Episode 54: Technology Bytes. . .Universal Control

This is Technology Bytes, episode 54 for March 17th, 2024.

Technology Bytes is a microcast where I share brief bytes on interesting technology.

My name is Joel.

Enjoy, and here we go.

This week I’m going back to something I’ve covered in a previous podcast, and that is universal control.

It just came to my attention this week as I was using it, as I usually do, just how awesome it really is.

For those who don’t know what it is, it is Apple’s technology that allows you to use one mouse and one keyboard to control every computer or device that is in front of you logged into your same Apple ID.

So in my instance, I have a MacBook Air that I use to the left of my desk.

I have an iMac that I use at the center of my desk.

And I have an iPad that I usually carry but occasionally will open up and sit on the right-hand side of my desk.

And I can control all three of those devices with the same keyboard and mouse and don’t have to worry about changing to a different device or anything like that.

I just scroll the mouse, swipe the mouse, whichever way you’re doing it, from one screen to the other, and then I’m controlling that.

And one thing that gets me sometimes is I’m looking at a device, and so I decide that the mouse is there, and that’s the active computer or active window or whatever, and I start doing my thing, and it doesn’t work.

And then I’m like, oh, yes, I actually can’t do it just with my eyes.

I actually have to physically move the mouse and make an active window, an active environment for whatever it is that I’m trying to do.

But the fact that it works so well and almost never fails is what really gets me because it is so useful in how I do my work.

So when I sit down at my desk to do my work, I often hit the space bar of the keyboard that came with my iMac.

That’s what I use, that keyboard.

I have a trackpad, and I have a Magic Mouse.

I use both of those depending on what I’m doing.

And when I hit that keyboard, my iMac wakes up, and then that’s the only thing that’s being controlled by my mouse and keyboard at the moment.

And then if I need to have a second screen, then I actually do need to hit the space bar on my MacBook Air to wake it up, and then I can move my mouse over and use one keyboard, one mouse, all of that.

But the initial wakeup happens with the keyboard on the MacBook Air.

And when I use my iPad, I need to wake it up, swipe up from the bottom, let Face ID get me in the system, and then I can use the mouse and keyboard to control that as well.

And they just come on.

They come on, they work, they allow me to use them as if it was another screen, and I don’t have to push any buttons, I don’t have to worry about is it going to come on, I don’t have to do anything special.

It just works.

If you’ve never used it, and maybe you have one computer with multiple monitors and you think universal control means nothing, but it’s just amazing every time I get to use it.

Now you might be asking why my setup is the way it is.

Originally I went to the Apple Store to look at the studio display, because I wanted to have a bigger screen attached to my MacBook Air that would allow me to have more screen real estate.

And so I was looking at that monitor, the one from Apple, the studio display, and looking at the price, and it’s about $1500 or something like that I think, and I thought, I can get an iMac for that same price.

Sorry about that.

I can get a whole computer with a really nice screen.

Not quite as big because the iMac only comes in a 23 inch, but it does give me a lot more real estate than my MacBook Air.

And with universal control, it allows me to use it as if it’s just another monitor for less money.

And then I get the added benefit that if I am doing something on my MacBook Air, or if I’m doing something on my iMac that takes some compute power, then I can let that happen and move my mouse focus to the other computer and do whatever I want there without interrupting the work that’s being done on the other one.

So for instance, if I need to run some script thing or some kind of automation on my iMac that might take some time, crunching data, making a chart, doing something like that, then I can get that started on my iMac, have the numbers being worked, have the information being created automatically, and then while that is happening, I can go to my MacBook Air and do other things there without worrying about taking over compute power, without worrying about interrupting in a way that might stop the activity that I want to happen.

And it’s really kind of cool because now I have two computers.

I have more screen real estate than I had before, but I also don’t interrupt each computer’s work by the other.

They are independent in that manner.

And then with using the syncing of the desktop and documents and being logged into my iCloud account, they both look similar.

I actually have them set up a little bit different color-wise because it helps me recognize which screen I’m staring at, although that’s not that hard because it’s two devices.

But in that, I don’t have to have one on if I’m just working on the other one.

So if there’s an activity that I really like to do on my MacBook Air, then I don’t even have to turn on or wake up my iMac.

Usually not the case.

Most of the time I wake up my iMac and don’t wake up my MacBook Air unless I need screen real estate or doing an activity where I need to use two screens.

So if you’ve never tried it, if you don’t understand it, Apple has good details on their website of how it works, and I would suggest that you try it.

If you don’t have two Macs but you have an iPad, then just set your iPad up there and you can use it on that and see how it works, and maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t.

But I really do and will continue to work in that mode for as far as I can see into the future.

That is all I have for today.

If you have comments or suggestions or questions, you can send them to technologybytes at merrickfamily.com.

I want to thank you for listening to the Technology Bytes microcast and I like forward.

Sorry about that.

I look forward to the next time we are together taking another bite of technology.

A little public service announcement.

The software I use to record my podcast, and maybe I should talk about that under my next Technology Bytes.

Just thought about that.

But it was updated this week, got a facelift as it were, and they broke the ability to add an audio file, and so that’s why there is no music this week.

Joel Mearig @technologybytes