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Why Macs?

Published: May 08, 2008 (over 11 years ago)
Updated: almost 5 years ago

For Years, I have used nothing but Microsoft Windows desktops and my development effort was 100% Windows based systems. Long story, short, lets just say I knew way more about the inner bowels of Windows and its various API’s than I will ever care to recall nowadays. Around 2001, I realized “The Web” was where the future lies and took nine months off from doing paid contract work to rediscover UNIX, or more specifically Linux where I set up DSL and my first server at home and ran various websites off Zope (python-based CMS). But I still used Windows as my main desktop. Then around late 2005 or early 2006, our company, which does Ruby on Rails development, decided to buy a couple of the first Intel MacBook Pros and give them a whirl.

It all started as our quest to find a reliable laptop that would be powerful enough to do development work and not spend half its time in the shop. We had everything from Dell Laptops, Sony Viaos, to Asus and Acer, not to mention the behemoth Xtreme “desktop replacement” laptops that were weighing in at some 14lbs.

As the company’s network manager, the first thing I noticed about the Macs was that their users rarely said another word to me after that first day receiving them. Silent workers aren’t usually attention getters, but when all you’re doing is constantly repairing or shipping off hardware that has failed, the absence of doing so, even for a small group of users, does tend to grab your attention.

A few months later with still no chatter from the “mac guys,” I decided to check up on how the macs were doing. The developers loved them! Ok, so now I have to get one for myself and find out firsthand. So we bought another wave of Macs and passed out to more developers and I collected one of the older slower ones to give a test drive of my own.

Well, to be perfectly honest, I stumbled greatly in the beginning trying to understand the Mac interface and essentially brute forced my way to productivity by living in Windows running on Parallels and the console when on the Mac side. Little by little, I began to learn “the mac way” and utilize their silly one button mouse and Desktop GUI. I’m sorry, but in this day and age, you need two buttons!

As I left Windows behind, I began to notice something. I wasn’t constantly updating and rebooting the system. Nearly daily service patching. Gone! Anti-virus protection. Gone! Dealing with Firewall messages. Gone! Insane “are you sure you want to do that?” followed by “are you really sure?” prompts. Gone! System slowing down to a crawl with each new software installed. Gone! Cleaning the registry to get rid of all those auto-start components after new installs. Gone! Answering “No!” to “you have unused icons on your desktop…” Gone! Genuine Advantage Assurances? Yup, gone!

Good gosh. Was I really that numb to how much maintaining a working Windows systems had encroached on my life? Not only as a user, but as a systems support person for our entire company. No wonder those Mac adopters were so quiet.

All these little things make a huge difference. Since I’ve started using a mac, my own productivity is a lot higher. I’m able to do Ruby development in the best supported environment (Mac OS X) for development…which is a bonus of being UNIX based, which suits me well. I’m able to run Windows XP in Parallels Virtual Machine in order to run SQL Server 2005. I’m also able to VPN to all the various clients using the same Parallels setup, which is great because VPN’ing usually quarantines the machine altogether (meaning I can’t reach local LAN resources (printer, common drive, etc.) nor check emails and use IM).

I constantly see new PC based laptops that look promising and at a very affordable price, but I worry about getting into yet another laptop hardware platform (we already have Xtreme, Sony Viaos, Macs, Acers, Asus, and recently IBM Thinkpad) and figuring out where that machine’s gonna get shipped to and what kind of service we’re going to get when we inevitably have to send it off for repairs.

In the ensuing two and half years as I count how many Macs have been sent back for repairs and warranty work, thus putting developers out of commission, I come up with a grand total of 3! And that’s for nearly 50 laptops in active duty, of which approximately 30 are macs. To my knowledge, virtually every PC based laptop but two or three have been returned for repair work. That is HUGE drain on our productivity. Macs are faster to set up and get working. They are easy to back up and fully restore (and clone, too). I changed out my Mac when I upgraded in under 3 hours total. When I was done, there was no difference other than a boost in speed. You can’t touch that with a PC based system.

Most of the developers coming on board these days want a Linux system, so we hand them macs now. Instead of spending untold hours configuring The display and wireless (the two trickiest items left with Linux installs), and involving me and numerous other developers in their effort to get the hardware to fully function with the OS, the new developer quickly adapts to Mac’s BSD-derived OS and are usually done with major configuring within first couple of days.

Macs are also not so prone to virus attacks nor are they loaded down with a whole bunch of crapware. What’s more, when you install applications, they get added to the Application folder and you can easily add them to the dock. Its rare application indeed that also ties itself into the auto-launch to fire up along with the system’s reboot. So what does this mean? Your system doesn’t constantly degrade in performance just by merely installing software!

While Macs are costing a little more upfront, they are showing very solid ROI over the long-term. As a systems administrator, I spend very little time servicing these machines. I’m not a Mac zealot. There’s plenty about Macs that can be improved, but right now, its got the best of breed status all around and definitely worth having in your company’s hardware portfolio.

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