The Great Portable Debate: iPad vs Laptop

When Apple released the M1 iPad Pros, I decided to give a go at using an iPad in the place of my laptop (which, at the time, was a 2018 13″ MacBook Pro). I was already using my 2017 10.5″ iPad Pro a lot – like, more than my laptop – but I didn’t have a keyboard for it. I ordered the 11″ and 12.9″ versions and quickly decided the 12.9″ was too big/heavy for a tablet, even though it was nicer as a laptop, so I returned that one and have been using the 11″ M1 iPad Pro with a magic keyboard ever since.

Before I get into the “debate” part of this too heavily, I just want to cover a few things about the iPad. The magic keyboard is actually really great, but it’s stupid expensive. I got it on sale for half price ($150) which is honestly the top of what it should actually cost at retail. I have several mechanical keyboards and pay attention to that market, and $150 will get you a really solid mech, whereas $300 will get you a ridiculously high-end artisan board. Apple produces the iPad Magic Keyboard en masse, and there’s quite frankly no reason or excuse for it cost what it does. But it is a great keyboard. Better than what was on my 2018 MacBook Pro or any of Apple’s old butterfly switch keyboards.

Anyway, I used the iPad like a laptop for over a year (the MBP went unused for like 6 months or so, then I sold it 😅). If you know me, you know I write quite a bit, so when I say I used the iPad for writing, I do mean that I wrote something like 50-70k words on it plus a ton of editing, all in Microsoft Word.

To be totally honest, it wasn’t a terrible experience, but it also wasn’t great. I knew when I sold my MacBook Pro that I wasn’t just not going to have a personal Mac, but the value of Intel Macs was dropping pretty rapidly, so the plan was to eventually buy an Apple Silicon Mac.

The redesigned M2 MacBook Air fit the bill perfectly, so I ordered one in Midnight (against tech YouTubers’ advice) on launch. Yes, the Midnight color shows fingerprints more than lighter colors. No, it’s not nearly as problematic as some made it seem. Just like all my other devices that I touch, I use the thing and wipe the fingerprints off if and when they become too noticeable.

The M2 Air is fantastic. The screen, keyboard, trackpad, design, battery – the whole package is exactly the laptop I was looking for. There were no compromises like with my 2018 MBP, which means I could then compare optimal laptop versus optimal iPad for my use cases. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past several months.

First, I still find myself using my iPad more often when just chilling on the sofa. I switch between Discord, iPad games, and web browsing a lot, which the iPad is great for. Yes, it is a better experience to, say, use Discord on my laptop, but in that specific case, the convenience of doing everything from one device outweighs the benefit of switching over to my laptop for that one task.

I was never really uncertain about that, though. For me, it was always a question of “can I write novels on an iPad?” And truthfully, the answer is “yes, I can and have.” But the experience is worse, and compromises are needed.

  • Selecting individual words is just so much harder, which makes:
    • Spelling errors harder to fix
    • Getting definitions difficult
      • I cannot tell you how much I miss CMD+Ctrl+D on iPad OS
  • Grammar plugins not available for Word on iPad OS.
    • No, I am not changing my entire on-screen keyboard for this, it’s a bad compromise
  • Multitasking is just harder.
    • I switch between Word, OneNote, and my browser quite a bit while writing initial drafts.
    • Yes, iPad OS has some multitasking features, but they’re nowhere near as good as a real desktop OS.

Most of those compromises could be resolved by Apple perfectly emulating the Mac experience on the iPad, or even just Microsoft making Word work more like the desktop app, but that isn’t where the iPad is currently at.

There’s also a really difficult to describe intangible factor that really makes each device appealing to me. I’m typing this on the M2 Air right now, and it just feels right. Nothing objective at all about that, but if I’m trying to be productive or creative, this Air is the better device for me.

Should the rumors of touchscreen Macs be true, that’s definitely going to require an update down the line.

2022

Well, not posting for an entire year until the very last minute is apparently becoming a habit of mine.

2022 was a weird year for me professionally. I don’t get into work stuff here like I used to 15 years ago (🧓🥲), but things have sort of calmed down on that front and seem to be going well now.

I am still editing the novel I mentioned in my last update (The Storm). Editing is going a bit long on this one because I 1) wrote a novella in between editing sessions and 2) keep finding continuity errors that I have to fix that affect multiple parts of the story, so edit, re-edit, re-re-edit, etc. Hopefully this next round of editing is the last, then I’ll publish it. The novella is just something I wrote for fun; no publishing of that.

This year also brought some unfortunate changes to Twitter, and if I’m going to be completely honest, Twitter is one of the main reasons I stopped posting here as much. Micro-blogging (or whatever you want to call Twitter) scratched that itch for me, but now that Twitter is an Elon Musk enterprise, I’m not super thrilled about it. Here’s where you can still find me on all of the things, including Mastodon.

I saw a KPop show this year (AleXa, Rolling Quartz, and Pixy), which was pretty dope. I don’t do live concerts much anymore (COVID aside), but that was fun.

Here’s what’s been stuck in my head most recently:

Will 2023 finally be the year of my return to blogging? Tune in next year to find out!

2021

I don’t post many updates here anymore – though looking at my last draft, it seems like I meant to post something in August of 2020 and forgot to. Whoops. Honestly, I’m a lot more private than I once was, and I don’t really want to put my whole life anywhere online, even including this site that I control. But I can’t go all of 2021 without writing something, right? checks date Better late than never, I guess.

I’ve written several more short stories and novels since my last update about Ghost. Reiterate has been done for quite some time, I’m just super uncertain of how it turned out, so I haven’t published it. I wrote a short story with a working name of Cauliflower (it has nothing to do with vegetables) that I have no plans of publishing. I mostly wrote it because there was one specific scene I wanted to write, so I wrote a story around that scene. Heh.

My biggest project has been a novel called The Storm. I finished it a couple months ago, but I’ve only given it a once over and need to really dig into it for editing. It’s the longest novel I’ve written at around 91,000 words, so it’ll take a while to carve it up and figure out if I want to put it out into the world. In the meantime, I’ve been working on a short story that’s a sort of re-imagining of a story I outlined and partially wrote in 2011-2012.

Outside of the writing world, I’ve been playing Genshin Impact quite a lot since it launched. I’m sure that would come as a shock to no one that knows me, but I guess it’s worth mentioning.

Perhaps slightly more shocking is that I suddenly became a fan of Twice this year – completely randomly decided to try listening to some KPop and now here I am. I’ve only really dabbled back in the SNSD/Girls Generation days, but boy, was I big into JPop back in the early 2000s (did I mention that I met and got a picture with Taku Takahashi of m-flo and saw him do a live show at Otakon 2019? Cause I still can’t believe that happened).

Speaking of Korea, Solo Leveling is such a great read. If you’re into comics (it’s a full color manhwa/Korean comic), I highly recommend it. I started reading it last year, but the series just ended this week. It’s in the ‘power fantasy’ genre (MC suddenly gains a lot of power/abilities), and while it doesn’t really do anything unique, it plays in its space remarkably well.

And hey, look, if you’re reading this and I know you personally, I probably don’t need to tell you, but just in case, please get vaccinated. I don’t want to see anyone I know on /r/hermancainaward.

Ghost


In between editing sessions of
Reiterate (which is done, by the way, I just need to publish it), I was working on my first novella – a 110 page young adult cyberpunk story called Ghost. This story is something I would’ve loved to read as a teenager (and, to be honest, would still enjoy reading). I usually try to write for a broader audience, but this one is admittedly kind of niche, and as such, it’s hard to say if the same people that enjoyed Iterate will also enjoy Ghost.

That said, Ghost was the most fun I’ve ever had writing something and is a story I’m excited to put out in the world, even if it won’t reach the same audience. I came up with some concepts I’m super proud of, and if you’re up for a fun, technology-fueled ride, I’d urge you to check it out.

I’ll get a page up in the sidebar soon for Ghost, but in the meantime, you can find it on Amazon.

Source: PhilipDiStefano.com

Flash fiction neglect

I used to write a lot of flash fiction over on my woefully neglected writing blog, and it sort of bothers me more to see that blog go without updates more than this one. The thing is, I do write a lot, it’s just all long-form now. Maybe it wouldn’t be wrong to say that I’ve lost the ability to write short-form – everything just turns into a short story now. I tried posting chapters from my novels there before, but it’s impossible to keep up with edits and doesn’t feel worth the effort.

I’m writing about this here just because I’ve been thinking about it lately. I sort of miss my little 500-word inspired-by-a-song stories, even if they were too fleeting or kinda pointless. Flash fiction gave me the opportunity to write a lot of things I wouldn’t normally write about – main characters that I don’t normally create, situations that are outside of the usual young adult formulas.

There’s a line in a song that I’ve been listening to for a while now that gives me that vibe that I used to get when I’d write stories based on songs. I keep thinking I want to do something with that, but then I’m over here writing a story about espers and coronal mass ejections that takes up 100% of my writing time.

Anyway, I just wanted to get that out there. I’d say to expect updates there (and here) going forward, but I can’t make any promises.

So, about the delay…

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry

I had several ideas for Reiterate when I started writing it in 2018. Some of them panned out, and some didn’t. This is the first sequel I’ve actually penned to completion, and there were a lot more challenges than I anticipated. It is wildly difficult to try to keep a story like Iterate straight because it contains so many world-building details. I had to rewrite a lot of sections of Reiterate several times, and I had to reread Iterate a couple times, all while taking notes and making edits to the sequel. Every rewrite requires editing, and it all just compounded into much more work than I thought it would be.

The gist of what I am saying is that Reiterate is nearly done, and I know I’ve been saying that for a while, but that’s still where it stands. I underestimated the process of writing a sequel, and that’s all there is to it.

Source: PhilipDiStefano.com

Mini Gaming PC

Life has been pretty hectic for the past month or so, and things aren’t going to slow down back to normal soon, but I feel like I’m at least over the most difficult (foreseeable) part. That doesn’t really account for the apparent four month gap in posting here, but, you know, blogging isn’t at the forefront of my mind.

One of the things I never got a chance to blog about was my new gaming PC build. If I’m being totally honest, the machine I built in 2015 was still perfectly fine, especially with the GPU upgrade I did last year. However, with the release of the new Ryzens, I got the itch. Last year I got the same itch because I wanted to downsize my tower, but managed to hold off, so this seemed like as good a time as any to do a new build.

I originally tried to build the smallest PC I could with a full size GPU and an AIO liquid cooler using a Dan Case A4. That turned into a cabling nightmare, so abandoned that idea, sold the Dan Case, and went with a bigger mini ITX case, the NZXT h200. I am not normally a fan of cases with windows, but I decided to give it another shot. The jury is still out on how much it’ll annoy me when dust starts to build up, but I put substantial effort into cabling, thoughtful layout, and tasteful LEDs. The messiest thing about the build are the AIO pipes, but there’s only so much I could do with them.

Pics of that are on my Instagram.

I really dig the way it came out. Now I just need time to futz around with the 3D printer I bought two months ago…

Reiterate Release Delayed (Again)

I usually try to set expectations pretty realistically, but I have done a bad job of that here with my last couple of updates. I just finished the second major round of editing on Reiterate, and there is still something bugging me about an arc in the middle that I need to fix.

My last update mentioned May 2019, but the reality of that happening seems unlikely at this point. For now, let’s just say “coming soon.”

Source: PhilipDiStefano.com

Japan

Visiting Japan has always been a dream of mine. The “About Me” page that I used to host here listed Japan as my dream vacation for around a decade, and before that, I can probably trace the roots of that desire to at least age 14 or 15. It started with anime (and video games, to a lesser degree), and evolved over time into a deep appreciation for the country and its culture. Getting to finally go this past month was an incredible experience that I hope to be able to have again without waiting another 18 years.

I’ve flown internationally only once before, but flying to Central America (and Canada, I would assume) is quite different from a transpacific flight. Our flight to Belize was a regular six-across Southwest 737 (or something similar). Flying to Japan was a wildly different experience. We flew ANA (All Nippon Airways), which is a Japanese airline, and while we were economy class, it was the nicest economy seat I’ve ever flown in (10 seats across also makes it the biggest). If you ever get a chance to go to Japan, I’d highly recommend this airline based on my one experience with them.

We flew into Haneda airport, got through customs, swiped ourselves through the monorail station (more on that later), converted a small amount of cash to yen, and that’s about how long it took me to make my first mistake. Everyone in Japan stands on the left side of the escalator, and there’s either another standing line or people walking on the right. I stood on the right, like a dumb American, and blocked people from walking. Whoops. Didn’t make that mistake again.

Japan is very orderly, something I really love about it and missed immediately when we landed back at our home airport and had to contend with American escalator “etiquette,” by which I mean one person taking up the whole moving walkway at RDU. It’s not just escalators, either. Most people always kept to the left side of the sidewalk, just as it’s sort of standard to keep the right side here in America, but people aren’t always great about.

We found our way to the hotel, which I knew would be small, but wowzers, was that jarring to actually see in person. If you are claustrophobic, you may not want to stay in a standard Japanese hotel room. I am not joking when I say that the open space in our hotel bathroom was as small as one of the bathrooms on the airplane. The room was just a place to sleep, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was one of those things I was kind of done with toward the end of the trip (and there are very few things on that list).

The Japanese train system was very interesting. It’s one of those things I think I would hate if I lived there (due to rush hour), but as a visitor, it was incredibly convenient. You basically just put the English Suica app on your iPhone (or get a physical card if you’re an Android user or a Luddite), add some money to it, and swipe your phone on the terminal when you enter and exit a station. We probably spent about $10/day on travel, which is super reasonable, and there was a station a two minute walk from our hotel. Rush hour (and I would assume the last train of the day) was not a super pleasant experience though. Trains are so packed that people push in like sardines (still somehow in a very polite way) and brace themselves against the door frame until the doors close and their place on the train is secured.

Dining in Japan was really interesting for a couple reasons. Many Japanese restaurants have ticket systems when you walk in. You select what you want on the machine, pay, and you get a ticket that you hand to a person behind the seating area. The meals we had were generally inexpensive (some of my favorite stuff, like chicken katsu curry, was only around $7) and there is no tipping in Japan. We didn’t go to any fine dining places, but I generally felt like America could learn a thing or two from how the Japanese handle casual dining.

I couldn’t possibly give a daily play by play, but we got to visit a lot of incredible places, went to a bunch of neat shops, and ate some delicious Japanese food (some of which is not available here and I miss terribly). I’ll let the pictures do the talking here. WordPress’ gallery system is a little weird, so I’d recommend just scrolling down rather than clicking a picture and looking at the slideshow view (the portrait orientation pictures are stretched in that mode).

This trip was such a wonderful experience, I really can’t wait to go back. If you have the means to go to Japan, I’d highly recommend it.