On technology and challenge

I’ve had my new MacBook Air for just a couple of days now, but I can already confirm it’s the best Apple computer I’ve ever owned. It’s small, light, incredibly fast and has a screen and display that is a joy to look at.

I’m reflecting on the brief time when I considered getting a Chromebook to replace my 3-year old MacBook Air. Then, it seemed like a smart and economical option. I could get a Chromebook for about £200 – as opposed to the £1400 I’ve spent on this MacBook Air – and do pretty much everything I can do with this laptop.

Or so I thought.

Accentuating the Positive…

Actually, what I was doing was looking at the availability of Chrome versions of my favourite apps, or workarounds to achieve the same result. In my eagerness to try something new, I was dropping my standards for what “great” looks like and was blinded by the prospect of learning something and demonstrating my own flexibility and ingenuity to myself.

And others.

I focused on the availability of apps like Spotify and Twitter and read and re-read and positive reviews of various Chromebooks models, while glossing over the critiques writers had levelled at them.

I avoided focusing on how I was going to access my content on DropBox simply and quickly…convinced myself that the absence of iCloud integration wouldn’t be a problem…virtually ignored that there would be no way of syncing with the app that keeps me on top of life in general: OmniFocus.

I’ve been thinking about why I got into this way of thinking. I can put it down to two factors.

Thinking it Through

Firstly, and this is not news to me, I’m attracted to the new and the different. I’ve spent far too many hours thinking about ditching my iPhone 5S and iPad Mini for a Nexus 5 and Nexus 7  Not because I think they’re better, but because I think it would be interesting to see if I could replicate my mobile computing experience with a completely different operating system and app ecosystem.

Secondly, I somehow developed the mindset that technology should be about coping with inevitable change I thrust upon myself. Rather than finding technology and systems that work for me, I got into thinking that change to these personal systems is inevitable and I should be able to cope with this, no matter how crazy the decisions.

Such as replacing a super-powered (albeit old) MacBook Air with a Chromebook lacking significant local storage, dependant on internet connection to be functional and missing several of my most important applications.

Yes, I’ve spent far more money on the MacBook Air. But I’ve got far more computing power and ease of use to show for it. I’ve also avoided the pointless and potentially disruptive move to a new (and unproved) operating system, which would likely leave me making compromise after compromise.

My laptop is a working machine. I use it for work as well as entertainment. It needs to be useful and helpful with or without an internet connection. It needs to allow me to access my colleagues’ files via Dropbox automatically, make presentations to large audiences, use an Exchange server, keep my project files and actions in sync with my iPhone and iPad… I could go on.

The point here is not to bash Chromebooks.

Not at all.

If money were no object, I’d buy one in a flash, just to satisfy my curiosity regarding my ability to “survive” with a stripped down computing environment. I think they’re innovative and a great option for people with different computing needs to my own. But it would definitely be a “play” or “experimentation” machine, which would stay at home. If a friend had one, I’d like to play with it for a few hours.

“Play” being the operative word.

As my recent MacBook Air set-up illustrated, my key data is in the cloud. It shouldn’t really matter what platform I access it through. But a Chromebook isn’t yet a comparable system.

Lessons Learnt?

The point I’m making is that I wasn’t making a fair or accurate comparison. I was attracted to seeing if I could “make do” and potentially show others just how smart I was. Thinking it through, I can imagine all kinds of scenarios where trying to work effectively with a Chromebook would cause me no end of additional work and potential stress.

I’m delighted with the laptop I now have and very relieved I didn’t waste time or money on fitting a Chromebook into my work life.

What’s the point of bringing that on myself when there’s absolutely no need?

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