Yeah, Mac vs. PC. I’m finally going there!
Don’t worry; this blog post isn’t full of kool-aid-drinking fanboy-isms. I’m going to keep this as introspective as possible, in classic Cap’n style.
I grudgingly switched from the Commodore 64/128 to the DOS-based 286 shortly after the release of the 286. It was a tough transition; after all, the C64 had all my favourite games, and thousands of them. I knew the command line inside and out. I could write games on the C64. Why would I want to transition? Well, the decision was made easy for me: there was only room for one computer on the family computer desk.
Of course, once I had my own computer desk I immediately setup the ol’ C64 again and invited my friends over to play M.U.L.E. and it was the best thing ever. It took BBSes and a 300bps USRobotics modem to finally drag me over to the Microsoft landscape, and I’ve been a resident ever since.
So that sets the stage: I’m a PC user, I’m not an early adopter, I reject change and despise new things. I guess that makes me a standard-issue stubborn human. I could go on and on about how BBSes are the future and how this “internet” thing won’t catch on, too, but you’ll have to buy me a few pints to hear that whole story.
The worst part about me not changing with the times is that I hate it. I hate that about myself; I want to be the kind of person that tries new things and stays ahead of the curve. It’s just that, in practice, I find it too difficult.
I’m really good at rationalizing why I shouldn’t do new things; more on that in a little bit. But first, let’s take an ultra-objective look at the pros and cons of Mac vs. PC:
Games, and my favourite IDE that has made me all of my money, FlashDevelop.
Things work better.
(I don’t mean that in a dismissive, or cute/curt way. I mean, everyone I talk to about Macs can name a dozen little things that just make the Mac experience overall better for them. This can be software, this can be hardware, this can even just be little social and marketing style things that surround the brand. This effect is arguably more powerful than any individual feature a PC can offer.)
But there’s more to it than that!
There is building pressure to switch to Mac over the last few years. At first I thought it was marketing hype, but I’m wondering if all those little things are actually summing to be a better product. Many software development houses stock only Macs. School computer labs are full of Macs. Any artist I try to hire can only operate Macs (not to support any stereotypes).
Even from my own, code-centric angle: Developing for iOS and Mac releases is an important part of the development cycle. Sure, FlashDevelop lets me publish things for iOS from my Windows machine, but I can’t for Unity3D. There are many tools that proudly proclaim “Compile to everything!” and casually forget to mention “… but only if you own the device.” Even my latest championed hero, the Haxe compiler, requires a Mac to push things to iOS.
To make PCs even less palatable: Microsoft officially supports (and sells licenses) for Parallels to run Windows 8 on a Mac. Apple does not offer a similar product for PC; so now Macs are (by Microsoft’s own hand!) more flexible than PCs, if you want to go the emulation route.
I used to believe in the upgrade-ability of the PC too; I used to (and even: recently!) build my own custom gaming desktop rigs, all with hand-picked parts and put them all together myself. But to be honest with myself, those days are fading quickly. I simply don’t have time to be playing all those super high-end games anymore, I don’t get off on having the fastest video card on the block, and I have worked nearly exclusively for the last 5 years on custom-ordered laptops with pretty much zero upgrade-ability anyway (because I max them out on purchase). There’s no value in the upgrade argument anymore.
There’s even social pressure. Other indie developers I love and respect have suggested I switch. My partner swears by Apple and the house is full of their gear. I own iPads and iPods myself. I’m trying not to be too subjective though, and I try to push these thoughts down, but they’re still there.
So, completely objectively speaking, the only thing holding me back from switching to a Mac is games (which I don’t really play much of anymore), and FlashDevelop (which I could probably emulate pretty easily with Parallels or a Hackintosh setup).
So I’m a convert, right?
Difficulty in Changing
Putting me into a new environment guarantees that, at least for a while, I’ll be psychologically feeling low, powerless, and frustrated. I won’t be able to figure out the command line. I won’t know what words to use to google “command line” because for some reason Mac users call it “terminal.” I’ll be angry and you’ll want to unsubscribe from my Twitter feed.
With a new environment will mean a new workflow. My old IDE (flashdevelop!) that’s been so great to me for all these years will basically become a no-go, and I’ll have to poke around for new things.
Sure, other things will be easier. Haxe and Unity3D will suddenly work. So maybe it’s all a wash. Maybe it’s time I switched to a new IDE anyway. Right? Macs will be good for me, won’t they?
Yeah… Let’s switch!! Let’s at least give it a whirl. Let’s buy a Macbook and give it a solid shot for a month. I’ll probably end up liking it!
Not So Fast!
This is where I have to — objectively, scientifically — start writing from a very subjective experience. I hate Macs. And not because of the product, necessarily, or the hardware. But because of the people and culture that surround it.
Once, when I lived in Esquimalt, I walked into a quiet cafe to work (on SteamBirds). I sat down in a cozy corner, settled my coffee on the table, and glanced over to the table next to me. Another developer, with his laptop out! I smile and nod, and he smiles back. I reach into my shoulder bag and pull out my Dell. The turtleneck wearing [no, seriously] Mac user actually snorts in disgust upon sight of it, and turns his back to me.
Or how about that time where a guest walked into my LevelUp meetup group, spotted a Microsoft OS, and said ”Hah! Look at that, a dying breed! A PC Game developer! Hah hah hah!“. Said in that tone of voice that just screams “What a fucking chump you must be, using a Microsoft product. Idiot!” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was a PC Developer.
Then there are those die-hard platform loyalist fanboys that take any chance they can get to say “omfg Microsoft” in the same way that someone might blame the hot weather in August on Obama. [To be fair, there are PC loyalists too, I just don't get to hear them because I don't have a Mac]
It pisses me off that my local university, UVIC, was essentially paid off by Apple to make all of their computer labs Mac-only. [Pepsi also paid them off, so maybe I just hate UVIC for being a sell-out]
Remember when Steve Jobs “killed” Flash? In his rants about the beauty of HTML5, he was just referring to Youtube and other service-based websites, which is cool. But ever since that fateful day, years ago, I’ve had to reiterate over and over and over again that what I do in Flash is not what Steve was talking about, and no, he did not kill it. I’m getting really tired of that conversation.
And then I have to touch on things like how Apple has that big glowing logo on the back of it’s products, and how I like to avoid name-brand shoes because I don’t like being a walking billboard. I don’t want to be proud and feel like I’m a part of my laptop; I just want to get some anonymous work done, thankyouverymuch.
Maybe I hate macs for the same reason I hate makeup: It feels “fake.” It feels like a manufactured, fake experience. I just want my “real” computer, please.
And that’s starting to cut to the core here, a little bit. This is where things start getting dicey. Maybe all of this is related; maybe all of this negative reaction to standard consumeristic behaviour is stemming from my lack of will to change. Maybe it’s my brain making up reasons, using confirmation biases across a spread of ten years of experiences to reinforce what I already think I believe. I mean, surely I’ve been treated poorly by PC users; I’m just not remembering those experiences because it’s not convenient to the picture my brain is painting for me.
Then I found this
The most-linked-to-site from my blog has probably been You Are Not So Smart (YANSS), a blog/podcast that focuses on self-delusions and catching yourself in them. Check out this excerpt written about just this subject, the rejection of mainstream consumerism:
The urge to walk away from all of that [mainstream consumerism] and get lost in the most obscure thing you can find, the most distant and untouched landscape you can visit, the least processed or marketed product you can put in your body, is strong and understandable and healthy, but [...] it is ultimately futile.
This urge leads to those things that have earned the most anti-mainstream adjectives like local, organic, artisan, indie, all natural, underground, sustainable, free trade, slow, holistic, green, and so on. Yet, that ideology, that quest for the authentic, is the very thing that causes the world to seem so unreal and staged.
The entire episode of the YANSS podcast is excellent and you should give it a listen. It gets into what it is to be a hipster, and I think a lot of it applies to me as an “indie” game developer (emphasis mine on the quoted paragraph above), and by a bit of a leap of logic, also explains my aversion to the whole Mac experience.
So will I switch?
I hate Macs for no good, objective reason. I dislike them even though I’d probably do better with them and be more productive. I am ultimately only punishing myself by avoiding them.
If it wasn’t for all the pressure to switch, I probably would have switched already. Which is a funny thing to say out loud, but I really do think it’s true.
So, in the end, yes: I will succumb to Macs. I will buy myself a Macbook or something, sometime in the next year or two, and I will probably look back at my old PCs and laugh. The worst part is? Because I know it’s inevitable, and I know I’m pretty much being forced into this decision, my brain is rebelling against it and making me want to put it off. I just want a Mac to enter my life casually! I don’t want it forced down my throat! I HAVE FREE WILL!!
But I’ve got a tiny bit of a vindictive streak in me; I sometimes, ashamedly, like revenge. Because of all the stuck-up, completely non-representative Mac users that have — in my conveniently selective memory — made me angry over the last ten years, I’m going to go down fighting. I’m going to whine and complain and bitch and moan all over my twitter feed every step of the way. I’m going to swear up and down that the experience is horrible and that I never should have bought that Mac.
And then I’ll settle into it.
And then everything will be okay.