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Old 02-23-2008, 04:14 PM   #1
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Default My new toy

So one of the requirements of law school is that you have to have a laptop computer. Don't ask me why, I don't know. You just do.

For the past eight years I've been lugging around various company-provided laptops. All of them have been Dell Latitude C and D series machines. Very nice computers, but a trifle on the large and heavy side. I use them as my primary machines (docked) when in the office for running AutoCAD, drawing schematics, etc. So things like fast processors, loads of RAM, and dual-monitor support are worth the tradeoff. Not so much a problem for stowing in an airplane overhead bin, but I could see it being tiresome to lug something like that around in a backpack all day, while riding a bicycle across campus, etc.

The EeePc had me really excited when it came out. SSD, uber-small, etc. But I got a chance to actually use one recently, and it's just too much (too little?) of a good thing. The 800x480 screen is just too damn small, and the keyboard was not meant for my hands. I still think it'd make the ultimate in-car PC (and if my Fujitsu tablet ever dies, I'll be buying one) but it didn't feel like a good general-purpose PC.

Much research on the interwebz turned up the Sony Vaio TX / TZ series. Truth be told, I never thought I'd ever consider buying a Sony. To me, those machines are right up there with Macbooks- overpriced and very pretty PCs designed for people who wear fashionable shoes, listen to Sergio Mendes and code in Java. You know what I'm talking about. But prejudices aside, this thing is perfect:





It's a TXN15P. An older model, scored on eBay for about $900. Pricey for a used laptop, though the current model (the TZ) sells for $1,600 to $3,000+ new. (Remember what I said about overpriced?)

I know, it looks like a regular ole' laptop. Nothing special about that, right? Except this sucker weighs 2.8 lbs (with battery) and is less than 11" wide and 8" deep. And it's even got a built-in DVD writer, SD card slot, bluetooth, wifi and firewire. Behold:



This sucker is small, and yet it's actually usable! The screen is 11" (1366x768) and yet is the clearest, brightest LCD I've ever seen. Perfectly readable from normal viewing distance. And the keyboard, while a tad smaller than normal, works like a dream.

Seriously, anyone who is looking for an ultra-portable computer for general-purpose use, you gotta check this machine out. Much happiness.
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Old 02-23-2008, 05:44 PM   #2
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I have a TR3, the precursor to the TX series. I love it. Picked it up used for 600$ last summer.

I will never own a larger laptop ever again.
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Old 02-23-2008, 06:10 PM   #3
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Nice. Does it have a built in rs-232?
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:43 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by j_man View Post
Nice. Does it have a built in rs-232?
RS-232, what is that, some ancient standard for transferring data slowly between a teletype and a mainframe?

No, it has no RS-232 port. Nor a parallel port, nor PS/2 mouse or keyboard ports. The port complement is as follows:
1x HD-15 VGA
1x RJ-45 Ethernet
1x POTS modem (why?)
2x USB2
1x Firewire
1x PCMCIA
1x SD card
1x MemoryStick
1x headphone
1x microphone (again, why?)

The newer model, the TZ, is largely identical to the TX except that the keyboard isn't as nice (it's like the MacBook Air) and it gives up the PCMCIA slot for an ExpressCard34 slot. That's kinda cool because you can get SSDs (Solid-State hard drives) pretty cheaply in the ExpressCard form factor. And since these machines use a 1.8" IDE hard drive with a very odd "ZIF" connector, there are no SSDs currently available that fit. (Yes, I know Samsung has announced one. I said available.)

However, as if there wasn't enough happiness in my life, I just got a package from the UK this afternoon. As an aside, The Royal Mail is a much cooler-sounding name than The Postal Service. Anyway, it's an adapter to replace the hard drive in an iPod with a CF card. Remember the funky hard drive connector I mentioned? Turns out it's the same one on most of the iPod hard drives. So I'm gonna try to use this to replace the internal 80gig hard drive with an 8 or 16 gig CF card.
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Old 02-23-2008, 09:02 PM   #5
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^ get a SSD drive.

Compact flash was not designed for what you plan to do with it, and it will stop working on you when you most need it.

The "funky harddrive connector" is called a ZIF plug.
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Old 02-23-2008, 09:05 PM   #6
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That looks like a real nice machine, I'm all for lightweight laptops. My IBM X40 weighs in at 2.7lb, though it doesn't have an optical drive.

I had bought a Lenovo C300, and it was a behemoth, I hated the damn thing. Sold it to cashforlaptops.com for $295, a mere $50 or so less than I bought it from Buy.com for, and I'm glad to be rid of it.

C
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Old 02-23-2008, 09:05 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by reddroptop View Post
I have a TR3, the precursor to the TX series. I love it. Picked it up used for 600$ last summer.

I will never own a larger laptop ever again.
Yup, the T-series machines are all pretty similar. With the TX they moved the optical drive to the side, dropped the camera, switched to LED backlight and went from the Pentium-M to the Core Solo. And so far as I can tell, all they did with the TZ was to make the keyboard worse and upgrade to the Core2 duo.

And I hear 'ya. Until I really started looking about a month ago, I never even realized that there was this whole category of ultrasmall laptops that were still full-featured PCs, rather than CE-based "appliance" machines. I'm with you- when I leave my Latitude D620 behind later this year, it'll probably be the last time I use a laptop bigger than the TX. Hell, even the MacBook air, although slightly thinner, is heavier and looks like a pig next to the T-series machines. And that's without an optical drive and with a tiny, non user-replaceable battery.
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Old 02-23-2008, 10:10 PM   #8
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^ get a SSD drive.

Compact flash was not designed for what you plan to do with it, and it will stop working on you when you most need it.
There are no SSDs currently available in the required form-factor and interface.

If that changes in the next few months, and they're reasonably priced (say, <$300 for 16 gig) then I'll get one. And I do understand the pitfalls of solid-state storage, we've been using SSD in the embedded WinCE based controllers of our consoles for the past 6 years- originally DIP-based modules on our AMD-platform system, and now we've migrated to CF on our new ARM9 board. Realistically, modern CF cards use the same fundamental technology as SSDs- they're NAND-based, they have automatic wear-leveling, etc.
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Old 02-23-2008, 10:26 PM   #9
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I was deciding btw a TZ series laptop and a ASUS U6 when I was laptop shopping a month ago. Turns out we had an open box U6 on display at BBy just before I was leaving for the new job. They hate it when open box **** sits on the shelf. SO I said I wanted it and threw out a price I was willing to pay. I got the U6, a universal power supply, and a 2yr accidental service plan for $1000 on a $1800 laptop. Pretty much a steal.

After some googling, I found this for you http://www.mydigitaldiscount.com/Cat...8+inch+ZIF+SSD
call and see if they are in stock or able to order.
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Old 02-23-2008, 11:15 PM   #10
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nice buy. I still love my fujitsu T4210 tablet with two batteries. light and lasts forever on a charge.

incidentally there are reasons RS232 is still alive. interrupts make it hard to get realtime data to flow properly on USB. I don't know the low level details but it shows up in realtime motion tracking systems for our VR displays which is why many are still RS232 based. and as we all know, it rears its head in usb-serial converters when we do datalogs.
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Old 02-23-2008, 11:51 PM   #11
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hey! i'm a macbook-using java programmer!

glad you found something you like. i feel the same way about windows as you do about the Dells - too clunky and painful to use.

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Old 02-24-2008, 12:59 AM   #12
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Good choice Joe when i got my toshiba satelite i was on the fence about getting a viao, but in the end i picked to cheaper toshiba my next laptop will be a viao hopefully though.
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Old 02-25-2008, 12:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neogenesis2004 View Post
After some googling, I found this for you http://www.mydigitaldiscount.com/Cat...8+inch+ZIF+SSD
Hmm. Still too expensive, but the right connector. We'll see what prices do in the next few months. I suspect I'll probably use an 8g CF card for now, maybe in a year or so move up to a larger SSD.
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incidentally there are reasons RS232 is still alive.
Yeah, I know. RS-232, while not fast, is usually a much simpler interface, both electrically and from a software standpoint. We still use RS232 for the diagnostic / debug ports on all our products to this day.
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hey! i'm a macbook-using java programmer!
Lemme guess, you probably drive a Miata too, right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by thebeerbaron
i feel the same way about windows as you do about the Dells - too clunky and painful to use.
I'm not really much of an OS bigot anymore. If we were really going to have a good heated argument about GUI-based operating systems I'd have to drag Workbench into the debate, but of course nobody even remembers what that was anymore...

To me, it's gotten to the point where Windows and OS-X are pretty much the same thing. Big, fluffy, very pretty, and annoyingly coddling. But the thing that bugs me about Apple isn't the OS, it's the proprietary hardware. I don't mean PPC vs. x86 or NuBus vs. ISA/PCI, or even the dozens of different and incompatible I/O ports that have come and gone over the years. I mean the simple stuff. Power supplies, CDRom drives, CRTs (in the case of the iMac), etc. You can't buy spare parts from Apple and keep 'em opn the shelf. If something goes wrong, you gotta physically bring your machine into a service center and have them do it. That is majorly the suck when the machines are being used as editing workstations in a broadcast station. For everything else you've got a supply of spare parts in case something goes down. For the Apples, you gotta keep whole spare computers on the shelf.
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Old 02-25-2008, 12:47 PM   #14
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Did Dell eventually step away from the proprietary hardware? The last Dell we owned (probably a decade ago) had a proprietary power supply and motherboard. I think the last Dell server that went ****-up on us at work had a proprietary mobo too.

I've given up caring about the hardware issues. By the time stuff starts failing, it's time to get a new one anyhow. Ain't that a great attitude?

Seriously, I just prefer a UNIX-based OS to a DOS based one (yes yes, it's no longer technically DOS based, but you get my drift). I never did learn DOS. I :heart: the UNIX though
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Old 02-25-2008, 02:47 PM   #15
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lenovo > *
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:05 PM   #16
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Dell. Psssht.

I've not historically bought name-brand hardware (Dell, IBM, HP, etc), preferring (for the reason of serviceability) to either build my own machines or buy machines that are known to be 100% off-the-shelf in nature. So I never bought an IBM PS/2, for example. This of course goes back to my radio station days, when we did not have loads of money for things like service contracts. It's different in a big corporate environment.

But that's the thing about the Wintel platform that I like- you're not locked into a single hardware platform, you can run it on pretty much anybody's machines you like.

But yeah. I was a real hardcore MS-DOS junkie in the 80s, and I got pretty good with System V in the 90's. I never really achieved guru status with Workbench / CLI, but I think that's probably my favorite OS in terms of capability relative to the hardware it was running on. We're talking true GUI multitasking on an 8Mhz 68000 w/ 512k. I never really became a Linux zealot however, since I honestly think that OS is too fragmented to ever go mainstream.
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:38 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chriscar View Post
I had bought a Lenovo C300, and it was a behemoth, I hated the damn thing. Sold it to cashforlaptops.com for $295, a mere $50 or so less than I bought it from Buy.com for, and I'm glad to be rid of it.

C
I had never heard of cash for laptops before. I entered my Toshiba 1415-S173 (my daily "slow as hell but I love it" laptop) and it gave me a quote of $55. Screw that - I'll keep it. I figured it was just another rip off site but I entered my tiny Toshiba Libretto 70CT sub notebook (5" screen) and it gave me a quote of $135. Hell, that is more than I paid for it 5 years ago. I think I may have to get rid of it for something a little faster for datalogging.

This is the Libretto sitting on my dash:
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:42 PM   #18
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I was really surprised they gave me that much for the Lenovo, especially when you factor in their overhead. I mean they had to ship me an empty box, plus shipping back to them, and whatever time their tech's spend 'refurbishing' / certifying the unit. I was more than happy to get rid of it.

C
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:51 PM   #19
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I need to get a ******* notebook just for tuning ms.
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Old 02-25-2008, 04:07 PM   #20
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hustler, I have one you can have REAL cheap. it's very ******* but 99% functional and will run MS and has a serial port. It's a Dell latitude CPi. One of the hinges is busted. So it kinda needs a prop-up. That's the 1%. Sometimes the video goes screwy because of the hinge but a quick slap and it's fine.
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