[FoRK] The trend away from desktop computers

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Sat Jul 21 10:25:50 PDT 2007

On Jul 21, 2007, at 4:14 AM, Adam L Beberg wrote:

> I give web 2.0 another few years before they figure that out. By  
> then the iPhone and related devices will have replaced laptops,  
> which are replacing desktops.

^are replacing^have replaced, for many serious users.

My decision 7 years or so ago to begin living *strictly* on my laptop  
for all purposes (coincidental to my switch to Mac) is probably the  
single most significant / impactful life-hack I've ever managed.   
(The second, made at the same time, was to "drink the Kool-Aid" w/  
the Mac, i.e., to force myself to exclusively use the Apple-provided  
tools (Mail.app, Safari, etc.) rather than seek better 3rd-party  
alternatives.  This reduces impedance mismatch and ongoing search /  
maintenance costs and improves productivity at the occasional expense  
of desirable functionality, e.g. Greasemonkey.)  A great example of  
empowering constraints in action...  The decision to live only on the  
laptop actually changed not only everything about my workflow and  
lifestyle -wrt- tech, but my entire point of view about where the  
whole computing industry was / should be headed.

Whereas before I was deeply concerned about certain problems (like  
how to maintain a single, consistent, replicated environment across a  
range of machines --- part of the motivation for the original  
Deepfile concept, in fact) I suddenly got to completely ignore the  
multi-machine / decentralization syndrome.  This also significantly  
reduced my interest in Web apps, as in many ways those are a  
substitute for a self-contained computing environment that you almost  
always have with you.

Nowadays I again have a desktop (was a Mini, now a left-over G5 tower  
so that I can drive multiple monitors) at work, but I use it only to  
drive a couple of big displays that I use to run various read-mostly  
market monitoring tools, CNBC on VLC, etc.  I don't keep any data on  
that box, and indeed don't even have a keyboard and mouse hooked up.   
I use Teleport (a virtual kvm sort of thing - cf. http://abyssoft.com/ 
software/teleport/ - HIGHLY recommended!  It even syncs clipboards.   
Mac only.  There are a few cross-platform options that supposedly  
work across Linux / Windows / Mac, but all of them that I tried were  
very flaky on the Mac.) on the laptop and desktop in order to drive  
the desktop from my laptop's keyboard and trackpad when needed.  No  
plugging / unplugging the laptop when I get to my desk or leave, just  
snap it shut and go.

The laptop contains everything of interest, and is regarded as the  
canonical "source" of my entire computing environment.  I've got a  
simplified .dotfile setup that I use across the Linux cluster, etc.,  
but even there my home directory is as minimal as I can make it;   
i.e., the environment is the laptop --- the cluster (and other  
computing resources) are just that, CPU farms, interfaces to specific  
functionality (e.g. at home, the Mini that is the media server, etc.)

I doubt that true mobiles --- phones, etc. --- are going to be able  
to displace laptops as desktop replacements, at least until we have  
decent HUDs and some (perhaps inherently impossible) new form of  
text / navigation input is invented that has the same benefits of  
keyboard + pointer.  The "form factor / application" thread sort of  
touched on my issue / concern there...  I suspect that the need for a  
keyboard and pointing device is deeply embedded in all application  
domains that require significant data input or complex data  
manipulation.  So the laptop may well be the ideal balance between  
need to consolidate on a single machine, need for (some, though  
limited relative to e.g. phone) mobility, and need for various  
hardware / form factor / ergo functionality (significant display real  
estate, keyboard, and pointing device.)

jb


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