Here’s how I switched to Macintosh for my primary development environment. (I still use Windows for debugging and Outlook/Exchange).
After transitioning from Neptune Web early this year, and then starting DALSASS.mobi, I went to visit my old boss, Matt Krom, from NFIC, then later, Banta Integrated Media (now R.R. Donnelly). Ah, my first real job. Age 24, I started as a web developer in 1997 at the America Twine building in Cambridge, just a block or two from CIC, where I am now. The pre-Google search engine, Northern Light, was in the same building. We were on lunker Solaris 8 workstations back then, which I found clunky.
In 1998, after seeing a coworker’s setup, which had better software like Dreamweaver, I had switched to Windows NT, which felt really slick compared to Solaris. Others, like Matt, started going in the Mac direction. Yet, I had stayed on the Windows train longer than just about anyone else.
In 2014, had just bought a sweet Dell Latitude 6430u laptop and was running Windows 7. At CIC I noticed that everyone was on a Mac. Linux was a distant second. There were only a few people were on Windows – and very few were developers.
Sometimes you do something for so long, you just never consider switching until something big changes your perspective. For example, when you start a new business, all your assumptions suddenly change. That’s looking back. But I’m writing this post because I think my switch reveals underlying industry trends, which might help predict the future.
Some of you will point out that there are a ton of options out there, like VirtualBox to boot multiple operating systems. This is great for testing. But as a developer, I want a single, familiar, comfortable environment where I work every day. After all, there are only so many different keystrokes a person can remember. (For me, I hate to have keystrokes commands cluttering up my head unless I use them every day. Life is a river, man.)
I’ve always had a foot in the Mac/Apple door. My wife is a graphic designer and a Mac person. During my career, I would frequently borrow her iPhone for Photoshop, fonts. When I started app development in 2009, I borrowed it for testing my mobile apps and for XCode (the IOS development software, which is only available on a Mac). Having to borrow her computer so often started to annoy us.
I stuck with Windows because of:
1. Good integration with “business” tools, specifically Exchange, but also MS Word.
2. We were loyal Dell customers which just went hand-in-hand with Windows PCs.
3. Lower cost for the horsepower.
4. Ubiquity among corporate clients at Neptune. Trust me. If you get a client who views sites on IE browsers first, you’ll be working on Windows first.
5. A perception of the Apple world as cultish and elite.
Here’s why I finally switched.
1. Perception of lower quality tools. Why not have the best tools? The cost difference for a small company is less important than that. It’s not like I have to upgrade an entire enterprise.
2. The nail in the coffin. App development. DALSASS.mobi develops apps for both IOS and Android, using both native and HTML5 components. Xcode doesn’t run on Windows. Android Studio runs well on a both.
3. No more IE. Chrome and Firefox have surpassed IE almost completely – even in corporate environments.
4. Development style changes. My development has become more and more distributed over the past few years. Instead of using CVS and developing on a common server, I started using Git with a local version of the entire development site on my laptop. I started doing automatic deployment to the cloud. And I was deploying to Linux, so why not have something which resembled production more closely in development? File path differences between *NIX-based systems and PCs were starting to drive me nuts.
5. Changes in corporate IT. The association between the corporate world and Windows has lessened in the past few years.
6. Web based calendaring and email. Gmail and other web and mobile email/calendar solutions becoming more accepted in companies.
7. Graphic design Zen. I’m not a graphic designer, but there were things I knew were missing. For example (I found this out after the switch), you can’t easily test high definition graphics without a high definition display. (Though to be fair, high resolution is now available for some PC laptops and monitors).
So I made the switch and got a Mac Book Pro 15″.
It’s been simple transition because I was on Cygwin or on a browser so much anyway. As expected, the overall quality of the Mac experience is much higher. Things just work here.
I still want my email stored locally, for privacy and so I can read it offline. So, I haven’t switched to Gmail. I am still on Exchange/Outlook and go back to my PC for that.
Now I don’t have to borrow a Mac anymore. My wife loves that!