Many Screens, Many Advantages, Many Disadvantages
I am writing this in my home office with a 23 inch flat panel monitor and an ergonomic keyboard while sitting in an ergonomic chair.
I have lots of other screens in the house that I could be doing this on.
In our basement TV room, I’ve got older laptop that I sometimes use to look up stuff on IMDB. On the main floor, I’ve got a Google Chrome netbook with a 10 inch screen and an OK but small keyboard. I also usually bring home from work my new iPad and Logitech keyboard/cover that has a smaller keyboard. In the master bathroom I have a Kindle Fire that I often use to read in the hot tub. And I have a Samsung Epic with a sliding keyboard. (I’m not bragging here. I got the netbook as part of Google’s Chrome beta and I won the Kindle as a door prize at a conference. Plus the jets on the hot tub haven’t worked in years.)
So why did I choose to write these few hundred words on a full-featured Windows 7 system?
Well I guess the first reason is I’m a Boomer. I grew up with full-size keyboards (and blew my wrists out on a crappy Compaq laptop back in the ‘90s) and can type 70+ words a minute on them. If I were a Millennial, I probably wouldn’t even have a home office setup.
Plus in my home office, I have the computer (a hot ASUS laptop) connected to a real stereo system so Spotify sounds great and I can crank it up while listening to the latest albums recommended by Rolling Stone (again, a Boomer). I can also more easily multitask doing things like digitizing my old record albums (yes, I’m pathetic) or printing off a draft of my latest book (glad you asked: It’s called The Infinite Pipeline: How to Master Social Media for Business-to-Business Sales Success and it’s available at http://bit.ly/InfPipe).
Why Other Screens Don’t Make It
Here are the rest of my screens, in descending order of uselessness for real work.
I have fat fingers and that’s why my smart phone has a keyboard. I can compose a few lines for a text message or quick Facebook post, but I can’t get into flow. The phone is good when I’m out and about but I’d never do serious work on it.
Due to fat fingers, the virtual keyboard on the Kindle is infuriating, as is the Kindle itself. It’s so close to being a usable tablet and yet, not so much. Selecting text is a horrible struggle, yet I’m able to accidentally select the whole passage I’m typing and type over it quite easily. As an experiment, I brought the Kindle as my only screen when I went to a trade show. After doing the dance of the disappearing text three times while composing an email, I gave up and waited until I was back in my room in the safety of my laptop.
The Kindle is a good eReader, though, and it’s nice to be able to quickly check my email (once again, I’m a Boomer) or Facebook while engaged in other activities.
The old laptop in the basement runs Windows Vista, Microsoft’s biggest mistake since Millennium Edition (ME). The laptop runs hot and I haven’t paid to install the Microsoft Office Suite on it so I use Open Office. Open Office is all right, but there are some quirks and incompatibilities that often bug me. Plus the couch is old and not conducive to long stretches of work.
The iPad with the fantastic Logitech keyboard is a new addition and I really do like the iPad. The keyboard is usable and I can touch type on it. But the iPad lacks an easy and quick way to transfer files (sorry, uploading and downloading from the cloud is no alternative to quickly running a file off on a USB drive) and I’m not interested in buying iWorks or another app to have limited MS Word editing functionality.
Before the iPad, the Chrome netbook was my go-to mobile solution. It has a 10 inch screen with decent readability and it’s not glossy like the iPad’s so I can actually use it while sitting out on the porch. The fact that everything has to run in a browser is a bit of a limitation, though. I’ve grown to love Microsoft’s SkyDrive, which gives you plenty of cloud storage and pretty decent cloud-based versions of the Office suite.
I couldn’t edit the book on the Chrome though because SkyDrive doesn’t handle complex or large documents all that well. Infinite Pipeline is 192 pages long with lots of charts and images. My attempts to write or edit the book document via SkyDrive were frustrating. The cloud is still not a replacement for installed software, in my opinion.
That said, I’ve done a lot of work on the netbook and it pretty much has supplanted the old notebook in the basement. Its battery runs for longer than pretty much any of my other mobile screens and the keyboard, despite lacking Caps Lock functionality out of the box, has some interesting features such as dedicated last page, next page and window switching buttons.
So I’ve got lots of options, but none of them run Photoshop; none of them have a large display useful for video editing; and only the Windows-based screens can access my local network, where all my stuff is, including almost 700GB of my digitized CD and vinyl collection (saved uncompressed as WAV files).
Plus, and here’s a big drawback, some of these screens don’t work at all without a wireless connection. Sprint service is horrible at my house, so my phone has to use the Wi-Fi a lot. The Kindle needs Wi-Fi but it is abysmal at connecting and staying connected. I’ve only had the iPad a couple of weeks, and it’s got Verizon LTE 4G connectivity (for a ridiculously expensive $60 a month) and haven’t yet had a problem with connectivity. The Chrome netbook has Wi-Fi and came with a special free 100MB per month Verizon 3G account that I understand is going to end soon. Without the 3G, the netbook’s usefulness is constrained by access to free Wi-Fi when I’m out and about.
So for writing a thousand words, the full-featured laptop/home office situation is best. For mobile, I’m liking the iPad more and more. The real test will be when I want to take notes (I take copious notes) at a trade show or conference.
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