Abandon all hope, ye who try to install third party hardware on a MacBook Air.
A couple of weeks back the Curmudgeon’s had another Windows 10 failure in their house. In this case, it was the cheap, $200 HP Chromebook-style Windows machine with a poor-man’s solid state drive that largely crapped out. But that was Mrs. Curmudgeon’s work PC, and it died in part because the Tech Curmudgeon misjudged how much memory she would actually need and should have bought a step up instead. So now it’s a second Chromebook-like machine for doing homework, and Mrs. Curmudgeon has a brand new MacBook Air.
Mrs. Curmudgeon loves it, and it meets all her needs so far. But Curmudgeon child #2 wanted to be able to control their computer-controlled robot with the MacBook Air, and that robot needed an Ethernet connection. The MacBook Air does not have an Ethernet port. What it does have is a USB port into which you may plug, if you are so inclined, an Ethernet-to-USB adapter, along with whatever software you need to run it.
This is where the Curmudgeonly saga truly begins. Because the only Ethernet-to-USB adapter that could be found at Best Buy on Black Friday was not, actually, a piece of Apple-branded hardware. And so the Tech Curmudgeon spent several hours downloading the latest drivers from the adaptor manufacturer’s website, noticing that the drivers were only compatible up to MacOS 10.10, figuring out where on a damn Mac the OS is described, discovering that the MacBook Air was at 10.12, researching if updated drivers were available, reinstalling the driver after the Tech Curmudgeon realized he’d accidentally installed the driver for 10.6 and that it definitely wasn’t going to work, downloading a fresh copy of the drivers just in case, and finally throwing his hands up in frustration.
Macs are fine for a lot of people. They work, they’re less virus prone (if only because fewer viruses are written for Macs than for PCs – you should still get anti-virus software for a Mac), and so long as you’re not doing heavy-duty processing for engineering or science, they will meet almost all of your needs. But only if you buy Apple hardware exclusively. Try to integrate third-party hardware into a Mac product and you should expect to spend hours trying to get it working, only to give up and have to be restrained from flinging the brand new and expensive MacBook Frisbee across the room.
Apple has always been this way. It’s one of the prices you pay for the convenience of a computer that works more or less painlessly (the other being the price you pay for products in a closed hardware ecosystem). Hell, the Tech Curmudgeon remember when Windows PCs used to be like this too, back in the bad old days of MSDOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, and Windows 98, before Microsoft and third-party vendors learned how to actually do plug-and-play right.
Windows 7 is good enough for nearly everyone, and if you haven’t upgraded yet, for God’s sake don’t. Unless you really know what you’re doing, and even then think twice before upgrading. It’s not worth the headaches. Not until Microsoft stops forcing small business and personal users to update Windows 10 when it’s convenient for Microsoft, rather than when it’s convenient for the user. Not until Microsoft stops bricking hardware with the black screen of zombiehood.
But before you buy a Mac, either instead of a PC or in frustration after your PC bricks, make damn sure that you either don’t need a ton of third-party hardware or that you can afford to buy overpriced Apple-branded hardware instead. Because Apple is just as bad as Microsoft, and MacOS is just as bad as Windows 10 – just in different ways.
Or, as Canadian comedy singers Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie say, “Every OS Sucks.”