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tomhudson's Journal: The death of the desktop computer, and a poll. 32

Journal by tomhudson

I'm looking at my desktop system and thinking about how, when it finally dies, I probably won't replace it. Buying a second laptop makes more sense from a developers' point of view.

In terms of cost, by the time you add a UPS, an LCD, etc., a laptop isn't that much more expensive than a desktop, and the advantages (less noise, less wiring, less power consumption, less space, less heat) outweight the slightly higher initial cost. And if you buy desktop hardware that makes less noise and uses less power and space, you lose any price advantage over a laptop anyway.

As more people move to laptops as their main (or only) computer, there will be a few changes. For example, a lot of folks now have a "computer room" or a "computer area". This won't be needed any more - just like yuu won't need "computer furniture" or "office chairs" - the couch and the bed are more comfy anyway. Shove the home server (if any), printer (if you still trade in dead trees) and scanner in a closet or an out-of-the-way corner of the garage, and you're good.

What will you be doing with the extra room?

So ... poll time:

[_] My laptop is already my main computer
[_] I'll be making the switch soon
[_] A laptop will never be powerful enough for me
[_] I'm too busy with my Crackberry to bother with a laptop.
[_] Yes, but will it run linux?
[_] There will always be a need for at least one desktop in my home/office/whatever
[_] I can't switch to a laptop - I use my desktop as a space heater during the winter months.
[_] I'm too fat to have a lap, you ignorant clod you!
[_] My cell phone is all the computer I need.
[_] At $10 a dance, laptops are too expensive ... oh, you're talking about COMPUTERS ?
[_] CowboyNeal sold me this palmtop and a really good magnifying glass.

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The death of the desktop computer, and a poll.

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  • There will always be a need for at least one desktop in my home/office/whatever

    Is the one I'm going with. Number one, in terms of cost/hassle/etc, laptops aren't there yet for me for gaming, and I'm not even Hardcore Gaming Guy. I'm $100 Video Card, Lagging On Major Releases By About 4 Years Guy. So, eventually, but not right now.

    Also, file/media/web server. The hardware's decent, and it's running Linux, so I expect to have that around for quite a while.

  • My wife and I have two desktops, that each exist for special cases beyond what a laptop could reasonably do:
    • My wife is a graphic designer. We're not interested in anything called "portable" with a display large enough for her work.
    • I have a desktop that cost me next-to-nothing that is our home webserver. I know, I can get web hosting for next-to-nothing. But it also serves as a gateway to the home network, and having that has come in handy several times for moving files around, as well.
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      I think you'll find that things have changed - a LOT :-)

      My wife and I have two desktops, that each exist for special cases beyond what a laptop could reasonably do: My wife is a graphic designer. We're not interested in anything called "portable" with a display large enough for her work. I have a desktop that cost me next-to-nothing that is our home webserver. I know, I can get web hosting for next-to-nothing. But it also serves as a gateway to the home network, and having that has come in handy several ti

      • I plugged my laptop's secondary video output into a viewsonic at the office

        But if you're using your laptop, plugged into another monitor, then why bother buying a laptop anyways? You're going to end up working wherever that second monitor is, right? Why not just buy a desktop instead?

        I agree that laptops are a lot better now than they ever have been before in terms of display capabilities and processing power. But if what you need is a 20" or larger monitor, then why bother with a laptop? Sure second displays are nice (my wife really wants a small second monitor for pallet

  • Sorry, I want something with lots of room to breathe, and lots of horsepower. I want lots of documents and PDFs and Firefox and Office open. I want six copies of Visual Studio (three different versions) running with six different programs loaded. I want at least one copy of Rational Software Architect running. And throw in a virtual machine or two for some experiment or training module.

    Seriously, with all the projects I'm consulting on, this is typical of the clutter of apps you'll find on my desktop

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      Laptops suck out loud.

      Mine is really, REALLY quiet. So are all the other ones I've seen lately

      They're built out of nothing but compromises.

      So is life, but today's laptops make capable desktop replacements.

      Just enough CPU to power a too-small screen.

      Come on - the standard lappy today is a dual-core. And you can get 17" and even 20" displays - and if that's not enough, plug a second display in it. I tried that at the office today, and the secondary was running 1800x1440x32bppx70hz - the lappy could

      • by plover (150551) *

        Most of my complaints are still valid, you've simply found ways to justify them for yourself. That's fine for you, but for me, laptops blow. Your chiclets may be spaced like normal keys, but I am reasonably sure they do not have the travel or feel of a good keyboard. I have to use the track pad, because I'm not about to carry a high quality full-sized USB mouse in my pocket. Laptop mice are still too big and bulky to carry, but are too small to be comfortable in the hand. And no matter what, the scree

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          You sound like you rarely use the laptop untethered, so your usage model is to equip a pair of fancy docking stations wrapped around a portable core, and to move the core from home to work and back again. But think about it: those docking stations exist to make up for the shortcomings of the laptop form factor -- crappy keyboard, screen, mouse, audio, etc. Everything I see and complain about, you have similar issues; the difference is your usage model lets you bypass them.

          ...

          those docking stations exist t

          • by plover (150551) *

            Very interesting.

            While I'm still not sold on the idea, you present a strong case. I'll be curious to know what you think of it a year or four from now.

    • Seriously... nice post. :) The only thing I can stand laptops for is business trips. I like powerful systems when I'm in a fixed location - simple as that.
  • [X] Yes, but will it run linux?
    [X] There will always be a need for at least one desktop in my home/office/whatever
    [X] I can't switch to a laptop - I use my desktop as a space heater during the winter months.

    I'm rather entrenched into desktops & servers so I will be sticking with them for the foreseeable future. However, I do have a laptop that I like and is decently equipped. I take it with me on business trips. It's a Toshiba Satellite with a Core 2 Duo 2Ghz/2GB RAM and runs Windows XP. Running lin

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      I can see why the electrical co likes you.

      Have you ever thought about how much you could save in electricity by replacing the servers with laptops? There's no reason why you can't have a couple of terabytes of sata storage hanging off a cardbus54 adapter, as well as a terabyte of internal storage (2 x 500 gig) - with a LOT less heat and power consumption. You'd also have a built-in UPS that lasts a LOT longer than those $150 ones you see in the stores.

      Let's do some numbers. If you're running the serve

      • While the cost saving per year is attractive, I'd do it more for the space, noise and heat reduction (heat is my biggest problem). My issue with laptops is expandability. Yes there is cardbus, USB, and firewire, but that still doesn't allow me to upgrade the graphics card 2 years down the road if I choose (and I usually do). While that may somewhat justify the gaming PC (and possibly my choice of Mac Pro over say a MacBook Pro), that still leaves the two servers up for discussion:

        • I run VMware's ESXi Hyper
    • by tomhudson (43916)
      I'm not a gamer either, but I would think that, for lan parties, a laptop would be a winner. No ethernet wiring, no bulky system unit and monitor, etc. It's not like you can't get a lappy with decent specs cheap today.
  • [X} I only have one lap.

    Besides, the ergonomics of having to gather both hands together in front of the screen would have killed my hands ages ago -- instead there are the external mouse and keyboard, and the "laptop", the portable computer, then sits up at the far end of the desk with space for the keyboard and mouse in front. Thus the conditions for making things work and entering the famous zone are satisfied. Note, as I do most of my work through a keyboard and screen, I might be somewhat biassed here.

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      the obviation of the desktop computer is like the ideas of the paperless bathroom

      Subtle reference to "Demolition Man"? "What's with the 3 shells?"

      the ergonomics of having to gather both hands together in front of the screen would have killed my hands ages ago

      My lappy has a full-sized keyboard. Since I prefer a keyboard over a mouse or touchpad, I'm good to go.

      seems like a good idea until one starts working out the details

      I'm tired of the noise. Even a quiet power supply is noisier than a laptop. Wh

  • For a normal user, I wouldn't suggest a desktop anymore.... however, you'd be surprised how many people think a "desktop" is a real computer and a laptop isn't. (Obviously non-IT people)

    As Captain Splendid already mentioned, there is the "game" problem. This is not a problem for most people.

    I will, however, add another problem and that is longevity. A laptop computer, even cared for meticulously will last 3 to 5 years at best. In this time it will have gotten significant damage. The battery will be lon

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      It also doesn't suffer from a small screen (I have only 1280x800 at work, which is a pain!

      So hunt down a larger display and plug it into your video out. You'll suddenly have dual-monitor goodness. At work, I can plug it into a cast-off (thrown in an abandoned cubicle) Viewsonic CRT that gives me a secondary desktop of 1800x1400 ... now if I can get some extra physical desktop space for the other 2 screens on my workstation , I'll be all set (one's sitting on the floor right now because of a fried motherb

      • The problem with this is that it assumes a few things:
        • That "material" in the office is to be taken. Sadly, everything is inventorised (is that even a word?) and they know damn well who has what. My laptop is #03179.
        • Second it assumes that I work an office job, at the same desk every day. That isn't the case either. For the moment at HQ, I don't even have a desk because they sent me to the client. Here I only have my laptop, and even if I could scavenge a CRT somewhere, I don't think I would want to lu
        • by plover (150551) *

          Keeping up with high screen resolutions is the dirty little secret Tom isn't really discussing here. Sure, you can plug in an extra monitor, but when you start slinging all those pixels at once, you need a more powerful GPU than most laptops deliver. Either that or you're looking at a 6FPS frame rate. And for powerpoint slide decks, that's fine. But for gaming or any graphics use, it's just plain ugly.

          As far as 16:9 goes, it's fine for documents as long as you remember that you don't have to view eve

          • by tomhudson (43916)
            The gpu on my laptop drives an external monitor at 1600x1200x85hz just fine. It's an nVidia 7150M - it gets half-decent reviews [notebookreview.com] in the "pixel-slinging" department, and the driver situation has improved, both under Windows and Linux. It now "just works."
  • There's three things that keep me buying desktops. First is budget. Buying a PC is a major purchase for me, and you get more bang for your buck on the desktop side. Plus, with my sons, gaming is a factor, and while we don't go for every new game that comes out, we do like to stay current. Which means a graphics card and a desktop. Finally, since PC purchases are few and far between for me, I like that I can upgrade by parts to keep myself running. A new hard drive, a new GPU, even a CPU if the motherb

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      You can buy a decent lappy in this part of the world for under $600.00. $800 gets you a dual core 64-bit with 2-3 gigs of ram, 250-320 gig hd, 17" screen, 16x lightscribe dual-layer dvd burner, etc. If you get a 17", you can later add a second hd (320 gig) for under $100.00 in a couple of minutes.

      I used to do the "replace this part, that part, the other part ... and eventually you have enough parts for both a new machine and the old machine" but it's no longer worth it from an economic point of view. Bu

    • My wife prefers sitting at a desktop, so her PC is a desktop
    • I like laying on the bed or sitting at the couch with a computer I can take anywhere - two laptops for me
    • The "communal" machine doesn't need to be portable, it sits in the living room and it's a desktop.
    • We have several servers (albeit now all consolidated into one box - Xen rocks) and probably one more dedicated server on the way (which may replace the communal computer, not sure yet, but this one will do the multimedia stuff and connect to the TV
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      The laptop can't take cheap internal drives

      You can buy a SATA2 320 gig 2.5" lappy hd for under $100.00. That's not exactly high-priced. If you bought a 17", you can stuff 2 of them in, which gives you 640 gig. Also, you can plug extra drives into a usb or firewire port. or a sata2 adapter in the cardbus slot, for additional terabytes of cheap storage. If you stick to mobile drives, you'll really like the low noise levels.

      The laptop needs throwing out once it gets too constrained to be usable.

      So d

  • It'll never happen. By the time you've added a docking station with external monitor and keyboard (all essentials in my eyes), you end up with something that's considerably more expensive, less powerful and less flexible than an equivalent desktop. I can't see why anyone in their right mind would have a laptop as their main machine, unless they genuinely spend all of their time on the road.

    Obviously, mine is a minority opinion here. But since when have the masses ever been right?

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      By the time you've added a docking station with external monitor and keyboard (all essentials in my eyes)

      Excuse me, but what is this "docking station" crap you're talking about?

      I consider dual monitors to be mandatory for work. A laptop plus an external plugged into the secondary video does the job just fine. Buying a lappy saves the cost of buying one of the two monitors, so you have to factor that in - say $200 (since the lappy will probably have a better-quality display than the bargain-basement $15

    • I completely agree with you, so I must be in the minority as well. I have a laptop I use for business trips only. It "sits in storage" when I am not on the road.
  • ... and has been since 1999.
  • [X] A laptop will never be powerful enough for me

    Photography is one of my serious hobbies. On a good day of shooting, I might have 12-18GB of RAW files to import into Lightroom, sort, and process. I need a large display for this, so I would already need a second monitor for my laptop. Between making panoramas and stitching photos, and doing dozens of minor tweaks, I spend nearly as much time in post-processing as I do shooting, and most of that time is spent waiting on the computer to finish its tasks.

    Lo

  • since 2006

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