After writing the last post I was presented with a conundrum: I am really happy with Apple hardware but OS X is heading in a direction which is making my job (research and development) increasingly harder. What to do? How/where to position?
Possibility 1: Apple retire the Mac Pro, then the Mac Mini, then they narrow the iMac range before finally retiring the iMac line completely and, with it, Apple’s entire desktop range. To minimise customer losses, they encourage users that need large amounts of screen real-estate to connect MacBooks to Thunderbolt Displays.
Possibility 2: Apple enhances the iMac with a touch screen and a horizontal (tablet) mode rather than dropping it, so that OS X actually works with the hardware rather than against it.
Personally, I think the Pro and Mini are goners for sure within the next half-decade or so. The consumer and all-in-one nature of the iMac, however, boosts its survival prospects. Even if it does get the boot, I can’t see it happening any earlier than 2020 — seven years from now.
2017-09 Update: Apple discontinued the MacMini Server in 2014 and has not updated the surviving MacMini since 2014-10. The MacPro hasn’t been updated since 2013-12.
During that time Apple will release seven updates to OS X (assuming it sticks to its recent annual update commitment). If the 10.6 to 10.8 delta is anything to go by, 10.8 to 10.15 is going to be massive. The OS will be a walled garden of epic proportions by that time, with an interface pandering to social plebs. No thank you.
So, even though the hardware will probably still be great, the OS wont be. The only real question, then, is whether to jump now or wait and be pushed?
Or is there a third way? A way to bend Apple hardware to my will? Run some other OS on Apple hardware? Without hacks?
Two obvious options are virtualisation and remote desktops.
I’ll give remote desktops a bit of a miss for now as I need to semi-regularly test graphics-rich games and the architecture isn’t there yet.
As for virtualisation, well, I use virtualisation for other development work, but have never tried to virtualise my primary operating environment. Since there is no real urgency to the transition, I can afford to experiment a bit before diving in. So let’s do that.
A quick scan of the options (VirtualBox, Parallels, VMware) and a nice showdown between the top two contenders leads me to believe that Parallels is marginally better than VMware, so I’ll start experimenting with that. A quick trip to the online store and 313MB of download later and I have Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac up and running on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.
Next step is to set up a pristine Windows 7 virtual machine, clone it, and outfit the clone with my usual toolchain. Let’s see how that goes…