Ten Rules to
by Peter Black
1. Never buy
of hardware and operating system software is extraordinarily
complex, and manufacturers rarely get it right the first time.
You'll save money and avoid misery if you get a slightly older,
more proven model.
a laptop over a desktop.
Laptops now feature
almost all the power of desktops. They naturally integrate flat
screen displays, which are much easier on the eyes. Further,
all laptops have batteries, and batteries are uninterruptible
power supplies. If the relative cost of the laptop vs. the desktop
worries you, add the cost of a flat screen display and a UPS
to the tag for the desktop, and things will even out.
3. Buy a slower
processor and more RAM
The RAM (random
access memory) you buy has much more to do with the speed at
which your applications (other than games and high end graphics)
run, than does the speed of the microprocessor (forget what Intel
would have you believe). That is because a machine with minimal
RAM will "swap" information from RAM to the hard disk
and back again constantly. Hard disks are slow access, RAM is
very fast. Buying a version 2.0 laptop with a boatload of RAM
memory is the most effective strategy.
4. Make sure
the manufacturer has a good Web site for new drivers and BIOS
find flaws in the software they ship with their machines. The
best of them make it very easy for you to download upgrades,
and do a good job of explaining what these improvements will
do, and when they will be necessary. You can check this out thoroughly
before you buy the machine by cruising the Web site.
5. Get a screen
that has a standard 4:3 aspect ratio.
There are many
laptops that have screens that are more rectangular than the
norm (they look a bit like a wide screen movie, rather than a
TV screen). Stay away from them, as there are many software programs
that don't handle non-standard aspect ratios well.
6. Buy from
a manufacturer that will swap out for repair.
The direct sale
outfits, in particular Micron, Gateway and Dell, have terrific
programs. If the machine fails while under warranty, they send
you a shipping box overnight, with a prepaid shipping ticket.
Off you send your ailing laptop, and in short order it comes
back fixed or totally swapped out for a new. Same goes for modular
components, like DVD-ROM drives. This is infinitely superior
to driving the dead machine to an authorized repair shop, and
being told they have a three week backlog.
7. Get lots
of pre-installed software.
bundled with your computer is way cheaper than Microsoft Office
bought off the shelf. The same principle applies to most software
you might want.
8. Make sure
the port replicator is included in the deal.
do not have all the plugs and spigots built in. Hence, to have
full connectivity, it's a good idea to buy the port replicator
(the thing that has all the plugs and spigots), sometimes called
a docking station when it has room for expansion cards and other
internal devices. Make sure that there is an Ethernet port built
in to the laptop or the port replicator, because most of the
future high bandwidth Internet connectivity solutions (things
like DSL, digital subscriber lines) will need it.
9. Make sure
the carrying case is well padded on the corners.
The biggest problem
with laptops is that you can drop them. There are three solutions.
The first is to get an indestructible one (see Panasonic MKIII).
The second is don't drop it in the first place (easier said than
done: after all, it's a portable). The third is to carry it in
a case that is very well padded in the corners (most damage to
laptops happens when they are dropped on the corners, and that's
the best way to destroy the flat screen display, tres cher to
10. Get the
longest life battery and buy a second.
Here's the rule
of thumb: Buy enough batteries to cover one full flight from
New York to LA with headwinds (7 hours or so).
by Xiphias Corporation
- The above is an excerpt of Peter M. Black's book, INFORMATICA
1.0: Access to the Best Tools for Mastering the Information Revolution,
(Random House, 1999, $22.95). Peter M. Black founded and is CEO of XIPHIAS Corporation, a Los Angeles-based
publisher of reference products on disk and the Net. He has a
Master's Degree in Sanskrit and Linguistics, and has run XIPHIAS
Corporation since 1979. He is the publisher of Encyclopedia Electonica,
and is a recognized authority on Infrastructure Warfare. Please
visit http://www.etronica.com for more information.