The present and future of computing

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iPads are a luxury and, for me, working on them is still a compromise.

I would say that, as of October 2017, my main computing device is my iPhone 7 Plus. However, the bulk of my “real” computing work takes place on laptops. I keep trying tablets, the best of which is unquestionably the iPad.

I’m a sysadmin at a university. I also co-own a business doing web development and custom coding, turnkey systems, etc.

I’ve also been using the iOS 11 betas on a 9.7” iPad Pro, trying to like the experience.

I like the iPad. iOS 11 is a big step forward.


iPads are a luxury and, for me, working on them is still a compromise.

iPads are great. I recommend them to many people who aren’t tied to traditional PC workloads. Most people don’t ssh into servers. Most people don’t need to troubleshoot networks and configure VPNs. I get it. Facebook, email, even writing, traveling, banking, browsing. There are many things for which the iPad is a worthy replacement to a desktop PC or laptop. However, for me it is full of compromises.

I ordered a ThinkPad late September. 15” full HD IPS for less than $600CDN. It has enough RAM, a decent HD, is upgradeable, and even though it’s probably slower than a current iPad, I know that, with Linux and VirtualBox, I can do everything I need to on it. It was a slightly impulsive purchase, but the amount of machine, ports, and capability for the dollar is shocking, and is a stark contrast to anything Apple sells at the moment, let alone the iPad.

I want to like the iPad. I want to be unshackled by big, “old” laptops. But. For less than half the price of a reasonable iPad Pro, I know I can do everything I need to do now and for the next several years on a device with a great keyboard and a great, big screen.

Two years from now, I can upgrade it and use it for another 5 years.

I recently traveled for work. I forgot to pack my iPad but remembered to pack my 2011 11” MacBook Air. I felt a bit foolish at the time, but really, I knew I could do what I needed with the MacBook, I was less confident about the iPad.

At least for me, none of Apple’s current lineup, except for the iPhone, seem that compelling. Tablets and USB C will be great at some point. In the meantime, my wallet votes for USB A, and boring old keyboard and mouse that gets the job done.

For me, an iPad won’t be a “replacement” or even a reasonable option until I can get a reliable X11 server, X2go, can use any VPN I need to throw at it, and have a great command line experience. So far, the iPad isn’t there yet for me. It reminds me of people looking to move from Windows to desktop Linux who fundamentally are used to and proficient in Windows. “I’d use Linux if it had [Outlook | Photoshop | could play games.]” The goalposts keep shifting. Linux improves on all of these fronts, as the iPad is evolving and improving now, but fundamentally the user just likes Windows. Linux can’t be a replacement for them. Linux isn’t Windows. For me, the iPad is like that. I’d like to use it, but it isn’t the right tool for most of my jobs. It is purposely hobbled by the software choices made by Apple.

I look forward to the future of computing, but we live in the present of computing.

GoSaBe Blog - Oct 10, 2017 | GoSaBe News