ controller with an bundled Insteon interface is less than USD180.00.

So what are have been the subscription benefits?

First of all, let’s not forget what Indigo is: a home automation software controller, meaning it’s meant to control things such as the lighting installed around your home, outlets, garage doors, regular doors, basically any fixture around your home. Through plugins it can control/integrate with other platforms.

The key word is fixture. It’s very important not to forget about it because it gives relevance to Indigo’s subscription benefits…or lack thereof.

Fixtures, by definition, are fixed. They usually have one job which is control the power output to something, it could be on, it could be off, it could be anywhere in between. The usually have some way of communicating back with a controller, but that’s expected, otherwise there it wouldn’t be a smart device. Sometimes though, this doesn’t even need to be a 2-way communication. Two-way communications just means that the device send acknowledgements (even if unrequested. i.e; broadcasts) to indicate its status to a controller.

With this in mind, think, really think, how many times over the lifetime of your home do you need to change these? Even if you’re a hardcore home decorator that’s keeping it fresh with seasonal decorations, I’m sure the redecorating rarely involves fixtures that many times involve complex network wiring in addition to power wiring. If your light switches are in need of constant updates, you have much bigger problems to deal with than the controller.

What might benefit from constant updates are integrations with other platforms, specially cloud-based ones such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s whatever it’s called because of their ever-changing APIs.

So, while a broader hardware compatibility support is good to have, once your meet it, you’re hardly ever going to outgrow it because the non-IP network protocols most of these technologies use rarely ever need to change.

The version first introducing Indigo’s new model was version 7.1. For a user with an already set up home, it came with no features that would benefit them. The blog post mentions general improvements and bug fixes, I ran version for a short time before I became fully aware of it being a major drawback overall. During that time I didn’t find any changes at all.

It also came with things that benefits people who can write code I wouldn’t know what they are because I don’t code. Let’s face it, if we’re using Indigo instead of making our own automation using things such as Arduino boards or Raspberry Pi boards, we either don’t know how to or don’t want to write code.

Finally version 7.1 came with remote activation support requirement, the most insidious form of DRM. I wrote an email through their contact form asking for clearer information about activation because on the website, unless you go to the blog posts, it’s nowhere to be found. The email read:

Are controller versions past 7.0.4 able to reactivate with an expired subscription. I looked around the website but I can find no mention of this. I found out that user get to keep using their current controller up to the version their subscription allowed them to but that’s not the same as activating (reinstalling, for instance) a controller if need be, sadly a must in the current state of Apple hardware and software.

Have you made each version past 7.0.4 available for download and will you commit to maintaining them online if this is true?

Lastly, do these versions need to be phoning home to maintain their activation status or can they go offline indefinitely?

They, within a day–got to give them credit for that, wrote back:

Hello Gustavo,

Yes, all versions of Indigo can be moved/transferred from one Mac to another. For version 7.1 and beyond this requires a license deactivation the user does before they move Macs (or they can contact us to have it reset manually here), and for versions earlier than 7.1 such as your case you just need to re-enter your name and registration code on the new Mac which can be found in your Indigo Account.

While we maintain downloads of all the major releases of Indigo here (all the way back 10 years to version 1), we no longer offer support for versions older than 7.1. They’ll continue to run on older macOS versions indefinitely, but as Apple updates macOS eventually the older versions stop working correctly because of changes Apple has made.

Regards,
– Matt
Indigo Domotics

So that’s at least reassuring.

I’ve been seeing this subscription model where, allegedly, the software is for you to keep and you just won’t get any more software updates but they very conveniently omit to mention you also don’t get to reactivate the old you were left off with. Plus they move up versions so fast that it becomes complicated to maintain old installers available for download or customer records on servers with the correct data, hopefully corruption-free data.

Allowing phoning home something as important as the piece of software that might prevent you from opening the doors to your home (or worse: closing them) for any purpose really but specially for activation is not a gamble you should ever be taking. You should be extremely wary if you want to allow your automation controller host (computer) to connect to the Internet, both inbound and outbound.

The question was ignored on the email, but I found out in the version 7.1 blog post that it only needs to connect to the Internet once for activation. I’m assuming for their benefit that this continues to be true up to the current version; 7.4.

There are still issues though: both the blog posts and the email indicate that existing controllers need to be deactivated first for activation of new controllers. This is troublesome in two ways.

First, the deactivation part. This is achieved, it seems, via the installed controller –it makes sense– or –if the controller host crashes– contacting Indigo Domotics for they to do it. That suggests it’s not automated (ironically) and it sort of clues that the old controller could at some point phone home to be deactivated, it’s iffy, but if true, this is a major privacy violation.

The second is a bit more complex: the state of Apple products and Apple as a company.

Apple has been increasing the price of their products across the board while at the same time reducing the quality of them both in hardware and software and on top of that, they have hindered immensely their repairability with the integration of the T2 chip. So let’s go over each: price, hardware, software and T2. Moving price at the end for obvious reasons.

Hardware. Failure rate of Apple devices has increased to unbelievable levels over the years, you just need to go to any techy site to find out something about it. Part of it is the appeal Apple has always brought, I still believe; Apple generates clicks. Another part of it is that is sells millions of copies of a limited inventory and it’s easier to pinpoint a single model. Whatever the case it doesn’t excuse the fact the hardware failure rate and bad decisions from Apple are still high and growing. Furthermore, their legendary stubbornness only adds to the problem.

Software. After each yearly macOS update, it’s usually not safe to update because it could very easily break you Indigo installation. Apple does deep level system 180s often and devs have to scramble to continue working with Apple. On Mojave and Catalina it has become obvious Apple’s heightened security is only self-serving, imposing new ways to update devices across the board (iOS, macOS, tvOS…) to be compatible with each other and thus force users to use their only software and content obtained from their respective stores whenever possible. They have went as far that even Safari extensions are now forced through the Mac App Store so they can make money out of what used to be fun little projects developers make. On Catalina specially, Apple went to the ultimate level by locking the system drive from the system’s owner. It’s nearly impossible for an average user to tinker with his/her own system now and it relocks itself after a restart. They removed old macOS versions from the stores too as well as the ability to create your own installers so you can’t go back.

T2. If you are tech-savvy enough to overcome the previous two obstacles, the still had the guts, or in top Apple executive Phils Schiller’s words, courage, to add a serializing chip that won’t let you boot your system unless all of its (mostly soldered now) parts match the blueprint it got from the factory that produced it.

Price. Skyrocketed. Skyrocketing.

With all of these reasons it’s rather obvious at some point you’ll need to reinstall your controller probably more than once. More so at those early deployment stages were you still don’t know your way around things and you want a perfect setup. Reinstalling everything or diagnosing can be such a hassle so what do you do? You just wipe and start over, right?

The problem is that now you forgot about deactivation and have to go through the apparently manual process.

This is just the basics, what was already there now is gone. Going into the subscription model so far has downgraded your feature set. Now let’s explore other benefits.

Platform Support

Indigo Pro as mentioned earlier, is a macOS-only software controller. So if your Mac goes on the fritz, and somehow you managed to save your database elsewhere but you don’t have any other Mac or are so upset at Apple’s fuckery that you ain’t buying more of their shit, you’re out of luck. You can’t deploy a Linux, FreeBSD, Windows or what-have-you server. Those developing costs the subscription brings, don’t cover that.

Improved UI/UX

To say that Indigo’s UI is sugarcoating it. Even when I first purchased my license several years back on version 6 it was very dated. It’s not user friendly at all. It resembles the days of early macOS, I’m talking the pre-Tiger era. Like Cheetah, Panther and some random kitty. When macOS was “MacOS X”. That’s how old it looks, even though it offers a native interface with native UI elements to it and it adapts to newer systems it still manages to remain old somehow. Now for the UX part, it’s quite infuriating at times. Automation through it requires a given set of steps at times and creation of tasks, commands or actions to react to triggers, it’s not always the case but using actions lets you do some sort of templates to reuse them in other things, such as virtual devices. The thing is, if you forgot about this before you started creating the trigger, which can be very complex on its own, you can’t go back to the main window and create the action or whatever without closing the window and losing your progress. Dialogs appear in new windows instead of those old attached hanging dialogs from before. With the poor quality control of macOS nowadays they can easily become separated and since technically only one can be used, only one, the wrong one, will appear on Exposé when you’re frantically looking for it. It’s annoying as fuck. So no, the subscription budget doesn’t allow for a UI nor a UX designer either.

Control Pages

This actually goes into UI/UX but it’s so big it deserves its own bullet point. Control Pages are what it sounds like. Web pages that let you control things. A web UI for you controller you can create own your own. There are two sets of Control Pages, the first is a very basic set that’s a mirror of your controller’s macOS UI but designed to fit and look as an original iOS 1 (iPhone OS 1.0) web app.

The second set is the one you can create on your own. All images or assets are also dated for the iOS 1 era, with photorealistic, in some cases actual low resolution pictures of real devices that are very old looking to begin with; a brown ceiling fan, a wire mesh metal-blade desktop fan, a nineteenth century floor lamp, these are mixed with a small assortment of flat-grayish/blueish icons for lights and fans as well as 3D iOS 1 buttons and a large selection of low resolution, very busy weather pictures.

Maybe you’re going to add your own anyway you may be thinking, but just spare a thought for those I mentioned earlier who can’t or won’t code and are looking for a prepackaged solution that includes the necessary pieces. Well, the subscription costs don’t even include the pre-bundling of the free FontAwesome basic icon set at least.

If you want to make it all on your own, Indigo has got you uncovered.

Indigo Control Pages designer is a very basic, extremely basic, web page design tool with almost no placement controls. Assets need to be uploaded to the server into the Indigo’s Application Support directory, which is a rather privileged area to mess with for starters. If you forget to add them beforehand it’s the trigger story all over again, you need to reload the editor. There’s no dragging and dropping. The assets appear in a dropdown menu and they appear to be sorted randomly on first load because it’s not in alphabetical order nor by modification date, which are the most common orders of sorting files, it’s so fucking infuriating. Zooming controls don’t exist and it comes up zoomed by default, if you’re dealing with Retina-like resolutions good luck with that. You need a Thunderbolt Display’s worth of resolution to be able to edit a non-Retina iPad control page without scrolling.

There is a grid but it’s not adjustable, the snapping of objects to it manages to be both too aggressive and not aggressive enough. Pages created with the editor are not fluid, meaning you most likely have to create a custom set of pages per-device accessing the controller or pinch to zoom into it which is horrible, looks horrible and makes you lose your sense of placement very easily.

Pages can show very little information without the need of plugins –all third party– because the subscription costs don’t cover a better Control Page designer nor functionality not provided by other people that were kind enough to share it with the world royalty-free in the form of a plugin so Indigo can provide functionality USD250 doesn’t cover. Even though it’s a major selling point.

Interfaces & Plugins

For things not covered by Interfaces, Indigo uses Plugins. This allows Indigo to be infinitely extensible and it’s sort of at the core of Indigo’s capability of being a universal controller.

Insteon, Z-Wave, X10 are non-IP networking protocols, so to interface with them you need an interfacing device, this is not included with your purchase of Indigo Pro. Without interfaces, Indigo would resort to control things through other controllers using plugins. You’d have to be very imaginative to achieve this because it’s not included (nor explained) out of the box.

Ideally Indigo should provide all of the logic necessary to do its thing needing nothing more than an interface or two if you’re running side by side systems (e.g; Insteon + Z-Wave). You already know where I’m going with this…

Obviously, it doesn’t.

Plugins are a way of providing functionality that interfaces wouldn’t, such as interfacing with the host system itself, e.g; controlling audio playback for broadcast through the host’s audio interface (i.e; the analog/optical audio jack) or through RogueAmoeba‘s Airfoil, for which another plugin would be needed. These basic plugins are included with Indigo.

Indigo has many, many, shortcomings that –because they’re logic functions for interface control– should be included out of the box, like Superconditions a third party plugin that allows for if else conditions that should be included with Indigo. It has existed for a very long time and yet as of Indigo 7.1, it was still not a native functionality of Indigo. This is what Indigo’s core functionality is, it should be there without resorting for people to fill in for the development the subscription fails to cover.

Amazon Alexa, is supported by Indigo but not natively, instead it’s an emulated Philips Hue bridge that Alexa finds and allows for some very basic controls. Logitech Harmony is a nightmare to setup and it’s you must place your hubs into a developer mode hard to get to for them to receive XMPP messages from the Indigo plugin. These are third party plugins.

The good news is that the plugin list has been steadily growing, increasing support for new products (though none strictly necessary), the bad news is that the plugin list is steadily growing while Indigo isn’t; it seems like it’s only a matter of time before it becomes what macOS has become, an infrastructure to force you into paying for apps, or in this case plugins, remotely controlled by means of updates.

Indigo Touch

Indigo Touch is the mobile app that interfaces with Indigo Server, the controller side of Indigo. A few words come to mind when I think of it: ugly, dated, non-intuitive, cumbersome, convoluted.

It has not been updated since it had to be updated back when Apple forced developers to migrate to 64-bit apps, even so, they waited up till the last minute to update it.

While also a mirror of the controller, it doesn’t mean that’s straightforward to use, for instance; there’s functionality attained only by the use of actions instead of having the controls for the device on its entry on the device list like anybody would expect. To execute it you need to the actions section in the controller main window select the action and click the Execute All button. The go back to the devices section to say, turn on a light. This on a touchscreen device get annoying, confusing, you have to be careful of naming of things and the issues go on.

A way to have both things in one place is thought the use of custom control pages, but y’know… Argh!

Speaking of onomatopoeia, Indigo Touch is also a control page browser. Besides of preauthenticating the user I really don’t know what else Touch accomplishes that a web browser doesn’t though, because, Indigo Touch doesn’t support HTTPS connections.

Furthermore, same as the server, Indigo Touch is only available for Apple devices.

As mentioned earlier, an Apple devices isn’t the most moddable device there is, if at all and other, universal-ish ways of control are limited to web browsers and control pages (with their extensive list of issues) Placing ever more expensive iPads around home is well…expensive, both the device itself and the accessory that would be needed to support it as well as the wiring to keep it on all the time. Apple has helped creating a big accessory market where manufacturers are comfortable charging USD50 or more for a molded piece of plastic to protect fragile expensive devices. Imagine the cost of the same thing made out of metal–actually you don’t have to, just go to Twelve South where you can find some of the most expensive not that useful accessories for Apple devices. The are better looking than average, though.

This before would have to change frequently as new models come out that no longer follow the original Apple 30-pin dock connector model of extreme compatibility where all pieces would fit regardless of generation. On the other hand, a touchscreen with a nearby hidden computer or compute stick is much easier a less destructive for your home to update because they all use VESA mounts.

The problem is that control pages are mediocre at best. Since they are not fluid you have to consider a given screen size and plan accordingly, ideally you would have to MDM an operative system to hijack the browser into running fullscreen full time so the resolution matches because placement is a big issue. I’ve sometimes had to draw fullscreen transparencies (alpha channels) with content only in a given area so positions would match.

This is a mockup of control pages:

For reference, the artboard with the magenta house icon is 1024×1024 pixels. The whole document is huge and contains hundreds of assets. You have to zoom in to see them and zoom even further out to see it all. These are control pages for 3 devices only.

For a long time I could not even fathom the possibility of abandoning iOS and believe-u-me I tried. Apple made it easier for me by forcing users to have MFA to use several components of iCloud, with a less useful iCloud it became much easier to spend time on Android but not quite. But then this developer did what the Indigo subscription has failed to cover, wrote an app for Android, Domotics Pad; the app is hideous much like Indigo’s own but it gets the job done and goes further by acting as an Android launcher and by supporting HTTPS connections and by supporting geolocation and by communicating back to the server status from the client, such as battery life and remember the hideous part? Well, it can be themed. I have not tried it yet but just because I have not had the time.

This app is not free, and basically if it was I wouldn’t have bothered to install as it would raise major concerns about giving a random free app access to your automation server. Nothing is free. But for its one-time entrance fee though, this app has seen several updates, many more than Indigo Domotics’ own…and that’s without a subscription. If the developer were to launch version 2 of it tomorrow I would not hesitate to purchase it again because it has not tried to trick me to buying into a meaningless evergreen status nor failed on delivering it like it would’ve been foreseen. Indigo on the other hand, did.

Security

Indigo uses a Python-based web server, I asked in the past if I could implement some other authentication like Kerberos to be able to use multiple users but I was merely pointed to the web server’s project site. In all fairness it’s better than a straight up no. On the other hand, I think we already established that if I knew how to code or wanted to code, I would not need Indigo in the first place, so…yeah.

Technically, I think Python is a scripting language, not coding. But for people like me who don’t know shit, it amounts to the same thing.

Outside of that you only get one user, might as well be the root user because it can do everything on the controller yet to run the controller it cannot run userless (i.e; as root) this is an unbelievable annoyance you have to put up with and they are in no hurry to fix it. The have separated the server process from the client process so nothing needs to be open and if you quit the main window’s process you’re still good to go, but, this is still far from ideal on a server computer. This is further complicated by the fact that Apple is moving towards a forced update future where systems are much less stable and you cannot longer depend on them.

Nor Indigo nor Indigo Touch support encrypted communications. Digest is used for the web server but that’s all you get. Using a web proxy you can add proper encryption but it’s not supported by the first party client, only by third party clients. (i.e; Domotics Pad, browsers.)

You’d think at least the subscription would cover that up but again no.

Website

This is in no way essential for Indigo’s operation but it never hurts to have a good presentation, I mean, I am one to talk, my own site (this one) looks hideous but 1. I am not making money off it; 2. I haven’t had that much time to work on it; 3. I am still learning my way to this and 4. It’s a fucking blog.

Purple/violet/indigo/magenta and some similar shades are some of my favorite colors but COME-ON-NN! Does it really need to be on the background. I mean, it looks like a twelve year old girl designed it. This is the professional presence of the business and furthermore, the website functions also as the documentation. Indigo Pro has no built-in documentation. It’s on a wiki. To me, for professional entities wiki screams we didn’t think it through and we’re puzzling it out as we go. Specially if it’s not an open wiki. I should know, I keep my own wiki for reference of what I have learned, and what do you know, it has a similar color scheme and even structure being tacky a lot less tacky:

My color scheme tends towards magenta but it would look just as good in Indigo Domotics’ color scheme. I’m only using it in the links to give it a touch of color without it being cartoonish/childish yet still having a certain edge, I mean, for a wiki. Everything else is some shade or gradient of gray. Mine is a private wiki, is not meant to be as a professional source of anything. It’s just personal documentation. A notebook if you will. I’ve spent at the most a day on it from install to a few articles.

I have taken care to upload high resolution imagery and the same server is running this website so…probably one more, I really have to check my DNS.

I have witnessed over and over developers don’t make good aesthetic decisions but after all of these years with the same website I’m sure that imaginary 12year old girl is now a grown woman with sense of style. They should look her up and hire her to keep a fresh website. The subscription should at least cover her payroll.

Rethinking the strategy

Subscriptions and freemiums are now plaguing the web. I think it’s offensive to dimwit users into thinking that only certain company has the prowess to keep users’ passwords away from harm, for example, and charge them monthly to sync mere kilobytes of user data when we’ve managed for years to survive on a password-protected spreadsheet which is essentially the same. And for the sake of completeness, you can use iCloud to sync it–there’s your password manager! I’ve been doing it for years now and it works even with Touch ID and all that Apple crap. So when these opportunistic companies (…antivirus companies also come to mind…) come sometimes with a good idea, sometimes only with the appearance of a good idea but then they go and try to stretch it forever by promising evergreen (always updated shit) things with no real features but plenty of bloat (…now I’m thinking Microsoft Office…) the new feature set only gets in the way of what was something good and it’s now hindered by the evergreen crap instead of improved.

As I mentioned at the very beginning, Indigo developers need to move on. There are only so many things automation can do. Unless moving walls and conveyors belts become commonplace in homes, really, there are only so many things automation can do. Even so, it’s probably a single job for the controlled device to do: control the power output to something, it could be on, it could be off, it could be anywhere in between. A relay (Insteon’s I/O Linc) comes to mind.

Moreover, hardware-based competitors which include one or more interfaces have or are catching on. Vera for instance, is a multi-protocol hardware controller with modern mobile apps. Being a hardware controller, it doesn’t require an always running Mac.

Universal Devices had always been a worse value than Indigo, but they learned and moved on, now it’s a more attractive offer if you’re already not running your own Indigo controller. It doesn’t require a Mac either.

Finally, there are the cloud-based offers. Ring, Nest, SimpliSafe, I think at least two of those are real. I don’t trust them at all in terms of privacy and I think that’s accelerated obsolescence but the fact that they are running remotely make them extremely cheap if you’re into that.

Personally, and specially in these days, I like paying for shit. Once and be done with it. Subscriptions are fine when you’re getting something like seasonal perishables in return or something ephemeral, like those subscriptions were they send you crap that cook it yourself or magazine subscriptions. A server rental is fine too, like Vultr, AWS, Azure, OVH… I find expiring software installed on your own hardware downright violating.

Mixing software subscriptions with hardwired hardware I think is an extremely bad idea that needs some serious rethinking.

Good wishes

I do really wish they manage to come up with an idea that gets them out of this situation because in spite of its shortcomings I really like Indigo Pro. Plus, the staff, they have always been kind, helpful and pointed me in the right direction or at least a direction when I needed it and I can’t help but to root for them.

That said, even if they’d manage to come up with a rad new subscription-free product, for the time being there’s little chance I were to upgrade because my needs have been already met. If they were to commit to always keep first party plugins for compatibility with other platforms and I’m talking like every player you can think of big or small and have support for hosting the server non-Apple hardware, maybe, just maybe, I’d give it a thought. But it’s hard to even contemplate when I have a functioning server with two identical backup servers all with Indigo installed and any of them can become the server of any given moment if the main fails–no activation needed.

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Moving on from Apple: building my first system

Reading Time: 11 minutes

It’s been a while since I upgraded my system, my current main computer is a 5-year old 4th gen 2.5-3.7GHz i7 mid-2014 Retina MacBook Pro with 16GB of system memory and dual graphics; an Intel Iris Pro I don’t know the model to and an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M according to Geekbench.

It was the top stock model when I got it and I feel it’s lost a little speed over the time as my workload increased but at the same time it balanced itself out as I became more efficient doing things and got more acquainted with Terminal (that and I turned off all iCloud services). The most demanding job I give to it is Affinity Designer but even so only this one document with dozens of artboards and heavy on transparencies and effects (occasionally) makes it stutter.

For over a year now I’ve been thinking about getting a new Mac, waiting it out to see what Apple does. But, after the generation of my MacBook Pro I keep watching over and over that problems started plaguing the line and that price has been increasing with no real gain for my use case. I can sort of live with that except that I have also seen macOS’ quality has been going down faster than ever before. As a longtime Mac user I’ve witnessed how this fucking moron Cook has been riding on Jobs’ work without any good ideas of his own and to make them last they’ve increased prices, they made prominent lockdowns to several different areas that force users into their shit, they made the system so annoying to use, so bloated, with a never-ending stream of notifications about bullshit that make Windows Vista’s User Account Control look like a walk in the park.

T2

So, both hardware and software quality is down the drain. Say, I’m still willing to make it work and work out the kinks. Well, enter the T2 chip.

Apple’s quest for [self-serving] security has brought the T2 chip to humanity. The pain in the ass that is iCloud Activation Lock on phones and iPads to your now unbelievable expensive, decreased-in-quality, OS-restricted computer, except on steroids.

For a while Apple’s been putting custom chips on their crap, like the problematic SMC on every Mac, it was just a matter of time. When a computer is riddled with this fucker you better treat it like its your first born –or better– watching for its temperature self-control (which Apple computers are know to let rise as much as possible before turning on the fucking fans) because heat decreases chip life and even so that doesn’t guarantee it won’t fail at any random time because quality is non-existent anymore. The absence of this serialized chip that matches your system as it left the factory, bricks your system. No iCloud needed.

I’ve had Mac minis that randomly lose their serial number in the system and I only notice when the App Store fails to work, then I have to use an obscure non-Apple-provided tool to reprogram it, so, I bet things will be just fine. 👌🏼

Tim Cook somehow seems to believe he can keep Apple’s stubborn ways going. It worked for Jobs and we were OK with it but it was because we were actually getting something in return and innovation kept somewhat coming. Cook has only brought incremental changes to the existing line since Jobs passed. He’s also brought incremental prices.

The one new product I can think of is the watch, they were really trying the pass the fucking wheel –Magic Crown, sorry– as groundbreaking, by the second iteration there was barely even mention of it. The Apple Watch, though market leader, is hardly a must have. Specially with its iPhone dependance.

Here’s the thing; all of the products, no matter how powerful have they gotten, they would’ve gotten were they are no matter what because the market would push them to. So, it’s not really innovation that –say– the iPad got crazy powerful, it’s just evolution.

It’s no secret technology evolves sometimes progressively, sometimes exponentially; some call it the Tick-Tock Model, others Murphy’s Law, I call it like a Tuesday keynote. Who cares anymore.

A crack in the fence

I was willing to put up with so much bullshit from Apple until they made a wrong move by forcing MFA onto users. Their quest for self-serving security backfired, it cracked open the walled garden, a term I’ve always hated but very true in this case.

Back when I was all in under Apple’s spell, I sort of was the poster boy for Apple, using an iPhone, Watch, several tablets and Macs, the works. Then at some point they decided that in order to use some of their services like unlock the computer with the Watch, you had to turn on MFA in your account. I did, at the time I saw no major issue with it. Later I lost my watch and I didn’t get another so I turned MFA back off; you could opt-in and out at will back then.

By the way, Find my Watch was completely useless, naturally. Find my Device only locks your own devices from yourself. Thieves and other bad actors will strip your devices and get value from them even if they’re locked.

Well, I decided it was too annoying to be entering passcodes and all that bullshit specially since I am good at keeping my passwords complex, safe and memorable…for the most part. Even if I wasn’t, it is my strong belief that they should not just force users into MFA and should instead incentivize users into being more proactive because it only makes them ignorant and prone to lockouts and hacks.

Anyway, another time I was trying to set up a business account to use the Volume Purchase Program and it required me to use MFA. The setup didn’t work in the end because of issues with High Sierra’s Profile Manager, see the point of horrendous quality I made before, and I abandoned it completely.

The devices remained setup nevertheless. Little did I know, there were other bugs in iCloud, such as removing devices from your account didn’t actually remove them and you would still need to activate them on the spot with your credentials.

Well, a couple of years back my carrier had a systems error that resulted on me losing immediately my phone number without chance of getting it back. This was the one used for MFA on the business account. I had taken precautions and I saved the PDF of the printed recovery key but though it accepted it I was still required to call support to continue the process. When I called and gave all of my info I was told I needed to receive the text to continue. I explained that what happened was sudden and beyond my control but they were completely useless. Even with the recovery key that’s supposed to recover access to the account.

I got nothing.

In the end I fooled the system using a combination of backups and dumb luck to regain access to a session a clear the device lock. My password was not wrong by the way. And the fact that I, a person who doesn’t know a line of code was able to circumvent their security means there’s so much bullshit and quality issues and nefarious things going on at Apple if they keep trying to push this nonsense onto their users. Drive up bricked device replacement sales, perhaps.

This resulted on me stopping the use on some services, it started with iMessage and FaceTime, as someone who lived happily in the ecosystem, I must say, you start noticing the price of the products real quick if it doesn’t really perform unique cohesive things that got you into it in the first place.

As time went on Apple started adding services in the list of must-have-MFA-to-be-used shrinking the amount of services I could use and hence the cohesion between my Apple devices starting to feel like individual things not all that capable because the lockdowns become obvious again. When you’re in you don’t notice and you don’t mind, but when the system is this flawed you’re just kicking yourself into paying this much for this bullshit.

But when I really got pissed was this one time power went out and I needed to find a hotel, I had my Android phone which was one of my side phones, and I got this hotel-finding app that I hadn’t used since forever and I needed to receive an email in my iCloud account to log in. With my devices off I couldn’t get the email and, iCloud Mail can’t be accessed through a mobile browser.

I tried setting it up on a client and for the first time discovered Apple implemented per-application passwords for iCloud Mail. Email was the last remaining service I got from Apple and now I had to jump through hoops to use it in an emergency.

Fuck you.

When I got to a motel, I started working into deploying my own email.

Getting rid of iCloud completely was hard, specially since I’m so deep into macOS but once I sorted out the file syncing part it started getting easier.

As it turns out, without iCloud, my battery lasts so much longer because Apple’s sync agents use heavy encryption, or maybe it’s compression, or both, add to that that the syncing agents have been very buggy since Sierra and could be render themselves useless until a system update fixes them.

Later my personal iCloud account also got MFA for similar reasons than my business account, but Apple now doesn’t let you opt-out of MFA driving me further away. I was able to go around it by using Family Sharing and letting go of my 20-year-old Apple ID. I use it indirectly with a new account, the Apple ID, the new one, now carries my domain name and I buy nothing at the App Stores because I know I will be leaving Apple soon. All of their bullshit has forced me to do so. I am no longer investing in Apple’s products or services.

To recap,

  • The quality control of the devices
  • The disposable nature of them (like soldered chips and the T2 module)
  • The horrendous turn of macOS in a buggy, lockdown (literally from Catalina onwards), store-pushing operative system.
  • MFA
  • Price-per-[decreasing]-feature
  • Apple becoming a services company, meaning they will get in your face every chance they get. They already started in Mojave and iOS12 with the Books app (among other areas)

These reasons have pushed me to move on. I was waiting for Apple to turn around but that’s not happening. So I’m getting my hardware fix elsewhere.

My options

The one thing I know for certain is that I do not want a Windows desktop. Even though the Windows license(2) is expensive as fuck, Windows is dirt cheap.

(2) I mean Windows Server’s license. I would not use Windows 10 at all. If Windows (server product) is horrible, Windows desktop is a million times worse.

I’m well-versed into Windows. I manage several Windows Server systems and I’m aware of what Windows can do behind the scenes. All the more the reason I do not want to use Windows. I refuse to be one of those that tell another person I can’t right now because my system’s updating. My domain disables Windows Update though, but still, you get the point.

So what else is there? Mainly some BSD and Linux. Realistically, only Linux. Plus, I’m familiar with UNIX systems already.

I’m a little worried about Affinity Designer because it’s only available for macOS and Windows and I finally got a little good on it. I guess I’ll just have to start over with toddler-made-looking designs. I’ve been saving SVG versions of most things so this might give me an insight on how other software works them when imported, hopefully.

I can always have a Windows virtual machine but I’m not exactly sure if I want to use designing software on a VM. I have Illustrator on Windows Server RDS RemoteApps, but that doesn’t work on Linux, it’s full desktop or nothing.

Maybe I just need to dive in like I did when quitting iCloud. I’ve tried switching to Fedora so many times but since I only have Apple devices, they don’t have full support. Mainly, they wake up randomly when they are asleep and deplete the battery. I have tried every major distro there is, none has a fix for this.

In Linux I have five four three choices, the Solus upstream, the Gentoo upstream, the Arch upstream, the Debian upstream and the Fedora upstream. Arch is known to break at some point given its evergreen situation. Mm-no, that out.

Now I’m left with Debian and Fedora. Debian is too um, makeshift-y, too janky, hastily put together for my taste. It is the biggest, it’s robust and stable but not because it’s been thought through, I think. I think it’s only because it’s got an unbelievably amount of people working on it, issues are caught fast in yet another makeshift situation.

I think the biggest offender is Ubuntu, but don’t take my word for it, I’m just an observer with almost no knowledge of it. This is speculation at its wildest.

Then there’s the Red Hat family. I’ve used Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS and Fedora. I like them all. While Red Hat feels the most polished, most upscale –if you will– it’s tends to be at times the one left behind; I noticed for instance, for a while there was no Snapcraft for RHEL while there was for both CentOS (then downstream or sidestream, I don’t know… from RHEL) and there was Snapcraft for Fedora (upstream of RHEL).

RHEL has its own portable package thing, but y’know, still…

Fedora is just amazing but it tends to have some directory quirks sometimes, this a serious problem because my account is a directory account. In all fairness, the directory problem is GNOME’s not Fedora’s per se because it happens as well in other distros like the [also amazing] Zorin OS distro.

And then there is CentOS 8, which is now upstream from RHEL too (hence some sort of Fedora’s sidestream but more towards the middle between the two). It’s finally using dnf which makes it so damn tempting never mind the fact that CentOS is know for its stability and it being upstream means it’s going to be not so far behind from Fedora. I really don’t know which to pick. I want to install and be done with it.

What I do know is that I need to get started like yesterday because even if I’m familiar with all of these OSes, it’ll still be a learning process and I want my aging Macs to be still working to have a backup when I inevitably run into trouble.

So, I started by going to the big names; System76, HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc. The ones that sell Linux desktop systems (other than System76) come with Ubuntu, not even RHEL, and have like a single system that’s a special order an takes forever to come, with a price premium. Then there’s System76. These all carry a premium I think because otherwise there’s not that hot. Furthermore, System76 doesn’t have presence in the country I am therefore I would definitely get a nice surprise when importing it and because they have no presence in the country, in the case of laptops, the keyboard isn’t localized.

I type in English the most but I also type in Spanish, French, Italian and I’m learning Portuguese. The Spanish International keyboard has all the necessary keys already printed, the French AZERTY has them too. English is a hard pass.

That leaves me with something building my own. It seems more or less straightforward. I put and take parts from my servers frequently but I have never installed a processor or a motherboard. I have installed power supplies but that doesn’t really count because in servers they’re hot-pluggable, actually, everything is. No need to route cables and no potential to forget about unplugged ones.

I’m both a little scared and excited.

Building the system

I did a little research. Man! There’s a lot to learn. But as my first build I decided to go with AMD because there’s less room for error.

No only this will be my first build, it’ll also be my first AMD system ever.

I’m ordering one part at a time. I mean, with Amazon Prime it’s not like it’ll take a lot of time. I was for a few hours using one of those benchmark sites a tried a few AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors against each other and against the one on my main computer which its exact model is an Intel Core i7-4870HQ, such a mouthful. I know I want it to be at least as fast as my current computer that more than meets my needs.

And OMG, the cheapest model I considered, an already old AMD Ryzen 5 2600 is unbelievably faster than the Intel I’m primarily using and it’s around 2200.00 of the local currency, let’s say it’s fake¢oin, a stupidly-named new cryptocurrency. Aren’t they all. I’m not saying the actual currency for future’s sake, but for reference, a quick mental estimate of a full system minus display could be as little as 10000-12000. The MacBook Pro I mentioned earlier was around 56000 plus another 5500 for AppleCare. Over 60 grand. You can get a car for that. You can [almost] get a no frills city car, brand new. You can definitely get a decent bike for that, like a Yamaha or a Honda or something.

I’m going to buy it later today. I think I’ll go with the Ryzen 2600 because I’ve never installed a processor before I’m think I will break it.

I learned that the AMD AM4 socket is very future-proof and if I can make it work I have a feeling I’ll immediately upgrade.

I don’t think you can return processors because you smear paste onto them, and that’s just bad manners, but at 2200-to-3000, I’m fine with it. I spend more than that on Diet Coke/month alone.

UPDATE: While I was writing this I saved the draft and I already ordered the Ryzen 2600. It was the cheapest and I figured if it works I’ll end up upgrading everything and essentially with a second system so I’ll keep aiming for things with a price I don’t mind disposing of.

I spent so much time giving feedback to Apple, I don’t think they ever listen to customers because they continued down their stupid, self-destructive path, but if they were reading I guess I would say: thank you Tim Cook, for freeing me from that fucking mess you made out of Apple by making all the wrong choices.

Ah! I feel lighter already.