Farewell, Sierra; Hello iOS-Primary on Mobile

I’ve used OS X as my primary personal OS since OS X 10.3 (Panther). I might have used 10.2 Jaguar but Panther is the first one I have still have a memory of. I also used Classic OS, but that was so long ago, it’s not really relevant.

In those 13 years I’ve never downgraded from a release version of OS X to the previous version.1That changed last week when I wiped my MacBook Air from Sierra and went back to El Capitan. It was the battery life that got me. My 2014 MacBook Air 11 saw a marked decrease in battery performance. Prior to Sierra I’d get 8-9 hours no problem. With Sierra, sitting idle not doing much the performance dropped to 4 hours. If I ran a 3D game, about 1 hour. A few Google searches showed that even a clean install of Sierra did not solve this problem. The replies are either “me too,” or the usual recommendation to let the post-upgrade Spotlight and Photos indexing occur. Because their battery life isn’t affected, you must be computing wrong. Here’s the thing though: waiting on indexing doesn’t seem to make a damn bit of difference.

So, even though I rarely use my MacBook off the adapter, I downgraded to El Capitan and got my old battery life back. On iOS, typically doing a Reset All Settings clears up the battery life issues. The only inconvenience is having to re-enter your WiFi passwords, but I keep those in a Notes file anyway. There’s nothing similar on macOS.

I mentioned back in February I was leaning towards going iOS-Primary for my mobile usage. Since February I’ve been pretty much iOS-Primary when not at the house. I’ve taken a few road trips and left the MacBook at home on all but one. Most of the time when I go to work I just toss my iPad Pro into my bag. Last weekend I was away but I brought my MacBook to play World of Warcraft on. The hour I spent playing it really didn’t justify hauling it around.

Right now, the use cases for bringing (or even using) a MacBook are:

  • I need to use custom filters in Lightroom2
  • I need to edit a Tableau Report3
  • I want to play World of Warcraft

Those are pretty narrow use cases. I can wait until I get home and use Lightroom on my Mac or PC. I don’t really edit Tableau reports away from my work PC much. World of Warcraft is just a leisure activity and not something I need to do away from my desk. I might play it downstairs while a game is on, but that’s still pretty rare.

With the iPad Pro I can draw, write, play a game that’s not WoW, read, and cover most of my productivity tasks. I also have a retina screen, amazing battery life, and a charger that can charge it to 80% in 1.5 hours.

But what about the Mac — and desktop OSs in general?

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking of shutting down my OS X computers and unplugging the monitor from my gaming PC4. I’m not making much progress on my creative goals for 2016. I’ll write more about this at the end of year, but I am being more creative, Just not in ways I wanted. I’ll be moving the goal posts pretty heavily on my end of the year report.

Going iOS-Primary even at home would probably help eliminate some distractions. Not all, obviously, but maybe I will be just a little more focused. I tend to drive home with all these creative ideas in my head, but when actually sit down at my desk I just surf. The seasonal change isn’t helping this at all.

When I got home tonight I powered off the 15″ and put it on a shelf. The 11″ is plugged in, powered on, but with the screen closed. I still have some Lightroom plug-ins to reinstall, and I think I will always have a powered on MacBook on the table to at least make sure all my cloud files are synced to it. The desktop PC is turned on but it’s only seeing light usage.

I am so close to being able to follow Ben Brooks with going iOS Primary. In that post Ben comments: “I lost 30 minutes to just managing my Mac that morning.” Now a lot of these issues were probably related to him running a beta of macOS Sierra, and some notifications he didn’t need to clear right then, but I can sympathize with that.

It’s clear that iOS is Apple’s priority (even if there weren’t many iPad features in iOS 10). I’m happy with iOS 10. I wasn’t very happy with Sierra.

As time goes on, the hooks I have to macOS become weaker and weaker. I was chatting with a friend this morning about MacBooks, MacBook Airs, and MacBook Pros and how I’d like to have laptop with a retina screen. With how great the iPad Pro is, it will probably be a long time before I get a retina Mac, and it wouldn’t surprise me if by that time, I won’t even need a Mac.

  1. I’ve gone back to the release version when using a beta, but that’s a different argument
  2. There’s a very interesting post here about a workaround to get some presets on Lightroom Mobile
  3. I use Tableau to edit reports at work, but at home my Tableau use is incidental. I don’t even have it installed on my Macs. So while it’s something to think about when going iOS-only, it’s such an outlying case it’s almost not worth mentioning.
  4. The gaming PC is also my Plex server, so it needs to stay powered on.
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