2013/14 MacBook Pro: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

In | by Kernel

Macbook Pro Retina 15inch. Photo: Josh Valcarcel

Arch Linux. That is my baby with which I begin my day, and end it. So, how does a guy like me, get a shot with a girl like you, I mean, MacBook Pro? Walk to an Apple Store, drop $2k (minimum) and  suck up on the Apple juice? Well, yes.

After a week with the ‘Pro, I can understand (mostly) where the 2,000 of my hard-earned-dollars went. It is a glorious machine indeed, I must admit. Screen, superb. Keyboard, on par, if not better than the T-lineup from Lenovo. Weight? The same as my ’09 Alienware M11X. Yes, 12 inches of Alien-goodness from the previous decade weighs the same as 15+ inches of today. And the ‘Pro has less flex, better battery etc. Thank Zeus for engineers and tech progress!

I do have some gripes though.

1) The ‘+’ (zoom?) button on windows doesn’t really maximize the window, but just makes it slightly bigger. You can go all-in full screen, but there’s no easy double-clicking the taskbar for maximizing window option. Really. Maximizing windows is not a Mac thing, or am I missing something here?

2) Window manager in general, in addition to the ‘+’ window button function. Aero-snap, or whatever you want to call it, a pretty basic function of modern window management, yet is missing. Windows has it. Linux, with its plethora of tiling window managers, in addition to the basic desktop environments, obviously has it. OS X? Not so much. Download “iSnap”? Sure. Works like a version 0.9-beta. Not exactly on par with Apple’s “it just works” experience. Maybe I’m missing something, again.

3) Chrome. Not really Apple’s fault I guess, but Chrome (and especially Chrome Canary), doesn’t feel very good on the MBPr. System heats up, occasionally gets all jerky, and sucks up on battery life. I know, all this is a known bug with Chrome’s Mac arm, but the Apple answer is to use Safari. Really. Really? FFS, that’s equivalent to using IE on Windows. Never. Again. Ever. Never. Ever.

4) Dual screen setup. I have a decent ASUS 30″ 1920×1200 IPS display that works very well on Arch + Gnome. Good resolution, painless setup with my Nvidia card. I know my new MBPr doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card (I’m cheap, $2,500 for a laptop? Nein, danke). While setting up an external/dual screen with any Apple laptop is a breeze, literally a plug-and-play, the 30″ display looks like poop with the MBP driving it. It could very well be a matter of the Intel Graphics having to do all the heavy lifting, and while usable for casual web browsing, I’m not going to do anything with a this kind of dual screen setup. The Mac settings do offer various options for scaling etc but in the end, it all looked liked like crap on the 30″ ASUS. I guess I can’t really blame the MBP for it, since the more expensive one with a dedicated graphics card is known for driving 2, if not 3 additional displays. But still…

5) App Store and Software/Package Management. While better than on Windows, by far one of the biggest issues I have with Macs and the Apple ecosystem is finding, downloading and installing software. When it comes to package management, OS X is a sort of a hybrid between Windows, with no real centralized location to find packages and applications, and Linux, where probably 90% of the packages, or in Arch Linux’s case, 100%, can be downloaded through repositories with a simple terminal download & install command. With my MBP, I can find some applications (most of them paid) in the App Store, which offers not much better user experience than the god-awful iTunes, or direct downloads from a developer’s website. Many of the cross-platform applications I use, e.g. VLC, GIMP, FileZilla etc., are not found in the App Store. The actual installation process of non-App-Store packages is not very intuitive either. Even less intuitive can be uninstalling said software, and while the “Apple approved” apps can be simply tossed in the trash (which is actually very nice way of uninstalling), some of the non-App-Store software seem like they can’t be uninstalled at all, until you read the “Read Me” file(s) (which is one way of saying RTFM, I guess).

But these complaints all pale compared to the main one. And no, I’m not revealing anything earth-shattering, this is all well-known by the Linux- and Apple-communities alike; where Linux-neckbeards will tell me “We told you so” and Apple-Starbuckees will scoff “Just deal with it, Steve will always be right”, here’s my main issue: while with Linux, especially with the Arch-kind, I create my own customized “happy place”, Apple expects, nay, forces, one to adjust to the one and only. It really doesn’t matter if there’s a better way of doing things, this is the Apple way, and we all shall conform.

So why would a Linux-guy like me, drop 2k on a Mac? Because I’m a tech-omnivore. Because I absolutely love the MBPr design, hardware, screen, the keyboard, the lot. Battery life, even with Chrome/Firefox with their bugs, is probably unrivaled by anything running Linux (maybe some Thinkpads with extended batteries?). And while I feel like an unwanted guest at an affluent psychopath’s home, I still like all things that involve precision-engineering, research, and in Apple’s case, the pursuit of perfection, even if it comes with the cost of choice. So, I shall make my MBPr work like a mofo, deliver where it needs, and when I need to get a fix of Linux, I can always retreat to the bliss of my Arch-workstation.

Live and let live.