TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Both Wintel laptops and Mac laptops can accept external monitors,
keyboards, and mice. For both platforms docking stations make the
use of these external devices easier. There are a few differences
between the Mac and PC use of external devices however.
1) Mice. PC laptops detect external mice only on bootup. If you
disconnect the mouse while the computer is on, it reverts to the
touchpad and cannot recognize the mouse again until you reboot.
I often see our PC laptop users here carrying their laptops with the
mouse cord wrapped around it. If they disconnect it, even accidentally,
they need to reboot. Macs use the Apple Desktop Bus connections
for mice/keyboards and scans them constantly. You can disconnect
a Mac keyboard or mouse any time and reconnect any time. I've
found that occasionally the mouse or touchpad reactions get "funky".
This is especially true if I let the touchpad get wet (usually condensation
from a cold drink getting on my "mousing" finger). I've found a great
utility called MouseJolt that resets the touchpad/mouse.
Another advantage to the Mac ADB is you can daisychain keyboards
and mice. I've used this many times with online chatting so each
member in the room can have their own keyboard.
2) SCSI devices. With a PC laptop I'm not sure you can easily add
extra devices such as hard drives, zip/jaz drives, scanners, CD-ROMs
and so on. With my Mac laptop I have a SCSI port and can quickly
attach any of those external devices when needed.
3) Quick networking. Most top of the line laptops have Ethernet ports.
However, when you need to quickly network two or more computers and
you don't have an Ethernet hub handy, Macs can always set up an ad hoc
AppleTalk network using simple cables. Although not as fast as Ethernet,
anyone can set up an Appletalk network in about 5 minutes (faster if
you've done it before and know the names of the two control panels
you need). I've done this several times when I visit friends and need to
swap files that are too big to fit on floppies. This is also neat for multi-
player games. I've played Super Maze Wars with complete strangers
I've met in airport waiting lounges.
4) Hot swapping. The new Mac G3 Powerbooks support hot swapping. You
can pull out a hard drive and replace it with a zip drive or floppy drive
the computer is still on. I think it has to be in "sleep" mode, but I'm not
There is a limitation with monitors on any laptop. The display resolution is
limited by the video controller in the laptop, and that may not equal the
resolution you might get with a desktop computer. For example, my
desktop computer supports resolutions up to 1024 x 1280. Whereas a
laptop (depends on price, model) might top out at 768 x 1024.
I use a Mac laptop for both Wintel and Mac oriented customers. I find that
my choice of platform does not affect my work or productivity for my
Wintel work, due to the number of Mac solutions that enable the Mac to
work seamlessly in a Wintel environment. However the reverse is not
true. If I limited myself by purchasing Wintel hardware, I could not easily
do business in the Mac world, which thanks to the iMac is heating
The choice of laptop vs. desktop is more a matter of comfort. I use both
and I love my laptop because I can use it anywhere: airplane, front porch,
at the park, in the living room, and so on. I've adapted to the smaller
and monitor, but some people cannot.
Another laptop vs. desktop issue is speed. Laptops generally run slower than
desktops, due to both processor speed and disk access times. Laptop hard
disks generally have longer access times than desktop models, I'm guessing
that they need to be more tolerant of shock, and that design issue forces
compromises. Laptop CPUs are generally slower than desktop CPUs, due to
power requirements and heat dissipation. I believe the G3 chips are an
G3s have lower power requirements, and thus dissipate less heat than
thus the same chips can be used in both laptops and desktops. Combine that
the fact that a G3 is much faster than a similarly clocked Pentium (I
the rule of thumb is multiply by 2, then subtract 10%? So a 300 Mhz G3 is
equivalent to a 540 Mhz Pentium), and you can see why Apple says a G3 laptop
is faster than all Pentium laptops and most Pentium desktops.