My traitorous move to Windows
I still have my Mac. Three of them in fact. And, of course, my iPhone. Why would I ever get rid of it? That’s just crazy talk.
But… uh… my primary desktop computer has changed. Just a bit.
Most of you probably don’t know this but a little over five years ago I built my own gaming PC. I’ve assembled other PCs in the past but those were mostly Linux boxes. This one ran Windows.
I realize this might come as a shock to some of you but it’s widely acknowledged that the best game graphics as well as game performance on the desktop require a Windows PC. Who knew, right?
While I certainly gamed my ass off with that homemade machine for awhile, it didn’t really become an essential device for me until I started using it to experiment with hardware video encoders.
Maybe I’m prescient. Or maybe I’m just lucky. But I built that machine with an Intel Quick Sync Video CPU and an Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti GPU. A twofer of transcoding acceleration. So I could use either one. Or even both at the same time.
It was flexible and powerful. And the speed was addictive. I could transcode video from a Blu-ray Disc at over 300 frames per second (FPS). Sometimes over 400 FPS. Which means converting a two-hour movie usually took less than 10 minutes.
What really surprised me was the quality achievable using hardware instead of software encoders. Of course, you have to know how to tune them. Which I certainly understand now. But clearly my assumptions were wrong. Mea culpa.
Anyway, that Windows PC is one of the big reasons I created my Other Video Transcoding project. Well, that and a bunch of other like-minded, mostly-Mac nerds who were collaborating with me, and also using Windows PCs. Some of them even building their own just like I did. Now that’s commitment.
So I migrated my entire development process over to the PC. Because it was so much easier and faster to test that way. And I was doing a lot of testing, experimentation and development. A lot. It was an obsession and still is.
At first it was uncomfortable typing so much without having BBEdit around to hold my hand. But there were reasonable, if not perfect, alternatives available like Visual Studio Code, Notepad++ and Typora. Some of those with features that BBEdit didn’t even have.
And then I discovered Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Damn. While WSL didn’t allow access to hardware encoders, I now had a full Unix-style command line tightly integrated with Windows. And 95% of the tooling I’ve used and relied on for over 25 years was available.
Eventually, it became a pain in the ass to keep switching back and forth between my iMac and the Windows PC. So I started browsing the Web, reading and writing email, collaborating in Slack, Discord and Skype, all within Windows.
To paraphrase Hemingway, how did I move to Windows? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.
The really sudden part was finally buying a new desktop computer. Yep, it was a Windows PC. Even more powerful and faster than the machine I built myself. And, more importantly, with a lot more storage. Especially on the boot drive.
That new machine has been my primary desktop for over four months now. And… it doesn’t suck. Even having to use Windows all the time. Which means, I suppose, that you can learn to tolerate anything.
Is Windows as elegant or easy as macOS? Hell no. But it works fine for typical tasks and, really, it’s ideal for gaming and transcoding. The real surprise is its flexibility as a development platform. Didn’t see that one coming.
Do I miss Safari and all the other applications I helped to develop at the Fruit Company? Of course. But I haven’t abandoned macOS. My MacBook is always close at hand. And I’m sure I’ll eventually upgrade it to an M1-based model.
Now, excuse me while I finish typing this post on, and then publishing it from, my Windows PC.