Fri, 16 Mar 2007

Switcher.

A white MacBookGuess what — I’m a switcher! I mean, I’ve been using Macs since 1985, so I probably don’t meet the usual definition, but for the last 2½ years I’ve been using a Dell laptop (warning—embedded java) for work. And boy, did it suck. I managed to make it suck a little less by running a Linux distro as my primary OS on it, but that had its own way of sucking, too. It seems weird that, having used Macs since The Dawn of Time™, I’ve never had a portable one as my primary work machine — it always made sense when it was time for an upgrade for me to update my desktop machine. I’ve had many desktop Macs, of course — consistently at home and, when the fates smile upon me, at work as well.

To be fair, the Dell was designed to work with Windows, and for all I know it would have probably been OK in that environment, but frankly the majority of my work life consists of email and scripting, neither of which has a Win32 dependency, and I was not about to add one. I ran SuSE Linux in preference over Windows because, in the course of my work day, it was more useful to me to have a laptop for which the truly necessary tools of my trade (ssh, nfs, perl, python, a decent shell environment) are native rather than crude bolt-ons. Besides, I’d rather make sweet love to a cheese grater than spend my working life in Windows. :)

Dell Inspiron 5160Getting away from Windows and back to Dell, the machine was heavy, noisy, ran (very) hot, and had all the design elegance of a “Soviet tractor built on a Monday” ( thank you Jens Alfke). SuSE had no support for the Broadcom wireless NIC, so WiFi was always a kludge, and the ACPI support was so bad that the thing would regularly shut itself off to keep from overheating for the first several weeks I had it, until I tracked down the magic incantations. Overall, I could get work done with it but it always felt that I was fighting with the thing.

I ended up with a MacBook — I considered the MacBook Pro but I actually prefer the 13-inch form-factor, and the only thing I really miss from the MBP is the nicer video hardware. Traveling with a MacBook is so dramatically a more pleasant experience that I kick myself for not making it happen sooner. The wireless support is truly peerless — the engineers behind OS X’s 802.11x support really deserve kudos for taking something that’s really pretty complicated technically (smoothly moving between disparate networks) and making it truly as simple as I think it could possibly be. Neither Windows nor and Linux distro I’ve used comes anywhere near the Mac wireless experience. Even interacting with my employer’s VPN has been, dare I say, a pleasant experience. The suspend and resume support is first rate, and it even weighs about 20% less than the machine it replaced (a big deal when you’re schlepping the thing around constantly), and I get about an hour more in battery life in typical use. The reduced weight, better battery life, and more versatile wireless support make it a much more mobile machine than the one it replaced. Parallels under OS X is far nicer from a usability perspective than VMWare under Linux for running the occasional Windows app.

So for now I’m still in the honeymoon phase — I haven’t run into any significant hardware or software annoyances (or, more accurately, all of the annoyances are the general Mac ones I’ve been aware of and worked around for years…) Watch this space.

:: 11:37
:: /tech/computers/os/osx | [+]
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Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the
apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in
not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.
— Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar”