Renovating my Digital Life

It's been a while since my last post.

Work has been busy - lots of travel. Carving out an hour a day for physical fitness. Yada yada yada - the usual excuses.

Well - a week into the Christmas holidays - and I've been buried in my new laptop for most of the week - except when I sneak out to play a quick game of Mariokart 8 with the kids on their new Wii U. So - what has been so captivating on the new laptop? A complete digital makeover, a digital "renovation" - the term popped into my head this morning while making coffee as an excuse to try to justify the incredible amount of time spent on this project.

Ultimately, I'm a knowledge worker, manager, consultant that makes my living with my laptop and my brains. My laptop is the tool that I use to earn my living - and I try to keep my tools sharp and working well. For the past 5 years - I've been using a Sony Vaio VPC-Z11 13" ultrabook as my primary work tool - and it has been stellar. 4 x 128GB SSD drives in a Raid configuration, external GPU, this has been a lightning fast, compact machine. Originally a Windows 7 machine, I upgraded it to Windows 10 and ultimately that's has been it's downfall. I like the OS upgrades with Windows 10 - but my Sony Vaio did not. No Windows 10 driver updates for this machine which cost me over $3000 5 years ago. Still no Windows 10 driver updates as of today, and no indication that the new owners of Sony's Vaio laptop division will ever get around to issuing updates. So began in ernest the quest for a new laptop, that I've been considering for a while now.

Intel released the Skylake processor chipsets this year - and I've been waiting to see how they would be packaged in new hardware - and where I could pick up a compact, fast and capable machine. I do some heavy spreadsheeting, and other than that - my major use for my laptop is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for managing my 100,000 digital photo collection. The Vaio was really struggling with Lightroom following the Windows 10 update - and I knew I wanted my new machine to have an external GPU for the additional processing power for lightroom. I also wanted small and compact for travelling - but the only compact machine that came out was the Microsoft Surface Pro - and I wanted something a bit more mainstream this time around. Over to Dell with the XPS line - the XPS 13 was a nice machine but was only running 17W processors - dual core, no external GPU. The XPS 15 was running 45W quad core processors, with external GPUs and M.2 NVMe SSD slots - promising to be extremely fast, and reasonably energy efficient for travelling. I also liked the idea of the new XPS 15 infinity display - reduced border around the display for a more compact laptop. So I pulled the pin - and went for the XPS 15 with the i7 processor, but without the touch display so that I could have better battery life while travelling, and the second hard drive bay for installing a nice big secondary SSD for my photo databases.

The XPS 15 arrived on Christmas Eve - and it was time to think through how I would migrate my data to the new machine. The Windows 10 migration tool works very well - I've used it before - but I didn't want to transfer over all the clutter from 5 years of digital neglect over to the new machine. I wanted to rethink how I would use the now plentitful cloud storage options - OneDrive, iCloud, Dropbox, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Drive - companies are now throwing cloud based drive space at customers like never before. I also wanted to upgrade my office suite - I've been rolling with Office 2010 for 5 years without an upgrade - and 2 major revisions have passed since then. What have I been missing?

So - Office 365 for business trial with 1tb OneDrive cloud storage - 3 month free trial - installed and running on the new XPS, with an upgrade from Adobe Acrobat 9 to Adobe Acrobat DC (I create, review and comment a lot of PDFs on a day by day basis). Very simple to get up and running - so far, so good. Oh - and a new iPad thrown in for the first time. More on the reason for getting my new iPad on the next post - the fitness discussion.

At every step of the upgrade, there seems to be an architecture decision to be  made. I'm trying to keep things simple, manageable, and consistent. This - however - is far from easy. iTunes, iPhone and iPad backups - all destined for easy integration with iCloud - this is a no brainer and a nice safety feature. The business information - not so simple. MS Office vs. Google Apps - I'm a power user so I went with Microsoft - and time will tell how the OneDrive experiment goes. 4TB of digital photos - backed up on a NAS at home - not convenient or cost effective to back this up to the cloud. So here - the backups are still going to a safety deposit box at the bank - but certainly not convenient. Cloud backups of new photos since the last physical backup - that makes sense now with 1TB of OneDrive storage. Let's see how that works.

Documents and digital clutter - I've always been fairly organized - and I have a fairly simple and well known file structure and folder organization for all my personal and work files - that has grown to be a bit of a monster over the past 15 years of consulting. So - I've decided to really pare this down and get things cleaned up. Backup all to the NAS at home, keep a copy on the new laptop - and go through everything and delete the obsolete, useless data, and keep the stuff that is still relevant for reference, work or home. This has taken quite a bit of time, but I look at this as an exercise in keeping my tools sharp.

Another exercise has been in getting my notes organized - and trying out OneNote for the first time. I used to keep about 100 notes in Outlook - but a computer migration about 6 years ago severed all those notes from my day to day workflow. So I spent a day migrating notes from an old PST backup, and notes that I had been keeping on the Toodledo web service - into one place in an new personal OneNote file. So far, so good - and when cleaning up all my historical files - trimming and cleaning out old spreadsheets and word files, and transferring useful bits of data to OneNote and discarding a plethora of digital files. So far I'm liking OneNote - and find myself keeping it open in the background now for filing away thoughts, ideas, and digital scraps of information.

No photos for today's post - except for a catalog photo of the new laptop:


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