Laptop Musings

As part of the new work contract, I negotiated a new laptop. The wording in the contract is “…will purchase a new laptop (Macbook Pro or Macbook Air) for the use of Employee…).

Therein lies the question… Pro or Air?

Life’s questions should always be so rough. 🙂

I’m currently working on a 2.2GHz Macbook Pro, purchased for me by my current/former Evil Masters, as negotiated at my hiring. I didn’t negotiate hard enough though (which is partially because I was rushing to get a job as quickly as possible to finalize a mortgage application), and as a result the terms are much less favorable: I get the laptop, but I have to stay a year before I can buy it out, and even then the buyout is something ridiculous like $1500, which drops to $500 at a year and a half and $0 at two years. What can I say, I was a bit desperate for a job, and the laptop was just a perk.

As I see it, my options are to either keep the current laptop, paying the buyout cost of $1500, or to purchase a shiny new Macbook Air.

There are pros and cons to each laptop:

Current Macbook Pro:

Pro – battle-tested and proven
Pro – has my stickers on it already
Pro – 120G hard drive, faster CPU
Pro – firewire port
Pro – replaceable battery
Con – bigger and heavier
Con – screen has the nasty finger-oil marks
Con – isn’t a new Macbook Air

Macbook Air:

Pro – sexy and light
Pro – brand new screen
Pro – smells like a new laptop
Con – lose my stickers
Con – no firewire
Con – no optical drive
Con – smaller 80G harddrive, smaller CPU

For my needs, smaller and lighter is quite a value – I intend to throw it in a backpack every day and bike somewhere to work. The smaller drive is easily mitigated with fast external drives, which I already own; archival backups of all important data etc is trivial in OSX. Plus, the sheer “sexy” of the thing pleases me greatly.

On the other hand, I already have and use a MOTU 828mkII firewire audio interface – actually, based on that link, I see that they no longer manufacture the mkII in a firewire version, and that there’s actually a mkIII version now. Regardless, if I have any inclination to use my new laptop for audio-related projects I should really consider the firewire port – or maybe try to trade my 828mkII for a USB2.0 model.

There is a third option – to leave this Macbook Pro with the company and purchase a brand new Macbook Pro. That would take care of a few of the cons for sure, and is probably my best bet, all told. Still, it’s not a Macbook Air. For some reason this all feels like trying to decide between dating the super-hot, fun to hang out with and crazy in the sack blonde sweetie vs. the smart, elegant and beautiful brunette… the intelligent choice is obvious, but should I follow my head or my heart? When I listen to my head I usually accept short-term boredom but always win out in the end, but following my heart is invariably more fun.

I’ll have to decide this soon, probably within the next week.

Restatement of Goals

David Allen’s excellent book “Getting Things Done” has a chapter on defining goals prior to doing any actual work. While that would seem to be common sense, keeping that simple bit of wisdom in mind has already saved me from more than a few cases of working my ass off without having a clear finish line in my mind.

So, this post is to define for myself a few short and long term goals.

This list is by no means complete, and perhaps I’ll edit it as the year progresses, but we’ll see.

Ongoing goals, with no set duration:

  • to enjoy every day and live without fear, shame or regret,
  • to neither seek approval nor fear disapproval,
  • to be active every day and continue to improve my physical self,
  • to work efficiently and productively, smarter not harder,
  • to continue to reduce my footprint towards becoming nomadic,
  • to have the maximum flexibility in my free time, and
  • to recognize adventure when it presents itself.

Short term goals, ie this year:

  • to subtract the “home” from the “home office”,
  • to find a balance between productivity and sociability,
  • to automate all financial responsibilities, bills, etc,
  • to sail to Desolation Sound,
  • to build and perform a new live-pa set,
  • to learn to do handstand pushups without the support of a wall,
  • to bike around the Fundy Trail in New Brunswick,
  • to get my busker’s license and busk on Granville Island,
  • to learn to play my mandolin better,
  • to learn to cook better and cheaper,
  • to minimize my stuff and rent out my apartment, and
  • to backpack around Southeast Asia for six months or so.

Long term goals:

  • to build a business that provides income with minimal input,
  • to own a sailboat, and perhaps live aboard it for a while,
  • to learn to fly and eventually own an ultralight airplane,
  • to buy property in the Gulf Islands and build a home on it, and
  • to eventually settle in that home and raise a family.

First Post!

As of today, I’ve received the new contract, and the terms appear to be acceptable. What might possibly be the most exciting chapter of my working life is about to begin.

Oh, right. Backstory.

Hi, I’m Drew. I’m a Linux geek with a decade of experience, and I currently work for an ISP in North Vancouver. I’ve been here just over six months, but apart from a few nice fringe benefits (a nice bikeride to/from work, a good laptop, a free cellphone and a bus pass), it just isn’t satisfying. Furthermore, there’s a lot of office politics and restructuring going on, and if I stick around there’s a good chance I’ll become ensnared in it all. Thinking it through a lot, I realized that those benefits would come pretty easily from any other company, so there’s nothing really holding me here.

So a month or so ago I started lazily watching Craigslist for the keyword ‘Linux’, and soon enough a job posting for a Linux admin came up. The ad sounded promising, going so far as to say “work from home – you can do this job in your underwear if you want”. I applied, swapped some emails, met a guy over some beers, and what do you know – they’re interested in me.

When I started negotiating the contract, I realized I’d need a new office chair, so I started watching Craigslist for a used Aeron. I mentioned this to my friend Trent, within a few minutes of telling him that I was going to miss the morning bikeride to work, and his answer made my journey a little clearer:

“You’ll be working from home,” he said, “but all you really need to do your job is a laptop and an internet connection – if I were in your shoes, I’d work from a different café in North Van every day of the week.”

I could have kicked myself – why didn’t I think of that! When I described scenario this to my housemate Mario, he suggested I start a blog to document the journey, and I have to admit that’s a great idea. Everything seems to be coming together into a more-or-less coherent new set of prospects – I can only hope to have the wisdom to see the larger picture as the individual pieces become more clear to me.

The new contract is just awaiting a signature from the new Evil Masters’ clients, and it’ll be a go. The terms are very favourable: 22h/week for approximately 2/3 of my current wages, with that growing to 100% of my current wages for 30h/week once they’ve got their next round of funding – compared to the current job where I’ve got to commute to North Van every morning for 9am, and find myself often working more than 40h/week, it seems pretty reasonable – and even further, a new Macbook Pro is included in the signing bonus.

So that’s the story. Summer is just beginning, Vancouver is beautiful and bike-accessible, and I have been presented with an amazing opportunity to explore the options available to nomadic knowledge workers. My goal is to find the perfect balance between productivity and mobility. I have complete freedom to work whenever and wherever I choose, and to explore the outer fringes of just what exactly that means. I do not own a car, so all mobility will have to be using my bicycle or mass transit – arguably this is to minimize my economic and environmental footprint, but mostly it’s just because I love to ride my bike. I will have significantly less disposable cash, so I’ll need to make the most of the funds I have – I’m going to try to set myself a food budget of about $10 and stick to it, though I’m not sure that’s actually workable.

Will I find that I am most productive at 4am on the Jericho Beach? At 10am in a coffee shop in Kitsilano? Is there enough of a trade-off in quality of life that spending six hours in the park to accomplish three hours of productive work is time well spent? Is there a perfect balance, or is it a personal balance?

Or who knows, maybe it’ll it all be a bust and I’ll find the only place I can be productive is locked in my home office in my basement in East Vancouver. I have no idea, but I look forward to figuring it out, and documenting it along the way.