Drinking The MacBook Pro and OS X Kool-Aid

26 Feb 2007

This past Friday marked the end of the second week at my new job which has brought many changes for me. I left a good sized development team at large company for the uncertainty for a VC funded start-up without revenue, I'm miles from a ColdFusion server and instead am working on a Java distributed platform (though I had been working in Java exclusively for about 6 months before changing jobs), and I switched to a MacBook Pro among other changes. All of the changes have been great choices so far, and it was good time to make a big jump just from a personal standpoint as I felt that I was starting to stagnate. I pretty much had the option to use whatever platform worked best for me, and I took a leap of faith and decided to go with a MacBook. I got equipped with a very nice one-- I have the 2.33 Ghz Dual Core w/ 2 GB of RAM.

The first day or two I felt like a bull in a China shop on the MacBook. The process for installing software didn't make any sense to me, I kept using the control key for common shortcuts, and in general I was trying to figure-out how to setup the full software stack I'm now working on without really having a good understanding of the OS I was using on my workstation. I'm sure I've looked retarded to my new co-workers for the most part so far, but I feel like making the switch is really starting to pay dividends.

For starters, there is just no comparison between the fit and feel of a MacBook Pro to a Dell laptop. My Dell seems like a total piece of crap now, and it annoys me to have to use it. It's big, heavy, clumsy, and shodily assembled compared to the MacBook. I look at some of my co-workers Dell laptops and am very glad that I picked the Mac, though some of them have some 12" Lenovo's which are pretty sweet.

Since I'm only a couple of weeks in, I hesitate to list all of the various software and so forth that I've found useful, but I'll get around to posting that in a couple of weeks once I feel like that list is more finalized. Instead, I thought it might be useful to post some of the pros and cons I've noticed coming from using Windows and Linux:

Pros:

  • Unix with a very nice GUI. That's really enough to sell someone right there. I'm a command line junkie and it's nice to have Bash and all of the assorted Unix facilities and software available

  • The hardware is really good-- it has great fit and finish. I can even use the MacBook Pro on my lap without getting scalded. There are just so many little things that you notice over time about the MacBook which are ingenious (like the light sensitive keyboard backlighting for instance)

  • Everything just works. Had I attempted to set the same environment up on Windows I would have had to bludgeon myself with Cygwin. I haven't had to deal with any of the annoying dependency problems that Linux has.

  • I actually like the hardware lock-in. It makes it much easier to find accessories for your given hardware, and you can easily compare specs and application performance with other users, etc. I'm sure this also helps make the OS a lot better as well since they don't have to support every chipset and piece of hardware under the sun.

Cons:

  • Some of the software seems like it's dumbed down too much. I understand it's a design philosophy of the Mac, but with some software I find myself looking for the "Advanced" mode. I'm not sure what you would call the file browsing software, but it was my primary complaint until I found Path Finder

  • The concept of Free Software seems to be beyond a lot of people in the Mac community. Every little add-on that makes software suck less is likely to cost you $12-$15.

  • There aren't really any Mac specific ergonomic keyboards. I'm currently using an MS Natural keyboard when I dock at work, but I find it hard to get used to shortcuts because I'm still using a keyboard with a Windows layout

All that I can say is that from the perspective of a big Unix fan who does Java development, I feel like the Mac offers a great platform for both software development as well as an everyday workstation OS. I'll get around to posting a list of software that I've found to be useful in a couple of weeks once I feel like I've got most of what I need.