I'm a Mac?

I'm writing this post on my spiffy new 15” MacBook Pro. This isn’t the first Mac I’ve had for my work, but this is my first “primary” machine that’s a Mac.

This is an odd turn, it wasn’t that long ago I used to think Macs were a joke. When I was at Iris/IBM we always supported the Mac as platform, but most of us just wished it would go away. Compared to the NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and XP machines most of us ran, they were slow, overpriced and crashy. And far from simple or beautiful I found them exceedingly frustrating to use. Cool? Sure, if this is the introduction to the opposites. The small contingent of Mac faithful at Iris were significantly odder than the rest of us (and that's saying something).

But that was then, no one is laughing at the Mac now. This machine is fast and beautiful and it feels high quality to me, OS X is clean, subdued and usable and the total price is pretty competetive with Windows machines.

So why switch now?

I noticed a while go I really didn't have much use for Windows as an OS. (Almost) everything I use regularly is also available on the Mac or Linux. Email, web browsing, word processing, yada yada yada.

But I didn't want to switch.

I’m now an engineer for MySQL AB. My side projects are server based. I’m not really interested in developing desktop apps, I’m interested in back-end, heavy lifting software. In the regard, the market has spoken: Unix OSes, particularly Linux, are going to dominate the server OS market for many years to come.

 Data Mmcp Novice New Upload Linux-Penguin.Picture

While MySQL does support the Windows platform, our own development tools are heavily Unix-oriented. Cygwin, as impressive as it is, doesn’t quite fill the gap. Leaky abstractions and all that.

Unix-based systems are only going to become more important for web and back-end developers. As a server platform Windows looks more and more like pointless vendor lock-in. A development dead end.

So for me as a engineer, OS X makes perfect sense. Like Linux, it’s Unix down deep, and unlike Linux it is powerful and beautiful. And as advertised, everything just works.

The switch is paying off, I’m getting comfortable and productive with the Unix command line and the MySQL development tools work so much better. Most of my Windows apps have equivalents available for the Mac (and they usually look better) and for everything else I can run Windows XP under Parallels.

Damn Newfangled Keyboard

So far the hardest thing I’ve found moving to the Mac is the keyboard arrangements and shortcuts. I was using all sorts of editing shortcuts that I wasn’t really conscious of until I switched. It can be terribly frustrating moving a new OS with new shortcuts. For example, I use shift+delete to cut to clipboard (a habit I picked up from OS/2), which on the Mac deletes but does not cut, but I don’t realize it until I go to paste.

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It was pretty painful for a couple days, but after about a week it was manageable and now I have almost no problems. OS X feels nearly as comfortable as Windows. And the MacBook touch pad work better than any Windows laptop I've ever used.

OS X isn’t quite as stable as Windows XP, it’s locked up I’d guess 4-5 times since I’ve gotten it, which is pretty crappy compared to my desktop PC. XP has proved remarkably reliable and stable for me, OS X isn't there yet. However Apple pushed out a big update last week and I haven’t locked up since (crosses fingers).

One source of annoyance is my Windows XP/Dell notebook coming out of sleep/suspend or whatever the hell it does. Closing the lid on the Dell notebook was something I generally tried to avoid, I’d guess every 8th time it would get hung and I’d need to hold down the power button until the machines reboots completely. But when I close the cover on the Mac it goes to sleep. Open it, it wakes up. Every. Single. Time.

The UI on OS X is a little more sluggish than XP. There are more occasional, unexplained pauses. Even with dual processors. But then I’m running large builds and database test suites, so YMMV. It’s almost always snappy enough that I don’t get annoyed, but I do notice it. Except for when XP has to spin up the optical drives just to show me a file-save dialog (that soooo pisses me off), XP is usually faster.


Stability issues aside, I’m quite happy with it. But I’m not completely Windows free yet. The one Windows tool that I just can’t live without: Visual C++.

Ironically, a tool for developing software on the Windows platform is the only MS tool I want to use on the Mac. Fortunately Visual C++ 2005 Express runs very well under Parallels VM. Code completion, symbol lookup and kick-ass debugger, it rocks. For C/C++ development, MS is still too far ahead of the game for me to cripple myself with lesser tools.

My Wife's a Mac Too?

So while I’ve found really good reasons to use a Mac for work, what I’ve actually discovered is the reasons for my wife to use it are even stronger. My wife’s computing needs are far simpler than my own, and her need for “it just works” even higher. So we got her a Macbook.

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But it’s not the Mac itself that’s so compelling, it’s the bundled iLife stuff that comes with it. The apps are extremely usable and polished and seem to do most everything we need. Perhaps equally easy and powerful apps are available for Windows, but they certainly don’t come bundled free.

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This is becoming increasingly important to my me and my wife. We have a 3 y/o girl and another on the way.

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[pause for congratulations] Thank you!

So naturally we generate a large amount of digital media and it’s increasing. My wife needs to be able to manage our photos and make DVDs from home video. We’ve tried using PCs, but doing anything other than the most basic stuff is just too cumbersome and frustrating.

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And so, for whatever reason, Windows is becoming irrelevant to both my line of work and my personal needs. I relied on Windows for a long time, but today my family and I are now Mac users. That's a surprise to me.

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Posted May 3, 2007 1:47 AM