Options to move beyond Apple

One of my intentions for 2015 is that since it's a new year, it's time to have a new attitude.1 Over the weekend Marco Arment reiterated some of the same thoughts I've had on Apple's decline in product quality. There have been counter points and affirmations to the concerns raised on Apple's recent quality standards. While I didn't intend to be part of a trend of bashing Apple, it appears I'm not the only one concerned with Apple's direction.

One of the themes I've seen with all of the concerns on Apple's product quality is that this is starting to go beyond media pundits and click bait sites. Some of the people voicing their concerns are power users with a long standing stature in the Apple community. So while this lends some support on my growing concerns of how well Apple has delivered lately.

What I haven't seen is anyone offering any ideas to move beyond Apple.

I believe there are solid options to Apple's ecosystem. Here is a run down on some ideas I have for moving on from Apple.

Better AppleTV

The Apple TV has been the primary way I've watched movies or listened to music. Earlier models were big enough to mirror my entire music collection and use as one of my backup points for my iTunes collection. Current models only stream from either Apple's iTunes Store or a local media cache. Streaming media is something I don't want to give up just because Apple can't decide if the Apple TV is a 'hobby' or a business line.

I've been testing out a couple of options to move from an Apple TV to a new streaming device.

  • Raspberry Pi Kodi: Kodi is the next generation of XBMC media player. While Kodi can be installed on most computer systems, using the Raspberry Pi is a project I've been personally working on. You can mount your media collection to the RPi and then play/stream your media through its native HDMI port.
  • Roku Player: The Roku is similar to the Apple TV in that it streams your media to your TV or receiver. The Roku needs the content to be hosted by a some service (like Plex) before it can stream your media to your TV or receiver. The upside to the Roku over everything else I've tested is the headphone jack on the remote. Absolute genius.
  • Chromecast: Similar to the Roku, Chromecast can take hosted media and show it on your TV. This has been a little less polished than Kodi and the Roku because you generally have to use your phone or tablet as the remote. Quite a few iOS apps have Chromecast streaming built-in, which treats the Chromecast as an alternative AirPlay system. Google's announcement for Google Cast at CES may make the Chromecast a bigger player in 2015.
  • Amazon Fire TV: The Amazon Fire TV can come as a box, like the Apple TV or Roku, or as a stick, like the Chromecast. I haven't tested one of these devices myself, but from the research I've done it should work similarly to the Chromecast or Roku.

Better Time Machine

Apple has had a method to back up your Mac and media for some time with their Time Machine unit. While the concept of a Time Machine is great, I've started to feel less safe relying on a Time Machine back up due to recent problems I've had restoring files off of a TM backup. But a recent tweet by @modernscientist is exactly what the doctor has ordered for the new year. (Rimshot)

New Year's organization: rolled my own version of Time Machine (rsnapshot-based) for backing up to NAS drive. Tired of TM flakiness.
— themodernscientist (@modernscientist) January 4, 2015

Between her tweet and her recent post, Secure Password Use in Scripts, these give a little insight on how she's used rsnapshot to roll her own Time Machine. Getting started with rsnapshot is pretty straight forward with Homebrew:

$ brew install rsnapshot

Now with a simple NAS, or a drive attached to another computer, you can set up a script to use rsnapshot to automatically back up your stuff. I am looking forward to seeing what @modernscientist has up her sleeves in her follow up post.

Better OS X

Ok, not necessarily a better OS X, but a different OS X. OS X at its heart is a Unix variant. I got started using Linux back in the late 90's with Red Hat Linux.2 My website is now hosted on a Linux box and so I've had the chance to go back and revisit an old friend. Lately I've been using Ubuntu in Parallels as a test web hosting environment. Over the holidays I used Ubuntu as my primary OS to see how things would work for me if I ever made the switch full time. While this was just a test, the one step that made using Ubuntu extremely easy was setting up Dropbox. Once I had Dropbox setup, the idea of migrating to different tools in Ubuntu didn't seem so bad.

Better iOS

Ok, you got me. I don't have an alternative to iOS that I'm willing to switch to. The only alternative I'd seriously look at would be Android. I've played with Android a little bit, but I haven't used it long enough to say I'd be happy with it as my daily mobile OS. I asked a few people about some apps I use regularly on iOS and if they found an equivalent in Android. I batted about 0.428 on finding an equivalent iOS app on Android.

If Apple can't give us devices 'that just work', we should look at ways to develop our own ecosystem to get our work done and enjoy our time off.

  1. Gotta love cheesy. 

  2. When true geeks rolled their own kernels.