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Apple's operating systems mistreat or harm the user (gnu.org)
75 points by lelf 63 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments



It's a bit weird to me that an org that's been around for as long as GNU has such a black-and-white view of the software security/privacy/ownership landscape, when real life is a fair bit more nuanced.

Yeah, Apple and their ecosystem aren't saints, and their position on right-to-repair policies is reprehensible, but neither is Android, which runs on a Linux kernel, and from a privacy perspective, reasonable people could argue that Apple's doing a better job than Google is with Android.

GNU unfortunately doesn't see the other dimension here -- usability. There's basically nothing that's come out of GNU in recent memory that's been competitive in terms of usability and mass-market appeal (discounting coreutils, which are the de-facto usability standard for loads of command-line UIs, but their mass market are developers, sysadmins, and power users).

As long as GNU keeps preaching this kind of absolutist position where the downsides of corporate-owned software ecosystems exist in a vacuum, they'll come off as doomsayers to many observers.

Having said all that, DRM does suck and I believe their position there is fully justified.


> ...but neither is Android, which runs on a Linux kernel

The same goes for Ubuntu which runs Amazon Ads and sends usage statistics by default.

> As long as GNU keeps preaching this kind of absolutist position where the downsides of corporate-owned software ecosystems exist in a vacuum, they'll come off as doomsayers to many observers.

The FSF was absolutely spot on of raising privacy issues and that has forced a privacy overhaul throughout the entire tech industry. However it is still a shame at how they still cannot convince users to stop using non-free OSes or applications since they don't understand that most end users aren't willing to put the effort into migrating to another platform or to sacrifice convenience over freedom.

The only audience that seems to get the message are software engineers but not the average Joe or Jenny.


I've been developing software for the better part of a decade (granted, not the most senior developer around, but still) -- their message comes off as unreasonable to me, if only because it revolves around heavily criticising the state of the industry without offering a clear alternative for anyone.

I say this as a former full-time user of a pretty huge chunk of their software offering, from emacs, to GCC, to screen -- over the years, I realised that many of their APIs or feature sets aren't modern, and better alternatives exist.


The "clear alternative" that they offer is unusable for the masses, arcane even for the tech-literate, and almost completely unresourced for improvement, with no viable plan to make it so.

I love FSF's products, contribute to them frequently, and use them every day for my job. But it is laughable to even dream that the alternative they present would be better for the average user, for almost any definition of "better" other than the most restricted FSF definition regarding no-compromise of any sort of "better freedom".

Would I love it if there were more free, "better" alternatives to Apple, Microsoft and Google? You betcha. But there isn't one, and there is no viable path to one, and hasn't been since Stallman first rode out of the desert.


One can argue that the FSF was absolutely spot on of raising privacy issues and the tech industry did utterly nothing until Snowden released how bad it really was.


> It's a bit weird to me that an org that's been around for as long as GNU has such a black-and-white view of the software security/privacy/ownership landscape, when real life is a fair bit more nuanced.

But that's what allows them to exist this long. A clear consistent message that is both unusual and takes no prisoners.


I would argue that "Apple's Operating Systems Are Malware" does not fall in line with their clear, consistent message.


It's a premise derived from the message that is sensational to attract people while staying on-brand


The FSF really needs better marketing and prioritization. Imagine how much time and attention they spent just fighting the Linux vs GNU/Linux debate, something that essentially no one cares about.


> The FSF really needs better marketing and prioritization. Imagine how much time and attention they spent just fighting the Linux vs GNU/Linux debate, something that essentially no one cares about.

And yet almost everyone I know in tech knows about it, even my non-tech friends that use mastodon and pleroma have heard jokes about it. So given the exposure it's got them, it was pretty good for marketing.


Given the point of Mastodon I'd wager quite strongly that the Venn diagram of users of Mastodon and those who are likely to have heard an anecdote about the FSF overlap by quite a way.

I could be wrong on that, but my personal anecdata is that noone who doesn't already care about free software is really aware of their message about free software.


Sure, but that doesn't mean that those users care about free software, and most of the mastodon instances don't really advertise GNUisms. Especially for people only joining because their friends have left twitter for the fediverse


"non-tech friends that use mastodon" suggests that you are using a definition of "non-tech" many people would not recognize.


Most of the people I see on mastodon are queer people that are not interested in programming or computer science and know maybe what GNU/Linux is but not know what Linux or GNU is. Signing up to a mastodon and pleroma instance is as painless as joining twitter (less painless, actually), and using it is the same. There was a mass migration of queer people a year or so back due to twitter's repeated banning of people who disagree with TERFs, but not the actual harassing TERFS themselves. There have been a couple more migrations since. Queer Twitter Culture is very tightknit -- moreso than tech culture -- and that's not including the three handshakes rule of thumb.

Some anecdata: My ex, whose parent is interested in computers but she herself does not have much of an interest and only barely knows what Linux is, joined mastodon before me, and the majority of her three hundred-odd follows do not know what Linux is.

Most cishet groups don't have a clue about mastodon or won't budge from facebook because they don't have a reason. The blatantly fascist-supporting twitter moderators, and the hostility of facebook's real name policy has given that incentive to queer people.


Not that it makes too much of a difference, but GNU has no love for Android either. They certainly aren't saying anything nice about macOS just because its kernel is also free.


Mass-market appeal isn't a primary goal of GNU, et al. Mass-market appeal is a means to an end for business. There exist a very large amount of projects that are both libre and very usable, but they don't all integrate with each other into a cohesive suite of products. Purism tried to put a thin layer over some fundamental tools and present them a suite, but the community hasn't embraced it (yet?), rejected it even. I think we should take another look at what they're trying to do from that perspective.


> Apple and their ecosystem aren't saints, and their position on right-to-repair policies is reprehensible, but neither is Android, which runs on a Linux kernel

Mac OSX is built upon FreeBSD with a custom kernel.


> DRM does suck

Yes, it does, but you can make the exact same kind of argument here that it is a necessary evil in the real world. Content creators really do have the right to enforce their copyrights, and it's clear that the honor system is not good enough to accomplish this. Just look at the reaction on HN whenever an article is posted that is behind a paywall. Many people simply feel somehow entitled to consume content without paying for it.


It's from the FSF, so I expect my eyeballs to start rolling involuntarily. They do have a few good points that are consistent with their principles, but they dilute their message with disprovable claims. Like this one:

> In MacOS and iOS, the procedure for converting images from the Photos format to a free format is so tedious and time-consuming that users just give up if they have a lot of them.

First, there is no "Photos" format. The Photos apps are just catalog viewers. On macOS, the original files are easily accessible on disk organized inside the .photoslibrary file.

There are a few proprietary aspects:

- As of iOS 11, iPhones will store photos using the patent-encumbered HEVC codec. This can be disabled.

- Live Photos are undocumented but nothing special: a still frame bundled with a short video. (The video likely uses proprietary codecs.)

- Adjustments to images are nondestructive and stored separately from the file, in an opaque way.

Exporting a photo to a free format is trivial. The system usually does it automatically whenever you share the photo. Otherwise, it's literally just File > Export or even dragging to another app.

---

This is also rich, coming from the FSF:

> “Dark patterns” are user interfaces designed to mislead users, or make option settings hard to find. This allows a company such as Apple to say, “We allow users to turn this off” while ensuring that few will understand how to actually turn it off.

Yes, because open source software is widely celebrated for the ease with which the everyday user can figure out how to change settings or modify source code.

(I agree Apple buried the ad tracking setting in a counter-intuitive place. But it's now in the top-level Privacy settings, where it belongs.)


I think this isn't meant to be about ease of use but about controls that are actually misleading. E.g. the thing that turning off the WiFi in the control center in recent version of iOS does not really turn off the WiFi, it just disconnects it (because users might forget to turn it back on).


Re: the "Dark patterns" part - I think Apple has actually managed finding settings quite well with the search bar in settings. It's almost always my go-to way to get to a specific setting rather than trying to remember which branches of which tree to get to it. Just start typing and see the settings that match it. Tap it and you're there. Done.


The second sentence is "This does not include accidental errors" but then an accidental error and a bunch of third-party program are cited as primary examples. Things are cited multiple times - the recent "battery DRM" news, App Store censorship, and remote wiping. How is it Apple's fault if someone writes and distributes malware for their system outside the App Store?

I agree with the premise, but this article is a little bit of a mess. Things like this don't help convince people. Were it shorter and more cleaned up, and devoid of things like "cr...app store" it might actually help people realize the importance of Free Software.


I'm pretty much 100% on board with GNU, FSF, etc, but I absolutely despise the "crapp store" stuff. Once in a while, fine, but almost every talk, article and software title has some kind of jab like that. "GNU" itself is an example. It's very childish and I think it's RMSs fault for setting the precedence from the beginning and doing it so much since. I wish he'd stop doing it and start actively discouraging it.


This is after all, the same people who still insist on "GNU/Linux".


I really hate this list. Not because I hate GNU (I don't), per se, but because it's childish, mostly misleading, and at times outright dishonest or factually incorrect. I'm not in the mood to go through this one, but if I've done a line-by-line comparison of a similar list: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18515395. The GNU should be ashamed to have this on their website and replace it with a coherent argument against Apple, which is really not that hard to write if you put a little bit of effort into it.


After nearly two decades of FOSS advocacy I've come to the conclusion that most consumers (a) already know about their gardens' walls, and (b) actually prefer it that way.

The view that freedom is always preferable over, say, the sense of security that folks get from having an avuncular corporation ensure that the tools in their lives have a limited range of use -- that someone is literally managing the possibilities of their personal devices, pruning them of (supposedly) dangerous apps and ensuring that they are within certain expectations, is a great comfort to people who are already used to their lives being managed in precisely this way by any number of powerful actors.

Stuff like this from the FSF makes me think they just don't understand the user. The user is typically is not an engineer. The customer is not interested in the responsibility that comes with that kind of power, and would pay good money to trade it off for predictability. And the success of nerfed, general-computing-incapable devices is market validation of this hypothesis.

I'm uncomfortable with this facet of human nature too, and it runs contrary to the prevailing narrative of our industry and even of the Enlightenment itself, but until we accept that many folks just want to be taken care of, we will keep being surprised.

Customer obsession means appreciating all the data, not just the data that is comfortable to behold.


Unfortunately, most non-techie users like having their freedom taken away in exchange for [security, ease of use, etc.].

There are a few things on the list universally hated, though, such as pervasive DRM (even non-techies hate lack of repairability and lack of compatibility with non-Apple branded peripherals).

At any rate, I hated the feeling of being locked into a walled ecosystem that was hard to escape from, so I never bought another Apple product after the iPhone 4S.


I'm not a developer, but am pretty technical. I've written some code, some scripts, etc. I use apple stuff specifically because I want the tradeoff of usability instead of pure openness. To me, computers are just like any tool - sure, I can build a bench grinder with off the shelf parts and make only the tradeoffs I want to make, or I can go to home depot and buy a complete engineered package for 1/10 the cost, and take they tradeoffs that delta wanted to make. same with any machine. If you want to buy the tools and build software yourself, you sure can. but it has always been mysterious why software should somehow obey totally different laws. its all just tools.


Well in this case it would be like if you went to home depot and bought a new saw.

But the saw needs to be connected to the internet all the time for it to work, and ToolCorp can remotely disable your saw if they detect you are using it to cut something other than wood, and ToolCorp will only let you buy ToolCorp brand blades, even though CompetitorCorp makes high quality cheaper blades that have the same shape. Furthermore, your new saw has a computer that can be used to program it to cut different patterns, but all patterns must be approved by ToolCorp and indeed they can remotely go in and delete unauthorized patterns if they want to (remember, your saw needs to be connected to the internet all the time). Also, you'll probably need a "ToolCorp Hardwood Premium" monthly subscription if you want to use hardwood cutting features.

The complaint here isn't that Apple is making tools. It's that they are making tools that act in the interests of its creators more than in the interests of its users.

You wouldn't buy a hammer from home depot that failed to work if your interests didn't align with HammerCorp's interests, would you?


> Unfortunately, most non-techie users like having their freedom taken away in exchange for [security, ease of use, etc.].

Are you implying that people buy iPhones because Apple stops them from sideloading apps? Because I don't think that's true at all.

A more accurate statement might be: Most non-techie users don't mind having their freedom taken away. If Apple allowed sideloading tomorrow a la Android, nothing would change for the 95%+ portion of iPhone users who prefer the App Store.


> Are you implying that people buy iPhones because Apple stops them from sideloading apps? Because I don't think that's true at all.

I'm glad that this attack vector is not realistic for my iPhone. I'm also glad that my relatives won't accidentally(?) install a sideloaded malware too. That's why I kinda like app signature checks in MacOS too.

I don't want to deal with calls asking me to help with their computer. When 1 hour in they remember they clicked on something in a suspicious website.

I guess they kinda like their computers and phones working without interferences for years too. Makes family events better too :)


...the feeling of being locked into a walled ecosystem...

Out of curiosity what phone do you use now? And how do you feel about that ecosystem in terms of malware, tracking, advertising etc?


> Out of curiosity what phone do you use now?

Pixel 3a

> And how do you feel about that ecosystem in terms of malware, tracking, advertising etc?

Out-of-sight, out-of-mind honestly. I like having all my media and everything in common formats I can download and move around as I wish. I have no loyalty to android and could easily switch to the next best thing that comes along.

I lost a lot of music and videos when I switched to Android though because Apple makes it really hard to decouple the media you own from their ecosystem (iTunes at the time).


Editorial title much? "Apple's Operating Systems Are Malware" is the actual (click-bait BS) title. Very similar to the other BS GNU article: "Google's Software is Malware" [0]. Interesting OP only submitted the Apple one with a different title...

[0] https://www.gnu.org/proprietary/malware-google.html


See also Steve Job's essay on iTunes DRM from 2007, "Thoughts on Music":

https://web.archive.org/web/20080107121341/http://www.apple....


FWIW, iTunes now sells DRM free music. It seems like the third option that Jobs suggested prevailed.


> In MacOS and iOS, the procedure for converting images from the Photos format to a free format is so tedious and time-consuming that users just give up if they have a lot of them.

I select one or more photos in the Photos application on my Mac, and drag them to a folder window in Finder. That exports them as JPEGs.


> MacOS High Sierra forcibly reformats SSD boot drives, and changes the file system from HFS+ to APFS, which cannot be accessed from GNU/Linux, Windows or even older versions of MacOS.

It is important to be accurate.

You can access APFS from Windows or Linux at at least Paragon APFS for Windows, and Paragon APFS for Linux. There is also an experimental AFFS FUSE driver.

This can actually be important in case of forensics.

[1] https://www.paragon-software.com/home/apfs-windows/#


Worth noting the hfsplus driver in Linux can only mount as read-only, unless you manually mount it with the flag to force it to ignore the journal... which is a silly idea when journaling is what makes modern filesystems so resilient. apfs-fuse is actually in a more promising position than hfsplus, as it supports mounting any volume in the APFS partition, FileVault encrypted volumes, and Fusion Drive volumes. Granted no distro is shipping apfs-fuse that I know of. They probably could at this point as it is read-only.

https://github.com/sgan81/apfs-fuse


Paragon also sell a proprietary HFS+ driver for Linux which AFAIK r/w. For forensics, r/o is enough though.


Following the same thinking we can say that browsers are malware as well due the DRM. The user has no idea what data is shared with the DRM vendor nor any control to filter it out.


What's next? Android is spyware?



Why is Apple being dinged as writing Malware for something Dropbox wrote?


Dropbox exploited mechanisms Apple created for accessibility, so would it be fair to say GNU is failing Apple for making their operating system accessible? That seems to be what GNU is doing by including this bullet, but I think they might object to that characterization.


When was this published? Bit behind the times since we’re on IOS 12 with 13 coming out soon.

Not saying they’re wrong exactly, but the argument would be stronger if they kept up with the times.


I fear the inflammatory headline is going to put most people on the defensive instead of listening to the very valid points that most of these lists are.


Fully agree. They're valid points, but the editorial/tabloid writing style makes it sound less like a constructive, educated discussion and more like name calling à la Westboro Baptist Church (at the risk of sounding reductionist).


GNU’s Not Unbiased


I don't think they've ever claimed to be. They're clearly biased towards systems build using free software.


Click bait: Why not just say "we don't approve of proprietary operating systems" and leave it at that?


Wouldn't that followed by a "Why?"


Because that would not get to the HN front page.


This was flagged for a while. How strange.


As it should have been, I'd argue. This is a low-quality flamebait submission that I feel has no place on Hacker News.


TL;DR basically any software not from the GNU project is malware, in case you haven't heard already.


Replicant is endorsed by the FSF. It has no GNU software in it whatsoever and almost all code comes from google. Try again.


The point is that the original text was such an over-the-top and just plain logically off-base rant so as to not be worth reading past a line or two.

So whether it's about software coming from GNU or FSF (or something endorsed by Google) doesn't really matter, in this context.


Strange, I never feel more abused than when I have to use GNU.




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