I honestly would not anticipate writing about Microsoft Windows. Not after I have irrevocably and irreversibly switched to Linux and OSX years ago when I was studying at the university.

But here I am, happily typing this in Sublime2 editor on my desktop computer running nothing else but Microsoft Windows 8. Yes, the same computer that had been running Gentoo Linux a week or so ago!

Long story short I’ve never intended this to happen. My goal was to reduce number of gadgets. Instead of a full-size tower PC and an Apple MacMini I wanted a single powerful machine running OSX. My idea was to buy a new motherboard with Thunderbolt ports (to connect two 27” Apple displays) and install OSX on to it. It’s not an officially supported thing to do but I could not care less. The upcoming Apple MacPro is going to cost a fortune anyway and there is absolutely no way for me to justify such a steep price.

As you probably expect things did not go according to plan. It turned out that the motherboard I have ordered includes a Thunderbolt controller (DSL4510/4410) that is not yet supported by OSX (not even the latest Mavericks version). That left any attempts to install OSX out in the cold.

The reason I had an Apple computer in the first place was to natively run software that does not exist on Linux, such as Adobe imaging products. So I’ve decided to install Windows and use all the same software on it. After all, the hardware I had put together has “designed for Windows 8” written all over it.

I was expecting a miserable experience. People love to bash Microsoft Windows and there are reasons for that. However, I found that the desktop experience works rather well and looks good. To be honest, I don’t see much difference between operating systems for desktop work-loads because most of the time I use a web browser. Windows 8 does not stand in my way.

Every system has its quirks and Windows is no exception. I am used to quirks in all of the systems I have a pleasure to work with. The things I did not like about Windows:

  • Installing drivers. In OSX almost everything is built-in. In Linux you either have a distribution with a binary kernel that includes support for almost every device or, if you’re into it, you compile your own. Neither OSX nor Linux mandate messing with device support unless you really want to.

  • Updates. The dreadful updates plague OSX as well but not as much as Windows. I don’t fully appreciate forced reboots and long installation times.

  • Lack of virtual desktops. Even with two 27” screens I like to have an option to switch to a different work-space. Both OSX and Linux have nailed this well. I’ve found a program that enables virtual desktop but I don’t know if it’s doing its work efficiently. Perhaps I shouldn’t care because the Intel i7 4740K is very fast and there’s 16GB of system memory available.

  • Lack of good terminal. As a work-around I’ve installed Console2 and Cygwin. It’s an OK solution. I also SSH into a powerful Linux server (which acts as a HTPC ) and keep a bunch of VMs around.

  • Sleep puts all windows on one monitor. In addition, the time is not immediately synced so I see the time when the computer was put to sleep.

  • Smaller behavior quirks that are solved by finding and installing utilities. For example:

    • AltDrag to drag windows with a pointer while holding Alt pressed
    • AlwaysMouseWheel to scroll windows that are not in focus
    • TypeIt to enter German characters with a QWERTY layout
    • Dexpot for virtual desktops
    • ObjectDock for a OSX-like bar
    • ClipX as a clipboard history manager
    • NO, I do not need a “start menu” :D

The machine is exquisite! It’s extremely quiet - it has only a single 120mm fan on the CPU heat-sink (I removed all the other fans). There are no extension cards and everything else is cooled passively. There’s just one SSD and no vibrating hard disks. I can’t tell if the computer is running or not! The Apple screens are gorgeous. I’ve added a Logitech trackpad to do the touch gestures.

While I believe OSX might eventually support the Thunderbolt controller I don’t plan to switch. The desktop experience is great and all the software I need works well. I’ve sold all the gadgets, computers and computer parts I wanted through a local online auction. I feel much better now!

Full hardware list:

  • Antec 1200 case (with all fans either removed or disabled)
  • Asus Z87 deluxe/dual motherboard
  • Intel 4770K
  • Noctua NH-U12P SE2 cooler
  • 2x8GB RAM
  • Apple Cinema Display 27”
  • Apple Thunderbolt Screen 27”
  • Advantage Kinesis keyboard
  • Logitech M570 trackball
  • Logitech T650 multi-touch trackpad
  • Seasonic 460W passively-cooled PSU