Developing Perspective

#57: A Developer’s Machine


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective.

00:00:03   Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing news of no-tune iOS development, Apple, and

00:00:06   the like.

00:00:07   I'm your host, David Smith.

00:00:08   I'm an independent iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia.

00:00:11   This is show number 57, and today is Tuesday, June 19th.

00:00:16   Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:20   So a couple things I'm going to talk about today, but first, just a moment of solidarity

00:00:24   for all you people out there who are independents, who work out of your own homes.

00:00:30   This morning, I had our nannies out of town for various things, and so I was helping out

00:00:35   my wife.

00:00:36   And as part of what I did today was I was trying to do some work while my two children

00:00:40   were around, and then one of them left, and I was watching our youngest daughter.

00:00:47   And it was an interesting reminder for me of just how hard that is to get anything done

00:00:53   When you have young--

00:00:54   I imagine it gets easier as you have older children,

00:00:57   but especially young children at home.

00:01:00   It is so hard to stay focused because you're

00:01:02   oscillating between guilt about work

00:01:06   and guilt about your home life.

00:01:08   And so I discussed this at depth back in episode 29,

00:01:12   Working in an Office.

00:01:13   So I'll link to that in the show notes

00:01:15   if you're curious for a more detailed explanation of why

00:01:18   I rent office space just down the road from my house

00:01:21   just so I can sort of go to the office, do my job,

00:01:24   and then come home and be engaged with my family.

00:01:26   But a moment of solidarity was an experience this morning

00:01:30   that I--

00:01:30   Wednesday I had forgotten how difficult it was,

00:01:33   but it was interesting to kind of experience that again

00:01:35   after a couple of years of just primarily working out

00:01:38   of an office.

00:01:39   It's tough.

00:01:40   And if you don't know the people who can do it, more power to you.

00:01:43   That's very impressive.

00:01:45   So the main topic I was going to talk about today

00:01:48   is the current lineup of computers

00:01:52   and what that means for developers, I suppose.

00:01:56   So as I've moaned about on this show a couple of times,

00:02:01   they really didn't give us a Mac Pro update

00:02:04   that we were hoping for.

00:02:05   The Mac Pro got a very minor bump, but in reality, nothing

00:02:10   really too impressive.

00:02:11   They just-- essentially, Intel discontinued the old chips,

00:02:13   so Apple had to sort of reshuffle

00:02:16   the setup a little bit, but they really

00:02:18   didn't do much in terms of making the computer any better.

00:02:25   It still doesn't have Thunderbolt.

00:02:27   It's still-- if you look on the back, it's kind of crazy.

00:02:30   You see it has the old DVI slot still for plugging in a DVI

00:02:34   port, even though Apple doesn't sell any displays with DVI.

00:02:37   They're all mini-display port.

00:02:39   It has all these other crazy features, and you're looking,

00:02:42   like, really?

00:02:43   And then you remember, yeah, that hasn't really

00:02:45   been updated in two years.

00:02:46   And it's kind of strange that it hasn't.

00:02:49   And you kind of wonder what's going on

00:02:51   and why Apple wouldn't update it, even if not necessarily

00:02:57   the major update we were all hoping for.

00:02:59   Even kind of like, if you're going to change anything,

00:03:02   if you're going to have to do some minor adjustments,

00:03:04   why not just actually update it and make it a--

00:03:09   do some of these basic things like getting a Thunderbolt,

00:03:11   or things that if you really are using it for pro applications,

00:03:17   that would make it a lot better.

00:03:19   But they didn't.

00:03:20   So we're kind of stuck with what we have.

00:03:21   And I was kind of looking at this,

00:03:24   and there's an article I posted on my site about just looking

00:03:27   at the laptop lineup, which is interesting.

00:03:29   And I think from that sort of analysis, what I really end up

00:03:32   with is the MacBook Air, the top of the line 11,

00:03:36   is an absolutely amazing machine in terms

00:03:38   cost for performance, cost per pound, just the whole thing.

00:03:43   It's a very solid machine.

00:03:45   And if you're looking for a laptop that--

00:03:47   it's whose role is primarily just for being--

00:03:51   portability for going from place to place, for travel.

00:03:56   It's an amazing machine, and I highly recommend

00:03:59   looking at that machine.

00:04:00   I have an older version of the 11 inch Air,

00:04:03   and it is just incredible.

00:04:04   I mean, my wife loves it because it's

00:04:07   the first and only computer she's ever had that she can take to work in her purse. She

00:04:12   doesn't need a laptop bag, she just takes the air, slots it in her purse, and off she

00:04:17   goes. And it's not heavy, so you don't really notice it, and it's not particularly large.

00:04:23   I mean, it's no larger than just, probably smaller than even a lot of, like a pad folio

00:04:28   that you take to work. And so it's kind of crazy to have that much power in that size.

00:04:35   Battery life isn't as good as you'd like, and that's just something that I think is

00:04:38   -- yeah, that's the tradeoff you're making for having a device just that small.

00:04:43   Battery life for me is -- it's sort of important, but there's very few circumstances where I

00:04:48   find it really matters.

00:04:50   Maybe that's just the way that I work, where I go, what I'm doing.

00:04:54   I usually have access to some kind of power at some point in the day where I can quickly

00:05:01   recharge and go from there.

00:05:03   I mean, a classic arrangement, too, is to have--

00:05:05   say you're going back and forth to an office.

00:05:07   You just buy an extra power adapter, have one in each place.

00:05:10   So it's not like you have to carry the power brick with you

00:05:13   everywhere you go.

00:05:14   If you're the kind of person who's based on airplanes a lot,

00:05:17   or is constantly going to coffee shops to work or things,

00:05:21   maybe that's not the best computer.

00:05:23   But otherwise, definitely a very solid computer,

00:05:26   especially as a secondary computer.

00:05:28   I think it's probably-- it's by far the best secondary computer

00:05:32   around, and I think there's a lot of people who like the 13.

00:05:36   And I think I saw some stats that it's probably

00:05:38   actually more popular.

00:05:39   And I can see that.

00:05:41   The thing about, for me though, with the 13-inch air,

00:05:44   is if you're going to get an air,

00:05:46   it feels like you want it to be as small as possible.

00:05:49   The goal is size rather than necessarily balance

00:05:54   or combining a variety of different metrics.

00:05:56   And so for me, the 13 seems a bit awkward.

00:05:59   you may as well get a MacBook Pro at that point,

00:06:03   because the size and weight aren't as small,

00:06:05   but you're limited in a lot of different ways versus a Pro.

00:06:10   But then really, you get into the crux

00:06:13   of what I'm going to talk about is a developer's machine.

00:06:17   And this is a machine that you're going to be imagining

00:06:19   as your workhorse, your battle-hardened development

00:06:24   machine that you're running Xcode, Photoshop, Mail, Safari,

00:06:27   Twitter client maybe and you're just, you know, cranking on it all day long.

00:06:32   Which machine makes best for that context?

00:06:35   And for me right now I'm running a 27-inch iMac that was the top of the line

00:06:38   about two and a half years ago.

00:06:40   It's got an i7, Geekbench is I think about 10,000.

00:06:44   It's a pretty solid machine, but I don't think I'd get another iMac,

00:06:48   primarily just for extendability reasons.

00:06:51   It's been very frustrating that I can't change the hard drive inside.

00:06:55   I can't do really anything to it without it going to an Apple store.

00:06:58   So the iMacs are nice.

00:07:01   I imagine they're going to have an Ivy Bridge version soon.

00:07:03   My guess would be sometime this fall.

00:07:06   And they're just focusing right now on giving all the processors they can

00:07:09   to the MacBook Pro lineup.

00:07:11   So that's why there hasn't been a refresh on the iMac.

00:07:13   But at some point soon, there'll probably be a refresh to it,

00:07:16   unless bundled in with Tim Cook's Strange.

00:07:19   Sometime later next year, there'll be something awesome for Pros.

00:07:24   So that's kind of out.

00:07:26   Mac Mini is an interesting machine, mostly just

00:07:29   because of its price.

00:07:30   It's a really inexpensive machine

00:07:32   for quite a lot of performance.

00:07:33   You can get quite a lot done for between $600 and $1,000

00:07:40   that you can get it for.

00:07:43   You're getting quite a lot of performance out of that.

00:07:46   And you have some extendability with it.

00:07:49   But I find myself struggling just

00:07:51   because it tops out at a performance that's probably

00:07:55   going to be frustrating for a lot of developers.

00:07:57   So it's not really recommended unless it

00:08:00   was kind of like a holdover machine

00:08:02   just to wait out this weird awkward phase.

00:08:06   And so then you kind of end up looking,

00:08:08   I think, at the two main candidates

00:08:10   for what you're working on.

00:08:14   And so you can get either one of the new Retina MacBook Pros,

00:08:17   or you can get a Mac Pro.

00:08:20   And the Mac Pro is-- it's two years old,

00:08:23   but it's still a pretty impressive machine in the sense

00:08:26   that it still gets fairly impressive Geekbench scores

00:08:29   and compilation times.

00:08:31   It's very extendable.

00:08:31   You can put in four hard drives, and you

00:08:34   can put in more RAM than you could shake a stick at.

00:08:36   I mean, it can do a lot with that machine.

00:08:39   But it is kind of weird because it's priced

00:08:42   really high for what you get.

00:08:46   And so just kind of-- I sat down and did the math.

00:08:49   And so I'm going to be comparing it to the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

00:08:51   And if you're going to get a 15-inch MacBook Pro, as a developer,

00:08:55   I think it's worth the extra, I guess, $450 to upgrade it fully.

00:09:01   And so you get the 2.7 gigahertz quad core

00:09:05   i7, which is a $250 upgrade, and then max out the RAM at 16 gigs.

00:09:11   Flash Storage, it's a $500 upgrade to just get the extra-- what's that?

00:09:17   to go from 512 to 768, which I think is probably not worth it.

00:09:22   That $500 you could get a pretty beefy external Thunderbolt hard

00:09:27   drive for that, with a lot more storage, which would probably end up

00:09:30   serving you better in the long run.

00:09:32   512 is probably good enough for most use of a computer, in terms of

00:09:37   it may not necessarily want to store your photo archives or video

00:09:42   archives on there.

00:09:43   But as a working drive, it should be large enough.

00:09:47   And so you add all those together and you get a cost of about $3,250 basically.

00:09:55   And that's a very impressive machine.

00:09:58   It's got this crazy retina display, very fast processor, 16 gigs of RAM,

00:10:03   pretty large hard drive that is SSD on motherboard, amazing.

00:10:08   It has some downsides. It's not at all upgradeable.

00:10:11   You can't do anything with it, which is certainly a downer.

00:10:14   But you know, it's pretty solid at that price.

00:10:17   So then I was curious to say, what Mac Pro could you get for kind of an equivalent amount

00:10:23   of performance and money?

00:10:27   And it seems like the closest you get is if you start with the six core Mac Pro, which

00:10:32   gets roughly comparable performance.

00:10:35   It's slightly higher performance if you look at benchmarks, but primarily I think that

00:10:39   as an extra core advantage because it has six rather than four cores rather than necessarily

00:10:44   a speed improvement that you would necessarily see.

00:10:46   It's like it has a 15% ish higher geek bench, but in reality I don't think you'd be able

00:10:52   to really feel that 15% unless you're ripping DVDs or things.

00:10:56   But often I think the disk I/O performance that you need will be the bigger difference

00:11:02   there.

00:11:03   And so what I did is I took that one, which is a base price of $3,000.

00:11:07   But if you want to upgrade its RAM to 16 gigs,

00:11:10   it'll cost you another $100.

00:11:11   And then if you wanted to put in a comparably sized SSD,

00:11:16   it'd be another $600, which puts its price at about $500

00:11:21   over what the MacBook Pro would cost.

00:11:24   If you put in a smaller SSD, you could go up

00:11:26   to about, I think, 120 gigabyte SSD,

00:11:30   and the prices would match up almost exactly.

00:11:32   And I'm looking at solid state storage

00:11:35   from other world computing, macsales.com.

00:11:39   They're the best place to go.

00:11:41   So it's kind of looking at that.

00:11:42   So you end up with--

00:11:43   so you can have a small SSD and everything else be the same,

00:11:46   or be your SSD and $500 more.

00:11:49   You end up with two machines that are fairly comparable in

00:11:52   terms of day-to-day performance.

00:11:55   Your actual-- what you would experience in your

00:11:57   day-to-day life in actually using these machines would

00:12:00   probably be very similar between them in terms of

00:12:02   performance and capability.

00:12:04   The Mac Pro obviously has the advantage of larger internal drives, which is nice, I suppose.

00:12:10   But the MacBook Pro, of course, is also coming with a retina display and is actually portable.

00:12:19   And so you end up with this kind of strange thing where the Mac Pro is great, but only

00:12:25   really if you're bringing along a bunch of things with you.

00:12:29   If you already have a nice big display, if you really never need to work away from your

00:12:33   computer and you have an SSD already, then it's probably a better buy.

00:12:37   The interesting thing is the money between them is fairly similar.

00:12:40   A lot of times traditionally a Mac Pro has better resale value, but I'm not so sure if

00:12:47   this particular rev will have the same resale.

00:12:50   I'm just kind of skeptical about that, just because it's such this weird middle ground

00:12:54   and I feel like there's going to be a lot of the same Mac Pros kicking around in a way

00:13:00   that it's not like there's a new update or something special about it.

00:13:07   It's the same computer as essentially they've been selling for two or three years.

00:13:11   And so I feel like there's going to be somewhat more inventory, which doesn't help with resale.

00:13:16   But resale is also kind of a weird thing.

00:13:18   Buying something with the expectation of selling it, selling computers in my experience is

00:13:23   a huge nightmare and hassle.

00:13:24   So I'd rather avoid it.

00:13:26   And so when I kind of weigh those things together, that for roughly the same money-ish, you can

00:13:32   get sort of the same machine in a MacBook Pro, in a Mac Pro, very similar performance.

00:13:39   There's a few tweaks, like, OK, the MacBook Pro, you'll have to have an adapter for Ethernet

00:13:44   if you want to plug into Ethernet and those kinds of things.

00:13:50   And there's certainly downers.

00:13:51   I think for me, the bottom line, I'd rather go with the MacBook Pro.

00:13:55   And I've kind of gone back and forth on this a lot, played with it.

00:13:58   I'm not sure if I'll actually get one, but I think if I was making the choice today,

00:14:02   if I really decided I wanted to retire my 27-inch iMac, that's I think what I would

00:14:07   do.

00:14:08   I feel like you're getting more machine and you're getting more future-proofing into that

00:14:12   machine than you would be doing a Mac Pro.

00:14:16   But that's just kind of where I am right now.

00:14:19   But I think really the reality is that I'm going to be waiting until later next year

00:14:23   and getting into whatever the new professional solution is from Apple.

00:14:28   Which, who knows what that is?

00:14:30   My current 27 inch has been working pretty well for me.

00:14:33   And if I had problems with it, like I said,

00:14:35   I'd probably just get a MacBook Pro and then at some point

00:14:38   potentially transition that to being my secondary computer.

00:14:41   All right.

00:14:42   That's it for today's show.

00:14:42   Hopefully it's interesting.

00:14:43   I'd really like to hear feedback on this one

00:14:45   because so much of it's about personal preference.

00:14:47   And so if you have thoughts, feedback, the best place

00:14:49   is to reply to me on Twitter.

00:14:51   I'm @_davidsmith there.

00:14:53   The Twitter feed for this podcast is devperspective.

00:14:57   And otherwise, I hope you have a good week.

00:14:59   Happy coding, and I will talk to you soon.

00:15:01   Bye.