I Use This

At usesthis.com they interview a bunch of people to ask about their current computer setup and their dream setup. Most of them are using aged machines, ultraportables (Mac Air is popular), and Emacs/VIM for editing (a few slickedit fans). Most of them have little to add in their dream setup (more battery life, better cloud sync). Are our tools finally good enough? Not for me.

Current setup: A 4 year old Sony Z laptop, 8GB RAM, SSD. I have a 6 year old homebrew desktop w/ a few terabytes of storage and 2 old monitors. I use Windows 7 and do most development in Ubuntu within VMware player (using Unity). When I need it, I’ve got instances running in AWS. I’ve got an ancient jailbroken iPhone, an iPad 1, and an older Kindle. Everything I own is old and works just fine. I use Emacs, bash, Chrome, and the usual grab-bag of software. I even use Visual Studio.

Dream setup: We all own a suite of devices that work OK in isolation. Each device does some things well for certain use cases. But when those devices are together, they should work together much better. Bluetooth and AirPlay are steps in the right direction, but ad-hoc and incomplete. When I sit in my car, my music and phone calls are routed through the car’s sound system. However, I can’t sync the map, listen/send text messages with my voice, nor ask Siri for help. AirPlay is really nice if you have Apple TV. You can send music, video and photos to the TV when you wish. You can send music to the stereo w/ Apple’s AirPort. Google Voice has a feature that allows you to move a call to another phone without hanging up. The Kindle can sync my current location in a book to every device, but I have to move papers and articles over manually.

I want more of this sort of slick integration between my devices. I’d like to group my work into virtual workspaces that have the same intention. Development stuff in one workspace, entertainment in another, communication in another, and so on. If I have 3 monitors, it should spread my workspaces across them. If I get a call while at my computer, I should be able to route the call to my computer’s speakerphone. When I’m reading something in Chrome on my desktop, I should be able to move it to my iPad. When I set my laptop down next to my desktop, it should allow me to move my work seamlessly to my desktop (and vice versa). File syncing is only the first step. I want my activities synced and moved across devices based on what I want, what the device is capable of, and what my work modality is (reading, typing, watching, listening, talking). Some of this can be done now in an ad-hoc way, and I’ve tried to glue the pieces together. But there’s enough friction to still make it fail in irritating ways.

We’re all going to accumulate more and more smart devices. We need to them work together better.

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