The Techie Scheky series offers tips and tactics for being more productive and creative through technology (especially with a Mac).
While I’ve talked quite a bit about software in this series, I haven’t really dedicated enough time to the hardware on which I work. The reason for this has always been two-fold as 1) I really wanted to get started with the software first so you could take advantage of it and 2) It’s important to think multi-platform and multi-device when creating your own personal workflows. However after mentioning my intent to talk about my geek-laden, uber-fanboy love for my MacBook Air, Yuvi Zalkow mentioned that he was looking forward to it and I put it to the top of the list. You see, I have a tendency of prioritizing whatever Yuvi tells me and so far that system is working out pretty well… so, here goes:
I’m not going to lie, I was nervous when I first decided to abandon my 15″ MacBook Pro in favor of the smaller, less powerful MacBook Air. Without fail, every computer I’ve ever owned has been “better” and has had more bells and whistles than the one that came before it. This move to the Air a few months back marked the first time a new computer would fall short of its predecessor.
At a time in history where computers are rapidly getting faster, bigger and cheaper, it doesn’t necessarily make sense that I would chose to go for a slower, smaller, more expensive machine. It certainly doesn’t sound good when I say it like that, but this shift has proven to be one of the best tech decisions I’ve ever made.
So why switch?
Well, first off, there is my compulsion to purchase whatever new product Apple is focusing on (it’s a disease). When you consider the discontinuation of the standard MacBook and many of the decisions in the new Lion OS, it is clear that they feel that the Air family of computers is the future. More importantly (or at least easier to crap rationalize), my MBP1 was getting on in its years, the battery life was horrible, it often got hot as all hell and I was constantly butting up against the maximum capacity of the 320GB hard drive2. Wear and tear aside, I found I was spending way too much time offloading files to external drives, trying to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. It was quickly getting to the point where it was no longer a pleasure to use the machine.
And why go slower, smaller and more expensive again?!?
As I mentioned, I’m an Apple junky. I dutifully own an iPhone, iPad and have been on one Mac or another for some time now. I tend to travel a decent amount and tried to crap rationalize my iPad purchase3 by leaving my cumbersome 15″ MBP at home. While the battery life and the lighter bag were a pleasure, the iPad just isn’t at a point where it can replace a full-fledged computer (at least it can’t for me). Once I started considering my needs and my lifestyle, the weight, portability and excellent battery life of the Air became extremely alluring.
I had to be honest with myself…
Specs aside, I also started to take a deeper look at what had driven my computer purchases of the past. Geeks (or at least geeks of the past) look at their computers like many look at their cars. How much horsepower does it have? How quickly can it go from 0 to 60? We just replace cylinders with RAM. The thing is, with rare exception, most of us geeks and most of those car fanatics don’t need the power. We aren’t even capable of taking advantage of it. We just sought out the biggest, most powerful thing out there and let what we want get in the way of what we can actually use. I never needed what I had. In fact, it was so damn powerful, I never even bothered to figure out or even attempt to see what it could really do.
It was a well needed fresh start!
The move forced me to reexamine the way I’ve always approached computers. My priority was to always make sure there was enough room for everything, rather than determining was truly needed. Macs have always made it easy to transfer over data, but this time, I was starting from scratch. There would be no mass move of files; there would be no excess. I would have to take the time to think about everything I put on the machine. It sounds tedious, but the restrictions encouraged me to figure out what I really wanted to use it for.
It sounds silly, but so much of the streamlining in my life started here with the decision to opt for less, rather than more. To force a restriction upon myself that led to better decisions.
OK, but why are you so in love with this computer again?
It’s light, it’s snappy, it has a battery that lasts for hours and never runs hot. I thought I’d miss the 15″ screen, but after spending so much time over the past few years with the iPhone and iPad, 13″ feels more than sufficient. I won’t even bore you with the tech specs, because for the first time in my life, I couldn’t even tell you what they are. It does what I need it to do, so why care? Unless you are working with intensive programs for video like Final Cut or editing heavy-duty images in Photoshop, this computer is enough.
More than anything, this isn’t only a computer you can take with you, it is the computer you WANT to take with you. Don’t understand what I mean? Ever go from having any old job to having a job you really wanted? Remember the immediate difference you felt? How it unlocked something inside you and made you want to do more? This is the computer version of that feeling. You want to use this machine. And because that usage comes from a place of want, you end up making more than you ever thought possible. I’ve always loved computers, loved the potential, loved the ability to lose myself while sitting in front of a screen, but I’ve never loved a particular machine. They never felt right, they were never a fit. The MacBook Air changed that, it helped me to stop thinking about the “best” computer and start thinking about the best computer for me.
Geeky Quick Tip
As I had mentioned, I spent a good amount of time maxing out the capacity of my MacBook Pro’s 320GB hard drive. I was fed up with the constant time suck of deciding which files would stay and which would go and had to make a change. About 30,000 pictures of my kids and a healthy love of music, movies and television led to an iPhoto library well over 100GB and an iTunes library that over 300GB. The only way I was able to make this work was to offload all of my photos and all of my media to an external hard drive. Western Digital4 makes a 1TB external hard drive5 that is about the size of a deck of cards and still weighs significantly less that my old setup when combined with the MacBook Air. The minor inconvenience of having to pull out the drive offers the added benefit of keeping me from slacking off and watching The Wire when I really would rather read or write.
So how about you? What’s your primary computer and how does it impact the work you’re doing? Does hardware really make a difference or am I just a rambling, somewhat delusional, fanboy and this shouldn’t matter at all?
MacBook Pro for those playing along at home. ↩
Yes, I know that the Air’s cap out at 256GB, but bear with me… ↩
It’s a pleasurable device and has its uses, but it is far from a necessary piece of tech. ↩
Disclaimer: I’ve been to an event of theirs and was gifted a 500GB My Passport, but I’ve been using their products and this system long before that. ↩
Affiliate link, cause I’m shameless and stuff… ↩