Thoughts on MacOS

on Wholesomedonut's blog

Dumb enough to "just work", smart enough to be self aware about it

# And... I don't hate it.

So I finally took the plunge and got ahold of a Macbook. It came from a friend of mine, who didn't have a need for their 2016 Macbook Pro 13" anymore. I am very grateful for the donation, because I've been thinking about trying MacOS for years but this kinda sealed the deal as my impetus to finally do so.

So I've been using this machine, and basically only this machine, for about a week and a half now. Both for work and for all of my personal stuff. If it wasn't playing video games (which is always done on my desktop), it was done on this machine. Let's get into it.

# Linux/Unix UX vs Windows

I'll put one thing up front and say that having a BSD-based system is a real nice one-up over Windows. So the experience of running mainstream Unix or Linux-focused software is a lot easier and runs on the actual machine. Compiling code is a good example; I hate setting up C++, Rust, or other compilers and toolchains on Windows. It always mucks up somehow.

And as much as I enjoy WSL2 as a concept, it is another 10GB-ish of stuff you have to install in order to run Linux. Even if it does run the actual Linux kernel inside a small VM now, instead of trying to virtualize only parts of it. I don't need to worry about that on a MacOS or Linux box.

# The UI

The UI is quirky. I'm not a huge fan of the dock. But knowing that Command-Space opens up the search bar, which is the equivalent of me pressing the Windows key and opening the search bar (which I use religiously), means that the only things in my workflow that changed are the buttons I press; not what I actually do.

Finder sucks.

I don't miss window snapping, honestly. Mostly because the key commands of CTRL-Left or Right arrow for switching desktops/fullscreened apps, and the good ole Command-Tab instead of Alt Tab, mean that I can flip contexts just as easily as splitting smaller windows across a single screen. It's no big deal to me.

I do like the focus mechanism on the desktop, where you can't touch what's inside a window unless you actually click it first. I misclick or scroll all the time on my Windows boxes when I don't intend to cuz I'm clumsy. It's a bit harder to do that here.

Launchpad and Mission Control are nice hotkeys. But I wish it was a bit more... sleek? I dunno. It still feels a bit clunky.

# Applications

I enjoy installing .dmg's; the fact that they're a whole package in and of themselves, and installing them is as simple as dropping them into the Applications folder, is fantastic. I wish it was that simple for the average application in Windows or Linux. Windows, things still tend to be done the .exe or .MSI installer way and therefore you have tons of directories where bits and pieces of your applications live. And Linux has a myriad of package managers, all of which seem to feel kinda derpy or problematic for one reason or another. Flatpak, Snap, et. al. I've used them all and I invariably see things getting bloated and nasty over months and years.

That being said I do use Homebrew for installing anything that I can't find a DMG for. I don't install stuff natively on the system by myself if I can avoid it because I'm not entirely familiar with how MacOS' version of userland and systemland are laid out. Either way, installing or uninstalling stuff is easy.

# Software and system updates

What updates? I basically just let the machine do its thing and stuff happens in the background. I've never once had it whine at me for updates or tell me "I'm gonna shut down at 5PM cuz you usually aren't 'working' right then, cuz I have updates. Deal with it." I have it set up to deploy updates automatically and it handles just fine.

And if it isn't something that updates transparently through MacOS itself, or via internal processes for whatever .dmg's I've installed, then it's in brew and all I have to do is an APT-style brew update and brew upgrade. Et voila.

# Doing Normal Stuff Is So Smooth It's Boring

I've had no issues running a small smattering of additional applications. Element, Teams, Brave Browser, Signal, Day One, VMWare Horizon. They all run without issue. To say nothing of the built-in MacOS suite of apps, which all have done their job reliably. That's about it.

# Specs and performance thoughts

This is a base model machine, with the standard 8GB of RAM (on 2x4GB soldered chips), and no additional gubbins or optional addons that the line had available at that time. I do have a separate Bluetooth Magic Keyboard, along with a Microsoft Bluetooth mouse. Using those two in conjunction without any cables is friggin awesome.

If anything, this machine and its clock speed and setup tell me that you really don't need a whole lot of computing power for the Average Joe's workday. According to the Apple specs, this is a dual-core Intel i5 (THAT'S RIGHT - DUAL CORE), with no hyperthreading. It can turbo-clock up to 3.1GHz. But that's about it.

I sure wouldn't know it was a limit! This thing has done everything I've asked of it with gusto. No lag. Part of that is the SSD, and part of that is the very intentional and specific design methodology that went into MacOS, where it seemingly, convincingly, can get away with more for less. Don't ask me about specific performance metrics; I don't care. I know what my experience has been, and that's what I'd be paying for if I chose to get a more updated model of this computer.

May I remind you, that aside from the on-demand clock increase for higher workloads... we've had dual-core processors at a base clock of 2.0GHz for over a decade. Here's an example from Intel's site. As a comparison, even on a lightweight Debian or Manjaro install, my Lenovo T420 with an i5-2520m, which is a dual-physical CPU with hyperthreading, just doesn't feel as snappy. To say nothing of using a machine from that era with an equivalent Windows install. I've run XP and Vista on Lenovos from that era and good heavens; I'd never do it again.

So I think it bears saying that for an even lower-powered device to run a modern-day OS without issues speaks volumes of what kind of effort the two main OS vendors put into their product.

(Yeah I know Apple tends to timegate their devices compatibility with newer updates. If you haven't noticed, Windows has now gotten on that train too. Welcome to Cyberpunk I guess. Hope you like netrunning on a Samsung Smart Fridge cuz your old computer probably ain't gonna cut it soon.)

# Conclusion

Overall? I don't hate it. It's definitely a different way of doing things, and I don't necessarily agree with how locked-down the OS feels at first. Especially Finder. Finder sucks.

But being able to peel that veneer back and get a zsh shell on demand, where I can run all the usual suspects and work just like I would on one of my several Linux machines or server boxes? *Chef's kiss*

Being able to be as in-depth or as laid-back in using the device as I want to be, because the walled garden is well-kept and the metaphorical manhole into the system's sewers is clearly labeled? Priceless.

Hotel? Trivago.

It's expensive if you get a contemporary machine. But at least in my experience? The price isn't wholly unfounded. Give it a solid chance if you come across the opportunity. You might not, like I found out, dislike it near as much as you thought you would.