Friday, April 1, 2011

Sell Me A Computer?

I do everything as a geek would do it, because I am a geek. This extends to buying a computer. I'm picking out my next home-wherever-I-am now, and I'm wanting to ask questions that nobody answers. Here's what I'm about:
  1. Does it come with a non-shiny screen? I don't know how "glare" ever became a feature.
  2. If I'm just reading and editing text files, will the battery last all through a 6-hour flight?
  3. How much battery life can I get if I'm programming in python with autonose running? 
  4. When I put Ubuntu on it, will it find drivers for everything? Video? Wifi? Camera? 
  5. Which extended function keys won't work in Linux?
  6. Will the oversensitive touchpad register a mouse activity when I come within 1/2 inch of it? Can I shut it off?
  7. How badly will I get burned if I put the laptop on my knees while compiling a .NET project? 
  8. Is there enough RAM for me to run my OS, a windows virtual box with VS.NET and resharper in it, a browser on the side?
  9. Can I use it comfortably on a train or on an airplane, even if the inconsiderate jerk in front of me slams his seat back against my knees like usual?
  10. How long is the fan going to last? Is it going to die after a measly 4 years like my previous two full-sized laptop computers? 
  11. How much does it suck battery when suspended? How much does it eat on reboot if hibernated?
  12. Can I hook it up to digital video? HDMI?
  13. How water-resistant is it? If I spill one drop into the keyboard, is it gone forever, or is there some hope? 
  14. How sturdy is the hinge? I've seen too many laptops gone forever when the hinge weakens.

I know that's not the normal set of questions, but that's why I'm so much fun to shop with.

I've had great luck with Thinkpads and my Asus EEE PC is just wonderful with Ubuntu. I don't have the battery life I want, but a guy makes compromises. We're pragmatists.

My only problems with the Asus EEE PC have been the oversensitive touchpad, lower battery life than desired (2 hours + with Ubuntu), smallish hard drive (160G), small RAM (1G originally), and being vga-only (later models solve this). For the money, I can heartily endorse these little netbooks. Actually, despite these problems, I've come to love the little beast. It's just underpowered for my needs now.

I'm thinking about a Thinkpad T410s, loaded with RAM, 500GB drive, and 9-cell battery. I'm betting it will come as close as anything to what I want.

I'm still considering a Mac, though. I don't like OS X as much as Ubuntu, but if it is solid and my windows VM runs okay, I bet I can comfort myself with a real *nix file system and a good bash shell. Last time I was frustrated by not having a great APT/YUM repositories (ports was not as good) and the whole issue of native app updates. Either each app checks for itself, or you have to go check for them and download new versions. On OS X, I had to do a lot more manual system management, and Windows was worse than that in addition to being slower and buggier.

On the other hand, OS/X had some great power management and ergonomics and the MBP had some really stellar hardware. It did work well, only crashing maybe twice in the year I had it (far better than windows, not as good as Ubuntu). The only thing I would consider superior about windows is its power management. My son's Asus EEE is identical to mine, but windows stretches the power use over a much greater period.

Well, unless someone talks me out of it, it will either be a MBP or a Thinkpad when I place my order. It will be either Ubuntu or OS/X and windows in a VM.