Considering switching to a Mac because of the consistency of platform with the environments I frequently interact with (*nix systems), and MacBooks are some of the best performing laptops I’ve ever seen, able to handle my current needs. Though I still feel dirty even considering the platform switch.
Just as the title says, recently I’ve been considering replacing my personal laptop with a MacBook Pro, and it makes me feel dirty. People who have known me for a long time or who have been reading my blog for a while know that I have been ardently opposed to Apple products for a very long time. However, when I started working at PatientSafe Solutions, I was outfitted with a MacBook Pro to perform my work, mainly because our flagship product is a specialized iPhone and corresponding suite of apps for the hospital. This was the first time I’d had to work with a Mac, and it took a while to get used to. However, like my days with Windows, I eventually started to get used to the environment and began pushing the edges of customization to suit my needs: I started adding customizations around how I interact with the filesystem, and began adding more and more utility scripts to make my work system behave the way I needed it to accomplish the work I had to complete.
Personally, I enjoy working inside of Linux environments. They are more reliable, robust and cheaper to maintain and being that I work with them often both at home and at work, it is very familiar to me. However, with my hobbies I also need a robust UI environment that is consumer-friendly - one that responds quickly, has a multitude of features, and a large application library, both commercial and open-source. In my personal time, I also develop applications for *nix-based platforms (Linux, Android) in JVM-based languages (Java, Kotlin). I also do photography, using Photoshop to edit and compose my photos. And recently I have added flying drones to my set of personal hobbies (with a DJI Phantom 3 & other smaller drones, both for stunts and indoor flying). In all, my needs vary quite a bit, but a common theme exists in all cases: I need a fast system with quick access to various things, both through a UI and through the command-line.
Recently, I’ve also wanted an environment that is consistent with the environments I work with at work and at home, allowing me to “write-once- run-everywhere” both in tooling and workflows. Over the last few years I’ve been working a lot with Docker containers and have even started to use them with my own home server, allowing me to develop custom services locally and spin them up on my home server for “production” use, or even use services “off-the-shelf”, and with the recent releases for Docker on Windows or Mac, working with containers locally is now even easier than ever before.
So this brings me to the rationale for considering the switch to a Mac: the OSX kernel is Unix-based (Mach to be specific), and contains at the heart of a system extremely close to that of a Linux-based system; it also has a very fast and un-intrusive UI with one feature that I have loved since I first worked it in very early versions of Windows and in most Linux UIs: multiple desktops. The other thing I have come to really appreciate about the MacBook I work with is its shear speed. Though I don’t really like tight hardware integrations in general, on a laptop it only makes sense, and when the OS is designed & tested with specific hardware on a laptop in mind, the result can be very performant, and this is certainly the case with the MacBook I work with. And finally, I have been generally unimpressed with Microsoft recently.
They recently seem to be changing things for change-sake and not really improving things (much the same way Apple has been going about their offerings since Jobs passed away). In fact, its very telling that Microsoft is struggling as their flagship OS has undergone 3 major revisions in the span of time that I got the laptop I’m looking to replace, and I have yet to upgrade from Windows 7 on it since I’ve seen no benefit to doing so.
So, if I’ve been using Windows 7 since I got my last laptop and am still using it, why change at all at this point? Well, I’m starting to have problems: I’m having trouble with the power connector on the laptop and it just can’t keep up anymore. On the power connector side, while the system is on and plugged in, the power connector applies power and disconnects a short time later, causing the system to speed-step up and down a lot. Moreover, because of this frequent power connected-disconnected cycling, I can no longer use the laptop for extended periods of time since the battery can no longer charge and/or run off the AC power while the laptop is on. On the performance front, it has become slow, and, despite my best efforts to increase speed, and applications I use on it thrash badly because core services are now consuming tons of memory (it has 8GB, but after startup I have only 4GB to use and I can’t increase it further). Also, trying to view the recorded videos from my Phantom 3 is frustratingly difficult as none of the players I have on the machine (VLC included) can handle the HD video that the Phantom 3 can record ([email protected]). In fact, Ashley’s Surface Pro 3 performs better than it now. Unfortunately, it is to be expected of a 4-year-old laptop.
So, you may be asking, why another laptop? Why not switch to a desktop platform? Because my life is very dynamic. I visit meetups where I need my laptop to work or demonstrate things. I also sometimes bring my laptop to family functions to demo things to other geeky family members, or sometimes even try to rush-edit family photos to allow me to distribute them to family members while they are physically there with me.
In conclusion, the reason I’ve been considering going to other other side isn’t because everyone else is doing it or that the Apple offerings are superior or that its trendy. Its because my needs have grown, and currently Apple produces some of the most performant laptops I’ve seen to date - due greatly to the fact that the OSX operating system is tuned to work with the hardware, and vice versa. And though I lose the ability to use much of the application library I’ve amassed over the years, it would still end up losing it since some of the applications would no longer work on newer versions of Windows. But, for some of the major commercial applications I use (IntelliJ IDEA, Photoshop), I still have the ability to use them on OSX. As for Office? Well, Google Docs replaced that for me long ago. So unless I find a Windows-based laptop anytime soon that meets and exceeds my needs anytime soon, you might start seeing me sporting a Mac. But you won’t see me donning a black turtleneck anytime soon - its just a means to an end, not a shift in preference. I still prefer Linux over anything else, but for UI and application library support, its frustratingly still not there. Though maybe my next laptop will finally be Linux through-and-through.