Welcome to the, home of Brian Hoessler. A community-based researcher by trade, my assorted fascinations include cities, the non-profit sector, public transit, and how to build awesome neighbourhoods. For fun I practice my (very) amateur skills in photography and web design, and on occasion hit people with swords.

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Right Tools

I just arrived in Chicago for a conference – third time for American Evaluation Association, and I’m hoping that I won’t break anything this time1. While me being accident-prone is a hilarious topic in its own right, my thoughts today are more on technology and the right tool for the job.

The previous two conferences in 2012 and 2014, as well as the Canadian edition in 2014, saw me tote my iPad rather than a laptop to handle my electronic needs. At that time, it could handle what I usually threw at it for conferences, namely note-taking, copious tweeting (I was the most prolific tweeter at last year’s AEA conference, not that I’m boasting), blogging, and some light work emailing. Even with a Bluetooth keyboard to ease typing, it took up less space and weight than my 15” MacBook Pro and certainly had better battery life. It was easy to pull out just the tablet if I wanted to look up something quick and not too much more effort to stand it up with the keyboard on a table or even my lap. And as an extra perk, I didn’t have to pull it out of my bag for security at the airport.

Fast forward to today’s trip and I’ve swapped out the iPad for a 13” MacBook Air that I bought for work earlier this year. What prompted this switch-up? For starters, the change in laptop negated some of the tablet benefits. The MBA has amazing battery life and is extremely light, to the point where I have to reassure myself that it’s still in my bag. My iPad’s feeling a little clunky in comparison, even though it’s only half the weight of the laptop 2. Beyond that, my needs have changed a bit: unlike previous conferences, where I managed to clear my workload for the most part beforehand, I may have some matters to attend to while I’m at the conference. And, um, I still have one of my presentations to prepare for.

Of course, an iPad can handle most of those tasks, so long as I made sure that I had the right apps loaded up and files synced through Dropbox or iCloud. My departure was a bit more hectic than I’d hope for, so in different circumstances I may have taken the risk. I think there’s also a bit of envy on my part right now over the new multitasking features only available to the newest iPad models, and intense curiosity over the iPad Pro, just announced yesterday to be available for order this Wednesday. Of course, if the old technology still works, there should be no barrier to using it, but it’s hard to ignore the latest and greatest

In any case, this conference may be a good test of my current technology use cases, and help me determine whether the 13” is the one-size machine for my needs or whether the iPad still has its place. Stay tuned!

  1. True story: the previous two times, I ended up breaking the same toe either the week before or the week after. ↩︎
  2. The model I have is the iPad 3, otherwise known as the first one with a Retina display and the last one with a 30-pin connector. ↩︎
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