Dan Schlosser / writing /

I Like Macs and Hate Myself

I Like Macs and Hate Myself
Published on July 16, 2013.

Hello, my name is Dan and I am an Apple hater.

Most people that know me know that I can’t stand Apple. I don’t like Apple’s culture, the price tags on their products, or their design principles. I think the iPod is dead, the iPhone is still a product of 2007, and the iPad needs a few more hours in the proverbial oven. I could rant for hours about how Apple doesn’t understand the Internet, or how they’ve “screwed up this” or “forgotten about that.” I am not unfounded in my dislike for Apple, either; I am not just a techno-hipster that’s “too cool for school,” if people still say that. From my perspective, it seems apparent that Apple is on course to make some extremely serious mistakes in the next 10–15 years and that if they do so they will be the Blackberry or the Palm of 2030.

But that’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing this because I’ve been working as an intern at Facebook for the past few weeks, writing code for upwards of nine hours a day on a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display. I’ve had extensive, continuous exposure to OS X, not that I was given any choice in the matter. I’ve been developing for iOS, and this can only be done on a Mac. (Thanks, Apple.) I’ve been using OS X on school iMacs and friends’ MacBooks for ages, but something was different this time, and I couldn’t pin down what.

When people ask me why I dislike OS X so much, I always found it easiest to point to it’s collection of bundled software. The only worthwhile app included on a Mac is Terminal; the rest are utter garbage. Safari, iTunes, iPhoto, the App Store, Mail, Calendar, Contacts etc. can all be scrapped, in my opinion. Naturally, when I started using my work laptop, I installed Chrome, Sublime, Mou, and so on. After all that customization was done, I slowly found myself growing more accustomed to the experience. I found myself growing more… fond of the experience.

Hello, my name is Dan and my next laptop is a Mac.

On the technical end, switching to a Mac is tempting. Programming on a *nix-based machine is a must. It will be great to be able to copy bash commands directly into Terminal instead of translating them into MS-DOS first. Moreover, unless I decide to work at Microsoft my career as a software engineer will be spent on a Mac. I’ve toyed with switching to Linux, but that really just replaces one set of problems with another. Linux is great for programming and a bummer from a UI/UX perspective. Software support is lacking for Linux as well, which is all the more reason to avoid it. It’s true, you can do anything with Linux that you can with OS X, it’s just a matter of how hard you have to work to get it done and how you feel about looking at some variation of Terminal all day.

Also, OS X has a much more active developer community for non-gaming, non-enterprise software. I can disable Dashboard, Launchpad, and the dock, and replace them with Alfred, MagicPrefs, and Cinch. Under all the iClutter, there’s a quite usable operating system — and that’s what is so surprising. I’ve always faulted Macs for their software, but now it seems my criticisms have grown increasingly invalid. As a side note, I really enjoy using Spaces, and while I did have some multi-monitor issues on Mountain Lion, apparently Mavericks fixes them.

The hardware on MacBooks is undeniably excellent. The retina display is gorgeous, the trackpad is amazing, they have all the necessary ports (minus Ethernet, alas), and they run on top-of-the-line components. My problem with Mac hardware is actually more in finding a balance for features and portability. The screen size and resolution on the 13" laptops are both too small across the board (even for the 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which has an effective resolution of 1280 x 800). The 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display, while powerful, is noticeably heavier than my Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon. Running a 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display at 1650 x 1050 is a decent option, but reviews have indicated that the 13" model is underpowered, and I prefer full HD anyway.

Obviously, if I am looking for a way to drop $2500 on a computer the choice is clear, but it’s hard to stomach spending all that money if I’m not going to be using 90% of the included software. This is especially true looking forward; it’s hard to ask me to spend a lot of money on a traditional laptop when there are some really enticing touch-enabled ultrabooks out there.

Confusions / Conclusions

There are so many problems with getting a Mac, and arguably just as many sitting with Windows. Windows 8 is built on a strong core, but can be aggravating. I don’t exactly have problems with Windows 8, it’s just not satisfying to usefor a nerd like me. Behind the flashy Start Screen trash Windows 8 is a clean, fast operating system. The same goes for OS X. It’s hard to justify buying a Mac just to put other software on it, but I realized that OS X now has both the ecosystem and hardware advantage over Windows, a recent shift to be sure. A MacBook will never run PC games, which is why I have (and always will have) a Windows desktop. The truth is that by continuing to use a Windows laptop, I’m only delaying the inevitable. For programming, for design work, for running a website, and for general compatibility, OS X is where I’m headed.

It pains me to think about carrying around a MacBook as my personal laptop. It’s so much easier to complain about Apple as a company when I don’t own any of their products, but I’m trapped. I am going to have to learn to balance my moral opposition for Apple with the practicalities of life. It may sound like I’m taking myself too seriously but it’s true. I’m going be on OS X sooner or later, so there’s no reason not to switch now. Especially with a new batch of Haswell-equipped MacBook Pros launching sometime this year, the hardware is increasingly enticing. The question isn’t if I’m going to buy a Mac, it’s whether or not I’ll be able to live with myself when I do.