Fifteen years using linux... and I just switched to a Mac

I still remember my first met with Linux, back in 1998… I instantly embraced the Open Source philosophy. I also doomed the data on my hard drive and it took me 2 days of tough work to get this Red Hat 5.1 up and running, but I really enjoyed this stuff and all its environment. Since then, I used Mandrake, Mandriva, Debian and Ubuntu on a daily basis. Open Source led me to learn tons of things, meet passionate and definitely interesting people, and finally gave me the opportunity to create my own exciting job. How cool is that ?

About the machines, I’ve been a Dell user for many years. For sure, choosing a new machine (every 2 years, on average) was always a little bit tricky, since I had to pick the exact linux compliant hardware, especially for laptops. But well… that was acceptable. For sure, from time to time, I had some surprises, system crash or misconfiguration problems but, most of the time, I always sayed to myself that was part of the game.

So, there I was, until this night of november, at 2am, working hard and late for a client migration from one app on one server to a brand new one on another server and while I was in the middle of a Capistrano deploy… my machine froze. Hard reset, reboot and… nightmare. A bunch of the files I was deploying were literally doomed. It was 2am, I got my client calling every 15 minutes asking “Hey dude, why can’t I see the new app running now ?”, and I was digging into Git branchs to recover crashed files, on the fly. The next morning, I bought my very first Mac. A core I7 MacBook Pro, 8Go RAM with retina display and a 256 Go SSD Hard Drive, to be precise. Costing me 1500 Euros VAT excl. (twice the price of my last dell), to be perfectly precise.

Now I’m using this brand new Mac for 3 months, I’d though it could be a good idea to share my experience. So here it is :

The awesome, the machine :

*the trackpad. I just can’t use a crappy mouse no more !

*the keyboard look and fell and… man, what a crazy thing for a long time linux user : each and every key is working ! I mean, even the “+/-” multimedia volume control really works ! (irony inside).

*the retina screen. At the beginning that was an extra gadget, but finally, I really appreciate a perfect screen display.

*The total weight is about half the weight of my last Dell. Looks like a detail but it is important in every day’s life.

The very, very cool things :

*The battery lifetime : I regularly use my Mac during 4/5 hours intensively, without having to worry about where can I plug my AC cord.

*Another consequence of the well designed power management : I can now close my laptop on the fly, and reopen it next morning without any fear of a frozen screen, or an out of charge battery. No, I just close it when my day is done. Go to sleep. Re-open it, and I instantly recover my work environment. Just as it should.

*Basically, it’s just Unix. The console feels like home. The whole system looks familiar. That simple.

The weird :

*The keyboard layout and shortcuts. Ok, the keyboard is beautiful and a pleasure to use but I got to familiarize with tons of strange new shortcuts (shift-command-3 for a screenshot or shift-alt-L for a pipe, isn’t that weird ?!). I don’t know about International Qwerty keyboards layouts, but at least for a french layout, there’s some strange tricks to learn before being productive at writing code.

*OS X. It’s far beyond just the windowing stuff : no more GCC to compile stuff, no more good ol’ filesystem tree a la Linux, no more apt-get… good news, homebrew works more or less like the former. For the filesystem, well, three months later, I must say I do not masterize it a lot, but also must admit I didn’t need to digg very deep into it. I usually stay in my own files and everything’s fine, so far.

The bad :

*Don’t like the finder ? Deal with it. Want to try another Desktop env ? No way. This obsession to lead you to the App store each time you’re searching for an app is also irritating, in my opinion. I also still have some “philosophical” concerns about this “we know what’s good for you” approach. Seems obvious, but I would miss a point if I didn’t write it here.

*Everyone thinks you’re rich ! I always thought VMware was free for the usage I had of it. Free for Windows. Free for Linux… but for Mac users ? You pay. Same thing if you want to access ext4 filesystems in R/W. Even for a dummy system wide equalizer, you have to pay ! More insidious, on some websites, you even pay an hidden extra charge if you’re connecting through a Mac (yes, Airbnb, I’m looking at you. But I know you’re not the only one). I just feel like taken for a fool.

Finally, was this switch a good idea ? I must say yes. Working is really more comfortable now. Will I stay on a Mac for a long time ? Well… I don’t think so. At least I hope so. I’m definitly not an Apple fan boy. I don’t like the “Apple way” of doing things (short summarize : “gimme your money, and we take care of everything”. Some people may like it, but as far as I’m concerned, I don’t have so much money, and I don’t like when people forces me to use exclusively specific stuff). So, my best wish is that, one day, I’ll be able to find a machine as good as this MacBook Pro, with a serious and well designed OS integration (power management, 3D video chipset), but running on a Ubuntu/Debian based distro. This day I’ll be a 100% happy hacker. For now, well… I have a job to do and my clients pay me to deliver code, and the more comfortable and more productive way to write code, today, IMHO, is to use my new Mac.