It no longer matters what operating system I use: Windows, Linux, Mac-OS. Every application that’s essential to me is online (I’m almost entirely supported by Google’s full line of applications), and every other one that I need is cross-platform (firefox and a few plugins, nvu, etc.).
It no longer matters what kind of computer I have: – PC or Mac, because it’s the same internet. Once I’m online, it’s no longer relevant.
It no longer matters much how much processor speed and memory I have, along with the bigtime power supply to power it and numerous fans to keep it cool. What matters is connectivity. Bandwidth is everything. What matters is virtual.
For a portable computer, I just bought a netbook – in this case, the Asus Eee PC 900a: $300 with 1024×600 screen, 1.6ghz (a for)atom processor (ultra-low power requirement and ultra-low heat signature), 1gig ram, and linux instead of windows. Windows is dead – Windows has nothing left to say. It comes with a super-easy linux front end, but I switched it to the more powerful advanced mode and installed the KDE desktop. Now it’s a sophisticated little bugger with a regular less-toylike X-desktop.
No hard drive – it runs on solid-state SD, so it’s shock proof. It’s also consequently lighter than my alarm clock (the battery is the weight – the rest is like a paperback book). Thin LCD screen (e-paper is obviously the future) and ultralight keyboard.
At night, I reach over and finish up that last thing I was doing before I decide ‘enough is enough’ and go to sleep. In the car, I pull over at any hotspot and check e-mail and IM someone. This is truly internet you take anywhere. My focus will be to use it to work on e-books. I want my books (in progress) with me wherever I go.
This is not a computer you’d use to do your taxes or web design. It’s for blogging, e-book writing, e-mail, writing of any kind, and synchronous communication with clients. The parts of your work that are design-oriented, numerically intensive, etc. will require a full-sized monitor (I require three – productivity is precious.). You could connect one, of course (it provides for that), so you could make a docking station for it, but realistically, if you can afford one, you’ll want a dedicated workstation for the other stuff – a netbook that’s docked defeats the purpose – it’ll tend to never leave the dock. Still, the “box” version of the Asus EeePC is about the size of an external hard drive, and may suit for many purposes.
Backups: I no longer keep stuff one one kind of hardware (main hard drive) and back it up on other hardware (external hard drive). Instead, I keep it online, where I work on it, share it, publish it, collaborate on it, etc. The meaning of a document isn’t ownership, it’s interaction. And I back it up to an external USB drive. I remember the days of online backup services. Now I’m the backup service, and the originals are online.
Transferring Files: For fast file large file transfer between PCs not on the same network, I no longer burn DVD-ROMs, I either send it through an online service or spit it out to a flash drive in my pocket. They’re large-capacity, cheap, and fast, and USB ports are ubiquitous. Optical drives like CD and DVD hold no more appeal. I never use mine. The future is card media.
Printing: What the heck is printing? Well, I don’t have a GPS, so I’ll print directions from Google Maps, but that’s about it. I have a laser printer but, at this point, I’d rather just toss someone a $5 USB drive than buy ink and paper.
- Convince us, now more than ever, to have a paperless office. Scan all your old piles and organize, and any paper someone sends you. Shred it all. Scan and shred.
- Reduce the space and energy we need for the office. A stationary office can occupy a bedside table. Sure, I like my leather chairs, but I’m beginning to prefer to make the whole house the office – anywhere is the office.
- Make the office inherently portable, if with a slightly reduced productity (e.g. my 3 screens can’t go with me). You can toss the heart of your office, if you’re a webeneuer, onto your front seat, into your glove box, or tuck it in a pouch or book cover.
- Reduce the cost of a self-sustained office. $300 for an onramp, with free wifi nearly everywhere, and you’re working like a jetsetter.
And the result is…
Now, more than ever before, we can open a business in the closet of a hallway or at a borrowed table at your local hippy coffee shop (buy Fair Trade!), with little cost, little dependency, and high mobility. The life of work and liberty formerly available only to the operators of pushcarts or to jetsetters is widely available to the man with an idea and one paycheck.
This has already come to pass, even if we don’t realize it. This and more – increasingly, you can do whatever is in your mind, as technology becomes, not our superpower, but the vehicle of it. Whether there’s anything in people’s minds for it to extend, aid, and make prosper is another question entirely, and one each of us must answer.