Why I Went For A Macbook Pro

13th September 2012

I very recently took delivery a 15 inch MacBook Pro (my first Apple computer) and I thought I would write about my reasoning behind it. Normally, people don't tend to ask why you bought a computer, but with Apple products it seems to be different. I think I have stated my reasons to a few different people already, so I thought it would make a good blog post.

I've been a continuous Windows user since Windows 3.1, and currently have a computer running Windows 7, as well as a couple of Windows XP virtual machines for testing. I think as an operating system Windows can be best described as 'adequate'. It does an okay job of providing a consistent experience that allows users to move files around and change their desktop wallpaper. It also has had massive stability problems since I can remember. What normally happens is that things will run fine for a few months before the system starts doing odd things and will gradually grind to a massive halt. I normally reinstall Windows every 9-12 months, even when I just use the system for day to day tasks, normally because of a corrupt system file that stops the system from starting. Windows 7 went a long way in terms of stability and seems to have largely solved this issue.

A few years ago I tried to make the switch from Windows to Linux and chose SuSE Linux as my distribution of choice. I have to admit that the switch was less than successful at the time, but I have kept at it and have found Linux to be a much more stable system than Windows. I will freely admit that Linux does have some small niggles, but the long term stability of the system is much better. I have grown more familiar with Linux based systems (outside of web servers) and they have greatly improved in terms of usability. It has been a few years since I last had to compile my own device drivers, which I have heard as an excuse against using the system.

What I found when I switched to Linux was the ease at which certain tasks can be done that would take hours of tinkering on Windows. Take PDF creation as an example. If you want to create a PDF document on Windows without spending thousands of pounds on software then forget it. The best thing you can do is to print to PDF, but doing this with Word on Windows is a real pain and takes multiple installs of different programs to get working. PDF generation on Linux is built in to just about everything and multiple programs exist to allow you to do it without having to print to file every time.

The latest versions of Ubuntu (with Gnome 3) are really terrible in terms of usability, which is why I have been trying other versions of Ubuntu based systems like Xubuntu, Lubuntu and Kubuntu. The fact that I can change the window manager and still use the same underlying operating system is great and is something I still find impressive. My work machine currently runs Kubuntu and I quite like it; despite some of it's bugs. One thing that keeps cropping up is that the mouse pointer graphics will very rarely corrupt when moving between monitors. This usually doesn't bother me much as things still work, but it is an irritation that seems to have been an active bug in KDE for a number of years with no sign of being fixed.

My job as a PHP developer means that I spend a lot of time interacting with Linux systems that are running the typical LAMP stack. In virtually every workplace I have had I have been forced to use Windows, and it is a real obstacle in getting things done. Many of the tools that most PHP developers take for granted are forgotten about on Windows and therefore either don't work at all, or are crippled in some fundamental way. This has changed in the last couple of years, but Linux is still the better option when it comes to using these tools.

What I really don't like about Linux is the poor support for power suspension options, especially on laptops. ACPI support under Linux is generally broken and it feels like I'm taking a gamble every time I close the lid on my laptop. Sometimes it might go to sleep, other times it will simply stay on, or it might go to sleep fine but never fully restore itself. ACPI support under Windows works quite well but waking the computer up can take quite a while so it's less than convenient.

The final straw for me was when I went to DrupcalCon Munich, and tried to do something with Vagrant on my Windows laptop. I found that (yet again) I was able to get about 75% of the functionality, but was unable to do some fundamental things. So after getting fed up with Windows and largely disenfranchised by the Linux distros I was using I started looking into what Apple could offer. I wanted a mobile machine that would be stable enough that it would work, but also powerful enough to handle what I throw at it, which is generally quite a bit. After a few weeks of deliberation I finally went for it.

After running this MacBook for about a week I have to say that I love it. There are some things that you need to get used to, but everything works really well. I have managed to slow it down once, but I was stress testing it by running two virtual machines, playing music, watching films, and running a load of other programs at once. Even in this situation it handled things very well.

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