I was looking for an upgrade to my Acer netbook, trawling through second-hand computers. This was in 2011. My main issue when I’m buying second hand computers is having something be predictable—I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on something that turns out to be crap. I looked in the “Mac” section and realised that they weren’t that expensive. If I got a Mac, I’d know that it was going to be reasonably well-built, usable on battery, with a half-decent screen, keyboard, and trackpad.
The other advantage of buying a Mac was that it’s easy to know compatibility for installing Linux ahead of time. It’s a shame that the compatibility is “difficult”, but at least you know that up front.
In the end I bought a 2008 MacBook with a Core 2 Duo processor, 160GB hard drive, and 2GB of RAM. The bigger screen and better keyboard made everything easier, compared to my tiny netbook.
I used OS X on it for a while, before installing Ubuntu (I assume version 12.04) on it. I’d occasionally dual-boot but most of my time was spent using Ubuntu. This lasted until probably late 2012 when I realised that Minecraft performed much better on OS X than on Ubuntu, and so ended up spending more time back in OS X.
My dad upgraded his 2010 MacBook Pro to a MacBook Air—to reduce weight while travelling—and I got the Pro as a hand-me-down. This ended up being short-lived as he upgraded again to the 11” Air, and I got the previous 13” Air. That 2013 13” MacBook Air, by virtue of being the Mac I used the most and longest, is my favourite Mac. It was my first computer with an SSD, which gave it a huge speed boost compared to the MacBook Pro.
2013 was really when the Air became an awesome all-round computer. The advertised battery life was 12 hours (almost twice that of the previous generation which claimed 7 hours) which meant I could take it to university and leave the power brick at home. At a time when most people had their huge 15” ultra-glossy laptops tethered to a wall outlet, this was awesome.
In a post-dongle world it’s weird to remember the fact that I could plug in power, a mouse, keyboard, headphones, and a display all into the built-in ports on my “entry-level” “consumer” laptop.
Favourite Mac Software
The software that defined my use of the Mac in the 2010s was TextMate. It was the go-to editor for Rails development, and I used it almost exclusively from 2012 to 2017. I’d use an IDE for Java development, but everything else would be done in TextMate.
I still keep it installed in case I just need to do something quickly or wrangle some text with multiple cursors, but most of the time I’ll use Vim to make use of muscle memory and macros.
Favourite Mac Accessory
In 2015 I bought a Magic Trackpad on a bit of a whim. I’d been using the wireless Mighty Mouse when I was working at my desk, but I liked the idea of using a trackpad for everything and must’ve found a good deal on a second-hand one.
Since then I’ve been using trackpads almost exclusively. I replaced the first-generation Magic Trackpad in 2019 since I got sick of the AA batteries running out, and the second-generation trackpad has longer-lasting built-in batteries that can be charged while the trackpad is in use.
I’ve never had any significant RSI issues using the low-profile Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad, and so I’m hesitant to make any changes to a setup that works so well.
Hall of Shame
The worst Mac that I’ve used was the 2018 MacBook Pro (with Touch Bar) that I used at work. My first work laptop had to be replaced1 after the “b” key stopped working, but the replacement wasn’t that much better. I didn’t really mind typing on the low-travel butterfly keyboard, but I loathed having no gap between the arrow keys, which made feeling for them with the tips of my fingers more difficult.
In contrast to my experience with the amazing battery life on the 2013 Air, the battery life I would get from the Pro was abysmal. This is in no small part due to the types of work that I was doing on each machine—text editing is a lot less power-hungry than large video calls—but I came to resent the fact that the fans would constantly be maxed out and the battery wouldn’t last through even one hour of meetings.
Thankfully in 2022 I was able to replace this with an M1 MacBook Pro, which has amazing battery life, no fan noise, and never stutters no matter how many browser tabs I have open.
My current personal laptop is an M1 MacBook Air, which I am using to write this post.
Replaced from my perspective, it was evidently easier to just give me a new laptop rather than have me wait on a repair—as much as I would have wanted to keep the exact machine with all my stickers on it. ↩