Why I, a Windows user since I first touched a keyboard, am switching to macOS*
* For anything else than gaming, that is.
Word of warning before we begin: This article contains pointed personal opinions, plenty of performative exaggeration, and other kinds of creative writing that sometimes takes on rather colourful shapes. This is because this is not meant to be a serious data-based (read: spreadsheet-driven) dissertation on differences between operating systems, and instead focuses on my own anecdotal experience in a way that’s meant to be fun(ny) to read. Therefore, you should probably take what you read here seriously, but not literally. Relatedly, if you’re allergic to laughing at poo jokes, you should probably fetch your EpiPen now.
Great googily moogily, it has been a while since I last wrote a think piece on here. My last articles are so dusty I fear I’ll catch asthma if I get too close to them.
I recently found the urge to write something again, mainly because this topic is a bit of a hot potato in my friend circle. I wanted to write this dissertation so I can just drop it in front of them and let it sink in by itself like a lead weight in a jelly, instead of having to say the same things over and over again ad nauseam. This is also a chance for me to vent my more and less recent frustrations with Microsoft, Windows, and the general PC ecosystem in the wake of Microsoft’s recent Windows 11 announcement.
So, with the introductions over with, let’s get cracking.
I’m not entirely foreign to the Apple ecosystem. In fact, I’ve been an iOS user ever since I started using a smartphone in 2012 after departing the Nokia camp. At the time, the iPhone 4S was the thing absolutely everybody had. Apart from the teachers at my school, who were stuck with Windows-based Nokia Lumia phones (yikes). Since then, I’ve owned 4 other iPhones: The 5S, 7, 7 Plus and, most recently, the XS Max.
Developer friends, particularly of the “I use Arch BTW” type — no offence to you, you’re all lovely folks — have always asked me why I use an iPhone. They ask:
“But why use iOS when you could root an Android phone and install your own firmware onto it so you can essentially use it as a computer?”
The reason is this: I don’t want my phone to do what my computer does — nor do I understand why anyone would. I have a computer for that. A lovely one. I would like to think most people like me do, too.
I need my phone to do what the domain I have assigned to it requires: It needs to be my communication hub, my media streaming device, my portable navigator, and so on. And it needs to do this seamlessly with as little faffing about as possible. I do not need to spend days configuring the thing; I want it to do what I need it to do out of the box, reliably so.
All of this being said, I have always been a Windows user in the computer world. I first touched a keyboard nearly 20 years ago, and grew up with Windows. My first OS was Windows Vista (which wasn’t very pleasant to use), then Windows 7, and most recently, Windows 10. I’d never even touched a Mac until recently. I used to think that Macs were overpriced pieces of tat, used only by quirky designers with pearls in their beards sitting in coffee shops, who use it for Figma drawings and little else.
However, after having started work with Reaktor last month (thank you guys, you’re awesome), and with them having thrust a Mac upon me, I no longer think that. Nor do I think I, a professional with a busy life who needs to get real work done, should continue to use Windows as my daily driver*.
* Except for gaming, but we’ll get back to that.
Act 1: My frustrations with Windows
1. Mastering the introduction of features absolutely nobody asked for
This has been something Microsoft has always been the uncrowned king of. Live Tiles were a disastrous experiment in how to frustrate users with garbage they gave less of a s#@t about than a corked suppository. Thankfully, those are going away, but they’re being replaced with an “AI-powered news feed with widget support” — an indisputably antierotic phrase to anyone with an eye for tech and a desire for privacy.
I’m still trying to find the user who asked for that feature. I cannot think of a single user who goes “hmm, I want to read the news, let’s not go onto my favourite newspaper’s website and instead open this annoying menu that shows me results from MSN Ads — sorry, that should’ve read “MSN News” — that are about as accurate as a feather-filled catapult and that catalogues my every move and stores that information in Satya Nadella’s desk drawer”. The new Start menu looks to be equally destined to the AI septic tank — meaning, as my considerably more famous namesake put it, “we included Bing search (yay?)”. Having seen Microsoft’s utterly disastrous recent attempts in this area, I have absolutely no faith in that this will go over well, nor do I trust Microsoft not to make it a complete flustercuck to turn it off, should I not want to be distracted by inane rubbish I don’t care about.
Speaking of making it needlessly difficult to turn things off… The Settings app’s gradual murder-and-replacement scheme towards the Control Panel. Christ on a bike.
In Windows versions of yore, the Control Panel was a fantastic tool for power users who wanted to quickly and effectively configure a machine down to the smallest detail. The Settings app is probably better for touch devices, yes, and it’s perhaps easier to understand for casual users, yes, but there was no need to throw the baby out with the perfectly fine bathwater. It’s laggy, it’s glitchy, shows me everything I don’t want to see and nothing I actually need to see, and is in general borderline useless to me beyond Microsoft forcing me to use it.
And then there’s the new Windows 11 taskbar. First of all, it’s default centred now – which already gives me slight “if you can’t win them, join them” vibes – but then they fully reaffirm their commitment to just outright copying MacOS by saying the taskbar can only be at the bottom of the screen now.
Who in the name of Jesus Christ on a merry-go-round singing “What Do We Do With The Drunken Sailor” among us asked for that?! I’ll tell you: No one. No one voluntarily indicates a genuine interest towards less customisation.
If Microsoft truly is aping Apple with this one, then they’re really making a rod for their own back here. The taskbar (or the “Dock”, as MacOS calls it) being locked to the bottom of the screen on Mac computers is an inconvenience caused by a deliberate design choice – not a feature. People buy Apple products in spite of their flaws, not because of them.
2. Consensual non-consent
Microsoft has had a nigh-on pathological habit of making users’ decisions for them. Windows 7 trying to sneak out an upgrade to Windows 10 like a fart in a job interview — had to rescue a friend’s mum’s computer from the verge of bricking because of that one, thanks guys — and Windows 10 nonconsensually updating things that left your apps and workflow broken are but a few examples of this.
The best example of this I have is, however, something that happened to me personally. Having bought a new computer last year, I spent the requisite almost 24 hours setting it up (because you can’t just make a script to install stuff you need without it being a massive headache, that would be too easy). I was just about to make a Restore Point when Windows went: “Okay, you didn’t ask us to, but we’re updating you to 20H1 anyway”. To which I went “sure, fine, get it done, I’ll restore point you after that”. Fast-forward a few minutes, and my computer no longer boots due to a corrupted boot sector.
A seamless recovery USB later, and going into
diskpart revealed one obvious culprit: Windows had swapped my drive letters around.
I swear I’m not pulling your leg. That actually happened.
My drives were mapped as
Drive 0: D:\ (1 TB HDD) and
Drive 1: C:\ (512 GB SSD). For some turbo-cocking reason, Windows decided it knew better and pointed Windows Boot Manager to look for Windows on the at-the-time completely barren D drive. I have still, to this day, not been able to fathom how this even happens on a technical level.
6 hours of troubleshooting, rebooting, and plentiful swearing later, I managed to fix the issue, but only after having accidentally stumbled my way onto a years-old forum thread where someone explained that if you had my specific brand of wireless network card, and you left it enabled in the BIOS but had the antennae unscrewed, and it emitted this particular error, it would just brick your OS. Thanks, guys; really helpful in figuring that one out.
3. Reject past, embrace modernity (or wait, which way was that again?)
Microsoft has a weirdly dichotomous relationship with backwards compatibility. On one hand, it still staunchly refuses to fix decades-old Excel bugs or allow us to name folders “CON” in the name of backwards compatibility with programs so old Werther’s Originals would tell them to roll over and get it over with. However, on the other hand, it just announced that any CPU manufactured before 2017 can go eat faeces fettuccine if it wants to run Windows 11. While you would think that this creates some kind of sumptuous buffet of the best of both worlds, in reality, it ends up appealing to nobody except those who just bought new devices. This is in itself rather worryingly sliding towards an almost Applean attitude to backwards compatibility, and that’s not good.
Well, that is, if they bought a machine with a supported TPM module during or after 2017. Otherwise, you can look forward to having to challenge scalpers to dance battles in the streets for a TPM chip, because of course, nothing is sacred. Or, if you’re one of those whose motherboards don’t and can’t support TPM, you can, as John Oliver puts it:
Meanwhile, the recently announced MacOS Monterey will continue to be supported on Macs manufactured all the way back in 2013, without any kind of retroactive hardware requirement nonsense. And Linux can basically run on a Fisher-Price piano as usual.
Phew, okay, now that I got that out of my system, let’s look at a few of the specific reasons I’m looking forward to my switch.
Act 2: Reasons I’m thrilled to make the transition
1. You want it? Homebrew’s got it.
Homebrew is basically the thing I’ve wanted Chocolatey and Scoop to be for ages, but with a much broader range of supported applications. A friend of mine (hi Tom) said recently that he’s stopped even looking up whether something is on Homebrew and has instead resorted to just typing in the command and seeing what happens, because, 99% of the time, it’ll be there. (Of course, I don’t exactly want to advocate this strategy to everyone, since I recently tried to upgrade
nano but accidentally passed the
--cask option and ended up installing a crypto-miner instead, but you get the point.)
Homebrew allows me to note down a list of things I need on my machine into a text file, read that into a shell script, and then just install it all. No huss, no fuss, no cooking — just type in the command and go. It’ll even move applications it installs into the Applications folder automatically <chef’s kiss>.
2. The ability to tinker without needing to fiddle
Because Mac originates from the same — albeit hideously convoluted — family tree as most modern Linux distributions, it naturally comes with a lot of ability to tinker and make your own solutions to your everyday problems. The shell scripting language (Bash) is familiar to anyone who’s ever used Linux before, and with PowerShell being cross-platform now, you can also now run PowerShell scripts for that seamless Windows-Mac-Linux automation interoperability that will surely impress anyone who’s still capable of parsing what I’m going on about in this sentence without running out of breath. With Automator already existing on top of that, and Shortcuts coming in MacOS Monterey, the sky’s the limit on what you can do.
Thus far, I’ve basically just been describing Linux, and I can already hear some of you typing your comments. However, what sets MacOS apart from Linux is that the operating system works without me ever needing to enter the terminal at all. This is the reason why, despite multiple attempts, I can’t bring myself to use Linux as my daily desktop operating system. I don’t want to spend half an hour of my workday fiddling with my Xorg config just because I ran
pacman -Syu and now my UEFI boot partition is gone and my desktop background has been replaced with an image of Frank Bruno.
I like — no, love — configurability and being able to tinker with things to tailor them to my liking. Being able to tinker implies that I can wire up quick solutions that patch up holes in my workflow to improve my quality of life. However, I despise fiddling. Needing to fiddle implies that I have to spend an unholy amount of time tweaking and tinkering to get the operating system to behave correctly in the first place. The line between these two is no thicker than a walrus whisker but no less important because of that. No offence, my other considerably more famous namesake, your operating system is super awesome — but it ain’t fit to be my daily driver, sorry.
3. The Touch Bar
I feel like this is the statement that will nail the end of my willy to a pole for all to come and pluck on like a banjo string, but here goes: I unconditionally love the Touch Bar. Call me a big child all you want, but I have always had an unexplainable affection for control panels with digital buttons I can push. It makes me feel like I’m controlling the Starship Enterprise and directing the thrusters to starboard so we can pivot towards planet Bellen- anyway, it feels super cool.
Recent news indicate that Apple is actually getting rid of the Touch Bar, undoubtedly because most people aren’t like me with children’s minds in adult bodies who get kid-with-a-LEGO-kit giddy over a gimmick like this. Relatedly, I’m rushing to buy one before they remove it entirely.
Now, it’s not all perfect, of course. Here are some things that don’t exactly ignite my crotch about switching over.
Act 3: There’s always a catch…
1. Castle in the sand
I mentioned previously that MacOS Monterey will work on any Mac manufactured after 2013, and it’s nice of Apple to support a device that is assuredly off the market by now and long past its prime. Shame then that it’s probably not the operating system’s sell-by date that will give up the ghost first.
Apple’s history with hardware reliability is well documented and not particularly rosy. Some years ago, Louis Rossmann published an excellent dissertation of Apple’s repeated engineering failures that nobody else seems capable of having issues with. To not repeat Apple’s mistake, I won’t repeat all the things Louis brought up, and I’ll instead just send you to watch his video on it here.
The fact that core components — even wear and tear ones, like the SSD — are soldered onto the motherboard is not conducive to this either. Speaking of soldering…
2. Repairable? Who do you think we are, Tesla?
Macs are notoriously difficult to repair without paying up ridiculous amounts of money to Apple for the privilege. This, coupled with an attitude of needing to replace the entire motherboard because of one failed chip — an attitude equivalent to ripping the whole toilet seat out because a drip of wee got on the ring — means that out-of-warranty Macs are a headache and a half to own. They are also incredibly easy to damage owing to their small footprint and light construction. And, of course, with Apple waging its now-infamous and increasingly losing battle against Right To Repair, there’s no option but to get your service out of the horse’s mouth, at least for now.
3. The veritable Chupacabra of the purse strings
There’s no way around it: Apple devices cost copious amounts of money. Some argue they are even overpriced, which I can agree on in many points. This, unfortunately, makes their devices both less accessible and much more of a social status/fashion statement vehicle, neither being something I would exactly put my name under publicly.
Consequently, a luxury price means that everything around it also costs a luxury price that’s ridiculous if not examined in a vacuum. I probably needn’t tell you about the $500 Mac Pro wheels or the $1000 Pro Display XDR stand, but there are less obvious examples too. The Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard cost an eye-watering hundred dollars a pop, give or take. There are similar quality devices for half that price.
Holy cannoli, this piece is getting long. I wonder if anyone’s still reading this. Better tidy it up now.
It’s been a ride; thank you for sticking with me this far. We’ve covered a lot! We’ve gone through what Microsoft has done to finally sour me on the whole sodding business, what Apple has done to win me over, and what Apple does that makes me slightly wary about the change.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is gaming. That is the one thing that prevents me from entirely ditching Windows as my daily driver operating system. Running Windows in Boot Camp still comes with many performance issues, and Apple doesn’t make computers powerful enough to run games well (and I don’t blame them, because that’s not their audience either). But I think that’s completely fine. I can use Windows for gaming in the same sense I sometimes play games on some of my gaming consoles — an interruption and nothing more.
In the end, there is, however, more at stake here than my personal user experience. I feel that, to help as many people as possible and to gain a deeper understanding of all the ecosystems the software I write gets deployed to, I’ll need to have experienced all of them, at least to some degree. The Apple ecosystem is one I have only cursorily explored so far, and I recently concluded this is the best opportunity I’ll ever get to explore it. With this understanding, I can create better cross-platform software that caters to the specific unique needs of everyone using the software I develop, without getting on their nerves and disrupting their workflows.
And I now have the chance do that without having ads injected into my Start menu, incessant moronic AI “companions” (read: balls and chains), or coming 15 minutes late to a class because I committed the crime of not starting my computer way ahead of class to allow for a forced update I was not notified of happening to happen, which then sent my computer into a boot loop.
So. That’s it for me. I’m off. Hasta la Vista, Microsoft.
The author develops software for Reaktor, studies Software Engineering at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, and shares the same first name with two of the most famous Linuses in this industry despite sharing none of their fame.