OT: buying a Mac computer

I realize this is off-topic, but I understand that an overwhelming majority of Rubyists use Mac computers and not PCs. I currently use Linux-powered PCs. Yes, I ditched Windows years ago just like many of you. Using Linux on a used PC is the cheapest way to compute. (I’ve been able to buy a 4 or 5-year-old PC that works for as little as $40-$50.)

I’m interested in purchasing a Mac to put myself on the same page as other software developers. (I’m used to Linux distros that provide the look and feel of Windows XP.) I will use
the Mac for software development projects, but I intend to stick with my Linux-powered PCs for general computing. (I don’t want to get locked
into the Mac world, because it’s so much more expensive. Also, there is a case to be made for being versatile.)

I’m thinking of buying a new mini (starts at $600), a new MacBook (starts at $1000), or a refurbished MacBook (starts at $850).

Some questions:
How much has OS X changed over the past several versions? Is something from 5 years ago obsolete? Linux, on the other hand, is free.
Any current Linux distro will work very well on a 5-year-old PC, and there are even some Linux distros (like Puppy Linux and antiX Linux) that work well on PCs that are 10 or more years old.
2. Is it just me, or are used Macs so exorbitantly expensive as to defeat the point of
buying a used computer in the first place? I looked at Craigslist and found a number of used Mac laptops selling for as much as a new one. Most of the Macs selling for a few hundred dollars or less were very old, such as G4s. (I understand that those are 10-15 years old. Good luck getting even $100 or even $50 from a 10-year-old PC.)

I realize this is off-topic, but I understand that an overwhelming majority
of Rubyists use Mac computers and not PCs.

Are you sure about that? Many do certainly, but I doubt whether it is
an overwhelming majority, if it is a majorrity at all.

I currently use Linux-powered PCs.

Very sensible.

Yes, I ditched Windows years ago just like many of you. Using Linux on
a used PC is the cheapest way to compute. (I've been able to buy a 4 or
5-year-old PC that works for as little as $40-$50.)

I'm interested in purchasing a Mac to put myself on the same page as other
software developers. (I'm used to Linux distros that provide the look and
feel of Windows XP.) I will use the Mac for software development projects,
but I intend to stick with my Linux-powered PCs for general computing. (I
don't want to get locked into the Mac world, because it's so much more
expensive. Also, there is a case to be made for being versatile.)

Is there that much advantage to using a Mac over PC? There are some
very nice tools certainly, but are they sufficient to spend the money
if all the Mac is to be used for is Rails development? Exactly what
benefit do you hope to get?


At the local Ruby, Python, Javascript, and other user groups, an overwhelming majority of the laptops I see are Macs, not PCs.

I’m not saying that Macs are inherently better than Linux-powered PCs. (I’m not giving up on the latter by any means.) It would be good to have the versatility to use either. And it’s best to be in sync with everyone else. It’s better to adapt to what everyone else is doing than to try to convince everyone else to adapt to you.

I would suggest a new PC instead of an old Mac if the prices are similar. Macs are good looking but not really that good in terms of reliability. My new macbook pro 13" retina display and Haswell processor crashes badly. Everybody was affected for late 2013 model. Apple released a firmware fix but it’s still not really fixed. Now it comes to a deadly stop once per a day or two! Apple is quite loose these days for its quality control. A day’s using it would have discovered the problem. I have no idea how they could have released these defective products.

Just to add a few more data points here: I’ve had five Macs and none of them had crashed more than three times. I used to own a top model of ThinkPad and its motherboard died within six months. So, there can be some luck involved and you ended up getting a defective unit, but a single data point is not sufficient to say their overall reliability is bad.

To answer Jason’s questions, OS X has changed a lot over recent versions, especially Lion and Mountain Lion. But most of the major changes are UI-related, like natural scrolling, mission control, etc. Missing them could affect your productivity but shouldn’t prevent you from doing programming tasks. However, I won’t recommend an used Mac if it’s so overpriced. 50% of the original price for a three year old is reasonable, but I wouldn’t pay any more than that. If you don’t have budget for a new one, and you can’t find an used one, just keep using your Linux box. It might not be as comfortable but wouldn’t prevent you from doing anything.


Is it really possible to buy a 3-year-old Mac for half the price of a new one? A new MacBook starts at $1000, and a new Mini starts at $600. I see on Craigslist right now:

  1. $950 !!!: 2011 13" MacBook Pro, 2.7 GHz i7, 4 GB Memory, 500 GB Hard Drive
  2. $325: MacBook Pro 4GB RAM, 320 GB HD
  3. $100 !!! (very old computer): Apple Mac G3 PowerMac Desktop
  4. $320: Apple Macbook 2.13ghz White Macbook 2009
  5. $140 !!! (very old computer): Apple Mac Powerbook G4 Notebook – Clean & New Battery
  6. $1000 !!!: 15.4-inch MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz dual core i7
  7. $375: MacBook Pro (15-inch 2.0 GHz Core Duo)
  8. $230: Apple MacBook 13.3" Laptop - 2.16 GHz Core 2 Duo - 120 HD - 2 GB RAM
  9. $750 !!!: 15" Mac Book Pro (2010)

Is this normal? Do people really pay this much for a used Mac? Is there any point considering a used Mac? It seems that anything considered new enough is priced nearly as high or even higher than an entry-level new Mac. (And I get a warranty and the assurance of mint condition in the latter.) Anything that is substantially cheaper than a new Mac is an old clunker.

Maybe I should say buy an old macbook instead a new one because it’s the new ones that freeze. There are long complaint threads on Apple’s site since it was released:





Believe me it’s still not the end. After the EFI update, the laptop fails to lock the screen randomly, and recently started to crash, more deadly - total crashes, the screen will not turn off even if I close the lid. Worse, it leaves no report on the system log… Other people reported the same problem on the first thread.

But maybe I digressed too much here, but PCs with Linux should work well for any programming tasks.

Really, the *only* reason i have a mbp right now is because of the
incredible screen. There are reasons I *don't* like the mac but most
of them are easily surmountable. But with machines like asus's
zenbooks, toshiba's kirabook and such coming in with incredible
displays, today i'd have made a different choice.

Macs are nice for a lot of little things, and they are very good
development environments, but a nice linux distro on a kirabook would
also be really slick. The most important thing for a development
machine is memory, I'd say minimum 8GB to be able to run VMs and still
keep everything else running happily.

I have no clue where you get any of your information from. I find it quite wrong.

I’ve been using Apple products since well before the original Macintosh. I’ve been using PCs before Apple had anything on the market.

Looks? Who buys a computer for looks? My Mac Pro is under my desk. It could look like an old boot, and I wouldn’t care. The hardware works, and I shove all kinds of items into mine. And my G5. And my G4’s. And the G3’s in various formats. And laptops. And standalones including iMacs.

Reliability? I keep functioning hardware around so long that I eventually end up in a market where they are worth nothing. The hardware has been nothing but superb for me. Your Macbook is not the Apple line of products. Apple QA is very good.

As for PCs, the compatibility issues alone would drive me up the wall. The OS is notoriously unintuitive, and the last couple releases worse than before. I won’t even go near the browser. The company has has trust issues in the past, and recently with the announcement of Ballmer’s departure, the stock went up. All after Gates bailed.

And one thing I would say to anybody that writes software for a living: Your workstation is the last place you want to be looking to save money. It’s the very tool you use to get stuff done.

If you have problems with your Macbook, then continue on Apple and encourage others to follow suit. Enough complaints and they will address a problem. They always have. Try that with Samsung. My 30” monitor from them was dead end because no repair options when it went on the fritz. Samsung doesn’t even fix their own stuff. So it’s dump and run from them.

My $0.02.

I "switched" from OS X to using Linux virtually full time after OS X
went from Snow Leopard to Lion. Apple's insistence on making the OS more
iOS centric & their slapdash approach to anything in the command line
area is, I find, infuriating. If it wasn't for MacPorts I'd give up
using it completely

The price I find, of course, exorbitant. For a new Macbook Pro (I have a
2008 model), I could buy a couple of servers, a desktop machine & a
laptop with the same money & I also find using CentOS/Debian for the
'ops' world & Fedora/Ubuntu for the 'dev' world far more solid &
flexible than anything Apple can offer.

Also there is far more work in the Linux world than the Mac world from
my perspective (systems administration).

I also find it irritating that OS X is FreeBSD based however small the

My two bob.



Speaking as a long time Mac user I have to say that if you are comfortable with Linux on a cheap laptop then there is very little more you would get as a Rails developer in moving to a Mac.

If you are deploying to a Linux server (as opposed to a Windows server) then a Linux laptop will get you to a comfortable place to do your work. The extra you get from using a Mac is probably all in the mind :slight_smile:

Having said that all the Macs I have ever owned have been ultra reliable and lasted years before they needs to be replaced (which has more to do with technolust and a credit card burning a hole in my pocket than any real need). However I tend to view PC hardware as disposable and if they last two years I will consider myself blessed. PC build quality tends to be abysmal unless you are prepared to fork out a great deal of money.


A Linux laptop is 99% of what you need. The 1% more you would get from a Mac could be a very expensive 1%

Some thoughts.

Macs do cost more than the alternative but I’ve found them to be well worth the cost difference. I have never been comfortable with what passes for (hardware or software) support on the PC side of the computiverse. That said, Linux and the rest of the open software world make a very solid development base if you can puzzle out a stable hardware base.

I’ve packed my MBP across the country on the back of a motorcycle more than once and it just works. It was new in 2010 and has always had the most current (developer) release of software installed.

I would buy new - I’m still using an iMac from 2004. It’s PowerPC based and doesn’t run the latest version of anything but Firefox. Still works great for music and movies though. If you buy an old machine it will be eclipsed by the software long before you’ld like.

I would also invest in a Mac developer’s license - it’s worth the cost to be close to the Apple development community.


If your needs were exactly the opposite (ie, your laptop was fine for development but you were looking for more spit and polish and irreplaceable proprietary software on a general computer), then a Mac would be a good idea.

But really: Linux is, in absolute terms, better for development (open source development, certainly) than OS X - if only because, should you so desire, you can graduate to hacking the operating system itself.

It is, nevertheless, far easier to develop for iOS on OSX, so if that’s a concern, a Mac is necessary (or an elaborate VM setup). Also, if you were just not getting on with the Linux user experience (it ain’t for everybody), then OSX is a far superior option for development than Windows. Reasons *not *to spend wads of cash - because ‘everybody else is doing it’.

Macs are expensive because they are luxury goods: as with all luxury goods, this is about 70% marketing and 30% genuine technical superiority to cheaper alternatives. If you have only a few hundred notes to spend, then forget about a shiny MBP or whatever. You certainly won’t get any advantages for RoR, or web development in general (except in certain proprietary systems like .NET), from having a Mac over having Linux. If anything, having a more hackable OS is an advantage, not a disadvantage.

There are a lot of posts here already, so I really only have one point to add. It depends on the nature of your development. If you are slinging Rails code and that’s the majority or all of your work, I don’t really think you’ll see an appreciable difference between mac and linux. In my work, for example, I would prefer to do as much back end rails development as possible, but it usually doesn’t end up that way. I inevitably end up using Omnigraffle to develop storyboards and inevitably in development I’ll end up with some Illustrator and/or Photoshop work on the front end, even if it’s just modification to a design passed to me by a designer.

In these cases, in my opinion, a mac is worth having. I certainly wouldn’t want to use Windows (I did for a whilte), and third party software options for Linux are limited (but they do exist). There are also online alternatives for some things such as project management. Just something else to consider.

It's been a while since I used a Linux laptop (I was a Linux on laptop
& desktop full-time user for 5+ years) but certainly one of the big
draws for me in Mac/OS X has simply been the *feel*. The fonts look
great (useful when you're reading them 10+hours/day): they're typeset
well, antialiased well, crisp, attractive. The Retina display is
amazing. It's obvious folks with serious design chops are behind it
all. For me, Linux & Windows have always felt clunky in comparison.

If you want to get a deep sense of this, watch
http://www.helveticafilm.com - there is a hilarious & epic
anti-Microsoft rant by Erik Spiekermann about how Arial was a rip-off
of Helvetica for MS to avoid having to pay Linotype,

Macs... A lot of stuff Just Works(tm): multi monitor, devices, swipe,
etc. If I could monetize the time I spent fiddling with xf86config
over the years I'd likely have paid for every Mac I've owned. (I'm
sure it's better now?).

For me, having a machine that wakes from sleep nearly instantly, has
reliable trackpad + gestures, consistent copy/paste behavior, and so
on, is worth the money.

Finally, there's the development environment - this is the massively
personal choice that is likely the big decision maker for most.
There's no point justifying what each person likes any more than their
taste in broccoli but ultimately if you really like OS X or Linux,
well... :slight_smile:


the natural garden of Rails and Ruby is Linux on a PC (RHEL, CentOS, Fedora, Ubuntu or Debian are my choices), OSX is a beautiful exotic and very expensive os, but if you don’t mind IOS development, for a posix-like developer a Mac is just a waste of money

Welp. If you do full-stack development and need to test webapps on
the primary consumer platforms, a Mac + VMWare/VirtualBox with
Windows is pretty handy. I'm not sure you can get that functionality
in any other way, at least so simply.

And if you travel much, it's *really* hard to beat a MacbookAir :slight_smile:


??? Virtualbox runs lightning fast on Linux, and you can test with native kernel funcionalities VMs with KVM, for 1500eur/dollars wasted to buy a MAC I buy a lightning PC to virtualize the entire universe, so I miss your point, for developers PC/Linux is hard to beat, full-stack development is a breeze on Linux, and primary platform and native testing and production server is Linux, Mac is very cool if you do professional graphic or music or multimedia production, but for a raw code developer is a waste of money

You run MacOS in a VM on Linux so you can test browser interaction
in a Mac-native environment?

If so, I'd love to see the details of your setup.

If not, you're missing the point altogether.

uhuh what a genius, so I have to buy a Mac only to test browser in Mac native environment??? ok this is not my thread, you are not a developer, you a Mac fan, be happy with your Mac