Questions for you Mac-based developers

Windows 10 is starting to pi** me off completely since the automatic updates ruins one of my Java-based development environments (PHPStorm) that is constantly crashing due to updated display drivers on my HP EliteBook 840 G2. I am also having problems with Oracle VirtualBox that is not very happy when the system auto-reboots after updates have been downloaded from Microsoft and the system rebooted during “inactive” periods (hey Microsoft: just because I’m not moving the mouse the system is not ready to reboot, even if you try reopening all open applications after the reboot!)
My hardware setup is currently a HP ElitBook (i7 / 16GB / 512 GB SSD) on a docking station with 2 Dell U2515H UHD monitors and one external drive for backup. External logitech keyboard and mice.

All my development applications are available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Apart from Xojo, I use JetBrains IDE, Virtualbox, Atlassian SourceTree (not available on Linux) and Sencha Cmd.

So, I was considering getting a MacBook Pro but the 15" model with 512 GB SSD is a whooping $4000 here in Sweden so it takes some time getting used to. Add all the converters needed to be on wired network and use “legacy” USB-ports (Arduinos, keyboards, mice etc) and you are in for a pretty deep hole in your wallet. Even worse, after spending quite some time in the Apple Store I am not happy with the MBPs keyboard or trackpad that I find very uncomfortable to use. The TouchBar seems to me a complete nonsense since the screen size and resolution will force me to use an external monitor with the MBP tucked away.

Another route I am actively exploring is moving to Linux on a new HP laptop that would get me better specs for $2200 (including a docking station) and get me all the ports and support for the software development tools I use on a daily basis.

So, questions to any Mac-based developer:
What kind of development setup do you have? (External monitors, keyboards, docking solutions etc)
Does it work well?


I’m kind of old fashioned and find the MacBook Pros much overpriced.

Therefore I have a custom-built hackintosh as main development machine. I use an Apple keyboard without numpad because my arms are a bit shorter. And a Wacom tablet. One monitor, Dell 27 inch something. The computer doesn’t travel. But that’s a good thing because it’s not attractive to thieves.

As additional testing and reading machine I’ve got a MacBook Air. Got a new one recently because I wanted to have one with the old USB ports and mag save cable. For reading this cable is a life saver. For this computer I only need a finger mouse for reading.

Interesting, that’s a route I haven’t considered in a long time. How hard is it to maintain a hackintosh these days?

don’t focus on recent new macbook pro
the 2011-2012 models are affordable, around 1000€, and once they have a new ssd inside, they work like a charm.
verify that the logic board has been changed by apple, because there were issues with the graphics card.

I’m still very happy with my 17in 2010 MBP with 2.5 GHz i5, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD.

All the models from 2012 till 2015 have pretty much the same processing power (around 13,000 in GeekBench). If I would buy a MBP then it would be a 15in Retina 2013 model (about $1000).

As a developer you should have a Retina screen. The 2012 model comes in both Retina and non-Retina versions, but the graphics card is a bit slow for Retina. The 2013 is much better. The 2014 uses only integrated graphics. So for me the 2013 is the best bang for the buck.

Forget Hackintosh for laptops. Not recommended. Desktops is another question, though I know several people who moved to a real Mac (usually iMac) after playing around with one for a year or two. It’s ok if you are not a business, but if you run a business then every update might bring down your machine.

I also have a 2009 27in iMac with 2.8 GHz i7, 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB HD. Plenty fast enough for me. Might upgrade the hard disk to an SSD at some point. I wouldn’t buy an iMac with an i5. You can get a 27in iMac fairly cheaply (just bought a 2010 one for my brother for €380).

Retina MacBook:

The joy of a Retina monitor is … you cans set its display (13") as large as 3,360 x 2,100 (and much more on 15").

Provided you have good eyes (mine are not so good: I’m an oldster), this allows you to have on display larger/taller documents.

Add an external Monitor (Full HD of better 4K) if you can, and you will be “At Ease” for doing whatever you want, developing software included :wink:

Second Hand Hardware:
The only problem I have with SHH is… you do not know for how long it will work (How many months / Years you will be able to use it), beside every seller believes (s)he have in hands a solid gold computer, not a SHH. :frowning:

I currently use the new model of the 5K 27" iMac that was released a month or so ago. I’m very happy with it. The latest MBPs released this summer are also a really nice upgrade.

You’ll get 100 different opinions so I’ll just offer a few general thoughts:

  • stay away from Hackintosh. It’s just not worth the hassle.
  • get a machine with an SSD. There’s no better upgrade.
  • get at least 8GB of RAM.
  • if going the MBP route, and this machine is just for dev, you’ll see little benefit from the Touchbar models. Unlike some, I don’t believe it’s a gimmick, but the environments you list don’t use it, AFAIK.
  • the HP laptop with Linux option might sound better on paper, but it doesn’t sound like specs are the most important thing to you. Your goal seems to be a more hassle-free environment than Windows.

The is a simple and tool you need to run only once to fix this matter.

According to me, a mac is the best Windows hardware you can get.

Once i got used to it, which took some time, I connect a mac keyboard to every pc I need to work on, even the R-Pi.

I have a 2012 Retina MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and the Apple 27" Thunderbolt display.

Sadly the answer is no. For the last few years I’ve been struggling with only 16GB of RAM. This leads to weekly restarts and kernel panics and system crashes. Half the ports have died, I have one fully working USB-3 port, one that works sometimes, no HDMI, SD card slot is dead and the Thunderbolt ports have also died.

I am truly loathed to spend the kind of money Apple are asking for their MacBook Air Pro when I can’t get any more memory and the machine is only marginally faster than what I have.

I was going to order a new iMac this week; then I realized that their memory markup is 300%. I keep putting it off as I simply don’t feel comfortable supporting this company anymore.

  1. OS reliability; simply isn’t what it used to be. I used to get uptime of months (my record was 9 months), now I’ll be lucky if the machine goes for a week without needing to be restarted. Apple’s annual OS updates are slowly killing the platform IMHO, by the time that the newer OS version is working correctly, Apple go ahead and release another ‘half baked’ OS update, which then takes another year to fix 70% of the new bugs. I read time and time again of people getting pissed off because another OS updates rolls along and another application that they’re using no longer works.

  2. Hardware lineup is pretty poor. Of all the machines that Apple sell; only two offer upgradable memory. The 27" iMac and the Mac Pro. Which means that if you find you’re reaching the memory limits of your machine; you need to replace the entire machine. Exceeding the amount of physical memory can now cause you all kinds of problem from corrupted visuals to kernel panics and system crashes (which I experience on a regular basis).

Note: the 21" iMac has RAM slots, but you have to disassemble the machine (invalidating the warranty in the process) to upgrade it, the cheaper 27" iMac has a virtual memory limit; so while you can physically install more memory, it won’t see more than 32GB.

Trouble is I’ve been a Mac developer for 23 years and I’m pretty accustomed to Apple’s massive toolbox and therefore can normally created the kind of apps that I want to; the rock is of course in keeping them running as every year brings around a whole new set of API to use, leaving others being broken or forgotten about. Heck even with Apple’s upcoming OS they managed to break API that is less than 4 years old.

I am sorry to write that, but Sam is correct at 99%. I can explain why Apple do most of its complains, but that change nothing in the user’s point of view.
(Example: if there are Engineers commited to macOS only three months a year… this can explain the OS bad behaviors).

In the other way (?), I can ask a simple question (to get an useless answer):
in El Capitan, the User Interface when you copy a file from a HD to another (or from a Folder to another), the progress UI is in a rectangle (a small rectable progress bar). In Sierra, it does the same thing in a circle. Why the change ? Totally useless.
BTW: I do not uploaded nor installed ISO 9660 *, so I do not know if now they use a triangle as the “Progress Bar”.
The boy on a bicycle: “Look Ma, only one hand !”

BTW: did I told you lately that after so many years of change (this particular feature), I still click in the green circle (the once know feature as zoom box) to display the whole window contents ? (and get a full monitor sized window :frowning: )

ISO 9660 was also knew as High Sierra .

Main development on iMac 27" with i7 and 4 years old - 24 GB RAM and Fusion Drive works very well
Mobile development on Macbook Pro 15" with i5 seven years old - 8 GB RAM with SSD works well
Windows-Testing on Acer Ultrabook with Windows 10 and i7 five years old - 8 GB RAM with SSD works well

The screen resolution is sometimes a problem when the target system has 4K or 5K. So I have to scroll the screen during development. It is annoying from time to time.

[quote=341590:@Sam Rowlands]I have a 2012 Retina MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and the Apple 27" Thunderbolt display.

Sadly the answer is no. For the last few years I’ve been struggling with only 16GB of RAM. This leads to weekly restarts and kernel panics and system crashes. Half the ports have died, I have one fully working USB-3 port, one that works sometimes, no HDMI, SD card slot is dead and the Thunderbolt ports have also died…

  1. OS reliability; simply isn’t what it used to be. I used to get uptime of months (my record was 9 months), now I’ll be lucky if the machine goes for a week without needing to be restarted.[/quote]

Sounds like you got a lemon. I would have replaced it long ago with another second-hand one.

Can’t complain about OS reliability either, even with just 8 GB. Still only restart when a system update demands it, and I have usually 15-20 apps running: Xojo, Word, Excel, Preview, Feedback, SnapnDrag, Safari (with over 300 tabs open in about 40-50 Windows), Activity Monitor, Intaglio, GraphicConverter, LittleSnitch, Handbrake, Skype, Messages, etc.

That’s what I’ve been saying about Xojo’s Rapid Release Model :wink:

But that’s also something High Sierra is supposed to address. It is mainly a bug fix and consolidation release akin to the fabulous Snow Leopard release.

Yes, it’s true, there are two categories of human people: those who are lucky:
to keep an Apple Computer for so long time, no macOS troubles
to get a bad computer who stop working around its 3 y/o, and a macOS that have all kinds of troubles.

Unfortunately, I am in the second category.

BTW: if you are in the first category, carpe diem !

That said, if you are creating applications for your own, ask these questions, make an idea and then act.

If you are a person that sold application on the Stores, etc. do not think for too long: buy the “best” computer for what you do: your sales are here to let you buy your tools to make better softwre to sold…

Primary Computer:
MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015)
2.8 GHz Intel Core i7
16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
AMD Radeon R9 M370X 2048 MB
Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB

Primary Monitor:
Dell 27-inch (2560 x 1440)

Primary Software:
macOS Sierra 10.12.6
VMware Fusion 8.5.8
Xojo 2017 Release 1.1

My current configuration, which is described above, has been completely reliable and performs very well while running multiple virtual machines (Windows 10 Creators Update 1703 and Ubuntu 17.04 Desktop amd64) and developing software with Xojo.

I’ve been using Apple products since 2007 and am quite satisfied with their hardware, software and service. Regarding some of the negative comments about Apple’s decline in quality, I have noticed some intermittent quirky behavior in their software in recent years but it has had no impact on my work. When compared to Windows and Ubuntu, macOS continues to provide me a considerably better overall experience. This is also true on dedicated hardware to each, not just virtual machines.

Whether you choose an iMac or MacBook Pro, be sure to get a Retina Display to use for testing your applications and to enjoy yourself. They’re very crisp and clear. An SSD boosts performance dramatically, especially if there is any disk intensive activity. The more memory the better for multiple virtual machines. Keyboards and trackpads are a personal choice and I like the latest from Apple enough to use wireless external versions of each. This makes sense for me because most of the time I’m using my laptop as a second monitor off to the side.

Best of luck with your research and decision making process. There are lots of varying opinions here and each is valid relative to the experience of each person. Despite our differences, most of us may agree that if you’re developing with Xojo for Windows, macOS and Linux, that an Apple desktop or laptop is best for your primary computer. The IDE experience is best on macOS and you can build all your executables and installers on one hardware platform.

[quote=341590:@Sam Rowlands]I have a 2012 Retina MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and the Apple 27" Thunderbolt display.

@Mattias Sandström Does it work well?

Sadly the answer is no. For the last few years I’ve been struggling with only 16GB of RAM. This leads to weekly restarts and kernel panics and system crashes. Half the ports have died, I have one fully working USB-3 port, one that works sometimes, no HDMI, SD card slot is dead and the Thunderbolt ports have also died.[/quote]

Sam, I have nearly the exact same setup, and I’m still remarkably happy with mine - the only thing different is that I upgraded my SSD to 1TB using the Transcend JetDrive.

When is the last time you opened up your MacBook Pro and cleaned it? A friend was having frequent slowdowns and kernel panics on her 2012 MBP and it was due to 5 years of accumulated dust causing overheating. may not be available in Sweden but it offers lots of refurbished Apple computers at discount prices. The warranty is the same as a new Apple computer. Over the past ten years, I have purchased refurbished Apple computers for myself, family and friends in addition to new Apple computers. There has been no visible difference between refurbished and new. There has been no perceivable difference in quality and reliability. When buying a model that’s been available for a while, consider buying refurbished.

2012 retina macbook pro - 2.7 Ghz i7 16Gb RAM 768Gb SSD
2 external monitors + built in (3 total) - 1 connected via HDMI the other via DisplayPort
1 USB 3 hub attached with Keyboard + printers & 3 external drives (time machine + 2 others)
1 USB 3 external 1Tb SSD attached directly (so I can boot into 10.8, 10.9, 10.10, 10.12 or 10.13 - 10.11 is on the main internal)
1 Firewire 800 HD 1Tb SSD attached with VM’s

I can run anything on this machine (multiple VM’s with Windows &/or Linux simultaneously + pretty much any version of OS X)
Way simpler than having to have multiple machines (like I used to)

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So far I’m not seeing this, I’ve filed 5 bug reports already. Only one has been responded to with an engineer saying this should never happen… But it does.
The app that we released this year is currently dead on High Sierra due to bugs in OpenGL, hopefully I can get it working in Metal soon.

I have considered that, but to replace a flaky machine with another potentially flaky machine and still the same memory limitation; I kept hoping that Apple would ship a machine with memory slots or at least with more than 16GB of RAM…

I haven’t done this. I’ve never needed to do this in the past. But it’s worth a shot. Can of compressed air right?

I recently started to do some video manipulation, which I must confess these are one of the things I loved about Apple in the first place is the capabilities that are already there in the OS.

Yeah I know, I complain a lot.

I just upgraded my macbook pro. The price was a lot to swallow but I was pleased to discover that I could use a single USBC/Thunderbolt 3 to thunderbolt 2 adaptor and my 6 year old thunderbolt 2 dock with all my USB ports, ethernet port and mini-display port for my external monitor works perfectly through that. Probably not at the speed the thunderbolt 3 ports are capable of, so if I was going to be rendering video to an external drive or something I would get a USBC native device, but for everything I do this is perfect. I also picked up a pack of 2 USBC to USB3 adaptor dongles for around $10 US on Amazon which I will use when not sitting at my desk. So for me for the moment, the dongle problem was very easily solved. If you don’t already use such a device you’ll need to get one and the thunderbolt 3 versions can be very expensive. The “Cable Creation” brand makes several such adaptors with USB ports, HDMI output, gigabit ethernet mini-display port and even a VGA output for around $100 US that I experimented with and they definitely work, but I don’t need it right now since my older dock still works via a single dongle. My current external monitor is a mini-display port Apple monitor which is MANY years old and not even “retina” I keep looking for a reason to replace it, but it’s still going strong so I haven’t and still works great with the mini-display port on my also ancient thunderbolt2 hub. I bought this monitor as a refurbished one from Apple. Though I didn’t buy a refurbished one this time in the past very nearly every Apple device I’ve bought has been from their refurbished section on the webstore. If you don’t need the most recent generation you can save 20% by doing that. I did have one macbook arrive completely DOA that way, but they cross shipped me a replacement before I even shipped mine back and did it overnight so I was only out another 24 hours. All the refurbished products I’ve bought from them have been otherwise flawless.

I agree the TouchBar is a bit silly. I certainly didn’t want to pay extra for that but I didn’t have a choice. I do use it when I’m away from my desk and I’m still enjoying a little bit of the gee whiz honeymoon period with it. It’s not a selling point for the device though, normally i’m at my desk with an external keyboard and monitor anyway in which case it’s useless. I’ve noticed people posting that there is support in the OS for an external keyboard that includes one, and I’ll entertain getting one when Apple finally releases such a thing. The price will probably make me not do so though :wink:

As far as working well, I love these machines and have only minor problems with them. There is something fishy about some of the USB/Serial drivers that you need for arduinos and such. You’ll also want to verify that any specific USB devices or usb/serial adaptors that you need to use have mac drivers that are appropriately signed and will work on Sierra and make sure they have either already released or are going to do so for HighSierra as that changes the rules for such things again I believe. My FTDI programming cable won’t show up in one of the USB ports, but does in another, no idea why when that port seems fine elsewhere. The keyboard is very different than pervious ones, but I actually think I’m going to like it once I get used to it. Very small travel, but a very satisfying feel and click which lets you know you’ve hit the key. My current bluetooth keyboard that I’m typing on at this moment now feels squishy and spongy to me.

I also do what Norman talked about with the various virtual machines. I can test on Linux and Windows and even earlier versions of MacOS very easily. An external drive to hold those boot images will be needed probably.