Ron Guest

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What’s keeping me in this relationship (with my Mac)?

As chief technolust-er, procurement officer, and father of a couple of growing kids I have been thinking a lot about the optimal technology plan as our computers pass 5 years of age and the kids break into their teenage years. It used to feel like we needed a couple of computers plus iPads (not to mention phones and gaming consoles). I’ve begun to question this assumption quite seriously but have found it difficult to come to a conclusion – partly because the kids’ preferences are mercurial and also the future demands of school work are unpredictable (e.g. our daughter is pursuing the digital animation track in HS).

I decided to find a simpler elephant to eat, at least for now, and sat down and enumerated the tasks that drive me to use a Mac vs an iOS device. First up the list of “can’t be done on my iPad” items.

  • I use the Banktivity budgeting and finance management app. It has a richly featured iPad version that I use heavily. Unfortunately the iPad version is missing the full custom reporting package found on macOS. I only need to check these custom reports once or twice a month, and create new ones rarely, but it is a barrier to completely leaving a Mac behind.
  • Income tax preparation. I use TurboTax because I don’t trust doing it online and want to ensure I have the full ability to run it locally in the future.
  • Video processing/rendering (it's slow enough on my MBP)
  • Major Photo editing projects. There are a lot of great photo editing apps for iOS but I find them slow when dealing with large and RAW images. It's OK when processing one or two but I don't have enough time or patience for doing a large project using iOS apps.
  • Software and electronics development projects
  • A few random forms and web sites which don’t work properly on mobile Safari (can't believe companies can't get this right)
  • A couple of server processes (though these are no longer indispensable)

And now the list of “could be done on my iPad but not as easily”:

  • Heavy duty spreadsheet work. I spend a fair amount of effort managing investments and our financial plan. By way of example the Numbers spreadsheet that covers most of this has around 10 different tabs most filled with wide tables. I can do simple updates and tweaks on with my 10" iPad Pro but the screen just isn't wide enough to permit simultaneous clarity of the details while at the same time enabling an effective big picture view. I've contemplated if the larger iPad Pro would be sufficient but I'm not sure. Added context: I have a wide screen monitor on my MBP.
  • This one is a bit of a "to be determined" but I've long used Photos on the Mac to create our Christmas Cards and Calendars. Given Apple's decision I imagine this will become more difficult on the Mac. I have yet to explore options on my iPad so I'm not sure if the Mac will still have a clear advantage.

This was a useful exercise for me. The “can’t be done on iPad” list, though lengthy, is almost entirely comprised of activities I do infrequently. The only outlier is software and electronics development projects which tend to have me at a Mac throughout a day or a few days. The conclusion for me is I don’t need a Mac any more. I can share a decent Mac with the kids.

N.B. No actual elephants were harmed in the writing of this post. 🐘

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