That’s me according to my latest power bill, nothing like this to take a good long look at what you‘re doing wrong. Especially after I thought about myself as doing quite ok in this regard.
Stuff I run
I‘ll forego the normal things like the fridge here but focus on some tech-stuff that caught my eye when I looked a little closer.
A HP Microserver running FreeNAS
A Synology box
Switches and other networking things
For these there we’re always interesting and more or less rational reasons when I bought them. This got me thinking if they are still needed though. Let’s take a tour.
Why are there two file-servers? This actually has some validity as one is my personal system and the other work-related. However: do I still need the personal one?
I bought the Microserver because space on my computer was running out, I wanted laptops to also have access and (leaving the last reason aside for a moment) SSDs of 1TB or more for inside my computer were still really expensive a few years back. Things have changed a bit: for what there is in terms of documents to be shared between systems there are Clous solutions, be they self-hosted or something like iCloud or Dropbox. The big thing remains a few hundred GB of photos. As it turns out I could perfectly well live with an external SSD (maybe a RAID enclosure) on that one since those can now be mounted on the iPad as well.
This leaves networking: here I have already taken measures. Prompted by some disappointment with the performance of PowerLine networking in my place I have replaced that with a mesh WiFi solution and already after some restructuring I was able to cut down by one switch (a 24 port HP enterprise switch no less) and a firewall. Not bad for a start.
A more lightweight future
I have some services I want running but right now I‘m thinking RaspberryPi for those as it‘s perfectly adequate for what I want it to do and consumes very little power. The Microserver might come on once per weer for additional backups or something like that.
Other then saving energy I actually think may well be a more enjoyable environment. After all there is a lot to be said for feeling less like a sysadmin at home.
The title is stolen, or at least borrowed, but the issue is nevertheless real and important. As I look around my home I find that I have accumulated far too much stuff. There are of course things worth owning and that is not limited to purely necessary items: there are things we enjoy and like to own. But far too often there are things where we have long since forgotten why we got them in the first place. There are also things that do fill a specific purpose but are of low quality and that thus will need regular replacement - low quality being a special bane of our time. All of this strikes me as more and more of a problem.
In the end the way out of this is simple: buy what you need, buy things where using them gives you enjoyment end don’t bother with the rest. It‘s curious how hard this can be.
The empire of things is a book by Frank Trentmann and have to admit to not having read it, I will remedy this.
I was reminded of this post I had written on having less but better thinks since we just had the Christmas season and a lot of people obviously bought a lot of things. A lot of it will probably be used for a while (moste importantly it will be used whenever the person who gave the gift sees it) and then be discarded or simply forgotten in one corner. In stark contrast to my youth or earlier adulthood I am really happy about one special gift: not having gotten a lot of stuff. The most beautiful "thing" I think was my family investing money not in a gift but rather donating to have a while bunch of plastic removed from the ocean. A thing to keep in mind though: this value of less I think is something you will only fully see after having most basic needs fulfilled. As long as you are struggling for your rent or your food I think a more materialistic approach will come easier to people. Ironically it took me a phase of over-consumption to want less.
It's been a while since I've written about my views on Apple these days and what I'm missing with Microsoft by comparison. In the meantime I've somewhat rejoined the world of Apple based computing with the iPad Pro and so far the experience has been great. To be fair I don't use a lot if the power of the device yet as it is largely used for editing text (waiting on my Bluetooth keyboard from amazon as typing on screen is not really my thing) and using tools like things or OmniFocus.
The system feels much more appropriate to the device with iPad OS now then back in the days on my iPad 2 - back then it really was treated a lot like a big phone.
Things have changed
Back when I used to have an iPad it used to be mostly a device for consuming media, a good one mind you but still a device for consuming rather then producing things. Right now I am sitting here with a Bluetooth keyboard hooked up to the iPad (yes, a few days have passed since writing down the first sentences) typing this and it's great. Another thing: the CPU inside my iPad scored close to the somewhat older Intel Xeon In my desktop on Geekbench this weekend, so anybody with doubts about what this thing can do computing wise can rest assured that it is a very capable device. Especially on the iPad the app-ecosystem has also matured a lot. Apps like Things, Drafts (where I am writing this right now), OmniFocus - not to speak of tools for high end graphics work - and many others make iPad OS a great Plattform for working either on the go or even at home but away from your desk.
Drafts: the app I‘m writing this in. (The fact that I could upload this screenshot from the ipad was special to me as well.)
So what about the Mac?
This is a question that I've thought about on and off since getting the iPad. I have fond memories to working on a Mac and back then here were more limitations. For example the idea of playing games on a Mac was mostly, well ... an idea. Today, with the advent of technologies to make porting games to different systems easier this is no longer the case. Even when using Linux for a while I could go on Steam and just install a lot the games I wanted to play without having to do anything special. The toolset for working on the Mac had already been great, but things have gotten better here as well. Microsoft Office on the Mac today looks far better then when I got to use it shortly after the Intel transition, though I feel the same about the windows Version. Software like phpStorm provides great environments to work in as developer and being a UNIX based system is helpful in that regard anyways.
The main reason I am not seeing myself being a Mac too soon is the simple fact that I have working computers and they are not cheap. So I'd really need a specific reason to justify the investment in something like a Mac Mini (another thing that has gotten really great now).
All in all I guess I will keep ya'll updated on how this goes and write a few things regarding different apps that I'm using now. It is exciting at any rate.
This weekend I listened to this quite fascinating talk on HyperCard and was surprised how current a lot of the things you could do with it still feel. There is more to come on this as I’ve got a few thoughts on it. But so long there is some food for thought.
This may seem a little out of context but lately it's been bugging a bit that I've accumolated a lot of "stuff". There are also a few great things that have over the years found their way to me, but sadly a lot of less great things as well. So this my reminder to myself to gravitate more towards fewer, yet better things.
I didn't think I'd write something like this anytime soon. I thought I'd left the Mac world and I thought I basically did that at the right time. When Marco lamented the state of Apples computers (and their software) a while back he of course focussed on what Apple themselves put into their system. Lately I've been looking at the world of computer Operating Systems more in terms of comparing ecosystems - the OS with the (3rd party) software it gives you access to. To be fair there is great software for Windows, for Linux and for the Mac. In fact as far as Windows goes I feel Microsoft these days makes great software, who'd have thought I'd ever say this 10-15 years ago.
Putting care in how things look and feel
The thing that strikes me with quite some software for the Mac (and also did in the years ~2006-2012 when I was a Mac user exclusively) is the care that a lot of the developers in that world seem to put into how their software feels. To be fair, neither Microsoft nor a lot of Linux Distributions make it easy for developers to achieve a similar amount of polish, though it's certainly possible. As somebody who enyojs using software that looks and feels good I find this rather lamentable. I'm sure there will be people who tell me I shouldn't care, just as there are people who will argue that the fact that software is maybe open-source would more than make up for any lack in the design department. However I find myself disagreeing. All these arguments for or against some piece of software exist at once and for different areas thei may be weighed diferently.
In defence of Microsoft
I cannot really blame Microsoft for any of this. Todays Microsoft creates awesome opensource software, they care more for the design of their products then at any time in their history (at least so it seems) and really try to be an inovative company.
Where to go from here?
This is a good question. I am actually considering splitting my time: I have no problem working on Windows at work and even having my main workstation at home run Windows for the forseeable future. After all my computer isn't that old and will be quite powerfull for a few years still to come. However with my Microsoft Surface Pro 4 showing itself to be rather on the weak side (granted I got a small model, so this may not be Microsofts fault) I find myself looking for something to use when I'm not at home. Right now the iPad Pro and the MacBook Pro are both in the race. The iPad would grant me the option to use a lot of software I already own by having bought it for the iPhone. The MacBook would be more of a full fledged computer.
What might right now push me more towards the mac then towards the iPad is Webdevelopment. While I know there are people who work on iOS devices in quite a productive way I feel that I am way too much of a classical computer person for that. I like having a mouse-point and love to use a terminal
As it stand right now I am not actually ready to outright leave facebook yet. It has its uses for me, I know people that are on there and I am in a few groups I do not want to leave at this time. However I am also one of those people who are really taken aback by the things we hear concenring privacy issues with the company. I'm not going to say I'm surprised by these things because I am not in the least bit surprised. However even more then before it brings to mind a need to controll what data an company like Facebook can get access to.
As it turns out there is at least an intermediate step that is fairly easy to take - deleting their app from your phone. To my mind Facebook as a website is something way more controllable then as an app that's constantly running in the background. The app after all is able to access geolocation (If you've authorized it) in the background etc. Also the app is very well able to suck in your time since there are few things easier then tapping an icon on the screen of your phone to kill time - or loose time if you want.
So for that matter, this one app is gone from my phone for now.
Years ago, when the iPad 2 had arrived, I was a happy user of Apples tablets for some years. Of course my iPad aged and after enjoying quite a long life with me it finally had to go. The technology was of course still new with it just being the second iteration of the tablets. Later I went to Microsofts Surface Pro and I've now used this for roughly two years. It's really cool, and it's propably not for me.
The good parts
The Surface as a piece of tech feels nice, so does the keyboard/cover Microsoft produces. Even though I've basically got the smallest version the experience of using the device for the first time is great. Actually it really reminded me of the experience when I got a MacBook in ~2006.
Ambitions and where they may fail you
Microsoft has the really cool idea to create a unified OS for Desktops, Notebooks and Tablets. However in practice there are, at least in my experience with the device, some shortfalls to this:
A lot of the applications are clearly not designed for touch-use.
It feels like Windows doesn't handle the resouce limitations on a tablet as well as iOS.
With applications not being as well-designed as they could be I've basically stuck with using the Surface as an underpowered notebook. Microsoft is not really at fault here I think, it would be up to the people who create the applications to make the experience of using them great. After all, Microsoft themselves certainly does put in the work with Office, Edge etc. Sadly it seems that as far as UIs go the Apple world simply has developers who put more care into this (I am aware that there are really great exceptions).
There is one more thing: while I've gotten the smallest version of the Surface Pro it still has a price that puts it in almost the same region as the iPad Pro, and for that it feels slow. I've started quitting more and more applications (didn't have to do that on the iPad) and it still feels slow in something like Chrome. I'm not sure how much of this is an issue with the device itself (speed of the used SSD storage etc.) and how much of this is down to people writing programs not really taking into account that they have to work with limited resources. Still this puts a damper on what could be an awesome experience.
So what does all this come down to? Currently I'm considering going with an iPad pro for the near future. Having an iPhone I own a bunch of Apps that I can use on there and that promise to work seamelessly with what I've got on my phone. So that would certainly be a plus. I'm gravitating towards the smaller 11" version for portability. I guess there will be a post when I eventually decide to go for it and I'll share my experience.
While this is a bit off the usual path I'm taking here I thought I'd link this here. In case somebody is interested in open position as a web-developer in Cologne Germany. we're looking for some backup: some details on the job