I switched to using a Mac in 2006. I was doing a lot of Rails programming at the time, and there was a general mentality (rightly so) that you could really only do Rails programming well on a Mac or Linux computer, so I made the switch. I’ve generally liked my Mac, but my computer usage could be best described as computing like it’s the 70’s or living in a terminal with some web browser usage mixed in.
Fast forward 10 years, to 2016. My friend Andrew Chalkley bought a Surface Pro 4 earlier in the year, and all of his talk about it was really interesting to me. I had a use case that really fit it well, too - I wanted a decent sized tablet to play movies on in the car during trips - something with ample storage and a great display. And the new Linux Subsystem beta seemed to be right up my alley, since it would allow me to run the development tools I usually use.
Back in September we had Tax Free Weekend here in South Carolina, so I decided to go to Best Buy and take the plunge. I bought the lowest spec version of the Surface Pro, not wanting to spend too much, and the Type Cover - a hybrid screen protector and a keyboard.
After I bought the Surface I had a bit of a now what period. I switched to Chrome from Safari so I could keep my browser in sync between my Mac and my Surface, and I mostly used the Surface around the house for random web browsing. It was not, though, a good computer for doing work on. It was a mistake to buy the lowest spec version of the Surface, and that meant I couldn’t run Hyper-V to use Docker on it, and in turn couldn’t do work on it.
About a month after I bought the Surface I decided, as an experiment, to try programming for work for a day on it. Well, not technically on it, but on a Linux server I would set up and SSH into. I went with Arch Linux (because I had been trying everything else new so might as well add one more thing to the mix) and set it up at Linode after a little comparison shopping. I did most of the setup on a Sunday and that next day plugged the Surface into my monitor, SSHed into the new dev server, and got to work.
It’s been about a month since that day, and I’ve used Windows every day since. Is it amazing? Not really. Is it better than the Mac? I’d say it’s a toss up. It’s hard to beat the polish of macOS. But there are some amazing freedoms that come with running Windows, especially around hardware. While programming on the Surface Pro I really loved that I could take the keyboard off and act like it was a tiny monitor, for example. And the idea that it’s not weird that I use a normal mouse and a mechanical keyboard with it. Nobody on Windows uses the same mouse, so it’s built to handle that. Most of all I think I like the idea that while most of my day to day software has stayed the same, either in a terminal on my Linux development server or in a web browser, I’m experimenting a bit. That’s something I hadn’t done much at all since switching to my Mac back in 2006.
Two weeks after using the Surface each day for work I decided to plunge a little deeper into this new/old Windows world and build a PC. My brother and I had batted around ideas for a build for a while1, so I went for it. It cost right at $1,000 to build and outperforms my old MacBook Pro. It’s also possible to upgrade it! While it’s powerful enough to run Hyper-V, I’ve still been using my little Linux development server because it’s so easy to SSH to and so accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. It’s been a ton of fun to play games on!2
There’s very little point to this post - except a status update - and maybe some idea that it’s fun to try new things and explore new ways of working. I don’t really feel strongly that Windows is better than macOS or that there’s any reason why you should make the jump. But it has been fun for me, and I’m glad I did.