The Reform - Focused work

I have been talking to Josch on the MNT IRC channel, and he mentioned there that his Reform is his sole computer right now. Given all the extra work he has done on his and for the community, I thought this was super impressive, but maybe not for reasons that are readily apparent.

I originally wanted to make this into some kind of a blog post review of the Reform in a long term format. I wrote about the Reform already (with MANY typos and grammar errors) but I feel like what was talked about there on the MNT IRC channel is something that might not be so obvious but is just very important to the use case that the Reform represents. (at least for me)

Two things actually:

  1. The Reform allows you to modify it in an almost infinite number of ways, and this ability endears the Reform to you in ways your other computers rarely can. Because you have been able to customize the Reform exactly the way you want, it really is the much more personal computer. You develop a connection to it.

  2. The computational and resource limitations of the Reform encourage a type of productivity that is not as readily apparent on other more powerful systems. What do I mean by this? Well this might be too focused on my particular use case, but I digress, we are in too deep at this point. I work with computers that are powerful. This is because of work and because of play. The issue with such systems is that they tend to encourage game play or entertainment pursuits, instead of work. This is human nature and one of my weaknesses. I love computers. I have been heavily into them as early as a young child. I used to be a big gamer, in fact my professional career has revolved around gaming (Windows game development) for a good chunk of it. As I’ve gotten older games lost their appeal. The rinse and repeat nature of the industry has stolen the fun out of most games that I see come out today, but let’s not turn this into my position on the gaming industry. All of this is to say rather that I can be easily distracted.

The Reform is a capable laptop. It can do 95% of what any other computer can do. However because of its system memory limitations (4gb RAM) and processor might these things all take longer to do. This fact means that when I am trying to get work done, it isn’t just a quick little thing. I just switch over to another screen and goof off. Instead, the limitations actually help me to remember what I am doing, and to focus on it. The distraction is less of a distraction.

This might seem trivial to you, as you may not have such an attention or focus problem, but for me this has been really helpful. It has proven to be an unforeseen advantage that the Reform has. By extension the Pocket Reform will follow in its big brothers footstep.

This has been such a eye opening thing for me, that I have fantasized about selling my other computers, and like Josch going down to just the Reform.

Well, if you’ve gotten this far, I’d be interested if this resonates with you as well? Or are you scratching your head, kind of going, what?

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Not quite that far.

But I have both a Reform and a Framework (11th gen). If I need a laptop for something (usually configuring kit), its almost always the former that I grab. I honestly do feel more ‘drawn’ to the Reform, despite the somewhat weird keyboard layout (possibly partly because it has a trackball, and I f****** hate trackpads, they’re useless and the Framework one is the worst I’ve ever used. The horribly reflective screen doesn’t help either, though I will fix that.)

The build quality of the Reform feels just feels better and more sturdy.

The Framework, while great in concept, is actually the only laptop I’ve ever had where the primary impression I’ve had is that it’s fragile, and if my daily had to be a laptop (perish the thought). I would not feel confident that the FW is actually adequate to survive that kind of use.

I agree with your comments about the gaming industry, and in fact, programming in general I believe has become sloppy and wasteful. I started programming (I’m only a hobby programmer) as a child on a 75mhz early Pentium with low MBs of RAM (possibly 8 or 16, certainly no more than 32) and I despair at how modern programmers seem to believe that RAM and CPU are basically limitless and efficiency doesn’t matter one iota. Not only that, but when you are severely limited by the hardware, you have to get creative. You find ways around the limitations.

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Hey @2disbetter, thank you for sharing this. This does resonate with me on a certain level. Reform is a computer that I can reasonably understand at the hardware level. But software is a bit more difficult – Debian (or any modern Linux distro) is absolutely massive, so I went on and installed 9front on my reform. 9front is small and lacking many things that I take for granted, so it is an OS that I’ll need to configure and write software for to make my own. It forces me to be a bit more thoughtful and reflect on what is it that I actually want from a computer. And whenever I power it on it does bring about a kind of focus that I didn’t have before :slight_smile:

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Exactly! I love Framework, and volunteer with them, but this is my complaint as well. I often wondered how a fragile case lends itself to the repairability and longevity of use that repairability breeds? However, I did by the thicker aluminum top cover that they released, and it has gone a long way in making the FW feel more sturdy. Still nothing approaches the sheer tank-like nature of the Reform.

Also, the trackball. I use one on my desktop, and I LOVE having one in my laptop. Laptops are just an excellent mousing device. I feel like once you use one, going back to a trackpad is just painful. Of course, some people feel the exact opposite. Choice is wonderful.

Regarding wasteful programming: I have long felt that hardware advances so quickly, that from a software standpoint we have never really capitalized on any of the hardware we have. Case in point? Remember Wolfenstein 3d? Required EMS, 386 bare minimum, but a 486 was basically required? That has been worked on and now it can run on an 8088 with 640k RAM. I know it works, because I’ve played it on my HP 200 LX.

The truth is, this need to have the fastest and greatest is all marketing. The computer sitting at home bought 10 years ago is still more than capable of doing everything a computer can be used for.

All of this contributes to the Reforms use case here. Thanks for sharing!

That is a serious grown-up approach to using a computer. One I don’t think many would ascribe to. I commend you for it, and think you have 100% made the right choice in getting a Reform.

I need to check out 9front. Honestly Debian with Sway has been perfect for me, but you don’t know, what you don’t know. :+1:

I’m not sure where this fragility of the Framework comes from? I’ve daily carried my 12th gen to work and school for almost a year with no issues. Its solid aluminum what could break? It is nowhere near as rugged as the Reform though. I keep the Reform by my bedside in case someone breaks in while I’m asleep.

For me the Framework (or any relatively fast, laptop) does serve a completely different purpose than I use the Reform for though. I use the Framework for school work (engineering, programming), hosting virtual OS’s, photo editing the occasional video call. All things that can be done with the reform but not as quickly and sometimes not as well. I don’t have time to wait for the Reform when trying to get things done on a deadline between work school and some semblance of relaxation. I also don’t touch the OS unless I really need a new program. When I do a distro upgrade its when I have time to fix it if something goes wrong.

The Reform is more of a hobby device for me. I do some light programming (arduino, geany, octave) and some writing (I love it for writing, between the keyboard and limited resources it keeps me in the zone). I also play some old games on it. Sometimes it sits around as interface to my server for a few weeks while I’m in the middle of making some big changes and it happily runs with an uptime of 42 days. Sometimes I try to get a game/program to run just to see if it will run on the Reform because that’s half the fun to me. Other times a screw comes loose and shorts out my mobo and I spend a few days chasing down what got fried. That’s also part of the fun.

No matter what I do on the Reform, it brings me joy that I haven’t had with my other computers, maybe since the family Amiga 1000 became my computer when my parents moved on to a 486 pc in the 90s, or when I discovered the joys of Linux in the mid 2000s . I consider the Reform to be my “weekend car” and the Framework to be my “commuter car.”

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I think compared to the Reform it is fragile. I take good care of all of my computers, so I’m not worried about damaging it moving it around either. It is just with the Reform you really don’t have to worry. Still I don’t want to scratch my Reform either. hahahaha!

As someone who has been recently diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, this really resonates with me. I’ve been making conscious decisions to shift to less-capable devices to minimize my opportunities for distraction. I now use a very small smartphone as my daily-use phone. The small screen makes playing games untenable and it’s uncomfortable to read on for extended periods so I’m less likely to doom-scroll into the early hours of the morning. I still own powerful devices, but the effort required to get them out and turn them on means the distractions aren’t readily available, but rather require a conscious decision to dedicate time to use if I decide I do want to play a game or something. I’m really looking forward to receiving my Pocket Reform, which will help me continue down the road of minimizing distracting devices in my life.

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I hear you. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was 16. My parents didn’t make me take medication, and I have worked to be able to control my lack of attention at times. I’ve been successful, but it is next to impossible if I am not interested in the subject, etc.

The Reform has been awesome, but also not really limiting. It can pretty much anything, one just needs patience.

Thanks for sharing, and like you, I can’t wait for the Pocket Reform!

My Penkesu has been holding me over until then.