My Laptop Died, Now What?

A few weeks ago my 3rd generation Intel Core I7 Asus ultrabook started showing signs of end of life.  It decided that it would power off when it felt like it.  This meant it was time for a new machine.  On the day the Asus died, I went out and grabbed a Toshiba Chromebook 2. I figured for under $300 I would have a machine that at least turned on while I figured out which laptop would be mine.

It took some work to make the Chromebook work for me, but the hardware was really impressive for the price.  This Toshiba model has a gorgeous 1080p IPS screen and 4GB of RAM.  It also did a nice job of filling in for the short term.  I could not have a device that required me to remote into other machines for so much be my daily driver.  That said, it was a very pleasant experience.  When it comes to lower end hardware, there was nothing else like it in the same class for that price.  No Windows machine in that range had those specs.  Did I mention the gorgeous screen?

Now onto the big decision.  I had a few models in mind, and looked online at the Microsoft store to see if I was missing anything.  I made a trip to both Best Buy and the Microsoft store as well.  In my mind I was going between a Dell XPS, the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3, and the Surface Pro 3.  I wanted a lightweight machine, but also wanted some power.  A great screen, SSD, and at least 8GB of RAM was a must.  At the Microsoft Store it became quite evident.  Most of the machines, even at the high end, feel like crap.  The Dell XPS 13 touchpad felt like a cheap piece of plastic as did the whole area you rest your wrists while typing.  The Yoga was a little better, but the Core M processor scared me a little bit.  I also was not sure about the feel of the item.  So at this point I was looking at the Surface Pro 3.  There was one thing however that caught my eye at Best Buy.  That was the MacBook Pro Retina 13.  Forget the OS and the software for a moment.  Outside of the Surface Pro 3 I could not find one standard clamshell Windows laptop that you could put next to that machine, and have it stand up on the hardware side.  After a few hours of beating myself up for going in this direction I bought the MacBook Pro, and a week later I could not be happier.  I figured I could always install Windows if that was the direction I wanted to go, and I would have it on top in class hardware.  The reason I went this direction over the Surface was the old lap problem that the Surface products have.

I am going to go more into my thoughts on the software and OS later, but here are a few quick bits. The Microsoft apps are severely lacking outside of One Note.  I am an Exchange user for both my personal and work accounts, and find they work better in the built in Apple apps compared to Outlook.  Everything else I need is running great, and I came to a realization after being in the Windows ecosystem for years.  While Windows has the tools we consider apps for work today (or yesterday), the apps of the future are all being written for OS X first.  Even things like Evernote and Wunderlist which I used on Windows look better and work better on the Mac.  I am not sure when this happened, because being a Windows guy I missed this, but something has changed in the last four years since the last time I really used a Mac for any amount of time.  Maybe it is the marketshare for higher end machines that is leading to this, could be the users willing to pay more for software, or are we finally seeing the dominance of iOS in the enterprise creep in the rest of the users work life?

Android and “Continuity”

One of the big features Apple is promoting in their upcoming iOS 8 mobile operating system and OS X “Yosemite” desktop operating system is the ability to connect all of your Apple devices. They are calling it “Continuity”.  This feature will allow you to answer your phone, respond to texts, and receive other notifications from any of your Apple items.  This seems like a nice feature, and is a great way for Apple to push you even further into their ecosystem.  I can tell you how great this is because I have been doing something similar for a while on the Android side.
If you are an Android user and want some of these type of controls, here are some tools that will make this happen.

  • Push Bullet – Push Bullet will show you all of your Android notifications on your desktop, allow you to move links, pictures, etc. back and forth, let you receive and reply to text messages from your desktop, and even send items to other Push Bullet users from your mobile or desktop devices.
  • MightyText – MightyText is a mobile app that works with a Chrome extension that notifies you of incoming calls and messages.  You can respond to your SMS messages from the Chrome extension.  If you have an Android tablet you can also send and receive text messages from your tablet using MightyText.

  • IFTTT – IFTTT is a service that allows you to connect and automate a ton of activities.  You can set up different triggers to notify you at any time.  

  • Google Chrome – Yes the browser! Using the browser with extensions like those above makes the whole thing work.  Unlike Apple’s rendition of this, you can use Chrome and these extensions across all platforms.  You don’t need a MacBook or iPad to use these features.  

In a prior blog post, I talked about how I was moving to iOS because all of my services work better there.  However this week, I have been having second thoughts.  This post is one of those reasons.  I don’t just use Apple products. I am writing this post on a laptop running the Ubuntu flavor of Linux, and spend a lot of time in the Windows ecosystem as well.  Cross platform is important, and these tools work really well.  So another restless night ahead, tossing and turning, wondering which device I should get this week.  Do I make that jump back to iOS, do I get the next MotoX, or do I get that big beautiful screen that is the LG G3?  I know the world awaits my decision, so I will make sure to keep everyone updated.

I will talk more about this on a new podcast I am a host of.  Go check out our first few episodes of The Agnostic Tech Podcast.  Let me know your thoughts on this topic in the comments, or on Twitter @RealDarrenCohen.