Minimizing My Blogs (a last post of sorts)

I’ve made the somewhat difficult decision to stop posting at this site.

I’ve had in the back of my head consolidating all of my various writing on my personal site (www.markcrump.com) for a while. I started The Casual Techie as a way to continue the sort of writing I used to do a GigaOM, but it never took off the way I expected. At GigaOM, I wrote about topics that non-power users would find helpful. Hense, the site name The Casual Techie. As I started down the iOS-primary path, the types of stuff I was writing about weren’t really so casual after all. I also found myself not writing about topics that weren’t technical in nature because maintaining two blogs wasn’t optimal.

A few organizations that reached out to me to review products didn’t want to send me review units because I had a personal, and not an “organization” site. I created The Casual Techie to give my own solely tech-oriented site a go. Ironically, the same people didn’t want to send me review units because I didn’t write for one of the established sites. At first I thought I’d try and go after the sponsored content model, but I never felt comfortable pursuing and selling myself that way. My overall readership is still low enough that I’m not affecting many people by making the move now.1

This is not the main reason I’ve stopped writing here, mind you. There are other things I want to write about, and I wanted to have a central site to write about tech, art, writing and whatever crosses my mind. At some point, I’m thinking of moving off the free WordPress host I’m on to a hosted platform where I have more customization options. At that point, I wanted to have only one site anyway. My model for websites has become less Daring Fireball and more Shawn Blanc, Jason Kottke and Ben Brooks. Personal content about matters of interest to me.

I exported the blog posts from this site over to the new home. If you had bookmarked this site, please change your bookmarks.

  1. I’m averaging about 150 vistors per month. Almost all of them from links to my writing I’ve posted in threads at MacRumors.

enough (the hardware edition)

I was working on an article about my goals for 2017 and I had a bullet point: Reduce my technological footprint. There were a few lines about the number of devices I have and how I wanted to be more efficient and minimize the number of devices I use.

There’s a new Netflix show on Minimalism (in which Patrick Rhone of Minimal Mac is mentioned). Patrick also tweeted this link to another piece on Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. The show is great, focusing on getting the rid of a lot of the crap we as humans tend to collect. The documentary hit at a good time. I was on vacation and I was going to dump out a ton of stuff from my home office. At the same time, I took a hard look at some of the electronic devices I have floating around.

What is Digital Minimalism?

From Cal Newport’s article above, he defines Digital Minimalism as:

Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.

Tech Products I use at least 4 times a year:

So, I have a ton of devices. Here are the ones that get used heavily1:

  1. iPad Pro 12.9″
  2. iPhone 6+2
  3. Alienware Alpha
  4. MacBook Air 11″ (2014)
  5. MacBook Pro 15″ (2011)

Getting to One

At work, we are combining some groups and services. The marketing language for the initiative is “Getting to One.” It’s a great slogan and one I’m trying to mimic with my devices. It’s impossible, of course. Not one of those devices listed above can do all of the things the other devices can do. So, there are two mantras that may somewhat compete:

  • Getting to Less
  • The Right Tool for the Job

The right tool for the job is the presiding mantra. Saying I’m going to cut back to just using my iPhone doesn’t let me perform the tasks I need the other devices for. Similarly, abandoning all the devices but for the iPad Pro (my favorite of all of them), leaves out a central communication device (the iPhone) as well as most of my game playing needs.

Patrick Rhone, who I mentioned earlier, used to have a great podcast called Enough. It’s sadly gone, and the files are gone to the internet. There is a torrent file, but it’s dead also. He also has a book, Enough, which is not dead. In the podcast, they talked about what is enough. What do you need to get life done, but not more than that. One of the segments I loved was they would talk to someone about what it would take to life their digital life on an 11″ MacBook Air with 64 gig of storage. It’s the digital version of a Tiny House. The cuts people would have to make were interesting to listen to.

My goals was to get my Every Day Carry (EDC) down to two main devices. Two devices to do 80% of my day-to-day stuff. It also all needs to fit in my Tom Bihn Ristretto.

The first to go was the Alienware Alpha. I’ve moved gaming to the PlayStation 43. The only thing the Alienware really did was serve up my Plex Library. The library was on a portable drive anyway4. So, during the Big Purge the Alpha got placed on the shelf. The monitor is in a closet.

Deciding between the two MacBooks is easy. The Air is smaller and fits in my bag. It doesn’t have the processor power of the Pro, but it’s enough.

That got me to three. Not bad. An iPad, and iPhone and a MacBook Air. But what do I really need that MacBook Air for every day? I’m not talking about replacing it entirely, mind you. This is an 80% rule. I believe I can actually do 90% of what I need the MacBook for on the iPad. Working from home requires me to to log into our Virtual Desktop system via Citrix Receiver, and while it’s fine for a few things on iOS, it’s not a great interface. So, I’ll use the Mac for that.

So, the MacBook Air got placed in its sleeve and was laid (to rest) in one of the now empty drawers in the desk.

That’s two. An iPad and an iPhone for 80% of my non-gaming needs.

  1. I’m leaving out my Amazon Kindle and my Xbox. I consider those appliances, and, anyway they are hardly used.
  2. I also have an Apple Watch, but I consider it an extension of the iPhone.
  3. It’s semantics, but I classify the PS4 as a single-purpose appliance rather than a device.
  4. As a side effort, a lot of these files are .MKV files. I’m going to convert them to .M4V files. That way I can read them directly from the iPad if I want to.

Books Read in 2016 — 57 books in 52 weeks

I know I read a ton of books. It’s my primary leisure activity, surpassing even gaming and trains. This year, I thought I’d see just how many books I read in a year and kept a list. The following list is the books I’ve completed. The partial list is a book I got at least 30% into before calling it quits. Not counted are books I read a chapter or two and didn’t go any further. There are some short books in there — the Quarry series are short books. I make up for it with The Historian and The Winds of War and War and Rembrance. Hefty tomes, them.

  1. Furiously Happy – Jenny Lawson
  2. Everywhere Mary Went – Lisa Scottoline
  3. Seveneves – Neal Stephenson
  4. Neverwere – Neil Gaiman
  5. Mycroft Holmes – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’
  6. The promise – Robert Crais
  7. The Big Short – Michael Lewis
  8. The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova
  9. Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull
  10. Quarry’s Choice – Max Collins
  11. Quarry – Max Collins
  12. Quarry’s list – Max Collins
  13. Quarry’s deal – Max Collins
  14. Quarry’s cut – Max Collins
  15. Quarry’s vote – Max Collins
  16. Last Quarry – Max Collins
  17. Last night in the OR – Bud Shaw
  18. Quarry in the middle – Max Collins
  19. Darknet – Mathew Mather
  20. Dark Disciple – Christie Golden
  21. Friction – Sandra Brown
  22. The Hexed – Heather Graham
  23. Extreme Prey – John Sandford
  24. Rules of Prey- John Sandford
  25. Shadow Prey – John Sandford
  26. Eyes of Prey – John Sandford
  27. Silent Prey – John Sandford
  28. Winter Prey – John Sandford
  29. Night Prey – John Sandford
  30. Illidan – William King
  31. Warcraft: Durotan
  32. End of Watch, Stephen King
  33. Last Guardian, Jeff Grubb
  34. Mind Prey – John Sandford
  35. Fool me once, Harlan Coben
  36. Sudden Prey, John Sandford
  37. Secret Prey – John Sandford
  38. Certain prey – John Sandford
  39. Easy Prey – John Sandford
  40. Chosen prey – John Sandford
  41. Black Widow, – Daniel Silva
  42. Kingpin: How one hacker took over the billion-dollar Cybercrime underground.
  43. Winds of War, Herman Woulk
  44. War and remembrance, Herman Woulk
  45. Every 15 minutes – Lisa Scottoline
  46. Razor Girl – Carl Hiaasen
  47. Temporary Agent – Daniel Judson
  48. Shadow Factory – James Bamford
  49. Silent Sister – Diane Chamberlain
  50. Changer, Matt Gemmell
  51. The Girl in the Spiders Web
  52. The Bat: Jo Nesbo
  53. Escape Clause – John Sandford
  54. Sleep Tight – Rachel Abbot
  55. Night School – Lee Child
  56. Inferno – Dan Brown
  57. Catalyst – James Luceno

Partial Credit (Started but did not finish)

  1. Fireman, Joe Hill
  2. Fatal System Error

The Medicinal Value of Fucking Off

Last week, I wrote about fucking off less. My hope was that by shutting down my Macs and moving the keyboard behind my gaming PC, I’d be more productive with my free time. A friend of mine even jokingly texted me, “Stop fucking off when you get home!”

There’s a saying by Helmuth von Moltke that’s applicable: No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. My week of productivity was sidelined by a bad cold. I got the cold Tuesday and sucked it up all week and went in to work. Saturday my body shut down on me and I was too ill to even play a video game. I did manage to write about my favorite iPad Pro apps, but even that quick post took a lot out of me.

Sunday I felt a lot better. I gave some thought to writing and drawing. I did work on my trains for an hour. I have a set of cars (86′ hi cube) that have proven to be a real challenge to get around the club layout. So, I spent an hour working on adjusting the couplers to try again this weekend.

The rest of the day? I played the new Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion. It was the antithesis of what I preached last week. Fuck off less; create more. It was also exactly what I needed.

Some times, you’ve given, well, adulting, as much of an effort as you can. The week I was sick was rough. I had meetings the made it impossible to call in sick, where even a day off would have meant getting ahead of it enough to stave it off. Alas, I couldn’t even sneak out a little early on Friday since I had a 4:00 meeting.

I needed a day to transition from being sick to being well. While I was capable of cognitive thought, I needed to let my mind and body heal. Some people binge watch a TV series. I chose to bing play a new expansion.

While it’s important to Be All We Be, and Always Give 100%, sometimes it’s also important to Have Zero Fucks to Give.

Just don’t do it every day. Only when used for medicinal purposes.

iPad Pro Apps I Use and Love

As I work on making the iPad Pro my primary computer, I thought I’d share some of the apps I use on a daily basis. There are many more apps installed on my iPad, but these are the ones I use often.

The iPad Pro

I have the 12.9″ 128 gig model with a Smart Keyboard. It’s a great setup, and I’m writing this article on it. I also have a 16g iPad Air that’s more of a reading/test environment.

Writing:

Ulysses: This is my go-to app. About 98% of my personal writing goes through this app. All of my blog posts originate in here. I also have drafts of my long-form fiction in here.

Scrivener: I’m testing this out for my long-form work. I’m not sure I like Ulysses’s all in one bucket structure for my longer bodies of work. I’m also not thrilled with Scrivener’s export functions on iOS. Ulysses can export as an ePub cleanly which Scrivener can’t do. If I do adopt Scrivener for this work, compiling my output might be something I still have to do on the Mac.

Word and Pages: I’m likely starting my Master’s degree in April. School work will probably not be something I use Ulysses for. I’m not totally thrilled with how Word on iOS handles exports, but for submitting papers and assignments it might be the best option.

Email

Gmail: I’m not in love with the Gmail app. It apparently can’t send attachments from anything but the Photos library and Gdrive. I use Google as my primary email and I don’t need to send attachments that often. It’s faster than the iOS Mail app. So, I just use the iOS Mail app when I need to send an attachment.

Outlook: Work stuff only. I keep a clean separation of church and state when it comes to work and personal email. I don’t even keep Outlook on a main screen. If you suck both your work and personal emails into one app, I strongly discourage this. It’s way easier to disconnect from work if you can toss an app into a folder. It’s on a folder on my main screen, but it’s very easy for me to ignore it when I’d rather not check my work email.

Calendar

Calendar: For most of my personal needs, I use the built-in Calendar linked to my Google Calendar. I don’t really need a powerful calendar app so the default one works fine for me.

Outlook: Again, work calendars only. I hate how Outlook handles calendars, actually. I can’t change if an appointment shows as free, busy, or out of office, and I also can’t view free/busy information for invitees. I only use the app to see where I need to be at a given time.

Drawing

Procreate: Hands down, my favorite drawing app for the iPad. I love the custom brushes and it’s pretty much a dream come true for digital artists. They also seem to have some big things planned for version 3.2 that should be out soon.

Graphic: Autodesk Graphic is as close to an Adobe Illustrator clone as I’ve found for the iPad. It’s great for when I need to do precision vector artwork.

Reading

Instapaper: It’s still my favorite Read Later service. I’ve floated between it and Pocket for a bit, but over the last year I’ve just settled on Instapaper and never looked back.

Kindle: I buy all my ebooks through Amazon. Periodically I’ll download them and deDRM them so I can have an archive or read them in iBooks. At one point, I felt that iBooks had superior typography to the Kindle app, but once Amazon introduced the Bookerly font I much preferred that. I also get books out from my library to read on the Kindle.

iBooks: I pretty much just read PDFs in iBooks. I think I’d use it more if I could have a book in more than collection. I also don’t like that it doesn’t shove the book I’m reading to the top of its list like the Kindle app does.

Reeder: I don’t often hit RSS, but whenI do it’s through Reeder. I have it set to sync my Feedly account via Google. I probably follow about 100 sites on it from photography to tech to art. I probably open it once a week

Social Media

Facebook: I am not a fan of the Facebook app. It’s not optimized for the 12.9″ iPad. To be frank, I’m also not a fan of the entire Facebook service, but it’s where I stay in contact with my friends.

Tweetbot: I prefer Twitter to Facebook, although on Twitter I tend to initiate the communication more than on Facebook. I interact with some other writers and tech folks who don’t follow me on Twitter. I don’t have a problem with this. Twitter is also my primary way of finding out tech news.

This article is part of a series on going iPad-only. For more in the series click here.

Shutting Down and Eating My Own Dog Food

Part of this is epically failing in my 2016 Creative Goals. Part of this is encouraging people to go iOS-primary while still often reaching for the security blanket of a laptop at night. Part of it is admitting I’m far too likely to spend the night fucking off on a virtual world.

Matt Gemmell wrote about social dark. It’s a great piece about limiting distractions while working from home. Matt recently switched to an iOS only lifestyle and I asked him how he handled distractions without the scripts he used to run. He replied:

@crumpy I don’t have notifications on the iPad. With every app being full-screen, that’s enough.

Tonight when I got home I did the following things (outside of dinner and after-work greetings with T.):

  • Admitted to my creative failures in 2016
  • Finished the inking on a sketch
  • Got on the treadmill for 15 min at a brisk walk. Watched half an XOXO Fest talk while I was at it.
  • Caught up on some threads I’m following on MacRumors.1
  • Fucked off online for the rest of the night. Some of it in a video game, some of it on Twitter. Some if it’s just gone.

I came downstairs and thought about another blog post I’m working on. It’s a long post about the Mac, what I still use it for, and if I’ll get another Mac eventually. There’s a line in it that I’m not sure will stay, but I wanted to post it here anyway:

This year when I got the 12.9″ iPad and the Smart Keyboard I made a commitment to iOS. It was a slow process. I got it and the pencil so I can draw. I was out with a friend getting her a Smart Cover for her iPad and she talked me into getting a Smart Keyboard for my iPad. I love the combination. Almost all of my writing happens via this setup. The screen is large, gorgeous and crisp. The Smart keyboard isn’t my favorite keyboard of all time, but it gets the job done.

I can do about 90% of my personal-computing daily tasks on iOS. At dinner last week, someone commented that I’m an iPad Pro pro user.

I’m active in forums and discussions encouraging people to look at the iPad as a serious productivity tool. But, I give myself the fallback position of a Mac too often. This is getting in the way of my productivity at home.

So, I went back upstairs, shut down the two MacBooks and placed them on a shelf in my office. I took the keyboard to my gaming console and put it behind the monitor. That PC is also the media center for the house so I can’t I shut it down.

My goal is to find and the live the pain points of using an iPad as my primary personal device. There are a few outs I’m giving myself:

  • There is a weekly personal task I need a Mac to perform for the next 3 weeks or so. So, the Mac will be turned on to do that task and shut down
  • I might be playing a video game once a week with my friends, so the PC or Mac will be used for that
  • If I work from home, using my 27″ monitor and my PC is the best way to connect to our VDI solution. I will not live like a savage and try to spend 8 hours doing that task on my iPad
  • If I want to work in Xcode, obviously I’ll need a Mac
  • On the nights when I feel like I’ve earned some game time, I’ll treat myself to a night of World of Warcraft

If I hit a wall where I can’t do a task on iOS, but need my Mac to complete the task, I’m not going to bang my head against the wall fruitlessly and not complete it; I’m going to fire up the Mac, do the task, and make a note of it.

I need to get on my surfboard and ride this wave of iOS and iPads Pro as far as it will take me. I need to step over the line and see if I fall over a cliff.

 

This is part of a series on using the iPad Pro as my primary device. For more posts on this series, click here.

  1. Some of the posts I write there are almost blog posts. There’s a lively thread on using the iPad as a main device I’m involved in. Some of my comments have ended up as the basis for a post here.

Creative Goals, 2016: The Accountability Post

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how I set what I felt were achievable creative goals for 2016. The year isn’t over yet, but it’s not too early to view the results. Nothing that will happen for the rest of the year impact the results, and at this point even if I did cram and meet them, it would be like getting some projects done just in time for your annual review at work.

I wanted to get the following done:

  1. Write 22 blog posts: Fail. Now, it’s possible I could write 22 posts before the end of year. I do have some cooking. If I did, though, it would satisfy the requirement, but not the intent which was to consistently deliver content for the site. Instead, there was a nearly 8-month gap between posts.
  2. Finish one piece of art beyond the sketch phase: Success. I likely won’t show it to anyone, and it’s still rougher than I would like. I did sketch and ink it in Procreate. It’s not an original piece of art, though. I saw a drawing someone did online and thought, hey, that’s in a style close to what you can draw, give it a go. It’s not colored as his is. I’m color blind and don’t feel comfortable working in colors yet.
  3. Write 40,000 words of fiction: Epic Fail. I didn’t write one word of fiction. I’m not disappointed since I thought this was the unlikely one to complete. Fiction writing is the hardest form of writing for me to do. I have the basis of a character. In 1999 I started working on a novel set in London. The main character was a bit of a Lisbeth Salander-type, but before Stieg Larsson’s novels came out. I’m still working on what her story is, though.

Extra Credit:

The year wasn’t a total dumpster fire for creativity, though. I got back into model railroading and rejoined the club I was a member of. I’ve been helping them with some scenery projects. I’m also building a module for the Ntrak organization I belong to.

I also did a photo night with a co-worker and have been getting back into some photography.

Sal Soghoian leaves Apple

Apple has eliminated Sal’s position “for business reasons.”

This sucks. Sal was a leader in macOS automation and scripting. His termination is another area where I feel like the Apple I have known and loved just isn’t the same. What’s the future for automation and scripting in Apple? Who the fuck knows at this point.

Sal has an incredible gift of explaining incredibly technical terms with the casualness of explaining how to throw a chili together.

Digital Nomadship and My Personal Relationship with Tech

I am fascinated by digital nomads. The idea of carrying your belongings in a bag and traveling where your heart takes you is appealing to me. I used to be a roadie for rock bands. Family lore has Irish Tinker in my blood. I get wanderlust. I love to travel. I hate the hassle of traveling, but I love seeing new places. I am genetically dichotomous. The gypsy blood wants me to roam; the German pragmaticist wants me to grow roots and be a slave to a routine. The German part of me wins more often. In my mind, the trains always run on time. I don’t like it when the timeframe for a get together is vague.

Every kid has fantasized about joining a circus. We’ll be mad at our parents and want to pack our earthly belongings into a paper sack and take off. Sometimes as adults this feeling never leaves us. We look longingly at a picture of an exotic place and think, “Fuck it. I’m going to quit my job and go live in Caribbean.” This is common in New England in the dead of winter when yet another blizzard drops 2′ of snow on us. Or what’s normally a 30 min commute turns into a 2 hour crapfest because of an accident.

The Boston Globe had a great article about the gig economy. I think if I was in my 20s now, going 100% independent would be what I would strive for. Corporate loyalty only goes in one direction these days, and it’s not towards the worker.

The reality is, I’ll never truly become a digital nomad in my career. I have roots, and I like being surrounded my stuff. Even if I had job that supported a fully-mobile lifestyle, I like having a home in the woods with my people and animals.

In all other regards, I’m a digital nomad. I can’t remember when I used a desktop as my primary computer. The early 2000s, I think. Once I got a hand-me-down Mac laptop at an old job, PowerBooks, and now MacBooks became my daily drivers. My iPad Pro is increasingly becoming the only device I need on the road. Every iOS revision I get closer to only keeping a MacBook on for iCloud sync and using iOS as my Primary OS.

Early last year, I bought a MacBook Air, 11″. We had a sudden failure of a 2009 MacBook Pro 13″, so I handed down my 2011 MacBook Pro 15″ and bought the Air. The 15″ then died so we bought a Chromebook to replace it and I put the 15″ on the shelf. It turned out the 15″ was covered under the Apple extended warranty for GPU failures1 so I was able to get it running again for free.

That 15″ is a laptop I have immense love for. As much as an inanimate object can help, it got me through an incredibly tough period of my life. I was going through a divorce, a job loss, my mom’s successful battle with cancer, and wrapping up my college degree. I wasn’t home more than I was, especially during the divorce. The 15” and eventually the iPad 3 were with me for every step. I bought the version that had the discrete GPU so I could play World of Warcraft when I wasn’t at home. The large screen helped a lot doing my chemistry homework. My only regret 5 years later is I didn’t get the version that had the 1G card. In hindsight, I was foolish to think 256gb on a video card would be enough. I’ve since replaced the hard drive with a 400g SSD and upped the ram to 8gb. Even with the entirety of my OneDrive account still residing on the 15″, I still have a 145g free. I can upgrade to a 1TB drive for short money. A few years after I bought it, Apple started making the MacBook Pros harder to upgrade, so in a lot of ways it feels like the last of the V8s.

Likewise, I have no regrets with the 11″ Air. I could have bought a higher-end version with the 512gb drive, but even with my Lightroom Library on the drive I still have 50 gig free on it (the OneDrive library, obviously isn’t on it). The Great Cloud Storage Consolidation of 2016 let me offload large, infrequently-used files to a cloud storage and never need to store them on my Mac — these are files I primarily read on my iPad. Upgrading the SSD is more expensive than the Pro, but I can update it to 480G or 1TB.

All things being equal, if the 2009 Macbook Pro died a year later I would have bought the iPad Pro, handed down the 15″ and when it had the GPU failure still bought the Chromebook (it’s worked better for her than any other laptop I’ve given her). When it got fixed, it would become my desktop Mac. I have an Alienware Alpha to play games serves as the print and media server for the house, so if I needed desktops-type stuff, I was covered. The 15″ would have become my on-the-road Mac.

Events didn’t unfold that way and I have two laptops that are perfect for me, just in different ways. I’m not going to get rid of either of them. I also can’t use both of them at the same time2.

Day-to-day use, they perform about the same. Geekbench-wise, the Air is a tad faster on single-core, the Pro about 3k higher on multi-core. In my games, the HD5000 on the Air benchmarks close to the 6490M on the Pro, but the Pro doesn’t have the frame rate sags the Air does. That said, the Air takes advantage of Metal. WoW supports Metal so it runs on the Air a little bit better.

What does this have to do with portable computing?

On the recent Upgrade podcast, Myke Hurley and Jason Snell were discussing Jason’s article When traveling, the iPad is essential and my Mac is the add-on. I don’t think in either the article or the podcast discussion Jason defended his thesis well — while he was outlining areas he thought iOS could improve, it came across more of a indictment of working on iOS than supporting why it was essential. However, Myke asked Jason a good question: If you could only bring one device, which would it be? Jason hemmed and hawed and didn’t really answer it because Myke set him up — Jason’s use cases make it more likely than not he would have to bring a Mac with him when he travels; this may not be the case in a couple of years.

I know what the answer would be for me: the iPad Pro in almost every situation. Even if I was traveling through Europe for a year, the only reason I would bring a Mac is if I was doing photography that required the full version of Lightroom. I could live without WoW for a year. Lightroom Mobile even covers most of my basic post needs.

It’s when you ask me to pick one MacBook I have a dilemma.

The Mac leaves the house for very specific purposes. I could be presenting on a screen while I’m working on a document. The iOS version of Excel falls down on some of the data-driven spreadsheets I use.3 In a few weeks I might need to work on an complicated Excel file with a friend. I’ll bring the 15″ so we can work on it together and I don’t have to worry about any issues with iOS Excel. I could be going to a Tableau seminar and need a laptop for their hands-on labs.

The Air is more portable, has better battery life, faster read/write performance, USB 3.0, and weighs a metric shit ton less than the aircraft carrier-sized 15”. The Pro has a larger screen and hard drive, slightly faster multi-core benchmarks, worse battery life by about 2-hours, … and a whole lot of fun memories that come back when I use it. It’s like the ratty pair of slippers you don’t want to throw away because you remember wearing them all the Christmases with the now grown-up kids opening their presents. It even has the hole still in it the now long-dead dog chewed in it.

The Air is not without its memories. My cat, Harrison, died last year and until recently there was still one of his paw prints on the back of the display. I was bummed when I looked for it a few days ago and it had finally rubbed off.

I written a few paragraphs about how I didn’t have the attachment with some of my older Macs and iPads that I do with the iPad pro, the 15″ and the 11″. But that’s not true. The 2006 plastic MacBook I was able to purchase entirely with freelance money — the first time I was able to do it. The scores of articles I wrote for PC Gamer with it on the train in and out of Boston. The 2009 MacBook Pro that shipped with the Nvidia 9400M that actually wasn’t a bad little video card for the time. It also got 7 hours of battery life — a huge improvement over the whitebook. My first interaction with Trish — an email exchange via eHarmony happened on that keyboard. I’ve met a few still-close friends playing online games on that MacBook Pro. My original iPad — handed off without much of a thought to a friend — introduced me to the world of reading electronically and has allowed me to amass a massive library that doesn’t require its own building. iPads have been my constant companion since I got the first one in 2010. Six years seems like a lifetime ago.

These devices, these little soulless pieces of silicons are our windows and doorways into the world. Our fingers touch them very day. They are the devices we share the good news of a newborn child, that she said, “YES!”, and a new job. We type the bad news of a passed family member, an impending divorce, and a job loss. We can drive by a store and remember a happy dinner within the walls. I can remember the keyboards I first talked to a new love and passed on bad news about a marriage. Typing out on Facebook about a death. Musicians mention the instruments they create a memorable song with. Guitar players wax poetic about writing songs on a hunk of wood and wire4; writers remember the keyboards and devices we write on.

What’s nice about light, thin devices is creative people can work wherever the muse strikes us — or we chain her to a chair and make her get to work. Nomads travel to where the work is. Now, my creative endeavors can travel with me.

  1. The moral to this story, kids, is don’t get a Mac with a discrete GPU. Those things have a high failure rate.
  2. I can come close, though. With all of my files in iCloud drive it’s just a syncing issue. One app I use writes a lot of logs that I need to reference. I’ve found the iCloud syncing is a little slow in that regard, so I had to store them in the Documents folder.
  3. I should be working on my work laptop, but at this point I hate the T440 I have so much, I’d rather use our VDI on my Mac than use the T440. I’m in line for an upgrade to a T460 which I understand to have a better trackpad and also is a smaller device.
  4. I play the guitar. Don’t email me.

The Great Cloud Storage Consolidation of 2016

David Chartier posted this wonderful series of articles about combining his various cloud storage into iCloud Drive.1 My digital detritus is spread across three cloud services: iCloud Drive; Dropbox; and OneDrive. I need to consolidate this somewhat.

The bulk of my crap is in OneDrive. I have my main working folders with my documents and about 100g of scanned comics and guitar magazines. iCloud is the next second with its own version of working directories (my iWork files for example are all there). Dropbox is this kind of dumping ground with only about 4gig of stuff.

My Office365 subscription comes due soon and I gave serious thought to cancelling it. I don’t use office that much. In the end, the hassle of moving the scanned images to some other service outweighed any benefits of cancelling. If iCloud Drive did selective sync, I would have uploaded it, but this type of data doesn’t need to live on every — or any — of my devices.

Dropbox does a few sketchy things with its OS X client that I’m not thrilled with. I’m not sure if the battery problems I had in Sierra were related to Dropbox scanning the whole system (I doubt it), but it was an energy vampire I could live without. The same with OneDrive. I use OneNote as my primary note taking platform and the OS X version can read and write from OneDrive without needing to have the client installed. The same with the Office apps.

I moved all of the general stuff I need on a close to daily basis from OneDrive to iCloud Drive. Folders for my now-defunct freelance business, a general Creative Projects folder, and my Calibre Library are now moved from OneDrive to iCloud Drive. The only things left up on OneDrive are the large image libraries of the scans.2

There were a few reasons I undertook this effort. I didn’t like having stuff scattered through different services. I’d keep asking myself, where did I store this file? The main thought was to limit the services that run on my Mac. I don’t know how much these contributed to any battery issues. I also don’t run my MacBook on battery often. When I do, though, I want to make sure I’m eking out every second.3

iCloud Drive isn’t perfect. I don’t like that it doesn’t do selective sync, and it’s still something updating and running in the background. I have faith in Apple to be a little more circumspect and not scan the entire file system. Given that cloud services still aren’t one of Apple’s strong suits this may be misplaced trust. When I go to save a file in iOS, the “Save to iCloud” action expands every freaking folder making navigation incredibly unwieldy.

Finding where iCloud downloads my iBooks files was a lost cause. Originally Apple’s plan with iBooks in 10.11.4 was to allow you to delete the local iBooks downloads — like you can with iOS. Right now, though, you can’t. I know they are taking up considerable storage on my Mac, I just don’t know where. I would probably move some of them to OneDrive if I had a better idea where they were to get a file size count. After a few hours of Googling the best I can find is they are stored in an iCloudiBooks folder that’s impossible to find. The best I could find was the PDFs in the directory with a Finder search.

My original goal was to eliminate OneDrive completely. I was looking into something like BitTorrent Sync or Seafile, The problem I had is the reader apps I use on iOS don’t support these natively. Sure, I might be able to find in the file in the service’s iOS app and do an “open in,” but that’s too much hassle.

A few days into this, I’m happy with the decision. iCloud has come a long way in a few years. Only two years ago I wrote about how crappy my experiences with iCloud Drive were.

  1. David is also on MacPower Users Episode 345 talking about this.
  2. That’s not 100% true. I still have the old folders I moved, but this is more of an archival backup than a working copy.
  3. I’m not sure if turning wifi off when I really need good battery life will stop the scanning. I also could have written some sort of script to kill OneDrive and Dropbox when I need to.