Since it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here, I figured I’d make a brief post on what I’m using these days and how why I’m using those versus some alternative. I think the last time I tried to start this up, I was still using a Surface Pro 3 and a Lumia phone… I think it was probably the 930 or 830 at that point, so let’s dive in…
First up, I’m still using the original generation Surface Book. The spec I’ve got is the i7 CPU w/ 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and the Nvidia graphics base. I haven’t upgraded beyond that, because well… I haven’t really needed to upgrade, and I’ve had a lot of other expenses over the past couple years that have taken priority on my budget. This system still suits the bulk of my needs– web surfing, document editing, multimedia streaming, some VM testing in HyperV, meetings with Zoom (side note: GREAT service!)– but I admit that I’m itching to pull the trigger on something new in the near future, not because the specs don’t meet the needs, but more because I want a different form factor and the Surface Book is actually overkill for my needs now. More on that later in the post…
In the last post, I mentioned switching to Android back in October. In October 2015, I was so gung-ho on Windows 10 Mobile and UWP (Universal) apps, that I went to New York City to Microsoft’s launch event for the Surface Book and Lumia 950 lineup. I was instantly sold on the 950XL, and I was convinced that Microsoft had finally decided to commit to Windows on phones and universal apps and that Continuum would be the future of mobility. I was wrong. They retrenched into mobile isolation, and UWP hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. Even so, I spent about 18 months with the Lumia 950XL, and I quite enjoyed it at the time. I finally switched to the HP Elite x3, not because I was looking to “upgrade” but my 950XL battery needed replaced, the Microsoft Store didn’t have a replacement, and so they offered me a fully refund on my 950XL and Complete Care which paid for the Elite x3 move. The Elite x3, btw, is an EXCELLENT Windows 10 Mobile device, and I even really liked the laptop dock accessory for Continuum. With the right apps, it could have been the perfect mobile experience. Alas, it was not to be… I kept the phone just 7 months (from February 2017 to October 2017) when Microsoft killed off the Groove Music service. This had been my music solution since it was originally known as Zune Music back in 2009 timeframe, and I loved it! To say goodbye after two years of watching W10M dwindle was painful and downright infuriating, so I finally made the decision to look at my options. I had previously bought a Nexus 5X for testing purposes, and since it was made by LG, I decided to give LG a look again since I despise Samsung Galaxy phones. I picked up an unlocked LG G6 for $350, and I immediately enjoyed it, and so in October with the bad news of Groove leaving a sour taste towards Microsoft in my mouth, I pulled the trigger and picked up the LG V30 for myself and moved my wife to the G6. We’re both EXTREMELY happy with the decision. In fact, I was never a big app junky before, but I do find myself enjoying a lot more apps on Android and realizing that I now spend about 85-90% of my personal computing time on the phone now. The cameras are fantastic, the performance is snappy, and the battery life incredible!
And so that brings me back to the computer point of a new computer. As I look at my taskbar on the Surface, I realize that not a single one of the apps pinned or installed is a “Windows exclusive” anymore. Every single one, save for PowerShell and HyperV, are available on Android and are often BETTER on those platforms now (side note: you might remember my series of posts talking about how that wasn’t previously true, but my how times change!). Certainly Skype is superior, Outlook is still mostly better on Windows although Android version is improving, and OneNote is the epitome of universal app building perfection (like seriously, that team should be the ones calling the shots for ALL app teams in Microsoft). Hulu and Sling and WWE Network are all better on Android, and I also have Stargate Command on Android that I don’t have on Windows. And so, as of last fall Google introduced the ability to run Android apps natively on Chrome OS which has me now considering for the first time– a Chromebook! I’m specifically looking at the Samsung Chromebook Pro with m3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. Thanks to OneDrive and Office 365 and Android apps, that configuration is more that sufficient for my needs. I actually played with one at Best Buy a couple weekends ago, and it was buttery smooth even on the m3 processor, which genuinely surprised me! So that’s definitely a purchase in my future, and my Surface Book will be shifted into work-exclusive tasks… a condition that Microsoft seems to be perfectly “OK” with in 2018. Sadly, however, that means I’ll use it MAYBE 2-5 hours/week, if that.
In other areas of tech, I still have my Xbox One… well, I’ve upgraded to the One S in my bedroom and the One X in my living room, and I enjoy them both very much. The media apps are excellent, and the games I play– while fewer and fewer due to time– are excellent. At the same time, however, my shifting views of Microsoft and other parties have me looking around and admiring the Nintendo Switch and the Sony Playstation 4 Pro for a variety of games I can’t otherwise get access to on Xbox… games like Final Fantasy Dissidia and Secret of Mana Remake and Super Mario Odyssey have me really thinking it’s time to move on from the Microsoft stranglehold on my gaming too. Most likely the PS4 will come first– as any platform that has Square-Enix’s undying devotion will ultimately have my strongest devotion… especially with Final Fantasy 7 Remake coming in the future. Nintendo’s console is interesting though, so I might pick one up this year just to enjoy some simpler games like Mario and Zelda.
I also finally started taking a look at more home automation stuff. I switched from the absolutely AWFUL Insteon stuff (which I’d gotten for free), because there was such crappy support from them on any of it. While I wanted to say it was a lack of Windows support– no, it was terrible across the board– even the Android app was just pathetic! I moved to Vera, because I wanted something established and widely compatible with standards-based devices like Z-Wave, and something that I could later integrate with some AI kits like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or Microsoft Cortana. Well, like many things Microsoft tries to do, Cortana has started to fall behind, so rather than get invested there heavily and be disappointed AGAIN, I’m preemptively going to the front-runner– Amazon Alexa. I’m looking to pickup a few Echo Dots soon just to start simple with basic thermostat and lighting manipulation.
So that’s pretty much it– oh, well, I’ve also got two Samsung 4K LED TVs (living room and bedroom)– a Surface Book that I’m planning to replace with a Samsung Chromebook Pro, a move from an HP Elite x3 to an LG V30, and two Xbox Ones, and plans to pickup a PS4 Pro, Switch, and a few Echo Dots. My needs and my tech, much like the times, are a-changing!