So I replaced my computing infrastructure over the past week. Things are moving fast in the world of IT.
  • Laptop. A few years ago having decent graphical power still restricted you to using desktops. No longer. I have gone mobile. (Maybe motion graphics will make me regret it later). No I can use those little downtimes in between meetings to do actual useful work, rather than catching up on email or Twitter.
  • 17", I compared screen sizes and concluded that as a visual designer there is no avoiding the extra weight and size to get a decent size screen
  • Apple. Strangely enough it is actually the physical interfaces that convinced me. A nice machine to touch, nice keyboard, nice track pad. Something you spend the majority of your day on. Interestingly, a hardware decision, not a software one.
  • Cloud. It was surprisingly simple to move to a new environment when all your critical data resides in the cloud: email on gmail, files in dropbox (affiliate link), clients and invoices in Freshbooks (affiliate link), contacts in Batchbook. Everything is in sync on my new machine, and the legacy infrastructure that I continue to use as backup. 1Password synced via Dropbox to keep track of all the accounts
  • Virtual Windows/OSX blur. None of my clients use Keynote, and PowerPoint on Mac is simply not good enough (see a comparison between PowerPoint 2010 for Windows and PowerPoint 2011 for Mac). So in comes Windows, but I totally do not notice it. I use Parallels to create a virtual machine, and my Windows applications run in a Window as if I am working on a Mac. All data is shared and file management happens via OSX. It requires beefing up the hardware though. I put in 8GB of memory, of which I allocate 5GB to the Windows machine. The big customer segment for Parallels is actually hardcore gamers who want to port their favorite graphics-intensive games to the Mac. As a result, performance of a Windows virtual machine is actually very good. There is only a slight delay when you switch over.
  • Adobe alternatives. Adobe software is incredibly complicated and bloated. I need basic photo editing capabilities to resize images for the web and take out backgrounds out of images. Pixelmator is a beautiful Mac app that can do all these things (and much more) in a beautiful user interface. The same with Illustrator, I need it to edit stock vector diagrams nothing more. I could not find an alternative for Mac yet and as a result kept my old Windows CS3 installed (I see no need to upgrade). It is interesting to see that I started to look at user interfaces to decide my software, not so much the features anymore (same story as in hardware).
  • Legacy software. Some of my clients (mostly the large ones) are still running PowerPoint 2003. Hence I actually installed it in parallel to my production software PowerPoint 2010. (It took some time to dig up those old CDs).