Re: Telecommuters: laptop or desktop?

Subject: Re: Telecommuters: laptop or desktop?
From: Kevin McLauchlan <kmclauchlan -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 Jul 2002 12:51:02 -0400

I have a company laptop, that travels back and forth with
me, and from which I can connect to the company VPN.

There's a docking station collecting dust somewhere. I don't
use it.

I occasionally use the laptop as a laptop, when travelling
by car (my wife likes to drive -- for me it's just how I get
from place to place...), or when sitting out on the back
deck, watching the birds and sipping something cool (during
the two-and-a-half months of the year that it's not winter
around here... ahem...).

Otherwise, the laptop pretends to be a desktop, with
various cables plugged in:

- power
- network
- video (to the big monitor)
- mouse/keyboard (PS/2 splitter)

At the office, the monitor is 21" and FAR nicer to work
on than the laptop's built-in screen... not the quality, the
onscreen real-estate. I really dislike scrolling every two
The keyboard is ordinary, but more spacious and comfortable
(especially because I can [re-]position it at will), and
the mouse is a trackball, which my right wrist tells me is
now mandatory.

To me, those little eraser-head pointing devices on laptops
are rather annoying, and the touch-pad version (I have both
on my Dell) are excruciating. Only to be used when no other
option is available.

At home I've got a full-size tower with a 19" monitor. It's
connected to the home network (as is my wife's machine).
When I bring the laptop, it hooks into my hub/router to
share my ADSL connection, and also into my KVM switch to
share the big monitor as well as my keyboard and mouse.

Anyway, the upshot is that I don't even need to change
profiles when I move between home and office with the

The laptop doesn't have a CD-burner, and to get one would be
prohibitively expensive, if it was even possible. Instead,
I use the networks to back-up files and to get them over to
machines that do have CD burners.

If I were to lose/leave this job (where I'm quite happy,
thankyewverymuch), I'd lose the laptop, so my first move
would be to acquire one of my own. That would be either a
new, down-market model, or a refurbished one. I don't need
tremendous power on a laptop, just my tools and some good
reliability. I can do upgrades on the home tower (which
I've had for a year and a half, and which already has two
new hard disks, a DVD player that I added, a newer video
card... the old items worked just fine, but I built a box
for my brother and used the pieces from my own machine
that I wanted to improve).

I agree with those who say having two machines is good
insurance, and I agree with those who say it's worthwhile
to totally or partially build your own. You learn a lot, and
when something breaks you can usually just step across
to the local mom'n'pop computer shop to buy a replacement
that you can install yourself in minutes.

To me, the prohibitive aspect of getting a manufacturer or
the computer shop to do repairs/upgrades is the time it
takes. If I take it to the shop, I'm looking at a few
days with no computer, and no way to change that, if my
situation (or masochistic index) changes. If I just buy the
parts, I get to decide when the machine will be down, and
whether (or not) I want to work into the wee hours to get
the box going again.

I use the expertise of the computer-shop guy to help me
in diagnosis and to ensure that I buy the right parts for
replacements/upgrades, and I gladly pay the slight premium
of his prices in order to keep his good will. (In other
words, I don't mooch his advice and then go down the
street to the big-box store to spend a few dollars less.)

In my current arrangement, I come to the office for meetings
and to run the company product (hardware and software) on
the test computer that also lives in my cubicle. That's were
I observe the strangenesses and capture screenshots, etc.

If I were to consult/freelance, then I would probably
re-configure my home system to include a Windoze partition
or two, in order to run possibly-buggy client software
(assuming that the customer would not lend me a machine for
that purpose, but that I still wanted[needed] the job), and
I would keep that Windoze stuff on a separate hard disk, so
as to minimize any crippling effects on the overall system.

Here's a separate issue:

I'm Linux-only at home, and the laptop is dual-boot linux
and Win NT.

I have not discovered how to get linux to properly work the
laptop's onboard pointing devices, though it does a perfect
job with a plugged-in mouse or trackball.

Anyway, those are my observations/practices. FWIW.
Go for the combination, and keep your options open.

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RE: Telecommuters: laptop or desktop?: From: Sharon Burton-Hardin

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