I just got off the phone with my Apple System Specialist, which is staffed by a new person. I haven’t really had that great an experience with people in that position and I don’t know why. I think a great part of it was that our initial sales experience oversold that position’s effectiveness to customers like myself and that mistake has permanently tainted that part of the Apple-Customer experience. In many ways, after my initial contact (which left me feeling more meh than woohoo) I just stopped calling on them altogether. After the Tech’now’ledgy Expo that TotalTech put on, I make contact again with my “Apple Sales Team” and I’m not exactly sure it was the best move.
Before anyone gets upset, there isn’t anything that they have or haven’t done that earns my ire, so that’s not it, it’s just a general sense that they are more surface than substance. It’s an odd sensation and no matter how I try to kick it, it just hangs around.
So I got to talking to my systems person at Apple and the central question was iOS management. Currently I have 3 iPhones and 6 iPads (not counting my own) all in play. There are certain things I want to accomplish with these devices especially when it comes to setup. We run a different model than Apple imagines when it comes to iOS device setup. I get the devices, I set them up, get them all warmed up and fill them with a certain set of apps that the end user may like to use and then deliver a hot-and-running device right into their hands. This runs counter to how Apple imagines this should be done, they want each device to be set up by individuals and populated by individuals themselves for data and apps and whatnot. I asked about mobile management and my Apple rep told me what I already knew, that Apple had ignored this particular segment completely and they are letting other companies create products to “Manage multiple mobile devices”. This is a recipe for DISASTER and well, “NOT WANT” is pretty much the banner I’m running under for this. I don’t want some odd 3rd party with their grubby little fingers and stupid backwards code messing up my beautiful, sterile, pure Apple experience! Oh well. Apple won’t, they’ve kicked the can to 3rd parties and I regard those as lepers so – it’s manual-DIY for me and it’s not heartbreaking, it’s just a little bit of a downbeat to the heavenly host of angelic singing that rings throughout Apple. For me, it’s as if Cletus and MaryJo wandered into the middle of the Tabernacle Choir, picked up a songbook and joined in. What happens when you add 1 cup of wine to a barrel of sludge? You get sludge. What happens when you add 1 cup of sludge to a barrel of wine? You get sludge.
So I decided to just drop my interest. Right on the floor. I’m not going to pursue 3rd party vendors, I have no need to look inside a leper colony tent, I can assume parts are falling off and things smell like feet wrapped in bacon and stuck in hot leather. Ew. Nahhhh.
So then I brought up my oddity with the iPhone. Here’s what happened to me, there apparently are two universes here, we’ll call them Universe A and Universe B. In Universe A, where someone like me has many iOS devices (iPod Touch, iPod Nano, iPad) and many Macintosh computers I can set the devices up on any one of those computers with an iTunes library and turn on the most important setting in all of Apple-land: Manually Manage Music and Data. It’s an unassuming check box on the Summary screen for every iOS device and every single one of my devices has it on. I like Apple, but I don’t trust iTunes. So in Universe A I can wander from Mac to Mac plugging in and managing every device. I can copy music, I can copy ebooks in, apps, you name it, no problem! Now, enter Universe B. In Universe B I have just an iPhone with multiple Macs. I set an iPhone up with my iMac, everything is fine, I check “Manually Manage Music and Data” and do what I always do. Then I take that iPhone and I plug it into another computer. Now iTunes has grayed out “Manually Manage Music and Data” but it’s still checked. I try to add or manipulate anything on the iPhone with another computer and iTunes tells me that in order to do so, it needs to WIPE THE IPHONE CLEAN and start over from scratch!
So there is this massive difference between Universe A and Universe B. It hurts my head because both universes are using the same code base, it’s all iOS. iOS on the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Nano. There shouldn’t be any behavioral differences at all! Wouldacouldashoulda. So I brought this oddity up to my systems specialist at Apple and he informed me that Universe B is the way it should be for all iOS devices. I took a pause and thanked him for his time. So what is it that irks me? Apparently I’ve been living with a pretty big BUG and I’ve been perceiving it as a crown jewel stuck to Apple’s Halo. I’ve been absolutely impressed with the great design of iOS and apparently a good portion of my perception of value here is based on some really deep-seated bug! If iOS devices are all supposed to behave like they should in Universe B, that is stupid and horrible! It spits in the face of multi-computer compatibility and squirts a nasty stain on Apple’s Halo.
At the end I got to laughing with this Apple fellow, mostly because I couldn’t get over the fact that a pretty nasty bug was apparently so good and important to me that I’ve actually used it in Apple sales pitches to friends and family! My Apple rep wasn’t really impressed either when I informed him that I discovered a way to work-around the iPhone issue. Apparently the procedure I have to defeat this oddity with iPhone is in some central way a really underhanded way to sidestep what Apple had intended all along despite Universe A being just a giant bug! I copy my iTunes folder to some other place, I tear out all the content folders just leaving the rag-tag group of 5 or 6 XML files behind and then use that little seedling iTunes library and copy it for other people to use. This makes it all work the WAY IT SHOULD, so that iPhones are gregarious. They really aren’t, they are still tightly bound to this one singular iTunes library, but since I’ve started handing out the stub Library, it’s as if I’ve bonked Universe B to fit neatly in the hole meant for Universe A!
What gets me is all the people I read about online who have iPhones who stomp and scream and carry on that their Mac died, they couldn’t recover any of the data off of it and had to start from scratch. When they get everything back and up and running and then they plug their iPhone into their computer (because they want to move stuff in or out) iTunes tells them that they have to wipe their iPhone! Well, now I know why. It’s because when iTunes creates a new library, it creates something special in those few XML files as well, probably a globally unique ID code. Since they don’t have the old GUID, their iPhone refuses to sync with the new library until they wipe it clean and start from scratch. Universe B strikes again! So for what I see, that Universe B is an EPIC FAIL BUG, it turns out that Apple considers Universe A to be the BUG and Universe B to be correct. This irks me, but I’m sure it utterly mystifies and pisses off people who don’t understand what is really going on here. What’s the practical upshot from this? Well, backup your iTunes library. Specifically everything in iTunes that isn’t meat. Backup that SKELETON. There is something very very important in those XML and plist files, the handful of them, that is life or death for iPhones (in Universe B). I can only pray that Apple never fixes it so that all their products work as they should in Universe B. But then again, even if they do, spreading stumpy iTunes libraries isn’t a problem. It’s 414KB of special sauce, not even a blip on any storage radar.
This does speak to something even deeper. I thought I got away from this stupid bullshit when I ran away from Microsoft, but it appears as though Apple is fond of this lame bullshit as well. It’s upsetting and dismaying. The same feeling you have when you learn that a superhero was caught stealing boxes of plastic chattery teeth. Why? I don’t know if Apple will ever address it or if they’ll “correct things” and start the downward anti-consumer spiral that Microsoft is at the center of. I can only hope not.
I’m going to boldly go forward with the design I already have in place anyways, to return to the main point, and probably continue to duplicate that “special sauce” in my iTunes library from my work iMac to all my client machines and continue to do things the way that I can without involving Apple. I’ll keep on doing so until they design me into a tight little box and then I’ll probably find some other way to get what I want done the way I want it.
I did learn something from all this. If something is working the way you want, just don’t bring it up to anyone else. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, even if the manufacturer thinks it’s broken and not working the way THEY intended. What really matters is how you use it. Once they’ve sold it, it’s pretty much out of their hands. Now I can only hope that my contact at Apple has forgotten all about me and my silly problems. Yes, please, please forget. Keep this coveted little bug going forever, we’ll just regard the iPhone as a quirky device.
Universe A FTW!