childeric: (Default)
[personal profile] childeric
I think I may need a new laptop. My venerable six-year-old Dell had a big crash the other day, with a blue screen and lots of gibberish scrolling across a black screen immediately afterwards. When Windows eventually re-started, it sent a 'major fault' (I think that was the terminology) notification to Microsoft. That, in itself, didn't seem to augur especially well, but last night I had an even bigger crash: blue screen and lots of scrolling text again, but this time it made crackling noises for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably more like four seconds. That's quite long enough, though. Windows wouldn't re-start, even in safe mode.

In a spirit of supreme optimism and because I'm the sort who likes prodding at corpses to see what they'll do, I tried booting this morning and it actually loaded Windows (in normal, not safe, mode) fine and worked unproblematically. I see this, though, as man's last surge of youth in his autumn before the winter, to borrow a line from the Chameleons. If this were a mawkish nineteenth-century melodrama and my laptop were the hero, then the surgeon would be emerging grave and stony-faced from the bedroom and the lovely doe-eyed but fiery heroine would be having to be restrained from rending her clothes and tearing her hair in a torrid excess of grief and fear bordering upon the insane. Gosh.

Anyway, obviously I'm pulling everything useful off the hard disk, but I think it may be time to start thinking about getting something new. In particular I'm wondering about these really really dinky miniature laptops that have become popular in the past couple of years. What's the feeling on them? Are they viable, decent computers or are they fun little toys? And if I didn't go by that route, then I would probably be looking at trying the Dell Outlet site for a full-size laptop. Is there any good reason not to? I've probably got around £300 £500 to spend. Any thoughts or advice much appreciated.

Date: 2009-01-30 11:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alasdair.livejournal.com
I've had a play with a couple of those dinky ultraportables. On balance: I file them under souped-up-PDA rather than scaled-down-laptop - nice enough, not exactly toys, but I don't think I'd want to try and work on one all the time - the keyboards on the couple I tried did feel bastard cramped, and awkward to type on. I'd take a laptop in preference, but YMMV. See if you can borrow one, and see how you feel about them after spending a solid hour or two trying to use them to write a document of some species, surf some of your usual websites and respond to email on would be my advice.

Date: 2009-01-30 11:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_nicolai_/
Pretty much I agree. Suitable as web terminals in your pocket, not suitable for writing the next great British Novel.
[livejournal.com profile] valkyriekaren just got one, you could pop round to hers and ask to play with it.

Date: 2009-01-30 11:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
Yup, you're certainly welcome - though we're on opposite sides of London!

Date: 2009-01-30 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_nicolai_/
Who wouldn't cross London to be with you?

Date: 2009-01-30 11:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
Thanks, that sounds like very sage advice.

Date: 2009-01-30 11:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
I like my little netbook (Acer Aspire One) but it really depends what you're planning on using it for. If it's going to be your main PC for doing work on, I'd probably say go for something a little larger - the small screen and cramped keyboard is probably not optimal for writing long essays and articles, and certainly not much use for more processor-heavy things like image processing or putting together PowerPoint presentations. But if you do most of your writing work in the department and just want something for web surfing, keeping accounts and writing short stuff, they're fine.

You don't get a lot of laptop for £300 these days, mind you.

Date: 2009-01-30 11:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
You don't get a lot of laptop for £300 these days, mind you.

Coo, you don't, do you? I've gone and looked now. Maybe I'm thinking more like £500, then. Ouch, though, that's lots of money.

And thank you, that is useful stuff to know!

Date: 2009-01-30 12:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flavius-m.livejournal.com
I briefly had an Aspire One. Was in love with the thing and it was useful to me for the little while I had it, but I would not want to type for any extended period on it. An external keyboard is cheap, though, of course. The screen is lovely, the best I've seen in netbooks. But small; again you would probably want to have a larger screen and a proper size keyboard back at base. And if you weren't intending to carry it around then there is not much point in a netbook, given the compromises in graphics card, processor, expandability, etc.

Date: 2009-01-30 11:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zoo-music-girl.livejournal.com
Bauhaus? Where is the real Simon and what have you done with him?

Date: 2009-01-30 11:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
I shouldn't ever have signed up my Last FM account to my LJ, should I? It reveals more than I'd like about me... :)

Date: 2009-01-30 11:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zoo-music-girl.livejournal.com
Which version are you listening to?

Date: 2009-01-30 11:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
The one on Mask, whichever that is.

Date: 2009-01-30 11:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zoo-music-girl.livejournal.com
There's a live version too. The version on Mask is quite quick and punchy but the live version is slow and creepy.

Date: 2009-01-30 11:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
I quite like Bauhaus, actually, although I think I probably prefer Love & Rockets.

Date: 2009-01-30 01:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fracture242.livejournal.com
You go girl - turn him Goth ;)

Date: 2009-01-30 11:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sarahloo.livejournal.com
How do you do that?
Also, you're funny! :)

Date: 2009-01-30 12:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
:)

If you go to your Edit Profile page at: http://www.livejournal.com/manage/profile/ and enter your last.fm username in the relevant box in the Contact Info section then I think that does it. There may be something else you have to do, too, but try that and see!

Date: 2009-01-30 11:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jozafeen.livejournal.com
Dell now sell through Currys and, thanks to their epic buying power, they seem to have some pretty good deals on both XP and Vista ones just over the £300 mark. SJ manages one of their stores and does say that they tend to go as soon as they get any in stock though!

Date: 2009-01-30 11:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
Oh, that's really handy to know, too. Ta!

Date: 2009-01-30 12:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tails-redux.livejournal.com
I pity the fools in IT support that have to cope with your florid, prosaic descriptions computer failure. ;)

My diddleytop does me proud. I've got smallish hands, so the keyboard isn't that bad, although it is missing the raised bits of the F and J keys, so my touch typing can take a bit of aligning. Functionality wise, open office does the trick, decent for storage, grand for streaming radio ...

... however you certainly do a lot more writing to do than me (and I dread to ask about any *ahem* specialist software needs), so a bigger unit may be more applicable for you.

Date: 2009-01-30 04:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
Yes, I do like Open Office, both on principle and because it just plain works well.

I'm leaning at the moment towards getting a full-sized laptop to replace this dying one, but I do fancy getting a super dinky one at some point too. And they're not that pricey, so maybe I shall.

Date: 2009-01-30 04:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tails-redux.livejournal.com
Sounds like a good plan.

Also, if you've got the brass balls, bear this in mind when shopping:
The advertised price of goods under UK law is only an offer - called an 'invitation to treat'. It is legal to negotiate. You may get better discounts if you talk to the manager as part of a large group offering to pay the same price.

Date: 2009-01-30 12:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deeply-spurious.livejournal.com
I am also after a new laptop. From reading reviews and looking at prices, Dell do seem to have fairly good offers, but then I've been looking more at the £500-800 area. Also I am tempted to get a beautiful macbook, but that is even more expensive alas...

Date: 2009-01-30 12:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
Yes, that £300 figure was one I just conjured off the top of my head as I thought laptops had got a lot cheaper than they in fact have. I think I was probably being a lot too optimistic, and should actually be thinking more in the range that you're talking about.

I ♥ Macbook Airs. But perhaps that'll wait until I win the lottery.

Date: 2009-01-30 01:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deeply-spurious.livejournal.com
they really should get cheaper, but what actually happens, of course, is that they get taken out of circulation and replaced with more expensive ones.

Date: 2009-01-30 12:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thepaintedone.livejournal.com
Depends how small you mean. The smallest screen that I see anyone seriously using would be circa 11". These are indeed very portable, but the screen and keyboard are v.small, so I only recommend them if you really dont like carrying heavy stuff about (i.e. a lot of women find standard laptops too heavy). They are also of course rather snazzy. On the flip side, they are a lot more expensive, all else being equal, than a standard 15" unit. They also tend to have a poorer battery life for the money. Personally I always plump for the 15".

Date: 2009-01-30 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
I was thinking little teeny EEE-style things. But yes, from what everyone has said, I think I may just replace the existing laptop with another standard-sized one and think about a netbook as more of an indulgence later on.

Date: 2009-01-30 12:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flavius-m.livejournal.com
I was just about to mention, but you already know this. This is the Gods being gracious to you and allowing one last chance to do a full back-up before they take it from you...

Date: 2009-01-30 04:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
I know. There's not that much on the machine, but I really hope that it stays up just one last time so that I can take it all off. *crosses fingers*

Date: 2009-01-30 12:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-prickle.livejournal.com
If you do go for an ultra small laptop, and would like a screen and keyboard for those longer periods of writing, I have a spare 17" LCD that you are most welcome to.

Date: 2009-01-30 02:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
That is extremely generous of you! But for lengthy bits of writing I have my main desktop machine, so I think I'll be okay, thanks very much. I'd be using the laptop mostly for web-browsing and short little bits of work. Cheers, nonetheless.

Date: 2009-01-30 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] a-d-medievalist.livejournal.com
Unless you can afford a Dell that's even smaller, you might want to go with the new 13" Macbook (http://www.apple.com/macbook/). SLAC is going to all (or almost all) macs, and I'm supposedly getting one with 4G of memory, which should do everything I need. The selling point for he people on faculty who are married to PCs is that you really can run both mac and windows stuff simultaneously. And with one exception, all my mac user friends claim their macs last far longer, and the care with apple is better, than anything you get with any of the PC companies.

Also, any new PC will come loaded with Vista ...

Date: 2009-01-30 03:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
Vista

*Shudder*

That's really nice! But looks a bit pricey for me, particularly now that the pound buys about 10 US cents. *sigh*

Date: 2009-01-31 01:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] a-d-medievalist.livejournal.com
HA! it's not as good as last summer, when I paid 2:1, ta very much. But I remember it being even lower against the dollar. Not in a very long time, though. And I think thins here are still comparatively cheap.

Date: 2009-01-30 02:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dedbutdrmng.livejournal.com
I have an HP pavilion entertainment laptop. It cost 500 and I am very pleased with it. The keyboard is big enough to type comfortably on, it has a huge screen and I think it does lots of other clever things that I have never and will never need.

More importantly the case has a lovely but subtle swirly pattern on it.

For this reason, I recommend it highly.

Date: 2009-01-30 04:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
Oo, the swirls! :) Some of the ones I've been looking at on the Dell Outlet shop have been in exciting colours, as it happens. I fear I am being led astray by the thought of a hot pink laptop, however, and I should resist.

Date: 2009-01-30 04:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dedbutdrmng.livejournal.com
Dell's callcentre is in India which is what really puts me off. I rarely have much luck, maybe it's my accent.

However, I do long for one of their Studio Hybrid. (http://www1.euro.dell.com/content/topics/topic.aspx/global/products/desktop_studio/includes/en/emea/desktop-studio-hybrid-superview?c=uk&cs=ukdhs1&l=en&pageoverride=gallery_view1&s=dhs) desktops which I think are rather lovely.

Date: 2009-01-30 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
Oo, yes, they're nice. Fiona very nearly got one of those when she was ordering her new desktop the other week: it was only because something a lot cheaper came along that she didn't.

Oh, and by the way, thanks very much for the CD, which arrived today! I've been enjoying it, but my goodness, they're very Scottish, aren't they? That's rather great!

Date: 2009-01-30 02:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] incy.livejournal.com
The ultra portables ar eprobbaly a bit too small for a main machine, and underpowered. They are after all designed for ultra portability. But if you web browse and only write the odd email they are probably ok.

If byuying a laptop, I would go to pc world/tesco/sainsburys or any othe rbig store and pick whatever one they have a massive pile of boxes for in the middle. Unless you need somethign spefic they will meet your needs and if it is one of their bulk buy ones you are unlikely to beat them on price (plus no delivery).

Having said all that i ahve to admit I have been eying up the ultra small notebook things for a while.

Date: 2009-01-30 03:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabhairt.livejournal.com
can't you get something through an academic discount programme? i know mac has one for teachers and students, and also some universities and colleges have tie ins to companies cause they buy their machines in bulk. maybe you should talk to your IT person at work and see if you can get a good deal. i know that both my parents ended up with great deals on their computers...actually i think the school practically gave my mum her mac laptop!

Date: 2009-01-30 03:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] juniperus.livejournal.com
I very much like my Acer Aspire One, but I purchased a small travel-sized mouse (because I hated editing text with the pad). It has a small screen, so if you need this for graphics you may want to spend the money on a larger machine.

It's very light - hardly know I'm carrying it!

Date: 2009-01-30 04:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
They do look great! Regardless of whether I get one right now to replace my ailing laptop, I think it's pretty likely I'll fetch up with one pretty soon!

Date: 2009-01-30 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stevenothing.livejournal.com
I've a dinky eee that I bought when my vaio died, and a thinkpad somethingorother that I got from work. I never use the eee now. It's lovely and small, and great for slinging in my bag if I'm going somewhere and want to do stuff on the move, weighing in at less than the sort of book I usually read. But it is very small and fiddly to use, takes a lot of getting used to (and I've got fairly small hands) and struggles even with some javascript-heavy web applications or flash videos.

On the other hand, you can also plug in a regular monitor (although that'll only get you up to 1024x768) and a USB keyboard, should you want to do something at a desk, in a little more comfort.

Now I leave my (thinkpad) laptop at home, and use it as a desktop, unless I really think I'll need it, rather than just take it with me on the off-chance I need it, like I did with the eee. If I need anything whilst on the move, I'll use my phone (HTC g1; excellent phone).

For me, the main reason I'd want a laptop would be to take it with me when I go places, and so portability was the key factor, hence my buying an eee, and being willing to put up with some of its problems (that and that it was really, really cheap).

Summary advice: get a normal sized laptop.

Date: 2009-01-30 04:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kantti.livejournal.com
I never thought of computer failures as quite so sexy before.

Date: 2009-01-30 04:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
Well, a boy can get quite attached to his laptop, you know... :)

Date: 2009-01-31 06:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabhairt.livejournal.com
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Date: 2009-02-01 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] childeric.livejournal.com
Thanks, Rachel! I had a really nice day! :)

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