Re: Laptop for graphics, writing and fun

Subject: Re: Laptop for graphics, writing and fun
From: "Edgar D' Souza" <edgar -dot- b -dot- dsouza -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2008 08:08:14 +0530

On Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 9:43 PM, McLauchlan, Kevin
<Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com> wrote:
> She's already accustomed to SuSE/opensuse Linux and is annoyed by its
> deficiencies compared to Windows, for the kind of stuff she does. It
> might be more accurate to say that she's annoyed with my setup (for my
> purposes) of opensuse. She's also accustomed to dual-boot. I'd have to
> make sure she didn't see me using Windows on a Mac... :-)

Well, now... a tip of a virtual hat to your dear wife... we have
(publicly, at least) such a few ladies using Linux, as compared to
Windows, that this is still worth some admiration! :-)
See you? But there's info plastered all over the Web about being able
to use Windows on an x86-based Mac... how long could you keep that a
secret before being brained by an irate wife? :-)

> It's hard to know what weight to assign to this-or-that characteristic
> of a proposed machine.

The ideal way (IMHO) would be to make a list of all the stuff you'd be
using the laptop for (though that rather begs some
crystal-ball-gazing, doesn't it!) and then work backward to the
hardware you need to support those activities - keeping in mind that
the next version of Windows but one will probably need four terabytes
of hard disk and 40 gigs of RAM ;-) Linux is a saner alternative,
true, but then some of the software we *have* to use just doesn't run
on it, huh?

So I looked at my most "demanding" use for my new laptop; gaming would
need at least some 3D accelerator power. I'd pretty much ruled out
NVidia after that whole mess with failing cards, but am now sorely
tempted by their newer cards.. still, at that time, that ruled out
quite a few laptops.
Then I looked at available processors, RAM, screen resolutions, and
HDD capacities, as would relate to my uses of the laptop: Net, mail,
writing, running multiple programs (and sometimes, a VM or two with
different OSs in them) etc and tried to find out what would give me
the best price/performance ratio from the available configs. That's
essentially how I came up with a draft set of specs...

BTW, this whole thread motivated me to go take another look at the
Dell Studio 17, which I haven't for some time - and, whoopee! They've
updated the line to Centrino 2 hardware... I'm happy I deferred the
purchase for so long, because now it's really worth it.
Rather amazingly, the same hardware config (with the less powerful ATI
HD 3450) in the Studio 15 costs a sizeable amount more than it does in
the Studio 17, which has me a little puzzled. I mean, one could expect
the Studio 15 to outsell the 17 by quite a bit, and it would make
sense to have it at least the same price... but it seems to work out
more expensive. Haven't figured out that puzzle yet.

> I know that I feel inherently safer doing banking and other business
> from a non-Windows computer, so that suggests Mac (which can also do
> Windows when needed). But every computer that I've owned in the past
> dozen years has had dual-boot Windows and Linux, as would a new HP (or
> whatever brilliant Windows-based laptop somebody will now suggest), so
> how much of a selling point is that, really, for Mac?

Not much, I feel. Mac OS is glitzy as well as reliable and secure, but
it's also (relatively) expensive. But if you're willing to spend on

> I know that the old DELL laptop that I tried to use as a travel machine
> years ago had a battery that quickly lost much of its capacity, and then
> limped along (as did most of the others at the company) able to stay
> charged for barely longer than it takes to unplug, run down the hall,
> and plug in again. That was a company laptop, so I didn't spend any
> money on it - nor did I (or the company) want to spend $100+ for a
> replacement battery that would go the same way. So there's years of
> pent-up annoyance simmering there.

Well, for a short time I had a company Dell Inspiron that was over
three years old and still held two hours of charge... may have been
the batch of batteries - I mean, remember the frantic recalls of
potentially explosive laptop batteries some time ago?

> I also know that I preferred the "eraser nub" pointing device on a
> Thinkpad to the trackpad/touchpad input devices on older DELLs and
> others. Presumably trackpad/touchpad technology has improved in the
> interim if Macs use it exclusively.

The TrackPoint gave me a pain in my index finger, the few times I used
it on ThinkPads. My personal preference is a full-size USB mouse,
actually, even though touchpads work quite well - except for the
annoying relocation of the cursor when I accidentally touch the pad
while typing.

> I love the look of the glossy, sharp new screens, but I'm old enough to
> remember screen glare as a problem on CRTs (before they went
> flat-front). On the other hand, I don't honestly see myself sitting in a
> meadow with my laptop, so does it really matter that people say the
> shiny screens are more glare-ish? What then becomes important is that
> you can tilt it to avoid glare and the picture is still clear (usable
> viewing angle, both horizontally and vertically).

I've had an Acer for the last three years with one of those glossy
screens. From first-hand experience I can tell you that you don't need
to be in a meadow - indoors with a window or any reasonably bright
light source behind you is more than enough to put a big strain on the
eyes. The brightness sucks, though (cheap laptop, after all) and I
think Dell, Lenovo and HP will all have brighter screens, so at least
indoors, the screen brightness will override the reflections. Yes,
wider viewing angles may help. I've found a
good resource - they mention brightness and contrast levels, as well
as viewing angles in each of their reviews (though the English is a
bit fractured at times - translation from German being the key reason,
I think). If you haven't hit upon that site yet, it may be worth a
look, especially for the short-list of laptops you're considering.

> Anything that I ever want to do with Apple-provided - or Apple-blessed -
> hardware and software should "just work".

At a cost, of course :)

> By contrast, while a
> factory-configured HP and most Windows software should be very reliable
> and smooth, the Linux that I would install (dual-boot) might very well
> not have full driver support (or I might have to wait many months for
> it) or have other annoying peculiarities that stem from the inherently
> non-specific nature of Linux distros and open-source apps.

I'm a FOSS fan, and I have to confess that you've hit the nail neatly
on the head there :-) I currently own an Openmoko Neo FreeRunner that
isn't quite all there as far as the software stack is concerned; I
think it'll be at least another 6 months before we have a really good
software stack on it. It's still a lot of fun, though :-)

> that snicker. Well other than rationalizations like that, how do YOU
> stave off buyer's remorse?

It's hard, at times :) I got a GP2X F-200 recently, and wound up
buying it just before the company took it off sale, prior to
introducing the Open Pandora ( for around 20%
more dough than I laid out for this handheld :-(
Ah, well - maybe I can get the OP too... some time from now :)


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Re: Laptop for graphics, writing and fun: From: Edgar D' Souza
RE: Laptop for graphics, writing and fun: From: McLauchlan, Kevin

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