One thing that is nice about John Dvorak is that he truly has a visionary streak. In all the years I’ve read about technology, Dvorak has seldom been right. He’s managed to cherry-pick the absolutely wrong from the blatantly obvious for years. That has to count for something.
The rant this week is that he reckons in 2008, the perfect machine is a big old clunky desktop manufactured from the cheapest components. He rails about others who use laptops (and who can’t keep a cup of coffee from landing on it) or PDA/Smartphones (and who can’t remember not to drop it in the toilet bowl).
There is a difference between portable and mobile computing. Using a laptop is certainly now portable computing. You port this device from location to location and when you stop moving and find a seat, you work. Because the device is portable, it is possible to leave it in a cafe, forget to pick it up out of the taxi, have it lifted by some larcenous scumbag. There’s definitely a liability with it but the convenience outweighs the dversities. Conversely, using a phone/PDA is what I call mobile computing. You can reply to email or update your blog while standing in a queue. Unlike a laptop, the smartphone likely even follows you to the toilet (which is why some people have dropped theirs in the bowl). Now, I’m not advocating ‘plogging’ (though Twenty is about a decade too late to have claimed to have invented it), but there’s definitely a difference between using a smartphone and a laptop.
His main attack on portable and mobile computing is with regard to backups – both of data and of a workable machine and the relative cost of replacement.
Backup Your Data
“They drag the machine everywhere, and if it gets lost or broken, they’re toast, since they never perform any kind of backup. (Nobody backs up much these days.) Even if people do back up, though, they’re likely still SOL since the restore function typically doesn’t work well when a new machine is involved.”
Backups do happen, especially for smart folk that use Mac OS X along with Time Machine or Time Capsule. The backup argument is well made but it shouldn’t be singled out against laptop users. Everyone should backup. It’s not hard to do, it’s not expensive. Unless of course your laptop doesn’t hold your Data. James at Eirepreneur has been torturing himself with an eee PC for a week or so and keeps all of his documents in the Cloud (Google Docs, GMail, etc). The downside to using web services is that without Internet coverage you’re screwed. Is this a bad thing? Not really. It’s widespread and cheap. Similarly with a smartphone it’s likely that your documents on the phone are backed up to your ‘main’ computer so your data will not be lost.
Dvorak’s whine that restores don’t work well. Well. That’s just him. He uses Windows you know.
Backup your hardware
“And these devices are poised to become the next desktop replacement platform? Splash. Splash. Splash.”
This needs reinforced. If you work for a living and your machine gets toasted, ideally you should have a new machine pronto because the cost of being out of action will quickly offset the cost of getting the new machine. Every business should keep at least one spare machine. It doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest. Even a low end MacBook at Â£699 is a great machine for a spare. How long would it take for your worker to make back the Â£699? A day or three? And after his usual machine has been restored to full working order, you still have the spare for the next time (or as a loaner to a staff member who really wants to work from home). The cost is easily made back. So buy a spare already. Making your livelihood (whether you’re a sole trader or an employee) depend on a single machine is simply stupid. Or, if you don’t want to plonk down the readies for a machine that will gather dust, make friends with your local AASP as they’re likely to be able to supply you with a loaner or machine to rent in the interim. You will have to pay for the privilege but again, how many days before you’d make it back?
His page 2 arguments are easy enough to defeat. He mentions ten reasons to keep using desktops which are all ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ and none of them are absolutes. The one advantage of laptops and smartphones is an absolute however. There are desktops that are more expensive than laptops. There are laptops with immense amounts of internal storage. And they can also use USB drives too, John. But there are no desktops which are as portable as a laptop or smartphone. Period. Or that can be used for a couple of hours on a train journey. Or while waiting for your partner to finish browsing in a shop. Portability is an absolute and that’s why these devices are popular.
This article is not about refuting Dvorak because that could quickly become a full time job. This is about establishing behaviours for the next generation of knowledge worker.
- Take the ‘stupid’ out of backups and use Time Machine
- Have a spare machine handy to receive your backup
- Have some friends who may have a spare machine just in case
- Take care of your laptop and smartphone
“Don’t be a Jackass”
…would be a last point that needs underlined. Dvorak’s wisdom extends to any uses of Smartphones or laptops. But he made the title of the article “The iPhone is no desktop” which shows a couple of things.
- He thinks you’re stupid.
- He writes his articles at a cheap desktop, running Windows, in his underwear
- He’s whoring for links by mentioning the iPhone (a media darling)
- He mentions ‘Apple laptop’ where the wisdom could apply to any manufacturer
Cheap tricks designed to lure people in to view his ads and get more revenue.
But take what I say on board. Don’t think the right method is the Dvorak method – “go back to using a cheap desktop”. The right method is to back up your data. To have a spare machine. And to be careful while plogging.