My Weird 2021 Chronological Timeline of Figuring out my Computing Devices

Date:

tags: technology, privacy, foss

Introduction

In this post, I wanted to reflect on the changes in devices I’ve had throughout 2021. I’ve had many ebbs and flows on figuring out what I wanted to use, based on my use-case, while also trying to balance digital privacy and convenience. This has caused me to switch operating systems on several occasions, and also buy/sell many pieces of hardware (thankfully a majority of which were used products). I don’t plan to go into incredibly detail for any time period, but I will comment what was going through my head at the time. I don’t know if this will actually be useful for anyone, but maybe it would help me understand my own thinking process.

The Timeline

  • January: I was mostly settled on using a used mini-ITX PC I picked up on Craigslist, exclusively running Linux-based operating systems. For mobile, I was using a stock Samsung Galaxy S10e. Things seemed to be fine at this point, but I was still trying to maximize privacy. Main barriers were: chat/messaging apps and cloud services for file sync.

  • February: I sold my desktop to switch exclusively to a used Thinkpad X390. At the time, I basically never used the graphics card in my desktop, and I thought I wanted something I could use around the house. I also had bought a used 2018 Mac Mini that I was using for music practice and starting to run an AirMessage server due to giving up getting my iPhone-user friends to switch to something other than SMS/MMS, since I still had a S10e.

  • April: Despite being able to technically use iMessage on Android through AirMessage, it did not allow you to connect your phone number to iMessage, severely limiting how many people could default message me using iMessage, causing messages to send via SMS/MMS. I was also frustrated with Samsung’s updates and fairly bad privacy situation on Android, so I ended up buying a 2020 iPhone SE, trading in my Galaxy S10e. Despite all the criticism Apple is having right now for privacy, I am still glad I made the switch for practical reasons. At this time, I was growing incredibly grumpy with technology and just wanted things to work; it seemed like Apple products were the best balance in trade offs between privacy and convenience.

  • May: Decided to start shifting toward an Apple ecosystem and ended up selling my Thinkpad X390 on eBay. I basically broke even with probably a small loss if I actually did the math. I was now just using my 2018 Mac mini as my main personal computing device. I got a “taste” of the ecosystem due to owning an iPhone, using my partners’ old AirPods and enjoying the seamless integration between devices. However the 2018 Mac Mini I had only had an 8th Gen i3, 128 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM, so it felt sluggish compared to my previous devices. I started looking into the new M1 Mac devices.

  • June: Bought a 2020 M1 Mac Mini base model from Costco, due to their great 90-day return policy. I thought this was probably the best way to see if I could continue using MacOS as my main platform for personal computing. The computer was blazing fast and I definitely remember thoroughly enjoying it. Because of this, I sold my used 2018 Mac Mini on eBay.

  • July/August: Since I was having a good time with the M1 Mac Mini, I decided to go all in and return the Mini to pay for a base model 2020 Macbook Air. It felt nice having a device I could use both for my desktop and laptop needs.

However, the one thing missing in all of this was gaming support, which MacOS has severely limited support and there were a handful games that were coming out recently that I wanted to play, that weren’t particularly demanding. I also started determining my audio recording woes were not caused by software, but rather my recording setup. I ended up picking up a used Thinkcentre M75q-1 that I had planned to use as a HTPC and for indie gaming. However, as I continued to use it, the Macbook Air went unused. That lack of use combined with wanting to not waste money, I ended up returning the 2020 Macbook Air and started using the Thinkcentre exclusively as my main computing device.

Conclusions

I am still using the Thinkcentre as my main computing device, while rocking an iPhone. I’m hoping this is where I can settle at least for the time being, because I am quite burnt out on figuring out what operating system to use on a daily basis. It’s really nice to be able to use Linux again and in an ideal world I would be able to access everything I need on a Linux-based OS. I know that’s not practical, but I am okay with the tradeoffs, at least for now. Moving forward, I think the only thing I’m possibly purchasing in the future is some kind of laptop, probably another Thinkpad, albeit a less powerful one since I don’t need it to be my main device. Thanks for suffering through my indecisiveness!