Two Computer Setups Are (Somewhat) Overrated

Sometime after 1:00pm yesterday, I started downloading Mountain Lion to my 11-inch Air.

After all was said and done — I had other updates waiting as well — my MacBook Air was not fully up-to-date until around 11:30 this morning. That means it took more than 20 hours to get my secondary machine updated.

Let me say that again: It took 20 hours to update my secondary Mac.

I bought this computer1 last September as a birthday gift to myself. The reason I wanted it was I wanted a laptop I could take with me to class to take notes, write, and so on. I chose the 11-inch model because it’s the smallest, lightest, thinnest Mac laptop Apple makes — and since I’m perpetually at the mercy of public transit and my own two feet, size and weight matters. It’s a fantastic machine and I like it very much, but it’s also a royal pain in the ass to maintain. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I have to remember to update it; and
  2. I have to remember to update it, and updating takes time.

My two-computer setup requires constant maintenance. While the concept of having a “home base” system and a portable, secondary one sounds great, I’ve quickly learned it isn’t so. The practicality of it is flawed. Whenever Apple updates Mountain Lion, I need to upgrade two computers. If I want an app or two that I use on my main machine on this Air, I need to update it. This isn’t to say that I don’t want to or can’t keep my Macs in “sync”; rather, all I’m saying is that it’s really annoying and time-consuming. Put another way, I completely understand now how fellow nerds such as Marco Arment have actually gone back to a single computer lifestyle.

In pulling my thoughts together to write this piece, I realized that I already have a secondary machine: my iPad. The iPad, especially with its Retina display, is a perfect fit for my needs. I can take notes for school, write blog posts/papers, surf the Internet, and even edit the CSS for this site. And with iCloud/Dropbox syncing, I can keep all my data current on all my devices. As great as it is, I don’t need this Air as much as I thought I did.2 The iPad is more than capable of helping me do what I need to do without the babysitting.

All this said, I don’t mean to suggest that I plan to get rid of my Air. I love this thing. As I said, this little dynamo is a fantastic computer. (To be honest, I lusted after the 11-inch version ever since it debuted it 2010. Even now, it amazes me that there’s a full-blown Mac in a package not much bigger than an iPad.) I’ll continue to incorporate this machine into my workflow.3 Never mind that my two-computer epiphany has made me realize owning this computer is wholly superfluous.

(As an aside, that the update to Mountain Lion took so long has less to do with the Air and more to do with my Internet connection, and the fact Mountain Lion weighs in at a hefty 4.34GB. It probably would’ve taken longer to update had it not been for my handy-dandy USB Ethernet Adapter. $29 well spent.)

If I had to do it over, I likely wouldn’t have bought the Air, instead opting for the just-as-capable-and-just-as-portable iPad + Origami setup. Less headaches without a real loss in productivity.


  1. On which I’m writing this article right now (at Starbucks).  ↩

  2. Although, being the nerd I am, I don’t regret my purchase one bit.  ↩

  3. I just take whichever device I’m in the mood to use.  ↩