Laptop Indecision 2015

One thing that Camp NaNoWriMo is teaching me this year is that I’m done with my 5 year old laptop–and that I need something more powerful than a Chromebook as my daily driver. Pity me, since I now have to shop for a new computer.

I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to two machines: the Dell XPS 13 (2015 edition), and a 13″ Mac Book Air.

So here’s the thing: I like Windows 7 just fine. I like my Windows-based password keeper software just fine. In fact, I have a whole bunch of programs like it set up to run from my USB stick so that I can have access to them while I’m at work regardless of whether I’m on the desk or off. (Librarians, unlike regular people, have to share computers at work. On a typical day, I might use any one of five identical business grade HP Compaq all-in-ones that are on the service desks and in my cubicle. It makes many web-based applications annoying to use because of the constant logging in and logging out.)

As a result, my default choice for an OS is Windows. The trouble is Windows 8.1. True, Windows 10 is coming out “soon,” but until then if I buy this or any other new Windows laptop, I’m going to be stuck with The Abomination of 8.1 for a few months at least.

The alternative is of course a Mac. If you know me, you know I have grumpy feelings about Apple. It’s not that I’m a lifetime Mac hater; my first laptop was a PowerBook 145b. I used to read the MacMall catalog for fun, dammit. My problems aren’t with the hardware, either. Macs are beautiful machines, and they seem to hold up pretty well. I just have issues with how controlling Apple is about everything. I used to dream of buying an iPod when they first came out. And then I installed iTunes, which would not ignore a, an, or the in the beginning of an artist’s name when sorting tracks. Alphabetizing by those words when they are at the beginning of a title is anathema to librarians, and I got so angry about it that I deleted iTunes and started using WinAmp again. I also didn’t appreciate the fact that they have censored books in the iBook store, such as a gay kiss in the graphic novel version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. I feel like they err on the side of being kid safe and Mom approved and that deeply worries me.

I know that Microsoft isn’t exactly made of unicorns crapping freedom, stars, and rainbows, but I feel like my Windows computers have always had more choices and I like to keep my options open.

But,Windows 8.1 is so horrible. Did you know that you use your mouse’s scroll wheel to move from left to right through your list of apps? THAT IS INSANE.

It comes down to this: should I buy the XPS 13 and just deal with 8.1 until 10 is released? Or do I buy the 13″ Mac Book Air? They’re basically the same computer, just slightly different specs and two different OSes.

I have no idea what the best answer for me is. Every time I think I’m close to deciding, I can’t pull the trigger either way. Nothing is perfect, but $1200 is a lot of money either way and for that kind of price, I’d like to LOVE what I’m getting.

What kind of computer do you use? If you live a cross-platform life, how do you handle things like password keepers and work-home computer compatibility?

2 thoughts on “Laptop Indecision 2015

  1. Well, you probably already know my leanings, but two questions. One, what do you have against the ChromeBook? What does it not do that you need? I am loving my ChromeBook and starting to believe that it is my perfect writing machine. About the only thing it doesn’t do for me is let me do high-quality photo-editing or copying of recordings from CD. Both of those are things I need to do for my web and podcasting work.

    My second question would be along the same lines, but basically, what do you want to do with this laptop?

    The reason I ask is that both machines are actually good machines. The two big differences are that the Mac is of higher quality. It will last longer. Our replacement cycle at MUSC is three years for PCs and four years for Macs. That is because the Macs just stay functional and productive longer.

    The other difference is, of course, the operating systems. You can get Office and such on both machines, but there are a few other programs, like Quicken and Microsoft Access, that are either not available on the Mac or are not functionally equivalent.

    So, the first thing to do is figure out where your software will and won’t run. The second thing is to try to anticipate how long you want to keep the machine and how much you can afford. Of course you should also type a while on both, since you are a writer, and figure out which keyboard you like better.

    OK, last question. Why do you carry your info around on a USB key instead of using Chrome’s ability to sign in and follow you everywhere? That is what I do so I have I keep so much stuff in GoogleDrive. My bookmarks, my documents, everything follows me everywhere.

    OK, blathered on too long. Sorry!

    • No worries! These are all very good points and worth thinking about.

      It’s not that I dislike the Chromebook. (I’m actually writing on it right now!) It’s an almost perfect blogging machine except for the lack of photo editing capabilities that you mentioned. My laptop only gets a workout when there is not a Chromebook alternative for what I’m trying to do. These days that’s photo editing, editing my password keeper, using the Nook for PC app and um…acquiring…HD copies of new Doctor Who episodes from the Internets. I would also like to try using Scrivener for writing, and of course that won’t run on a Chromebook.

      Part of the problem with my poor Chromebook is that it’s just simpler to have one computer. Having lots of devices, gadgetry, and clutter has never increased my engagement with hobbies or helped me achieve my goals. What has helped is getting one really good tool and using it. Fewer but better, and all of that.

      What I want to do with it is a really good question. It needs to do everything listed above, plus run genealogy software, MS Office, and maybe experiment with podcasting or editing short video. (That last thing? Honestly, I’m never gonna get to that part of my bucket list.)

      I really would like to test the keyboards of both, but the XPS 13 is harder to find locally. Reviews are a bit mixed on the keyboard, but since I have tiny hands and many reviewers have big dude hands, it’s hard to know which reviews to listen to.

      The stuff on the USB stick is purely because of the computer set up on the desk at work. I have signed into Chrome on the desk, but if I walk away to help a patron, my desk partner could well need to use that computer while I’m away. Eww! I just don’t want my colleagues (or heaven forbid, the general public) poking around the Internet while using my Google account. It just feels gross. The PC in my cube is signed into Chrome, thank God. That makes stuff way easier.

      I’ve had really good luck making Windows machines last 4-5 years. It’s just like Android phones: if you spend the money on better hardware up front and don’t screw around with crapware all of the time (or terrible OS updates like Win 8!), you get better results. 🙂

      It’s just time to make a decision and try one. If it doesn’t work out, I can just sell the thing on eBay and move on, right?