Over the past week I’ve been moving my primary development machine from a Macbook Pro to a Surface Book. I will write up some of the detail of actually switching, however this post is essentially because I keep answering the same questions over and over again on Twitter. Therefore here it is for those who seem to be far more interested in what I’m typing on than I am. The answers to the questions and “statements” from Twitter.
What prompted the move?
Apple hardware, and being tired of being locked to it. The breaking point was the Touchbar Macbook Pro. I’ve had it just over a year, it has caused me to need to borrow a computer just before walking on stage to present twice. It has a battery life of 2 hours. The keyboard stops working when it gets warm. The fact that these issues are widespread, and it isn’t just me with a lemon, is concerning. If I were to replace it, would I just end up with the same problems? There is no choice when you run MacOS and need a portable, Pro-level machine.
Which Windows machine do you have?
A Surface Book 2. It has decent battery life, a lovely keyboard, and seems very stable. However the particular hardware isn’t what I’m switching for – in fact the opposite. I’m switching so I don’t need to have particular hardware.
Let me explain hardware to you.
No need. I built my own desktops for years. I’m a little out of date in terms of which components I’d pick if I were to do so now, but I know a reasonable amount about hardware. Enough to make my own decisions as to when stopping using a particular brand of hardware is a good idea. I am pretty sure that there would be a lot more people dropping Apple hardware if they had the option to run MacOS elsewhere. And yes, I do know about the “Hackintosh”, I’m trying to get more stability, not less!
Yes it does. I’m a decent Linux sysadmin, I also ran Linux on the desktop as my main computer for years. I would have loved for Desktop Linux to become a real competitor, and for major tools to become available for it, but that hasn’t happened. I travel for 50% of the year so I need one portable computer that is powerful enough to do all of the things I want to do. It needs to run MS Office, Adobe products and either Keynote or PowerPoint. It also needs to run VMs and Docker and allow me to develop (in PHP) and to run the various tools I use for the different things I do. I promise you I am aware of all of the alternatives to MacOS and Windows only tools. I ran Desktop Linux for years. However, I don’t want to be battling with software to do my job, and especially not when I’m on the road and don’t have easy access to another computer.
As it happens I use Linux every day, and Windows now has the WSL and I can run Linux right there on my Windows machine. This is actually an improvement over MacOS, things that I would typically need to run inside a Docker container, I can run in bash on Ubuntu without needing Docker.
Keynote or PowerPoint, why not use an HTML slides solution?
I keep trying these things, but I go to a lot of conferences and I see a lot of people present, and I rarely see anyone battling to get Keynote or PowerPoint to work on stage. I consistently see people presenting from their HTML solution and needing to show all their browser chrome or just having huge issues getting the thing to work at all. I love the idea of being able to build my slides in HTML and CSS, however the important thing when I’m presenting is my audience and their experience of my talk. My convenience when creating the talk is nowhere near as important as their experience when watching it. I have yet to see an HTML slide solution that is robust enough for me to feel confident in using it. I’d rather use the solution I know works. You do you. I’ve seen great talks that really use the fact they are being presented on web technologies, but for the sort of presentations I do, Keynote or PowerPoint work well right now.
For those who have emailed to tell me online slide solutions exist, those are great if you are presenting in a room with great wifi. However, conference wifi is often less than great. Why add the additional peril of needing an internet connection to essentially show some pictures?
But Windows … eww
Have you actually used it recently? More seriously I’ve been bemused by some of the reactions to my questions around switching, however I have never been someone who treats the devices I own as anything more than tools that help me do my job. I have no deep affection for Apple, or any other company. If a tool stops being useful, or a particular brand of that tool lets me down, I find an alternative. Windows is a decent alternative, and gets me away from a reliance on what Apple may or may not ship. Even if they ship an update to the MacBook Pro line which doesn’t have the issues of the one I own, I’m happy to have broken the connection between my OS and my hardware.