New Year, New Computer

Howdy, y’all, and happy new year! What’s new in ’22? For starters, I did a thing. It’s part of my recent computer workflow upheaval. I’m doing some switching even though I tried to avoid it, but it makes sense. I still love to use my iPad, though certain things work better on a full computer like our Windows 11 gaming laptop. One thing led to another and…I ordered a MacBook!

Hopefully, my new Mac will arrive tomorrow as scheduled for delivery; I’m eager to start using it. Like my family’s shared Windows laptop, the MacBook is a “full computer” with multi-windowing and multi-tasking beyond what the iPad can do. It’s keyboard is always attached and has a palm rest, unlike my tablet. On top of that, it’s an Apple device like my iPhone and iPad, so I can stay all-in with the Apple ecosystem (almost totally). For me, that’s a big win.

MacBook Air M1

Over the past month or so, I leaned towards using our Windows laptop more because it’s better at productivity and other things that my iPad simply can’t do. That said, the Win11 PC setup was not ideal to me because it’s shared among several family members and it caused me to try using cross-platform apps or services, breaking me out of my comfy Apple walled garden, you know, where it’s all magical unicorns and rainbows and such.

We needed another computer in my family for one of my sons to use in his digital photo class this upcoming Spring semester, and I wanted my own ”full PC.” I searched for the best Windows laptop deals and always found them compromised in at least one way: not enough memory, missing the right ports, battery life too short, etc. Nothing clicked; I was reluctant to pull the trigger on any Windows laptop since I wanted to ensure my large financial investment would pay off for years. Then my budget increased, allowing me to buy the newest M1 MacBook Air from Apple’s refurbished store.

As an ultrabook, I think the M1 MBA is the best deal for me, especially since it lets me firmly cement my feet in Apple’s platform foundation. My AirPods and Apple Watch and iPad and iPhone should work well with the MacBook. Most important, though, will be the multi-tasking and windowing, which most folks have relied on for decades, along with what’s acclaimed to be stellar battery life and performance in a small and lightweight package.

Apple M1 Chip

The MacBook will be my own while one of my teens gets to use it in a class. This also means all my kids can learn to use a Mac, a PC, or a Chromebook. Speaking of the latter, my current Chromebook is going to my wife, and her Chromebook will become another for the kids to share. It looks like our household of seven people will at least have one main computer for all to use and eventually a personal device for each (beyond a smartphone). Now if only we could get internet faster than DSL… (we hotspot to our 4G/LTE phones a lot; 5G is still practically non-existent).

Yeah, I’m excited. The last, and only, Mac I ever owned was a late ’09 MacBook, the polycarbonate white one with a Core 2 Duo CPU and 4GB RAM. I was running OS X Mountain Lion, and things have advanced a lot since then. The M1 MBA ships with macOS Monterey, and it allows iOS apps to work, among other tricks. I hope to stick with this computer for many years.

That’s one way to start a new year, switching to a new computer. At least it’s more fun than beginning a new fitness regimen. I’ll try to not get Cheetos dust on my magic keyboard.

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.

Windows 11 With A Future View

Earlier this Summer, Microsoft announced something new and upcoming. The age old Windows platform will see yet another release, taking things from 10 to Windows 11. The operating system will be refreshed, becoming more modern than ever, which should help the legacy platform shed years of old weight. Hopefully, Microsoft pushes the OS forward and doesn’t look back; Windows with a view of the future is something to look forward to.

Start to Relaunch

New aspects of Windows 11 suggest a positive march of progress. One is an overhauled visual design where common elements look renewed with soft rounded corners, and the overall clean and light user interface is said to invoke a sense of calm. Icons are updated and more consistent, and some are moved to a surprising new layout for Windows — the Start button is no longer bottom-left, it’s now center justified with other icons pinned to the taskbar. This tectonic shift is a departure from over a quarter-century of classic Windows design dating back to 1995, yet it shouldn’t surprise anyone since competing systems have commonly centered apps and icons. Apple’s Macs place the Dock in the middle and Google’s Chromebooks also have a centered app taskbar. Likewise, this symmetry appears to imbue Windows 11 with a sense of balance along with its calm vibe.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 isn’t a dusty OS, but it does have a few cobwebs in various corners of the system — this week I encountered old Windows XP icons in an obscure system info pane. The Start menu also shows signs of the past with Live Tiles leftover from the defunct Windows 8 and Windows Phone era. While users must adjust to the repositioned Start button and menu, they will likely appreciate the robust revamp otherwise. Windows 11’s fresh flourishes and aesthetic advances appear to be an improvement overall.

Another modernization coming in Windows 11 will ensure the OS fits the mobile computing age by simplifying the system and opening its Store to various app technologies. It appears that old legacy dialogue boxes and outdated window panes, which have remained disparate thus far, will be removed and their contents or functions reconsolidated. For example, the Settings app, along with a slick coat of paint, is being renovated by bringing in features that were scattered to and fro before. System level resources and toggles look to be more accessible as well. The previous window snapping feature is more robust, yet simple, with Snap Layouts, which enables multiple window arrangements automatically. Also in keeping with the times, new Widgets will be available in Windows 11 for easy and organized at-a-glance info.

In addition, the Microsoft Store, not known for providing either a quality or quantity of apps, looks to improve as well. Instead of Microsoft going back and forth between different strategies or types of app technologies, the company is now positioning the Microsoft Store as the Amazon of Apps, which means if a user needs an app, the Microsoft store should be the place to get it, assuming developers are fully onboard. With good marketing and luck, the new saying for users in search of an app could be, “There’s an App Store for that.” The Microsoft Store will allow all types of apps from all developers: from legacy or classic desktop apps to progressive web apps to Android apps via the Amazon App store. In that regard, Microsoft is making Windows 11 all-inclusive — no digital discrimination. Apple is welcome to port iMessage over. This will be not only a boon to users, but it’s likely to appease or avoid anticompetitive regulation.

A Windows of Opportunity

Shiny new tech, especially when it comes to mobile computing, is exciting. When Windows 11 software was announced, though, I wasn’t too thrilled because all its modern advancements come at a cost: it will require current hardware technology to power its performance. That means my creaky old budget laptop and my wife’s ancient desktop are ineligible to receive the upcoming OS upgrade. I didn’t mind much, though, since we largely rely on Chromebooks and Apple devices; there’s something to be said about not putting all your eggs in one computer basket.

Something new suddenly happened though. With my kids taking a new computer class in the Fall semester, they are required to have a Windows or Mac laptop. So, long story short, my family ended up buying a brand new Windows gaming laptop. It’s the best PC I’ve ever owned, having a discreet Nvidia RTX GPU! It’s the new family PC at home that will also serve my kids’ needs at school. Okay, it’s basically my own new personal laptop too. And because it is so modern and powerful, it will get the Windows 11 upgrade when it releases later this year. In fact, one of my purchasing factors was the laptop feature listing of Windows 11 capability. In other words, this thing is future proof.

Now that I have a dynamo of a PC that’s Windows 11 ready, I’ll be previewing the impending OS with eager eyes. I won’t go so far as installing a public beta though. Meanwhile, my family and I will enjoy using the latest that Windows 10 offers, but I’m not getting too attached because I recently switched from using my Chromebook to using an iPad as my primary machine…and that’s for a future blog post.

Are you looking forward to Windows 11, or does the prospect of change give you bad vibes? Let me know in the comments.

Apple’s WWDC21 Inches iPad Forward

This week, Apple’s keynote at WWDC21 showcased a wide array of iterative and innovative software enhancements to its ecosystem of digital devices. The iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac are all becoming better, yet there are signs of feature creep. If true, it’s unsurprising and unfortunate, but I’m excited for some of the new and improved things. Apple’s overall focus and purpose, perhaps the theme of WWDC21, is privacy; the company wants your personal data to remain private. While overall this is a good thing, my focus is iPad.


Apple announced a tall and wide stack of stuff in the opening keynote. A big question and expectation going into the keynote concerned the evolving stance of iPad. Would Apple finally remove the training wheels of restriction from iPadOS and let it ride freely as a “real computer?” Many tech geeks, like me, had waited and wondered. Answer: it depends on who you ask.

I saw promising upgrades to iPad that I’m happy for, and if it persists as more of a tablet computer and less of a “real” computer, that’s fine with me — Apple, and others, still sell real laptops and desktop machines too. The most important changes to iPad affect its multitasking system; it’s being somewhat simplified with visible buttons in addition to its invisible gestures. Users can see windowing options (they’re discoverable) via a new button and choose one with a simple tap. No longer must normal people become power users and memorize a convoluted bunch of finger gymnastics to invoke multi-window layouts.

That said, since the previous multi-tasking methods remain intact, the new button set-up, though simpler in itself, is an addition atop an already complex system of windowing on iPad. This is construed as feature creep and upsets the balance between simplicity and capability. Such imbalance introduces complexity, antithetical to iPad, which threatens to become more convoluted and less elegant. Apple continues to slowly yet steadily evolve iPad to become “more” or “better” yet keeping its position between a smartphone and a laptop. Adopting the best of both ends of the mobile computing spectrum while mitigating compromise is a tricky endeavor. Failure incurs disdain with labels for iPad like, “just a big phone” or “not a laptop replacement.” Conversely, the better Apple succeeds, the more magical iPad becomes.

iPad has other new tricks up its sleeve. Like on iPhone, one welcome change lets widgets be placed anywhere. There’s also a new bigger sized widget that makes better use of iPad’s large display, letting users see more content at a glance. How useful this is remains to be seen, but I think it will aid productivity. iPad now has the App Library too. Like its phone cousin, the auto-categorized groups of apps appear in a full screen array when a user swipes past the last homepage. The App Library can also be quickly accessed from any homepage via the Dock, which is great for easily selecting any additional app for multitasking.

Other new features coming to iPad match those new to iOS 15 for iPhone. Some faves I’m excited for are: tags with custom smart folders in the Notes app, EXIF metadata in the Photos app, live locations of family in the Find My app, and tab groups in Safari to name a few. Inexplicably, the Weather app and the Calculator app remain missing from iPad, as if to offset feature creep with feature disparity.

The popular tablet designed in California is getting incremental updates this year, which isn’t half bad, considering it’s already a fantastic computing device. Prior upgrades gave iPad full mouse and cursor control, making it more computer-like than ever. Apple’s ongoing progress with iPad while maneuvering it along the mobile computing midline is laudable. Though imperfect or slightly disappointing to some tech enthusiasts, Apple’s overall strategy is sound and admirable. I miss my iPad Air 2 and plan to buy a new iPad later this Summer.

The Edgebook is Dead

A few months back, I got a excited for a new take on an old thing. I was interested in an iteration of Windows 10. It’s name was Windows 10X. And it will never see the light of day. Bummer, because I was really interested in a Windows version of a Chromebook. I called it the Edgebook. It could have been a simple laptop without the ad-driven privacy-invading Google tentacles weaved throughout. But the potential of Windows 10X is not all lost.


I’ve been using a Chromebook for about 2 years solid now — there’s a lot to like. Its limitations are actually a feature because they make it simple. A virtue that is still oft undervalued, simplicity is a strength that makes using a Chromebook an easy affair. There is, of course, a downside to Google’s ChromeOS. It’s the same downside inherent in all of Google’s products and services: ad-based surveillance. Your personal details profit the big Google. I have been willing to make the trade-off before: sell my digital soul for “free” web software. What could it really hurt? I reasoned that if I was forced to see ads on the web, they might as well be hyper-targeted ads for things I would actually want to spend money on.

But no more.

Like the clock’s steady pendulum, I’ve swung back to the side where privacy is of paramount importance. Going from Google to Apple, I prefer to spend my money on keeping my personal data on the private side of the fence. Why be a persona non data — that is a person online who receives no respect of their personal data, not immune to digital intrusion or invasion? Although Microsoft isn’t as privacy focused as Apple, they are certainly not as privacy ignoring as Google.

So imagine a laptop that is both simple like a Chromebook and doesn’t log your every digital move? That is what I had hoped a Microsoft Edgebook would be. But now it won’t be anything at all. Apparently, beta-testers didn’t see a reason for Windows 10X to exist, or Microsoft perceived that the OS variant simply wasn’t worth releasing to the public. I guess that’s not too much of a bummer because news reports say that some of the hallmarks of Windows 10X will be migrated into full-fledged Windows 10. I’m not exactly sure what this will entail, but I do think it’s smart for Microsoft to take what they’ve learned from development on Windows 10X and apply it to their main OS. The biggest paradigm that may be adopted is the overall push towards simplicity and modernity. I welcome that.

Despite the better looking future for Windows 10 along with its classic robust flexibility and capability as an operating system, I’ve already decided to switch from my Chromebook to either an iPad or a Mac, because Apple and iPhone. As of now, I’m lasered on the iPad as the most simple and modern computer on the market. Oh, and did I mentioned it’s also the most private? Yeah, take my money, Apple.