Web Design

Why Mac is Better

If you know me, you know how surprising that statement is.  I've been a die-hard Linux evangalist for the past 10 years or so.  But, as Bob Dylan would say, things have changed.

I was actually raised on Mac.  Our family's first computer was a Macintosh Plus.  My last was a Powerbook 2300c, which I took to college.  (I freaking loved that thing.)  But then I went through a phase where I used a combination of Linux and Windows, finally settling on Linux around 2005.

So, what's changed?  A few things.  The biggest is that I have a job.

Linux is a Distraction

I've used several flavors of Linux, but mostly Ubuntu.  Ubuntu is my favorite because it's got a for-profit corporation backing it, and they've put a lot of money into making it polished, stable, and well supported.  It has the best software repository (in terms of number of apps, stability, and how frequently they're updated).  It's got by far the best interface.  It also has the best hardware support.

However, in recent years the hardware support has actually gotten worse.  There are several reasons for this: I use newer laptop hardware with the Optimus chipset.  Also, at work, I have multiple external monitors plugged into a dock.  Granted, that's unusual hardware.  And the manufacturer doesn't supply drivers.  But this stuff used to work better.

The result: Lately I've been spending more time on tech support, precisely when I've been busier, both at work and at home.  When I was in college I didn't mind wrestling with drivers.  But now that just seems like a distraction.

Mac is Basically the Same

I'm really tempted to say "Mac is Linux," even though that's technically not true.  Mac is Unix, which is so close that it doesn't really make a difference.  I mean, it has the same wifi widget and printer daemon!  I was shocked at how many things are the same.  Mac even comes with a basic LAMP stack built in.  Not to mention command line interface with a software repository.  The interface was a little different, but it also lends itself to customization and I got things almost exactly the way I wanted.  I do miss the spinny cube on Linux, but the truth is that project hasn't been adequately supported in years anyway, especially if you don't have good graphics card support.

In fact, I discovered a lot of things were exactly the same:

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Aptana
  • Skype
  • Terminal with translucent background
  • Multiple desktops
  • LAMP
  • git
  • My external speakers, monitor, keyboard, and 7-button mouse

Mac is Better

In fact, Mac is better in some significant ways.  I'm not talking about iTunes - I don't think I'll ever buy into Apple's entertainment ecosystem.  I'm also not going to buy an iPhone or Apple Watch - I'm still a devoted Android user (in fact, Google Now works better on Mac than it does on Linux).  But the real point is that all the advantages of Ubuntu are magnified tenfold with Apple: It's a very large company with a LOT of money and a superb attention to detail.

Imagine someone took Linux, polished the hell out of it, and made it super stable.  That's Mac.

In particular, here are the things that are better, that I actually care about:

  • Adobe flash (yes, still)
  • Printer support
  • Hardware support (SSD, graphics card, new chipset)
  • Stability
  • GAMES - I don't have a lot of time to play games any more, but it's nice to be able to play Starcraft without having to restart my computer!

All that said, there are a few things I miss:

  • Ability to scroll through Chrome browser tabs using the mouse scroll wheel
  • Easily show hidden files in a folder
  • The spinny cube
  • Built-in themability for the operating system
  • On Linux, there's an expectation that everything is Free and Open Source - there's a lot more shareware on Mac.
  • Most of all, I miss being a power user and knowing all the nooks & crannies of the OS.  I used to be a Mac power user, and I'm sure I will be again, but last time I used a Mac was during the Power Mac days.  OS X is a new beast and it's different enough from Linux that I still feel like a beginner.

If we're talking about why Mac is better, we really should talk about hardware.  Mac was rated by JD Power & Associates as the most reliable brand of PC.  (If you're on a budget, #2 was Asus.  About half the price for the same computing power, and my Asus laptop survived beatings for 3 whole years.)  In addition, Macs are great under the hood.  A few years ago PC Magazine said the best gaming PC was a Mac.  Apple has really upped the ante with solid state hard drives.  (Everything you've heard is true; they really are worth it.)  Finally, it's beautiful.  PC makers have been making more of an effort to offer aesthetically pleasing cases, but really it's another case of the entire industry chasing Apple.  If you care about aesthetic beauty, you really can't beat a Mac.

I can Afford It

Even given all the advantages of Mac, there was one more thing holding me back: cost.  It doesn't matter how awesome something is if you can't afford one.  But this goes along with Point #1 (having work to do): As my business has increased, so has my income.  I still have a side business which means my computer is a business expense.  As long as I can justify the purchase in terms of cash flow, it's a writeoff at the end of the year.  When my Linux computer died a few weeks ago, it took me about an hour to decide I was going to buy a Mac.  It took about a day to get used to it.

The truth is Apple products are luxury items.  But the real question is which is more precious to you: time or money?  As always, scarcity connotes value: I used to have less money and more free time.  Now I have more money and less time.  The choice is clear.


Does this mean I don't like Linux any more?  Of course not!  I'm a web developer!  Linux is in my bloodstream at this point.  I'm glad I ran it for all those years.  But at this point in my career, it's worth paying for a more polished, more stable tool that will save me time.  On top of that, I've been pleasantly surprised at how many of my "power user" tricks I've been able to replicate from Linux.

Bottom line: I'm back, baby.  I may not be an Apple fanboy, but I am a big fan of the hardware and software.


Addendum: Mac toys

As mentioned, I was able to get all my advanced GUI enhancements that I missed from Linux.  If you're curious, here's what I used: