Replacing my desktop with the iPad Pro

The Story:
I’m due to replace my 5 year old iMac at work. I’ve been putting it off mostly because it works and I don’t like the hassle of changing computers. I’ve been using an iPad Air (first gen) with a Logitech keyboard cover as a travel computer for conferences, offsite meetings, and vacations and I recently realized that, as a technology director who no longer does regular coding on software projects, I could probably do my entire job from the iPad, in a pinch. It’s not the most productive or pleasing way to work a long day , but it was _possible_. When I put my hands on the iPad Pro (the perils of working next door to an Apple Store) I realized that now not only could I do most of my job from an iPad, I could possibly even enjoy it.

I read a handful of articles where other people have attempted to “replace a laptop” with the new jumbo sized iPad and failed. Inevitably it came down to some important task that the author just couldn’t complete. With high-power exceptions like video editing and other such pro applications aside, I think this is largely a matter of the evolution of good software. I decided to buy the coffee-table-tablet and give it two weeks of honest effort to ignore my desktop as much as possible. I’m using the blog to document how this experiment has changed or impacted my workflow, and especially to notice places where I end up needing a “real” computer.

The Stack:
I manage a team that is 50% remote developers and 50% local, but often at home (do I smell?). We use [Slack](, [GitHub](, [Lighthouse](, [Pivotal Tracker](, and the occasional [Google Doc]( to do our work. Slack and PT have good local apps, the others I use in-browser. [Webex]( or Google Hangouts for group calls, depending on our mood and what seems to be working that day.

I manage up and sideways work with e-mail and meetings.

**DAY 1**
What didn’t work:
1. A co-worker sent me a link to a great Medium article in Slack. I click the link, which takes me to the browser. The article is not available, I’m told. I try again. I go to the Medium home page (which does load), and search by the title. It doesn’t show up. I’m not sure that search is working. Eventually I log in to my desktop for the first time today, click the link, and the article loads fine. This seems like a Medium issue (perhaps with their fancy#urls but I don’t know for sure).
2. Printing. We don’t have Apple-friendly printers, so I install [HandyPrint]( on my desktop to expose it’s printers to my iPad. It doesn’t work yet because the printers are only available on the wired network and I had to put the desktop onto the wireless network to share with the iPad. In a more sane network setup the printers would be available over our staff wireless, and this wouldn’t be an issue, but for now this is currently unresolved.

What did work:
1. Communication – I’m in Slack and email all day, with a heavy dose of OmniFocus. For general communication, this was all fine. The Smart Keyboard feels a little funny when I sit on the couch with it in my lap, as I’m doing while writing this, but on the desk it seems very much like I’ll get used to it.
2. Multitasking – This is what sold me on the beast when I first laid my sweaty hands on it in the store. Email with Slack on the side? Slack with OmniFocus on the side? Web browser with email on the side? The flexibility of the 2-app screen really suits the ways that I work, giving me a heads up on group chatter while processing other work. I know this is obviously possible on a desktop too, but what I needed was…
3. Not _too_ much multitasking. – After 5 years of dual-display madness, with browser tabs, chat tools, email, terminal windows and text editors strewn about like Christmas wrapping paper after my kids have their way with our tree, I feel ready for a change. Limiting myself to one or two windows has, at least after one day, actually improved my focus. I can’t claim to be working on these files while also contemplating the 15 open tabs, at least one of which is displaying social media activity as it comes in. Some people use modal, or full-screen windows on their laptops or desktops, but many apps don’t look their best blown out to giant screens, so I never adopted that practice. The iPad apps fit better in their space, whether it’s a 50/50 split, or a full screen view. I’m only ever doing one thing, while keeping an ear open to the team as needed.
4. Flexibility – I could get this from a MacBook as well, but for me being able to throw the iPad Pro on a standing cart (we had this odd portable lectern unused in a closet) without buying an expensive standing desk, or sit with it at a small table while collaborating with others, and take it to meetings without having to think “This file was on my desktop, is it available on my meeting device?” is a welcome change.

Today I’m still in novelty mode. I think it will take me a full week to develop the new sets of muscle memories and habits of not just flopping into my chair and signing into the giant monitors when I come back from a meeting.

Star Wars is Bigger on the Inside

(contains spoilers, and tree-nuts)

Lots of people are posting their criticisms and complaints about the new Star Wars movie. They’re right.  Everything you say about it is probably right.

And I don’t care.

Recycled plot points?  Fan service?  Yes.  Remember Return of the Jedi? “We have to blow up ANOTHER Death Star!”  Blowing up Death Stars is pretty much what Star Wars is about.

“Not as good as…” what?  I like Star Wars as much as the next nerd, but here’s a thing we have to admit: There is no perfect Star Wars movie.  The Platonic ideal does not exist. They were all flawed, silly, ham-fisted sometimes, awkward, and gloriously imperfect.  The originals hold a special place in our hearts and minds, but because we’ve been buying the toys, showing the movies to our kids, dreaming of owning of lightsabers for the last 38 years, we’ve invested our own blood and breath and soul into it. That thing that no other movie ever seems to live up to is a thing that you and I have invented, by filling a simple story with our own set of meanings.  Star Wars is bigger on the inside, because you and I have lived inside it, and made it our home.

A few years ago I came across this article (it’s a lazy Saturday morning, do your own search) about the act of remembering things.  It’s as if, after a while, we are only remembering that we remember an event in the past. Our stories get taken off the shelf and hand-copied into a new journal.  We are comparing Star Wars to the idea of Star Wars that we’ve grown up with, from when we first saw it with young, uncritical eyes.  It can never compete.

What I really want in a Star Wars movie is “Star Wars Feels.” Spaceships!  Sassy pilots and Princess-Generals!  Romance! Swashbuckling!  Magic, not midi-chlorians.  A simple story about good and evil and doing hard things and facing down darkness.  This is what I show up for, every time.  Nerd-splaining how The Force works doesn’t make the stories better.  Fictional genealogies and debates about who decides what is canon don’t draw me back the way seeing the Millennium Falcon does.

There’s a whole other point that I realize I want to make here.  I don’t want to double the length of this post, so here’s a take-home exercise:  Apply everything I’ve said so far (powerful, simple stories, arguing over the extra meanings and details that we’ve brought in ourselves) to your favorite religion.