Monday, December 26, 2011

Life without a Home PC

As you may have noticed, this blog has been quiet for a few months. I did not intend to ignore it for so long but it happened.

Towards the end of September I started having a few issues with my trusty small old red Acer laptop/Netbook, finally leading to it's untimely death in early October. At that point my intentions were good: I have a smartphone, I have a mobile OS tablet, do I really need a laptop too? I decided to give up the tether of the laptop and join the brave new world of truly mobile devices.

Turns out I am more than just a passive user of the Internet: I have a regular and consistent need to create content for work, family, friends, colleagues and followers of my various postings. Mobile Apps from my app stores, free or not, were not good enough for my needs, with the familiar limitations that varied from limited text formatting options to not having access to my work files to edit and return intact:
  • My personal Google Docs files (Google's offering is already slow on a good computer with great internet connection) have become pointless on a smartphone, horrible to use on the tablet.
  • Windows Live version of Google Docs? Dead.
  • Excel, Word, DWG file use? Lots of viewers and markup tools (and for a small fortune an editor for the Microsoft products), but for the time it takes, for example, to markup a DWG in AutoCADWS I could have fixed it in AutoCAD/LT myself.  Same with DOC, XLS and the other half dozen file types I work with all the time.
My need to edit files live and in person, not through workarounds and use of other sites, are not served by these modern mobile device tools. I soon discovered that Smartphones and MobileOS Tablets are useless for creating meaningful work-centric documents. Well, for me anyway. And it took me almost three months to realize I was not just "old and past it" but that these tools are just not good enough for content creation and editing (even though I am typing this post on the now utterly annoying Blogger App for iPhone and I will have to fix later using the 'real' Blogger online program on a borrowed computer before publishing online).
I am now seeking a new laptop, one with not so cheap requirements: screen no larger than 12.5", good quality SSD hard drive, some form of SD or MicroSD card slot, HDMI port, 4-hour plus battery life, i5 mobile processor minimum, 4Gig of RAM and Windows 7. Ultralight is also a major requirement, so I am willing to give up having a built-in DVD drive (I have two externals from my last laptop). I gave the Apple lineup some serious review time and energy, but ultimately rejected them for three reasons: I hate iTunes with a passion (I use 3rd party music tools for organizing my entertainment files and managing my iPod, and cloud services by others for created content), I don't like being locked into one source of buying content/apps, and I really don't like using the feature hobbled AutoCAD/LT for MAC for work (Debbie Downer time).

I've narrowed my new selection down to two devices (HP, DELL, and Toshiba's desktop pricing for ultraportable units eliminated them being considered almost immediately): both of my choices are available at two different Computer stores in my area so I will test drive them before I make a final decision. This will be a gift to myself at this gift giving time of year.

I will soon be able to use 'real' applications once again to create content, and work when needed, not just observe and consume content created by others. Brave new mobile world indeed.