26 Dec 2007 07:03 pm

Christmas 2007

Rats, coal again!

Guess I’ll just have to go buy myself something. 😉

Speaking of which…


My Quest for the Perfect Blogging Tool

I’m 90% certain I’m going to get a laptop now that Christmas is over. That is, providing the prices drop in the next couple of weeks. There have been some real bargains lately, but I’m still putting if off — not only because of prices — but because I’m not sure which one to get. I keep going back and forth between different models.


I almost bought a 15” Dell a couple weeks ago. They had a good deal on their lowest priced model. For $499 it came with 1 Gb of ram, a 120 Gb hard drive and Win XP but… just as I was about to buy it… they changed the deal. They stripped it down to 512 Mb Ram and a 60 Gb hard drive. Needless to say, that just ticked me off and I decided to look elsewhere.

Then I happened across a deal on a refurbished Gateway for only $349. Normally I wouldn’t consider a used machine but it was from a reputable dealer that I often buy parts from. Decided the next day to get it only to find that they raised the price to $399. You can sometimes find new laptops for $399 so it didn’t make sense to spend that much on a used one.

For a while I was thinking about one of the 17” models, but they’re just too big and they’re kind of expensive.


It was about then that I discovered the new Asus Eee PC, which is a very intriguing little number for on-the-go ‘puting. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s an ultra-portable notebook with a full keyboard, measures 6×9 (the size of a paperback book) and only weighs 2 pounds. (Most laptops weight over 6 pounds.)

One nice thing I like about the Eee is that it runs on Linux instead of Windows and comes with an office suite called OpenOffice, which is compatible with MS Office documents.

Kind of hard to beat that.

Also, it will boot up in under 30 seconds and shutdown only takes 10 seconds. In other words, it’s a pretty snappy little PC.


So What’s the Hang-up?

The main problem with the Eee is that it only has a 7” screen and the keyboard is rather tiny. Some people say you can get used to typing on the miniature keyboard, but it isn’t ideal for more than just note taking. You wouldn’t want to use it to write your dissertation.

In addition, further research turned up a few more caveats such as:

  • Numerous reports of problems with the sd card reader.
  • The 7” screen only allows you to see about 18 lines of text.
  • Horizontal scrolling is often required to view certain websites.
  • The screen doesn’t have a tight hinge allowing it to fall backwards if you don’t balance it just so. (I have an old 486 laptop that had this problem and it was very annoying.)

Finally, the small size is not as convenient as it first sounds. Most people find they can’t work on the thing in their lap without putting a book or something under it to make it more stable. The only way to use it is if you’re at a desk.

I haven’t seen the thing in person yet. I’m still interested in it, but it sounds as if you might as well get a larger laptop. So I’ve come full circle and I’m back to looking at PC’s like the 15” Dell again. (Sigh.)


The Ideal Solution

I think Asus made a mistake downsizing the keyboard as much as they did. It really wasn’t necessary. My old Compaq 486 notebook (mentioned above) has a 7” screen, measures about the same dimensions as the Eee PC and has a smaller than normal keyboard that is not noticeably miniaturized. So they could have built a small laptop without using a teeny tiny cramped keyboard.

laptop pc

What I’d like to see is a low cost ultra-portable with a 10-12” screen and normal size keyboard. It should come with the same basic specs as the Asus, that is 600 to 900 Mhz processor, 512 Mb of Ram (expandable to 2 Gb), 4-8 Gb of solid state memory, 3 USB ports, an sd card slot, LAN, WLAN and VGA ports. Bundle it with Linux, OpenOffice and Firefox and it would be a winner.

Also, they need to do away with the fan. It should be a totally silent PC. It doesn’t have to be a speed demon. Linux runs faster than Windows and works fine on a slower, cooler, less expensive CPU.

I know that there are some ultra-portables out now with many of these features, but they are very, very expensive. The Asus prices start at $349.


Why A Laptop?

My reasons for wanting a laptop are purely practical. For example, I find myself AFK (i.e. Away From Keyboard) a lot lately, which is why my blog posts have been few and far between.

In addition, I always get my best ideas when I’m not sitting at the computer trying to write something. (And sure, I’ve tried the old pencil and paper routine, but that just doesn’t work for me.)

portable PC

If only I had a portable computer that I could carry around with me. Then I could just jot down those great ideas while they’re fresh in my mind instead of merely making a mental note to “blog about that” the next time I’m in the office. (As you’ve perhaps noticed, it never gets done.)

Anyway, that’s my plan for the coming new year. We’ll see if it comes to fruition and I can start boring you to death with more of my idle ramblings.


Hope you’re enjoying the holidays. If not, go buy yourself something. You deserve it.



6 Responses to “Christmas 2007”

  1. on 27 Dec 2007 at 5:27 pm 1.jmb said …

    I hope you had a great Christmas Dean. If you want my advice (I love my 15 inch Dell laptop) don’t go for less than 2 GB of memory. I needed a memory upgrade after only a year and it’s getting desparate now at 18 months and I started with 1GB and Windows XP. Windows has so much running in the background that you don’t even know about that you need as much memory as possible.
    Happy New Year.

  2. on 27 Dec 2007 at 11:16 pm 2.Dean said …

    Hi Joan,

    Sounds like you need Moof (or some other tech savvy person) to help you optimize your system. Most of that background stuff in XP can be turned off or setup for “performance mode.” I have XP on two computers one with 512 Meg and the other with 1 GB and they both run fine (except for the lockup king, which locks up because of corrupted system files… nothing to do with memory).

    Is it possible you’re now running Vista? I understand Vista needs 2 GB in order to be happy. Anything less and it is very slow.

    I am kicking myself for not acting quicker on the Dell when it was on sale. Hopefully they will offer a similar deal in the next couple of weeks. (Probably right after I buy something else.) 😉

  3. on 29 Dec 2007 at 3:50 pm 3.Outdoorsman said …

    Consider one of these.


    Small, portable, etc. It is simple, but if all you want is the ability to jot down notes while you’re away from the computer…

  4. on 30 Dec 2007 at 5:24 am 4.Dean said …

    Hmmm, interesting device. I’ll have to look into this further. Thanks for the link.

  5. on 30 Dec 2007 at 8:22 pm 5.Cathy said …

    Dean, I was thinking about you and wanted to hop over here and see how your Christmas was. yes, I think you should buy yourself a new laptop. But, like Joan, I would buy that 15 in. Dell or something around that size. We are thinking of getting me one because I cannot sit at the pc desk for any longer than just a few minutes and I am very bored not being able to blog or read many of my friends blogs. Atleast that way I could sit in bed and use it. My husbnad just does not have much use for computers and that is the problem. He thinks it is just throwing away money but some how I am going to get me one. Our entire family did go together and buy my niece a laptop with web cam and a bunch of other stuff on it for her to take with her when she goes to Iraq.

    Take care and I do miss reading at your blog and many others also!


  6. on 30 Dec 2007 at 11:31 pm 6.Dean said …

    Hi Cathy, So good to hear from you. I was thinking of you just the other day and how I miss being able to get around and read everyone’s blogs. Yes, I do need to get a full-featured laptop.

    I looked at the AlphaSmart Neo mentioned above and while it appears to be a pretty neat on-the-go writing tool, it wouldn’t exactly fit my needs.

    I hope you can find one you like. Happy New Year.

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