In Which I Describe a Narrowly-averted Nerdfight

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I was at a friend's delightful beer tasting party last weekend, and had an incident I'd like to share with you all. The beer was amazing, obviously, and the company also delightful. I met some really great folks and got to reconnect with some folks I don't see too often, and that was great, but one little incident does stand out to me: when another guest started to argue with me about the virtues of PCs vs. Macs.

Yeah go ahead and check your calendar. It's 2013, and somehow I'm still having this argument with people. I am an unapologetic mac user, and I used to play this game, but this time I had to tell the guy that I would rather stab my eyes out with forks than have that debate with another person, and I think for the first time I really understood and was able to articulate exactly why it is that this argument happens and why I'm sick of having it: mac users and windows users are just fundamentally looking for very different things out of their computers.I'm a software engineer by trade, so the bulk of the work I do on my mac is programming. I edit a lot of text files, and sometimes I do some blogging. I also play video games, but that's less important to me than my work; this detail is important. I have a PC that I built myself and I use it for work occasionally, but there's a big problem with my PC: it doesn't work all the time. I enjoyed building it and as far as the hardware I know it's solid, but without constant work, a Linux installation just doesn't keep up with me, and using Linux for work is fine when everything's working, not so fine when something's wrong. Of course, if you want an operating system that just works most of the time, there's Windows, but web software development simply doesn't happen on Windows, because of the shitty (read: unusable) command line and the totally closed architecture. On my Mac I have a working environment that never bitches about unmet APT dependencies, and I also get a POSIX-compliant command line with all the commands I'm used to having. More than anything else, the vast majority of Ruby developers use Macs, so if I were to use a PC I would be unnecessarily putting myself out of sync with all but very few of my peers. So, there's that, but there's something more.

This guy pointed out the cost argument, and that Apple charges more for "the same" hardware, but is it really the same? The screen resolution on my Mac is significantly higher than even my 46" TV set is, and a couple orders of magnitude higher than the PCs that were available to me when I bought it (I bothered to check). The trackpad is so well-designed that I'd be a little surprised if no one's bothered to give someone an award over it. The keyboard responds exactly how I want it to. The whole thing is made out of a precision-machined piece of billet aluminium. So, while I understand that I can put together a tower that has the same process, same amount of RAM, same hard drive, etc. as my Macbook Pro, I do not really agree that this represents "the same" hardware. So there's that. There's also the fact that this is the computer I work with, and I really don't care to build my own computer to work with. I am not a hobbyist; this is my actual job, and it matters a great deal if my hardware works every minute of every day. Fucking around with DLL files and insufficient command prompts in Windows or fucking around with APT repositories and compiling stuff from source in Linux are not really my ideas of a good time. Likewise, having to spend hours researching graphics cards to choose which one is just the right graphics card for me isn't really my idea of fun. I really don't care what graphics card my computer has, so long as my computer's graphics work in the most basic sense, and even then it's not like Vim really uses a whole hell of a lot of graphics processing power to do its thing.

The other thing that I feel really needs to be pointed out is that it doesn't really matter what kind of computer you have, if you have a computer at all nowadays. I can run Windows programs just fine on my Mac, and I can run Linux programs just fine too, and what I can't run natively or with a quick kludge (read: Wine for Windows programs, XQuartz for Linux programs), I can surely run inside a virtual machine using Vagrant or VirtualBox. With everything using some variant of the x86 or x86-64 architecture, your programs don't really care what hardware you're running, so why should you? Furthermore, why should you judge someone for choosing different hardware than you did just because it's more expensive and you don't understand why? I don't think this guy got it, at all: the reasons I buy Macs are just fundamentally different than the reasons he chose to buy PCs, so we're not really going to convince each other of anything. There is simply no point in telling someone, "I disagree with your decision to buy X. Working from different fundamental assumptions, I bought Y instead." because, really, why would I care? I'm glad you like your PC, but beyond that your decision doesn't really affect me any more than mine should affect you.

Like many nerdfights, such as the classic Vim vs. Emacs debate, this is more than pointless. I'm a Vim user and probably always will, but when I hear someone uses Emacs I assume maybe they like Lisp, or they just started with Emacs and it's what they're used to, or something. Their reasoning behind using Emacs is unimportant to me because we are on separate sides of a tremendous gulf, and we clearly made our text editor decisions based on our needs at the time, not some intrinsic value of one over the other. Think: if one were fundamentally, obviously better in 100% of circumstances, 100% of people would just use that one, but it's not that simple.

That's all I'm saying here, space cadets. Just had to get that out there.