Reinvention for 2008

I’m writing‘m writing this post from TextMate on my brand-new MacBook. I’ve used Macs in the past, but I haven’t ever owned one myself. I’ve been in the market for a new notebook, and with my recent foray into Ruby and Rails development, and my incessant frustration with Vista, I decided to make the plunge and buy a MacBook. I had dismissed the buzz about Macs to simple “fanboyism”, but I didn’t realize how far Macs have come in the past few years. I’ve used Linux extensively, so the fact that OS X is UNIX-based was the final selling point. I mean, come on, the machine comes with a slick GUI and has vi pre-installed? How could you go wrong?

Simply put, this is an impressive machine. I decided against the MacBook Pro, because it really only has 3 improvements over the MacBook: aluminum casing (which adds to weight and supposedly reduces wireless power), external graphics card (which I don’t care about, since my Wii monopolizes my gaming time), and an additional FireWire port, which I wouldn’t use anyway. I also prefer smaller form-factors for notebooks, since I like to be able to toss it in my bag and work anywhere. I did, however, decide to play the “black tax” to get the dark casing. Nothing says “scratch magnet” like a white case. :)

Apple does do something that’s very confusing. The newer MacBooks (and Pros) have the “Santa Rosa” architecture, meaning you can add up to 4GB of RAM. However, if you want to buy a 2x2GB kit of RAM from Apple, it’ll run you a whopping $700! Instead, I got 4GB of Crucial memory from trusty Newegg for $72 with shipping, after $50 in mail-in rebates. I guess Apple figures that people that buy the top-of-the-line don’t know better, but come on, a 900% markup? Right now, I’m running with 1GB of RAM, which is plenty as long as I don’t try to do anything too exotic.

Since I’m still a Microsoft developer by day, I also picked up a copy of VMWare Fusion, which is quite literally the most impressive piece of virtualization software I’ve seen. Unity Mode makes it ridiculously simple to run things like Visual Studio seamlessly with the typical OS X experience. This is the main place where the RAM upgrade will help… virtualization, after all, comes at a price, but so far Fusion’s performance has been very good considering I only have a gig of RAM.

If you’ve been considering buying a new computer, I highly recommend that you give Macs a chance. When I mentioned I was planning to buy a Mac, a lot of people were surprised that I would be interested in one. I think the common misconception is that since it has a slick, simple-to-use interface, it would get in the way of being a “power user”. I can definitely say that this is not the case, particularly for someone with a UNIX background. It’s really nice to be able to flip open a BASH terminal and type away — but unlike X-Windows on Linux, you aren’t required to do so. The snazzy OS X interface hides a tremendous amount of power in this little machine.

I’m sure that my honeymoon with Macs will end eventually, but for now, I’m very impressed, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long to give them a chance.