How I fixed a MacBook Pro from 2012 with macOS “High Sierra” in 2020

My girlfriend’s laptop needed a refresh after eight years and counting, but I’ve never used a MacBook Pro before.

Apple MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini

So, let’s say that I’ve never been a huge Apple fan. I’m a front-end developer and I know that an iMac could really help me, but I’ve never owned a MacBook Pro in my entire life. That’s why I took the chance to better understand how it works and if buying one should definitely be an option or not. I left my job at a startup after 7 months and I need to focus on my second life as a freelancer. Coming from Linux… I had mixed feelings about macOS.

macOS “High Sierra”

Don’t misunderstand me. I used to be an Apple hater in the ’90s, but I changed my mind many years ago: I still enjoy working with Windows and I think that WSL2 is the «big thing» we asked for. I work with Visual Studio Code form Ubuntu, as well. Then, having to clean a MacBook Pro for the first time was challenging… I didn’t even know how-to start. Luckilly, I found the official solution in a while, and I succeded in getting the laptop working in an hour.

Trust me, the first time I’ve ever tested a Mac OS device I was still playing with the C64. That’s why I found it so interesting to have a hands-on in 2020. I followed many Apple updates as a journalist in the past, but I’ve never tried it as a front-end developer so far. You know what!? I didn’t change my mind with “High Sierra”. I mean, from the point of view of a Linux user, it’s just another UNIX-like operating system built on a highly customized hardware.

I know that macOS 10.13 has been released three years ago at the time of writing and an experienced Apple user wouldn’t agree with me, but I didn’t find big differences from GNOME v3.x in terms of UI/UX. Well, I also know that Linux desktops copied many of its functionalities. I’m wondering if today it’s worth to pay for such an expensive solution: I think so, in the end, but you better read about how I came to this and why I’m going to buy my first iMac.

MacBook Pro 13"

Let’s say that my GF isn’t a typical Mac, neither an Apple user. She used to have an iPhone 4 years ago… but she doesn’t work on the web and she doesn’t need a MacBook at all. So, the laptop was full of bloatware I’ve never installed in her shoes: that’s why I immediately understand a NVRAM reset was needed. It was the first time I’ve ever heard about it, to be honest, although I did something similar on Linux — trying to emulate Time Machine.

After that, resetting macOS was quite easy, and I succeded in having a clean operating system in minutes. You know what!? The most interesting thing I noticed about this MacBook Pro was the softness of its touchpad. I’m not joking, Apple’s materials matter: I prefer to add a wireless mouse if I have to work on a laptop, but I don’t think I’ll do the same with this. I’m quite good using the built-in trackpad (and now I miss it on cheaper devices like mines).

Then, speaking about the reset itself, it was a little easier to complete than on Windows computers. Being used to Linux, on the other hand, makes macOS usual to me. I mean, as I’ve said, GNOME 3.x already offers quite the same functionalities: my girlfriend could move to Ubuntu without pain since “High Sierra” runs too slowly on her MacBook Pro. It’s an old device to be replaced soon, but she can’t afford a new Apple right now and I have no alternatives.

App Store

My beloved girlfriend has a bad relationship with passwords. Apart from being slow, macOS did its job, but she didn’t remember her Apple ID credentials: registering a new one was easy. I was tempted to get it for me either, because I can’t have the official iCloud domain elsewhere. I admit that the registration process was pretty good and she could have completed it even without my little help. I still think that Apple services make its own fortune.

But, wait… installing software remembers the Snap Store to me and I hate it. I also had to remove many unwanted widgets by hand just like on Windows — and I bet it’s worse on newer macOS versions. As a developer, this is so bad I had to think twice before saying anything about: I thought that Microsoft and Canonical provide a worse experience, watching images and presentations, until I tested the famous App Store from Apple. They all suck in my opinion.

It’s overrated. While Linux users (the elder developers, at least) don’t use the Snap Store on Ubuntu to install a program, and they can easily get rid of it or choose another distribution, on macOS the App Store is everywhere. Same for the Microsoft Store on Windows. This could be fun for a regular user, but it’s definitely not for me. I’d prefer to have more tools in the terminal emulator, without the need of installing and configuring Homebrew to start working.

So, why do I think that my next desktop will be an iMac? Well.. it’s all about pain. I don’t need an App Store (neither a Microsoft Store, a Snap Store, etc.) but designers use tools like Sketch which work only or better on macOS. Being a front-end developer means that half of my job belongs to their, and online tools aren’t enough to achieve great results to date. Homebrew seems to be largerly supported, while Linux doesn’t give many alternatives to those apps.

Federico Moretti is a front-end developer from Varese who provides solutions in HTML, CSS and JavaScript for small and medium-sized businesses as a freelancer.

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