Blog

Setting up a new computer

I used to use this blog to keep track of how I set up my Macs. Then for a while I used a github repo with scripts.

I don’t do that anymore. My laptops don’t break often anymore so maintaining the automation to recover quickly seems like it is not worth the effort. I also don’t use a Mac anymore. These things may or may not be related.

Instead I trust Google, Microsoft and Apple with my data. I do keep up-to-date on how I could stop doing that.

Work laptop

My work laptop is a Lenovo Thinkpad with Windows on it. I reluctantly switched a couple of years ago because

  • I was using AzureRM heavily, and back then it had some PowerShell modules not available on PowerShell core, so not on my Mac.
  • I had to use Visual Studio to dig through a big .Net codebase, and my windows VM on top of parallels on top of an encrypted SSD was dog-slow as well as running out of memory.
  • I was doing architecture drawings together with Windows users so I could not use OmniGraffle anyway (my favorite Mac-only application).

I reluctantly got a refurbished laptop from our IT team, to try it out for a month before really switching. Since I didn’t know exactly what tools I wanted to use to set it up I figured I could re-do it properly once I had learned my way around windows again. But then I didn’t, and also the machine didn’t break once, it just got old.

When I switched to a new laptop last year, so many setup things were different I might as well install stuff from memory without bothering to write down the steps first. There were no issues. Having most things that matter in the cloud helps with that, docker also helps 🙂

Private laptop

Because my employer allows me to use my laptop for personal stuff and because I know all the data protection we have is way better than what I could do myself, I am happy to use it for personal projects, too.

I do keep a personal laptop lying around the house. I have it primarily for when I don’t want to be tempted to look at work stuff, or as a backup in case my main laptop breaks. These days I have enough discipline to plug out of work anyway, but, I still have the machine, so sometimes I use it.

I had a cheap 300EUR Chromebook for 7 years which worked without any issues until Google stopped providing security upgrades for it. So I bought another cheap 300EUR Chromebook, which they said they will also support for 7 years. Chromebooks don’t need management: you just log in with your gmail account and everything is synced.

So no more macs?

I still have a Mac Mini for iMovie, Photos, and Time Machine. I exported my iPhoto library to files when they made Photos, but I really like using the Photos UI so I keep going back to it. The Mini also keeps a full local copy of my personal Google Drive which then also gets Time Machine’d for an offline backup.

Dependency worries

I don’t particularly like how dependent I am on big American MegaCorps for my computing needs (Google for Google Drive and GMail, Apple for memories and for offline backup, Microsoft for Office365 at work and for Windows OS).

More generally, I don’t like how centralized the web is now. I also choose not to do anything about it. I know enough about what it takes to build an independent cloud to know a project like GAIA X has a pretty low chance of success, and I know it would be lots of work to try and do such things myself.

Instead of maintaining a degree of independence, I periodically check if others who have these worries are managing to be independent. If they are managing, and they can teach me, then I have a clear path and cost of becoming independent. Many of these people do this work for fun. I don’t find it fun to work on this stuff myself, but I do enjoy learning from the zealous.

I use a couple of sources for that. FOSDEM is where I tend to learn of new initiatives. At the moment my favorite resource is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Online Anonymity, which I have read with interest but not followed, because it would take several weeks and then would also take some on-going effort. From that guide I found quite interesting that, some safe anonymity may be easier with Windows than with Linux, for me, at the moment.

The most significant thing that’s missing for me is any credible LinkedIn replacement. Professionally it’s key for networking and staying in touch with others. Given my e-mail archives I think I could survive without it so I historically haven’t attempted backing it up, but I did just do an linkedin export request.