Here were his ideas:
- Idea 1:
- Get 1 desktop and 1 laptop. For desktop, I am thinking of iMac rather than a Power Mac (which may be too large and iMac can do the most of PowerMac capability). For laptop, Mac Air may be good and light but it may lack some features like hard-disk, and the number of USB ports.
- Idea 2:
- Get a good laptop, a wireless keyboard & mouse, and a big LCD screen to hook up the laptop wirelessly.
I thought it’d be fun to share my thinking/email.
[My commentary after the jump.]
You can go with either—they’re both great ideas.
Idea 1: Desktop and maybe a laptop
I actually have this setup (2x2Ghz PowerMac G5 and a 15″ MacBook Pro 2.33Ghz Core 2 Duo).
For the desktop, I highly recommend the new iMacs. They’re very stylish and reduce desk clutter. The only exceptions I think are:
- You are doing intensive video processing (or game playing) and need a high powered graphics card.
- You are doing intensive photo, video work or scientific computing and need the RAM.
- You are in graphic design, photo or video production and need two displays.
- You need large, fast storage. If you just need large storage, you don’t need a Mac Pro. Do work on your local drive and then back up to USB, Firewire, or network drives very cheaply—500GB is the best value currently, the 640 GB drives are the “fastest”. I have 2.25 TB accessible via a Drobo over USB (the latest Airport Extreme hubs make them network drives if you like). The Mac Pro has a built in 4 drive system and can install high performance or SAS or RAID cards.
Among the iMacs, I considered getting the 24″ display for Dad because I figure as you get older, the vision gets worse. But I decided that it was too large for the working distance that Dad uses and opted for the 20″ one instead. Go to an Apple Store and see which one you prefer.
For a laptop in this scenario, I suggest the MacBook Air, because it compliments a desktop computer, which you plan on doing a majority of your work. The exceptions are:
- You plan on doing high power computing when mobile (video work, photography, graphic design, gaming, etc.) and need CPU and RAM
- You have firewire devices (video and hard drives) that you plan on attaching to it.
- You have a highly mobile internet solution and require an express card slot for internet access. (I think in the future, people will use their 3G cell phone via bluetooth to replace most of this.)
- You plan on using cabled internet a lot (have corporate firewall) and need the ethernet. Or plan on doing a lot of work between the notebook and your desktop system’s fileshare at the desk.
- The Macbook Air is too costly.
If you get a Macbook Air do not get the solid state drive version. Besides being outrageously expensive and having less storage, it is no faster. SSD is a technology that will be viable in a couple years and may revolutionize mobile computing when it is done right, but not right now.
The basic difference between a MacBook Air and the others is the concept of using the laptop as a mobile computing platform (moving your main computer from location to location) or using a computer as an “use anywhere” extension of a main computer. The MacBook Air is for the latter case.
Idea 2: Single all-purpose laptop
Other than as a file server or scientific computing workstation/webserver, and an accident of my poor choice in relationships, I’ve been on a single-laptop solution since 1993. Since 2002, single laptops actually were viable and since 2006 they have become excellent desktop replacements.
Check out my setup. Basically I leave a power supply, LCD panel, wireless keyboard, wireless mouse, and a USB hub at home and at work—all wired through a dual laptop/monitor stand. I just unplug, drop the laptop in my bag, go to the other location, and plug in. At one location, it is good to keep an external USB or network drive for Time Machine backups in case of computer failure or theft.
Here are few caveats I’ve run into.
- I’ve run into a horrible RAM swap issue when working on photography. My computer has 2GB expandable to 3GB only. I estimate that I need around 8GB do work with Aperture and Photoshop at the same time and at that point, I might have a CPU or, more likely, a memory throughput bottleneck issue on my laptop
- I can no longer use my external SATA drives—or rather, I plan on not using them. I moved to a Drobo for backups and different external setup for direct work. It will never get as fast as a Mac Pro though and sometimes I’m disk bound.
- I have batch jobs to do sometimes, like video compression or photography batches. It’d be nice to offload that onto a machine that can do it without slowing down my work, or when I’m away from my computer. For this sort of work though, a Mac mini would be fine.
I’m sure others can think of other caveats for their needs.
Given this, I’d probably get a Macbook now instead of of a Macbook Pro. The big loss is the graphics horsepower and the ExpressCard slot. I’ve weaned myself away from Firewire 800 dependency.
Whenever you get a computer, no matter where the RAM came from, you’ll want to run memtest or TechTool Pro on the memory to make sure none of the memory is defective. Dealing with the subtle damage defective memory makes is very depressing.
If you get a laptop and are mobile daily, buy a new battery every year and a half. All the power cycles drain the battery and this has only been magnified by the “mag-safe” connector—pardon the pun. You can use Coconut Battery to track and log your battery life. Apple recommends doing a full discharge once a month. By the way, Apple does not have a battery recycling program, but you can exchange them at NewerTech for a discount.
I personally get AppleCare on every laptop I purchase but never on any desktop. I’m very hard on my equipment and have had every notebook I’ve owned go in for at least one repair. If you don’t carry around your laptop daily, you won’t need to do this.