The Apple an' Me

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Here's a fun rant I went on
after seeing the Apple commercials for the zillionth time and reading MSNBC's article about making the Zune player "cool" too...

- the jist is:

If Apple is so "cool", why are their computers, Ipods, Iphones, etc designed on PC's running Windows?

UPDATE TO THIS (2012-03-16):
Eating lunch and I came across an ad called "Subject Matter Expert - CNC (cupertino)" in the SF Craigslist that starts out:

"If you see a MacBook Air and right away you can tell it is machined, and you are thinking about the most efficient ways to produce the different features, which tools to use, how fast to go and how to fixture the part; we want to talk to you!"

So I go to the link at the bottom, one of those " Click Here " links (may still work - try it).

Guess what the URL is?

Awesome!! Just as I thought. The actual ad (I have a PDF I created from it if anyone wants to see it) contained:

"•Experience with NX CAM, Pro/E CAM, and Delcam PowerMill strongly preferred."

Guess what again? Pro/E CAM ONLY RUNS ON WINDOWS ( you can see the System Requirements in the current creo1_hw_notes.pdf
[Last updated: October 5, 2011] from )

As the marketturd rolls... So F'ing cool their products are, eh?  Not cool enough to actually design and build one...

Back to the rant:

The only problem with Apple is that you can't use a Mac to totally design an IPhone, an ITouch, even a new laptop Mac - there's no real, mature EDA or for that matter, many CAD tools in general for either a Mac or any of the BSD's/Linux-GPL OS's.

Believe me, we've looked.... I mentioned this to a higher up at Apple, their response was as they get more market penetration, hopefully the EDA/CAD vendors will begin porting to OS X ... but they (the CAD vendors) have enough problems getting the bugs out of their Winblows code and adding features to justify their insane yearly maintenance fees....

Which brings up the point of mature; when I mean mature I mean CAD, CAM, and EDA tools that have been tested by thousands and thousands of users over many years/versions, so that when I run a Design Rule Check (DRC), or actually cut a $40,000 tool steel mold, I can be reasonably sure my NRE charges won't be toast. As mentioned above, it's enough of a gamble using the existing code base.

Unfortunately, Apple has always been a bit right brained, with things like cool graphics for nice looking art or commodity office apps, than it has for any real world applications like, oh say actually designing and fabricating a Mac.... Reminds me of the day when Intel used to have all those cool Pentium commercials filled with intense (for the day) video graphics saying how great their processor was for the emerging multimedia market - when in fact, most of those commercials were done using Silicon Graphics stations running IRIX....

The right brain is a fantastic part of human neurobiology, all artsy-fartsy, it's just that the left brain needs tools to actually build what the right side thinks up. (note - thanks to Josh Mings at Solidsmack [a Solidworks user site] for pointing out my flipped brains)

My guess is some of designers for the parts of the IPhones, Itouch, and I know for sure Mac PC's have used suites like ORCAD/Cadence/Allegro, Altium/Protel, PADS, Mentor, and other EDA tools for things like fully DRC'd schematics, PCB layouts, SPICE sims for analog and power supplies (probably a lot of LT or Nat Semi freeware) in addition to either Altera's or Xilinx's FPGA/prog logic tools for VHDL and Verilog with their respective  simulation and synthesis suites only available for Windows PC's. Let alone any RF designs and simulations...

Now some of it may have been done on older legacy hi-$$$ unix platforms.

And the same holds true for the solid modeling/mechanical design as well.

I'm sure there's a lot of parts in that keyboard you have on your Mac that were designed using Pro-E, Solidworks or the like for mechanical designs. I'm sure most of the FEA and actual toolpaths used to actually make the molds for the plastic parts was either MasterCAM, Visual Mill, or similar as well as mold flow analysis tools again, only coded for PC's running Windows. Hell, for years (may still be true) Solidworks would only really run well on an Intel-based processor, with AMD variants having issues with some of Solidworks low-level OS calls...

The reason we've been looking, besides the obvious dealing with MS, is that majority of my real coders (guys with years and years of experience that actually can code and understand low-level calls as well as OS's) use mostly Linux, since a lot of the uC's and uP's have GCC ports and these guys have years of proven, debugged libraries of routines for various I/O tasks, etc. We've been looking for a decent xNIX-based EDA tool, just so they can send me basic schematic info on how they want stuff connected. There are some gEDA and KiCAD, but they lack a lot of the features the other mid-priced tools do, as well as the compatibility for me to import their work into my tool chain.

Say you want to use an Analog Device part for the RF section of the IPhone, or say you want to design a small switching power supply for the next Nano using Linear Tech parts.

Sorry, gots to use Windows  - - AD and LT's simulation suites for their parts only run in Windows; much faster on a native WIN/PC box than trying to use a Mac in PC emulation... and some, due to their use of WINTEL oriented ASM calls to MMI/SiMD hardware functions, won't even run...and again the issue of getting a reliable design is a major factor (I don't like turning really expensive keychains).

The one thing Apple had going for it for years was the PowerPC core with its linear address space, unlike the PC, crippled with it's paged memory scheme inherited from years of limited resources and the ancient MS DOS systems. One of my old timer engineers (actually was one of the pioneers of the wireless mic industry at Vega Wireless) told me there's a guy somewhere in CA that everyone should go have a word with due to him being responsible for that mess.

And speaking of the wireless guy (he now does some of the best analog designs for mil applications for D.C. based companies) he mentioned a few war stories to me about his days at the forefront of Vega. One was the story of how a certain guy won some sort of award for using their products for Romancing the Stone. He mentioned after the award, everyone in the major motion picture industry was clamoring for those units.

He wondered why, since it was not the best things they made.... so he finally hooks up with the sound guy that won it, and asked him why he used it. His answer - "I knew after the waterfall scene that I'd never see the mic again, so I looked in my locker and found the unit that I'd miss the least"

..... gotta watch that right brain thing....

And speaking of right brained ideas for Iphone-like things:

What I'd want is a web enabled phone, but one that uses any surface (sheet of paper, light colored table top) as a projected, touch area work surface. The phone would have little pull out legs on the side; you simply lay it on its side and a tiny LED driven  DLP or similar projector projects the app/web browser onto to the surface, adjusting for the trapezoidal. Use something, maybe  a small imager and possibly infrared LED source, to track finger movement.

Those little screens suck after a while - and I already look at enough small things (I know...) during the day ...

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