Indecision to Carry

Each workday I go through the same routine:

  1. wake up to alarm
  2. get out of bed
  3. shower and change for work
  4. head downstairs and help with breakfast/lunch prep/etc.
  5. drink cup of coffee with wife
  6. brush teeth
  7. pray with family
  8. gather together my stuff for work into bag
  9. say goodbye and head off to Martin Luther College

There are sometimes a few small variations to that routine, but for the most part that is it. However, out of every small decision I make in the morning it is #8 on that list that gives me the most pause each and every morning:

  • gather together my stuff for work into bag

Looking at the picture I used at the top of this post, it is probably pretty easy to see why. While my iPhone is always in my pocket and I have various amounts of reading material in my bag, I am constantly shuffling what technology I should be carrying between home and work.

Here are the three devices I currently work through my mind each morning:

The iPad Air is the easiest to carry, fits nicely into my bag and fulfills probably 85% of my needs on any given day. The Surface 3 is a test device for the Windows 10 deployment we are looking at for work along with an interesting look at the differences between form factors (and fits nicely into my bag). It fulfills maybe 75% of my needs on a given day, but a slightly different portion than the iPad Air.

The 13″ MacBook Pro is, surprisingly, just a little too big to bring along every day. It just fits into my bag, means I can’t bring too much else along, but fulfills 95% of my needs on any given day. It is just less portable. It takes up more space and so it sits on my desk.

In my own mind it looks like an iPad Pro or MacBook would be great compromises, but they are coming from different ends of the spectrum. Do I want a laptop more like a tablet or a tablet more like a laptop? (thanks to the professionals at Computers R Us )

The Surface 3 is interesting only because it tries to toe the line between laptop and tablet by having different modes. It sorta works, sometimes (not a rousing endorsement, I know). The other problem with going all-in on Microsoft’s platform is that the software is just not at the quality I’ve grown accustomed to over in Apple’s camp.

Sadly, my trusty Lenovo X220 with openSUSE Tumbleweed has been relegated to primarily system admin work as I fix things around campus requiring a serial interface and a CLI. I eagerly watch for what the response is going to be from the open source operating systems to where Microsoft has taken Windows 10, but maybe Windows 10 is not the proper course.

All of these words are here to whine about the fact that I often don’t know what to carry with me between home and work. We have a Surface Pro 4 coming in as a test machine for our next faculty deployment at Martin Luther College. Maybe the increased size and speed will force me to start moving to a more device-agnostic way of working.

There are four amazing platforms to work from right now: Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Linux/Open Source. They all have their strong points and their weak points, but the entire ecosystem has been polluted by the fact that each platform is ever so slightly different in major ways (yes, I did read that phrase three times … it is what I want to say). Where do you turn?

Maybe it just doesn’t matter.

MacBook Impressions

I had some time to play around with the new MacBook at a couple of Apple Stores this week and I have a couple of first impressions about the device.

  • It is super tiny, smaller than I was expecting. It is also really light. When commentators have called it “and iPad with a keyboard” they are not kidding. I’m impressed with what Apple was able to do.
  • The touchpad is really, really nice. I’ve heard some complaints from people, but I’ve been a touch-to-click user as long as I can remember so the Force Touch Trackpad is a huge step forward as far as feedback is concerned.
  • The keyboard is … different. Now having as much of any distance to press down makes the keyboard feel foreign, but I was able to type effectively after only a few minutes of use. I’d like to see that same engineering put to use in a keyboard with deeper presses and see how it feels. The keyboard itself was very solid, each keypress deliberate, but it could use some more distance.

Overall, I’d love to have one. It would instantly become my carry machine, maybe even replacing the iPad in most situations. It is not without tradeoffs, but an impressive machine.

I do not own one and only used it for a total of maybe 40 minutes between the two stores, so feel free to ignore everything I wrote above as well.

Interesting Keyboard

At Apple’s recent keynote, there were a number of interesting announcements from the fruit company around a number of their product lines. The focus, rightly so, is around Apple Watch for now, but it is the newly announced redesign MacBook keyboard that has me the most intrigued.

I’m not a keyboard aficionado, but it is something I constantly use every day. I use Apple’s keyboards, Microsoft’s latest Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop Keyboard & Mouse, and Lenovo’s last-generation keyboard on the ThinkPad X220 and have never been able to settle on a single model or type of keyboard.

The smaller distance, larger keys, and metal click all makes the MacBook keyboard one of the most interesting. Most of what I use right now uses the scissor mechanism and the new butterfly mechanism looks to be a marked improvement in many key areas.

So I’ll wait and play with one at a store in the future. Whether Apple brings this new mechanism to the rest of their line, I am not sure.

Apple’s Billions at Work

Wondering what Apple might do with its billions of dollars of profit each quarter?

I think they’ve been telling us for a while, and it fits in really nicely with some of the concerns people have had about Apple for a long while.

the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is going to be building a data command center in Arizona in the husk of GT Advanced Technologies. Not a bad ending for that sordid affair.

Along with the data center itself, there are plans for a 70 megawatt solar array to be put on/near the site to provide power, much like the North Carolina data center they are also expanding. They also have data centers under construction in Oregon and Nevada.

It takes a lot of up-front capital to try to get these sorts of facilities off of the ground and Apple has cash.

Why the Mac App Store

The App Store (both Mac and iOS) has its fair share of problems.

However, it has allowed me to offload many problems I had to deal with in the past when it came to recommending, purchasing, and installing software. Mainly, it has to do with enabling others to do that part so that I don’t have to go and visit that person every time they have a question.

My mother records her piano students at various times during the year for Statewide Graduation with the Suzuki Association of Minnesota. Those files need to be converted to MP3s and then submitted for judging before a student can be accepted.

In comes Pro Audio Converter and the Mac App Store. I send her the link, she can purchase and download using her Apple ID with attached credit card information and I get an email back later that day saying that everything worked just fine.

In the past she never even purchases the software because she doesn’t like giving her credit card information out over the web if she doesn’t know the company. Apple, being a corporation that she knows, handles the trust issue and then OS X handles downloading, installing, and showing her where to find the software.

The added benefit is that I don’t see three mounted images on her desktop where she runs the programs out of the next time I visit.

So she gains some independence from me taking care of the software side of things and I gain time. That’s a win-win in that situation.

However, let’s not minimize the issues the App Store has. There are needs for resources to make App Review faster and better, better management to keep policies in-line across the company, and continued development to make sure that new apps can show up on the store as well. Those are real needs.

There are real wins, for real people, with the App Store as well … and that is really cool.