Anyone who has tried to use multiple computers knows how difficult it is to prepare for a long trip. You end up spending hours making sure that you have all the stuff on your laptop that you’ll need. Transferring files over the network is easy these days but the difficult part is deciding what you’ll need and what you can leave behind.
Apple has built Back to Mac which does indeed help considerably when you happen to forget something, but you have to pay for MobileMe to make use of it. I happen to use MobileMe to keep my calendar in sync between my iPhone and my iMac (Find my iPhone is worth the price alone). But for most, MobileMe just isn’t worth paying for.
Many people have decided that the best way to avoid that entire issue is to use a notebook as their primary computer. While this is certainly a fantastic option there are many downsides to using a notebook rather than a desktop. A lot of it has to do with the ugly setup that is a result of connecting all of the things (external hard drive, TV tuner, Turbo.264, etc.) that you’d like to have connected all the time. From my experience, one of two things happens as a result of this. Either the notebook sits on the desk and lives there until you have to go on a trip or you end up having to disconnect and reconnect everything when you want to use it on the couch.
Using a notebook as my primary computer has never really worked out that well for me. I just end up frusrated with the lower performance, higher cost, smaller screen, etc. Instead I prefer a beefier desktop (currently an iMac) with a slower, lighter notebook computer (currently a first generation white MacBook) that is used on the couch and on trips.
But, now we get back to the problem of keeping things in sync. What’s most interesting about the whole keeping-things-in-sync situation is that I’ve never had this problem with my iPhone. I use my iPhone for many tasks that I previously would have used my notebook for. But trying to figure out what I’ll need on my iPhone for a trip isn’t a problem at all.
Apple has always made syncing with their devices easy, iTunes is simply the best application for syncing mobile devices, ever.
I am consider a change to my computing situation this spring or summer. Instead of using an iMac and a MacBook, I have a strong feeling the MacBook will be replaced by an iPad. Not just because it will be able to do everything I need a notebook to do but also because it will make my life easier. When I go on a trip I’ll just plug in the iPad, hit a few check boxes, click the sync button, and I’m ready to go. The painful process of making sure I have everything I need won’t be a problem anymore.
Some may consider the iPad to be a device for their parents because of it’s simplicity, but I see it as the perfect secondary computer.