zerosleeps

Since 2010

Windows software

Monday 8 April 2019

Third and last post for today, and this is where I’ll become unstuck - software.

I rarely think twice about spending money on software if I think it’s going to be useful, personally or professionally. My impression is that in general, it’s easier to find quality software for macOS than it is for Windows. I’d love to be proved wrong, but there sure seems to be a lot of junk out there for Windows, while macOS has a bunch of awesome indy developers.

I think the best way of tackling this piece of the puzzle is to have a software audit:

Deal breaker

For better or worse I either can’t give some of the things in this section up (for professional reasons), or I’m not prepared to:

  • 1Password
  • Backblaze
  • Dropbox
  • Firefox
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Office
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • Snagit
  • Sublime Text
  • SuperDuper!
  • Things
  • Time Machine
  • Tower
  • VMWare Fusion

Most of these require no further discussion and/or already have Windows counterparts. There are a couple worth a mention though:

I’ve spent a lot of money on VMWare Fusion over the years, mainly so I can run Windows on my Mac. That particular use case would obviously go away if I was running Windows natively, but I’d still have a need to spin up sandboxed Windows and Linux machines. VirtualBox perhaps?

SuperDuper! (I hate the exclamation mark, but that’s it’s name) and Time Machine are both Mac-only drive cloning and continuous backup solutions. I take backups seriously, so I’ll need to find out more about alternatives to those.

Python plays pretty well on Windows, but trying to get Ruby working natively is something I’ve tried once-or-twice and it’s not pretty. Windows Subsystem for Linux? Or just virtual Linux machines as mentioned above? I think I’d really miss macOS’s Unix underpinnings. I’ll think more about that.

One last item: Cultured Code’s Things. I’ll be stunned if I’ll be able to find something similar for Windows with such perfect iOS integration. Still, it’s only a todo list - I guess it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Sure would be nice

  • Banktivity
  • iStat Menus
  • KeepingYouAwake
  • Photos
  • Pixelmator

Windows has a tonne of utility apps like iStat Menus and KeepingYouAwake, so not going to dwell on those for too long.

Banktivity? Now I’m writing this out I’m not sure why this hasn’t made my “deal breaker” list, but Things did. I reckon Banktivity would be much easier to replace than Things though - heck I could just use a spreadsheet really. For further investigation.

Apple’s Photos. I don’t know what Windows people use to organise their photos. And I would hate to lose all my photo titles/descriptions.

Pixelmator. Awesome software, but I don’t use it enough to cry about losing it.

Wrapping up

So that leaves me with a few things to ponder and a few things to research. I feel very differently about this now than I did when I started typing this post. Have I gotten myself locked into an ecosystem that I can’t get out of? Is it worth putting up with broken hardware to use the software I rely on? Is macOS’s Unix underpinnings something I can live without? Would a switch to Windows just move my problems?

I need to think about some of this.

Switch to Windows?

Monday 8 April 2019

There are a few things to consider in this disappointing saga.

Now, I already use Windows daily and Windows 10 is fine. Granted I run it in a virtual machine, so whenever it bugs me I can just close it. And running virtually probably eliminates a whole bunch of hardware driver issues that I hear are still a thing in the Windows world.

While we’re here, let it be said that Linux ain’t gonna cut it. I use a few modern desktop Linux distributions fairly regularly in virtual machines and the reliability and experience just isn’t where it needs to be for me. Hell yeah for servers, but not for desktop computing.

All that aside let’s see what else I’d need to consider.

Well, it has to be a laptop. I travel for work, and I don’t want to maintain and synchronise a portable and a desktop. Been there, tried that, and it’s not happening. So a portable which will be quite happy to be docked for 70% for the time.

Also, I have a small collection of peripheral hardware. Mice and keyboards won’t be any trouble. I’ve got an external monitor which will work with anything. But they’re all hooked up to a stupidly expensive ThunderBolt 3 hub which I suspect will not work particularly well with anything that’s not a Mac. That could be an issue, as my partner and I will still be using the same docked setup at home. I’ll revisit that, but in theory any decent not-designed-for-Apple ThunderBolt (or USB Type-C) dock/hub should work, it just means more $$$.

But here’s where things finally get interesting: there are a lot of really great looking PC laptops out there. I’ve read gushing reviews about Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon and Dell’s XPS range. Microsoft’s Surface line-up looks nice and presumably plays really nicely with Windows. Every day I see a review of a new laptop which packs the latest hardware, tiny screen bezels, nice keyboards, and they’re all cheaper than Apple’s outdated offerings. And none of them have that stupid fucking Touch Bar.

13 inches is a nice size to travel with, and I’m not looking for something much bigger than that. I’m also not particularly bothered about internals beyond about 512GB of solid-state storage and at least 16GB RAM. Graphics could be anything (but want a high resolution display), and I don’t do anything that would tax any modern CPU. As mentioned above ThunderBolt/USB Type-C is essential - we spent a few bucks a while back replacing USB cables and it’s amazing to be able to plug anything into anything without a second thought.

And I’d like something a bit more… utilitarian than I’m used to. I desperately miss status lights. Is the charger turned on? Is the computer asleep or powered off? Useful features like that.

That’s all I can think of to say about hardware at the moment. In some ways being in the Apple ecosystem can be nice as there aren’t many decisions to make, but as I’m finding out it can also lead to nasty lock-in. I truly am jealous of the bewildering array of PC laptops out there.

I’m saving the tricky part for last: software.

MacBook Pro keyboard

Monday 8 April 2019

It started in August 2004 when I bought my first Apple product - a green iPod mini. Boy was it somethin' special. Things spiralled somewhat from there. I have since purchased - with my own money - two Mac minis, two iMacs, at least three MacBook Pros, an iPod nano, an iPod touch, a Thunderbolt Display, half-a-dozen different iPhones, several keyboards, mice, and trackpads, and to hammer home a point, I even bought the Apple Battery Charger. Yes, that was a thing.

I’ve also owned an iBook G4, a PowerBook G4, an iPad, and a couple of Apple TVs. Oh and I used a noisy Power Mac G5 for a while at work back in the mid-2000’s.

Plus software, dongles, AppleCare, iTunes purchases.

And I’ve converted friends and family.

Well, you get the picture.

But I am pissed at Apple right now, and I’m feeling a bit dumb for letting myself becoming such a locked-in fanboi. To nobody’s shock, it’s the current MacBook Pro keyboard that may well prove to be a tipping point for me. I’ve used two of the fourth generation models as my daily drivers now - a 13-inch 2016 model, and the current 2018 13-inch model. The 2016 is still being used daily by my partner and it’s just started developing keyboard issues. The 2018 model, which I use to earn my living, has already had it’s keyboard replaced once and the “E” key on the replacement has just started to act up.

Now getting worked up about a few dodgy keys over the space of 15 years might seem a bit dramatic, but Apple have been making keyboards for a really long time. And the thing is, the keyboard I’m typing this on right now is Apple’s second or third attempt at fixing this style of keyboard. There’s absolutely no way Apple engineers didn’t know this keyboard was junk when they launched it over two years ago, yet they’re still delivering it to their pro customers with fixed-not-fixed solutions.

As a self-employed software developer I can’t afford to be without my computer for a few days while Apple replace a dud keyboard with another dud keyboard (again), so the whole experience has got me wondering:

Could I switch to Windows…?