A Case for Desktop
In previous posts, I have written about limiting certain tasks to specific devices.1 Associating devices with apps is one way to minimise over-reliance on all devices all the time, a way to beat constant participation in the daily stream of data and communication. This freeing up mental space by making decisions about device use in advance is sometimes called 'digital minimalism'.
Below, I will outline what those decisions look like for me. The bottom line is that I end up doing most online tasks on my desktop computer at home. I avoid logging into personal accounts at work. And if I have to do work from home, I do so on a dedicated work laptop that contains no personal information or logins.
By 'desktop', I mean either a PC or a laptop. My laptop is connected to a large monitor positioned at eye-level on my desk, functioning as a desktop computer most of the time.
My setup at home comprises a second-hand Thinkpad containing three hard drives:
- Pop!_OS linux (daily use)
- Windows 10 Pro (audio project use)2
- 2TB Data drive that can be accessed by both OSs
I will write separate posts about hard disk management and using Linux; that all happened later in the journey.
The advantage of allocating certain tasks to desktop is that these are then tied to specific times of the day by default: either early morning or at the end of the day, if you have a regular work schedule.
Tasks I do on desktop (at home):
- online purchases (tickets, travel, gifts, donations, subscriptions, regular purchases)
- social media (Reddit, LinkedIn, previously, other social media)
- online research, online learning, online courses
- video watching (I hate watching video on my smartphone)
- health, ID related actions
- almost all browsing
- most writing
- most budgeting and banking
- most emails
- most planning & to do lists
- most note-taking (Standard Notes)
- most password management (KeePass)
- some music listening
Tasks I do on my smartphone (mostly at home, occasionally outside):
- meditation app
- Signal messaging
- kids' school platform apps
- logging in (two factor authentication app, gov't ID app, banking app)
- crypto wallet
- some online banking transactions
some email quick checks or reads(see Updates)
- occasional music listening
- occasional browsing
Tasks I do on my Light Phone 2 (home & out):
- breathing exercises (audio files stored on device)
- phone calls
- alarm clock
- occasional podcast listening
Tasks I do without devices:
- most music listening (Hi-fi system)
- some planning and writing to-do lists
- some writing
I have recently noticed that the scanning printed QR codes (concert tickets, train travel) by machines or hand-held devices is inconsistent.
Because I stick to these allocations to task-to-device quite rigorously, I have gotten into trouble in emergencies. This is mainly because I don't carry my password manager app on me.
By allocating most tasks normally done 'on the fly' on smartphones to desktop, I end up spending quite a lot of time at my computer in the evenings.
I miss writing by hand in journals, but there are too many advantages that come with typing directly into software.
Current use and looking ahead
I have ended making a case for desktop computing here. I prefer the ergonomics of sitting behind a desk on a proper chair, and, for me, it is easier to concentrate on tasks when working on a desk. These are personal decisions, of course. My main argument is against allowing yourself to be beholden to all tasks or communication with people all day long.
The idea of a constant stream of data comes from Sam Harris' interview with Cal Newport on Making Sense episode 304 "Why I Left Twitter". Cal Newport talks about how the expectation of constant engagement via digital communication in the workplace is proven to be counter-productive. His ideas really resonated with me, and I feel the same thinking can be applied to our personal engagement with devices and data. The interview is well-worth listening to. (The interview with Cal Newport starts after a preamble by Harris about leaving Twitter).
Wired magazine published this article about avoiding social media phone apps.
January 2023: After I finished reading Cal Newport's book Digital Minimalism, I decided to delete email apps from my smartphone. I only check email on desktop now.
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See this post and this post, for example.↩
The only thing stopping me from dropping Windows altogether is that I cannot find satisfactory solutions for audio production in Linux. There is a good subreddit and a forum devoted to this topic.↩