It’s time to rethink my computing paradigm.
For the past year or two (I honestly don’t keep track of time anymore; it’s rather irrelevant) I have been using an iPhone, an iPad and a MacBook Air to handle my computing needs, in that order. What Steve and Tim say about the “Post-PC Era” is true; I have far greater need of instant-on, portable, long-battery devices than a traditional computer.
However, I’m still burdened by traditional computer rules. For instance: I have a Mac to house most of my important data and programs, locally. My iPhone has been crashing lately, and my iPad takes an awful lot of time to restore from an iCloud backup. At least, it takes an awful lot of time on my current internet connection.
I worry sometimes that I’m going to lose track of my photographs, but I really only take them to share them, and often forget them as soon as they’ve been posted to Path/Twitter/Instagram/Facebook. I’m not a sentimental person.
While I still have a great need for Pages and Numbers for Mac at times, most of my creation is handled by my iPad. The iPad has made me more creative, inspiring me to take up graphic design and to record the first pieces of music I’ve really cared about in over a year. Or so.
The problem I’m facing is one of storage, syncing, and prioritization. My iTunes media library has grown massive, trying to maintain a record of all my songs (which can now be retrieved on-demand via iTunes Match), movies (which I nearly always pass over in favor of the latest offerings from Netflix) and apps (which need to be stored locally, why?) My documents occupy just a little more space than a free Dropbox account can hold and my pictures are an unruly mess spread across several iPhoto and Aperture libraries.
Now that iPhoto exists for iPad, I see even less reason to care about them on my computer, except for storage.
Storage is primarily handled by a three-year-old 1TB hard drive by Western Digital. I have a lot of anxiety about that hard drive failing and losing all of my precious collection of data, but as I’ve just outlined, most of that data is obsolete. I need a redundant copy the same way I need a savings account: if everything goes to hell, I need a way to get back out.
Most of the programs I use were purchased through the Mac App Store, meaning that they have little reason to live on my computer except as I demand them. In fact, there’s little reason for any of it to live on my computer. My games consist of Minecraft and OnLive; both of which have impossibly small footprints.
I have a pocket-sized external hard drive that is roughly twice the size of my onboard storage. It houses my most recent Time Machine backup, mostly due to the fact that my 2TB Western Digital MyBook Live is notoriously unreliable and maintaining a consistent backup history. Biweekly I get the message from my Mac that my Time Machine backup could not be verified.
My computer has become cluttered and bloated. My digital lifestyle focuses primarily on my iPhone and my iPad, farming some of the more technically demanding work out to the more sophisticated applications available on the Mac, like Hulu Plus shows that won’t run on my mobile device and Minecraft, with the occasional tweaks and advanced options available in the desktop versions of Pages, Numbers, iMovie, etc.
The most valuable thing I can think to do with my computer at the moment is use it for an iPhone/iPad repository, to hold one periodical local backup in the event that a restore from iCloud takes too long. It also needs to house a localized copy of my photo archives, even if that only means using it as an intermediary between my iOS devices and an external hard drive.
The programs I could take or leave. Few applications are large enough to take more than the slightest bit of forethought to redownload and implement. In fact, I’m sure I wouldn’t miss three quarters of the ones I have installed.
There’s really no reason at all to hold on to a local music collection, except for the odd dozen or so albums that couldn’t be matched on iTunes. Same goes for my movie library; I never watch them anymore. My life would be simpler if I didn’t have to connect to an external hard drive every time I wanted to launch iTunes or iPhoto.
And I really should clean house when it comes to my documents. How many college papers do I really need, seeing as I’ve only ever read one of them more than once?
It’s time to clean house. One last Time Machine backup in case I lose my nerve, and it’s time to wipe out my computer and reinstall the operating system from scratch.
It’s time to rethink the way I think about my computer. It’s not the digital hub anymore; it’s a specialized device that does some things better than my other devices, but is vastly inferior to them for other tasks.
I’m going to erase my hard drive and install Lion fresh. I’m only going to install programs on an as-needed basis from the Mac App Store. I’m going to make my iPhoto Library local, and cull it to make sure it only has pictures I care about. I don’t intend to rely on my externals for anything except for the odd Time Machine backup, and I may actually start paying DropBox for the privilege of keeping all of my documents in one infinitely accessible place. After all, my iPad has LTE now.
I encourage you, dear reader, to honestly evaluate what you do with your computer and your other devices. Don’t waste time or space, because a cluttered workspace clouds the mind. I want everything to be clear and transparent.
It’s time to rethink my computing paradigm