?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Laptops and things - Sally's Journal
October 13th, 2009
10:39 am

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Laptops and things
I have a desktop computer, and I want a portable computer-type-thing.

As far as I can tell I have two options:

1) Get a laptop type thing

2) Get a really small cool eeeee-type thing.

Oh wise LJ, what do you think I should buy? Recommendations of particular products / packages particularly appreciated.



I'd like to be able to work on "work-like" stuff in a range of locations. This is mostly excel, powerpoint, and word.

I'd like to be able to connect to the internet very easily. I don't know how much dongles-that-make-the-internet-work-everywhere actually work well now, or how much they cost, and whether that's an ongoing cost, but that would be awesome. Also something that just worked with random wireless networks, and could just be plugged into hotel sockets and work would be good. I have troubles with Matthew's mac, because neither I nor the support guys nor the people who designed the system expect a mac, and between us we get confused.

I'd like something that does sound and video and stuff. [By which I mean, easily plays a youtube video. I'm not wanting the moon on a stick here]

I think these points mean I'm mostly tied into windows. I'm about to change from having a windows box as my primary desktop to having a ubuntu box, so I think having a windows laptop would be a nice failsafe for when someone sends me something truly hidious in word.

Are eeeee-sized things unable to cope with stuff like powerpoint slides? Can you actually work on them without getting stonking RSI?

I think, much as I want to join the cool kids with the awesome eeeees, I'm tending towards a smallish windows laptop. But that really doesn't narrow it down much. Any more pointers?

(39 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:serenasnape
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:30 am (UTC)
(Link)
I looked at eee things, but found they just didn't do enough - no dvd drive, small memory etc. With laptops generally the downside was that at the moment they're all using Vista, which is utter utter pants. Eventually I bought this but with Windows XP installed (either buy without OS if you have it, or contact them and they'll do it for you before it ships!). It is larger and therefore heavier than a little minilaptop, but of course that means it does more and has more stuff, eg the dvd drive. Mine has an onboard wireless card, which I use at home and in some schools where I can use the "guest" network, and I also got 3GB mobile broadband from o2.
[User Picture]
From:atreic
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:41 am (UTC)
(Link)
Thank you! That looks good, although I might want something more portable.

My mum is very anti O2, because she says you can't get any reception. But she lives an hour north of inverness - I'm assuming this isn't actually a problem if you live in large cities in England?
[User Picture]
From:serenasnape
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:44 am (UTC)
(Link)
Well, I haven't used it anywhere north of Penge yet, but it's been fine so far. It's also worth noting that my o2 xda was able to get internet across most of Northumberland...
[User Picture]
From:mobbsy
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:50 am (UTC)
(Link)
[User Picture]
From:atreic
Date:October 13th, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)
(Link)
I think that explains why my mum and Aunty Kate are so down on O2... Ah, the west midlands, how we love your purply goodness.
[User Picture]
From:rmc28
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:32 am (UTC)
(Link)
My Ubuntu Dell mini does everything you want.

OpenOffice comes for free, and provides spreadsheet, word processing compatible with Excel and Word (I will open it up and check it for slideshow in a moment). I have never had a problem opening Word documents on either my mini or my Ubuntu desktop.

It connects to every wireless network I've been to, including several that Tony's iPod wouldn't find.

I have an O2 3G dongle which costs me £15 a month. I had to reinstall the mini to 9.04 for this to work, but I would expect today's minis to have 9.04 rather than 8.04 (and if not I have a bootable USB key to send you to install it).

When I bought my mini it was £200 for Ubuntu vs £350 for Windows. I have never regretted saving that £150 quid, and I can still transfer documents from my work (Windows) machine and back and work on them and it's no bother.

For my RSI, the little keyboard seems to be better ... it's a standard layout but it doesn't hurt my hands like a
full-size standard layout, so long as I keep using Workrave.

Oh dear, I have turned into an Ubuntu evangelist ;)

Um, if you come to Cambridge any time soon we can arrange to meet up and you can play with my laptop to see what you think?
[User Picture]
From:rmc28
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:32 am (UTC)
(Link)
Forgot to mention that I can play Youtube videos without any bother.
[User Picture]
From:rmc28
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:33 am (UTC)
(Link)
Yes, there's an OpenOffice Presentation and an OpenOffice Database (so that's your PowerPoint and Access covered)
[User Picture]
From:atreic
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:38 am (UTC)
(Link)
I'm not a huge fan of windows, but in my life I keep running into odd barriers exactly when I have no time [for example, the pdf the post office insurance company sent us was only readable on windows boxes, and we needed it to get the keys to the new house the next day] I think living in a house with no working windows box would just cause me strife. I know this is a problem with The World Being Stupid, not with Ubuntu, but the world _is_ stupid. And when you _do_ have problems connecting to a network (in my case in america, because the network was actually broken, nothing to do with the laptop at all) the hoops you have to jump through to make them decide the network is broken and it's not your problem are much fewer if you're using windows. Sad, but true.
[User Picture]
From:emperor
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:51 am (UTC)
(Link)
Actually, it was readable on linux, I was just stupid.
[User Picture]
From:atreic
Date:October 13th, 2009 11:02 am (UTC)
(Link)
Given you're clearly not stupid, and at the time couldn't think of a way to read it on linux, there is clearly a barrier to doing some things on linux that would work easily on windows, even if it's not an unsolvable barrier. I can do everything, but it's always 10% harder isn't necessarily a win.
[User Picture]
From:mobbsy
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:47 am (UTC)
(Link)
I'm afraid I can't recommend OpenOffice for all interaction with MS Office users.

These days it works very well for viewing MS Office documents, and creating documents that are viewable by MS Office users. However, each time a document previously edited in one system is edited by the other a small amount of corruption is introduced. This recently caused me to have to spend a couple of hours fixing a spreadsheet that a few round trips had rendered entirely broken.

(My new employer supplies software based on Open Office as default, and not MS Office. However, MS Office still appears to be widely used within the company.)
[User Picture]
From:green_jedi
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:53 am (UTC)
(Link)
The Dell Mini sounds very sexy :) What do you use it for? If you work on larger office documents, is the screen and the keyboard (I presume you use an external USB mouse?) sufficient? Also, what's performance with office applications and internet browsers like? I am worried I won't be able to adjust back from the lightning-fast responses I get out of both on my desktop machine...
[User Picture]
From:rmc28
Date:October 13th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Mostly I use it at home and on holidays, trains etc to browse the web, keep up with email and do the occasional bit of word processing and spreadsheet use. I also upload photos from my camera, cull the obvious rubbish and put the good stuff on Flickr (but my photographic ambition is basically at the family-snaps level, so I don't do any serious processing).

I don't do a great deal of serious work on it but it has become my default machine for home use. I only really use my desktop when I want big screenspace e.g. doing my accounts (though I can do those on my netbook too, it's easier to compare bank statement and Accountz window on my big screen).
[User Picture]
From:green_jedi
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:35 am (UTC)
(Link)
My experience is mostly on the laptop scale of things, but my take on your requirements:

- a laptop can do all the things that you list without breaking a sweat. The only downside is size, mass and cost. How much will you be lugging it around, and how (carrying it on your back is different to putting it in the back of your car!)? That will determine how much you're impeded by mass and size. Ceteris paribus, a laptop is infinitely superior to a netbook for working on (better screen, better keyboard, more interfaces, more performance), but it's bigger, heavier and more expensive.

- a netbook can connect to the internet anywhere where there's WiFi or ethernet. If by "dongle" you mean a UMTS or 3G dongle (basically, the "data transfer" part of a mobile phone in dongle form), these have running costs, depending on your mobile phone provider - check their website to see how much they charge for data plans. As for "work with random wireless networks", anything that has WiFi capability (ie just about any netbook or notebook) can do this, but free WiFi is not as widespread as you'd like.

- Some Netbooks run a stripped-down version of Linux, so check beforehand if you're looking for a Windows netbook.

- I can't comment on sound and video, although note that netbooks tend to have lousy graphics cards and little RAM, so although YouTube will be fine, high-resolution video could be an issue. But it would be better to get first-hand experience with this (which I don't have).

- If you're going for a laptop, I would look at laptops from any of the major manufacturers (Acer, Dell, HP, Sony, Fujitsu Siemens, Lenovo...), you'll probably be OK. How much typing will you be doing? If a lot, see if you can test-drive the keyboard at a local shop.
[User Picture]
From:atreic
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:43 am (UTC)
(Link)
Stupid question - what _is_ a netbook? A laptop with a wireless card, or something different?

Thanks for all the advice!
[User Picture]
From:green_jedi
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, sorry - a netbook is the "really small cool eeeee-type thing" you were talking about :) The Asus Eee PC is just one model of netbook, there are plenty of others from other manufacturers.
[User Picture]
From:atreic
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, there's a word for that? Of course there is. Go the English language :-)
[User Picture]
From:ewx
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:49 am (UTC)
(Link)
What they said. Laptops without built-in wireless should be considered obsolete these days...
[User Picture]
From:half_of_monty
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:36 am (UTC)
(Link)
You want an MSI Wind.

At the time I chose it (which was admittedly a year and a half ago), it was the only mini-netbook-style device with a decent sized keyboard. I have very large hands for my gender and can happily type on it day in, day out. It also has a 10.1" screen of glorious matt joy. Oh and a decent intel chip and the ability to do all you request above and far more, but I think that goes for all the netbooks.

Frankly, there is little that out biglaptop does that my wind doesn't, and when he thought he'd had the laptop stolen, Duncan intended to replace it with a wind. As he is Proper Programmer who travels doing proper important stuff, there is no higher recommendation. (Actually Duncan wants a solid state hard disc, but you can get that now on the hybrid wind).

It comes with Windows XP, but you can happily wipe that and replace it with Ubuntu. Or even make it dual boot. (I failed in this, but that's because I'm a failure, not because it's hard). There are step by step instructions on the glorious users forum, MSIwind.net, as well as a wiki. Only thing - MSIwind.net seems to have disappeared lately. I hope that's just server trouble and not MSI taking it down. That would be very silly of them. It was the forum (and associated perfect support in installing Ubuntu) that persuaded me to buy one.
[User Picture]
From:half_of_monty
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:42 am (UTC)
(Link)
Oops wrong link. And the correct wikipedia page has a shite picture - it's a lot nicer than the picture here. That must be an ultra-cheapo version or something. This is what I'm talking about.

But I forgot to mention - technically I don't have an MSI Wind, I have an Advent 4211, re-branded cheaper by PC World but exactly the same thing. Blimely, it's even cheaper than it was when I got it. But don't let the cheapness put you off, this is a quality laptop of gorgeousness which I love desperately.
[User Picture]
From:atreic
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
Ooh, that is shiny, and affordable, and seems goodly.

Do you use any dongle-type-stuff for internet, or just steal wireless?
[User Picture]
From:half_of_monty
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:52 am (UTC)
(Link)
I just steal wireless. I mainly use it in librarys / my office / at work (commuted with it in my bag this summer for 2 months without ever thinking twice about the weight. You'll not get that with a regular laptop. Unless you spend over 1000 squid). But I see PC world are offering it free with a dongle deal, which may be a rather good deal.
[User Picture]
From:half_of_monty
Date:October 13th, 2009 01:12 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, only wind downside: the 3 cell battery is a bit shit. But the 6 cell is widely available now. That's another thing to look at when comparing netbooks.
From:emarkienna
Date:October 13th, 2009 10:47 am (UTC)
(Link)
I've been looking at mobile broadband prices myself recently - prices seem to be about £15 per month (3G limit) on contract, or there are various PAYG ones (e.g., Vodafone do £15 per GB, with no time limits on use) (also see my recentish post).

I've not used a netbook[*] - I would see the main limitations as being the small screen, and no DVD drive. I would have thought that any netbook or laptop has wireless these days (and on Windows XP at least it works easily enough).

[*] Re what's a netbook - it's the general name for "really small cool eeeee-type thing" :)
[User Picture]
From:mobbsy
Date:October 13th, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)
(Link)
My concern with doing work on a netbook would be screen size. The limited CPU might make things a little sluggish, but that's not a huge problem, and depending on how bloated the Powerpoint you have to deal with is, the limited memory could be an issue. However, a 1024x600 10" screen doesn't give very much space for reading documents on-screen, or working with Visio diagrams or similar.
[User Picture]
From:atreic
Date:October 13th, 2009 11:05 am (UTC)
(Link)
Yes, I think I'm tending towards a smallish windows laptop. But that doesn't exactly narrow the field down _much_...
[User Picture]
From:vinaigrettegirl
Date:October 13th, 2009 11:19 am (UTC)
(Link)
I'll get 'II onto this; his netbook is part of his job, along with the rest of IT for his firm, so if he's having glitchy moments between Linux and Windoze as a result of his netbook he'd know about it.
[User Picture]
From:cathedral_life
Date:October 13th, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I have a linux eeepc (the 900 model, I think). Its Linuxness has never been a problem, but I do most of my document management through Googledocs, which removes the issue of needing to remove documents from the computer. If you do need to take things on and off, it has several memory slots. For only slightly extra, you could get the Windows version if you preferred. Feel free to ask other stuff.
[User Picture]
From:cathedral_life
Date:October 13th, 2009 12:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, I forgot. The downside is that it has a very small keyboard. I believe the more recent models have made the keys slightly bigger, but you should try typing on whatever you get to check it's ok for your finger size. I have no idea how a man with large hands (or a woman for that matter) would cope with a netbook.
[User Picture]
From:pavanne
Date:October 13th, 2009 12:16 pm (UTC)
(Link)
My new work computer is a 'Toshiba Satellite Pro' and is a laptop with (allegedly) the capabilities of my previous desktop, although I have not yet tried to open the 138MB excel file with the pivot tables on it. It also fits into my handbag, weighs about 2kg, and connects to the internet everywhere. The typepad is OK but I connect it to a bigger keyboard and a second screen when I'm working at my desk.

Oh, and I seem to have... smashed one corner of it when I dropped it in my handbag down some stairs. But it still works. Cautious recommendation
[User Picture]
From:the_marquis
Date:October 13th, 2009 12:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
My eeee has 80Gb drive and runs XP, it has some offer of a trial of various office bits but as I have a copy on the PC and a licence to stick it elsewhere I did that installing only the bits I want to use. As it has an SD card slot as well as the usb holes I can save stuff of safely to eithetr a card or stick, so I don't need a lot of memory. If I wanted to use Skype I may need better RAM to run it but as yet ... So you could use an eee if you wanted.
[User Picture]
From:alitalf
Date:October 13th, 2009 01:42 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I find the Samsung NP-Q45 works very well for me as a compromise between size, weight, and functionality. Todays equivalent model may have a 3G modem built in.

The Samsung has been the most reliable laptop I have had so far.

I use a 3 network dongle that works very well. I've chatted to people on google from the car or the train easily. It cost £20, and topup costs £10 for 1GB or 15 for 3GB of data - and 1G is more than I use mobile in a month.

Windows Vista is truly a pile of donkey droppings, and my rage at having to buy Windows 7, which works well in my experience, purely as a bug fix, knows no bounds. I would suggest Win 7 unless you find you could use Ubuntu on a portable, and my experience is that it still does not work so well in that context. Recoiovering from standby, or switching off AND BACK ON AGAIN the display backlight are stumbling blocks I have found.

It is worth looking for a computer with the battery attached to the back, because it doesn't get so hot that way, and it is heat that kills laptop batteries quicker than any other factor in most practical circumstances.
[User Picture]
From:sashajwolf
Date:October 13th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I haven't found a good solution to this problem yet. I cancelled my 3 dongle in July this year because connectivity was so poor, even in London, which according to the coverage maps ought to be pretty good. It was costing me £10/month, and when I called to cancel they offered to reduce it to £7.50/month. djm4 sometimes borrows a Vodafone one from work; that seems to get better connectivity, but still not good enough that I'd pay for it. It's okay if we're in a hotel, but almost useless when not stationary, say on a moving train, which would be one of my main uses for it.

Both I and djm4 (who, bear in mind, has a job that includes sysadmin) find the network settings on my Windows XP laptop quite impenetrable, so I often find I can't use wifi on the move, either. It seems to be something to do with moving between different secure networks - it doesn't like doing that and seems determined to be as difficult as possible.

For general Internet browsing, I actually find my phone and my Blackberry are my best options (both on O2, so maybe I should give their dongle a try).
[User Picture]
From:alitalf
Date:October 13th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I get good connectivity on the move with my 3 dongle, by using a USB extension cable. In a train the dongle is attached tot he top left corner of the display, as little screened as possible, using velcro. In a car I use two cables to give enough length to dangle the dongle over the sun visor so that it is not shielded from the outside more than is unavoidable.

It isn't perfect, and does occasionally drop out and then reconnect, but is practical for things like google chat, let alone email or web browsing.
[User Picture]
From:toothycat
Date:October 13th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I have a little Sony Vaio, the 2kg model (with battery). It has lasted me almost eight years so far, and I carry it everywhere. It has survived intercontinental travel, although never been in a plane hold. I use it for drawing on, so I think the screen is a reasonable size ;) Modern little Vaios weigh even less and I believe you can still get Sony to install XP, although I could be wrong.

In the past eight years, I've had a new hard drive and more memory installed for convenience, and a new hard drive, CD drive and a new hinge put on out of necessity (the first two were covered and the last was cheap).

I also have a 3 dongle, which seems to work well enough. I think we pay £10 a month for a GB a month, and I've streamed radio 4 over it; it worked well enough. I suppose which one you choose depends mainly on the coverage and where you intend to go. When we got the 3 dongle, it was the only one on the market that was a reasonable price, I think (we've had it a while).

Edited at 2009-10-13 05:38 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:l_ren
Date:October 14th, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I've got an Acer Aspire One netbook and I love it. It's tiny but the keyboard is still big enough to use properly and you can choose to get it with Linux or Windows (though it is a funny version for the Acer one but Adam put Ubuntu on it for me and it works perfectly well). They are also very cheap!
[User Picture]
From:garamondbophin
Date:October 15th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
(Link)
This may be a bit late in the day, but... I dearly love my StephanEee (an Asus Eee PC 4G), but I don't use her enough to know if she would meet your needs. However, I have found the wi-fi capabilities good enough to sink a few pirate ships outside a pub in Teignmouth and check my e-mails on the train. There may not be much on-board memory, but I can easily hold all my documents, pictures and music on an SD card, so that's OK. My brand loyalty may be a bit irrational, though. I have been finding that the advice on The Gadget Show seems pretty good, so you may want to check out http://fwd.five.tv/gadget-show/videos/jon-test/jon-tests-notebooks. Anyway, I hope you get something suitable soon.
[User Picture]
From:crazyscot
Date:October 17th, 2009 10:42 am (UTC)
(Link)
I have an elderly (5yo) iBook (ppc - running Debian now, does most of what I want when on the road but is a bit cranky) and have a 3yo Dell which belonged to my freelancing company. I'm currently pondering a netbook for keeping in touch when on the road (and at C's) with the attendant reduction in hassle when compared to the full-size laptops.

Upsides of a netbook: Significantly improved portability.

Downsides: Small keyboard (I find it hard to use C's Eee, not for RSI but just through hitting the wrong keys); small screen (not enough real-estate, and it gives me eyestrain - I find this is much more of a problem).
Powered by LiveJournal.com