Apple: Why the big-brother attitude with peripherals?

Apple: Why the big-brother attitude with peripherals?

Summary: Cupertino is marching into the peripherals space with its purchase of Beats. However, what kind of a peripherals vendor sells products that may or may not work with your Mac?


For a company selling peripherals, Apple places some stringent policies about where and when its external optical SuperDrive will operate. This policy can be bewildering to customers when they connect drives up to their systems. And it's mostly inexplicable to a company making accessory peripherals, even as a sideline. Thankfully, with a bit of tinkering with the command line, one can get around the restrictions.

Apple: Why the big-brother attitude with peripherals?

As I've mentioned in past posts, my primary system is a Late 2011 MacBook Pro upgraded with an Other World Computing Data Doubler bracket kit, letting me replace my internal SuperDrive with a fast solid-state drive (SSD). So, the system contains an internal hard disk drive and the SSD, which really boosts performance. The DVD optical drive is in an external enclosure.

The other day, the DVD drive stopped working, of course, when I was on a deadline for a client who wanted files on a CD-R. No problem. I went to the local Apple Store and bought their "sleek, compact USB SuperDrive." After plugging in the drive at home, I discovered that it didn't work.

While the USB connector is standard, Apple has decided to limit the drive's compatibility with Mac models. I failed to read the full text of the drive's "essence of simplicity:"

It connects to your MacBook Pro with Retina display, MacBook Air, iMac, or Mac mini with a single USB cable that’s built into the SuperDrive. There’s no separate power adapter, and it works whether your Mac is plugged in or running on battery power.

Sounds great. Unfortunately, the MacBook Pro 2011 isn't on that short list of Mac models. The drive won't accept a disc. While it won't mount a disc, still it shows up in the hardware section of System Information in About This Mac.

Thankfully, Swiss developer Lukas Zeller offers a fix by patching a boot parameter preference, /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/ In the fall, he modified the document to support OS X Mavericks.

If you're going to apply this fix, I suggest you read Zeller's entire document. Your system may not actually have this .plist file.

Check Out: Apple returning to peripherals business?

The user experience isn't very satisfactory. Apple doesn't provide an error message that would pop up in the system and tell the user why the drive doesn't work. Or in Disk Utility. Or in System Information. There's nothing highlighted on the retail box to tell the purchaser that this Apple accessory may be inoperable.

Worse, there's the big question of why does Apple care who is using its optical drive? Especially, Mac users. Why prevent folks from running two drives or users of older systems running an external drive? It's all a very strange strategy.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems, Storage

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  • A strange strategy?

    No! Apple just want you to purchase a newer machine from them. Planned obsolescence, it's what Apple does.
    John Dwyer
    • just ignorance

      You simply don't have the drivers installed for this disk.

      If do a OSX software update with the disk connected, then the drivers will be loaded.

      Otherwise it will only work on machines for which the disk is an expected peripheral.

      Is that so odd?
      Henry 3 Dogg
      • incidentally . . .

        I also run an old Macbook pro with the superdrive replaced by an SSD

        But I've configured the 1TB HD + 0.5 TB SSD as a 1.5 TB Fusion drive.

        It makes my 2009 MacBook pro astonishingly fast.
        Henry 3 Dogg
  • So You're An Apple Fan ...

    ... and you never noticed this before?

    That's one of my top three reasons for never, ever buying any Apple products.

    Just for the record, in no particular order:
    1. grossly overpriced (no tech product deserves a 40% markup
    2. fashion (I jusy can't. it hurts too much to be a sheeple).

    Of course I recognise that no-one, least of all Apple, cares what I think, and that's the way it should be.

    But the reason I'm waffling on here is because all three issues - limited compatibility / overpriced / fashion - mark Apple as a 20th century company, despite their whopping success in the 21st. This century, basic technology is taken for granted, normal, commoditized. If you have to think about it, it's failed. It should just work, and be priced competitvely like any commodity.

    This means that Apple's success - well earned, don't get me wrong - is 100% predicated on total innovation and market disruption. And no company can keep that up for long.

    When did Apple last REALLY surprise you?
    • The hypocrisy is laughable

      Heenan73: "it hurts too much to be a sheeple"

      Anyone reading your comment, and your irrational aversion to Apple, will see you as a "sheepie" from a different flock.

      (͡° ͜ʖ°)
      Harvey Lubin
      • It's not just an irrational aversion to Apple.

        It's any company or anything that isn't Google that gets the treatment.
    • Oh Puleeezzzz.

      Not having that. 1 and 2 are a load of rubbish. There are plenty of companies that have a massive mark up. In order to know 'how much they rip you off by’, you need to know THEIR buying price. Not the market price and not what you like to think it is. You also need to understand THEIR overheads. I’m betting you don’t know either.
      There are plenty of companies that produce a product that encourages a fashion.
      People are there that don’t like to admit or even realise it so don’t single out Apple. People that only buy Audis or Fords, are they any worse? People that only buy Ferarri are sensible but those that buy Apple are sheep?
      Don’t be so ridiculous.

      You have a point with what must be the last of the top three here but I’m clever enough to get round their annoying habits.
      Tweedle Dee
    • Why do they have to surprise me?

      All I'm interested in is a computer that works, one that I can look after myself despite not being a nerd.
      Laraine Anne Barker
    • History will repeat itself

      Apple didn't fare well in the peripherals market because they always pulled his proprietary nonsense. I'm guessing the people calling the shots at Apple must be the new kids on the block. They'll learn.
  • The problem isn't just hardware

    Apple have also done the same with software, for instance - there's no technological reason why owners of pre iOS6 devices cannot view photo streams, but Apple see this as one way to push it's sheep into upgrading.
  • Re "MacBook Pro 2011 isn't on that short list of Mac models"….

    That is the sticking point with Macs and it has been for some time. For example my 2011 iMac will run OS X 10.7 Lion, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, OS X 10.9 Mavericks (OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard with some hacking) so not bad it is compatible with three releases without hacking.

    But Old Macs are the best in that they are user upgradable. On the 2011 iMac the user can max out the RAM and fit an SSD without too much hassle although in my particular case I run the whole system from a Buffalo Thunderbolt Mini Station containing a 512GB Crucial M4 SSD. Performance is lightning fast.
    Just one generation later the 2012 iMac the user cannot upgrade the RAM and cannot fit an SSD without major hassle although the external Thunderbolt option is still available.
    Now my main issue lies with my Early 2006 Mac Mini. Although in its shipped state it is a poorly performing machine with just an Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz CPU, 1GB DDR2 RAM and 80GB HDD it can easily be upgraded.
    I have upgraded to an Intel Core 2 Duo 2GHz CPU, 2GB DDR2 RAM and 128GB Sandisk Extreme SSD. With all these upgrades it has transformed a sluggish machine in to being lightning fast. But it still cannot run anything past anything later than OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard without an insane amount of hacking although I am determined to eventually get it running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion running on it just for the challenge.
    Peripherals well I've not run in to that many issues from around OS X Snow Leopard onwards. Drivers are easily installed. My HP Printer was a breeze to Network. Snow Leopard just identified it on the Network and just asked me if I wanted to go ahead and install the drivers.
    Big beef along with being sealed units is newer Macs do not include a Super Drive. I have struggled with third party solutions settling with a Buffalo external CD/DVD Writer which works seamlessly with my 2013 MacBook Air.

    So my advice overall to anyone considering a Mac 'Don't Buy New'. Pick up an immaculate 21" 2011 iMac for as little as £600. Shop with care and you've got a superb Mac at a fraction of the price of going to the Apple Store.
    • Go to Macumors.

      My 2006 MacPro can run 10.10!
      Tweedle Dee
      • But thats just the point there is no continuity....

        The Early 2006 Mac mini will not run anything later than OS X 10.6.8 even with an upgraded CPU and maxed out RAM.
        • Hmmm, exactly what model is yours?

          In System Profiler terms.
          Tweedle Dee
          • Original Specifications and Model Number....

            Early 2006 Mac Mini 1,1 A1176

            Original Specifications

            Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz CPU
            1GB DDR2 RAM
            60GB Hard Drive

            Specifications after Upgrades

            Intel Core 2 Duo 2GHz CPU
            2GB DDR2 RAM
            120GB SanDisk SSD
  • Shouldn't be a surprise

    That shouldn't be a surprise as that's how Apple has always operated both in money grabbing lockouts and dropping support for things after only a few years. There's no reason we can't run the OS on a VMware cluster for developers except Apple wants to force buying their hardware. It's a company best to keep out of your business.
    Buster Friendly
  • In the future, you may want to read the specs before buying ...

    ... not that I approve the non-compatibility with older systems but I avoided that specific mistake by doing so.
  • Not mere planned obsolescence - FORCED obsolecence

    The problem with the Mac ecosystem is forced obsolescence.

    Case in point 1: Snow Leopard – There has never been an announcement as to the end-of-support date for OS X 10.6.8, a policy so blitheringly stupid and abusive of user trust that even Microsoft doesn't do it. But let's face it, with Snow Leopard updates conspicuous in their absence, it's pretty clear that Apple has dropped support for that system. That's just cold...where's my sweater?

    Case in point 2: MacBook Pro 17" – Anyone who could afford the hefty price of admission for the 17" MacBook Pro paid it willingly because they needed the extra screen real estate. So how could Apple lose by continuing that model? But no...Cupertino's obsession with their niggling little Small Is Better psychosis is a triumph of form over function. Anorexic Chic™ is the new fashion trend, and they mean to impose it on MacBook Pro users.

    Case in point 3: User configurability and connectivity – Remember the first Powerbook G3 machines, with the bays for removable devices? You could add an extra battery, or an extra hard drive, or an optical drive, or a floppy disk drive, or any other peripheral device that fit in the bay, and swap them out as needed. Brilliant idea, beautifully executed. But this new generation of hard-soldered, stick figure machines with impoverished connectivity options makes one wonder what they're using for sense in Cupertino.

    Whether intentionally or not, Apple is encouraging a throw-away mentality—one that insists users must buy into the latest style and then discard it for the next New Thing. It's not only wasteful of physical resources, but it's wasteful of customers' dwindling economic resources in the ever more oppressive economic climate engendered by increasing taxation and regulation.
    • That will kill the enterprise Mac.

      Whilst iOS devices seem to be taking off in enterprise, (partly because a lot of people use their own devices for work), I think Macs and the MacOS will always be handicapped because any business that relies heavily on IT likes to know what lays ahead.
      Tweedle Dee
      • But with Macs, a company DOESN'T have to "rely heavily on an IT department.

        It would still save money by going all-Mac and shutting down 99% of its IT department. Remember that Windows has been described as the "Full Employment Act for IT Departments"