laptop technology

Two Birds With One Stone

Having worked as desktop support technician for quite some time I’ve seen my share of dead hardware. But what happened yesterday just blows my mind. My workhorse laptop had decided to have a sabbatical for the few days, so its main hard drive got that notorious “click of death” sound. What was even worse is that the secondary hard drive (where all the data stored – exactly in expectation that two drives can’t die at the same time) was dead too. Lost about a month worth of work (since last backups) and about three months worth of e-mails (no biggie, everything important is saved in three Gmail accounts).

While definitely not having a best evening of my life I’ve called Lenovo and asked for a replacement hard drive. However, the second hard drive would still need to be ordered separately, as it wasn’t in the original configuration. Since I also own a very small X61s, I have decided to treat myself to a little better option. I ordered 30GB MLC solid state hard drive for X61s, while the hard drive that’s in there now will become a secondary in my main laptop.

Of course, it isn’t the fastest nor the best drive out there, but I am just not ready to spend $600 for a hard drive. Going with a cheaper drive would not yield an ultimate speed boost, but should help with productivity.

So far I am running fine after half a dozen tweaks and adjustments for Windows XP to get more “solid-state friendly”. There’s usually plenty of resources available, depending on the make and model of the SSD. However, the following have been observed:

  • reading is lightning fast. Ditch paging file – and system boots and shuts down in less then 30 seconds.
  • writing is slow. Get rid of writing, set up a RAM drive or secondary HDD for browser/system caching or page file.
  • no more worry about shaking. I used to be worried about opening laptop on the bus – no more!
  • extended battery life. Depending on your usage and initial battery state you may get some boost in battery life. My X61s reports an extra hour on 9-cell battery.
  • less heat, less noise. There are no moving parts, so there’s not much to get the noise from. Might get a little hot, but I hear fan starting a lot less now.

Overall, I can state that I am very happy with the replacement. Recently I’ve added more memory to my laptop (so that I am running 3GB under Windows XP SP3 32-bit), then gave up 1 gig for RAM drive for paging and cache.

Using cheap SSD in servers, desktops or general purpose laptops isn’t, probably, worth a hassle, but for my “on-the-run” checking e-mails/logs/sites it is more then adequate.


Portable PC? Oversized Phone? Laptop? Desktop? What!?

It looks like the manufacturers for ultramobile PCs, oversized phones and ultraportable laptops are struggling with a dilemma. They have manufacturing capability but they don’t know what to manufacture. Will there be a demand for overly smart phones? Or ultraportables? Or laptops with phone headsets? What is it they have to jump on?

Well, I have a solution for them. It’s easy. I have a solution for every one of you.

Let me build my ultra portable, over powered, uber-universal but still very personalizeable computer. Make it modular. Make it Lego blocks sticking together. Stop thinking Apple all-in-one, start thinking Microsoft one-for-all. It’s a great concept, if you only think about it.

Let me have a CPU/RAM unit/module where I can plug in a screen (24 inch when I am at home, touch-sensitive 7 inch when I am on the go, 12 inch when I am at the conference or on the plane and so on), keyboard and storage unit. Let me plug in media unit when I need to burn couple of CDs or DVDs, audio unit for high-quality audio output, external monitor or projector for presentations, beefier video for gaming and throw larger battery with that.

Make parts interchangeable – when I need to upgrade CPU everything else still works. If I need a larger screen – it’ll just stick. Replace the hard drive? No problem. New video? Just stick it in and have fun.

Need more incentive? Take hotels. Create a set up with large screen, keyboard, mouse, media bay and high-speed network. Guest just plugs in his CPU/RAM module and he’s good to go. Sell this to colleges and doctor’s offices. Sell this to rental office space owners and travelers.

We have the technology. We have the people. We have demands on the untapped markets. Let’s put it all together. This idea, as far as I remember, pops out in one form or another, every year. Just get to it!


Loosing The View State

LCD Monitor 4:3 ratio - Small Business, Marketing and Web Design blogLast week I started searching for a new LCD monitor. As strange as it may seem I am used to seeing web sites on laptops’ LCD screens. so I was looking for 4:3 ratio monitor with 1600×1200 pixels resolution. I was already aware that not a single laptop manufacturer sells laptops with 4:3 screen ratio less the ultra portables, like my X61s. Problem there is that they are limited to 1024×768 pixels resolution and that’s not nearly enough to see most of the stuff on the web as it is already reformatted to accommodate large wide-screen displays.

So the research showed that similar poor state exists in the LCD monitors market – I was able to find only two or three manufacturers that sell affordable monitors. LaCie and NEC are way over the top with their $800 20″ 1600×1200 screens. Samsung and Planar seem to be the only two players that offer several models that are close to what I was looking for. Unfortunately, almost every single model is severely crippled by some feature that render the use of the monitor pointless. Thanks to user’s feedback on NewEgg and Amazon, these things show up here and there.

Ultimately I was left with no choice except to consider purchasing a wide-screen monitor. The issue with wide-screens, however, is that personally I only see sense in buying 24″ monitor with 1920×1200 pixels resolution, so that I can put two web pages side by side. There are forum discussions here and there that go over the same question: “Why did they stop manufacturing 4:3 LCD panels?”. The answer is that it’s cheaper to produce 16:9 and 16:10 panels, than it is 4:3 (although I don’t quite understand why).

My only hope is that by the time I will be upgrading my trusty T60p it will no longer be the case. From my point of view, having a 1200×800 screen is very inconvenient.