Developer Notebook

August 18, 2017 by Lukas Nemec

First, a little bit of background. I’m a software developer. I use PC’s all day. I’ve been programming on Windows, Linux and MacOS devices. At first, I thought that I can’t live without “proper” keyboard and mouse combination and at least 2 external monitors.

This was when I was using Dell notebook with my ArchLinux. When my colleague switched to Macbook Air 13”, and started cursing about how he hates it, I was pointing and laughing at him for using Apple product. When new update messed up something, I laughed again. Why use Apple garbage when you can use this awesome Dell notebook with Linux I said. Then I noticed he stopped using external keyboard and mouse, and was using just the notebook keyboard and trackpad. WHAT?! How can you do any serious work done on a laptop, and without a mouse?

He said to me: “I don’t need mouse and keyboard, this is better.”. I was thinking the Apple evangelism force must’ve gotten to him. He is now all-in on overpriced Apple products. But then, he was using the same laptop I was just few months ago. What changed?

So when my next hardware rotation period was up, I asked for a Macbook Air 13”. If I want to point and laugh at Apple users and evangelists, I have to at least have some experience using one.

My pre-macbook setup

I was hardocre developer. ArchLinux with i3 window manager. Almost everything I did was in a Linux terminal. I was using Vim as my primary IDE and I couldn’t understand why anyone would need bloated IDE like Eclipse or PyCharm.

This was when the mechanical keyboards were hot again. Every youtuber that was worth anything had at least one mechanical keyboard review. Everyone was recommending them. This was the best thing since the weel was invented (and since 1990s when they were used regularly)!

So, I bought a WASD Code keyboard. It was sold as keyboard for developers. The no-bullshit version. No nonsense, just what I needed. With this keyboard I used my gaming mouse, since it was more comfortable than the “basic” usb mouse you get at work. The keyboard is not cheap. But, you are promised it will last really long time, since it is built using real heavy metal plate inside, just below the PCB holding the switches (this is true, you could kill someone with the keyboard).

I love this keyboard. It is awesome. But, it took me a long time to re-train my muscle memory to get used to writing on it. Sometimes when I was typing furiously, my hands would hurt. I was thinking this is just from the beginning, I’ll get used to this. Well, kind of. You have to take breaks to alleviate the pain. But that is hard to do, when you are in the zone. Later I stopped noticing the pain and I stopped paying attention to it.

I used this keyboard for about year and half at work. My coworkers hated me for it, since it was loud (not as MX blue’s, but loud). Why am I writing about this? So you know what keyboards I used and why the Mac’s keyboard is better than all of them. Seriously, mac keyboards are the best I’ve used. I type the fastest on them, without typo’s, and my hands never hurt anymore. Note, I still use the WASD Code at home, and my hands still hurt when typing for extended periods of time.

Macbook arrives

Oh I hated that piece of shit! I hated it so much! I plugged in my external drive and I could not write anything to it! What? Turns out, MacOS can’t write to NTFS drives (there are solutions to this, though).

You can’t grab a window and maximize it to take all the space by dragging it to the top of the screen? Why not? It works on Windows and most Linux desktop environments. I don’t mean fullscreen-ing the app, just enlarge the window so it takes up the whole screen.

The scroll on the touchpad is reversed? Which idiot created this? Why?! Everything on the planet of Earth, other than mac scrolls the opposite direction. Do they want people to suffer?

Why is the ⌘cmd key and ⌥alt reversed?! Oh, my hands were so clumsy I could barely write an email! And there is no Del button, how do you delete files or characters after the cursor?! At this point I was so angry at Apple for creating this abomination! But I was not giving up. Not yet. I have to find out why some people fall in love with these products.

As you can see, I was not a fan of this notebook. But, in time, I found software tools that fixed some of my problems. NTFS became writable again, windows could be maximised with a shortcut, you could lock the screen with a shortcut, I discovered how you emulate del key and I was getting used to writing on the keyboard. I also started liking the reversed scrolling, it just seemed more natural for the touchpad (not for the mouse, though).

From hater to user

After switching to mac full-time, I started liking some of the apps. Mail works perfectly, calendar is great, the included Notes app with auto-sync is awesome and I whish there was open source alternative which would work everywhere. I even started using IDE instead of my Vim. Somehow this was just more comfortable than what was using before.

When I was travelling, I could actually do something without external mouse! This was awesome. I started discovering why other people liked macbooks that much. You can actually use them without external devices. Very nice.

But not everything was great. My macbook Air only had 128GB SSD, which is terrible. I had to manually clean garbage other programs created, and I hated this. The CPU would heat up really fast, and the system would be sluggish when compiling or running a few Docker containers. I was killing programs I didn’t use to free system resources often. I wanted more power!

After some time, I managed to switch Air for Pro with 256GB SSD, which is OK, but not 512GB. This would have to do for some time. This meant more CPU, more RAM and I thought this would suffice for long time. Well, it does, kind of. Since most applications today are written with JS, basically wrapped up websites, they take a lot of RAM and CPU, even when idle. Not much I can do about that other than stop using them, or, throw more powerful HW at them.

When the new macbook pro came out in 2016, I was dissapointed. I was hoping for PRO experience. Tons of RAM, 8 core CPU, terrabytes of SDD, tons of connectivity. Well, Apple created what they did, not much I can do but rant. And we are slowly getting to the point of this rant.

What to use today?

As of writing this post, I’ve been using the Macbook Air and Pro (early 2015 version) for about 2+ years. I love the hardware. I love the keyboard, the trackpad, the display, the magsafe charger, my audio jack connector, all of it. I understand why people like Louis Rossmann hate Apple for their customer attitude. I hate them for it too. But, I have NOT found any other laptop, I could use with as much ease as my macbook pro. It is that simple.

I can hate Apple for what they do or do not do all I want, but in the end, there is no competition. Try using any other touchpad on the market and tell me they are as good as the macbook touchpad. There is none. I have not found it. If you did, tweet me, I’m very interested in trying it out.

I was thinking about this a lot recently. Why is nobody making notebooks like Apple? Samsung is copying their iPhone, why is nobody doing it with macbooks? By the way, I own Asus Zenbook, which was supposed to be “macbook like” but it doesn’t come even close. I was even thinking about starting a company, or kickstarter to create a device, that would be as usable as macbook, but without the Apple bullshit. But since, I’m a lonely developer, and I know Apple invested tons of money into R&D of their keyboard and touchpad, all I can do is write this rant and hope someone will notice it, and maybe, maybe create better notebook than macbook.

So please, Samsung, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Acer, HP, Fujitsu or anyone, please create macbook which can be used “as is” and is at least as good as 2015 macbook pro. If nobody does, we end up with the “new and better” (ha ha) macbook for profesionals with 2! USB-C ports, from which 1 is power (LOL).

Rant end.