Sunday, May 07, 2017

[Tech] Routers and Laptops and Chromebooks

But first, I had to replace my router. I have horrible luck with routers. They rarely last me more than a year. I had one, made by SMC, that lasted nearly a decade, but all the others have failed just outside their warranty period, just like the TP-link Archer C7 that came so highly recommended did last week. Sigh. So I splurged on a expensive Netgear job. It is noticeably faster. We'll see how long it lasts.

That solved half my connection problems, the other half being a problem with the wi-fi adapter in my laptop. Also my laptop has developed very annoying inaccuracies in the trackpad. As if some of the sensors are broken or confused -- no response to clicks, or right clicks when I should be getting lefts.

It's clear, the time has come for a new laptop, which sounds like something I would have said 10 years ago. We now live a world where various shapes and sizes of mobile devices allow for a better functional fit than a laptop, which was, and still, conceived as a do it all computer. So what exactly are my needs?

Well, virtually everything I do, I do on the web with one exception -- maybe one and a half.

1) Photoshop -- actually Photoshop Elements. Two or three times a year I travel somewhere with my DSLR and when I get back I need to edit the RAW files for publishing on my Smugmug site. Although there are numerous web based photo editors, none can do the things that Photoshop Elements can, especially with RAW. For this I also need a Core I7 level processor, and the ability to drive a full sized monitor at reasonably high res.

1.5) I still have stored MP3s that I use for my running playlists and disconnected listening. I need to load them onto my little SanDisk player and my old Windows Phone as a dedicated MP3 player. This only counts as a half because I'm sure I could sort things out so that I could store all my music on one of the streaming services. Hell, it may already be there without my realizing it (thanks, Google, or maybe Amazon!). But as it stands it takes 32gb to store them (and on rare occasions download more). Arguably, I could use a streaming service with the old Nokia/Windows phone, but not the little San Disk which is not connected in any way and doesn't even have bluetooth. Even so, I suspect this problem is solvable, if disruptive.

If it weren't for those, I could snag a Chromebook on the cheap and have everything I needed. I do all my writing, my finances, etc. on the web already. Anything I do when travelling involves the web also.

I might get away with a tablet, I suppose, but that would require a bluetooth keyboard for writing and at that point it will likely be more expensive than a good Chromebook.

Phones are too limited in viewing size and, especially, for typing.

So it seems I have a choice between a laptop and a combination of a Chromebook and a desktop (planning to reuse my current full size monitor either way). But wait! One problem with a Chromebook is browser selection. I have come to admire a new and little known browser called Vivaldi; that'll be Right Out. There may be other compatibility issues. I also worry about speed with the underpowered browsers. Maybe the thing to do is pick up a Chromebook and see how it works. It'll probably be less than $400. I can use my current laptop as a desktop until then. If I find the Chromebook to be sufficient, I can snag an inexpensive I7 based desktop. Maybe I'll give that a shot. Amazon will let me return it if it turns out to be unworkable, won't they?

To further confuse things, Microsoft is said to be coming out with a Chromebook alternative -- a cheap laptop-y thing with a version of Windows that works online only like Chrome OS. Or maybe I should just get a real laptop and be done with it.

Obviously writing this post has not clarified my needs. The world shouldn't be this complicated.