2016 will be the year of the ARM laptop

Slashdot links to the story that quotes Linus Torvalds’ address of the LinuxCon 2015:

“2016 will be the year of the ARM laptop”

For those who’s rusty on the CPU hardware side, he’s a very easy to follow article, describing the key difference between ARM and x86 architectures.

Installing Linux on the Chromebook Pixel

Installing Linux on the Chromebook Pixel

From this point forward, every time you boot, it’s going to say that Chrome OS can’t be found or something similarly alarming like that, just ignore and hit Ctr-D or wait 30 seconds to boot into Chrome OS. But that won’t be relevant for long as we’re going to wipe it off the machine below :-)

10 World’s Most Expensive Laptops

The other day I got into an interesting discussion with dad about laptops.  Specifically, about expensive laptops.  Using Linux, enjoying a greater utilization of any resource, and being constantly broke, I am not very versed in expensive hardware, laptop or not.  So I did a couple of Google searches to educate myself.  Here is a good lineup of the world’s most expensive laptops for the year of 2011:

  1. Luvaglio. $1,000,000.  Yeah, right.
  2. Tulip E-go Diamond. $355,000.  Girly fashion thing.
  3. Ego for Bentley. $20,000. Another girly fashion thing.
  4. Voodoo Envy H-171. $8,500. This is where the list starts getting real.
  5. Rock Xtreme SL8. $5,000.  The specs for this machine look nice.
  6. Alienware Area 51. $5,000. If I had to choose a laptop from that list, this would be the one.
  7. Lenovo Thinkpad W700DS. $4,500.  Yey! for a dual screen laptop.
  8. Toshiba Qosmio G-35-AV660. $3,500.  If I had that much money to spend on a laptop, I’d get myself a Lenovo or HP with a few extra options.
  9. Dell M6400. $3,000.  They tried to put as much as stuff in it as would fit.
  10. Acer Ferrari 1100.  $3,000. The only reason this is here, because a list of 10 items sounds better than a list of 9 items.

Lenovo G550 laptop

A couple of days ago I bought two Lenovo G550 laptops – one for me, one for my wife.  After spending a day browsing all the online shops and driving around all computer outlets in the city, I decided that this is the best option available.

Specifications: Dual-core 2Ghz Intel CPU, 15.6 inch glossy screen (WXGA, maximum resolution 1366×768), 4 GB of RAM, 250 GB hard disk, a bunch of USB ports, HDMI out, DVD writer, WiFi, and all the standard stuff, weighting at around 2.7 kilograms. Battery life is around 4 hours. Price: 500 EUR + 15% VAT = 575 EUR.

Both machines are running Linux (Fedora 12) already, even though they were coming with some Windows pre-installed.  I wouldn’t know which one since I haven’t even booted into that once.  Fedora Linux installation was straight-forward and everything worked, except for the wireless networking, which needs an extra step to enable those Broadcom drivers.  Gladly, the required step is widely covered in the blogosphere. – basically, enable RPM Fusion yum repository, install kmod-wl package, and reboot your machine.

Everything is working find and I really enjoy the laptop, except for a few things that annoy me with its keyboard.  The layout is somewhat weird.  First of all, I am not used to having a number pad on a laptop keyboard.  But that’s OK – if there is space, then why not, right?  Well, there is space, but I think it would have been utilized better for Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keys.  As they are now, PgUp and PgDn are located next to navigation arrow keys and Home/End keys are only accessible through a Fn key, which is really strange.  On top of that, Insert and Delete keys are in a different part of the keyboard – on top of the Backspace key.  And while I don’t use Caps Lock all that often, some people will notice that Caps Lock indicator is missing, as well as NumLock and ScrollLock.  What can I say?  That’s one weird keyboard layout.

Other than that though there is nothing that I can complain about.  The machine is nice and cool and pleasant to use.  My wife seems to enjoy it as well.

Second monitor

Being so much at work during the last few month, I’ve noticed that many IT guys enjoy working with a two monitor setup.  I never paid much attention to that fact and thought that those really need a second monitor are a few and that its mostly the show off for the rest.

Last week, in a very spontaneous move, I decided to try it out.  We had a few of those 19-inch AOC monitors around, so I wasn’t exactly robbing anyone or anything like that.  Within minutes I had unwrapped, connected, and configured in my Gnome, and I have to say that that is one of the best technology experiences I had in the last few years!  It’s totally awesome!

Now, having two monitors configured as one huge desktop, I can either keep my browser separated from my consoles, or more code than every before in front of my eyes without switching virtual desktops, or have all my instant messaging at hand without polluting my main workspace.  That’s brilliant, I tell you.

Downsides?  Yes, sure.  I haven’t yet learned to handle the setup properly, so I have to logout of my graphical interface and log back in every time I take my laptop home.  It would have been so much easier if just plugging the monitor in would work.  I hear that a docking station might improve the situation, but that remains to be seen.

And what I want now?  More monitors.  I’d love to have another monitor at work, and I’d really want to have at least one more at home.  But there is no place to put it at home (I’m working on a dining table), and I’m not sure there is a way to connect two additional monitors to a laptop at work.  But overall, multi-monitor setups is definitely an area I need to investigate more.

On laptops in the classrooms

I came across an interesting opinion by David Cole regarding the use of Internet connected laptops in the classrooms, during lectures.

study found that laptop use was significantly and negatively related to class performance

While I was reading the article, I kept nodding my head a lot.  Yes, if I was back in college and I could have an Internet connected laptop on my desk, I’d be even worse of a student than I was.  YouTube, forums, emails, Twitter, and a whole lot of other attention grabbers would not leave much for plain old college education.  At least in my case.  I know.

But then, I started thinking if that was true for other people I know.  And I couldn’t be so sure anymore.  A few guys I know literally can’t stay for too much long wihtout a computer and some sort of Internet connection.  It’s like food or oxygen – they just have to have it.  And when they have access to a computer, it’s often amazing to see them use it.  Lots of interesting, topic related stuff coming up.  Fact checking.  Exploring the topic deeper and wider.  With quotes and all.

And that got me into this idea of a new generation.   Younger people, who grew up online.  Web is in their blood.  A desktop computer as an ugly concept, and an offline computer as a useless box.  This kind of people.  I don’t think they would be much distracted.  In fact, quite the opposite – I think their grades would go up with better Internet connection and laptop-friendlier environment.

And that’s where I started worrying a little bit about the studies that were mentioned in the article.  These studies may be very accurate now.  And they are performed by bigger universities and colleges.  The results of these studies will take a few years of propagating into smaller colleges and universities.  And that’s where the problem will arise.  By that time, most new students will of the web native generation, but their alma maters will be choosing to disconnect them and ban their laptops.  Even though it probably won’t be too relative by then.

But then again, isn’t it like this most of the time?  I think it is.

Lenovo ThinkPad T61

As I mentioned a few days ago, I was looking for a new laptop. Well, I got one last week, and it’s an amazing Lenovo ThinkPad T61 machine. I am still playing with, learning it, and tweaking it, but I think I’m ready for the post now.

The red button

First things first. There weren’t much of an argument for or against each specific model that I found or that was suggested in the comments to my last post. I needed a machine pretty fast, and I was trying to arrange it in such a way so that I won’t pay for it out of my own pocket (my new employer is kind of cool for this sort of things).

Here are the specs for the tech savvy among you:

  • 15.4″ widescreen form factor
  • 2.1 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 150 GB HDD
  • 3 USB ports
  • some sort of DVD drive
  • 1 Ethernet card, 1 WiFi card, and a whole bunch of other inputs and outputs

Installation process : I did a minimum installation of Fedora 8 from DVD, then copied over my home directory and other important files from my previous laptop, and then installed and upgraded all missing and outdated software. Most of the stuff worked like a charm and didn’t need any sweat.

Issues that I needed time to solve or haven’t solved yet:

  • WiFi switch was off and it took me almost half an hour to figure out. That was probably due to a total lack of sleep though.
  • Fedora 8 has this new pulse audio system, which takes a few steps to setup properly. I had to do this a few times before already, and every time this excellent guide was to the rescue.
  • I still haven’t managed to configure suspend and hibernate functionality. It goes to sleep nicely, but either doesn’t wake up at all, or wakes up with some crucial functionality missing, such as network being totally lost. This is as well the most annoying thing that I miss right now. However, the whole of the Internet suggests that I am doing something wrong and that this stuff should just work.

Impressions:

  • Very fast. This is my first multi-core machine, so I have to get used to it a bit. One thing that I am particularly glad is that it runs Quake 3 at 125 FPS easily. This is the first machine that I have that can do this.
  • Widescreen is the way to go. (And here is the recent Slashdot story to confirm that.) It’s amazing how much difference that little extra space on the side makes. Watching a movie is more pleasurable. Working with images in Gimp is way more convenient. And now I can have a full window browser with a sidebar open, following my Twitter friends. Or an instant messenger window open nearby. Or I can have a really wide console window with plenty of code to scroll through (priceless for vimdiff mode).
  • A little bit heavier than my previous machine. It’s a bit bigger too. But I don’t mind much.
  • A little bit noisier than my previous machine. It feels like the fans are never off. However I suspect there is some great utility software out there to configure and control this.

Overall, it feels like a really nice piece of technology – well built and thoroughly thought out. I need to solve these few remaining issues and it will be a total pleasure to work with.

Laptop size dilemma

A few things have happened recently that caused me to go through available laptop offers, looking for a new one.  First of all, our last desktop PC at home died.   Secondly, my laptop is getting pretty old.  Thirdly, I am switching to a new job, new office, new boss, and I have an opportunity to get a new laptop to sustain all of that stress.

What do I need in a laptop?  Well, my current HP nx6110 has been working pretty good for the last two years.  I am satisfied with its power and features.  The only two things I would like to see improved are battery life (it can survive for about 2 hours without power) and screen resolution (1024×768 is sort of small for me).  Other than that, it’s perfect.

Most of the newer laptops boast better battery life, despite being packed with more powerful processors, more memory, and better graphics cards.  So that looks like to be taken care of all by itself.

Screen resolution, however, is a tricky issue.  Usually, for higher screen resolution, I’d need to get a laptop with larger screen too.  My current laptop has a 15″ screen, which seems just about right. I’d love to have higher resolution on the screen of that size, not a bigger screen with higher resolution.

Bigger screens are nice, especially considering the fact that I work a lot with pictures and use my laptop to watch DVDs.  But moving around with a large laptop is inconvenient.  For example, on a recent trip to a conference in Amsterdam, even my current laptop was a tiny bit too large. It was OK to bring it to Amsterdam, but it was too heavy to carry around to the conference (laptop + power supply + socket adapter + digital camera + spare batteries + the huge bag to fit all that = a lot of weight).

After considering all pros and cons for a few moments, I decided that I don’t need a bigger laptop.  I should get something as close to the current size as possible, but with support of higher resolution (maybe a wide screen too).  For the mobile needs (such as conferences) I should get a new smart phone with QWERTY keyboard.  A combination of a good smart phone and a laptop should cover me from all sides.  I’d bring the laptop to the hotel and use it to watch DVDs and browse the web on high resolution, while I can use a smart phone as a quick Web access tool and note taking device.

With that in mind, Lenovo ThinkPad T61 laptop looks just fine.  There is a 15.4″ widescreen option, which boasts 11+ hours of battery life as well as all bells and whistles that I want.

What do you guys think?  What’s your choice for a laptop these days?  How do you solve your multimedia and traveling digital needs?