Separate Computing

With the addition of the Mac mini into my computing environment, I now will get to test out a theory I’ve had for a little while. Also, Ben Brooks published an article in the most recent addition of The Magazine title One Computer Worked Better which flies directly in the face of what I am trying to accomplish, so it will be interesting to see how it works out.

Basically, I’m splitting my computing needs in two, or at least working with two computers and two mobile devices.

For a long time I’ve been a one-computer user. I’ve had a laptop that I take with me between home and work, setting it up between places with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard wherever I go. This has worked quite well. I keep all of my data on a single machine, back it up daily, and have everything at my fingertips whenever I might need it.

However, I have two purposes. I have a day job and then I have the work that I do for myself and other clients. This means that I can have a co-mingling of data on a single machine.

Which is never good.

As much as I hate to say it, I also don’t like constantly plugging and unplugging my MacBook Pro to take it from work to home and then back again the next day. There is the obvious wear-and-tear on the machine itself, but it also takes just that little extra bit of time in the mornings to get everything setup before I can start work. A minor annoyance, but it is still an annoyance.

The New Setup

There are now four devices that are part of the setup, which does add complexity.

At Home

The base-model Mac mini (Late 2012) sits on a shelf near my desk, attached to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Attached to this Mac mini is a bus-powered USB hard drive for local Time Machine backups and that’s about it. It sits there, quietly waiting for me to come home and work.

There is also an iPad mini as the mobile, non-tethered computing for at home. I’ll talk more on that later.

The best things about the Mac mini at home don’t even have to do with the fact that it is a Mac or the benefits of that. No, it is the fact that it is a desktop tethered to my desk that I like the most. I’m not going to pull it up to the first floor and work on something. By forcing me to go work in my office I keep work apart from the family and I also eliminate distractions by “retreating” to my office.

Being a desktop also means I have less chance of component failure due to movement. At least I hope I do. I also have the option of expanding the storage easily using USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt external hard drives.

I am tempted to try a home-made Fusion Drive at some point as well.

At Work

This is where I have the MacBook Pro perched up on a stand and connected to an external monitor. It works well. I wish I had a Thunderbolt Display so that I could eliminate all but two cables (Thunderbolt and power), but I make do with the five hanging off of the side.

Having the portable here means I can take it to meetings if I need to, but that I can also take it on longer vacations if there seems to be a need for that. It has enough storage to get the job done, but if I move all of my personal stuff (photos, music, videos, etc.) to the Mac mini at home, I’ll probably get a smallish SSD just for fun. Development doesn’t always require a ton of space.

On The Road

Here is where it gets interesting. I always have my iPhone with me and that is not going to change. The iPhone 4S has probably been the single best device I’ve ever owned.

However, the iPad mini has now moved into the category of being my main mobile computing device. It can handle the important tasks I need to accomplish and in a smaller package than any laptop I could bring along. It also has the benefit of having cellular internet built into it.

I won’t even get into the fact that there are no moving parts in an iPad either. No fans. No hinges. No spinning disks. Those are all good things.

However, you can’t do everything that I do on an iPad, and so for some longer trips (or trips where I know that I will need to be developing something) I will pack up the MacBook Pro and lug it along. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to eliminate the need to bring along the larger laptop on more and more trips in the future.

It is probably good to just leave work at home anyway.

In Conclusion

Basically, this is an experiment in the syncing and “cloud” infrastructures of today. While there are definite breaks in what data is stored where, there are some things that I have to toss into Dropbox to keep it on both machines. I also keep a lot of stuff in iCloud and … we’ll see how it goes.

You can probably expect a post recanting my current position within six months.