The Night of Deep Cuts

I bared my Air. And a few other things.

A few nights ago I came home, reformatted my MacBook Air, and laid down a fresh install of macOS Sierra. I did not restore from backup (although most of my files are in iCloud Drive, so it’s not like there was massive data loss). I did not reinstall any social media. The list of apps I reinstalled is very, very small:

  • 1Password
  • The iWork Suite
  • Instapaper extension
  • BBEDIT
  • Xcode
  • Ulysses
  • Pixelmator
  • VLC

I have 209GB free of a 256GB SSD. Once iCloud finishes its syncing I expect that number to go down. But not by much. I turned on the iCloud Drive Optimization to keep it from syncing the whole damn iCloud Drive. I don’t care that I don’t have all my files on there all the time. The amount of time I use the MacBook and I’m not on a WiFi connection is slim. If that happens, and I need something, meh. Life goes on.

I also made a deep separation of church and state. Nothing on the laptop connects to work. If I need to work from home, I can bring my work laptop home with me. If it’s an unexpected work from day, I’ll install the Citrix Receiver app, work, and then uninstall it.

The cuts didn’t end there.

I went through my iPad and looked at every app installed and asked myself: Does this app add value to my life? and Am I using this app right now? Not an app I want to use. But one I’m using right now?1 If I’m not, does it serve a specific purpose that warrants me keeping it? 2The answers to those questions wasn’t “yes” the app got deleted. While I was at it, I also cleared out almost all my downloaded comics and books. The only downloaded comics are either ones I’m still reading, or the art in there inspires me. There is one Kindle book downloaded (the one I’m reading). None of my iBooks books are downloaded.3 My 128Gb iPad has 60GB free.

I also went through the notifications and only two apps give me badge icons: Messenger and Hangouts. The messages I receive there tend to be important (and provide value), but they do not make noise, vibrate the device, or appear on the lock screen. I also turned off the Apple Watch notification for Messages. If I’m away, or I need to put the phone in a bag and I then decide I need the notifications, I’ll turn them back on.

The separation of church and state still isn’t as good as I’d like. I use my iPad to take notes in meetings, and I like having access to my work calendars on the device. Once we go to Office 2016 and I get OneNote 2016 installed, I might not need my iPad, but I doubt it.

The cuts didn’t end there.

I went through my Twitter feed an unfollowed about 100 people. A lot of them were dead accounts. Not many of them followed me back, so it’s not like they’d notice. The cuts weren’t personal; it was simply about controlling how much information came into my feed. A lot of people I unfollowed are also in lists, so I want the value they add to my feed, I can go get it. I came damn close to deleting the Twitter client. I may still do that. Some cuts are best done cold turkey.

FaceBook on my iPad now sits in a folder called “service apps.” It’s the backbone to playing Words with Friends with some close friends. I’ll still check FaceBook, but it’s in the every few days camp and not the every few hours camp.

I’m not sure if these purges help or do anything other than try and calm a chaotic mind.

  1. Apparently I also had a lot of writing apps. Gone, all but two are.
  2. Aside: I really wish iBooks for macOS let me delete downloaded books without also deleting them from iCloud.

enough (the hardware edition)

I was working on an article about my goals for 2017 and I had a bullet point: Reduce my technological footprint. There were a few lines about the number of devices I have and how I wanted to be more efficient and minimize the number of devices I use.

There’s a new Netflix show on Minimalism (in which Patrick Rhone of Minimal Mac is mentioned). Patrick also tweeted this link to another piece on Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. The show is great, focusing on getting the rid of a lot of the crap we as humans tend to collect. The documentary hit at a good time. I was on vacation and I was going to dump out a ton of stuff from my home office. At the same time, I took a hard look at some of the electronic devices I have floating around.

What is Digital Minimalism?

From Cal Newport’s article above, he defines Digital Minimalism as:

Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.

Tech Products I use at least 4 times a year:

So, I have a ton of devices. Here are the ones that get used heavily1:

  1. iPad Pro 12.9″
  2. iPhone 6+2
  3. Alienware Alpha
  4. MacBook Air 11″ (2014)
  5. MacBook Pro 15″ (2011)

Getting to One

At work, we are combining some groups and services. The marketing language for the initiative is “Getting to One.” It’s a great slogan and one I’m trying to mimic with my devices. It’s impossible, of course. Not one of those devices listed above can do all of the things the other devices can do. So, there are two mantras that may somewhat compete:

  • Getting to Less
  • The Right Tool for the Job

The right tool for the job is the presiding mantra. Saying I’m going to cut back to just using my iPhone doesn’t let me perform the tasks I need the other devices for. Similarly, abandoning all the devices but for the iPad Pro (my favorite of all of them), leaves out a central communication device (the iPhone) as well as most of my game playing needs.

Patrick Rhone, who I mentioned earlier, used to have a great podcast called Enough. It’s sadly gone, and the files are gone to the internet. There is a torrent file, but it’s dead also. [UPDATE; It turns out the podcast is archived on iTunes. You can find it here.] He also has a book, Enough, which is not dead. In the podcast, they talked about what is enough. What do you need to get life done, but not more than that. One of the segments I loved was they would talk to someone about what it would take to life their digital life on an 11″ MacBook Air with 64 gig of storage. It’s the digital version of a Tiny House. The cuts people would have to make were interesting to listen to.

My goals was to get my Every Day Carry (EDC) down to two main devices. Two devices to do 80% of my day-to-day stuff. It also all needs to fit in my Tom Bihn Ristretto.

The first to go was the Alienware Alpha. I’ve moved gaming to the PlayStation 43. The only thing the Alienware really did was serve up my Plex Library. The library was on a portable drive anyway4. So, during the Big Purge the Alpha got placed on the shelf. The monitor is in a closet.

Deciding between the two MacBooks is easy. The Air is smaller and fits in my bag. It doesn’t have the processor power of the Pro, but it’s enough.

That got me to three. Not bad. An iPad, and iPhone and a MacBook Air. But what do I really need that MacBook Air for every day? I’m not talking about replacing it entirely, mind you. This is an 80% rule. I believe I can actually do 90% of what I need the MacBook for on the iPad. Working from home requires me to to log into our Virtual Desktop system via Citrix Receiver, and while it’s fine for a few things on iOS, it’s not a great interface. So, I’ll use the Mac for that.

So, the MacBook Air got placed in its sleeve and was laid (to rest) in one of the now empty drawers in the desk.

That’s two. An iPad and an iPhone for 80% of my non-gaming needs.

This is part of a series on using the iPad Pro as my primary device. For more posts on this series, click here.

  1. I’m leaving out my Amazon Kindle and my Xbox. I consider those appliances, and, anyway they are hardly used.
  2. I also have an Apple Watch, but I consider it an extension of the iPhone.
  3. It’s semantics, but I classify the PS4 as a single-purpose appliance rather than a device.
  4. As a side effort, a lot of these files are .MKV files. I’m going to convert them to .M4V files. That way I can read them directly from the iPad if I want to.