When The Computing Ideal Isn’t Practical

Happy Holidays, y’all. Blogging from one of my computers, I don’t know if it’s my primary or secondary. In a recent post, Tales of Computeria, I mentioned some computer fluidity, and since then my workflow has shifted a bit more. I drafted this post on my gaming laptop instead of my iPad this round. Wait, what? Yeah, I used a non-Apple device.

The iPad is great, and I’d say it’s still my main “computer,” but it’s no longer my only one. I’m putting the gaming notebook to more use because it’s so capable. Simply put, I had to use it for a few key things that my iPad can’t do, and when it comes to multi-windowing and multi-tasking, a traditional PC still outperforms a tablet by a good amount. In other words, for certain, uh, more productive tasks, the laptop is better and nicer to use than my iPad. Best tool for the job, ya know? (Conversely, when I just want to kick back and read some web articles in Pocket or watch some videos on YouTube, I grab my tablet.)

I realized something recently: no matter how much one prefers to go all-in with a single ecosystem – be it Google’s, Apple’s, or Microsoft’s – the hard fact is that, for many people, computing on only one platform is impractical. Yes, sure, living a mono-platform life – nothing but an iPhone and iPad – is ideal, yet it’s unreal…istic. At least for my needs, it was a good idea that, in execution, didn’t work so well.

Between myself, my job, my wife and sons, and many others in my community, we are all over the place in the metaverse (bonus point for using a buzzword). I don’t know anyone who exclusively uses only one ecosystem, referring to either hardware or software. Some people use Google Docs and some use MS Word (it seems even many Apple users ignore Apple’s Pages). Some folks use Chromebooks, yet many use either Windows PCs or Macs. When last I checked, about half of US consumers use Android phones and the other half uses iPhones. In my own household, this tech diversity is certainly the norm. Google, Apple, Microsoft: we use them all.

Last year, I ditched my iPhone and iPad and went all-in with Google on an Android phone and a Chromebook exclusively. It worked well enough, except my wife and kids didn’t migrate with me…which was one reason why I returned to an iPhone and an iPad. Everyone’s use-case for computing can be different; I couldn’t stay away from the great Windows 11 machine I’m now blogging with, despite the magic of my iDevices.

I was happy and comfortable working on just my iPad for a while and wasn’t looking to switch up my workflow. While it’s true that a geek-nerd like me tends to gravitate to a novel computing setup like a flavor of the month, I’m still human and am averse to change in general. I subtly or subconsciously resisted the fact that I would be using my Windows laptop, but such stubbornness became futile; the gaming got me.

After installing Steam, GOG, and the Epic game stores along with a new game, a demo, and RPGMaker MZ (and also wish-listing many other games), I found my Windows 11 device quite nice and powerful. I also must use it a lot as the administrator account for my five (5) sons’ accounts. For my writing work, many basic interface elements just work better on the “real” computer than on my small iPad. Split-View and Slide-Over are cool and useful, but snapping three side-by-side windows on the big laptop display or even just overlapping many floating ones is a multi-tasking delight. Windows 11 also retains the handy task overview feature that, with a single click, lets me see all my app windows laid out in a grid for easy switching.

With all that magnetic draw, I slowly realized being iPad-only was not pragmatic, it was more dogmatic (I’ve sort of been an Apple fanboy I guess). Now since I’ve started incorporating my Windows machine into my workflow, I’ve had to make practical decisions about a few core apps and services that needed to change. Apple software works well on Apple hardware but not on Asus hardware or in a Microsoft OS.

I needed cross-platform apps and services for my web bookmarks and history, cloud file storage, ubiquitous notes, journal entries, and maybe most important of all, login credentials. That is a lot of change! Here’s what I have switched so far:

  1. Web Browsing:
    • Safari -> Edge
  2. Cloud Syncing:
    • iCloud -> OneDrive
  3. Note Taking:
    • Apple Notes -> OneNote
  4. Journaling:
  5. Password Managing:
    • iCloud Keychain; Browser Password Managers; Pass-coded Notes -> Bitwarden

The first three of those items went from first-party Apple to first-party Microsoft solutions. While there are good things to be say about relying on third-party solutions (like Firefox and Evernote) since they’re more cross-platform, I think I made the most pragmatic choices.

Overall, I’m trying to compute in a way that makes the most sense now (I’m even editing this post on my Chromebook), and of course it’s nice to freshen things up a bit. I’ll point out that my core or basic utilities like email, contacts, reminders, and calendaring remain with Apple’s solutions since they work best with iPhone – it’s practical. Also, when so much communication and stuff (iMessage, FaceTime, Find My) is tied to my phone’s contacts, changing isn’t really an option.

Use the best tools for the job, keep things simple when possible, and stay practical. In reality, striving too much for the ideal sometimes proves less than ideal.

Published by

Jason McFadden

Jason McFadden blogs about computing, gaming, and more. He also writes editorials for RPGamer.

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