Windows or Mac?

Windows or Mac?

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I love Microsoft. I know it’s a little geeky to love any tech company (maybe more than a little), but I really do love Microsoft.

Of course, having worked on the Microsoft campus longer than at any other venue in my career, no one who knows me is surprised to hear me extol the virtues of Bill Gate’s pet project. But my appreciation for all things Microsoft (well, most things), goes beyond the friendships formed on campus, or the many valuable technical and career lessons earned there.

I actually really do like the tech.

Easily installable software, copious options for every need, virtually unmatched backward compatibility, and more. Great databases and development tools, complete productivity apps, and, well, you get the picture. And while I’m not into games at all, I’m told by those who are, that Microsoft does nicely there, too.

New opportunities with the same favorite tools

In recent years, my professional adventures have been pulling me away from the Microsoft universe, and into Open Source. Specifically, WordPress. But even here, Microsoft has been of continued help and interest to me. Visual Studio Code is one of the very best code editors available (free), and it does a wonderful job with WordPress (and PHP in general).

But my favorite Microsoft product remains Windows, both on the desktop and on the server.

For now, so that I can continue with this love fest unabated, I’m going to pretend that Windows Phone doesn’t actually exist. Yes, I’m an iPhone user.

Same favorite tools, but the focus is narrowing

In recent years, and somewhat begrudgingly, I have in fact been spending less time with Windows Server than I did back in the day. While WordPress can indeed run on a Windows box, there really isn’t much of a need to do so in most cases. By default, WordPress runs on Linux. And WordPress is easy to host, at virtually any scale. Given the wide range of Linux hosts that can handle WordPress, from suspiciously affordable shared hosts to top of the line managed hosts, I really don’t have much use for Windows Server these days.

So, most of my time with Microsoft tools, at least since taking up residence in my now-not-so-new WordPress digs, has been at my desktop Windows OS (which is actually running on a laptop). And I do love my Microsoft desktop. Or laptop. You get the picture.

Same favorite tools challenged anew

During the last few years, often to my great surprise, I have found myself defending my choice of Windows over Mac as the smart alternative, rather than over Linux, as was the case just a few years ago (usually Ubuntu). But macOS has become the development platform of choice for many practitioners in many Open Source neighborhoods, and the WordPress community is no exception.

Still, despite the oft stated preference for Mac, even by some of my favorite WordPress icons, my Windows environment remains a proven and capable platform.

Oh, Windows, how do I love thee; let me count the ways:

  1. Computers and peripherals to satisfy every requirement. There are so many models (and manufacturers) in the Windows universe. Far more than in the Apple world. Small machines that do only what you need your tech addicted child to be able to do, giant power houses from which to run your business, and all manner of middle-of-the-road compromise imaginable. Add to this, the massive array of peripherals with which to augment your computer, or even build one from scratch, and you have a much more complete hardware experience in the Windows universe. The combination of having so many manufacturers building for Windows and the mandate to build in as many form factors as possible, results in a truly impressive selection of offerings in terms of budget. In the Windows universe, your budget will rarely be a barrier to entry. This is not necessarily the case in the Apple world.
  2. Windows provides more complete touch capabilities than Mac does. And on a wider variety of computer types. When we think “touch”, the temptation to compare phone platforms arises, but as I stipulated earlier, I’m pretending here that Windows Phone is not a thing. And this is not only because I’m an iPhone user. The bottom line here is that touch tech on the desktop is better under Windows.
  3. Windows offers a wider variety of biometric login options. I’ll admit that this one has never been much of an issue for me. I’m old school. But it is nevertheless interesting that there is such a difference here.
  4. Windows makes initial access to newly deployed hardware easier. Or at least less likely to hit a frustrating wall. Ever try to get a new Mac going when macOS wants to authorize access to cloud services, but conditions this authorization upon access to a device you once had but has since gone the way of the Dodo? There are solutions, of course, but Apple could make this easier. And in general, even beyond this particular issue, I have often found that Microsoft does a better job with making their tech accessible to users, especially when users get stuck.
  5. There are far more options for software solutions under Windows. As the Windows market is so much larger than the Apple alternative, this is hardly surprising. Virtually every kind of software will have more candidates for you to consider under Windows than with Apple. Whether you need productivity apps, art, games, development tools, etc, virtually any category has more worthwhile contenders in the Windows camp.
  6. The software setup experience tends to be more consistent and simpler on Windows. Most mainstream packages are installed with self-guiding setup routines that are hard to get wrong. Mac, on the other hand, makes software available in several distinctly different forms, and the overall experience is often less streamlined than it is on Windows.
  7. The Windows Taskbar is superior to the Mac Dock. The Windows Taskbar is a veritable command center for accessing just about anything in the Windows environment, but Mac has chosen to separate these powers between the Dock (at the bottom of the screen by default) and the Menu Bar (normally at the tip of the screen). This separation can be disorienting to some, and makes both the Dock and the Menu Bar feel incomplete.
  8. Windows is backed by a truly massive community. Given the far larger size of the Windows market share, it will come as no surprise that Windows sports a much larger user community than Mac. And when you need help with something new you’ve not seen before (or something old that just won’t leave you alone), this community will feel like a true godsend.

Plus, a few work-related triggers for my love of Windows:

  1. Most of the places at which I’ve worked have been Windows shops. This means that I’m more comfortable on Windows. I have a harder time getting into trouble on Windows, and an easier time getting out of trouble once the inevitable finally happens.
  2. All my favorite development tools run on Windows. Some also run on Mac. But all the tools I use for software or web development are tools that I met while deeply steeped in a Microsoft-related adventure.
  3. Professional community. Yes, I know I already mentioned community above, but it bears repetition, because now I’m listing work-related reasons for my comfort with Windows. And my connection to the community while working is different from my affinity for the community while playing. It’s one thing to be happy there is a strong community to help with this nuisance or that, but it’s altogether a different thing when community actually helps you do well at your job. Helps you earn.

As I’ve said, I’m very comfortable with Windows. But my trusty Windows box is aging, so it’s time for a new computer.

Therefore, I just got my first Mac.

Not a typo

That’s right, I finally got my first Mac.

Yes, I still believe that the comparison I made above is true and relevant. But these days, I’m simply reaching different conclusions:

  1. Computers and peripherals to satisfy every requirement. I can now say this about Mac as well as Windows, even if only because the variety of needs I have to satisfy has narrowed. I’m much less interested in wasting time on the computer than I used to be. I use my computer for work, and that’s just about it. True, I cannot modify my Mac as extensively as I could modify my Windows box, but is that necessarily a problem? There is definitely such a thing as too much choice. Options can be dizzying. The correct way to look at the difference between Mac and Windows in this sense, I am finally starting to see, is this: Mac offers fewer options because fewer options are needed. Apple has made a strong commitment to quality and elegance, rather than to endless experimentation. Similarly, I will not be building Macs from scratch in the foreseeable future. But this is not a problem either, as I don’t want to build my own systems anymore. I’m done. I just want my rig to work. I want to work well. I want it to scream. And when I do need to plug something in (like the microphone I’m planning to get in the next month or so), it should be a simple matter of attaching by USB. No cards, no builds, no silicon surgery. Admittedly, when all is said and done, Apple still costs more. It just does. But if the machine is being used primarily for work, the heavier budget seems easier to justify, especially if I’m not expecting it to continue to grow endlessly with every new hardware fad.
  2. Windows provides more complete touch capabilities than Mac does. This one does still interest me, but less than I pretended above. I have a confession to make: I really don’t like it when people touch my screen. My outgoing windows box has a touch screen and I never use it. And when folks sit with me for some reason and reach for the screen, I have to restrain myself. I don’t want my own finger prints on my screen, so why would I wont yours? As long as my phone is touchable, I’m happy.
  3. Windows offers a wider variety of biometric login options. As admitted above, this one has never been much of an issue for me. I’m old school.
  4. Windows makes initial access to newly deployed hardware easier. This, it turns out, is much less of an issue than I had realized. Yes, getting my new Mac going when macOS wanted to authorize access to cloud services, but conditioned this authorization upon access to my long gone iPhone 4, was indeed frustrating. And weird. But, of course, there are solutions. And, yes, Apple could make this easier. And they should. But the rest of the startup process was truly beautiful. Now, I don’t know whether this is due to an improving process on the Mac, or just that I was unlucky in the past (or was witnessing the poor luck of others). Whatever the reason for my better-than-expected experience here, I have to share that with the exception of the cloud access thing, setting up my new Mac was indeed far easier (and faster) than any Windows machine I have ever deployed.
  5. There are far more options for software solutions under Windows. The same feelings I have about excess options in hardware apply to software: sometimes options are distractions. And unless you are particularly good at identifying which are strong and which are straw, some of these options will eventually cost you. All I need is best-of-breed options for each of my mandates, and the rest, even if hiding a little known best, is no longer of any concern to me. I don’t feel any need to know about every package, or to be running the one that has been proven to survive some obscure Klingon test of strength. I just need to get my work done, and done well.
  6. The software setup experience tends to be more consistent and simpler on Windows. This remains a strange one to me. There is nothing I can say (yet) to defend the weird way of the Mac in this regard. I’m even running into seasoned professionals with much more Mac experience than I will earn this year, who are clearly confused by some aspects of software setup (especially when it comes to what they need to keep, and what is safe to remove). I researched the topic enough to be clear on what I need to do (and how to keep my machine clean), and that’s where I’m leaving it. My friends back at Microsoft have a better software setup experience than I do now. I’m OK with that.
  7. The Windows Taskbar is superior to the Mac Dock. Well, I’m not so sure I agree with this one anymore. It certainly is more complete (out of the box). But is that necessarily better? Currently, as I am still in the process of transitioning from Windows to Mac, I find myself touching both every day. Yes, the Windows Taskbar is indeed more complete than the Mac Dock. But there is a minimalist aspect to the Mac Doc that is actually growing on me now. And as I autohide the Dock, but have the Menu Bar open at all times (the control doohickey at the top of the screen), the experience actually feels more streamlined than I expected.
  8. Windows is backed by a truly massive community. I’ve found that the Mac community is quite extensive as well. And while there is less activity overall in the Mac community than the Windows community (due to difference in size), thus far, I have yet to be blocked in any way due to lack of community support. So maybe the massiveness of the community is akin somewhat to the greater range of options in hardware and software: more is not necessarily better, especially if we can get everything we need done with what we have.
  9. Most of the places at which I’ve worked have been Windows shops. True, but now I’m at a Mac shop. The past doesn’t seem to mean much in this case.
  10. All my favorite development tools run on Windows. Here is another of the first considerations to push me away from Windows: My new favorite tools simply work more elegantly on Mac. Most of the web development tools I use actually run on both Windows and Mac, but because of a small number of critical differences, the process on Windows has become problematic for me. Enter the Mac.
  11. Professional community. Yes, I know I already mentioned community above, more than once in fact, but it bears repetition (again), because there is a work related wrinkle here that has become critical: While I have not needed much community support for my Mac (the machine itself, or even the OS), I have indeed needed support for some of the aforementioned web development tools and techniques. And since most of the folks offering support are clearly working on the Mac, their advice and guidance is most useful to me while following along on my own Mac. In other words, my new Mac adventure includes powerful community experiences that extend well beyond Mac issues.

End list. For now.

I feel a little weird at the moment. I’m typing these words into my trusty WordPress editor on a my shiny new Mac. My aging, overheating, underperforming Windows box is sitting to my right. With a fan pointed at it, lest it grow so hot as to tempt me to cook an egg on it (I love eggs).

But I’m getting comfortable with this change. It’s exciting. I’m sure I’ll have more to share about my unfolding Mac adventures in the future. But for now, it’s time to pull out that fancy screen wiping cloth that came with my Mac, and attend to my fancy new 5K display. I splashed some food on it earlier. It wasn’t egg, so it should come off easily.

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