Seachange In 2019

Forgive me for a bit of navel-gazing, but it's been one whirlwind year. I was living in the UK, now I'm not. I was working in one industry, now I'm working in a completely different one. I was using Apple products full time, now I'm living in a multiple-OS bizzaro land. So much of my day-to-day has been turned upside down; now feels like as good a time as any to write about some of my changing technology. (I'll leave the specific applications I use for another day I'll just focus on hardware and operating environments for now.)

I still have a great affinity for the sense of purpose/vision of Apple. Their hardware is beautiful, refined and is generally (save their recent keyboards) reliable. There's a uni-body MacBook or two still kicking around the house from 2008! (No, they are not security supported, but they are still workable, viable machines even today.)

That said, I've moved onto a cheapo, salvaged Lenovo ThinkPad T440s. Yes, I know I should have gotten the T440p, but this was a better deal and some kind soul did all the mods I was going to do anyway.) It's got an i7 (4600U), 12GB of RAM and an okay-ish 256GB SDD. If you're keeping score at-home these specs aren't setting the world on fire, but I spend most of my time in a terminal hammering out web code, what more could I ask for :D

I've been running various forms of Arch Linux as my distro of choice. (Currently I am running an Arch derivative called Manjaro which has most of the benefits of Arch Linux for those people who have to get on with their day). There's no reason I need the bleeding-edge, rolling release operating system, but I've convinced myself that I'm a Wayland person-thing. And being the unreasonable person-thing that I am, means that none of the software I use for my Desktop Environment/Window Manager is included in more stable repositories.

Speaking of Desktop Environments, I've given up trying to make too much of a statement and I install Gnome as a base, yet never boot into it. I use Sway as a window manager instead. It tiles all the windows. I have to set their size, position, workspace, etc., but generally it fills up the maximum amount of space with a window and I swap between them mouselessly. Honestly, not that different from the limited window managing on iPadOS (ugh these names).[1] It saves my wrists, I look like a 1337 H4X0R and there are so few things to customize that I can paradoxically invest all my time into customizing them (see the aptly named r/unixporn thread on Reddit).

I still use an iPhone X. I will pick up the next round of iPad Pros. Navigating between these devices and my laptop is not as seamless as relying on iCloud, but not terribly painful either. I setup a Nextcloud instance on a Digital Ocean Droplet and that's how I sync documents, pictures, whatever between them. (Moving this onto my own infrastructure using a Raspberry Pi 4 is my next little project, more to come.) Honestly, almost everything has a cloud relationship these days, so migrating between OSs has been pretty painless. It's a huge pain in the butt to re-login to all of my services, but beyond a few moments of pain everything starts right up where I left off.

There are a few applications which are still iOS/MacOS only, but it turns out that using my phone alongside my computer is fine.

I have a long-in-the-tooth 2011 MacMini that gets fired up for some legacy software. I worry that it's no longer receiving security patches. Perhaps it will go the way of becoming a Wireguard server, or perform some media center function, who knows. I'd set it up as a NAS, but it doesn't support USB3 unfortunately. Sad to see a machine I once used daily to sit idle.

After all that, I'm pretty happy. It could be smoother, sure. But I am self aware enough to realize that I don’t actually want 100% stability; I enjoy tinkering with my setup and different applications.

Have a suggestion or some cool cross platform software to try out? Let me know. I'm open to try anything these days.

  1. Maybe that's how I got so comfortable with a tiling WM... I don't I don't think I've ever really thought about it. ↩︎


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