Categories
Life Technology

My Response: How Many Devices Is Too Many?

While I may not be following the 100 Days To Offload, I am hoping to get back into writing on this blog a little bit more in the future. Luckily, Kev Quirk over at https://kevq.uk IS posting every day and one of his recent posts caught my attention: How Many Devices Is Too Many? This post is my own response to that topic.

I have been spending more time working from home recently and so I have also been splitting my work across an increasing number of devices. On a given day, when I both work from home and on campus, I may use any combination of the following devices:

  • Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T495
  • Apple 12″ MacBook
  • Apple 9.7″ iPad Pro
  • Apple iPhone 11
  • Apple Mac mini
  • Apple 13″ Retina MacBook Pro
  • Microsoft Surface Pro 7
  • Intel NUC
  • Kindle Paperwhite

That does not include accessories and other smart devices (Apple HomePod) or any devices my wife or kids use during a given day either. Needless to say, I have a goodly number of devices sitting around and I move between any number of them fairly consistently.

I also have started to feel the weight of having all of these devices around. It is almost too much. Some tasks can only be done on certain devices and if I don’t have it nearby, then I need to go find it. In some cases the platform differences mean I spend more time thinking about how I might accomplish a task instead of doing it.

Recently I have started testing a Thunderbolt 3 docking station from Plugable with my ThinkPad Carbon X1 and it has worked pretty well. The hope is that in the future I can eliminate entire swaths of devices and consolidate down to just a few. However, which platform do I ultimately end up using? I am truly torn at the moment.

So … how many? I think I’m past that limit but I am unsure of exactly where I am going to fall in the near future. What I do know is that at the current number I am spending more time thinking about doing work and not the needed time actually getting down to do it. At this point, where the tools are getting in the way, it is time to start making some difficult decisions.

Categories
Education Life Technology

Between Two Worlds

I have been spending too much time thinking about digital platforms again. It breaks down into two choices at the moment:

  • Continue working in Apple’s ecosystem for much of my personal and professional life
  • Work to move as much as possible to open source and free software alternatives which may include self-hosting a number of items

I have been able to work with a new ThinkPad T495 over the past months and there is a lot that I like about the machine. While it may be a little larger for a daily-carry device, it is quick, has some paths for upgrading, and is rugged enough to serve day-to-day. If I were going to continue trying to move more and more of my work to open source alternatives, I would probably look at a ThinkPad Carbon X1 as my personal device as the slightly smaller footprint coupled with being around 27% lighter would make a difference.

However, what is holding me back isn’t the device nor is it even the operating system (with openSUSE Tumbleweed continuing to receive updates and serve quite ably) … it is the available software in the community along with the seamlessness of mobile workflows.

This is felt most acutely when it comes to task/todo managers, at least for me. I have been suing OmniFocus for the past 5+ years on macOS, iOS, and iPadOS and it has served me very well. There are a lot of fiddly buttons and options to play around with, but I have fallen into a pretty simple way of handling recurring and then one-off items along with keeping track of different projects or contexts.

However, I have yet to find an equivalent application or option that will work between a Linux distro and any mobile operating system. Of course this is complicated by my want for a competent desktop application. I have looked at Todo.txt a little bit but the need for additional plugins to add recurring tasks and other features included with OmniFocus and the lack of a competent mobile app turns me off from that.

That is just the tip of the iceberg and so I am caught, in a sense, in the Apple ecosystem for the time being as I work to consider what options I may have in the future.

Digital ecosystems are complicated.

Categories
Business Technology

Quick Thoughts on the ThinkPad T495

Recently I was handed a new Lenovo ThinkPad T495 as my new “sysadmin” notebook to use for the work I do around campus. I asked for this device because I was curious about how openSUSE would work with the newer AMD Ryzen Pro mobile chips and the current notebook I was using was starting to buckle under its age.

This ThinkPad is now setup with openSUSE Tumbleweed and here are some generic thoughts about how things are working out so far.

ThinkPad T495 on desk
  • This is the nicest traditional, non-Apple laptop I have ever used. It feels sturdy and the hinge is quite nice.
  • The screen is matte and full HD, and is quite nice. It isn’t the best screen I’ve seen, and I didn’t want a touchscreen for this device, but it is quite capable.
  • The AMD Ryzen 5 3500U processor is quite capable and more than fast enough for what I need to do. I haven’t bothered checking for benchmarks, but openSUSE Tumbleweed is a dream on it.
  • The keyboard is … OK. I don’t hate the keyboard on my MacBook, and there are definitely some things to like about this keyboard over Apple’s current designs, but I have had problems typing accurately that I am chalking up to being more used to the shallow typing distance of my MacBook.
  • It is thin and light enough, but I am finding that the bags that I have been using most are now too small for this laptop even though I didn’t think the difference between Apple’s 13″ lineup and this 14″ Lenovo machine would be that big of a deal.
  • If you are going to run Linux on it, aim for as current of a kernel as possible. It runs with openSUSE Leap 15.1 decently, but the switch to openSUSE Tumbleweed was a revelation. The newer the kernel, the better, and I am hoping for continued improvements for AMD’s chips in the future.
  • I will need to get more RAM (8 GB is not enough).
  • There really is a difference between Apple’s Retina screens and something like this (what is being used in business-class notebooks across the rest of the industry). Part of this is going to be software and part of it is going to be hardware.
  • Everything should have USB-C.
  • I think I quite like it.

Apple doesn’t really offer a notebook like this at the moment and the ThinkPad is not trying to compete with Apple’s offerings. When I am using it, I do miss macOS, but part of that may just be familiarity.

At some point I am going to be forced to make a decision around replacing my MacBook, but I will keep seeing if I can wedge this ThinkPad into other parts of my work. One of the first things I did was get Zotero installed and hooked up to LibreOffice to see if I could continue working with my citations there and it works just fine.

If you are looking for a very good, competent, thin-enough and light-enough Linux laptop … I have no issues recommending the Lenovo ThinkPad T495.

Categories
Business Technology

Have We Hit Peak Podcast?

Have We Hit Peak Podcast? by Jennifer Miller, NY Times

An interesting piece from the NY Times about the podcast “industry” right now and how many are thinking the “good times are coming to an end” (so to speak). Here is an interesting and salient quote to me:

Call him cynical, but Jordan Harbinger, host of “The Jordan Harbinger Show” podcast, thinks there is a “podcast industrial complex.” Hosts aren’t starting shows “because it’s a fun, niche hobby,” he said. “They do it to make money or because it will make them an influencer.”

When the point is to make money instead of having something interesting to share, or just wanting to have fun doing it, then you are going to burn out or even edit yourself to try and meet some sort of metric, or reach some specific audience because they are going to make you some money.

This is part of the issue with news today, right? It is searching out dollars first and informing the public second. The incentives are messed up and wrong and the interesting writing I remember reading years ago tends to be drowned out by people yelling at each other.

Maybe the end of the “podcast industry” isn’t a bad thing, overall, for the culture.

Categories
Business Life Technology

Goodbye Jony

Apple announced that Chief Design Officer Jony Ive is going to be stepping away from the company later this year to form an independent design company.

I have been a fan and user of Apple devices during the Jony Ive era and it will be interesting to see what happens from this point forward for Apple, and for Jony as well. Steve Jobs’ death was a major shift for the company and this will be seen as the same, but I feel this has been coming for a while.

If you want to read up on some good thoughts, head over to Daring Fireball to read Jony Ive is Leaving Apple and listen to the last episode of The Talk Show: ‘A Bit Too Thin’.

Thanks Jony for the work. I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the devices you had a hand in.