Of Macs and iPads

So how’s your month of May going? Mine has been adventurous. The new company I work for turned a corner last week, so things are looking better. We were given new laptops with VPN remote access to the new-to-us servers. My former dual-monitor set up was replaced with a new Ultrawide curved display. Best of all, an office building was bought; we should start moving in sometime next month. I shouldn’t have to work from home much longer and will be able to finally resume some new “normal.” Meanwhile, I’ve been swamped with imminent deadlines for my structural steel design work. I think I’m going to make it.

With that out of the way, I’ll get back to computing. In my previous post, I contemplated switching from my Chromebook to a Windows desktop PC. Well, that’s changed a bit. As I was pricing a custom build on NewEgg and then considering an off-the-shelf PC from Best Buy, I noticed that the best price point I could get to for my needs was around $700. It occurred to me that the Mac mini is the same price. Then it clicked in my brain – since I like using mostly Apple stock software for my personal stuff everyday, I should just buy a Mac desktop instead of a Windows desktop.

This was a no-brainer idea. I was a bit surprised that I had not been more adamant about it before. This was also a relief because it helped me resist sliding down the switching path into the Microsoft camp. I need to stop switching ecosystems and just stick with one (assuming that’s possible for me). Living in Apple land can be expensive, but to me it’s worth it.

As I thought more about a Mac mini, I began to remember the fact that almost every single app I would use on a Mac is also pre-installed on the device I’ve been wanting all along – the iPad. Can you guess where this is going next? So then I figured why not just stick with switching from a Chromebook back to an iPad? It has all the apps I really need, and the entry-level iPad costs much less than a Mac mini.

In 2019, when I switched from iPad to Chromebook, I needed a solid solution for simple text input and manipulation. I also needed a desktop — not a mobile — web browser. It’s been almost 2 years since then, and in that time, Apple has made the budget model iPad compatible with the Apple Smart Keyboard and given it full native mouse/trackpad support. The iPad is also now more computer-like than ever with a desktop-class browser that many people say really works, and it remains affordable and accessible. So it looks like I’ll be switching back in 2021. Surprise, surprise.

Also, the Apple Pencil looks compelling. I’ll probably buy one and will need an iPad to go with it.

Contemplating Another Computer

Howdy, y’all. I had to take a break for a bit so I could step back from the edge of the stress cliff. My day job has been undergoing a huge transition from the rubble and remnants of one company to the promise and potential of a new company. It’s been a rough ride. Okay, that said, this post is about my core geekery – computing. I tend to switch things up, and like my job situation, I’m wanting to switch out my Chromebook for a “real” PC.

This switch is directly related to my job transition. As I was forced to work from home on my work laptop, which is a very capable Windows 10 machine, I decided to use it as my personal machine too. It was easy to do because there was nothing to set up. Having been solely using a Chromebook, everything I did was cloud based via web apps. So with Chrome installed on my work laptop, I logged into my Google account. And that was it; all my stuff was there.

My work laptop (which I can’t use anymore – that’s another bump in the rough transition road) is no slouch. It was used for CAD design, having quite a mobile spec load out: 32GB RAM, core i7 CPU, SSD storage. Given all that horsepower, it made my personal computing fly compared to my Chromebook. Plus, since it ran Windows 10 instead of Chrome OS, there were no limitations. I could do pretty much anything with it since it ran desktop apps and not only a browser.

The capability and flexibility of that Windows 10 machine has made me want my own. So I’d like to switch off my Chromebook and replace it with a desktop PC. In fact, I’ve already been on NewEgg building a custom PC wish-list. I have found that it’s hard to save money when building a PC of your own. There are areas where you can save a few dollars, but overall it still adds up to a lot. In my case, I need to also buy Windows 10 software and not just PC hardware, which adds a good chunk to the cost. Anyways, it’s fun to custom build my own PC hot-rod. I make a budget build, a dream build, and then I build something in between that’s neither compromised nor crazy. You can buy just a new RTX GPU that costs as much as an entire computer! As much as I want to run Minecraft with real-time ray-tracing, that will have to wait a long time.

Being mostly an Apple guy when it comes to mobile computing, there’s a question: why not get a Mac? Because I want to do some PC gaming, stay more compatible with my wife’s Windows PC, and be able to use my own PC in lieu of my work PC if the need arises.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to buy anything for a while. But that’s no big deal. My needs are basically met. But I’ve got some wants and maybe some future needs to consider. Even a budget-friendly Windows PC offers greater flexibility than my Chromebook, and that alone is enough reason to switch. That said, I did learn a good lesson years ago: never buy an entry level Windows machine. Not only is the build quality sub-par, it’s not future proof, and it’s also painfully sluggish.

Here’s the rub of all this. I also still really want an iPad and plan to buy one. So I figure I’ll be replacing my Chromebook laptop with two things: a desktop PC and an Apple tablet — a computer and a mobile computer. I’ll probably keep the Chromebook around too and let the kids use it for school, so I’ll still have access to it if the switch-a-roo bug bites me again. And I’m sure it will.

A Switch For Smartphone Computing

I found an article related to a feature in Android 10 that surprised me. And it got me thinking. What if your smartphone was like a Nintendo Switch?

The article I read talked about a potential upcoming feature that smartphone maker, LG, is purportedly working on. It’s a Desktop Mode. From what I understand, it lets you connect your Android 10 smartphone to a cable to output your phone’s screen to a large display. I assume it would also wirelessly connect to a keyboard and pointing device. This essentially would turn your smartphone into a desktop computer. And apparently, LG is polishing this native Android 10 feature to make it even more useful.

To me, this is intriguing.

Yet I think this can be marketed and understood better when thinking about Nintendo’s latest and very popular game console, the Switch. It’s main attractive feature is the ability to play the Switch as a tried and true home console on your TV but then easily and quickly take it on the go for an excellent handheld mobile gaming system. It’s a 2-in-1! And thanks to the design of the hardware and software, it works remarkably well.

So why can’t a smartphone work the same way? All you need is a good docking solution. Imagine being able to take your mobile phone, place it on a wireless charging mat, and then it auto-connects wirelessly (NFC/bluetooth/wi-fi) to a nearby display, mouse, and keyboard. Then the software turns on a desktop mode, letting you compute at a desk. Later, you just grab your phone off the charging mat and go! So easy!

Let’s say this set-up is totally feasible and will hit the market next year. The next question is, would you want this feature? Would you buy your next smartphone if you knew it could double as your primary desktop computer?

I, for one, think this could be great and would want to try it. To me, it wouldn’t be much different than a Chrombook with Android experience. Matter of fact, I would change the scenario a bit and have the phone wirelessly output to a Chromebook/laptop form factor for full mobile-desktop computing. I think the most attractive aspect of this idea is the simplicity of it. One device, one CPU, one storage drive, etc. It’d be one thing to power all your cloud computing.

Okay, so I just checked into this a bit more and found a related YouTube video. Basically, it is possible now to make an Android phone act like a desktop computer, where each app gets windowed and you can multi-task like traditional computing.

It’s intriguing, but it kinda feels like a niche experiment rather than a bonafide feature. It also looks like it might be fiddly with connecting the right cables and peripherals. But the wireless Chromecast ability of Android phones is one I had forgotten about; I want to see if that works with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard.

All that said, I’m also thinking that I like the simplicity of my two dedicated devices: a smartphone and a Chromebook. Both are small and capable and portable and serve me well.

In any case, I hope to see further development of Android’s desktop mode so that it becomes a common and powerful feature. In a few years, maybe using only a smartphone as your computer will be the norm.

What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!