I started using Macs in 2006, with the first Intel-based MacBooks. I appreciated the design, and OS X had a lot of appeal. It had a good interface and common apps (real Office!), but I could go down to the prompt and be a UNIX geek. As I got into photography, Apple's Aperture became my go-to software for photo cataloging and editing. While the hardware had a bit of a perimum, it wasn't signifcantly more than a similarly spec'ed Dell.

So, when it came time to replace my five-year-old MacBook Pro, why didn't I go to the Apple Store?

A few things happened over those five years. First, Apple shifted photo management software from Aperture and iPhoto to the "Photos" app.It killed off Aperture. Photos was a good replacement for the entry-level iPhoto application, I found it to be a less-than-adequate replacement for Aperture. It became evident I would need to find a replacement. Since most alterantives were mutli-platform, that specific tie to Apple diminished.

At the same time, the more lightweight things I was doing with my laptop were less tied to a specific system in the form of a piece of software, and more something I would do via a web app. For instance, to track my bike rides and download infomraiton from my bike computer, I was using an OS X application called Ascent. It did a good job with that. However, I gradually shifted to Strava. It housed my ride data, but had some social network features (to compare to friends), better analysis tools, and the ability to track other activities. Other things, such as email and calendaring, were never particularly awesome regardless of platform.

Hardware became a factor, too. While MacBook prices stayed about the same, everything else dropped. I was still willing to pay a bit of a permium for what I perceived to be better quality, longer life, and OS X. But the latest round of MacBooks broke that model. Where I had the option of a 1 TB mechanical hard drive, the new baseline was 128-258 GB SSD. To get close (512 GB onboard), I needed to tack on 50% to the price. Apple's philosophy was to put bulk storage in the cloud (at a monthly fee). I could buy USB hard drives, but that was a cumbersome solution. The new MacBooks also only had USB-C ports--to even charge my iPhone, I'd have to buy a dongle. In short, the Apple premium jumped considerably.

When I compared it to some equally spec'ed laptops at half the price, it was hard to justify paying the price just for OS X for me. I opted to get an HP Omen, and run Linux, a UNIX-based operating system. AfterShot, my Aperture replacement, runs on it, and web apps run fine.

That said, I miss having a Mac. Where everything "just worked," I often have to spend time Googling to solve some quirk. Not every bit of software works. It has called on me to be geekier--a good thing--but at times, I just want to work on the task I set out to do, not troubleshoot my system.

Moore's Law suggests that there is a new geneartion of processors every eighteen months. A corellary is that most folks don't want to be more than one geneartion behind the times (i.e. they are replacing systems every 3-4 years). I suppose at that point, one of three things will happen:

  1. I will have figured out the quirks, and stick with my generic-WinTel-laptop-wtih-Linux solution.
  2. I'll be so frustrated that I'll get a Mac, accepting the tradeoffs.
  3. The landscape will have changed enoguh that annoyances like cloud storage and USB-C will be normal, and I can make a more balanced comparison.