State of the ARM
A few weeks into working on an ARM computer I have some thoughts. As a mild curiosity I had been watching Raspberry Pi headlines as the specs rise and the price stays the same. Two things happened to push me to the purchase.
A global pandemic, as covid 19 has run rampant over the past few months we have all felt the effects of lockdown and those small things you can still do to feel a sense of ease have sometime felt few and far between so buying a new tech toy kept me safe and entertained on weekends I wasn’t out and exploring.
The Mac switching to ARM rumours have been heating up for every WWDC but this one feels like everything is in place for an architecture transition of my day to day operating system so why not get ahead and look into desktop working on an ARM based system at a fraction of the cost. I cost I’m not willing to pay for a computer I could want to get rid of sooner than later if ARM turns out to be this fast dream machine that’s anticipated and I don’t believe Apple would transition before they can crush Intel so I will supplement my Mac’s until that day comes or I have a real need to update not an expensive want.
I unboxed a very nice full kit with a clicky keyboard and color coded cables and booted it up. The OS is suprisingly smooth and responsive although what I was comparing against I don’t really know. I guess the days I touch something windows and just hate everything probably because I don’t know what I’m doing with that software but the Pi came simple and easy while on Raspbian and then a week or two in Raspberry Pi OS as the transition happened.
Every few days I would jump into something and somedays come across a little piece of the puzzle other days finding dead ends. For all the good out there it’s just not the same as working on MacOS where everything is findable, developer documentation, blogs, stackoverflow, there are just holes of who has done what on this little guy and I really don’t think it’s aimed at all I want to do with it.
All that I want to do, well I would say it’s the second half to a travel setup paired with an iPad. Day to day I don’t see leaving the desktop or docked laptop. I love screen real estate too much for that and although I travel and currently live in a van I work best in my studio at my setup for hours on end. Preferably havng nice seperation of work and play with the computer staying in the office even if that’s just another room.
The first use then is a media player, the Pi is perfect for a hard drive of movies, I have been borrowing a couple from friends and theres a reason this is a touted use of the little computer. Unless you have an APFS drive, throwing this on a TV or using the iPad to watch Netflix in bed you have the options I need covered.
The next is web development, I can’t see anyone getting the iPad to work nicley without a proper terminal, every once in a while I see something cool and go on a Google hoole but never come out with a real plan to make it work. My laptop is a dinosaur its the MacBook Pro with the silver keys before the unibody, there’s a huge dent it the screen struggles and essentially it’s just waiting for the dream of an ARM mac I mentioned earlier to retire it one day. The Pi is a lot cheaper than that tho and node works great so that should make me happy with the Pi.
The development of node is not at all the problem. First a nice HTML/CSS/JS text editior, well I’m running Headmelted a version of Visual Studio Code and it’s fine but not being a proper third party release I’m hoping will get changed by Windows 10X’s own transition to ARM as I just don’t love it and I can’t find anything better.
I write myself a lot of notes outside the code while developing, ideas of what or how to build things, problems I have, solutions I’ve found and those go in two places. Apple Notes and markdown files. I understand no Apple Notes and I can reference the iPad to get those without a direct click on the link but sharing on the browser is fine if needed. I’ve been dabbling in Google keep but I also work offline, or with a hotspot pretty frequently this being my travel setup and all. Ubuntu has a notes app which I tried but without cross platform or an online repo it’s a non-starter. So Text Editor to github? I don’t know yet but I’d like something without writing on the iPad that I haven’t found yet.
The lack of a nice markdown editior is really where I struggle. I can and do write in VS Code but it’s not a dream experience. I am therefore writing this piece in Text Editor, not markdown, which is fine at best and I presume someone will build something for RaspberryOS I like or I’ll figure out a way of making electron code work or something because Typora on the Mac is in a different world to what I am doing now and I don’t want to be on a second keyboard for the iPad as I do really like this keyboard and my hands are already on it.
It took me a while to figure out Firefox ESR, I’m not sure why this isn’t better docuented but I use firefox as my main browser and this is stupid but I couldn’t stand the internet icon on Raspberry Pi OS so much so I couldn’t use it. Firefox is good tho, the development tools are just what I am used to, I can’t make new passwords or shortcuts for the desktop to so I still use a little of chromium and other work arounds.
The design files I can export from XD to a jpeg if I know I need them offline, save them to Zepplin online but working in XD primarily for the designs I am developing I’m never getting Adobe support on here and honestly I’m fine with that if they make Creative Cloud on the mac good I’ll treat it like being seperate people and send myself design files to then develop as many designers and developer pairs already do.
MongoDB is my yesterday problem, theres a Ubuntu ARM release so I think I should be able to get this to work but I googled for a minute or two and then was leaving for something else so if I update this post another time I may have a better idea of what I am doing in the way a lot of these problems just don’t have that documentation or I don’t know the places to find it yet. Maybe I need to comile more of my own.
Learning Linux by default is nice tho, it’s helping with servers even if they are primarily not ARM it’s still Ubuntu if or when I’m on there.
So my web development environment is messy at best and very sperate from the files I am designing for that process.
On the other side I’ve been learning SwiftUI so if the other great hope of every WWDC comes true and XCode or XCode by any other name that’s more powerful than Swift Playgrounds comes to iPad I may not need to care this is obviouslly never going to happen here.
As a setup over the workbench it’s perfect for the ifixit or YouTube tutorial I am going over and reover and probably a few more times to diagnose whatever hardware problem it is. Playing podcasts on overcast.com looses smart speed and voice boost but that’s fine for limited use or again back to iOS and the speaker or headphones.
I have a few other things I would like to try, working with a lot of media capture and dumping to external drives, which even with that single USB C port it’s not quite right on iPad. I have yet to need this and therefore haven’t got into a good duplication program I use, Carbon Copy Cloner so I wouldn’t be suprised if I go back to a terminal command but the lack of APFS would mean this would probably be a special situation anyway.
A single screen app for display purposes, I figure having a way to just pull from an API I write or grab from somewhere to a small screen is if I give up on this little guy but want to give him a nice home but as I said I’ve been looking at SwiftUI so this would be chomium I guess and theres a couple steps before I have that sorted.
And that’s really all there is, for most of my on the road needs like emails, social, photos I either procrastinate if it’s complex or I do it on iOS. Leaving me with a great media player for the lounge or an HDMI screen in the van. A perfect little garage computer for while I’m dealing with hardware be that computer or something bigger. A development machine if I all I need to do is develop node, simple SCSS tweaks or PHP based web on the road, all three of those I do pretty frequently and I really am super impressed at how well this can do all of those and be thrown in the backpack beside an iPad while I do them.
Raspberry Pi OS vs Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi is a seperate post I haven’t written yet.