Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

My next computer – some thoughts

Posted by shannonclark on September 15, 2006

On Web Worker Daily today there is a great discussion about some of the tools available for a Mac that help make it a great (from a software perspective) platform for mobile workers.

I’m in a position where I may soon have to replace/update my current laptop (an IBM Thinkpad about to leave warantee coverage in a month or two). My problem is that I haven’t actually seen too many newer systems (including Macs) that have all the features I use/need.

Specifically my current configuration is an IBM Thinkpad T40, 1.5gb of ram, a 1400×1050 resolution monitor, battery life of 5-6+ hours (with a fresh extended life battery, my 1+ year old battery still gets between 4 and 5 hours), a multibutton mouse and a trackpoint. And all this in a package that weighs about 5.5lbs and less then 6lbs even with the power supply. (and it has built in bluetooth, wifi, an actually good built-in microphone and decent sound and graphics capabilities)

While I probably could adjust to the lack of the trackpoint or multiple buttons (but I’d rather not) on a mac, my major problems are weight, battery life and especially screen resolution. To get a comperable screen resolution I would need to get at least a 15″ and better yet a 17″ macbook pro, and that then means at least another 1lb to a 1 1/2lbs in carry weight and worse battery life.

And even with non-mac options it seems most laptops still have lower resolution screens than my current system (and while they may now have faster processors most still also come with a default of lower memory, smaller hard drives than my 80gb drive, and worse battery life in most cases).

My ideal system would be <5lbs, with a screen that has at least 1400×1000 resolution (and higher is better), battery life of at least 6 hours, a keyboard as good as the IBM/Lenovo thinkpad keyboards (which I think are about the best keyboards at least for laptops out there) and as functional a layout for other features – like the mouse – as my current system. Even better would be a system that also had tablet PC capabilities as the ability to sketch with a pen is really very valuable (but nearly no tablets at least the last time I checked come with 1400+ resolution).

And I don’t want to sacrifice the built-in microphone etc. (a friend’s Fujitsu that is otherwise nearly identical in specifications to my system was missing a built in microphone which made simple tools like Skype much, much harder to use comfortably).

I will always need a laptop, I’m far too mobile to just get by with my cell phone (even if it is a great Cingular 2125 – i.e a scoblephone) I need to work in a mobile environment frequently. But as well as I try to do more and more my biggest impediment iis a lack of pixels. I need many many many more pixels (and many gb’s more of disk storage) if I am to accomplish even half of the things I want to do this year. So while I may need to replace this laptop, i also need to get a new desktop soon as well.

I’m seriously considering one of the new iMac 24″ models. Though the fact that I would be capped out at 500gbs of internal storage, while it sounds like a lot does give me very real pause – and even 24″ at 1900+ resolution may not be enough pixels for all that I want to work on (though adding a second 23″ monitor might just about do the trick). But disk storage is an issue I would have to resolve.

You might ask why?

Well for starters I routinely download about 400mbs (or often 500+mbs) of content EVERY day. While I download I typically also delete 400+mbs of content I have already consumed so my library of content doesn’t actually grow all that much (some days I download less or weed out older/unlistened to content) but this is a trend I see only increasing as I download more video content as well as more audio content.

Then I plan on a number of media projects in the upcoming months and year. From podcasts I will product to video editing from events I organize my media generation will increase dramatically in the upcoming months.

And that doesn’t include testing any applications I will also be working on, which includes many that could need 100’s of gbs of data to analyze (though eventually most would be run on a server farm somewhere I’d still like to have local copies to demo as well as to develop against/on).

Not to mention that I’ll want to dual or even more probably triple boot pretty soon. In a few weeks I hope to install Vista on at least one machine to start testing that, if I use a mac I’ll have OSX (and will be planning on migrating to Leopard when it is released), and I seriously need to have least one system running one of the latest builds of a Linux distribution as well (Ubuntu or SUSE most likely though I’ll look at others – and many of the new GUI features of some of the latest UI’s for Linux seem very seriously productive to explore). And having used a Tablet PC (borrowed) at Gnomedex I do see some very real value to having a pen interface for capturing ideas.
So I anticipate this being an expensive fall for me from a technology perspective. Almost certainly a new desktop, quite possibly a Tablet PC (would be amazing if Apple were to offer one….) and in addition a new digital camera, podcast recording gear, microphones, great headphones, a digital HD quality projector (and screen) and quite possibily a digital video recorder as well.

(if you have some consulting work for me….call, email, leave a comment)


One Response to “My next computer – some thoughts”

  1. […] Searching for the Moon rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics « My next computer – some thoughts […]

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