Getting Small June 21, 2013
Revising my technology
Over the last few months, I've revised the technology I'm using.
I switched from an iPad Retina to and iPad Mini. I've only used the Retina once since (to read a PDF file… the Mini doesn't have the resolution to display a letter-size PDF such that I can read it.)
The iPad Mini is better in almost every way. It's easier to carry. It's easier to hold, especially when I'm in bed and covered with kittens. In general, I prefer to hold it with one hand rather than two. I can even hold the iPad Mini and take notes.
I tried a ThinkPad Helix as a travel machine… it was just the most awful (and expensively awful) machine I've bought in a long time.
So, I bought a 13" MacBook Pro Retina. It's capped at 8gb of RAM (sigh, I need 16gb to do hardcore Scala work without swapping).
While I was waiting for the Retina to show up, I went out of Craig's List and bought an 11" MacBook Air with 8gb of RAM. I got the machine for traveling this summer. It's small and light and great for coding while flying (and I've got more than 40 hours in the air planned for the summer.) I was worried about the screen resolution.
MacBook Air 11"
This machine was a really pleasant surprise. It's very, very light.
Yet it's solid as a rock and the keyboard is full sized. It's a delight to type on and the trackpad "just works."
The 11" Air is just like any other MacBook.
And the screen is usable for coding. Yeah, the vertical resolution is less than optimal, but these days, I'm doing mostly Clojure so my functions are short and sweet.
The Air is not the fastest machine ever, but it gets the job done and is perfect for traveling… it's marginally bigger and heavier than my iPad Retina.
MacBook Pro 13" Retina
This machine is amazing. It's very light… especially compared to my 15" MacBook Pro. It's almost as light as my old 13" MacBook Air. It's also rock solid.
The display is incredible. I bought Pupil to switch up the resolution and am running at 1920x1200. It's a great resolution to get Scala and Java coding at (yeah, I'm doing a Java-based project… the project is wicked cool, but the language is a drag… although jADT makes things better.)
And the keyboard/trackpad is just perfect.
Yes, I'm downsizing my machines. I still have my desktop monster that runs more than 2x faster than any of my laptops when I need to do hours of Lift/Scala coding. But for travel and for work in the field, lugging a few pounds less stuff is excellent.
The Apple Premium
Paul Krugman wrote an interesting op-ed about Apple and monopoly rents. I think it's kinda interesting because I like Apple hardware (I'm not as keen on the OS) and I'm willing to pay a premium for it.
I'm not a fan-boy (those who point to my Apple tattoo may take issue with that, but my tattoo is a six color Apple ][ logo, not the 2nd generation Steve era). But I do appreciate good design.
It's why BMW can charge a premium for their cars and Apple can charge a premium for their machines.
The cost of one of these machines is less than I bill in a day. I am willing to pay a premium to make my day's work better, less fatiguing, more focused, whatever. I spend less than 1% of my gross earning on hardware each year. I'm willing to pay a 10% or 30% premium for hardware that works with me rather than working against me.
The ThinkPad design was so right for so many years because IBM/Lenovo got it right early and hard hoards of Excel/Word jocks using their stuff. Apple got it right more recently and Apple keeps turning the crank… adding the latest Intel processors, better display technology, but in general, not messing with the pieces they got right: the solid form, the excellent keyboard, and the excellent trackpad.
Apple is just doing what every company should. Unfortunately, the Dells and Asus and now Lenovos of the world think that flash and many different products sell. They are dead wrong. Fewer product choices (maybe a business line and a consumer line) with a clear focus on getting it right for the work people do in the market segment.
Toothpaste companies spend years building a brand around the subtleties of taste and packaging and they are loath to mess up their formulas. Why can't Dell and Lenovo and HP just settle of 2 formulas that work and continually refine those formulas? They'd put a lot more pressure on Apple if they did.