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Desktop Replacements and the 11 Pound Pencil 252

Marco Ramius writes "Tom's Hardware Guide has an article up entitled 'Unwieldy Laptops or Portable Desktops?' in which the author lugs an Alienware Area-51m desktop replacement to a 32 hour LAN to assess what advantages and disadvantages desktop replacements have over desktops themselves." They also have a related article entitled The Case of the 11 Pound Pencil where an office adopts a desktop replacement solution to unsatisfactory ends. Both interesting looks at appropriate uses for hefty hardware.
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Desktop Replacements and the 11 Pound Pencil

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  • Shared devices (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:50AM (#14866174) Homepage Journal
    When my old Sony VAIO died, I cried. It had no CD-rom, no floppy, and was so thin and tiny that it went everywhere. It barely had any ports. When I needed to burn a CD or connect a peripheral, the network or USB gave me the option, which I rarely used. Now that Sony is on my hit list, I couldn't find a decent replacement, so I bought a reasonbly tiny Compaq (yes, shudder, but it works great) until someone releases a real "on the go" laptop that works well.

    I always get aggravated the the market for desktop replacements is to totally replace everything you'd do on a desktop. For me, I prefer a memory stick over a CD-R. I don't need video outputs, and the need to shove every port into a portable machine doesn't seem cost or space or energy efficient.

    How many of you with desktop replacements are really using all the options built into it? Hasn't the Internet mostly reduced the need for all these external connection points? For me, I set up a private WiFi AP at every location I visit, and I never have to worry about anything but battery life (I hate plugging my laptop in even to the AC outlet).
  • by amcdiarmid (856796) <amcdiarm@nOspam.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:50AM (#14866179) Journal
    of how NOT to do an IT project. (No talking to end users before implementation, questionable usage of laptop, wrong choice of laptop for use if OK, and no benefit to effencies or data retention.)

    The Desktop Repleacement Laptop, is an interesting read: The machine held up in the LAN Party (E.G. Extremely heave use) for the first 2/3 of the party, then started giving some errors that they have seen in desktops as well. The Machine itself appears to be a desktop shoehorned into a LARGE laptop case.

    While personally, transportable computers are anathama to me. (I don't want anything over six pounds (3Kg.) If you really want to run fraggers that most of my machines will choke on... more power to you. No, literally - remember to bring an extension cable.

    my $.02
  • Typical (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pheonix (14223) <slashdot.ibloviate@org> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:55AM (#14866211) Homepage
    This happens all over. I've fought with more small businesses about spending a little bit of extra money to test a "solution" now rather than scrapping a "solution" later than I can count. It's absurd, and it's something I'd assume advanced business degree wielding managers would understand. As a result, many places I've worked have had their own versions of 11# pencils... like printing one copy of a several hundred page document for each region to be mailed to a print shop in that region so that photocopies can be made...

    Frustrating.
  • Re:Shared devices (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JanneM (7445) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:56AM (#14866223) Homepage
    I've used a Panasonic R3 for over a year, and it's womderful. Less than a kilo, good keyboard, 1Gb memory, and (in practice, with Ubuntu Linux,) 6-7 hours battery life.

    Oh, and there's no fan. None at all. When I unplug it, the harddrive spins down and it's _totally_ quiet.

  • Re:Shared devices (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joekampf (715059) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:56AM (#14866224)
    I am a consultant. I spend 8 - 10 hours at a client, then go home and work for another 3 or 4 hours. I have a HP Pavilion zd8000. It has enough horse power to run WebLogic, MQ, Apache, Oracle, Eclipse, and any other office productivity software I need to get my work done. It is heavy, yes. But to keep that much software in sync between home and work would be almost impossible. I never worry about performance, the screen is wide and gives me the ability to have lots of windows open. The only anoying thing is the power brick. Although I just might invest in a brick for home and at work.
  • Duplex Printers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AnonymousPrick (956548) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:57AM (#14866232)
    FTFA: Why, oh why didn't they spend a few thousand dollars to buy for enough duplex printers like HP's 1320 for each office?

    He also mentioned showing them how to flip the page.

    I have an old HP 682C. When I first got it for a Windows 95 system, HP's driver had a duplex feature built in. When you selected duplex printing, it would prompt you with a picture showing you exactly how to flip the pages around and insert back into the machine to print on the other side.

    Now, on XP, I have to use the MS driver. It doesn't have a duplex feature so I have to do it manually, remembering that when printing even pages only that I have to set the "print in reverse order" check box. Sometimes I forget and waste a tree. And for some wacky reason, I just can't get MS Word to do this correctly. It's like it ignores the check boxes or something - Arrg!

    My point is: doesn't HP's drivers come with this "manual" duplex feature anymore? That way, these folks on really tight budgets can get a much cheaper machine and still print "duplex" without having to remember or read notes on exactly how to position the paper. Yeah I know, it does seem like an incredibly stupid thing to deal with. But when you have a lot of shit going on, it's really easy to screw it up.

  • portable ENIAC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ExE122 (954104) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:58AM (#14866237) Homepage Journal
    First of all, I'd like to say that I don't even own a laptop. I'm the last of a dying breed.

    Having that said, I'd like to say that I agree with this article. I think a lot of laptop use does not offer any benefits. I also think a lot of laptops are overkills.

    Examples:
    • Back in college, I took a software engineering class where I was the only student without a laptop. I also go the highest grade in the class. The laptops were distractions. I saw people using instant messenger, playing video games, reading slashdot... (cricket, cricket). I thought it was a complete waste. They didn't offer any "educational benefit" whatsoever.
    • My dad works as a plumbing and mechanics inspector in one of the richest counties in America. This is funded by the county government. They have provided him with a Sony 4 megapixel digital camera, a Samsung Blackberry PDA, and a Panasonic Toughbook laptop. Now his job is to make inspections to ensure there are no code violations (this is the complex part). He then takes pictures with the camera, puts them on the laptop, and emails them to the office. He then uses his PDA to update the status of the request. While I'm sure this is a very effective system, he doesn't need a $40,000 twelve pound laptop that can survive a two-story drop, works underwater, and can render 3D graphics in 2400x2000 resolution.

    Now before anyone goes jumping down my throat, I'm only saying that most people don't seem to understand that buying the biggest, most expensive laptop isn't always the right choice. I don't expect a lot of those people to be reading this article right now, and I do think that laptops can be used effictively and efficiently by people who know what they are doing. I just think that 90% of the time, this is not the case.
  • Re:Shared devices (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mark Hood (1630) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:01AM (#14866252) Homepage
    I agree, there's a lot of people *cough*managers*cough* who get the top end, desktop replacement 'because their role demands it' and then lock it in the drawer at night when they go home. If that's how it's used, get a desktop.

    I have a Thinkpad T42 - and I use the modem, built-in wireless, built-in network, PC-Card slots, both USB ports, headphone & mic sockets & CD/DVD drive almost daily.

    The only things on this that I don't use are the PS/2 keyboard socket and parallel port. The CD-Writing is rarely used too, but has saved my bacon a couple of times on-site (if I had an external writer, Murphy tells me I'll leave it at home when I need it most).

    So while a lot of people can work with a laptop with minimal features (or even a desktop) some of us really do use the 'desktop replacement' features to their utmost. Once I get back to the office, this laptop slips into the docking station and works seamlessly with a nice big external TFT, keyboard and mouse, USB hub, network connection, etc.

    Not to say I wouldn't prefer it was lighter, but it's far from the one in the linked article!

    Mark
  • by rhesuspieces00 (804354) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:02AM (#14866258) Homepage
    In the final third of the LAN, however, we began to notice increased instability that was not allayed by restarts. All the games we played would switch to the desktop, though strangely not crash entirely, at random intervals. This was an annoyance, needless to say, and damn well fatal during one or two of our more infamous matches.

    We can only put the instability down to sheer wear and tear.


    Wait a second. This machine got a positive review. I'm sorry, but I don't see how instability after 24 hours of usage on a brand new machine can in any way be considered tolerable unless usage involves throwing large blunt objects at the thing. What am I missing here? I can think of a lot of processor intensive tasks that take longer than 24 hours to complete, and I *really* do not want to see any instability while they are in the middle of running. Are my expectations out of line here?
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:03AM (#14866271)
    The gaming fun and festivities began with a round of Counter-Strike Source, went through various strategy games, and was interspaced with bouts of Unreal Tournament 2004 and various single-player games along the way. The machine was in motion for 32 hours straight.

    Was this done by one person or a group? From the article you would think that the guy sat there playing games for 32 hours straight.
    If it was just one person, this marathon gaming feat should be immediately entered into The Guinness Book of World Records. [guinnessworldrecords.com]
    There are currently no entries for marathon LAN gaming.
  • Lag... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ex-MislTech (557759) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:31AM (#14866478)
    I know ppl on DSL and Cable, and lag is occuring spuriously and even disconnects
    as the internet traffic is continuing to rise , but the backbone Infrastructure
    is not receiving upgrades at critical points .

    This is causing slow web browser loads, intermittent disconnects, and ping times
    that spike from time to time at predictable points along a trace route .

    The choke points are literally choking, and you can run network monitoring
    tools to see where various ISPs and long haul providers are skimping
    on spending and it is causing odd behaviour from our broadband .

    It doesn't happen all the time, but at peak usage times it is more prevelant .

    Ppl in online games like everquest often type in messages to ppl on different
    ISP networks the question "lag???" and get a chorus of resounding echoes "yes" .

    Some of this could be blamed on the game servers, and networks til you look at
    a test that was done by myself .

    Different game, Different provider, Different ISP, corresponding lag spikes .

    Key points of DNS or routing is reaching critical mass .

    It could be the massive increase of p2p apps, it could just be total traffic,
    I do not know, but it does pose a important question.

    How bad is this going to get ?

    Ex-MislTech

  • Two Words: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by C10H14N2 (640033) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:40AM (#14866552)
    Link Whore.

    Now, I now we all need to pay for our precious little websites somehow, but if the real estate is 90% advertising and 10% "original content" -- and a one-page article is spread across five, I stop reading...well, lately I don't even start. The advertisements wouldn't bother me as much if people would just keep the article all on one page. You know, we do have these things called "scroll bars," so we don't have to load the same 1MB of crap five times just to find out what happened to sister Debbie's "11lb pencil."

    Honestly...
  • Re:Come again? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by generic-man (33649) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:41AM (#14866562) Homepage Journal
    If you work at a company casual enough to permit employees to wear Thinkgeek apparel and have various tchotchkes/toys/etc at their desks, a little alien head on your laptop doesn't seem so bad. Most of their "business" offerings have pretty muted styles compared with their gamer machines.

    If I were a sales guy, whipping out an OMGGAMEZ0RD00D laptop might look a bit professional, especially when the Quake "humiliation" sound plays instead of the usual "ding" beep. For IT folks in an office it's no worse than lugging around a Dell 8000/9000 laptop.
  • Re:Shared devices (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NutscrapeSucks (446616) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:42AM (#14866571)
    Yes, if you're going to be onsite for any length of time. But if you're just visiting for a meeting, the chance of having network print access is just about zero in my experience. (I'm not saying it's an extremely common usecase .. I've maybe done it twice in 10 years. But IBM designed the T-series to be the ultimate roadwarrior laptop, and I presume they knew what they were doing.)
  • viva la resolution (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:45AM (#14866593)
    I have seen laptops as toys ever since they came out, because the display resolution has always lagged so far behind what's available on a desktop that writing code—especially in an IDE—is a cruel joke.

    As soon as I saw that someone had come out with a 1920x1200 laptop, I bought one, and now it's my primary machine. It was expensive, and there are things that annoy me about it, but you can't argue with being able to sit down in a coffee shop or on the plane and with two pages of code side by side and all of your debugging windows visible.

    I can truly write code in comfort anywhere I want now, not just at my desk.
  • Re:Shared devices (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RESPAWN (153636) <caldwell@t[ ]nealumni.net ['ula' in gap]> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:21PM (#14866867) Homepage Journal
    Bingo. That's the one downside to the T-Series. It is nice that it has parallel, but whether you choose to believe it or not, a serial port is still useful in this day and age. That's one area where the Dell D6xx series has an advantage over the T-Series.

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