So tonight I brought home a spare desktop and set up a home server. The goal is to make it easy to use simple, cheap devices like the Acer Aspire One for everyday computing, but still have access to more powerful resources for the heavy lifting. As I found, as much as I really want a new MacBook Pro, for a fraction of the price I could snag a netbook and a snazzy desktop.
A while ago, I asked if we all need two computers. While it's clear that we don't actually need multiple computers, it can make a lot of sense to have machines that serve a specialized purpose. Trying to find the perfect desktop replacement that does everything you will ever need and won't break your back or your bank account while you're at it is a bit of a challenge.
On the other hand, I now have a server where we can share documents, securely store a variety of media files, run virtual machines to test environments and provide the kids with sandboxes that they can access at the console or remotely, and that has enough horsepower to make those home movies or edit family photos.
I still question whether low-powered, specialized machines like the new netbook on which I'm typing this post will be enough to satisfy me on a daily basis, or even satisfy my kids. Will they always be fighting for access to the desktop for its speed and multimedia/multitasking capabilities? I don't think so, but if I knew the answer, this wouldn't be much of an experiment, would it?
My wife was frowning as the desktop took up extra space and couldn't be concealed in a drawer like our laptops. They are handy, but they aren't cheap. Netbooks are approaching disposable prices and the really cheap laptops aren't exactly full-featured. Netbooks, as well, seem to be a great solution for the average student to take to school, run with to the library, and then come home and sync with the home server (making the cheapest netbooks with small solid state drives perfectly suitable for the average student). Or, at least, that's the theory. Again, now I can test it. I'll get back to you.