After going from the extreme of having too many computers at home to manage (I think people underestimate the “management overhead” involved of having more than a desktop and notebook), I’m finally approaching a more reasonable state.
Just a few days ago I shut down a Windows notebook (Thnkpad T61) whose only apparent purpose was to drive my Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 for dealing with bills and stuff. Since it was hooked up to a dedicated monitor and had its own desk, it consumed way more space that a notebook normally would. All I really used it for was scanning documents into my Dropbox folder.
This all happened because my main “work” computer at home, a Dell Optiplex 760 with dual 1600×1200 displays decided to eat its own hard disk. According to the date on the disk, it’s not very old. But it stopped working. And faced with the prospect of setting it back up, I asked myself why I REALLY ran Linux on that machine anyway. So much of my work is remote, and I could always install a little Linux VM on there using VirtualBox anyway.
So after a week or so of on and off deliberation, I decided to drop a spare 3 year old 750GB disk in the Optiplex, install Windows 7 using a spare license I had, and attach the scanner to that machine. This allowed me to free up that ThinkPad, retiring it to a small stack of notebook computers on the shelf that I no longer use.
What I realized in doing this is that after installing Windows 7, there really aren’t that many other applications I need to be productive. I installed Mozille Firefox, Google Chrome, PuTTY, IZarc, WinSCP, VIM, VLC, iTunes, SumatraPDF, PDFCreator, Picasa, Dropbox, Skype, and VirtualWin. That really doesn’t take long.
Since I’d been putting all my important data (aside from Photos and Music, which are about 110GB combined) in Dropbox anyway, it’s not hard to move from one machine to the other. The only thing remotely tricky was migrating the Picasa databases correctly so that all the face recognition training came along.
This means that my real “working set” of computers is down to 3 or 4, which is another way of saying that I’d like to remove one more machine from the list. Now I have a desktop running Windows 7, a home “server” running Linux, a personal notebook running Windows 7, and a work laptop running Linux. (I’m not counting our “TV Computer” which is used almost exclusively for Netflix and watching other videos we’ve archived.)
If I can find a good way to combine the two notebooks, I’ll be quite happy with this arrangement. I’ve done some experiments both ways with that so far but am not sufficiently happy with how any of them have turned out yet. If I hit upon a winning combination, I’ll be sure to document that.
It’s interesting to note how many of my problems could be solved by some good file syncing tools and apps that natively “get” that their file may be synced between multiple machines. I suspect that this push toward data in the cloud may be the thing that gets people designing stuff that in the mindset, except that I won’t be running the app on my computer anymore. What’d I’d absolutely love in the meantime is an option in Dropbox where I can sync certain folders among my computers WITHOUT a copy in the cloud. I really have no interest in paying for 100+GB of storage to keep my music and pictures synced. (I’m more than happy to have an offsite backup of my scanned documents, however.) Windows Live Sync used to be pretty good for that, but it’s been replaced with something that is, in my experience, slower buggier, and less transparent. I don’t understand what happened there.