Developing Perspective

#52: More Power


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspectives. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note in iOS development, Apple, and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm

00:00:08   an independent iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia. Developing Perspective is never

00:00:12   longer than 15 minutes. This is show number 52, and today is Wednesday, June 6th.

00:00:17   All right, the topic for today's show is the Mac Pro, and hopefully we'll have more to

00:00:22   say about that next week. Before the rumored new Mac Pros come out and so on, I was going

00:00:28   I think it would be interesting to talk about a developer's environment and why I'm so excited

00:00:34   about the Mac Pro, what I've tried in the past, and why it just hasn't worked out.

00:00:38   So currently I run a 27-inch iMac from late 2009.

00:00:43   It's a 2.8 gigahertz Intel Core i7, fully specced out.

00:00:47   At the time, I believe it was the top of the line iMac.

00:00:50   It was the most expensive thing you could buy other than a Mac Pro.

00:00:54   And you know, it's done pretty well.

00:00:55   I've had it now for, I guess that's two and a half years.

00:00:59   It'll be three years this fall.

00:01:01   And it's a great computer.

00:01:03   It's worked pretty well for me over those years,

00:01:05   but there's no way I'd buy another iMac.

00:01:08   And for a while I was kind of surprised by it.

00:01:12   Because it's been a good computer, I've enjoyed it.

00:01:14   But there's a couple of things about iMacs or laptops,

00:01:19   or even probably the Mac Mini, that just

00:01:21   work as a sort of a workhorse developers machine.

00:01:24   As we're going to walk through all those different areas, that kind of frustrates me with it

00:01:28   and why I'm so looking forward to the Mac Pro, which, you know, can't wait to get my

00:01:31   hands on.

00:01:32   So first is speed.

00:01:34   And it probably goes without saying that the Mac Pro is the fastest Mac you can buy.

00:01:39   And that's still true.

00:01:40   Even though the Mac Pro hasn't been updated for I think it's about 670 days now, which

00:01:45   which is one of the longest droughts in history for a Mac product being not updated.

00:01:52   The Mac Pro currently, if you look at say the Geekbench scores for Macs, the top of

00:01:57   the line Mac Pro that was released in mid 2010, so 670 days ago, still has a score better

00:02:05   than any other non-Mac Pro.

00:02:10   The next best is about half as fast, which is the current top of the line iMac that was

00:02:15   was released in mid 2011.

00:02:17   So that's quite something, that a computer that

00:02:20   hasn't been updated in years and years and years is still the king of the hill.

00:02:24   And that's something that you just can't get in any other computer.

00:02:27   They allow you to access technology and platforms that

00:02:31   are geared and tuned for performance.

00:02:35   Say you get your laptop computer.

00:02:37   It is designed and geared and focused on power consumption, heat management,

00:02:43   those types of things.

00:02:44   Performance is part of that, but often if you get a totally specced out laptop, you're

00:02:49   going to have all kinds of problems.

00:02:50   You're going to have problems with heat, you'll have problems with battery life.

00:02:53   Often if you have a laptop, really what you want is a fairly low powered thing if you

00:02:57   actually want to move around with it.

00:02:59   And so that's one thing where the Mac Pro is just sort of the opposite.

00:03:02   It's like we're going to take the fastest technologies we can find, the best, the apex

00:03:06   of modern computing, and we're going to put them in one big, honking, scary looking machine.

00:03:14   And that speed isn't just sort of for fun.

00:03:19   You know, say you're a developer, you're like me.

00:03:21   I mean, probably the thing you do more than anything else in a given day is compile code.

00:03:26   And compilation is very CPU bound.

00:03:28   And if you watch your CPU monitor when you compile a big project in Xcode, you'll almost

00:03:33   certainly peek out at all your CPUs.

00:03:36   Xcode is very efficient at parallelizing it, at working on it, but it's very CPU bound.

00:03:40   There's a little bit of IO bound stuff, but almost always if you have an SSD of any kind,

00:03:47   you're probably not even going to be touching IO problems.

00:03:49   You're going to be bottlenecks by your CPU.

00:03:52   If you can take 10%, 20%, 40%, 50% out of your compilation time, it's just one of these

00:03:58   things that will make you a more productive programmer, I believe.

00:04:01   At least it is for me.

00:04:03   And especially, it's not necessarily because it's saving me that time, but because it removes

00:04:07   an excuse for me to get distracted, which maybe I could overcome with better self-control

00:04:13   or something. But it is one of those things that often I'll be going in and I'll be making

00:04:17   a bunch of coding changes. I hit build, hit build and run, and all of a sudden I have

00:04:22   ten seconds or whatever it is to wait while it goes and does its whole big dance. And

00:04:27   in those ten seconds I have nothing more I can do in that kind of flow that I was in,

00:04:31   and so I'll find something else to do. Oh, let's check Twitter, let's check my email,

00:04:34   check reader, let's see what's going on. And that's just not good for my productivity.

00:04:40   And so it's great to have as fast a computer as possible to do that because I want to be

00:04:43   able to just minimize those times. And you know, there's obviously the other part of

00:04:47   it of if I can save five seconds to compile, I compile hundreds of times a day, if not

00:04:53   thousands, but maybe if I'm really in the zone. I mean, there's a lot of compilation

00:04:57   going on in my office and I can make that go faster. Same thing with almost anything

00:05:01   out other operation. I have a friend who's talking about his Mac Pro and he said it almost,

00:05:06   sometimes his Mac Pro almost feels like it's clairvoyant, like it knows what he wants before

00:05:10   he gets it, because he'll be going in and it's like, "Oh, I want to open up this file," and

00:05:15   he'll just sort of, as the moment he touches it, it's open. And it kind of has this like,

00:05:18   it was, you know, it was ready and waiting to just hand it to you right that moment.

00:05:22   And that's just something you can't get anywhere else. Related to that is just how long of a

00:05:27   lifetime Mac Pro has where it still is useful, where it still is functional, where it still

00:05:33   is the top of the line in terms of performance.

00:05:37   Like I just said, looking at those Geekbench scores, the interesting thing is even if you

00:05:41   go back beyond the previous generation Mac Pro, so the one from 670 days ago, if you

00:05:47   go back to the generation before, which was released in early 2009, that is the third

00:05:53   fastest Mac you can buy if you bought the top of the line back then.

00:05:56   quite something. For a computer to be that old, to be years and years and years old,

00:06:03   like a three-year-old computer still being the third fastest Mac that you can buy, if

00:06:08   money's no object, that's quite something. It's one of those things that you're not going

00:06:13   to get in any other computer, especially with laptops, where they're almost disposable in

00:06:18   some ways because you're not making that investment into something that's going to have a long

00:06:22   lifetime. Fair enough. If once a year you buy a MacBook Air, every year you go out and

00:06:26   and buy a MacBook Pro, you're sort of keeping up with that.

00:06:29   But that's not practical, and it's not probably

00:06:31   very economical either.

00:06:33   Not that Mac Pros are cheap, but you're investing into one thing

00:06:36   and having it continue to hold its value for much longer.

00:06:41   And what I've heard from a lot of people too is you can usually

00:06:44   sell a Mac Pro for quite a large percent, maybe even half

00:06:48   of what you paid for it, even though it's a couple of years

00:06:53   old, because they just retain their value

00:06:55   and their performance so quickly.

00:06:57   It's actually even the one I'm hoping to buy next week,

00:07:00   or soon thereafter.

00:07:02   I may even investigate leasing it or something like that,

00:07:04   because if you have the same thing,

00:07:06   if it's like, that's a great option

00:07:07   to get a three year lease on a Mac Pro,

00:07:09   it'll probably still be just as fast,

00:07:10   and then at the end, you just sort of trade it back in

00:07:14   and get a new one.

00:07:15   You know, I'm not totally sure on that,

00:07:17   and as I investigate, I'm sure I'll mention it on the show.

00:07:20   But it's kind of an interesting dynamic with a Mac Pro,

00:07:22   that it becomes a tool that you use forever.

00:07:25   It's kind of like buying a really good drill or a really good hammer.

00:07:29   It's something that's going to last a long time that you can kind of develop

00:07:32   and hone to exactly how you like it and not feel like, oh, gosh,

00:07:36   I'm going to have to get a new computer soon.

00:07:38   This one is just so slow.

00:07:39   I just can't keep up.

00:07:40   As technology and software demands increase,

00:07:43   your computer has such a latent amount of capacity

00:07:46   that it's just not even nearly tapping into.

00:07:49   The next thing that I love about the Mac Pro-- and this is sort

00:07:52   of the complete opposite of almost every other Mac--

00:07:55   is that you can actually upgrade it, fix it, and tweak things

00:07:59   inside of it yourself.

00:08:01   I have a 27-inch iMac.

00:08:04   There is almost nothing I can do to that

00:08:06   except upgrade the memory myself.

00:08:09   Because everything else, the first step

00:08:11   is take two suction cups and remove the glass screen

00:08:15   from the display.

00:08:16   And I don't know about you, but my nerves couldn't--

00:08:18   there's no way my nerves could take something like that.

00:08:21   Pulling this giant 27-inch glass display off

00:08:24   of a computer that if I drop damage, get dirt into whatever,

00:08:28   it's going to drive me nuts forever.

00:08:31   That's just never going to happen.

00:08:33   As Mac Pro, it's designed for this.

00:08:35   I mean, at least the current generation,

00:08:36   there's a little thing that you flip over and side pops off.

00:08:40   You want to take this out.

00:08:41   You pull this over here.

00:08:42   It is designed for upgradeability,

00:08:46   for maintainability, all these things.

00:08:48   If I lose a hard drive dies in my iMac, all right,

00:08:52   well i'm off to the map i'm off to the apple store i'm gonna have to like this

00:08:56   twenty seven inches play in the middle of this whole big

00:08:58   so song and dance

00:09:00   mac pro pop aside over in

00:09:02   you know popping you went in

00:09:03   you're good to go

00:09:04   which is even just great for me personally the perspective of

00:09:08   productivity that is very unlikely that my mac pro would die in a way

00:09:11   that i'd be unable to use as opposed to hard drive if that hard drive goes no

00:09:15   problem video cargo is probably no problem

00:09:17   if this is the c_p_u_ install that goes in the office to get to apple store but

00:09:21   generally most of the upgrades that you can, or the fixes that you can do, you could just

00:09:25   do yourself. And that's awesome. And that's something that you just can't get on another

00:09:29   computer. I mean, it's kind of crazy when you look at, um, Macbook Pro is probably the

00:09:34   only one that you can do close to that, where you can kind of take the bottom off and change

00:09:38   the hard drive and a few other components. Macbook Airs, I mean, they're just basically

00:09:42   a sealed box. There's nothing really you can do to fix it. You take it to the Apple Store,

00:09:47   they're going to have to be dealing with it. Which isn't necessarily, you know, a killer

00:09:50   if you get AppleCare and it's fine, but still, I love that I can fix something if it goes

00:09:56   wrong and also, you know, I want to add a new hard drive, boom, just put it in. Want

00:10:00   a new video card, boom, just put it in. You know, it's not this crazy thing that is going

00:10:04   to be avoiding my warranty and doing all kinds of horrific things. The other thing I like

00:10:09   about the Mac Pro, which is related to that, is I don't have to cover my computer with,

00:10:14   or my desk with cables. I don't need all these crazy things that I need plugged into my current

00:10:20   iMac because I can put a lot of stuff in the computer, so external hard drives and stuff

00:10:28   that I need currently because of the internal capacity isn't enough, I can just put those

00:10:32   inside.

00:10:33   And two, even if I have external hard drives and stuff, they're going to be under my desk.

00:10:37   They're going to be in a place that I don't really care as much of the appearance, so

00:10:41   it's just kind of nice from the aesthetics of that that you can never get with any other

00:10:46   computer than probably the Mac Mini.

00:10:49   Mac Mini is a good option.

00:10:50   And in many ways, I've thought about it for a while, if that would be an interesting computer

00:10:55   to get, if, for example, they discontinued the Mac Pro line, which for a while was kind

00:10:59   of the fear.

00:11:00   And I think my next computer, if I had done that, may have actually been a Mac Mini.

00:11:04   It may have just because you have all these other benefits that are similar, but not quite

00:11:07   the same as we've been talking about, especially in terms of the value per cost of a Mac Mini

00:11:14   is pretty good, because they're incredibly inexpensive

00:11:18   for the performance that you get.

00:11:20   The current top of the line has a GeekBand score of about 10,000,

00:11:25   which is comparable to a lot of the other high-end iMacs and MacBook Pros,

00:11:30   but at a cost of sort of an 11-inch MacBook Air.

00:11:35   And then the last thing that I like about the Mac Pro is that it's the best.

00:11:39   And the pursuit of having the best of something is,

00:11:43   you know, it's a good, I think it's a good ideal

00:11:46   in many ways to say that, you know, it's like,

00:11:49   I don't necessarily, I would rather,

00:11:50   I would rather have the best of something

00:11:54   than a lot of mediocre or those types of things.

00:11:57   It is nice and encouraging to me to know that, you know,

00:12:01   I'm not gonna have virus remorse

00:12:03   that I didn't get a good enough computer.

00:12:04   Like, oh man, this project would be so much better

00:12:07   if I had a better computer.

00:12:08   It's nice to know this is the best computer.

00:12:10   If you're running into problems, you're running into problems

00:12:12   because that couldn't be solved with something else.

00:12:15   And so that's kind of reassuring in some ways.

00:12:19   Now, the exact specs and exactly which one I get,

00:12:21   I'll probably talk about on the show later.

00:12:24   But currently, all the rumors and all the speculation

00:12:26   is indicating that a new Mac Pro is going

00:12:28   to be announced on Monday, which I couldn't be happier about.

00:12:31   If you're at Dub-Dub when they announce Mac Pros,

00:12:34   I'll be the one screaming and yelling and jumping up and down.

00:12:36   So that's me.

00:12:38   But otherwise, it's just an exciting thing as a developer

00:12:41   to be thinking about, hey, I'm going to get a new machine.

00:12:43   How am I going to spec it out?

00:12:44   What am I going to do?

00:12:44   Am I going to get-- what kind of solid state drive?

00:12:47   Should I get these crazy PCI Express memory stick storage

00:12:52   units or all kinds of other things?

00:12:54   That's a fun project.

00:12:55   And it's something that I look forward to.

00:12:57   And I think that you just don't get when you're just like, OK,

00:12:58   I'm going to get a Mac Pro.

00:13:00   Or I'm going to get a MacBook Pro.

00:13:01   Or I'm going to get a MacBook Air, especially.

00:13:03   It's like you have three boxes to check

00:13:06   to decide what CPU, what memory, what hard drive size. That's it.

00:13:09   That's not fun. I mean, I'm remembering back in the day when I used to build my own computers.

00:13:12   And I'm really glad I don't have to do that anymore. That was a bit of a pain.

00:13:16   But I do look forward to kind of having a lot more options for how I configure it,

00:13:19   for how I play with it, and that allows me to tune it

00:13:22   to exactly what I want. You know, I don't necessarily need

00:13:26   massive fast... I need, like, slow,

00:13:29   huge storage and fast, small storage, because

00:13:33   I have a small working set of stuff that I use, and then I have a lot of archives, and a lot of backups, and all these other things that I need,

00:13:39   that I can kind of tune and configure my computer towards in a way that you just can't really do otherwise.

00:13:43   You know, most other Macs have a single hard drive, for example.

00:13:46   It's like, okay, well, you're just going to want that to be pretty fast then, because that's all you got.

00:13:51   But anyway, so those are my thoughts.

00:13:53   Like I said, I hope the Mac Pros come out.

00:13:55   Definitely recommend it, or at least looking at it if you're a developer, and even if you can't afford, like, a top-of-the-line one,

00:14:00   affording any of them. I mean, they are even getting an old one. Like I was saying, the

00:14:04   current fastest computers that you can buy are old Mac Pros. So pick up a Mac Pro from

00:14:10   a developer who's upgrading and you probably won't be disappointed.

00:14:14   Alright, that's it for today's show. As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:14:18   hit me up on Twitter. I'm @_DavidSmith. The Twitter feed for this podcast is @devperspective.

00:14:25   And otherwise, I hope you have a good week. Happy coding, and I will talk to you soon.