What computer to get?

Microsoft and Apple have completed their unveils of their new laptops and I am a little torn on what I would get if I needed a computer right now.  I don’t need a computer right now, I’m perfectly happy with my MacBook Pro ever since I put in the SSD but I’ve been considering what to get next in the event I need to replace one of my computers at home.  
I like the idea of the Surface Pro a lot since it has a pen (I want to start trying to write stuff again and the pen is pretty cool when you use it with OneNote), its portable, and it has some of the older ports that I need like USB.  The Microsoft stuff is very expensive though and it doesn’t come with the keyboard, you actually have to buy it as an accessory.  That just boosts the price of the device.  I’ve messed with it in the store a few times and I have to say that I like how it looks and feels and Windows 10 is definitely a great OS.  A problem I have noticed is that some of the apps that I use on my iPhone and iPad are not in the Microsoft Windows store (things like DayOne and Notability) which I use pretty frequently and its nice to be able to see the content I created in those apps on my MacBook when I get home.  The real gravitation for me though is the ability to touch the screen and use the pen.  I think I’ll see what Surface Pro 5 looks like and how that compares.  The downside is that it is Windows and I’m kind of sick of configuring stuff but Windows is headed in the right direction in just making it work.

On the other end of the spectrum is the new MacBook Pro’s that came out.  Nothing really revolutionary here, its a MacBook that’s just way faster than my current one but it uses USB-C (Tunderbolt 3) for everything so adapters will be needed everywhere for me to hook up my stuff.  I use a lot of USB devices like external drives and for syncing my ipads and iphones so having to carry an extra adapter around is kind of annoying (I know first world problems!).  I can see how Apple is trying to go all in with doing things in the cloud by reducing the amount and types of ports, promoting iCloud as something like DropBox or Google Drive, and making it really really thin.  I also kind of worry about upgradability and keeping the computer past the 5 year mark.  My MacBook Pro is already 5 years old and I’m expecting to not be able to get past MacOS Sierra as the OS.  My HP Desktop is 9 years old and its gone through Widows XP all the way through Windows 10 Anniversary edition and I can keep on going most likely until the hard drive dies or something.

This still doesn’t get me any closer to what I should get.  Although the use case that I am trying to solve is bringing the computer with me even on the road for work.  The job is starting to get more restrictive on what I can access when I’m off the clock (they’re starting to restrict cloud storage sites) and as the consumer market moves to online storage that’s going to be a problem for me since I do have a lot of things in the cloud right now to free up space at home or to be able to access it on the go without having to download it or keep multiple copies locally.  I could also just try and use my iPad for those use cases but sometimes its just better to use a computer for some of the tasks that I’m trying to accomplish.  There’s something to be said for multi tasking (iOS tries but I can’t really get into it like I can with a desktop OS) and I do switch widows a lot and do many things at once when I am on a desktop OS.  Like right now I’m writing up this blog post and its mainly the only thing I’m concentrating on, normally I’d have Netflix or something in the background or surfing some news site at the same time with the ability to see both at the same time.

I’m trying to do the split screen thing right now and it just doesn’t feel as natural as using a desktop OS which is why I don’t think I’ll be ditching the computer in the short term.  I do need something more portable and lighter.  I considered getting the MacBook but its less powerful than an iPad Pro, I mean come on why would I want to use that if an iPad can kick its ass?  I don’t have a lot of processing needs but when I do I want something faster than a tablet.

I think I’ll wait until one of my computers breaks, then I’ll consider what I should get.  In the mean time, I’ll just stare and drool at the new tech but save my dollars for something that I really want (not NEED but WANT).  

Computers are still FASTER….. for some things

I’ve been trying to stop using a computer (not a computing device) for a lot of my day to day activities. Obviously for work I still need to use a computer but for my personal life I’ve been trying to get away from having to power one on. However there are just too many things that a computer can do that a tablet or smartphone can’t yet. I won’t list what all those things are but I’ll provide some examples that are relevant to me.

1) Editing Documents
I have Google Drive, Documents to Go, and Notability to take notes or edit documents on my phone or iPad. While the virtual keyboard is fine, it still doesn’t beat the old keyboard and mouse combo of my MacBook Pro or my Windows Desktop PC for sheer speed of just getting things done when it comes to heavy manipulation of “stuff”. Granted there isn’t a lot in my personal that requires me to do calculations or lookups in Excel but it’s still way easier and faster on a computer.

2) Storage of my junk
I’ll finally admit that I am a digital pack rat. I still have copies of stuff that I wrote in high school on my computer that I have transferred from computer to computer. I also have thousands of pictures that I have never uploaded to some photo site because it would just kill the bandwidth at home and then how would I watch Netflix? There is also all the videos I’ve collected that eats room and being able to edit those videos take power and precision that I don’t have on my tablet.

3) Multi-Tasking
The Android lovers will probably grin at this one but I do enjoy multi tasking. It’s not unusual for me to be using two computers at once and switching between them. Some would say I must need multiple monitors or something but I like doing certain tasks on certain computers and then the are things that I like doing on my tablet like reading that I don’t want to do on my computers at all.

I could almost put typing but I’m pretty good at using a tablet for creating simple things and the auto correct is actually decent on my iPad but there’s nothing like a good old fashioned keyboard some days. Tablets are catching up and I am definitely thinking of an upgrade soon to perhaps an iPad mini when it comes out in the fall, but I don’t expect to be computer free anytime soon. Besides what will my daughter learn to code on if I take away the computers?

Hell froze over, I bought a Mac

For the longest time I’ve hated Mac’s of every kind and color. I didn’t hate my Apple IIC though, that was my very first computer and I think I still have a stash of 5.25″ disks at my moms house with a word processing program and a number of games. I’ve been a MS Windows guy for a long time. I’ve used Windows since 3.0 all the way up to Windows 7 (I never used NT though). I recall my last foray into Macs when OS 9 and colorful iMacs were all the rage. I remembered hating the OS beyond measure compared to Windows XP, I couldn’t find any of my files, no one made programs for Mac’s that I wanted to us, and you couldn’t build one up from spare parts (I was frugal back then and upgraded hand me down computers or built them).

Time to fast forward a bit to 2011. By this time I have my home desktop with a 23″ screen, quad core processor, 3GB of RAM, running Windows 7 Ultimate and Office 2010. In addition to my PC (which is pushing 5 years old now), I have iOS devices aplenty. The PC does everything I need it to do but it’s not portable and I don’t want to use my work PC for personal stuff if I can help it. Enter the MacBook Pro with OSX Lion. My father was interested in getting a Mac and I told him I would help him if he got me one too. He decided that wasn’t a bad deal really and made it my 2011 present. I got one with 8GB of RAM, 750 GB of hard drive space and I added in iWorks so I could edit documents. I’ve had the computer for 4 days and I’m still configuring it but I have been able to find window program equivalents for the Mac for my every day usage. Now why the MacBook Pro instead of one of the new Airs? I’m still enough of an old school techie that I like having raw power at my command when I need it which the Pro offers since the Air only has 4GB and I got 8. Another reason was hard drive space. Pictures, music, and videos take up a ton of room and 250GB on board won’t cut the mustard for a portable machine for me. I know I could use an external drive but why go through all that hassle? I could do the NAS option but that involves buying more crap and I can transfer docs and other stuff through Dropbox if needed. I also have the 15 inch screen, I’ve been spoiled with my 23″ desktop screen but didn’t want to go with a 17″ since that would add a lot more weight than I was willing to carry.

I’ll admit that this OS is way better than OS 9 back in 1999/2000. Is at least usable for what I want it to do and with my focus being on photos and music for this computer rather than tinkering like what I use my desktop for, getting a Mac seemed ideal. What really sold me was Lion and the improvements that were made to the OS. The biggies for me was full screen mode, a more iOS like experience, the App store believe it or not, iLife and iWorks. I’ve only dabbled with is iLife and iWorks but so far I like how I can send pictures of my new daughter with nice backgrounds and stuff without having to work so hard. The full screen mode and gestures associated with app switching is pretty nifty along with the pinch to zoom for Safari.

I still had to install Firefox because I’m just used to that browser and the various plugins that I have with it. I’m hoping that they can make that full screen and that pinch to zoom can be used in any application. I won’t be replacing my desktop with this computer. My iDevices overall will still sync to my desktop at home. My desktop has a Bose sound system which is totally awesome and I’m not giving that up any time soon for a laptop. What I am hoping is that the computer will be useful to my wife over the next few months or years. I bought it so we can make some great photo stuff and movies as our family grows so that we have some keep sakes and be able to share some stuff with friends and family. The addition of FaceTime will be big for me too so I can see my family while I’m on the road working. I still plan on getting an iPhone 5 for the two of us but this will be another way for us to communicate if she’s on the computer.

I have to say this for Apple, they have certainly turned things around in the past 10 years. I never thought I would own a Mac but here I am with my first Apple computer in almost 20 years. I hope this thing lasts at least 5 years since thats my current refresh cycle for computers. I’ll continue to get gadgets like the iPad on a more frequent basis as my cash flow allows but for now, the MacBook Pro should do nicely.

Do I still need a computer?

I’ve been asking myself if I still need a computer after getting an iPad over a year ago. I spend quite a bit of time doing things on my iPad and now my iPad 2, but I don’t think that my computer is going away anytime soon because the are so many other things that I can still do on the computer that I can’t do on my iPad. I’m hoping that will change over time, it would be great to only have to use something like my iPad for work instead of lugging around my laptop everywhere.

Here are my major tasks that I use a computer for that I cant use my iPad for currently.

1. File management is major for me. I have tons of files everywhere on my desktop. I keep them all organized and everything on my desktop but I need a lot of storage to ensure all of my data is safe. I store common things like movies, pictures, and music but then I have more sensitive stuff like financial data and a backup for all of my emails on Outlook. I also need the ability to find files and just select the files and have an app open rather than opening an app then trying to use the file.

2. Office Applications are definitely needed for me. I have the ability to create basic things like word, excel, and PowerPoint but I need the more advanced features like creating pivot tables or creating Visio diagrams. Actually Visio would be one of the most important apps that I utilize with my job. If I had that, it would go a long way in moving from a laptop to my tablet

3. Storage is very important. Right now I’m limited to the amount of storage that the tablet has. There are some new storage devices that can work over wifi which is helpful so I can grab files that don’t reside on the iPad but this is new technology so I’m not too sure about using it. Cloud Computing is getting a lot of attention lately but it’s not as secure as I would like and I want offline access to my stuff like I do now. I also know that I’m going to need a lot more data space in the future once my baby is born to hold all the pictures and videos that I’m going to take.

I guess I’ve answered my question, I will definitely need a computer for the foreseeable future unless something really cool comes out that will untether me from the desktop. Now the question is, do you go Mac or PC? I’m personally a PC guy but that’s because that’s what I grew up on and what I use for work. I’m using a lot of iOS devices though so I’m starting to give Macs another look although my problem with Mac is still the unavailability of some of the software that I use on a PC. I like the integration between the Apple products but it might be a long time before I can justify the purchase of major technology for the home beyond getting new iPhones. For now I’m going to struggle on with my Windows 7 desktop and enjoy my 23″ monitor with Bose sound. I give it another 10 years before I might be able to remove the desktop from my home but by that time I might just have a home server to take it’s place.