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Why Developers Are Switching To Macs 771

snydeq writes "Programmers are finding themselves increasingly drawn to the Mac as a development platform, in large part due to Apple's decision to move to Intel chips and to embrace virtualization of other OSes, which has turned Mac OS X into a flexible tool for development, InfoWorld reports. The explosion of interest in smartphone development is helping the trend, with iPhone development lock-in to the Mac environment the chief motivating factor for Apple as a platform of choice for mobile development. Yet for many, the Mac remains sluggish and poorly tuned for development, with developers citing its virtual memory system's poor performance in paging data in and out of memory and likening use of the default-network file system, AFS, to engaging oneself with 'some kind of passive-aggressive torture.' What remains unclear is whether Apple will lend an ear to this new wave of Mac-based development or continue to develop products that lock out uses programmers expect."
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Why Developers Are Switching To Macs

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  • innovative (Score:1, Interesting)

    by EpsCylonB ( 307640 ) <eps@epscylonb.c3.1415926om minus pi> on Monday November 17, 2008 @05:24PM (#25792081) Homepage

    once again macs seem to be innovating, the dual gpu thing where you have a low power one for run of the mill 2d stuff and high power one for the apps that need it are a good example (i believe this is appearing in pc laptops as well).

    my friend just got a shiny new £1800 mac book pro, its faster and has more ram than my main desktop machine, makes me feel sick (that windows xp 32 bit can only address 3.25 GB of ram doesn't help either).

  • by multipartmixed ( 163409 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @05:31PM (#25792217) Homepage

    I had the same question, and thus hit teh google...

    Strangely enough, the answer appears to be "Yes" []

    I was pretty surprised, too. I thought AFS died with the Andrew project.

    Surely, though...Leopard must support NFS? It's certainly good enough for dev work.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @05:36PM (#25792309)
    ...when they refer to Apple Filing Protocol as "AFS", and it shows that Infoworld has idiot editors. There's nothing except an anonymous programmer's opinion to back up the claims made.

    AFP is not strange, twisted, or any sort of barrier for programmers. Over the years, I have found AFP performance (to netatalk) out of the box trounces Samba by almost a 1:2 margin on raw file transfer speed, and 10:1 on directory-intensive operations. It supports international character sets without fuss, and folder/file name restrictions are downright amazing compared to the shit that is SMB/CIFS.

    Don't like AFP? Fine. Use SMB (and yes, you can turn off the "annoying dot files".) Or NFSv4. Or SSHFS with MacFusion, making any Unix box you've got a file server with the installation of one package. There are installers for AFS and (I may have this wrong) Coda.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @05:37PM (#25792339) Homepage Journal

    Hey it was one programmer. And frankly if you are having issues with swap put more ram in.

    I have to live this line.
    "The sting of ka-ching
    While the price of Macintosh hardware continues to be competitive with the best commodity laptops and desktops, Apple offers nothing in the rapidly expanding lower tiers. It's possible to build a quad-core PC running Eclipse and Gimp for less than $400 with refurbished hardware. At the time of this writing, the Mac Pro with one quad-core CPU begins at $2,300. Adding Photoshop and other tools can push the bill closer to $4,000."
    Okay guess what folks? You can run GIMP and Eclipse on a Mac!
    Not only that but it seems a bit unfair to compare a Mac Pro with a refurbished box!
    Heck I a not an Apple fan but this seems very slanted to me.

    Why do developers like the MAC?
    1. It is Unix so if are doing Unix server work this is a piece of cake.
    2. It will run Windows, Linux, BSD, and Mac OS/x so if you are going multi-platform on the PC it is the way to go.
    3. It will run the Google Phone development stack and the Iphone/IPod stack.
    It is just more flexible. Makes me want to get one now.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @05:40PM (#25792379)

    Okay first, about the title: All programmers are developers, but not all developers are programmers. Second, it isn't just developers, it's everybody. Vista exploded on the launch pad. Nobody's upgrading. So for the last several years who's been the only commercial manufacturer to be releasing new spiffy shiny? Apple of course. So, umm, HELLO? Of course people are switching, Apple is the only company offering anything new!

    Microsoft wasn't advertising because they had nothing to advertise -- The only major products they've been pushing out are all incremental upgrades for commercial use. Now we see giant billboards about how great Vista is, but please... The media shot and killed that cow, now they're just trying to recoup their investment. As an aside, I've been waiting for this moment since I got into the industry! Now, whatever you want to say about Macintosh as a platform, you can't deny their marketing has been so good it's making history. That, and Apple has at least three batallions of lawyers ready to crush anyone who "Thinks different". And the only personalities Microsoft has is Bill Gates (now retired), and Balmer, better known as the amazing flying monkey boy.

    Lastly, if we want to talk about developers, not just programmers -- which would include web and graphic designers, architects, etc., Apple has enjoyed huge market share here for one very simple reason: It's simple and it works. This is an industry where the software on a machine costs several times the cost of a system and people happily pay for it. Apple, and companies who develop for their platform, have made design a priority for years -- usability and simplicity. Everything else has come after that. Well, except for some serious QC issues on their hardware lines lately, for which they have not been publicly flogged enough over. Meanwhile, all the other players in the market are trying to be all things to everyone... Vista's DRM and horrible, horrible driver subsystem comes to mind as an example of "Trying to do it all".

    Disclaimer: Not an Apple fangirl (personally, I despise macintoshes), but does work in graphic design and so I deal with it every day.

  • ok. I'm one... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nblender ( 741424 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @05:58PM (#25792749)
    Why? All the reasons you've heard before... I like it when stuff 'just works'. I develop embedded systems. I write device drivers and other kernel code for various open sores operating systems. That means I spend lots of my time in terminal windows, pouring over datasheets, staring at PCI analyzer output, etc... I have a number of monitors, at least one is in horizontal mode (for mail, web, pdfs, etc) and the other in vertical mode (for editor windows). I can just as easily work on my macbook at a customer site, plugged into one of their extra monitors. When I'm done there, I can close the lid, go to another customer site, or into a meeting room, open the lid and have my desktop automatically resize. I can then plug into a projector to review some code, and have my desktop automatically resize again without restarting xorg...

    I have linux boxes at home, I have *BSD boxes at home, I have colocated *BSD boxes around the world for other personal endeavors. I have a fairly extensive MythTV/Zoneminder network at home as well. So I'm not your average Mac weenie... To me, the mac is just a decent portal to all the other Unixy boxes I maintain. I've tried using a Linux desktop on a day to day basis and I've found it just too painful... Ever try getting a bluetooth keyboard working on Ubuntu? It doesn't "just work"; or at least not 6 months ago. It might now... But that's my point... Linux is always improving, but it never does everything I want, when I want it... And yes, I know, "patches welcome"... I contribute plenty to open-source. I can contribute more in my area of specialty and I can do it better sitting in front of a Mac. When I want to relax and watch TV, I don't want to have to hack MythTV to do it. I just want to plunk my fat ass on the couch and be entertained.

  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @06:00PM (#25792783) Homepage Journal

    It's pretty unsurprising that OS X would be good with NFS, given its origins. (Good CIFS/SMB support is more impressive.) And I seem to recall seeing some cook network share discovery tools the last time I used a Mac — much better than anything on Windows.

    But support for NFS and SMB isn't the issue here. Developers are complaining about the shortcomings of AFS. Obviously they wouldn't be doing that if their networks used NFS or SMB shares. I'm speculating that Apple networks tend to have AFS-only networks because their administrators don't know any better. And one you have a bunch of file servers in place that use a particular network file protocol, it's pretty painful to change.

  • No they aren't (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @06:06PM (#25792885)

    Devs share alot in common with /. ers. We hate being closed in HATE IT. We like options. With a mac base you fuck yourself for cross-platform options. You fuck yourself for installed base. You fuck yourself on freedom MANYMANY times over. You fuck yourself on dev tools, libraries and compilers of all sorts. And you support an OS that maintains an iron grip over the computer and what goes on it. Why don't i just shoot myself in the foot some more?
    On a side note how are there so many people here that hate closed anything (People were arguing about firefox being free because it has a logo today) and hate DRM and so many that love apple? Kinda retarded...

  • by knavel ( 1155875 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @06:08PM (#25792909) Homepage

    1. It is Unix so if are doing Unix server work this is a piece of cake.

    It's Unix-ish. Try compiling X11 (or any of hundreds of other POSIX compliant software packages) from source on a Mac. I'll wait.

    2. It will run Windows, Linux, BSD, and Mac OS/x so if you are going multi-platform on the PC it is the way to go.

    It's capable of running its own proprietary OS that is specifically designed to not run on any otherwise capable hardware...That would be like Halliburton putting sugar in all its petroleum products and designing a car that runs on sugar-gas, calling it a "feature".

    3. It will run the Google Phone development stack and the Iphone/IPod stack.
    It is just more flexible. Makes me want to get one now.

    See above.

  • by jrothwell97 ( 968062 ) <jonathan@not[ ] ['ros' in gap]> on Monday November 17, 2008 @06:14PM (#25793023) Homepage Journal

    These are the three reasons why I enjoy developing on the Mac:

    1. Xcode: it's a complete IDE which is simple to learn, not fiddly, and Interface Builder etc makes it possible to quickly create the UI and front faÃade, and then get on, quickly, to writing the guts of the program. It also supports distcc and (to some extent) SCM.
    2. UNIX 03 compatible: it's relatively easy to port CLI apps to other systems. True, that's true of most *nixes, but it's further simplified on OS X.
    3. Cocoa: I actually like Cocoa. I just find it to be a very good API: maybe that's just a matter of taste.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Monday November 17, 2008 @06:25PM (#25793199) Homepage Journal

    You do know that we're talking about a NETWORK file transfer protocol, right? The Mac file system is HFS+, which is perfectly fine for anything you might want to do.

  • by TheVoice900 ( 467327 ) <> on Monday November 17, 2008 @06:29PM (#25793289)

    You're 100% correct. We use krb5p extensively in our organization. The issue is that integration with Linux clients and servers is not quite seamless, since most of the Kerberos stuff is backported from NFS v4, and apparently not that many people are putting effort in to it..

  • Re:maybe in USA (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2008 @06:40PM (#25793507)

    Considering I live in London and have seen whole swathes of developers switch to either OSX or Linux (mainly Ubuntu) I'd take the parent's comment with a grain of salt.

    Last year all but one of our developers were windows, this year everyone is on OSX (I'd stuck it out on Linux for 8 months, but there's still a point in the commercial world where it's a bit less hassle to just run with something like OSX).

    That being said, I really do miss my apt-get Debian goodness (MacPorts and Fink are poor substitudes), the fiddly things you need to do to send correct key commands to terminals, the fact there are no keyboard shortcuts for the little red / yellow / green window buttons out of the box, the fact Java is so poor on Apple...yeah still quite a few things that annoy me about my shiny MacBook Pro.

  • by caywen ( 942955 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @06:43PM (#25793553)


    That's the carrot. The stick, of course, is that development on Microsoft's platforms is no longer interesting. Desktop is dead, both on Windows and Mac, so WPF, Cocoa, etc - those are boring. I don't care about database applications with cool graphics. I don't care about awesome list view widgets, XML UI, etc. Those are just nuts and bolts which are pointless unless there's something compelling to build. The potential of iPhone is compelling.

    That said, and this is totally biased from this Windows dev, to me Xcode doesn't compare to Visual Studio. I find VS's debugging, editing, and pretty much everything else to be slicker and more stable (at least, in VS2008sp1). I find getting a quick-and-dirty Windows app to be faster to slap together than an equivalent Cocoa app (eg. creating a quick game level editor). I also prefer the single-window IDE, and VS.NET works better in that layout. The IDE morphs to be a good debugger IDE when debugging. I find STL debugging easier, as well. MSDN documentation is a library of congress compared to Xcode's docs. But again, a more experienced Xcode dev will kick my ass on these points.

    Little extras: I love having a real command line. I love not having installers be its own entire dev cycle.

  • by bill_kress ( 99356 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @06:47PM (#25793611)

    Not even a comparison. Windows swapping is medium, but Mac's is Horrific. It would completely shut down the computer when anything interesting happened, and you have no control over it. Try running a .5gig machine with less than a gig of disk space and to ANYTHING. At least on a PC you can fix your swap space.

    Of course, the fix was $99 for 4gig ram--I haven't had a problem since!

    Linux, by the way, is the other end of the spectrum. Smooth, clean swapping that allows you to do just about anything with very little memory. You'd expect the Mac to perform more like a Unix--maybe I could have it set up and use a swap partition--honestly I never even thought about that.

  • I hate Windows (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2008 @06:47PM (#25793627)

    and now I hate MacOSX.

    I have used windows since the begining, and have always been annoyed by something, but now that I get to develop for the Mac, I seem to hate it too. Oh, I like having bash and perl ready and available, saving me days of work installing and configuring ActiveState and CygWin. But this "It just works" is nonsense.

    For example, I open a log file, and the console window automatically scrolls to the bottom of the screen. Nice, but when I scroll to the top of the file, I find that the console app only shows the tail of the file. I have to reload it, setting the amount of the file to be loaded. Seriously? This is a professional development platform? It's like Clippy is in charge.

    me: Open the file.
    mac: I'm guessing you really only want to see the last part of the file.
    me: No, really, I want to see the whole damn thing!

    If the OS just worked, then when I open Finder in list view the columns would resize so that I could see the entire file name, or at least the entire date. It's especially annoying that the date format is so long that it's always written as Mon...08 format. Can I change it to 11/17/08 format so that it's easier to read with having to resize the column? No, that feature is only available in windows. Only choice in Mac is "Monday, November 17, 2008"

    I realize that this are nits that I'm picking, but at least in windows I can customize a hundred different things in the UI. In MacOS? I get to choose the background image. The end result is that every action I take requires a handful of follow-on actions that only serve to slow me down and break my train of thought. That is definitely not a desirable characteristic of a professional development platform. And it is something that just doesn't work.

  • Not really (Score:3, Interesting)

    by icepick72 ( 834363 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:52PM (#25795419)
    After reading the first part of TFA I realized he's developing in a Microsoft environment running on a virtual machine on the Mac. So yes he's developing "on" the Mac, but not necessarily for the Mac. His Mac is basically being used as a web browser for testing.
  • by LaskoVortex ( 1153471 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:54PM (#25795443)

    Try maximizing a window on a mac. Minimize a window, then alt-tab back to that app. You get the app, with no window! You then get the 'pleasure' of moving the mouse to the menu bar, selecting the window menu, and hopefully finding the window you wanted.

    I couldn't reproduce this. Which app?

    OSX server (both tiger and leopard) fail in such spectacular manners that it would make your head spin.

    I've been administrating a 10.4 server box for nearly 2.5 years. Setup sucked and I had to reinstall, but after that, it's worked flawlessly ever since. I only need to pay attention to it after power outages. Except for a perfectly defective dhcp server/nat router, I couldn't be happier with it.

    If you install FileMaker server on OSX Server

    There is your problem. I'll hint to the fix: postgresql.

    On some Apple made apps closing the main windows does not close the app, on others (still made by apple) it does.

    Yes, it would be nice if Apple made their admins read the Apple user interface guidelines. I think the cake-taker was netinfo manager.

    As for the sluggishness of Aqua--yup. Four major upgrades later, a tripling of processor speeds, a quintupling of memory, and nearly two orders of magnitude of hard drive sizes later, you still need to wait six minutes to resize a window in Firefox. I don't know whose fault that is, but it needs improvement.

  • by atraintocry ( 1183485 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:10PM (#25795581)

    It's harder to get around OS X with just the mouse. The best thing to do is make friends with F3 (10.3 on), Cmd-W, and Cmd-Q.

    You have probably heard it said before, but the Mac desktop is application-oriented, not window-oriented, and anyone who has spent a lot of time in Windows is going to fight with the lack of a taskbar for a while. It can be good and bad. One good part is that you can leave leave slow-to-load apps open (if you've got the RAM for it) while closing all of their windows. If your users include users of Adobe software, then they probably are grateful for this feature.

    I feel your pain though. I have used Apple machines on and off over the years, but I recently started using a Mac full-time and it does take a fair amount of "letting go" before you can work really efficiently.

    As far as iTunes goes: not that it excuses anything, but do you need it on the server? I don't see why you can't just drop it in the trash. There are other, lighter options if you need an MP3 player on the server. Apple solutions definitely come with their own slew of "issues" as you say, and Apple gets away with a lot more secrecy and waiting around than other vendors. Perhaps because of the RDF.

    My personal pet-peeve: really hate the fact that there's no easy way to turn off the dumping of resource forks into extra files when working with attached FAT storage. If I was only ever going to go Mac-to-Mac with it, why would I be using FAT?

  • by FireXtol ( 1262832 ) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:35PM (#25796517) Journal
    Apparently you have not used a Mac. I had a job using one with OS X.5. It would kernel panic weekly. On the flip side, my Windows NT5 computer hasn't has a BSOD in a very, very long time.

    BTW: any modern OS supports virtulization! In Apple-land it's just more of a requirement.

    You believe it has a clean interface and performs well. You are not fussing with simple stuff? Most people, like me, do. And it's constant. Mac users don't understand that. But non-Apple users who have tried it understand all too well.

    Yea extended function keys? Like printscreen? Nope. Home and End functionality...? Horrible.

    I don't see how ANY seasoned non-Apple programmer could work with the functionality of home and end going to the end and start of documents instead of the current line. Try to change it, or other keyboard functionality to a more non-Apple paradigm? It's inconsistent at best, and you go back to Apple's way. The feeling of being defeated by a Apple computer is soul-crushing.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.