David Pollack founded Visi.Pro, Cloud Computing for the Rest of Us along with the Visi Language open source project. David founded the Lift Web Framework and continuously contributes to Lift. David has posted 39 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Why I'm Slowly Migrating Away from Apple

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I was a user of NextStep. Not just a user, but a lover. I loved the power of NextStep to create apps. I built Mesa for NextStep… imagine an OS so powerful that a single guy could create a competitive spreadsheet in just 9 months.

NextStep became OS X. I flirted with OS X over the years including a Cube purchased in 2001. But I was not overly impressed with OS X.

In 2011, I bought a MacBook Pro. It was worlds better than any other laptop in terms of hardware quality and features for the price. I came to know OS X and get along with it reasonably well.

I bought an Air later in 2011, then a pile of iPads and finally, a year ago, I bought an iPhone… switching from a Nexus One Android phone to an iPhone.

Apple is not getting better

For me, OS X and iOS have been a mixed bag. Yes, Apple hardware has been generally better.

But Apple software is not always better.

OS X has a slow filesystem. It’s just slow. Even on SSD, it’s slower to delete huge swaths of files (e.g., a rebuild of Lift) than to delete the same files from a Linux box with spinning media.

OS X has lots of problems with memory utilization. 8GB of memory is not enough on a laptop where I’m doing web development.

iOS is weak in terms of mail clients and calendar clients (iOS still doesn’t get time zones correctly which sucks big-time when I travel.)

And Apple seems to be moving towards a sealed device, walled garden approach to software and hardware.

The latest releases of Apple hardware and software have not been inspiring. The iPad 3 is too heavy and warm. But there’s an iPad 4 that’s heavier. Siri is worthless. The maps thing is a huge failure. The latest Retina Macs get the balance just a little wrong (e.g., soldered memory). The latest Java/Oracle spat. No iOS 6 for first generation iPads.

Back to Linux

I recently purchased a new desktop machine. It’s a fast i7 box running Ubuntu.

I am really happy with the way Ubuntu handles software distribution (it’s just a ton easier to load open source onto the Ubuntu box than a Mac.)

Ubuntu has a much faster file system and a lot more choices about file systems and drive management (e.g., LVM).

Most of the software I write is deployed in the cloud on Linux boxes, so it’s better to write on what I’m going to deploy on.

Ubuntu with Unity is an interesting experience.

Android hardware is getting cheaper and better. While I know I’m going to be stranded with any Android device I buy (6 months max for OS upgrades), the same seems to be true of Apple. And the Android devices are cheaper than Apple devices.

So, when it’s time for a new phone, I’ll get an unlocked Nexus and go back to T-Mobile (Verizon service is getting worse and worse… my guess is that they’re moving all their capacity to LTE thus stranding me with wicked slow 3G and increasingly poor audio quality).

Now, if I could only find a laptop that’s as light as an Air, has capacity for 16GB of RAM, and a reasonably high resolution screen (min 1440x900).

Published at DZone with permission of its author, David Pollak. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Mark Unknown replied on Tue, 2012/11/06 - 4:52pm

"Now, if I could only find a laptop that’s as light as an Air, has capacity for 16GB of RAM, and a reasonably high resolution screen (min 1440x900)."

That is why i bought a MB Pro. I got tired of "Windows" laptops that broke/died too quickly. Everything I could get my hands on felt cheaply made. :( 

Tom O'Hare replied on Tue, 2012/11/06 - 8:19pm in response to: Mark Unknown

 Try Alienware - almost as expensive as Apple, pretty ugly (to me) but hyper powerful and really, really reliable (IMHO).

Renato Garcia replied on Wed, 2012/11/07 - 1:19am in response to: Tom O'Hare

The Zenbook family, including the Zenbook UX32VD seem to be a good option too. It has decent hardware support for Ubuntu and good reviews on Amazon. It's not 16GB but you can upgrade up to 10GB. I personally did not get an UX32VD yet because I'm interest in seeing how the new transformer series will do.

mo sy replied on Wed, 2012/11/07 - 3:23am

There's also Project Sputnik from dell if you're willing to wait.  But I seriously hope they beef up the specs, 4 GB of Ram is all I see right now and that simply won't do.

Bob Smith replied on Wed, 2012/11/07 - 8:46am

While I know I’m going to be stranded with any Android device I buy (6 months max for OS upgrades), the same seems to be true of Apple.
What in God's name are you talking about? iOS 6 is supported on the iPhone 3GS for God's sake!

Micael Chiampo replied on Wed, 2012/11/07 - 10:56am

What about installing linux on the MBP?

I use Opensuse on a MacBookPro since jan 2007,

replaced the machine with a new one in jan 2011, works like a charm!

Jason Cone replied on Wed, 2012/11/07 - 12:29pm

I've been following a similar course.

Went from using Linux to a Mac after OS X came out.  Stuck with Apple until earlier this year, when I was shopping for a new desktop.  The direction Apple has been going with Mac OS, Java, et cetera has annoyed me, and for the price of a desktop Mac...well, I ended up buying a super-fast, custom-built workstation and put Fedora on it.  Then I got a Nexus 7, and found that Android had come a long way since I first looked at it.  I still have a Macbook Pro, but it's old (a 2007 model), and when I can no longer run the latest OS on it, I'll replace it.  But I'm not sure that my replacement laptop will be an Apple.  Heck, I'm not sure my next phone will be an iPhone, either...

michael wolfe replied on Wed, 2012/11/07 - 8:05pm

 just curious why do you need 16gig of memory on a laptop? an i7 on the desktop?!  what kind of cloud stuff are you writing? if you are writing software for the cloud on mostly Linux boxes why are you so hung up on cell phones? if you are writing cell phone apps maybe you want the latest device to test your software. Linux is totally open and allows unlimited creativity. if you want closed source along with closed hardware then use Apple products and don't complain.

Cay Horstmann replied on Thu, 2012/11/08 - 10:42pm

I've used both Apple and Lenovo laptops over the years, and I never found that the Apple hardware was all that wonderful. Sure, it looks nice, but for the same price, Lenovo consistently gives you more stuff for less weight.

I've used both Mac OS X and Ubuntu over the years, and I never found that the Apple software was all that wonderful. Sure, it looks nice, but it can be dog slow and overbearing in it's self-righteousness.

I do agree that Unity is, well, interesting, and I ditched it for LXDE (i.e. Lubuntu). It's good that one can make that choice.

Giant Engineer replied on Fri, 2012/11/09 - 11:39am

This is what I want, but alas this creature does not exist.

  • Slackware
  • Quad-Core I7 at 2.6 or better
  • Centered keyboard (Who uses the numberpad? Really, I have not touched it in my entire 20+ year career as a developer.)
  • 3 button touchpad
  • 15+ inch 1920x1200 (or retina display with 1920x1200 emulation)
  • Light as the MacBook Pro
  • MacBook Pro battery life
  • MacBook Pro sized power supply

Giant Engineer replied on Fri, 2012/11/09 - 11:46am in response to: Micael Chiampo

 I am considering getting the new MBP 15 with retina and running Linux in Parallels as my main OS. I would essentially be using OSX as a host operating system and nothing else. If that didn't perform well enough I would install Linux directly, but Apple seems to be going out of there way to make this difficult.

michael wolfe replied on Fri, 2012/11/09 - 2:09pm

 just curious. if one is developing Linux/open source programs and wants an open development  platform then what is the big attraction to the Mac Pro or any Mac based system? i agree with Cay that Lenovo makes great laptops: reliable, not that expensive and runs Linux quite well. what does one need an i7 quadcore on a laptop for? if one needs that power then get a desktop system. also with Linux one can use a variety of Window managers from KDE to LXDE to Openbox (which i use). is it that 'guys just like new powerful toys that are not needed for the task at hand.

Giant Engineer replied on Fri, 2012/11/09 - 4:14pm in response to: michael wolfe

The attraction for me is the long battery life, light weight, high pixel density screen, and a center keyboard/touchpad. I work 45% home, 45% office, and 10% travel and obviously can't take a desktop with me. Currently I have a klunky Dell boat anchor that I hate. It is killing my back. The battery when brand new would last less than 1hr. I can't even get through a meeting without bringing the power supply brick, which is a boat anchor unto itself.

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Wed, 2012/11/14 - 2:52am

I think hardware is a dime a dozen. And surely, if someone wanted to hold a contest between the hardware that a particular Apple product is made up of, and building something from components, or choosing something from a competitor (eg. Samsung), Apple can't possible come out on top!

As for OS. I highly recommend either Ubuntu using the XFCE4 window manager, or just Xubuntu to start with. Unity is awful IMO (what WERE they thinking for crying out loud!).

nico pretorius replied on Wed, 2012/11/14 - 5:24am

 I just moved away from my iphone 3GS to the Samsung Note 2. I enjoyed the iPhone, was my first smart phone and the experience was good all round. When I wanted to upgrade now, I was holding out for either the Nexus 4 or the LG Optimus G (which turned out to be the same), as I was not that impressed with the iPhone 5 specs. The came along the Note 2 and I went for that. Awesome phone and really happy that I made the switch.

Never had any other Apple hardware as I don't like to limit my options that much.

Chris Sperandio replied on Wed, 2012/11/14 - 6:06am

I understand you. I wrote a post about my own experiment with Apple's OS:


Jeff Kesselman replied on Wed, 2012/11/14 - 10:29am

The joke has always been that Apple products must be from outer s[ace, because they work with nothing else on planet earth.  While thats not *quite* true today, it is true that homogenous Apple environments work much better then mixed ones.

But, ironically, thats why many enterprises are moving *towards* Apple today.  The once Microsoft only spaces of IT and its magazines such as Tech Republic are now regularly running articles on how to install and use Apple equipment.  The reason is because Apple environments 'are *much* less costly and difficult to administer then windows eco-systems, especially homogenous ones.  

The price you pay for the more open (I won't call MSFT truly open) environment of Windows is dependance on lots different of individual vendors all getting their acts together to work well together.  And inevitably, they don't, entirely.  I have never seen even a small business based on Windows desktops that didn't need a full time IT babysitter to keep it all working. OTOH I have successfully run small shops as CTO with no IT at all that were pure Apple LANs with Google for mail & calendar.

Linux, frankly, is an even bigger mess in this regard.  Its great for individual hackers but the software and reliability for 24x7 desktop business use really isn't there.

Mike Lynch replied on Wed, 2012/11/14 - 11:35am

yea but.. How do you guys live without adobe on linux?  I can not live w/o fireworks & Illustrator for my daily work, because I am constantly making changes/tweaks to art.   And what about sound editing?   (sure i love audacity and gimp, but I am not going to give up better tools for a better os, yet..)

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Wed, 2012/11/14 - 3:14pm in response to: Jeff Kesselman

"Linux, frankly, is an even bigger mess in this regard.  Its great for individual hackers but the software and reliability for 24x7 desktop business use really isn't there."

I just logged into my Linux VPS. Uptime: 994 days. I've seen longer. I've done a ton of upgrades, installs, uninstall, nothing required any rebooting.
Reliable? Hell yes.

The amount of packages available on Ubuntu through just a few clicks, is amazing. Just about anything that does anything, it exists. Web servers, IDEs, games, proxy servers, databases, backup tools, cloud stuff. 3D high performance games? Not so much. For anything else, there's Ubuntu.

Red Hat as well. Tons and tons of stuff, minus the multimedia stuff out of the box. But there is a yum source for that.

However, I don't know what the hell is wrong with Ubuntu and their Unity interface. Just like how Microsoft thinks everyone should change the way they think.
You can install XFCE4 as an alternative, or just install Xubuntu to begin with.

Linux just for hackers? Noway!

Say you have a relative that likes to browse the internet, but Windows went kaput. When you install Linux they'll be able to do what they always do, it won't break or degrade over time, and you can more easily fix things or make adjustments remotely.

Ellery Mckenzie replied on Wed, 2012/11/14 - 3:30pm

For me the problem with OSX has been its' retarded memory management.  My MBP has almost identical specs to my preceding Ubuntu desktop but can only handle half the workload  (ie: VMs, number of browser sessions, dev environments .. )

Henri Gomez replied on Wed, 2012/11/14 - 3:44pm

I completely agree with your analysis and will move also from OSX/iOS to Linux/Android.

Apple ecosystem is slowly but surely closing on its users and I feel it could became a trap in not so long.

I switched from Windows to OSX because I was more happy with Apple Java 1st class support and Cocoa/OSX integration but with Apple decision to let Oracle manage future of Java on OSX, it became a target like any others, worst with less choices, since I won't be able to use IBM J9 or JRockit on OSX ;'(

My choice will be openSUSE and Cinnamon for software and Sony VAIO S for hardware (good laptop, i7, IPS Full HD, up to 12Gb RAM, battery, ram and hd updatable by me), perfect for Virtualization I use in my daily job.

Java Guy replied on Thu, 2012/11/15 - 6:28am

I think the POV's representative on this thread are currently those of strictly non UI focused developers / engineers only.  However if you are a UI / UX developer / designer doing heavy UI / graphic design etc. then it's not a competition.  Apple MBP retina is much more expensive but it is much better and makes the quality of the work you produce that much better and saves you time (which then pays for itself)

Lenovo good machine if I'm doing server side only no doubt though.

Just something to keep in mind b/c the UI matters...(obviously not always...but certainly for many many things).  I think we are also seeing Google acknowledge the UI matters with their increasing emphasis on design, open sourcing standard .psd's etc within Android...which is a good thing as I'm tired of crappy, non-responsive Android apps.  The UI matters!

Mike Lynch replied on Thu, 2012/11/15 - 7:29am in response to: Java Guy


Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Thu, 2012/11/15 - 10:07am

I disagree with the Apple fan boyism here. Hardware is a dime a dozen. Retina schetina. Samsung has nice screens too, amongst others. And you can develop UIs just fine on PCs and on Linux thank you very much.

Bob Smith replied on Thu, 2012/11/15 - 11:02am

I love how people on forums like this and Slashdot invoke the straw man of "Apple fan boyism" when the vast majority of comments about Apple are at best neutral and at worst sceptical or downright anti-Apple.

Traditionally, Apple has made very well integrated hardware and software, memory usage issues notwithstanding.    OS X has traditionally had polish and stability that Windows and Linux have lacked.   Granted, Lion was less stable than Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion is, at best, a very incremental improvement.  Also, Eclipse runs quite well on my Retina MacBook Pro with 8 Gb of RAM, all of the Java tools/libraries I need work well, and I have a real Unix console to work with, as well as MacPorts.

Given that Apple does make an integrated widget, as opposed to PC makers who sell their own hardware with somebody else's hardware, thus ensuring that neither company takes full responsibility for their product, that Windows 8 and Unity are looking like train wrecks, at least for power users, I'll stick with Apple until they do something hostile to developers, which I haven't seen any evidence of yet.  If that happens, then I'll switch to Linux.

Oh, and Apple handing over Java to Oracle is a very good thing IMHO.  It means I don't have to wait 1-2 years to get Java 8 when it comes out.

Java Guy replied on Thu, 2012/11/15 - 11:59am in response to: Mike P(Okidoky)

I'm sorry you think I'm a fanboy.  I love Android and java dev, but I use the best tool for the job.  

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Thu, 2012/11/15 - 12:32pm in response to: Bob Smith

My experiences are this: I've coded professionally in Java on Linux since the 90's. Things have always been stable. The OS never requires rebooting because of some exception or mystery problem. I have run cheap remote VPS servers using various technologies all using Linux. The uptime was always only limited to the data center doing hardware fixes and upgrades. Uptimes have exceeded 1000 days multiple times. Trust me, it's stable.

I've equiped family members with Linux boxes. They can access the internet with it, and I don't have to worry about babysitting windows issues. Good think I didn't pick a Mac for them ($ issues set aside), read on.

Ok, now the wife. She wants/needs Adobe software. She's on Mac. First Mac book, 32 bit Intel, Apple dropped support shortly after (thanks Apple). Apple couldn't be bothered with 32 bit Java (but that's another story), so that put a stop on me trying out Mac professionally at the time. That Mac required occasional reboots, even after me trying to kill tasks that didn't go away. Wife would complain once in a while that things stopped responding. Also, printer problems.
Wife frustrated, sent me to the store to spend $800 on a Mini Mac 64 bit. It's better, but it *still* requires occasional reboots - but that seems to only happen when she's doing extensive Adobe work. Something that the Adobe software does that is making the OS less stable. Performance appears to be degrading over time, with things getting more sluggish. Not spotting mystery background processes. What the heck is up with this thing?
Another thing is that darn mouse - why does it feel so wrong? The acceleration curve is all screwed up on it. Moving slow makes it move too slow, and fast is too fast when trying to speed it up. What with the weird exponential acceleration curve. Why does Apple want to make *everything* different just for the sake of being different? I had to find hacks on the internet to make that mouse feel normal again.

Anyway, my experiences is that Linux is more stable than OSX. I think though, had I switched to Mac full time and try to overcome the little gotchas and try to arm it with the 1000s of command line tools I've built over the years, I could have made the Mac my home.
But I'm not motivated to switch to Apple and trying it out again. Why should I? I've been working with various Linux distros for like 14+ years now. Java works beautifully with it. At work too, throughout my career, people hated Windows. Mac was never on the radar. I don't think I've ever had a colleague showing up with a Mac. Employers aren't paying for them. What's the point?

Someone mentioned "ui development". What does that mean? Developing a web-ui in Eclipse in Java? Or Abobe Illustrator/Photoshop to design screenshot driven prototypes? A blanket statement that "ui development is better on Mac" doesn't make sense. What also doesn't make sense is an arbitrary claim how "OS X has traditionally had polish and stability that Windows and Linux have lacked". My experience is that Linux has always been rock solid and has always looked good if you make the right window manager choice.

As for Unity, I've never liked that. I use Xubuntu or Ubuntu with XFCE4. I've used IceWM before that. It feels faster than anything I've tried (including Windows and Mac).

michael wolfe replied on Thu, 2012/11/15 - 12:50pm

 It all comes down to this: do you endorse Open Source OS's (Linux) and GNU type software. if you do then Linux and GNU type software are for you. if you don't care about that and want to pay top dollar for Mac based closed OS and software then that is what you like. It is obvious that Linux and Unix in general has had a long history of stability along with more Open Source then Mac or Windows based systems. The slight advantage of Windows over Mac is that: hardware is cheap, you can really slime down the User Interface to use less resources and you get put lots of Unix like tools on it. if Apple was smart they would have used Linux as the underlying OS rather then bastardizing BSD Unix thus making it closed and less stable then real BSD Unix.

Ellery Mckenzie replied on Thu, 2012/11/15 - 4:41pm in response to: Java Guy

Fair point.

My current plan is to rebuild my old Ubuntu machine as a workhorse "server" (using the term broadly here) to do the heavy lifting but use my MBP as my day-to-day front-end for things like doc editing, imaging, web etc.

Ellery Mckenzie replied on Thu, 2012/11/15 - 4:58pm in response to: Mike P(Okidoky)

I went from being a (grudgingly) longtime windows user to Ubuntu back in 2009.  I then lived with Ubuntu until the end of 2011 when a hdd failure left me with just the Macbook my boss had handed to me a few months earlier.  I got used to the Mac whilst putting new drives into the linux box and rebuilding it (backups WORK people).

Anyway I found it easier for the time being to carry on with the MBP and set the linux box away for straightening out later as I had some time pressures to contend with.

My findings so far:

Linux rocks.  Stable, fast, surprising easily to fix issues, damn good package management (that was a true revelation coming from windows) and the discovery that defragging your disk is a non-concept as the damn thing never really gets fragmented in the first place was pure bliss.

Windows has come a long way over the years but still has its' frustrations and the 3rd-party fragmentation in the laptop market is annoying.

Mac is pretty and the hardware *is* well put together.  The system works fine so long as you do things Apple's way and don't demand too much.  I quite like the multi-touch trackpad and that would be the biggest loss to me going back to Linux.  BUT the memory & disk management are a joke.  I'm also quite grumpy with Apple for wiping out my 3rd party python libs during the Mountain Lion upgrade.

None of the systems above have been silver bullets but Linux has come closest to that in my experience.  Put simply I went from Windows to Linux and didn't look back.  I then went from Linux to Apple and I'm constantly nostalgic for Linux.

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