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bear by san

March 2017



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writing literature vonnegut asshole

tonight the sky will not be consoled.

The rain has passed, and as I write this we have intermittent sunlight and ragged skies. Lovely.

I've turned my work chair so I have a better view out the window without craning my neck so much, which has the added advantage of not putting the sun over my shoulder and blanching the laptop screen.

So, flist, I am asking for opinions.

My aged HP Pavilion is reaching the end of its useful lifespan, and I need a replacement laptop. (Mostly, I use the device for word processing, internet, and so on.)

What I'd like to know is, if you're bored and want to tell me and you use a laptop or tablet PC--

--what brand, model, vintage, and specifications is your device?
--what do you use it for?
--how durable has it proven?
--how's the service contract?
--what was the price range?
--do you like it or loathe it?

(If you use some other word processing or internet solution, other than a laptop, and you love it with evangelical glee, I'm very happy for you, but telling me to get a Palm and a roll-up keyboard will simply make me roll my eyes and think you're a twit who can't read directions. I know, it's unfair, but that's what will happen. I'm just letting you know.)


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even tho' i have now joined the mac revolution, i had a sony vaio that served me very very well for about 5 years until I accidentally killed the power supply. Cuz I'm dumb. The cd drive did die on me, but it probably just needed a clean, but whatever they are cheap! But overall, I really liked it and most ppl i know who have them find them quite good. It was heavy, though. But now that model would be antiquated!
My current chief contenders are a Vaio or a Latitude, so that is a good thing to know!

I am tempted by the itty bitty ones, because I do travel a good deal, and the current laptop is eight pounds and only has about two-three hours of battery. (!)
I have a friend who very much likes her Dell Vostro, and I've been looking at them as well - what I like is that they have larger profiles, which means the keyboards are almost as big as a regular keyboard. I'd be using it for word processing, but she even used hers for her design work (graphic, using Adobe software).

I've never had a problem with Dell as far as customer service - they've always gone above and beyond for me any time I've ever had a problem.

I don't know if the sale is still going on, but about a week ago, Dell had a deal where you could get a very nice Vostro 1700 for about $1,000.
I'll second Dell for service and products. My Inspiron 6000 is now three years old and thus far the only thing I have had to work on was replacing the hard drive last month. Dell's service has always been on the spot, and we like them so much we currently have 5 laptops of various models and two desktops through them. The Inspiron's have a 17 inch screen, which makes it easier to read for me.

Average cost on each was around $1000; currently the Inspiron's are listed as starting at $499 and the XPS start at $999 (one of the laptops is an XPS running Vista with no issues.
IBM T43, 1.8GHz, 1.5G RAM. Bought 'second-hand' (post-lease) from my local reseller, still in the box. $800, 1yr IBM warranty still on it. It's a tank (my partner had the same kind as his previous work computer and abused it mercilessly to no ill effect until he accidentally kicked the screen in playing with the dog) but my graphics card is loose and I need to take it in.

I use it for browsing, minor graphics editing, writing (Word), and most importantly, Dragon Natural Speaking Prefered 9. I will be upgrading the soundcard with a PCMCIA card for about $80 to give me better performance and to allow me to run videos or Winamp without affecting my DNS9 processing. The weight and size are excellent for a laptop of this power/price, I love the keyboard and the touch-pad, and I'm happy with the screen. The wireless card has very good range when I'm out and about.
I also have a Dell D400, one of the last small ones made in that line. It's a fantastic little thing. The processor on it is not heavy-duty, but that's because of the battery/heat issue. It was passed on to me as an interim laptop before I got this one. The keyboard is a little small but if you don't have hand/wrist trouble, you won't notice.

It doesn't have the durability* of this computer and the architecture of 'home' laptops changes constantly so that it's more cost effective to replace a 2yr old Latitude than it is to replace the any major part. The IBM computers for business are plentiful and have a generally stable architecture, so repairs are cheap and fast at my little shop I go to.

That said, you just can't beat the little D400 for weight. I think you can pick it up on eBay for about $400 and a new battery will run you $115. You will have to replace the wireless card on it if you want to run Linux because Linux doesn't support the driver and even with a wrapper, you're screwed. I bring up Linux because it runs so brilliantly on the small, economical computers.

I think that's about all I can think right now. Oh, and this computer is nearly three years old but has only been used for about 7 months. The battery time is under 3 hours now, and I'll be getting a new one soon as backup.

*I should note, that's not necessarily a bad thing, if you don't plan to be punting it about. The D400 survived multiple international trips and a stint in the oilfields in Oman. So. Durable is relative.

Edited at 2008-03-20 02:38 pm (UTC)
--what brand, model, vintage, and specifications is your device?

MacBook, mid 07. The kewl black one, with 2.16 Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB, 160GB hard drive, glossy widescreen (nice and crisp).

--what do you use it for?

Word processing (LyX for writing. Pages for other word processing). Portable music. iMovie (record solo dojo sessions for self-critique). Intarwebs. Parallels with WinXP for my stupid algebra class. Video playback (DVD and iTunes videos). Calendar and contacts.

--how durable has it proven?

Can't complain. She's been reliable.

--how's the service contract?

3 years from date of purchase. Two local locations, striving for absolutely insane inhouse repair turnaround, if the unspeakable does happen. No phone calls to India.

--what was the price range?

in the $1400 range tricked out with bigger drive and more RAM. Configurations have changed since then. Go take a look. I got mine special. I could extend you some savings.

--do you like it or loathe it?

Do you have to ask? *pets MacBook*
I've got an older Dell laptop (933 MHz). Actually, I have two of them (one for office, one for home. Boyfriend has one for home and one for parts). I bought them used for around $250 each. The major problem I've had is the trackpad going, raided the parts laptop. It does not have a built in CD/DVD drive, but I have a dock for that (which I keep in the office, because I need it to run some of my software). Laptop is quite light with out the dock, yet has a 12" screen and a Kelly-sized keyboard. I use it for websurfing, word processing and random physics models.
I got an HP Pavilion dv8000 (17") laptop in February 2006 and the honeymoon isn't over. It's big enough that you don't feel like you're compromising by getting a laptop, and has a full-size keyboard (which, if you're a touch typist, is very lovely). It is also a very cheering silver. It's always worked perfectly - except for a piece of spyware that temporarily shut down the DVD drive. The only downside is that a) it IS heavy, at almost eight pounds; and b) the battery life is NOT great - a little over an hour only.

I had a year parts and labour, which I didn't pay any attention to, and the cost was $1050 CAD two years ago.

Good luck on your new machine safari!

I wasn't going to. . . but since I'm not the first.

I do recommend a MacBook. I have a Pro, which I got because my laptop is also my gaming platform (it's not that awesome, but it runs WoW a hell of a lot spiffier than some of my friends' desktops, so woo!). I don't think you'd need a Pro, but the MacBooks are very servicable.

Fair warning - the keyboard is a little odd. I'd recommend finding some way to do a test run with it. They frankly drive me up the wall (another reason for the Pro) but one of my friends swears by them. *shrugs* YMMV.

And just think, if you use a Mac, you can use Scrivener!

I would recommend a Mac for no other reason than to use Scrivener... but it helps that I love everything else about them.

I have a MacBook Pro, because I need the extra horsepower for my web design work. Three local writer-friends went with middle-grade MacBooks instead and love them to pieces. Mine was a little over $2K with Apple Care (which covers everything except Owner Stupidity for 3 years, IIRC). I use mine for writing, web design, Photoshopping, video downloading/watching/format converting, running Windows under Parallels so I can test web designs in IE, watching Netflix streams in Windows, screwing around with Unix utilities... lots of geeky stuff, in short. My battery life is not great, as you might well imagine. However, my previous Mac laptop actually got *longer* battery life with each major OS upgrade. When the battery finally died and I got a new one -- third-party, because Apple wasn't even making them anymore -- I was getting 6 hours of writing time on one charge. Alas, my non-writing needs dictated that I had to upgrade, and now I'm down to about 2.5 hours on the Pro.

I've never had a hardware problem with my Macs. In fact, the only people I know who have dropped their Powerbooks (the previous hardware configuration) on the edge with the hinges, and then had lots of display problems. The new design did away with those hinges.

... but whatever. Scrivener alone is worth the price of the attendant hardware. I've converted about half a dozen die-hard PC-using tech support geeks to Macs just by showing them Scrivener, and now they are all evangelists too.
I have a Dell 1505 laptop. She's a year old now and KICKS ASS. Runs Windows Vista Premium, which I love. (I know I'm the only person in the world who likes it.) I would trade nothing in the universe for my laptop. She ran about $1400, I think. She has most everything but the kitchen sink.

I highly recommend Dell. I have a 6-7 year old Dell desktop that is still prime. Never one problem. Great contract service, though I've never had to use it.

However, I have to plug HP, too, cause I have an HP 5250 laptop that is maybe, um, ten years old and still cranking away. Needed a new battery once. Needs a new power supply now. Actual machine still works like a dream. She was about $1000 back in the dark ages. Good machine for then.
--what brand, model, vintage, and specifications is your device?
Mac 12" Powerbook G4, 1.5 GHz processor, 512 MBs RAM, 55 GB hard drive. I got it in May of '05.

--what do you use it for?
Programming, writing, speaking to the computers at work, browsing the web, listening to music, watching DVDs. It also handled things like Photoshop until I got a new desktop computer. Some games, though, again, I'll probably switch these to the desktop. The laptop doesn't like intensive memory programs like Photoshop and games -- it starts to get a bit hot and uncomfortable after an hour or so.

--how durable has it proven?
Let's put it this way -- I've dropped it many times, and while it looks like it has been through a war, is dented, and the screen case is reinforced with duct tape, it runs like a dream. Well, all right, the CD drive occasionally makes weird whirring sounds at me, and the casing near the powercord has gotten warped enough that I need to wiggle it a bit to get it to stay in. (Next time, I'll get the plastic case, not the metal one.)

The power cord not so much. I'm on my third or fourth one. Also, it needs a new battery, as the current one holds about an hour's charge. This is the second battery I've gotten, but the first was returned because it was recalled. (Still worked fine, but there was a risk it would overheat and set things on fire.)

--how's the service contract?
I've never had to invoke it, except to replace the battery when I discovered I had a recalled battery. I got the replacement for free, and they even sent me a box to ship the old one back with, so I didn't need to find someone who would take a Mac battery that could set things on fire.

--what was the price range?
I couldn't say. It was a graduation gift.

--do you like it or loathe it?
I like it. It wasn't well-suited to graphics work, but handles everything else I throw at it. Plus, I haven't broken it yet, despite the fact I drop it and trip over the cables. I'm hoping it'll last until I get my Ph. D -- then I might donate it to someone, and trade up for a shiny, new one.
For a laptop I use a bottom-of-the-line Dell from 08/2007 (1.8 GHz, 512 MBytes, 80gig HDD), running Windows XP.

I originally bought it for travel, as a second machine. It saw a lot of use for a couple of months when the HDD on my main box conked out. Mostly I use it for internetting and occasional writing. It's survived a number of trips with only minor scuffing. I'm more neglectful than abusive, though; I'll thunk the laptop bag into things but I don't drop the laptop itself.

No service contract. Price, um, under $600.

I like it well enough except for the slight irritation that all laptop keyboards give me, what with the editing keys being in completely the wrong places. And I should have sprung for a substantially better battery, the four-cell one that came with it is good for two hours tops.

(In case you hadn't hit your daily quota of eye-rolling: I also use an Alphasmart Neo, which is basically a laptop keyboard attached to a six-row screen. Text and only text, no internet no nothin'. It's great for getting things down in a first draft and for convincing me to Just Keep Writing and not go back and futz, since it's not like I can do any useful editing when I can only see six lines.)
My IBM T43 has served me well for about two years now. 80mb hard drive, 2ghz processor, came with a 512mb RAM (which was good enough till I wanted to play Civilization, at which point I gave in and bought another gig stick, which was pretty easily installable), screen does up to 1400x1050, DVD/CD-RW optical drive.

I'm kind of rough on computers and this one has taken it pretty well, although the last month or two one or two plastic pieces have started giving in -- for example, the plastic poky bit that pushes a button when you close the screen to tell the screen to shut off. Haven't tried seeing if the service contract will cover that yet. The one time I *have* talked to the warranty people it was an easy web form to send in the request, and they promptly sent a new keyboard, clear instructions on how to put it in, and a box to send the old one back. Good stuff.

I believe the machine ran me about $1600 when I bought it (this may have been after a student discount), and the extra memory I bought later might have run me another $40 or so off newegg.com.

I use it to take notes in class when I'm paying attention, to surf the web when I'm not, to watch movies, to write papers, for coding work, and once in a while for games. Pretty respectable battery life (4 hours with screen brightness down and wireless off, 2.5+ for the opposite) is very helpful for the class scenarios.
MacBook Pro. Current bottom-of-the-line model, Penryn processor, had it less than a month. Cost: $1999 + Applecare. We're handy here and will be upgrading the memory ourselves. If you have a friend with hands-on tech know-how, you should be able to upgrade the memory more cheaply.

This is my third 15" Apple laptop. Both of the previous models were professional as well. The first lasted four years with memory upgrades and a hard drive upgrade. The second lasted three, at the end of which it suffered an inconvenient but not fatal hardware failure that I could have gotten repaired for free if I'd had Applecare.

I have not had occasion to use Applecare yet.

I am a telecommuting contract technical writer. I use my machine both to write in Word on the Mac side and to run database models and Robohelp in a Windows emulator.

I love this machine to death and carry it with me everywhere I go if I'm out for longer than a day. I generally travel by car by choice, but I have hauled my laptops on planes a number of times in the past.

I have arthritis, so ease of carrying is a high priority for me, and with a good case, I've had no trouble with this size of laptop.
MacBook Pro, similar but not identical model. Same size, though. I've had a ton of Mac laptops ranging back to the old clamshell iBooks; none of them have ever failed on me, and on average they get 2-3 years of use.

I am not a writer, but I carry my laptop with me on business trips. It's light enough. I haven't had a lot of travel since switching jobs; if I did, I'd move to the MacBook Air for saving weight. But the Pro is light enough as is, and certainly reasonable for lugging to a coffeeshop or a con or whatever.
I've loved my Toshiba laptops. I got my first one from a local store, but I bought the second one from Toshiba itself. It's pretty durable - the screen is a bit glitchy now, but since I mainly use the desktop, I haven't bothered to get it fixed.

I bought mine because arcaedia had bought one and she liked it, and it's been a great workhorse. I think I got it at the time for $1500-$1600.
I got a custom machine (specialized for quiet operation) built at Quiet Computers and it worked just fine until a local brownout fried the motherboard, necessitating replacing it, and replacing the power supply because the motherboard was too old for the power supply, and getting a new hard drive because the old one didn’t want to boot off the old hard drive. The replacement parts aren’t as well selected for the purpose, and it’s noisier now.

Edited at 2008-03-20 03:04 pm (UTC)
It doesn't sound like the Bear is leaning towards the Macside, but that's okay. Maybe one day?

My geek needs have taken me down a different road for my laptop purchasing requirements/needs than what you're interested, but let me tell you about Toshiko my Macbook anyway, because I love her dearly.

-what brand, model, vintage, and specifications is your device?

White 13" Macbook 2.1Ghz, purchased in Jan 08, running 2GB of RAM and 100GB hard drive (I did a RAM upgrade when I bought it)

--what do you use it for?

word processing, video editing, video playback, Internets, video chatting, (Skype! I taught my 78 year old grandmother how to Skype on my 17" iMac in two weeks before I left. She couldn't even turn on our PC when we still had it. Now she emails me and reads my blog and shops on Amazon because the Internet and computer is not so scary for her. So adorable. She can't make emoticons on a regular basis yet. )

--how durable has it proven?

Damn durable. Once had it in my messenger bag and my bag slipped off the lecture seat onto the floor and she was just fine and dandy. No fuss about her. I've had friends tell me they've completely dropped their open apple laptops and they were fine.

--how's the service contract?

I have no idea since I don't actually have hardware problems, but since it's Apple I imagine it's nice.

--what was the price range?

With the academic discount and my RAM upgrade it was $1200.

--do you like it or loathe it?

I went Mac. I won't go back.
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