We have an early 2008 MacBook “Blackbook” that is still working perfectly well and does everything we ask from it. It’s one of the reasons I love Apple hardware – it’s well engineered and works without a major fuss. Obviously we’re not playing games on it but it’s perfect for us to use for tasks that need a bit more power or typing than you’d want to do on a tablet. It’s also perfect for doing tasks that I want to use a separate computer for, like online banking.
Unfortunately it just stopped being perfect for those tasks because the last operating system that supports it is OS X 10.7 (aka “Lion”). It doesn’t meet the requirements for Mountain Lion and subsequent versions of OS X. I don’t need the latest and shiniest OS X on this machine but with the release of OS X 10.10, the security updates for Lion appear to have stopped. I write “appear to” because I couldn’t find an official announcement from Apple, just some references from the commentariat that Apple seems to be following the same procedures it has followed in the past when releasing a new version of OS X. There’s also no officially published end of life schedule, so it’s hard to guess those things.
Either way, this leaves me with a headache. I really like the 2008-2011 Apple hardware due to its robustness, but now I have to go look for an alternative OS. Nobody knows what undiscovered security issues lurk in Lion and I can’t get any security updates from the manufacturer anymore. So in effect if I care about security, I have an expensive doorstop with an Apple logo on it unless I install either Windows or Linux on it. Linux is out because my wife isn’t technical and I can’t really inflict even something like Linux Mint on her. That leaves me with Windows unless I want to spend at least $500 on new Apple hardware. Realistically I’d end up spending at least $700, because I don’t see the entry-level Mac Mini as good value for money, much like the entry-level really slow iMac isn’t either. Oh, and that one will probably end up being obsoleted by the same issue in another 4-5 years.
As a developer I’m obviously used to regularly replacing computers but in the last five years there wasn’t that much of an incentive to do so; my main hack-at-home machine is still a 2009 Mac Pro that’s been tweaked to pretend it’s an early 2010 one. It’s fast enough, it’s quiet and Just Works. It can also be easily extended with PCI cards, graphics cards and hold up to four HDDs. Yes, it has all the visual appeal of an overgrown toaster but it’s a professional workstation and clearly designed as one. I however take issue with obsoleting perfectly working and viable hardware.
So I guess this is a reason to give Microsoft more money for another Windows license and use it as an excuse to stick an SSD or a hybrid disk into the MacBook. Unfortunately this doesn’t help sway me in my decision that when the time comes to buy a new workstation for me. The next box I’ll buy or build will very likely be a dual-boot Windows/Linux box again instead of buying another Apple pro-level workstation.