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May 01
The Surface RT Still Runs

Something I forget from time to time is that over the years, I've moved from one computer to the next quickly enough that I have a perhaps alarmingly large collection of computers that are best described as "still running." I mean something specific by that.

The problem I've had since my ThinkPad T400 started having more problems this year, not only with its display, but with other parts of its hardware, was that I wasn't sure what would do my computing from that point forward. Not just on what computer am I going to sort and process photos, but on what computer would I compose future novels, what would I do budgeting on, where would I compose thoughts about society and technology, among other things.

The Surface 3 had been standing in for a lot of things I might normally have done on the T400, and the other thing I need to remind myself I have is several desktop computers, much better Internet connection availability, and also a beefy server with literally 45 gigabytes of free RAM and CPUs that sit idle all day.

One of the things I've long wanted to do, in fact, has been to set up a virtual machine on that server I can remotely access. With the death of the T400, software licensing to do that is now available, and I've been testing some of it, in particular Adobe Lightroom, in a virtual machine with Windows 10 on it.

The virtual machine has six gigabytes of RAM and access to three processor cores, a 200 gigabyte boot disk and a one-terabyte data disk, giving it a little bit of a leg-up over the ThinkPad T400. In fact, in some bulk processing tasks, it's got a huge advantage over the T400. I was able to do a bulk operation I sometimes do to my entire photo library on the virtual machine in about 18 hours, down from two weeks on the T400. There is a lot more room on the server for a VM that uses more RAM and takes more disk space, so I could easily increase the resources when I start to use it for more things.

The trouble remains what to do on the go. I can only do so much with the software that's on a computer like the Surface RT or the Yoga RT, which both still work and are still good for writing, but not necessarily great for research.

I think the compromise I'm making is that if I'm in some situation where I have good enough connectivity for research, I'm going to do it in a browser on a remote computer. When I'm at home, the RDP connection is good enough that I can use full color to browser and make simple edits to the photos, but I should also be able to synchronize the photos with another machine licensed for Lightroom, such as my main desktop.

This will make certain operations a lot slower. In particular, importing images from a camera card or a phone will be slow. I think there's probably some reevaluation of workflow that needs to be done there. When I set up the workflow I have today, I was using a camera that made then huge images and stored them on a relatively small cards. I was using 2 and 4 gigabyte cards, and it wasn't until a few years after that I bought my first 32-gig memory card. Compare to today where I keep a 128 gig memory card in my main camera, and I can shoot several vacations on the one card or for a few weeks at once. There's no need for me to be able to run Lightroom and carry my entire photo library with me on a portable computer, because I have enough cards and cards that are big enough that I no longer generally need to import photos while I'm out and about, something I spent a lot of effort being prepared to do in previous years.

And so I'm left with the Surface RT, which can use Office, and can browse some web pages. The main thing I really need to do with it, however, is write things, and it handles that task fine.

The Surface RT has the advantage of a pretty good screen, and it has a nice keyboard which I can easily replace with newer ones should the need come across, and it still works well with a lot of tablet applications such as Netflix and Kindle.

I think that the trouble is that people, I know I'm included in this, tend to think of devices not in terms of what they can do, but in terms of what they can't do. This is particularly true in mobile devices and for me when I tend to think about what a particular computer would have trouble doing, without thinking particularly well about whether or not being able to do that task is important any more.

The Surface RT still runs, and it does enough that I don't think it is important if there's things it doesn't do.


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