So it turns out that the old laptop that I spent lots of time in the late spring fretting about updating finally gave up the ghost last week. Now the astute among you will remember that I bought a new laptop mid-summer, and you maybe wondering why I'm mentioning this.

Even though the keyboard was worn out (hence my reason for upgrading), with an external keyboard that we had lying around it worked fine, so I passed it down to my mother who was in need of a newer computer for routine home tasks, where it continued to function abely.

And then it broke.

Which caused all manner of strife around here, as we're all pretty set in our computer usage habits and it's really hard to share computers with people, no matter how much you like them. And while the loss of this computer brought the net number of computers to equal the number of people in the house, one of the computers is a 12" iBook from mid-2004 which is slow and small, and uncomfortable for anything other than casusal use.

So we tussled with a number of different possible solutions which were all uniquely unsuitable. Eventually we came to the following solution:

My father, who has heretofore been running on both a 2005 era mini-mac (primarily) and with the recent addition of the ibook, will switch to the ibook exclusively. The ibook does a suitable job at powering his external monitor, and if we put his itunes library on an external drive (which we should have done a long time ago anyway) the hard disk size isn't an issue. Mom gets the Mini, with a as of yet unpurchased monitor, and I blessedly can keep out of the whole mess.

The truth is that this has me thinking about my computer useage. I've realized that while I'm probably the most "power-user" in the house, I'm not doing anything particularly resource intensive: text editor, terminal emulator, mutt, IM program, news reader, web browser, pdf viewer, calander/pim tool, and that's about it. I used the 12" iBook myself for a week or two, and while it's still a bit underpowered for my purposes, it wasn't that underpowered--it's major offense is that the screen is pretty low-res.

While I'm probably going to get a linux desktop in the next few weeks (sooner, I guess, now that we're going to be making an order for one monitor, I might as well buy the monitors for my set up), I've been thinking about my own computer usage habits and needs. If I have a desktop computer, do I need as much umph in my laptop? Could I get buy with something like this fit my mobile needs more clearly (smaller, capiable, linux-y)? I think that if you asked me tomorrow, I'd probably say "not yet," but in a couple of years? I'm not sure.

Once upon a time, the major concern when buying computers was finding a machine that had enough resources to serve your needs for the next 2-4 years. These days, just about any computer you buy is fast enough and has enough storage space. There are lots of ways in which this is a good thing, but I think it's most interesting/important in the sense that it forces computer buyers to get computers on the basis of the needs of the workflow rather than on some negotiation between budget and feature list. And that, I think, is a really good thing for technology.

Onward and Upward!