The Four Operating System Household – 2022 Edition

Summary: Having multiple devices with different operating systems and Apps waste time, consume un-necessary bandwidth, and are overall bad for productivity (and the environment). A few years ago, I had written a post on this blog with a very similar title. My premise back then was that with more and more devices coming into every household, the number of operating systems one has to deal with is only going to keep increasing.

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Back in 2015, we had a Windows laptop, a Linux laptop, an ipad, and both me and the Mrs. had Android phones. Today, this situation is a little different. The number of operating systems has not only gone up, but variations or these operating systems of the above remain.
  • iPhones, iPad have their own Operating system
  • We do have an Android phone. Kindle Fire Stick technically can be called as an Android device as well.
  • Both of us have Windows machine, and I have a Linux computers
  • A work colleague decided to follow the Great Resignation path, and the 2012 Macbook Pro which they used will return to the barn in a week’s time. I may or may not install Linux on it, but then Mac OS adds to the mix.
  • Some other devices also exist, which have an operating system of their own. The Amazon Echo Dot for example.
The above list can have a negative effect. For example, the environmentalist in me cringes at the thought that we have so much electronic clutter.

From Holy Trinity to Sapta Rishis

There was an era when Apple fanboys and girls used to gloat over owning the Holy Trinity (Macbook or a Mac desktop, iPhone and iPad). Now a days, this Trinity has become what is known in Sanksrit as Pancha Mahabhoota (the five elements. Traditionally, the have been what the Anglo Saxon World refers to The Five Elements. These are: Laptop, phone, tablet, watch and home entertainment device.

Image from The FIfth Element Movie Not the Fifth Element you were expecting!

In the android world, add Smart TV to the mix. Thank Goodness the idea of Google glasses and the likes did not take off too much- otherwise, we could designate one device for each day of the week. Something like the SaptaRishis or Seven Sages, known as the wisest of the wise in Classical texts in India. And soon in marriages in India, the concept of Saptapadi would be replaced with Sapta Android. *


The Obvious downsides of Multiple Devices

With so many devices things get really, really complicated. For each device, the software and the apps need to be updated frequently. It is a nuisance at a minimum, a time waste at all times, and over the long run, a productivity killer, and harmful to the environment. Let us look at each of them briefly.

Nuisance value

The other day my wife were trying to watch Hotstar on our TV through the Kindle Fire Stick.After a long and tiring day at work, we were looking forward to watching a rerun of Boston Legal, one of our favourite TV shows. When I turned on the Kindle Firestick, a message popped up that the (Disney+) Hotstar app needs to be updated. I promptly rejected the update option and we started watching the show. A similar situation happens in case of our phones. My greatest frustration occurs when I’m trying to use an app. But at least the device gives you the option of ignoring the update. I do not use Windows much, but I noticed that it actually forces the updates down your throat. For example, very reluctantly I had to update my wife’s computer to Windows 11. The irony is, that windows 10 is going to be supported till 2024 or 2025. So why does Microsoft want me to use a new Operating System, that may still have bugs? Personally, I don’t really believe in using the leading edge software. However, I am a big supporter of keeping updated when it comes to security patches.

Time Wasting

Many system or app updates require you to update the app or reboot the device. We do have some of the fastest machines with us fortunately, but each reboot takes up 3 or 4 minutes out of productive use. Not to mention the countless “what’s new” messages and pop ups that may appear.

Productivity Killer

This is a direct offshoot of the first two. Sometimes, one just wants to use an app, and get it over and done with. Say I am looking for a cab ride, and I open up the Uber app. Ideally, it should fire up right away. Hardly the case! I need not get into repeating myself, you get the picture.

Frequent updates are bad for the environment

Because of frequent app and system updates, the amount of bandwidth consumed by the devices really adds up. I am not even talking about the ‘app refresh’ that keeps happening by default in these devices (WhatsApp, email client, any other apps including music players, etc. Thankfully, we have disabled all background refreshes and automatic updates. But updates consume bandwidth. Bandwidth consumes electricity, and burns CPU cycles in telecom devices and data centers. There was a lot of hue and cry about Crypto mining and its impact on the environment. It will be interesting to calculate the environmental impact of the app updates.

Bottomline: Less is More

I’m not really interested in incremental changes to apps or operating system. Major upgrades and security updates are a no-brainer and a must do. However, under the guise of staying current and staying updated, most operating system and app makers are creating a lot of frustration.

What is the way forward?

When I look back at the blog post I had written in 2015, one of the aims was to reduce the number of devices and the variation in them. That goal was never accomplished. As an interim measure, I would aim to have minimal number of applications running on each devices. That way, at least these frequent updates will become less of a nuisance. My wife’s iPhone only has 8 or 9 iOS apps (other than the standard ones that come with the phone). In the coming months, I am going to closely watch the following: a. Which applications I use the most b. Which applications are installed on multiple devices (Simplenote will remain, it is the best cross-platform note taking and sharing app we have used). c. Which apps get frequent (and most number of updates) Majority of devices already have a feature which list the applications are used most or least frequently. That could be a starting step.
*Saptapadi: During a traditional Hindu marriage, the bride and the groom walk together 7 times around the fire (Agni Kunda). When the new bride enters the household, she dips her feet in water mixed with kumkum and takes seven steps. Depending on which part of India you live in, you may be familiar with either or both the traditions.
  About this post: The theme of my blog for Thursdays is called ‘Technology Thursdays’, and this post is written as a part of my #bloggingchallenge for the month of February 2022. Feature Image: Minakshi Madan, Deviant Art. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License Wordcount: 1150 words, Time taken for drafting, editing, publishing and images: 1 hour 10 minutes.
This post was updated on 2022-02-28
Categorized as Technology