Why my next PC will be a Mac!

March 20, 2015 at 9:08 pm Leave a comment

PDP11The first computer I programmed was a DEC PDP 11. That was way back in 1977 when I was a senior in high school. Since then, I’ve used a lot of different computers and operating systems: UNIX (and a variety of its offshoots), VMS, CPM, DOS and Windows. Did you notice there was one I didn’t mention?

OriginalMacThe first Mac I saw was the original one. I was an Electrical Engineering student at the time and it didn’t seem to be good for much besides writing term papers with nice fonts. It just couldn’t do the stuff I needed to do- like run MathCad or the Borland Turbo Pascal IDE. As time went on I developed an aversion to the seemingly snobby cultishness of Apple and its devotees. It seemed to me that if you used a Mac, you would have to buy a black turtle-neck, promise to never use any of the evil software from Redmond, and bow and pray toward Cupertino 5 times a day.

But, then in 2009 I got a job teaching programming at Lane Community College. Most of my students came to class with Windows notebook computers, but a few had MacBooks. Whenever they asked for help with XCode, or even just using the Finder, I was stumped. OS X was like a foreign planet. So, when it was time for the college to buy me a new computer for my office, I asked for a Mac. They bought me a nice 27″ iMac… with Boot Camp. iMacWithWn7I played with OS X (Tiger) a bit, but mostly I booted my Mac into Windows 7. At least I learned how to use the Finder (and I agree with Scott Hanselman, using “the OS X finder is as effective as shooting your hands full of Novocaine”)

By 2013 I had gotten very interested in mobile app development and decided that Xamarin’s cross-platform approach using Mono and C# was the way to go. I even developed and started teaching a class in Android app development using Xamarin. So, I was very excited when Xamarin gave me a free ticket to their first annual conference- Evolve 2013. I’ll never forget walking into the first Android development training session. There were hundreds of developers in the room and it looked like I was the only one without a MacBook!

MacBookProWhy were all these C#, .NET, Android developers using Macs? After all, a MacBook Pro costs twice as much as a good quality, comparable Windows notebook. And then I got it. All these developers were using Xamarin’s software so they could do cross-platform development- cross-platform meaning Android and iOS. And you can’t develop for iOS without a Mac (not legally anyway). That’s part of the Apple business plan- you can only run OS X on Apple hardware and you can only run the XCode compilers on OS X. So, even though Xamarin enables you to do your iOS coding in Visual Studio on Windows, the final build of the software has to be done on OS X.

MacMiniAfter I got back from the conference I started looking around for a used Mac. I found a great deal on a MacMini on Craig’s List. It’s an early 2009 model with a 2 GHz Core 2 Duo processor. I was able to upgrade the RAM to 8 GB and I put a Crucial M550 256GB SSD in it, upgraded OS X to Yosemite and it performs pretty well. My total investment was $330!

By the way, if you’re looking around for a used Mac to use for iOS development, the minimum you need (IMHO) is a Core 2 Duo (not a Core Duo), 4 GB of RAM, and at least OS X Snow Leopard (v10.6.8) installed. It needs at least that version of OS X because that means its upgradable to Mavericks, which is the minimum version of OS X you’ll need for iOS 8 development. And I’d put an SSD in it too- it makes a huge performance difference!

EliteBook2740pOne of these days my current notebook will give up the ghost and I’ll be able to justify spending some money for a new one. But my current notebook, a vintage 2010 HP EliteBook 2740p convertible with a Core i7, 8 GB RAM, a 256 GB SSD and touch screen just keeps going strong! It’s actually a great little computer. I can’t use it for iOS development, but I can do all my iOS development on my MacMini. So, will my next notebook be a MacBook? That’s a tough call. I really like convertibles with touch screens- maybe by the time my EliteBook dies, Apple will be making MacBooks with touch-screens!

Entry filed under: Computer, iOS, Programming. Tags: , , , , , .

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