Parallel Desktops

Six months after my switch, an update

I’m now just past the six month mark since tentatively purchasing my first Mac and beginning to switch away from Windows. At the time I bought my MacBook I had a number of machines in the house, all running either Windows or Ubuntu. What I’ve tried to do on this blog is provide a kind of running commentary on switching, hitting on some of the challenges I’ve encountered, the native Mac applications I’ve found and the general feelings I’ve had about making the switch. What I find interesting after 6 months is the impact buying that little MacBook had not only on the way I handle my personal computing but to a large degree the influence it has had on the way I do my development work. You see after I bought the MacBook I found myself doing more and more with it. I had a Windows XP development / gaming rig parked directly in front of me but I was constantly sliding my hands over to the MacBook. My entire development platform—at the time Visual Studio—was completely set up and I had my after-market libraries installed and was using it to build my next online service business. Even with all of my development experience being Windows based I constantly found myself pushing away from my XP system and over to the MacBook. This was not helping my productivity, at least on the development front. I rationalized that if I bought a Mac Pro that I could install VMware Fusion on it and use that as my primary development platform. I was obviously hooked on OS X and the idea of having a machine with 8 cores and 12GB of RAM running it was pretty cool. I bought the Mac Pro, placed it in the position of being my primary workstation (pushing the Windows XP machine off to the side) and I was off and running. I was quickly able to get the Mac Pro up and running with Windows XP and my development environment in a VMware Fusion instance. With a couple of minor exceptions it worked great, providing me with everything I needed to build my web based solutions just as I had been on my native Windows XP machine. Not long after all this I started to look at Ruby on Rails as an option for development, something that would serve as a replacement for my Visual Studio environment. Why? Much like with Windows itself, I had been doing the same kind of development for a very long time. Given the recent sale of my last company I have the luxury of defining fully the tools I could use to build my next generation of products and I wanted to see if there was an easier way to build Web 2.0-like web applications. Though it took me a month of getting up to speed on Ruby on Rails I found it to be a fantastic platform for building what I needed to create. With a very English-like language, an extensive library of free plugins, nice Ajax support built in and the ability to get a basic application framework up and running in a matter of hours, RoR was exactly what I was looking for. In two short months I’ve made far more progress than I did in the 4+ months I spent building my solution in VS .NET / C#. On top of all that, it turns out most of the core Ruby on Rails guys are Mac people too. OS X already comes with RoR and the fact that I could use TextMate, easily one of the best programming editors I have ever experienced, was a huge plus. I suddenly found myself using my Macs exclusively. I wasn’t even firing up the Windows XP instance because I only needed it for Visual Studio. The Windows XP gaming rig was powered down and resting in the corner, serving mostly as a device to crack my knee on if I swiveled my chair too quickly. Fortunately I was able to find a buyer for it, leaving me without any native Windows hardware (well, my wife and son are still using XP). Selling the XP rig gave me the money to purchase a MacBook Pro, giving the MacBook to my youngest daughter. She couldn’t be happier ditching the Dell she had for it and is constantly using the machine. Photo Booth alone has provided her with endless amounts of fun and she’s using the iSight camera to do video chats with her cousin in California. Then, suddenly, the iPhone became part of our digital lives. When Sprint dropped the ball and our service failed miserably I bit the bullet and bought my wife and I both a couple of iPhones. It’s been a fantastic device and my phone reception (contrary to many reports I’ve read) has been excellent. The best part of getting the iPhone though was watching my non-technical wife not only use it but embrace it completely. Between pulling down her e-mail and doing some web browsing while out shopping, I was shocked by how quickly she took to it. This from a woman that had up to this point in time never sent a single text message. She sends text messages regularly now with our daughters. She now finally wants a Mac of her own and is going to get one for her birthday next month. I’ll be writing about how she adapts to using it as well. Now that summer is winding down and our extended vacations are coming to an end I’ll have a little more time to commit to blogging.

By David Alison

I bought my first Mac almost 24 years ago when DOS ruled the world. I didn't keep it too long though. I was just kicking off my career as a software engineer and needed to go with PCs. I bought my 2nd Mac in February of 2008. I didn't expect that I would find myself using the machine as much as I have. It's not that I hate Windows (well, I pretty much hate Vista but XP is a fine OS), it's just that I find myself constantly playing with this machine.

I'll share with you here my experiences of making the move from Windows to Macintosh. I still have a foot in both worlds, hence the name of my section.