My new Mac - and the slow move away from Windows

It's now two weeks since I took possession of my Mac and I'm finding myself using it more and more. Sure, my Windows XP machine still demands a significant amount of my attention; Microsoft Visual Studio and .NET/C# is still my primary development platform.

My Windows machine is a pretty tricked out rig that I built myself from Newegg (the BEST place on the web to buy hardware). QX6700 processor, GTX8800 video, dual 20" Samsung monitors, etc. I've got my Microsoft ergonomic keyboard and can touch type on it like the wind. I'm still running XP SP2 on it - mainly because my experiments with Vista on my HP laptop have been very disappointing.

Both of these machines sit right next to each other. As you can see by the pic above I've really oriented my entire workspace around my Windows XP machine. Yet I find myself constantly moving my hands to the Mac keyboard.

At first I thought it was the typical obsession with a new piece of technology. After spending the last 17 years using Windows I'm now just enamored with something new, right? That is indeed part of it. But there's something else about this.

OS X is a really slick operating system. There are little features that make it a pleasure to work on - you can just tell that a significant amount of human factors work went into the system. Sure, there are little areas where you can see that someone missed but the vast majority of the system is really clean.

Two small utilities that come bundled with OS X are examples of this: Spaces and Exposé. As you can see from the pic of my Windows workstation, I'm a screen real estate whore. Yet now I'm spending a lot of time confined to a 1280x800 world. I tend to multi-task like mad, often having quite a few applications running at the same time. Exposé is great because at the touch of F3 it shrinks all of the windows on the current screen down and let's me click on the one I need.

Spaces is great because I can have four different primary screens and alternate between them by hitting Control-X (1-4). The switching is handled nicely with animation and it's very quick. I can also simply Command-Tab between application, much like I can on Windows with Alt-Tab.

After investing a little time training my fingers to use the shortcuts I can rip between my applications so quickly I feel like I'm on a much larger screen. It's a really nicely done piece of software and not the gratuitous "because we can" app-switching that is included with Vista.

What I'm doing now is finding all of the things I keep turning back to my Windows machine for. Foremost is my development environment. I'm considering getting VMWare and running Windows XP and my development tools inside of that. I've got additional memory coming in next week for my Mac (bumping it to 4GB) so that I have plenty of headroom to run everything I need.

I don't know that I'll be able to fully switch to Mac because many of the tools I've become accustomed to are Windows based, especially on the development side. I'd love to find a really great web development platform that's native to my Mac but I haven't had much luck yet.

But I will say this - I really love this Mac.


Vito Traino said...

How 'bout a high resolution photo of your workspace, including the Macbook? It looks nice and tidy from the thumbnail but I'm a sucker for details.

David Alison said...

Here you go:

Vito Traino said...


I seriously envy that setup. Where did you get that desk?

David Alison said...

I got it from Costco many years ago. Best desk I've ever had - tons of room. I think I paid about $600 for it. Since it's U shaped I can place my surround sound speakers behind me too. Love the setup.

Chris S said...

There are a lot of developers out there using the C#/.net frameworks, but since you have a Mac, you should at least try out xcode. You can get it for free from apple. Especially the new version of xcode that has iPhone/iPod Touch development capabilities in it. Go to and sign up for an account. It's free. Then you can download the SDK which includes xcode. If you don't want to do that, you can get an older version from your Mac OS X install disk that came with your MacBook. Apple earlier this week announce that 100,000 developers have dl'd the SDK from Apple in about 5 days. That is huge!

David Alison said...

@Chris: I was actually in that line! Got it the day after the real release - took a hell of a long time to get though, Apple's server couldn't handle the load.

I played with XCode a bit and it does look appealing, but at this point I'm deep into my next development effort and moving to a new platform isn't really possible. Plus all my current development is web server based applications with a heavy DB slant - not something I've seen Apple as a big provider of.

I do want to play with it in the future though as I look to build custom client applications for my new service - but that's still a ways off :-(

JN_Coward said...

For most kind of development, TextMate is ridiculously good. It's as powerful as all those ridiculously hard to use UNIX editors, yet as simple to use as a real Mac app.

It's not free, but download it and use it for a few weeks... I did, and I paid for it, and I very rarely pay for software.

JN_Coward said...

Just realized from another posts comments that you are already using TextMate ;)

Oh well, off to preach somewhere else...

Tom said...

Handy trick, Expose work with Spaces. So you can activate the view in Spaces to see them all, then hit Expose to see all windows. Makes it even easier to move windows to different spaces.

Also, if your bored, you can activate the "Steve Jobs demo" feature on pretty much anything. Hold down shift when activating expose, spaces, dashboard or minimizing windows. Pointless demo code left in, but kinda cool to see.

skeletor_bitch said...

what i like is the super bowl 17 photo of the famous john riggins touchdown run.

color me impressed.

Osoroco said...

"Yet I find myself constantly moving my hands to the Mac keyboard."

(donno if it's been mentioned before, I just came across this blog)
what you need is a virtual kvm:

works well on leopard (used to work better on tiger), but the great thing is that it's linux/windows/mac compatible
hope you don't have to be moving around the keyboards anymore, enjoy

Kyle said...

Want to make Exposé even easier to use? What I did on my old iBook is set the hot corners to activate Exposé. When I move my mouse to the lower left corner, the open windows all shrink so I can switch between them. When I move my mouse to the lower right corner, the open windows all move off the screen so I can access my desktop. Saves tons of time!

David Alison said...

@Tom: That's a great little tip (Expose in the Spaces selector)! Thanks!

@skeletor_bitch: I'm a huge Skins fan. Riggins is my favorite player of all time so it's only fitting I have him on my wall. I've actually code named my new product Riggo!

cvk said...

Have you checked out Ruby on Rails for web development?

Ruby on Rails is as different from .NET as OS X is from Windows, but the difference is equally positive.

David Alison said...

@cvk: I have looked at ROR and honestly wasn't all that impressed. I love the fact that I can do the development natively on my Mac, and Ruby looks intriguing because of its heavy OO emphasis but it is a dramatic change from my current C# / Visual Studio environment. Up until Apple placed their latest ROR doc stack in the development area the information on setting up ROR was woefully inadequate too.

I did go out and buy three ROR oriented books: Rails Recipes, Programming Ruby and Agile Dev with Rails. Unfortunately I ran out of analysis time on dev platforms and had to stick with C# for this next product. I may pick it back up at some point but other than getting something that runs natively on my Mac I don't have a real compelling reason to move away from Visual Studio right now.

skeletor_bitch said...

@David Alison

ahh..being a skins fan has been no easy feat these past few years.
still quite unsure where this new jim zorn era is going to be taking us.

my dissatisfaction with ownership knows no bounds when it comes to the redskins.

so...does anyone know where a fella can get a relatively cheap-ish mac?
been wanting to try one for a while....

David Alison said...

@skeletor_bitch: I'm optimistic that Jim Zorn will do well but hell, that's all I've got now: optimism. I do like that they finally recognized that they need to stop throwing money at the problem.

As for an inexpensive Mac I would recommend two sources: Craigslist and You can usually find a pretty good deal on a slightly used Mac though Macs do hold their value a little better than PCs.

Dude - I love the Jerry Jones reference in your name too ;-)