Project Cloud Citizen has been a resounding success; it’s literally waiting now on two time-sensitive issues:
- I pass probation at work so I might have more leeway in the machine I keep in the office to use for this project;
- I decide to either use a laptop, or become almost entirely iPad based
I’ve got a generation 1 iPad Pro 9.7-inch, Wi-fi only, 32GB tablet. It was purposely bought a few years ago as a bare minimum use device for purely media consumption, but thanks to Project Cloud Citizen — it’s wonderful, it lets me do just about everything with it short of solid code development (Using docker etc) although that is already solved in the project through the really good RDP client that Microsoft makes for iPad users.
"...it's purely from a gaming perspective that I'm holding back..."
The iPad solves and makes comfortable, an idea of having a clean, sleek slate that acts as a window into my digital world (hah, a window to Windows basically) and lets me roam around pretty much anywhere with sufficient download speeds, and minimal upload speeds - while enjoying the power of hardware that is usually not within reach in those locations.
In fact, it’s purely from a gaming perspective that I'm holding back from not even needing my laptop as I can do everything either via RDP, or directly here on the iPad itself (I’m in fact, writing this blog post on the iPad right now!). So, that leads me to think about the following options:
- Do I research exhaustively and figure out a way to remote game with my iPad (this will most likely involve money)
- Do I just make do? 70% of the time I'm gaming, will be at home, with the remaining 30% being remote on travel/visits/etc.
- Probation ending, means I'll be able to implement a small Mini-ITX machine at the office, thus once again, freeing my laptop as a client
Option 1, is of course, the hard way. And what would this experiment be, without trying to figure out things the hard way? There's a variety of ways to cope with the use of the iPad as a thin client; including jailbreaking my iPad to allow it to function with a mouse, through to actually buying an iOS compatible (with specific apps) mouse. While it's not awesome that I have to spend money for a solution, it is acceptable, as I'm paying for something that's a bit outside the box (for most Aussie PC users), so to speak. A quick bit of Google-fu tells me that I'll need something called the Citrix X1 Mouse, and the Jump Desktop application totalling something like, $120.00 in expenditure.
I won't actually be able to see how the X1 mouse feels, so the risk is that it is completely terrible for gaming, although the Jump Desktop videos briefly demonstrates some gaming with the X1 mouse (on games I've never seen before). So, that's pretty much the biggest risk, I'll be spending money on a mouse I don't want to use, and once I have it, I might lose it because it's wireless.
It's an iPad. The main comparison I'll be doing is against my laptop as a client.
The screen isn't going to be very big, the keyboard isn't as nice as a full-size mechanical keyboard, and there aren't as many keys/options/shortcuts I can hammer around. It's not as powerful as my laptop, in a pinch.
Local storage does become an issue as well - the laptop has 500GB built-in, whereas my iPad comes with 32GB built-in. The workaround is thankfully available in the form of lightning-connector USB memory sticks; however this still remains a negative as I'd have to carry around a whole bunch of them to meet my storage needs.
Finally also, I'm dependent on the existence of Wi-fi or a 4G tethered connection. There's no real workaround for this aside from making sure I get a Cellular data-capable iPad when I upgrade in the future.
In terms of mobility, ease of use, the iPad is king. Even with carrying an extra mouse it's still king. My laptop provides awesome functionality, and even more power; but as a thin client it does almost exactly the same stuff as the iPad. The iPad lets me use the pencil, keyboard and mouse to do all sorts of stuff, whilst all being completely silent, and functional, even as a spare camera in a hurry.
I can flip it open, or turn it on and it'll wake instantly and I can get straight to using stuff. If I ever wanted to draw or plan a diagram, there's an app for that (at this stage in the iOS evolution, I think that phrase is pretty much biblical now) - my Apple Pencil is hands down the best stylus I have ever used; if I need to do something more meaty than email, web and media, I can remote into my Cloud system and do it. I've got significant bandwidth on my 4G phone with tethering, so I'm not concerned about data limits right now.
My iPad is in a gorgeous real leather case that cost me a very pretty penny, it's a joy to handle, carry around and appreciate. It's smaller and quieter than my laptop too. It still has a headphone jack for my headsets, and it has a fairly comfortable keyboard/screen protector for it (an authentic Apple Smart Keyboard - admittedly in its 9.7-inch flavour which is no longer available).
The iPad is silent in operation. I can't stress how amazing this is for me, either. My current laptop, while it's a slim, sleek powerhouse - sounds like a jet engine ready for takeoff when anything starts to write to the SSD in it.
The problem with Option 2 isn't such a big one. More and more of my time in entertaining myself on my gear is passive entertainment (music, movies, TV, etc.) as opposed to interactive entertainment (games). However, it does defeat the purpose of Project Cloud Citizen. Ideally, the intent was to do everything via a thin client (in this case an iPad Pro) in the cloud.
In fact, it's already the option I'm currently using per se.
None really, I don't have an extra mouse to lose, and I can still do everything I was going to do as a remote cloud user short of gaming.
I can't game. I can't show friends games, and I can't enjoy the full power of mobile computing through the cloud on this device using just a touch interface. The touch interface is a nightmare to use on Windows RDP; buttons are still fiddly, and doing full productivity in something like Visual Studio Code, then alt-tabbing to do something in Photoshop just won't work. While possible, it requires re-learning everything and there's a lack of precision that a mouse pointer offers.
It affects workflow and productivity on top of the lack of gaming abilities. To me, this single handedly makes Option 2 unviable.
No extra equipment needed, as I can already do this now.
Finally there's the 'long play' option. This involves a few serious steps however. Once probation is over I have the room and space to deploy a mini-ITX PC at my desk. There's some risks and negatives involved that would make me consider Option 3 as a 'next evolution' kind of step to the whole project.
This is absolutely the most expensive solution to the project. It involves buying essentially a whole new PC. Hardware compatibility, configuration, etc. All the usual caveat emptor situations apply with building a new PC.
Moving to a full blown PC also means there's issues with configuration for headless gaming.
Again, the price. The hardware configuration. A lot of the drawbacks of the other options no longer exist as the power of a full desktop experience comes into play.
My laptop acting as a client might work well, pending fan sounds, portability (it's not that portable) and battery power too. My laptop itself is already quite powerful, but it weighs more than an iPad.
It has a horrible thermal solution that makes it sound like a vacuum cleaner, and packing away the laptop heats up the bag as well immediately after use; not to mention the actual temperature of the laptop when in use.
There's a lot that I dislike about my laptop, which is why it hardly gets the usage it deserves - it's nowhere near the sleek experience I had with the Apple MacBook Air. And in a strong sense, it's further justification for me to use the laptop as a hub for Project Cloud Citizen, and then migrate to a PC as the next step when the laptop starts to give out.
All told, Option 1 seems to be the way to go, with a mix of Option 3 as a 'next stage'. Midway through writing this post (on the iPad I might add) - I realise that a Project Roadmap might be the most interesting thing to do for the outcome of this project.
So perhaps that's what I'll do - while Option 1 requires forking out money, it also avoids the risks of Jailbreaking my device, but also means I have applicaiton and hardware support continued for my iPad. It means my Laptop still gets some utilisation, and a purpose to it, rather than the costs of expensive hardware not being hosted within my own home.
Once I'm more comfortable in doing everything I possibly can on the iPad while away from home, I'll migrate to a full blown desktop PC experience.