Thanks for the Memory
I’m more than a little astounded how good Windows 8.1 is with memory compared to the Mac.
Even with memory compression on 16GB of RAM, my Macbook Pro regularly writes to swap. On the other hand, I don’t even think I’ve really pushed Windows that hard even though I’m basically running the same set of apps. Windows has clearly come a long way since XP (the last Windows I used regularly). In fairness, however, I don’t know if it’s the apps that are less efficient with memory on Mac, or the OS itself. I tend to think the real culprit might be the apps.
I’m really starting to think I should be running Windows on my Macbook Pro as the main operating system.
Since I switched a little over a week and a half ago, I’ve found that I don’t miss the Mac at all. Yes, the applications on Windows tend to be more rough around the edges than on Mac, but the transition hasn’t been nearly as jarring as I thought it would be.
The thing I hate the most so far about Windows 8.1 is how messy the system settings are between the Desktop settings and the Modern/Metro settings. On the plus side, Windows is a set it and forget it affair, so once you turn off all the annoyances, it’s a pretty smooth ride.
A nice little detail of the Atom text editor from Github is that you see a little squirrel in your window whenever an upgrade is available.
Switching Back to Windows
After some frustration with Apple products in the past couple of years, I’ve finally switched completely to Windows 8.1 for my work stuff. Having eased into it with the Surface Pro, the recent crashing issues of my 2011 Macbook Pro (a model notorious for overheating issues) sped up the complete migration.
I had a few major concerns:
- Would I find an IDE that I like as much as Panic Coda?
- Would I find a nice, simple Git GUI like Gitbox?
- Will I be able to adjust to using “dir” instead of “ls” in the command line?
- Would ruby drive me nuts on Windows?
- Would I be able to use Windows Explorer having spent the past year so using PathFinder?
Well, all of my concerns were addressed, mostly with positive results.
- I eased myself away from Panic Coda by switching to Github’s Atom editor. It’s not perfect, but when you combine it with the Deja Vu Sans Mono font, it’s a very similar experience to Coda for me (based on the parts of Coda that I use).
- Well, nothing is like Gitbox on Windows, which is unfortunate. But there is the official Github application, Atlassian’s SourceTree application, and a couple of other alternatives that I have yet to try.
- Cmder, which I found on Scott Hanselman’s 2014 “power user” list, is an amazing shell alternative for Windows. It feels just like the Mac Terminal app, and “ls” works!
- Ruby is a mixed bag on Windows. It’s a complete pig on the Surface and it’s ultrabook class CPU, but on my new desktop, it runs just fine. I miss being able to have Passenger running with Apache, but I’ll get over that sooner or later.
- OK, Windows Explorer from Windows 2000 is in my opinion, the best file browser ever made. Every subsequent version made by Microsoft is a regression. CubicExplorer, which I had been using for a while, is actually pretty good. But once again, Scott Hanselman’s list to the rescue. There’s an add-on called Listary, which is great. It’s hard to explain what it does, but it’s a bit like Quicksilver or Spotlight that’s also bolted onto Windows Explorer and Windows’ file browser dialogs. There’s a free and paid “pro” version. For most people, the free version will probably do, but I liked it so much I decided to give them my money.
I know that Windows 8.1 gets a lot of hate, even from die hard Windows users, but as someone who has been a Mac user since the early days, I personally think Microsoft has come a long way.
Apple fan boys like to talk about how we’ve entered the “post pc” era, but I personally think we’ve entered the “post os” era. It doesn’t really matter what OS you’re using today, especially if a lot of your services are in the cloud. It didn’t take me long to get my system up and running (btw, ninite.com is an amazing service — it saved me hours getting my base software provisioned on my Windows box).
The hardest experience about setting up Windows was struggling to read the tiny, thin font of the serial number off a low contrast background. I actually had to pull out a magnifying glass to discern between the 8’s and B’s.
Another surprising thing, related to the Surface Pro, was the muscle memory of having a touch screen. I found myself reaching out to my monitors to touch the screen to hit links, buttons or to scroll. A LOT of people, especially on Hacker News, pooh-pooh the notion of touchscreen desktops, but some interactions, like the ones I mentioned above, are just perfect for a touch interface.