Month: May 2016

Danger zone

France has been an interesting place to live in, especially the last few weeks. A new law has been passed (well, technically, forced) that changes working conditions. As usual, the immediate reaction was nationwide strikes, something that seems to be a national sport.

On the national news (and even on international news), three cities have been mentioned. Paris, because, well, Paris. And also Nantes, and Rennes. Both of these cities have something in common; the Nantes airport is to be replaced, by creating a brand new airport, somewhere between Nantes and Rennes. Both cities should then be able to use this new platform. There is a debate as to whether the new airport actually has any use; there are people who say that Nantes Atlantique is saturated, others that say that it is far from it. I won’t go into that here.

The fact that the airport is in dispute, and has been for over two years now, means that we have our fair share of “zadistes”, people who have settled in the new airport site, and who are violent to anyone who attempts to enter, especially law enforcement agencies. They haven’t been in direct conflict with the police force for some time, so when a strike was announced in Nantes, it looks like quite a few came over to spice things up. Within a week, the damages in Nantes grew to over one million Euros; smashed glass, stones torn from roads to throw on the police force, degradation of buildings and tram lines. There have been numerous arrests, and even prison sentences for some, but it continues.

I work from home, and I like it. Petrol is in limited supply right now because of the strikes, so I normally get my daughter from school using public transportation (the bus system runs on natural gas, and the trams are electric). Today, I had a nasty surprise.

I took the bus line down to the tram line, as usual. I had headphones on, and I was reading an ebook. I didn’t look at the website to see when the bus would leave, they are frequent enough to not need that. Maybe I should have.

When I arrived at the tram station, there were trams waiting at the station. Far too many, and lines that shouldn’t have been there. I walked up to the driver, and asked what was going on. All transportation to and from the center was cancelled, violent strikes. That wasn’t good news, I wouldn’t be at the school in time. Earphones back in my ears, I started walking. There wasn’t any other option. I walked about two kilometers to get my daughter, but the more I got close to the school, the more I worried. When I arrived in front, it wasn’t something that I wanted my daughter to see. Smouldering dustbins, holes in the pavement where stones had been torn out, and thrown into the surrounding buildings. Plus, the unmistakable smell of tear gas. I grabbed my daughter from daycare, put her on my shoulders, and got out of there as fast as possible.

There were still a few pockets of “casseurs” as I made my way back to the bus stop. Here and there, a few police cars would go by, sirens wailing, and a few people would suddenly disappear.

This isn’t a warzone, this isn’t civil war, this is “just” a strike with people who are bent on destruction. While I don’t agree with unions blocking petrol refineries and transport, I know full well that what I’ve seen has nothing to do with them. Nantes has been the victim of a lot of violence recently, and the police force has been fairly gentle, not provoking them, and only intervening when absolutely necessary. This time, they didn’t ask questions, they acted immediately. I really hope that means that the violence will stop. The only thing separating the school playground and the street violence was a large iron door.

Apple vs Windows?

Before I even start, no, this isn’t a request for a flame war. I’m passionate about my work, but highly tolerant about choice and differences. Actually, I like having several systems, it keeps competition on its toes, and no, I don’t think that any system is better than another, not for everything, at least.

So, what’s with the title? Well, I’m considering a switch. I’ve used and loved Linux, but for my line of work, I just can’t. The other day, I was invited to a conference, and I had to install a Skype for Business plug-in that just doesn’t work for Linux (well, actually, it didn’t work for Window either, the client had to switch conference tools, but anyway, details). My clients use Microsoft Office, and to be honest, as a Linux fan, Microsoft Office just rocks. I’ve never used anything that comes close, and all my clients use it, so I do too. Now, Office works on Windows and MacOS.

So, why the switch? Aren’t I comfortable with Windows? Actually, I am. I kind of like Windows 10. I loved 7, and 8 was just too much of a change for me. I really do like Windows 10. I also like MacOS, even if I haven’t used it for quite some time. I went to the Apple Store a while ago with my girlfriend to get her brand new iPhone, and I had a quick look at the different computers. It reminded me of something that I loved and miss – Time machine. I haven’t found anything that comes close.

I like Macs. I’m not a huge fan of the aluminium exterior, but I am a fan of their solidity. Yes, they are more expensive, and before people start with the “with the price of a Mac, you could buy two Windows systems”, yes, I am aware of that, but one, I’ve rarely seen anything built as solidly, and second, Mac computers retain a fairly large portion of their initial investment; you can sell it a few years later for a decent amount.

I use two systems daily, and three systems at least weekly. I have a heavy desktop, it runs an i7 with 32Gb of RAM; that is where I do my video editing, virtual machines and other heavy work. My laptop is also an i7, with 16Gb of RAM, and I use one or two virtual machines. It is basically my desktop when I’m out of the office. It works, it actually works very well, but it isn’t quite as comfortable as the desktop, and it only has one screen, the desktop has three. Then there is the ultraportable, an 11″ Sony Vaio Pro, an i5 with 4Gb or RAM. This is used solely for writing, I don’t do any editing, recording or virtual machines. All three make up my workforce.

So I still haven’t answered the question; why switch? My desktop computer is lagging behind, and needs an upgrade… While I’m at it, I might as well upgrade to a Xeon platform, possibly with two CPUs. Hence, a look at the Mac Pro. I don’t really have time to fiddle any more, and the idea of a guarantee does sound nice. Apple has some awesome video editing programs, and Time Machine is definitely a plus. So, advantages:

  • Nice new hardware designed to last
  • Apple Care that goes with it
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Time Machine
  • UNIX command line for Python programming

There are, however, downsides:

  • Missing out on quite a few Steam pruchases
  • No NVIDIA CUDA
  • Expensive!

The problem with me is that if I change one system, I change them all. If I have MacOS on one computer, I don’t want Linux on another, and Windows on a third, I want them to be all the same. I want to have the same desktop no matter which system I use. I’ve been to the Apple Store, and I got an estimate. It’s expensive, I will admit, and it is probably only just the start, but I can see quite a few advantages to switching.

What do you think?