I’m not one to blame my tools when I work, but last week was a bad time tools-wise. My custom built ‘gaming’ laptop started to show serious signs of imminent implosion. The display suddenly went dim, and when I tried to increase the brightness it actually got dimmer. Reducing the brightness to 50% made it just about legible, but then it would flicker and threaten to die.
As a photographer and latterly a video maker and visual storyteller, screens are the lifeblood of my output. Having one that isn’t accurate is a disaster. Having one like I had last week was a desperate career situation. Sure I have external monitors, but the main laptop screen is an essential second screen at worst.
This last few months with the laptop have been torrid, not least because of Microsoft’s hellish series of Windows updates. Over the course of lockdown each update has introduced random terrifying symptoms which quickly turned out to be widespread and reported on by the big tech news sites.
The last straw was the black screen of death when I tried to install the latest update. The only way round it was to completely flatten the hard-drive and install a clean version of Windows. Which not only cost me a massive amount of time, but was followed almost immediately by the screen issue I kicked off this post with.
It’s something that, professionally at least I can’t tolerate anymore. I suspect any of us who have worked professionally as a creative, have had at least one deadline shredded by a disastrous windows update. I know I’ve had more than my fair share over the years. Thankfully (or not), this last year of lockdowns hasn’t had much in the way of paying gigs so these, most disastrous updates haven’t affected my income.
They did affect me financially however, requiring a hard-drive replacement to even enable me to boot up and diagnose the first update induced problem back in March.
So, for my professional work at least, I’ve made a momentous move. I’ve gone to the dark side. I’m typing this very post on an Apple Mac Mini M1. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve thrown at it so far; the cute little silver cuboid really packs a punch. I threw a 30 minute video through DaVinci Resolve ( which now has an M1 specific version by the way ) and it chewed through the render process in 6 and a half minutes.
Now that I’ve acclimatised to everything, including the close and minimise window buttons being in opposite land, I’m actually enjoying using it. There have been some compatibility issues though, which feel like MS and Apple being intransigent asshats rather than something that couldn’t be fixed.
We’ll see how long the honeymoon period is, but right now, I definitely do not have buyer’s remorse. I haven’t totally ditched Windows, mind. I’m a gamer and a sim-racer and unfortunately Apple can’t yet hold a candle to Windows in that regard (I have my doubts that they’ve any desire to), so I managed to somehow get a new desktop PC with
hen’s teeth a RTX3070 in it.
Bizarrely, it was cheaper to buy both of these things than to buy a new gaming laptop. A machine that I’ve come to realise, I can’t save when it dies by replacing a part myself; and that I can’t bring up to date easily when new tech supersedes it.
That’s for another post, but suffice to say, that’s been bit of a revelation as well. It will make my gaming YouTube channel (a hobby at the moment) much easier to produce content for.
The main take away for me career-wise, is that I’m glad I’ve ditched the terrifying random consequences of Windows 10’s rushed and oft-botched update policy. I don’t think I’ll be going back anytime soon.
When things go back to normal, and I can get back to my studio, the Mini is more portable than my old laptop anyway. It’s lighter, takes up less space in my bag, and on my desk. I never used the laptop outside of those situations anyway. I prefer to compartmentalise my process and work in specific spaces. I’m not the kind of person who can edit a video in a coffee house, so chucking my little cuboid in my bag seems ideal. It even means I can take a smaller bag.
Maybe it’ll all go south with the next OS update. Right now, though, I’m pretty smug about it all.