Monday, September 20, 2010

Going all Apple

After quite some years sitting comfortably in the PC camp, last month I decided to go Apple all the way. And by PC user I mean Microsoft Certified Trainer, DirectX and .NET developer and an avid gamer. Now what makes a man turn Mac and fork money for computer that is being sold in the lobby of a fashion store here in Utrecht?
  • It’s the only way to develop for the iPhone/iPod touch.
  • It’s shinny.
  • And finally it’s the only way to develop for the iPhone/iPod touch.
Obviously strong reasons…so I bought an iMac and got an iPod touch for (almost) free. After few weeks of using it all I can say is, I love it! Snow Leopard runs extremely smooth and so does Window 7. The bright LED screen blows my 22” Samsung LCD out of the water. It runs whisper quiet even when under heavy load. The sound signal doesn’t have interference noise from the hard drive or any other hardware component, unlike my previous not-so-cheap HP. The ergonomics are great (except for the silly location for the stereo jack!) and the drivers for my Wacom Ituos4 tablet seem to be more stable, allowing me to use hardware rendering in Photoshop. Time Machine is the best backup solution I have used, easy to set up while still giving you all needed options. Compatibility is no issue as it runs Microsoft Office (in fact did from the 80’s) and easily shares any media with my Xbox 360.

However few things are less then perfect. Graphics performance is below my expectations. Both Maya and Portal ran slower then under Windows and on top of that Portal shows screen tearing and flickering. Using vertical sync didn’t alleviate the problem either. I am not sure if it is the GPU drivers, the OpenGL implementation or the game itself, but needed my Windows 7 installation anyhow. How else I am going to run Visual Studio, my all time favorite Microsoft product (after the Xbox steering wheel :) )

[Non-geeks can skip this paragraph]
And this takes me to developing on the Mac, which why I have it in the first place. Xcode in my opinion is not as slick as Visual Studio. It is not always easy to find the window that you need without using Exposé. Alt-Tab is less then useful as all windows of the same application are bundled together, so after getting to your application you need Cmd + ~ to cycle through the windows. On the other hand the excellent code editor stays out of your way and the simple code completion is better than IntelliSense for C/C++, which is not too hard to beat. The language of choice (or lack of one) for developing applications for the Mac and iOS (iPhone/ iPod/iPad) and hence Xcode, is Objective-C. Objective-C has syntax that can make C++ look elegant and C# a wet dream. The language does have some great features like categories, allowing for extending the functionality of an existing class without creating a new one but the memory model is somewhat scary for game developers. It has all the performance nausea of a garbage collection with none of its benefits.

Is it all worth to have your game on the small screen and potentially thousands of people enjoying it? Hell yeah! So be on the lookout for some handcrafted pixels hitting the App store.


  1. Bojan, my favourite geek, with a healthy motivation to contribute and share in the successes of Apple's iPhone phenomenon (gadget of the decade!) gives an expert and, in my humble opinion, balanced report on his experiences with Apple's hardware and software. As a die-hard iPhone (3GS) user (the almost-perfect mobile device, better in the palm or jean pocket than the 4) and an envious PC user, I wonder why even Apple can't make the puuurfect product despite its pedigree and obvious capabilities?! Why can't the iPhone readily use Office files directly or via iTunes; how could iPad come out without even one camera (for Skype)... By the same token, why can't PC's on the Intel platform run Snow Leopard, or be designed like a Mac? Why is the battery (like the internal combustion engine in car milage) still unable to sustain a full-day laptop usage let alone a few days between charges? It is an ongoing (r)evolution of course and I hope I will still be around to see/use the (Apple?) device which will have resolved these issues and will have at least one Bojan E app! Best wishes, Predrag

  2. An MacBook/iPhone fan and user is eager for the first game by you :)
    Go Bojan!