Open Thinkering


Weeknote 02/2022

Birthday cards

WAO kicked off four projects this week, one of them completely new, and the other three a continuation of previous work with clients. I had a fun chat with Stephen Downes about some potential work we might do around critical literacies. Team Belshaw celebrated our youngest’s 11th birthday, and normal(ish) life resumed after the festive period.

Hannah, quite rightly, has asked to spend more time in the home office separate to our house. This makes sense as not only is there a sit/stand desk in there but also she tends to work until 17:00 most days, whereas I’m usually done by 16:00. Her office, such as it is, sits next to our bedroom in the loft conversion. It’s very light and warm, but when the kids are home from school unavoidably suffers from the noise of the house.

Laptop musings

While I was up in that office room at the top of the house earlier this week I tried connecting my laptop to her 4K screen. While it technically worked, everything was so slow. It didn’t matter whether I used my beloved 2017 Google Pixelbook or trusty 2012 Lenovo ThinkPad X220. As a result, I realised it was probably past time that I bought myself a new laptop.

I bought Hannah a MacBook Pro M1 last year through my business, but I much prefer using Linux to macOS. So I was looking for something that ticked various boxes. Long story short, the one that ticked all of them was the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano. Unfortunately, the prices for that currently start at about £1,700. As I’ve already got a desktop and two other laptops, this felt a little extravagant.

Some research and the inevitable spreadsheet later, I’d realised that a refurbished MacBook Air M1 is currently £850 on the Apple store. While the work of the Asahi Linux team (and others) means that great strides are being made towards making Linux work on M1 Macs, it’s not ready for primetime. And virtualising Linux would just feel janky.

What this did do, however, was reset my expectations on how much a machine should cost that can do what the MacBook Air M1 does. Some more investigation led me to the Asus Zenbook 13 UX325 which I ended up ordering yesterday and, serendipitously, arrived at our house just as I started this paragraph!

I’ve ended up sacrificing a UHD screen, but the Zenbook at least has an OLED full-HD display. The rest of this weeknote is going to be written later, because despite being 41 years old, I also have no self-control and absolutely must open this parcel right now…

<sometime later…>

OK, I’m back. It’s nice. Pop!_OS, my distro of choice, works like a charm. I’ll have to make some typing adjustments, but it seems the laptop is going to be pretty great for how I’m expecting to use it. Regarding the screen, it’s pretty amazing and I can’t really tell the difference between the resolution on it and an external 4K screen. I guess it’s all about the DPi.

I particularly like that I’ve got the Linux equivalent of Windows Hello (called Howdy) working. This means that in reasonably-lit environments I can unlock the laptop and run sudo commands by authenticating using my face instead of a password. It’s great.

Next week

It’s time to dive properly into all of the work projects next week. We’re trying to ensure that we schedule half-days for each of them. I’m also going to plan a potential walking-and-camping trip along Hadrian’s Wall in April, as I’ve scheduled the first three weeks of the month off.

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