More Mobile: Minimal Mobile (Premium)

In 2022, my More Mobile setup helped me discover a problem with 12th-Gen Intel Core chipsets and USB-C hubs or Thunderbolt docks. Several months into this fiasco, this very real problem has otherwise gone unreported elsewhere, still, and PC makers are apparently trying to quietly fix it via firmware updates; perhaps the 13th-Gen or future Core chipsets will also fix this issue, we’ll see.

But my problem remains: for now, at least, unless I use a PC based on AMD chipsets, my More Mobile setup---which relies on a USB-C hub or a Thunderbolt dock---is untenable. It makes day-to-day work difficult and makes recording podcasts particularly problematic. I “solved” this problem temporarily by using an AMD-based EliteBook 865, which is a review unit. But I obviously need a longer-term solution, assuming, of course, that future laptops I use and review aren’t fixed with firmware updates.

The end of year holiday period is a quiet time, with no podcast recordings this week between Christmas and New Year’s, and so it’s a good time to experiment. I had two ideas I wanted to test.

The first was to cut out the hub/dock middleman and just hardwire all the peripherals I need to whatever laptop I wanted to use. The problem here, of course, is that I can’t just use any laptop: for this to work, the laptop would need enough ports to handle the webcam, the display, the keyboard and mouse (which use a dongle), and the USB interface to my podcast microphone. That’s four USB ports (three USB-A, one USB-C) or three USB ports and one HDMI port. At a minimum: it’s nice to have an extra USB port free when you need to connect a phone or whatever as well.

I do have a few decently powerful laptops that could probably work. It would be a mess of cables. But it would probably work. Of course, I would never unplug all those cables and just use that laptop as a laptop, it would be stuck on the desk.

Which led me to the next idea. Why not just use a desktop PC again? After all, I’ve proven that the More Mobile configuration works, at least when Intel’s chipsets are working normally. And I’ve got a More Mobile setup in our apartment in Mexico City to use when we’re there.

The problem is that I don’t really have any desktop PCs. And I prefer the minimalism of the one-cable More Mobile setup, and like keeping my desk clean of cables of other clutter.

I can’t afford to buy a new computer. But this is still interesting to me, and I do have one PC that might work and meets my minimalism goals: my old NUC8, which is based on an 8th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of SSD storage. And therein lies a tale.

I’ve owned three NUCs, and I love the little PCs. My favorite and last NUC was a NUC10, so based on a 10th-Gen Intel Core chipset, and I wish I still had it. Unfortunately, it’s dead. Oddly, I can’t remember what happened to it, but perhaps it was a victim of that lightning strike from a few years ago that ...

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