Mac

Why use a Mac for development?

There are multiple reasons why I develop and test on the Mac. Primarily, it's the platform my company has chosen. But beyond that, over the last two years I have replaced almost all of my Windows machines with Mac computers. I have a Mac Pro at work and at home, along with a Mac mini, a pair of iMacs, and a few combinations of MacBooks. Not to mention my collection of iPads going back to the original model, and a couple of iPod Touch devices.

Well before that, I got my start with the Apple II, a machine I still hold in very high regard. By the time college came around, I was working on PC clones with only occasional stints on a Mac. Then it became all Windows based machines.

I didn't really come back to Apple until the original iPad came out. To me, that device was magical. It was so utterly brilliant in both form and function.

I contemplated switching to the Mac several years ago, but I've always been with Windows centric companies. Now that I'm with a company that embraces Mac, open source, and web technology, I'm not specifically tied to an OS.

After a time, I decided to buy my own development machine. I could have brought a machine from home, a Windows machine with 8 cores with 32GB of ram, which is pretty good. To keep in step with my renewed interest in the Mac, I saw I could get a Mac Pro with 2 physical processors for 12 cores and 128GB of ram. It's an older machine, but those are still impressive specs.

And with that machine I have completed tasks and projects I don't think I could have done on another machine.

I'm able to run multiple instances of Katalon for performance testing, even though that's not quite how it should be done. I can push JMeter to the point of saturating our network. I can have dozens of tools and applications open across multiple screens without worrying about system resources. I have helper applets galore without seeing my system slow to a crawl. I have instances of Firefox, Chrome and Safari running without issue. I've even had multiple VirtualBox machines running for browser testing.

It's not just the machine, the OS has played a very important part in the development work I've taken on over the last two years.

I have found macOS to be incredibly stable. I think the last time I needed to reboot my machine was 6 months ago. I am not a fan of the Windows 8/10 UI and find the macOS style far more appealing and unobtrusive.

Installing and removing apps is incredibly simple. There is no registry or files scattered all over the place or the need to reboot.

Further, the Mac licensing is far more generous so I have the same apps at home as I do at work.

I also feel there is better software that fits my needs. There are simple things like window managers, text expanders, and clipboard editors. But there's also far more calendaring, task management, project management, document management, note taking, markdown and text editing packages available for the Mac than Windows.

It also feels the Mac is more developer centric. Coding for the .NET framework is done on Windows, but it's a big world outside of Visual Studio. When it comes to working with Java, Groovy, Python, you will find more answers that don't involve Windows.

And there is no shortage of development tools for the Mac. Not just IDEs. There are multiple options for storing code snippets, for parsing text, for managing the clipboard, for storing notes and data. As the saying goes "There's an app for that."

Finally, there is the power of Unix under the hood. Terminal offers the hundreds of tools native to Unix as well as shell scripting which can be amazing. The power of grep compels you!

I've had a lot of success with Windows in the past. I'm now taking that further with the Mac and enjoying it quite a bit more.

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Disk Drill 3.x Lifetime License

As part of my switchover to macOS, I’ve been looking for a disk recovery tool. For Windows, I’ve got EaseUS Disk Recovery and Recover My Files. These have served me well and Recover My Files recovered tens of gigs worth of data from an external drive fiasco.

Now that I’m using macOS, I’ve got TimeMachine as a backup tool and have been looking for full file recovery. Disk Drill comes up time and time again as a tool of choice and it’s now on sale for 70% off, including Lifetime License.

I haven’t had need of Disk Drill’s services yet, so this is a preventative purchase. But this is a solid deal and it’s worth the small investment now, rather than full price later should things go awry.

I will say, I have Disk Drill running to take advantage of the SMART monitoring. I have a couple of drives in this Mac, and want to make sure nothing happens to them. So far, all is running well.

The discounted version is available on BitsDuJour and the license key is immediate. I’ve been watching for a sale, so it looks like Black Friday is at hand.

Disk Drill Pro 3 for Mac

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Switching from Windows to Mac OS – The Software

With my change in OS comes a change in desktop software, at least to a certain extent. There are plenty of apps with native Mac counterparts and in some cases, they’re better than the original. A standard set of software would be – an Office suite, video editor, screen capture tool, chat client, password manager, note taker and web editor. I now have a native Mac app for each one.

For example, Microsoft Office was easily replaced with LibreOffice.

Outlook was replaced by the built in Apple Mail.

And OneNote was replaced with Outline.

While Write replaced Word, I will be using Scrivener that I got a few years ago.

Here is a short list of how it’s worked out so far.

Word -> Scrivener

Microsoft Office -> LibreOffice

OneNote -> Outline

Outlook -> Apple Mail

Irfanview -> Pixelmator.

MediaMonkey -> iTunes

Notepad++ -> TextWrangler

O&O DiskImage -> Time Machine

This is the short list of the apps with native Mac equivalents.

Atom

SnagIt

Camtasia

Scrivener

Scapple

Notebooks

Wordweb

Dropbox, Google Drive

Trillian

Paprika

Virtualbox

WordPress

Roboform

Slack

Github

And of course, Firefox and Chrome.

I also brought in some welcome additions. I have the desktop version of Appigo ToDo to sync with the iPad and TypeIt4Me, a fantastic text expander that’s extremely beneficial for writing, creating templates and filling in forms for some of the testing I do.

One loose end is a replacement for Corel Paintshop Pro. I know there is Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and even Affinity Photo, but I’d like a native Mac version. Maybe one day.

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Switching from Windows to Mac OS – The Hardware

Buying a Mac is actually a tricky affair. Because of the expense, my first thought was to build a Hackintosh. I love the idea of it, but it requires some specific hardware, some specific procedures and a bit more dedication to the cause than I’m willing to give. And, if I needed new hardware, I would rather get a real Mac and know full well it works.

But where to start? Any machine would need to have at least 8 cores and 32GB of ram. That’s what I have now and anything less would be a step back. I also need to add quite a bit of hard drive space. That eliminates the Mac Mini.

The iMac, especially the new one with 18 cores, meets the power criteria, but lacks the hard drive capacities and the price tag for that model is in the stratosphere.

The MacBooks are nice, but it doesn’t have the cores or ram, and I’m not keen on having a laptop as my main machine.

It’s down to the Mac Pro, but, with a catch.

The current Mac Pro is impressive, but, you need to think ahead on the hardware you want. However, the previous generation of Mac Pro still has a few tricks. The innards of that big aluminum case contain hardware that is powerful and expandable.

They aren’t produced anymore, but they can easily be found on eBay. Once I started looking, I found the Mac Pro of 2010 and 2012 are far more powerful than I ever imagined. When completely loaded, they support multiple processors with multiple cores per processor and can be fitted with huge amounts of ram and high end video cards.

After comparing prices and specs, I decided to go all-in and bought the biggest machine I could find, which crushes what I have now. It sports 2x 6-core processors at 3.54 Ghz, 128GB of ram, a 1TB SSD main drive, a 1TB data drive, and a staggering Nvidia Titan X video card with 12GB of ram. As a gaming rig, it would set your hair on fire.

But, this will be an application workhorse, so with 128GB of ram, I will create virtual machines bigger than my physical machines. I could also make a massive ram drive so as to stuff dozens of programs into pure memory.

The Titan X won’t be used to it’s full capacity, but it supports multiple monitors and my video won’t lag for years to come. And I’ve already added two 3TB hard drives for more data storage.

It could be overkill, but it has some brutal power. Apps take mere seconds to install and switching between them is near instantaneous. Plus, apps will never starve for ram. When the day comes to retire it out, it will make one hell of a media or web server if nothing else.

I consider it an acceptable upgrade. It goes beyond any Hackintosh or Windows based machine I could have built on my own or ordered for anything close to the price. It will be some years before a machine comes along that has big enough specs to make me upgrade. From here it would need to be 18 cores and 256GB of ram.

mac-system-properties

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Swooped in and grabbed a copy of Outline for Mac for $6.99

I’ve written many times of my fondness for OneNote and since work is almost exclusively Mac based, I’ve been looking for an alternative to use. Yes, I know there is OneNote for Mac, but have you used it? To put it bluntly, it’s a piece of crap. It’s slow, buggy and the requirement of hooking into Windows Live is an utter annoyance. Plus, like so many other Microsoft services, it just doesn’t work correctly.

I have Outline on my iPad and it’s a great app. Now, Outline for Mac has dropped to $6.99 and I jumped at the chance to get a copy. Normally, Outline is $39.99, which I think is outrageously priced. Yes, it’s a good program, but let’s not get ridiculous with our pricing shall we? But hey, $6.99 is more than a fair price.

The install footprint is extremely small with a 38MB download. This is a fraction of what it takes to install the latest version of OneNote.

So far, Outline is working very well. It’s quite, has the tabs I’m used to, allows the local creation of files and is far more responsive than Microsoft OneNote for Mac.

If you’re looking for an usable tool like Microsoft OneNote, but you actually want it to work correctly, I would recommend checking out Outline for Mac. It’s a really good program that is always improving and has all the features of OneNote that I want to use.

Outline for Mac

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