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Meeting Notes

May 2009 - Laptop Essentials

  • Upgrades
    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
      • Backpack
      • Sleeve
    • 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
    • Printer(s)
      • 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
      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
      Bracket Explanation:
      • [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).

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