From Mac to Windows

Warning: This blogpost has been posted over two years ago. That is a long time in development-world! The story here may not be relevant, complete or secure. Code might not be complete or obsoleted, and even my current vision might have (completely) changed on the subject. So please do read further, but use it with caution.
Posted on 12 Aug 2020
Tagged with: [ mac ]  [ win

I’ve moved from a Macbook Pro to a Dell PS running Windows 10. I decided against MacBook after their annoucement to move to ARM. Even though the macbook 16” was the only system i actually was thinking of buying, i’ve decided against it and give windows a new try. I’ve heared more and more good stories about windows, and more and more bad stored about mac over the last few years. Let’s switch!

from mac to win

I moved from a MacBookPro early 2011 (yes, really) to a Dell XPS 9700. I did a #treatyouself and added a Dell uw4919dw monitor to it as well. So the machine is pretty much the top of what we can buy these days. I’ve got the 17”, which in fact is just a few mm larger than my MBP 15(.4)” and it’s lighter (it’s still heavy, but i’m used to lugging around a brick for almost 10 years). So more screen estate (4 times actually!) on the laptop alone.

Windows first laughed at me when booted up, because of 16GB memory. But that was easily fixed by moving to 64GB (you hear that Apple, user replaceable stuff!). Since then, i’ve got a RAM usage of about 20-30GB with most of it used in vmmain (WSL2/docker stuff which is capped to 16GB so no worries there).

I really like the machine itself. There is a completely useless touchscreen on there but I didn’t go for the “larger” videocard as I don’t play games. Saves some battery time as well.

The whole everything-is-a-usb-C thing wasn’t so bad as I expected. There is a small dongle for hdmi/usb-a which I use at home for connecting a mouse. But at the office I do everything from a single USB-C cable instead of plugging in 3 cables on my mac. So power, DP signal, usb-hubs etc are all connected through a single cable. Mouse and keyboard being bluetooth.

About windows

On the OS side of things: it’s pretty acceptable to work with. I did some tryouts with a windows machine before and felt I could get along on windows 10. WSL2 is really neat. I can finally do docker things right again although it’s a bit trail and error to get things setup the right way. (docker, phpstorm, xdebug, golang all want their own way of doing things, which can be tricky).

I can’t get used to the taskbar, so I replaced it with Nexus Winstep and got a nice OSX look&feel. It’s not quite the same dock as a mac, but close enough. Even systray icons are neatly stacked in the bar. In fact, I like it better than mac’s docker system by now.

The only thing that doesn’t really work well is the fact that the icons are not animated in the sense of displaying a button when new mail or slack messages have arrived. It also doesn’t provide the same context menu, where I could click on phpstorm, and open a recent project. One more thing to unlearn I guess.

I’ve also installed Wox, which gives me spotlight which works well enough. I could use the win-key, but somehow it doesn’t feel right for me. It still gives me way to many results (powered by “everything.exe”, which I still need to tweak I guess).

Most applications that I use are available on windows as well, so i don’t have to relearn/miss much. There is a thing to be said on Paw (HTTP test system), but i heard on twitter there might be something coming up very soon. Oh joy!

I’m actually quite surprised by Windows Terminal. It’s got enough features to make it workable. Especially since the fact I’m using panes a lot and you can do a lot of nice things with them in Terminal (except moving them to another part of the screen, something i did a lot).

Windows PowerShell is utter crap and hope it dies a horrible death. I can’t understand how anyone in their right mind actually likes that system. Cmd.exe is still the useless program like it was 15 years ago.

I also miss a “sudo”, as I tried to run chocolaty things. I’ve got a quick link to an elevated shell so I can do a choco install and get out as quickly as possible. Seems workable enough but now my system is actually installed, i don’t need it as much.

Backup is also a thing. I tried things with onedrive, only to get all my stuff removed and moved “into the cloud”. I hate when that happens, so i disabled the whole onecloud stuff (thanks, i have enough clouds already). Since i do some backups on backblaze already, I’m actually using their system to do a continuous backup. It’s not quite timemachine, but good enough (i hope). I realize that loosing my computer means a complete reinstall of windows anyway, so again: nothing changed there in the last 15 years.

As said: WSL is really nice.. it’s like Linux, but just not quite. Which is annoying when you want to do things like setting up dbus, gpg etc.. I’m also trying to figure out how to get ssh correctly running on both wsl and windows so I can use the same keys in my ssh-agent (provided that works under windows, still not sure).

Also another thing: I got completely chrome-less (well not quite, as I still use chromium for electronjs stuff), but no chrome browser installed. I use firefox which is actually quite nice, and I’ve got edge, which is what I downloaded firefox with.

A few annoying things

There are some things that bug me though:

  • my soundcard driver sometimes crashes after a sleep. It happens a few times now but no real cause can be found. A restart usually works. I tried to call microsoft “support” to see if they knew a solution. Like i thought: “abishek” (like there are 500 million of them in India i guess), just followed his script and told me the only thing to do is update drivers, restart your machine and hope for the best.. so again: nothing has changed in the last 15 years there neither. I actually called Dell support (Leroy) which was more helpful and could help me. We did some updates and issues seem to have gone away. My fingerprint scanner didn’t work anymore, and my system kept rebooting automatically once in a while, but that’s the price you pay for updates I guess. Luckily this seemed to be fixed with more updates from Leroy. System seems stable now. These are the things Apple got right: one single system means much more reliable driver configurations (well, in theory).
  • firefox has a nasty thing that it cannot parse console pages on AWS. I get xml errors but a refresh helps. Annoying and it’s probably due to a plugin I guess? It’s not annoying enough to actually dive into it.

Happy or not?

So.. Am I happy with the move? Well.. I’m not unhappy. That probably says a lot coming from a default pessimistic guy. I still miss my macbook, but the struggle against a new keyboard layout, ctrl/alt switcheroos and such are less and less. I think I can get used to this system. And the screen real-estate I have nowadays… oh my!