Monday, November 11, 2019

On David's Windows experiement

I’m on the record that the Surface Laptop is my favorite Windows device for day-to-day use, so I watched DHH’s trial with the Surface Laptop 3 with a lot of interest. David writes:

Apple’s stubborn four-year refusal to fix the terminally broken butterfly keyboard design led me to a crazy experiment last week: Giving Windows a try for the first time in twenty years.

Like myself, he was in the early wave of people really embracing using Mac OS X as a development platform early on. And like a lot of people, he’s incredibly frustrated with the current MacBook Pro keyboard situation. Frustrated enough to spend a week looking at using Windows as a primary development platform.

It didn’t stick for him. Truth be told, I’m not surprised.

My own experience with putting Windows back into my computing life was somewhat of a necessity, thanks to Microsoft becoming my employer. Yes, Microsoft has come a long way and Macs are now more welcome on the internal network. The experience of using a Mac inside Microsoft, however, leaves enough to be desired that I quickly fell into a pattern of working on both Windows and Mac laptops. The Mac for most of my work, and a Surface for the internal stuff that was more comfortable on Windows.

Over the years, the improvements that Microsoft has been making to Windows to help it be a hospitable platform for *nix developers like me has made the experience a lot more viable. Viable enough at this point that I will often leave my MacBook at home and just take the Surface Laptop with me. With the betas of the second-generation Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL2) and Windows Terminal, as well as some tolerance for the tinkering required to work around sharp edges, such as having git running in Linux use the Windows credential helper, it’s not an uncomfortable working environment anymore.

It takes time and effort, however, to get things sorted. In that way, it feels kind of like Mac OS X did in its first few releases. It’s getting better all the time. It’s even gotten to the point where I can just imagine a world where I’d use Windows over Mac OS X as my primary environment if I stopped working at Microsoft, or somewhere else with a heavy Windows investment.

Which is a real shocker, to be honest.

But it’s not quite there yet. The team working on WSL2 is still hard at work doing the heavy lifting right now. And so, I’m not at all surprised that David didn’t keep his Surface Laptop, especially given his twenty years of platform muscle memory. I am, however, really happy to see that he gave it a spin.

Oh, and to address a couple of David’s points: I do wish the Surface Laptop had the same pixel density as the Surface tablets. It makes the font rendering a lot better. Putting Windows Home on the Surface Laptop 3 is baffling to me as well. And finally, the latest Apple Magic keyboard is my favorite keyboard of all time as well. If they would just put that keyboard into a laptop…