Back to technology for a moment…

As we start 2012, I find it a good time to reflect. In this case, on some of the technologies in my life. Some are little things, like I introduced one of my colleagues to the concept of multitouch just last Friday. Some are larger (for me), like how I ended the year without a PC in my home dedicated to my use for the first time since 1994. Plus, it’s just nice to think about tech for a while as opposed to some of the other things we have going on.

I have a very technology centric life and lifestyle. My family are all very plugged in. Many of my friends either technology workers or enthusiasts. Despite that, several of the technologies we’re using at home have changed this year.

Thing number one – as a family we’ve gone mobile more than I expected. At the start of the year, we had 10 computers in the home (not counting virtual machines). Now we’re down to 6. VMs and mobile devices have filled the gap.

Number two – Apple is more insidious than I suspected. My wife the PC lover now rarely uses her laptop in favor of her iPad.

Number three – although the total number of devices on our network continues to grow, we’re no longer adding computers, but instead new consumer electronic devices that are network enabled.

I was really surprised that our computer count went down. We’ve had 10 computers in one form or another for a long time. While our count of physical servers remained steady at two, each of the family members have gone from two computers to one. My wife went first, giving up her workstation in favor of her laptop. This was not much of a stretch, as her PC had received little use since moving from Tennessee. The computer was used seldom in the house she and the kids rented in August of 2010, and we didn’t even set it up in the new house we moved into in June. It now lives in the garage, to eventually be parts. Both of our kids had a Mac Mini, and a PC laptop. The Macs because I got tired of rebuilding their PCs when they were too young to not click on everything the Internet sent their way. The laptops came later when the kids became enamored with games and programs that weren’t available for the Macs. The Macs saw less and less use, and eventually my wife (who was never a Mac fan) was happy to put the minis up on Craigslist, leaving the children with one computer apiece.

Finally, I lost my workstation when the power supply failed. Since I didn’t want to invest in a new power supply, and replace the computer’s case and video card fans that were also loud and  begging for replacement, I pulled the hard drive and connected it to my Macbook with a USB dock.

With all the VMs on my Macbook, the only regrets so far have been the monumental task of moving my iTunes library, and the fact that I can no longer leave apps running when I’m not home. I take my Macbook everywhere, which for example means the family can’t access my iTunes library when I am away.

My son doesn’t seam to miss his Mac mini because – surprise – he now has an iPod touch. He now only goes to his laptop for homework and for a couple of games he plays. Much of his web surfing, game playing, and email are all on the touch. Sometimes we have to work to get his attention, but he also spends more time out with the family, and less time in his room (other than to play legos).

My daughter uses her laptop less as well. Not because she has moved to a mobile device, but because she doesn’t need it as much. Her use of her laptop is mostly videos – DVDs, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. She can do all of these things from either of our blu-ray players, and get a bigger screen to boot. Like my son she still uses the laptop for games, but she doesn’t find it convenient to lug the laptop around just to watch iCarly clips.

My wife was the biggest change. Windows fan and Mac hater, she gave up her PC and now almost never uses her Dell laptop. Instead, at home, at the ice rink, and at the karate studio, her iPad is her constant companion. When she is otherwise out and about, she uses her iPhone.

All of this may sound very much like I have jumped on the “The PC is Dead” bandwagon. I admit, there was a time when I was always about the bigger and better PC. I used my workstation for entertainment, for work, to consume media,  and to keep in touch with others. My desk was usually my first and last stop whenever I wanted to perform any of those tasks. While my MacBook Pro has replaced my PC, I still use it as my go to device for almost all of my technology needs. This makes me more of an outlier these days.

Despite this, I don’t believe that we are moving to an explicitly “mobile computing” environment. I think instead that we are moving more to a “convenience computing” model. Yes, tablets, smart phones, and netbooks have made mobile computing the new buzzwords. The addition of cloud to the mix only accelerates the speed in which people are willing to cast their traditional computer aside in favor of their portable devices.  However, I think people instead desire the ability to access their data of choice no matter what device may be handy to do so. Pandora and Netflix built into televisions, web surfing from gaming consoles, and e-mail from Kindles are all examples of moving not necessarily towards mobility, but to convenience.

Just because I can post a tweet from a PSP doesn’t mean that is the optimal use for that device – it just means that’s what was in my hand when the mood struck me to do so. In a society of convenience, we no longer want the best tool for the job, we want the tool in hand to do whatever we want at that moment.

And we only want to carry one tool at a time…

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