Monday, January 18, 2021

Switching to Windows and Linux

Don Melton (tweet):

Most of you probably don’t know this but a little over five years ago I built my own gaming PC.


While I certainly gamed my ass off with that homemade machine for awhile, it didn’t really become an essential device for me until I started using it to experiment with hardware video encoders.


Eventually, it became a pain in the ass to keep switching back and forth between my iMac and the Windows PC. So I started browsing the Web, reading and writing email, collaborating in Slack, Discord and Skype, all within Windows.

Orta Therox (tweet):

It’s somewhat nebulous, but during the announcements of Apple’s new macOS 11 this year, I felt like a line had been crossed in my mind: The Mac isn’t really the right OS for me anymore.


The bit that’s tricky for me is that I don’t use a phone, and I want my computer to be more like a truck than a car.


The move towards a more app-store focused, sandboxed OS means that whole genres of apps aren’t possible anymore. I’m particularly sad about what happened to Safari extensions over the last few years. I don’t want to put my time into a platform where the people starting today have a smaller domain than I did when I started.


The Mac software ecosystem was like a street of local shops run by people in the community, and then post-iPhone all the big shops moved in because they just wanted to make sure they were represented in the area. Modern desktop environments now feel quite same-y, but this also trivialized OS switching costs.


Update (2021-01-19): Mark Frauenfelder (via Chuan):

I’ve been happily using Macs ever since. But a little over a month ago, a representative for Gateway computers asked me if I’d like to try one of its new laptops. I was planning to say no thank you, but my 17-year-old daughter convinced me to give it a try. She’s a gamer and programmer and switched from a Mac to a Windows machine when she was 14 or 15. She insisted I was giving Windows short shrift. So I emailed the representative and said OK. A few days later, I received a Creator Series 15.6" Notebook (Model: GWTN156-2).

The first thing I noticed was the full-size keyboard with a numerical keypad. Mac laptops don’t come with them.


I think I’m going to keep using Windows from now on. I do feel weird about it; it feels like switching political parties. I’ve been a loyal Mac user for almost 20 years. But in that time span, Windows has evolved into an excellent operating system. This, and the fact that Windows computers are much less expensive than Apple computers, is enough to put me in the Windows camp.

Update (2021-02-05): Lukas Mathis:

Around 2015, I started to realize that I was no longer part of Apple’s target audience. I’ve since found that Windows, and the devices available on the Windows side, from gaming laptops to convertibles to custom-built PCs, are just a better match for my requirements.

At this point, I have only one piece of Apple hardware still in active use: a 17-inch MacBook Pro that runs Coda and EagleFiler.

Since a lot of people seem to be making the switch now, maybe it’s helpful to talk about some things I’m doing to make Windows more amenable to my Mac habits.

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My first Mac was a Dual G5, what a machine! (and OS).

In 2019 my 2013 MBP started giving disk errors when checked, after running the disk utility and saying everything was OK after a reboot the errors persisted (every time I did that), that send me in panic mode: what to do? spend thousands of dollars on a new machine with stupid keyboard issues?

I was really frustrated with the 16Gb RAM limit, 512Gb SSD was not enough to keep a copy of my pictures and work at the same time, to hot, slow UI, etc + all the reports of keyboard I just went to a local store, bought a fantastic case (Fractal Design R6), an AMD CPU, 16Gb, a small SSD and a decent GPU (nothing fancy) just to see how was it in 2019 (before de G5 I used Windows and Linux for many, many years).

You know what? I am fine, it is fast and now I have all the RAM I need (48Gb), multiple disks with TBs of space, super fast SSDs, etc. Is the OS (Windows/Linux) as nice as MacOS? No it isn't but after ditching and hating Windows for many years is remarkable how stable it is from the old days, Hyper-V, Windows Sandbox, GPU drivers, etc. everything just works.


I forgot to add: I have another MBP, a 2009 model with an upgraded hard disk. Guess what? Still in use at home, only the trackpad is dead, that machine keeps working and working with several usb ports and Magsafe.

iPads and iPhones at home but now when I think about a desktop I can't convince myself to move back to a MacOS desktop. Yes is nice the integrated experience but now I ask myself what am I really getting for that significant price increase (vs my PC), very limited upgradability (if any) and very high repair costs?

Macs are a joke

Once you buy a Mac, you have to buy additional software and accessories to make it as usable as Windows. Finder’s UX is garbage. I’m looking forward to switching.

I feel like the writing has been on the macOS wall for some time now. I stuck around for so long due to inertia as well cognitive and financial investments in the software I was using.

But finally, after 16 years on the Mac, I switched to Windows last summer, and have been on it ever since. A sampling of the reasons why:

- Ongoing and increasing frustrations with OS bugs (text rendering, PDF rendering, can't trust basic Finder functionality, egregious data loss bugs that persist for long periods of time)
- Apple haven't shipped a new Mac that fit my needs in a decade
- Increasing security hoops without much benefit (Gatekeeper/sandbox et al always seem to have circumventions, meanwhile honest devs need to play catchup all the time)
- Large hardware markups and the impending removal of a hackintosh escape hatch (my hackentoshes have been more stable than my genuine Macs, in addition to being much cheaper)
- Apple's ongoing UI/UX deterioration, replacing well-informed practices with interfaces that look good in marketing material but miss the mark in use.
- Apple's ongoing disdain for quality third party apps, shaping the market to make it more difficult for good software to thrive on their platforms
- Increasing difficulty around creating bootable backups
- Failure of internal storage renders ARM Macs inoperable

It's sad to see, but over the past 8 years, Apple have only taken away from their desktop OS and given very little in return. They've removed nearly every justification for their markup. Even if a Mac were priced same as a Windows PC for the same hardware, at this point I would... still choose Windows because of the extra versatility and stability (!?) it offers.

Sure, some things are worse with Windows, but there are also things that are better. Day to day, I run into fewer aggravating bugs in Windows 10 than I did on Mojave. Also, I get to use hardware that's way more appropriate for my needs, gain access to a world of cool indie PC games, and save a massive amount of money in the process.

Linux has come a long way, too. For 'power users', it may even be less hassle than macOS for some use cases, once the initial research and setup is complete. I would be using it myself if I didn't need some Mac/Windows-only software and hardware.

@remmah: Mac was just under 14% of Apple sales in their last reported quarter, so it's not the dominant part of the company. It's been visible for some time that "Make macOS more like iOS" was a default behavior for Apple, probably due to the number of managers working in the Mac divisions that cut their teeth on iOS.

Back in olden times, the main driver for selecting a platform was the available applications. Sure, that's an oversimplification, and a lot more factors into it today than before, but it's still a major issue.

As more and more apps get built using Electron and similar multi-platform technologies, and as the Mac experience continues to be degraded by Apple's ad hoc abandonment of its own longstanding interface patterns (Big Sur, I'm looking at you!), there is less and less reason to stay with the Mac, even with the impressive M1 hardware. Aside from BBEdit and GraphicConverter, there are few "true Mac" programs in my Applications folder that I use routinely for important tasks.

I would miss those two programs in particular, but after loving the Mac since I first laid hands on a 128k machine, I am doubtful that a Mac will be my main machine two years from now.

I still hope that one day Apple will turn around and make at least some machines that many people want and the same with macOS.
For a while we see small glimpses like that, but it's still a distant star.

Last year many Linux distros are on a roll, things are getting noticeably better really fast now. Rapid advances of web apps definitely play a roll here too.

Once you buy a Mac, you have to buy additional software and accessories to make it as usable as Windows. Finder’s UX is garbage. I’m looking forward to switching.

I have to install plenty of stuff to make Windows “usable”, ranging from things like to Quick Look.

I don’t see that as a problem no matter the platform. Out-of-the-box experience matters, but so does customizability. If anything, the criticism here should be that some areas of macOS are increasingly hard for third parties to enhance, not that you have to do it.

This was the killer quote from Mr. Therox:

"I don’t want to put my time into a platform where the people starting today have a smaller domain than I did when I started."

Don't switch to Windows. It's totally crammed with spyware and telemetry these days, worse than any other OS. I've been slowly migrating to linux and FreeBSD. They have their downsides of course, but are better than ever.

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