Friday, March 4, 2011

The Ideal [Apple] Computing System

In 2004 as I headed off to college I bought a laptop and a cell phone. It was my first personal computer and personal phone. When I was trying to make the decision of what phone I wanted, I took the phone that was free with the cheapest nationwide phone plan. Why buy something with an mp3 player or camera when I already had an iPod and a digital video camera? Buying a computer was still a somewhat geeky proposition. There was really only the choice between a desktop and a laptop. The details of processor speed, memory, graphics cards, and hard drives were the type of thing that we geeks discussed, because we were all geeky future engineers and scientists. The Internet was accessed on a computer. A small computer was a 4.6 pound laptop.

My how times have changed in seven years. Wednesday Apple introduced a 1.3 pound iPad 2 with a dual core 1 GHz processor. That is faster than my current computer. Something that doesn't even pretend to be a computer is better than a computer that is not even seven years old. Now the Internet is accessed on millions of phones, tablets, gaming consoles, and of course, wicked fast computers.

My six a half year old computer is getting ready to move to another owner. It still works fine. I create and edit documents, surf the internet, stream videos, and listen to music. Yet, it encodes video really slow, has all of an eight minute battery life, and is not capable of running some complex new programs due to a slow processor speed. On a similar note, I am on my third cell phone, an iPhone, whose contract ended a few months ago. The battery life is not as great as it once was, and I would like a better camera. So I am in the market for another piece of technology.

So as I examine the options, within the context that I am hopelessly sold on Apple products, I wonder what is my ideal system? Starting with a phone, I want to upgrade to the iPhone 5. Mostly because of the  video capability and higher resolution screen. Having a new battery will also be a plus. Apple has not released it yet so it might be called the iPhone 4G, but regardless I am sure it will be amazing.

So that covers an ultra portable device. What do I do on a computer or larger device that I do not or can not do on a phone? First, the things that I can do either on a phone or a computer. I typically blog, check my email, pay my bills (some I only pay using my computer), surf the Internet, listen to music, watch YouTube videos, and check the weather.

Things that I currently do strictly on my computer include creating and editing documents and presentations, edit videos, burn DVDs, dabble in computer programing, and using various engineering related programs. Wether or not I use those engineering programs on my personal computer in the future remains to be seen. For the most part of my time in the future (90%+ of the time) I will probably only need the capability to create and edit documents, including pdfs and spreadsheets, and edit video. Both of those are possible using the iPad. Although that does not give me the ability to burn DVDs which is a capability that I value.

So requiring the use an an optical drive, more I nearly always burn DVDs at home so a desktop computer with an optical drive would be nice. The capability of a desktop computer also give me the opportunity to use complex programs and enhanced video editing.

In bullets by device:
  • iPhone: surf the Internet, use email, listen to music, ultra portable, a camera and video editing, ebooks, weather, banking, games, directions
  • iPad: all of the above, very portable instead of ultra portable, and not as capable to give directions. On the plus size, the screen is huge and thus more user friendly and the battery life is great. 
  • Macbook Air: very portable, camera, a full opperating system so that advanced programs or programming can be done, a full keyboard, descent battery life
  • Macbook/Macbook Pro: all of the above except it is less portable (a little heavier) and has much better battery life as well as an optical drive and phenomenal processors speed
  • iMac: not practically portable on a daily basis, very advanced processors and an optical drive, needs to be plugged in
Use and probably best or two best device:
  • Hiking, Bicycling, Directions, and short term travel (a few hours): iPhone
  • Expedition to Asia: Macbook Air (7 Watts/hr) or iPad (2.5 Watts/hour) (must be able to be charged by my 20 Watt solar panel, necessitating using less than 20 Watts per hour. would typically be used to watch movies, play games, listen to music, and read)
  • Coffee shop Internet use: Macbook Air or Macbook/Macbook Pro I really like the use of a key board
  • Group homework: Macbook Air or Macbook/Macbook Pro
  • Burning DVDs: iMac or Macbook Pro
  • Editing and Encoding Video: iMac
  • Programming and using complex programs: iMac
  • Surfing the Internet on the couch: iPad
  • Gaming: depends on what game you are playing. I am perfectly content with the Sudoku on my phone
  • Bicycle commuting: Macbook Air
  • Cutting food: Macbook Air or iPad 2
What does all of this mean? I will probably buy a new iPhone the week it is released and will probably get a Macbook Air this fall when they will likely release one with a faster processor. Although, I have not played with the new iPad yet and I am very excited about that. I mean, it has a better processor than my computer! I could easily get away with an iMac and iPad instead of a laptop. I want to get the best value and functionality for a system that will last me at least four more years, the phone excluded. I don't know. I'm just thinking out loud. If you have any comments let me know below. 

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