Things we like about the Mac

Things we like about the Mac

As you may have gleaned from other posts we do a lot of development using Macs, specifically MacBooks and iMacs. We might develop products that run on Linux, Windows or Solaris but that doesn't stop us using our Macs to actually do the work!

So why Macs?  Well, we had a laptop in a while back with Vista on it and it was universally loathed.  Everything we tried to do on it, being 'power users', was either blocked, slow or just downright cumbersome.  Frequent lock ups and crashes just drove us mad.  As for waking from sleep, it was more like waking the dead!  We'd been tempted to 'switch' for a while and having this laptop just made the decision for us.

Reasons we like the Mac include :

The Operating System, Mac OS X, 'just works' and doesn't get in the way and slow things down.  An O/S, more than any other aspect of the computer, is a tool and we believe that you should hardly know that it is there as it seamlessly let's you go about your job. 

Mac OS

Useful features in the 'Finder' (the Mac OS X equivalent to Windows Explorer) such as 'Quick Look' and 'Cover Flow' really help us find the file we're looking for, particularly office-type documents, without needing to open up the app itself.  From a personal perspective, I love the way I can create commonly used shortcuts in the sidebar that appear everywhere including Open and Save dialogs.  This is a real time saver when working on specific projects and needing frequent access to the folder.

Being developers of course the fact that Mac OS is built on Unix just rocks.  Has Windows got 'head' and 'tail' yet?!  That's just laughable that if I have 2 gb text file I want to look at the last line of I need to open the whole thing in Windows.  Plus of course the full complement of tools including 'vi', 'sed', 'tr' etc just make us so productive.

Time Machine is also a big boon.  We all know we should do more backups, in fact we frequently preach to friends and family about it, yet are probably the worst culprits!  Time Machine makes it so painless to not only backup, but restore as well.  All built in, and with plenty of USB drives out there for £50 a dirt cheap solution too.

Time Machine

Of course we'd be naive to think that we can leave Windows behind entirely, if only for testing and supporting clients.  Support for the 'Windows World' is good and the following add-ons make it a pleasure :

We do a lot of communicating using Skype.  Of course Skype exists for Mac, and I can even use my SkypePhone too!  (click here for the VoIP Driver I used).

We all spend quite a bit of time using 'office' products to create documents and spreadsheets. You can useMicrosoft Office and get 100% (or near enough!) compatibility with your Windows colleagues but there are other choices.  iWork '08 is great (we particularly like Numbers) and it's very affordable too.  There's also NeoOffice, a Mac OS port of Open Office that also works well.  We use iWork and NeoOffice and haven't found anything we can't open yet.

We do a lot of work with Oracle and the Mac has pretty good support from Oracle too.  SQL Developer is a free download and works as well as it's Windows cousin.  There's also the Instant Client so we now have full access to 'sqlplus' too.  Maybe we'll even get a version of the database one day as well. ;-)

SQL Developer

Professional development tools such as Zend Studio meant we flawlessly transferred our PHP development effort across with zero downtime, and supporting Open Source products such as uDig and pgAdmin have meant our GIS and PostgreSQL work was uninterrupted also.

Also, from a physical point of view the MacBook is great.  It's small, light and very well built.  The track-pad works really well and battery life is fantastic.  Doing standard tasks such as browsing, ssh, SQL access etc and it will last for about 5 hours.  The magnetic lid is a surprisingly pleasant change from fiddly catches, and plugging in an external monitor works flawlessly and gives you a a wonderful wide desktop; great for development!

Plus there's some of the other 'fun' stuff such as Google Earth and Real Player too, so it really is a home from home.

And finally, of course, are the little touches that just make a Mac, well, a Mac!  Such things as right-clicking on a piece of text ad choosing 'Search in Google', the way Mail automatically picks out addresses and let's me show them in Google Maps and all the great things in Mac OS such as iPhoto, iTunes and others.

So, if you're thinking about the 'switch', then don't be afraid, go for it!  You'll be glad you did.


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