Jay Little
MacOS is the Worst Part of Apple Silicon

01/23/2023 23:42:06

I recently took a new job and my new employer gave me a choice between a Lenovo Thinkpad with Windows and an M1 Macbook Pro with MacOS. Even my least dedicated readers know that I have no love for Windows and have spent literal years trying to rid myself of it. So of course I chose the Macbook Pro.

Well dear readers, I'm going to be blunt: I wish I hadn't. The reason why is simple: MacOS is a mess of bugs, half-baked features and is clearly only being maintained because Apple obviously feels like it has to. Over ten years ago when I last used MacOS on a regular basis at work, MacOS was perfectly serviceable by the standards of the day. It was competitive and Apple was clearly still excited for it's future prospects. It wasn't lacking in any noticeable way.

Fast forward to today and the situation is far more murkier and less clear. For starters, MacOS lacks a wide variety of quality of life features that you can basically expect out of the box in Windows along with most high end Linux desktop environments. For example the ability to easily move application windows between multiple monitors using keyboard shortcuts, or snap windows into place so they partially occupy portions of a particular screen are completely missing out of the box. Yes there are third party applications like Rectangle that will add these features to MacOS at no cost, but I can't help but to wonder why a modern OS in 2023 requires third party addons for something that basically became standard functionality when they first debutted with Windows 7 in 2009.

On top of which, even on a Macbook Pro with an M1 Pro processor, performance can be spotty at best sometimes. My favorite most recent example of this has been opening a 200 kilobyte PDF from a samba (Windows fileserver) share. This is an operation that I would expect to take a few seconds at most on a modern OS with modern hardware and yet in MacOS it takes ten seconds every time and for the life of me I can't understand why. Is the Preview app just that inefficient or is there some other bottleneck in MacOS that is the root cause? How is it that on a laptop with an SoC that is currently setting the worldwide standard for performance-per-watt that I seem to always see the infamous MacOS beach ball? That's a great question and sadly its one for which I have no satisfactory answer.

Whats most amazing to me about this is that MacOS, iOS and tvOS all share a common lineage yet my experiences with iOS on my phone and tvOS on my AppleTVs has effectively been the polar opposite of my experience with MacOS, which is to say I have been very happy with them. The only gripe I have that covers all three is definitely in regards to the installation of system updates... which always seem to take forever regardless of the OS variant. I guess Linux has just spoiled me permanently in this regard.

Let's be honest: That's probably the real issue here. I switched to using Linux as my full time personal OS back in 2015 so it's been awhile since I've really had to live with anything else except the occasional token Windows installation. This has definitely altered my view in terms of how I expect things to work.

For as much shit as Linux on the desktop takes from various tech mouthpiece know-it-alls on the internet, the reality is that every six months when a major distro update comes out, the users of that distro who choose to upgrade are receiving real sometimes incremental, sometimes revolutionary improvements. I don't have a list of long running bugs in Linux or Gnome that I have adjusted my workflows to avoid because I know they will never get resolved like I do with Windows and now MacOS. That's not to say Linux is the perfect desktop operating system, because it isn't. But it does make constant and consistent progress. People and developers in that ecosystem actually care about the components they are working on and it shows.

So yeah Linux has definitely spoiled me when it comes to centrally developed proprietary operating systems. From the perspective of Microsoft and Apple, these operating systems are basically just a means to an end. For Microsoft Windows is now basically a gateway drug for pushing Azure services and for Apple MacOS is basically just the development platform for iOS and tVOS applications.

But at the end of the day if I had to choose between MacOS and Windows knowing what I know now, I think I would actually choose Windows. That's because Microsoft is at least making token efforts to keep Windows relevant in the rapidly changing world of software development. While I would strongly argue that WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) is a half measure at best, I certainly wouldn't deny myself the opportunity to make use of it should the proper situation arise.

Whereas on the Apple side of the fence, MacOS feels forgotten and like something that is maintained out of necessity rather than as a passionate exercise on anybody's part. This situation has severely dampened my enthusiasm for Apple Silicon based hardware even as the community continues to bend over backwards to port Linux to it. While those efforts will clearly yield real results down the road, the lack of a fully functional operating system I can tolerate on the hardware today along with all the other downsides (largely the complete and utter lack of upgradeability and repairability) has essentially soured me on the prospect of Apple Silicon for the time being.

But like all opinions, this one may change in the future as the situation evolves and I acquire more information. I won't rule it out like I spent the last few years ruling out the idea that I would actually ever choose Windows over something else while in my right mind.

The final question that some of you are probably asking is: Will I ask my employer to switch out my Macbook Pro for a Lenovo Thinkpad? The answer is no. Despite all of the downsides I enumerated above, I still think there is some benefit to allowing myself to continue being exposed to MacOS. If you need any evidence of that, look no further than me revisiting my opinion of Windows after spending the last three months with MacOS.

TLDR: Sometimes it makes sense stick with "new" things even if you don't initially like them. That's the same advice I would give somebody who was trying to switch to Linux but having trouble and I would be remiss to not take it myself.

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