The Possibilites Are Endless

I thought I was done with the indecisiveness of technology decisions … but it has only gotten worse.

When all you have to choose from is Apple, it narrows the field down quite a bit. That is especially true when you can knock off the top-end of every category. However, if you start to include Linux-based machines in the mix, the field opens up and you start to get bogged down in the tiniest of details …

… and there are many.

So, to help my mind work through the huge backlog of information, I am going to write down some ideas for where my setup is going to go.


My current setup works just fine for me, but it has some weaknesses as I continue to move further and further into my sysadmin position.

  • Linux is now the primary OS I work with every day and Windows is the primary OS I support every day (on the user side of things). We are seeing more and more iOS devices on campus, but still few Apple computers.
  • I want to have as light a machine as possible to take with me when I travel to see family or for conferences and other things.
  • I read a lot more documentation now than I did before, which means I need some way to keep that documentation with me and read it easily.
  • I need something to test different configurations with, so a virtualization platform is a must as well … something I can easily spin a VM up on to see if an idea will work. I want to be able to take that with me too.
  • My wife needs an upgrade soon. The 2009 MacBook she has been using has worked really well for her, but it is getting a little long-in-the-tooth and I would like to have her use something with a built-in SD card reader.
  • This is a long shot, but I’d love to be back down to a single computer between work and home that is my “main” machine. That might be too much to ask for currently, but that is the future goal.
  • Want to spend the least amount of money and there is a distinct possibility of eliminating some of my extra computing devices when this is all said and done. Having fewer things around would be very nice.
  • Must still allow me to do what I need to do.

One thing you learn right away is that anything is going to be a compromise. There is no single setup that is going to easily meet all of my requirements, which makes me sad but is inevitable.

The greatest area of compromise is in ease-of-communication. Apple has a very slick and very integrated system with iCloud, iMessages, iTunes, and everything else. It really is quite remarkable what they have been able to accomplish.

For example: I can work on a document in Pages in OS X, close the lid on that laptop, pick up my iPad mini and continue working on that same document. That is pretty cool. I’ll hopefully have a post in the near future why the tech-elite thinks Apple can’t do server-side technologies.

Hint: it is because, most often, Apple isn’t trying to be Google.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I guess I should probably lay out some options.

The All Apple

All Apple almost everywhere.

There are two variations of this:

  1. I keep my 13″ MacBook Pro, my wife keeps her 13″ MacBook, I sell the Mac mini.
  2. I keep my Mac mini, my wife gets the 13″ MacBook Pro (which we share at home), and I sell the 13″ MacBook.

The parts that stay the same are the iPad and our iPhones. Those are not going anywhere. I’m probably going to end up selling our 1st gen iPad just to rid ourselves of the 30-pin dock connector once and for all.

The first option above would get me down to a single machine, but my wife sticks with her aging 13″ MacBook for a while. The second option fixes the latter problem, but I’m splitting time again between two machines (and the 13″ MacBook Pro would be shared between us with two user accounts … not ideal).

However, I keep interoperability, which is nice. It also narrows things down just because I still have all-Apple at home. Makes it easier for me there as well.

Linux For Life

After the first, these all get more interesting.

  • My wife gets the 13″ MacBook Pro.
  • I sell the 13″ MacBook and Mac mini.
  • I use the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 as my main laptop and purchase new iPad Air as traveling machine.

Oh boy, now it gets interesting.

This would solve a number of things. First, I would be down to a single mobile machine, my wife would get an upgrade, but we lose many of the nice things about owning Apple devices. I’d be working mostly with Linux, so there would be that portion as well. I’d need to break apart some of my workflows to make them more platform-agnostic, but is that such a bad thing?

I’d probably end up purchasing a docking station for at work and at home so that I don’t have to worry about unhooking cables all the time. This is an interesting one because it would eliminate two machines I currently need to take care of.

That simplification is quite compelling.

Don’t Touch That

I guess another option is not to touch anything. Don’t sell anything. Just keep going as I am right now.

It might seem to make sense to do this, but that isn’t usually how I “roll” … more or less. I’m a tinkerer, and if there isn’t something holding me back, I’ll tear apart my setup and rebuild it just because I think there might be some way to do it just a tiny bit better.

Many people might yell at me to just go this route because I could be spending my time on other things, but where is the fun in that!?

Mix & Match

Then there is always the possibility of mixing-and-matching things as well. Maybe I ditch the 13″ MacBook and the Mac mini and just try to get by with an iPad mini for a while, Or maybe an iPad Air … or do I go crazy and get myself a Nexus 7 to play around with just because I’m kind of nuts.

And that is kind of the problem, there are so many different combinations that I don’t know which way to turn.

Here is a list of what I am working with the items italicized to indicate those which cannot be sold.

  • 13″ MacBook Pro (early 2011)
  • 13″ MacBook (late 2009)
  • Mac mini (late 2012)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X220
  • 16 GB iPad mini (1st gen) w/Verizon LTE
  • 16 GB iPad (1st gen)
  • 16 GB iPhone 5 (black)
  • 16 GB iPhone 5 (white)
  • Custom desktop machine
  • ASUS 24″ LED monitor (2)

That’s a lot of computing power but it also means there are too many ways to do things. Being able to simplify the whole thing down to fewer options (and fewer things to take care of) would be the best option.

Endless Possibilities

I don’t have an answer right now for which way I am going to go with this, but I do know something has to change. I’m extremely frustrated with my current setup precisely because there are too many variables in it.

As usual, I’ll report back when I’ve made a decision.


3 replies on “The Possibilites Are Endless”

Sounds like you might want to add an option to do some of this via cloud. With refurbished workstations (quad core Xeons, >16GB ram, and SAS drives) coming in less than $600 you could setup a personal cloud of sorts to spin up desktops and other VMs at home. Then an iPad is even more powerful. Main machine goes with you no matter what device you have on hand as long as you have an internet connection.

For testing the cloud stuff, that is kind of on the docket … the issue with doing it that way is that I would then need to keep extra machines at home doing nothing until I needed to do some testing. Eating power and creating heat, two things I’m not keen on, but might be necessary anyway.

However, one of my goals is to see if I can do what I need from an iPad-only setup. The new iPad Air makes that a possibility, I believe, but I need to do some more testing/thinking first.

I should probably add that the idea would be to also look at some Thunderbolt docks for the 13″ MacBook Pro if I would move down to that being my primary/only machine.The ability to plug in a single cord and have Ethernet/USB/Thunderbolt/AUDIO from that one place is pretty much a dream come true.

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