Aq mentioned Macs - Working with Apple in enterprise

In episode 2x 13 - Built with Alien Technology, there was a discussion about working with Macs in offices, especially offices that aren’t tech companies. If anyone is interested, I use a Mac at work in a very Windows first environment. I’m a systems librarian for a public library and it’s my job to take care of a thing called the Integrated Library System or ILS. An ILS is a complex software system that powers the day to day operations of a library. So stuff like checking things in and out, managing the library’s catalogue, managing library users, fines, library staff accounts, and the whole bit. Our ILS is so focused on Windows you’d think it was built by Microsoft. It uses the whole Windows Server stack with ASP.Net, SQL Server, IIS, Active Directory, Exchange, and so on.

And I do most of my work from a Mac.

I’m a Linux nerd, but like Jono, I like Macs for the hardware and the design. They’re lightweight, well integrated in software/hardware, and they fit my needs better than any other PC. I’m one of only two or three people in the office who use a Mac, and of them, I’m the only one using it almost full time. (I use a library issued Surface Pro as well… sometimes at the same time as when I’m using a MacBook Air.)

It’s easy to get away with it too. Our ILS has a browser based front end that acts as the customer service UI for the staff. If you have a browser, you can use 90% of the system right there. For system admin tasks, there is a client and it’s 100% Windows based. So I have an older, but reliable Windows 10 laptop sitting on my desk at work. It actually sits behind me and I rarely touch it, at least physically. If I need windows, I pull up the Microsoft Remote Desktop app for macOS and RDP into it. I can do any work I need to do in Windows through the RDP, and then dump out when I’m done. This goes for the servers too. If I need to bounce a server or tweak something, RDP does the job. (The Microsoft Remote Desktop Client for macOS is excellent. I’ve rarely had a problem with it.)

Email, while handled through Exchange Server, is also available via the web. And I find the web client more reliable than using a desktop client. The IT trouble ticketing system is web based, so is my Todoist, and so on. Because of all the web apps and web accessibility, I do much of my work through a browser. Even our reporting system for data and analytics is browser based.

In the end, it’s almost like my MacBook is a dumb terminal for the Windows environment. I can reach out to it when I need it, but I can operate outside of it otherwise. But all that aside, I’ve done Linux work within the library from my Mac because I designed and engineered a system wide digital signage system using a Linux server and Raspberry Pis. I wrote a central management system for that thing too. I wrote a PHP programme that created event slides for the website.

And I did all of that on a Mac, in Atom. Code is portable. Remote desktops work. It’s really getting to a point that you can do a lot of work on anything so long as you can get into the system. Heck, I’ve done a fair bit of my job on an iPad… but that’s a wholly different topic.


We work in a mixed environment with Mac and Windows laptops (and a couple of Chrome OS devices), and Linux and Windows servers (although mostly Windows servers). I really don’t think Mac’s are that much “better” than Windows machines any more. It used to be the case that the Mac was the premium, more reliable, and generally prettier option, but in recent years I think Windows has taken the lead (warning: personal opinion).

I use a Dell XPS 15 and I have to say it’s every bit as polished as a Mac, and equally well engineered. It’s a beautiful peice of kit, plus I can open it and swap out parts myself! But if Dell isn’t your thing, then look at the Lenovo X1 Carbon, or the HP Spectre, or the Acer Swift (I think) range. They’re all equalling the Macs in build qualilty. And that’s just the OEM’s. I’ve not mentioned the MS range of hardware. Their Surface range is a thing of beauty (all of them).

As for reliability I think Windows 10 has done more for Windows’ reliability than any other version of Windows as well, and it still runs on my 6 year old personal machine. Can you say the same about the Mac? And Mac’s don’t work well in a polyglot environment anyway… They can’t join the Active Directory for one thing, which is a massive deal for centralised management, and they can have DNS issues on intranets, although that does partly depend on setup. They still struggle with Exchange integration, which can have an impact on CRMs.

Sure MS has made some mis-steps with Windows 10 (privacy anyone?) but they’re getting a whole lot better with every iteration. And while non of the issues with a Mac in the enterprise are unsurmountable, they do make things a little more difficult.

I mentioned this briefly in the 2x13 post but I’ll go into more detail here.

HP had an internal wiki for Linux users explaining how to access everything. There were a few tricky things to start with, notably Juniper’s awful VPN (but a much better one was implemented towards the end). Exchange was easy in Thunderbird using the ExQuilla plugin, although there is also a Java middleware application that converts IMAP calls to Exchange EWS protocol calls I know some people used.

I only used Windows on my first day at HP and then not at all after that. I had Macs as well whilst there but didn’t really use them much (I can’t even remember what I used them for). I was primarily using Linux.

I have primarily used a Linux desktop everywhere I’ve worked since the early 2000s.

Sun Microsystems did have one place I needed to use Windows. The expenses system was so buggy that it only worked in Firefox 2.0 for Windows… I used my wife’s machine for that :slight_smile:.

oh my god the Spectre is so nice. @flexiondotorg has got one and I am the most envious person ever. On the other hand they’re really expensive :slight_smile:

Most Windows laptop’s are now… I’m currently looking for something cheap(ish) with a 13.3" screen and 8GB RAM… There’s plenty of choice but it’s certainly not cheap!

@sil @mo_roodi Don’t you prefer the ZenBook?

It’s near perfect (except the seemingly Italic keys).

I do really like the look of the ZenBook 3, I must admit. Different vibe to the Spectre, but still attractive, and colours are always good!

I was so happy to see our small town library using Ubuntu. It must have been a recent change for they had still been using XP the last I was in there. As @CyberpunkLibrarian mentioned, the whole library catalog is available online, so it was nice to use my smartphone while looking for a book instead of trying to memorize numbers and going back and forth to the catalog because I forgot a pencil.


Bit less envious now.


I’d completely forgotten about the ZenBook’s, although I feel very “meh” about their design. I suppose the nice thing we’re able to actually have a conversation about the design of non-Apple machines now. There’s some really well designed, well engineered and good looking Windows (mostly), Chrome and Linux (System76 mainly) machines out there now.

I think the same applies to phones and tablets. It used to be that Apple cornered the market on both software and hardware design. It was the look that everyone aspired to, but I don’t think this is the case any more. Sure they still make good looking hardware, but in reality so does everyone else ( p.s. I’m currently totally covetting the Dell XPS13 but cannot justify spending the near £1k to buy one :frowning: ).

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