A biased view of the whole Mac vs PC discussion

The Mac vs PC debate is practically as old as the youngest of the two platform. I’ve tried to take a biased look at the whole thing again.

My first machine was an IBM x286. I was 6 years old and our neighbor was working for IBM and he thought my brother and I would be interested in playing with a computer. Boy, was he right!

For practically 15 years I’ve use DOS, Windows 3.1, 95, 98, and Windows XP.

When I started university, I got myself an Acer laptop. What a piece of junk that was. After a couple of months (in 2005) I’ve wiped it and installed the second Ubuntu version ever released1. At the university we were using Scientific Linux: Ubuntu felt like fresh air.

When I decided to move to the Netherlands in 2006, I’ve bought my first Mac. What convinced me was the iPod: it was so more intuitive than any other electronic device used up to that moment that I thought that if Macs were half that good, I was missing out.

I was right. My first Mac was an iBook G4. The battery would last 7 hours and after replacing the hard drive with an 80GB 7200rpm variant and upgrading the RAM to 1GB (IIRC) it was flying compared to the Acer.

That wasn’t the only great thing about the Mac. Everything felt as good as the iPod.

I’ve kept using Macs during my PhD, with various iMacs, Macbook Pros, Macbook Airs, and what not. When I first got into industry I had to use a Dell with Windows 7 Enterprise Edition. It was a piece of junk, commodity enterprise laptop.

Once I joined GoDataDriven I immediately got a Macbook Pro.

In the meantime, however, something happened. Microsoft was changing course, developing an open source friendly attitude and people were kind of discontent of the hit Apple software quality was taking, reportedly due to the huge success that the iPhone is.

After two year I decided to get a Dell XPS 15" for work. I wanted to challenge myself and see how far could I go using Windows (10). After two years of use, I went back to a Mac. Why?

Where the Dell shined

There are a number of area’s where the Dell shined for me. The Dell:

On the other hand the Dell runs Windows, and this has also a number of advantages:

Given all the above, I could work on my laptop just fine for two years. I installed all the various Python packages, virtualenvs and whatnot (without Anaconda), Scala, Spark, Docker, and databases such as Postgres and MySQL. I even got PyCuda working with the NVidia GPU I had.

Verdict: If you want to use a Windows machine to use the above, you will be fine. Don’t drink too much Apple kool aid.

Where the Mac shines

That said: why did I come back? The single, biggest factor, is applications. I think macOS has much better frameworks to develop applications.

It is also true that third party apps usually cost more, but they give me a much better experience. In particular I love:

Besides apps there are a lot of other touches that I really enjoy about the Mac:

Where the Mac falls short

Not all is good in macOS land however:

As for work: I could install all the stuff I wanted, excluding PyCuda because, guess what, these things don’t ship with a NVidia card, no matter how much money you have.


Well, I already gave it away: I’m back to Mac, apps being the biggest factor, but I gained a lot of nice touches in the switch!

  1. Feeling old now. ↩︎

  2. Some things are worse, such as the trackpad, some are better, such as the 4K screen. ↩︎

  3. There are third party applications in Windows that offer the same behavior, but having it built in the OS is always more stable. ↩︎