Mac OS X
May 2009 - Laptop Essentials
Apple does not leave much room for upgrades on their laptops. Pretty much your choices are memory and hard drive. Currently, most folks consider 2 GB a resonable amount of memory and 4 GBs very useful (on the machines that support more than 4 GB, the price is prohibitive).
Laptop hard drives are notoriously small and slow. A few years ago, anything over 60 GB was great. Today, the 100-160 GB drives are just
getting small. You should consider 320 GB or 500 GB.
- Memory:$25 goes from 2 GB to 3 GB, and $50 goes from 2 GB to 4 GB (if you do the work yourself).
- Hard drive: 300 GB replacements are about $75 (if you do the work yourself). 500 GB
drives are as low as $100 (DIY again).
- Laptop Bag(s)
- Look around a lot. There are a lot of different bags in various price ranges. I have discovered I would rather get a new
bag every year or so (just because of wanting a change). Bags fall into 3 general categories:
- Briefcase style
- Briefcase style backs with a single over the shoulder strap have been the defacto solution for a long time. I find them useful
and very practical. I also find that having all the weight on one shoulder is tough if carrying it a lot. I have shifted to backpack cases. In a hurry, I still use one strap. For longer hauls, I use both straps. I find that my back and my shoulders are much happier.
- Sleeves have gotten very popular for short trips and as added protection in your main bag
- You might also consider keeping a nice bag on reserve in case you have to impress a client or something
- Laptop Bag Fillers
Laptop bags often carry a lot more than laptops. Below is a brief list of things you are likely to find in a person's laptop bag (that are related tot he laptop).
- A short extension cord (6-10 feet)
- A 3 outlet adapter (turn your cord into 3 outlets)
- A 3 prong to 2 prong adapter (old wiring?)
- Computer Monitor Cord Adapter plugs on end of a "normal" computer power cord (C14) and provides a regular power socket (turns any power cord into an extension cord)
- USB cable assortment - for details on USB cable types
- USB male to female extension
- male to Type A
- male to Type B
- male to Type mini-A
- male to Type mini-B
- male to Type micro-A
- male to Type micro-B
- male to cell phone
- male to iPod/iPhone
- USB power adapter
- USB Light
- USB to IDE/SATA adapter - turn a bare drive into a hard drive
- Powered USB hub
- USB Card Reader - read various memory cards (make sure it is SDHC compliant)
- USB Flash Drive - have several of various sizes for file transfer and data backup
- Ethernet cable
- Airport Express - make your hotel room ethernet jack a shared wireless access point
- 1 gallon slide-lock bag (to put all the loose cables and stuff into)
- A CD wallet with a few blank CD-Rs and DVD-Rs (for giving away), CD-RWs and DVD-RWs (for backup)
- Hardware Addons
- Extra battery ($130), batteries always seem to run out when you are not near a power outlet
- Extra charger ($80), I keep one at home, one in my office and one in my laptop bag. If you use one at home a lot
you will eventually forget to put it back in your bag one night and be without it the next day (good thing you have that extra battery).
- External hard drive or an External Case and a hard drive
- Ink Jet printer (price ink before choosing printer) So far I have been happy with Epson Inkjet printers. Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Laser printer (price toner first) So far I have been very happy with brother laser printers. In particular, check out the
Brother 5250DN 30 PPM, duplex laser printer with ethernet for $100-200.
- External monitor - consider a 20-22 inch LCD display to connect your laptop to for extended use periods.
- Keyboard - USB or Bluetooth
- Mouse - USB mouse or a Bluetooth mouse (multi button with scroll wheel)
Software for laptops is very similar to software for desktops. There are certain things you need everywhere. But laptops are unique: portable, smaller, more limited resources, take more punishment. Certain software products can enhance the laptop experience. Here are some ideas:
- [F]Monolingual - removes space wasted by languages you do not use (laptop hard drives are smaller -- space is critical)
- [F]TinkerTool - limited screen space makes customizations that more critical
- [C]TechTool Pro - recovery of data more likely because of harsher conditions
- [D]Carbon Copy Cloner - makes a bootable backup
- [F]Smart Reporter - monitors hard drive for indications of problems
- [F]EigenClock - enhanced menu bar clock and calendar (I used to recommend wClock but they never rewrote for Intel).
- [F]IP in Menubar - displays your current IP address in the menu bar. This allows me to know when I have an address (and in some cases to make sure I have correct one).
- [D]PTHPasteboard - clipboard manager (commercial version with enhanced features available)
- [D]Lab Tick - allows you to control brightness of keyboard illumination (COOL!)
- [D]Slim Battery - replacement for Apple's battery monitor in the menu bar
- [F] - freeware, no charge
- [C] - commercial, pay before you get it
- [D] - donationware, payment is requested but not required
- [S] - shareware, you may download but continued use requires payment (sometimes the product is crippled until you unlock).