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Repeat: Will Link for Laptop

Update: A huge, huge thanks to whomever purchased the laptop for me. I am so appreciative. YOu have made my life much easier and me very happy today.

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original post:

What is it about laptops that they seem to die after two years of heavy usage? In September, 2003, I posted this on TalkLeft:

My laptop is on its last leg. I spend so much time blogging, I really can't afford to buy a new one. I know from TalkLeft's stats that we have many readers at major computer companies. If one of them would like to send me a new, light-weight laptop (so I can keep blogging when I travel), I'll be glad to write a review and feature it on TalkLeft.

Private donations, anonymous or not, will be gratefully accepted--just click on my wishlist to see the one I'd prefer -- although any brand will be just fine.

A very generous reader bought me a laptop within seven hours of that plea -- probably because Atrios was gracious enough to mention it.

This weekend, the hard drive on the laptop failed. So, I am reposting the plea. I'm not asking for dollars from readers, only for a new laptop from an individual or company that can afford it. I am also willing to provide the donor with a free premium ad on TalkLeft. The wishlist updates automatically when there's been a purchase, so no one has to worry that I'll receive more than one. And if I receive an e-mail that a different one has been sent to me, I'll update this post immediately.

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    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#1)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:46 PM EST
    Electronic components hate heat. As the machines have become thinner they retain more heat. Whatever kind you get, find the heat exhaust and, when it's on, be sure that it isn't blocked. i.e. An exhaust on the bottom is easily blocked when used on your lap.. If possible, get one with an exhaust on the side. Also set your power settings up so that the machine shuts down quickly..say 5 minutes.. when not in use..i.e. screen shut off, hardrive down, etc. This will reduce heat and extend battery life. Hard drives don't like shocks. When you travel, use a case designed for a computer, and always set the computer down gently. As for protection, use a good firewall and anti-virsus. I think AOL does a good job with what they offer, although others may disagree. You probably have a good power strip at home, if not, get a good one. Hotels and airports can provide some hefty power spikes even when no lightning is present. Find a small protector plug and use it on the road. The above also applies to your telephone hook or your DSL/Cable modem hook up. Dual purpose strips are available. Wirless eliminates that problem. Good luck! Jim

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:46 PM EST
    For once I agree with Jim ;-) -- about the need to keep your electronics cool and shock free. I'm sorry I can't help with the wish list, but wanted to pass along that you might want to use this time to "upgrade" to Apple mac and OS X like I did several months ago on my new 'puter purchases. I got a Powerbook 15" and bought my 21 y.o. daughter a iBook 12" to take with her to a new job on the west coast. I have been *very* happy and don't mind leaving the world of beige box Dells behind. I think the Powerbook 15" or 17" machines compare very favorably to the Sony Vaios you're looking at. The aluminum case helps to dissipate the heat, and i have an aftermarket device to assist with that (an aluminum "lap desk" wedge called an iLap that raises the keyboard and allows more air to circulate under the machine).

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:46 PM EST
    I don't have enough money to buy you a laptop, but if you get one, can I have your old one? I've got a working laptop hard drive that needs somewhere to go.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:46 PM EST
    Post the description of your laptop, complete with model, serial number etc., and the size of your hard-drive and any information you have about it. (How does device manager describe it?) Replacing hard drives on some laptops is very easy, and relatively inexpensive ($100-$200) compared to the cost of a new laptop. And you might find someone that can replace your hard drive before you find someone that can replace your entire laptop. For what it's worth, I have had great success with Dell reconditioned laptops, they are a few years old which usually means the latest versions of linux work very well on them, they come with warranties, and you can buy relatively inexpensive complete care mail in warranties that will fix anything (including coffee and gravity) for the price of a 1-week mail-in.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#5)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    You will do better with a Mac. Seems like the Microsoft/pc world stays afloat because of the small amount of time it takes to learn a new system. You can get a better machine from apple for $2,100, or less if you install your own RAM. link

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    I had heard in the past that the VAIO is a lovely computer... but not very durable. Perhaps they've overcome the problems they had at the beginning, though. I strongly second Jim's comment about getting the right case for it. Hard drives are fragile things (as I just learned when my portable backup drive broke.) I also second the recommendations that you take a look at the Mac option. The Powerbooks are great and I love OSX; it's very stable and secure.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    I run a Dell Latitude D800 -- 1.7Ghz, 1.0 GB RAM, 80GB HD, and an external usb 400GB HD, WinXP Pro -- close to 24/7. It's only down when i sleep, which isn't much. I'm a developer, i run graphic transforms, crunch lots of GPS data, compile large apps constantly, and execute queries against large databases, plus I watch internet video -- Crooks & Liars or C-SPAN when I take breaks. This is my 3rd dell, I get more than 2 years out of each, I still use my first one for QA, I always have a back up internal or external HD for disaster recovery, but I've never needed it. BUT regardless of laptop, I have NOTEPAL by Coller Master which keeps my notebook cool. This is a MUST purchase for any heavy user. This dual fan gizmo does the job and is practically silent. The only down side is the open bottom. However, a simple piece of cardboard a little bit wider than the NotePal and twice as long, once folded in half and properly duct taped makes for a perfect bottom. I work from my laptop on my lap about 85% of the time. If nothing else check out a NotePal by Cooler Master. It will extend the life of any notebook you use.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#8)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    I'm tempted to take up a collection amongst right-wing blogs to see if we can make TL host an ad for Powerline or Little Green Footballs.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    I'll echo what others said: GET A MAC! I'm on my second iBook now. I took the first one through law school, hauling it to school every day in a backpack full of books, starting it up and shutting it down 5-6 times a day at least. It hit the ground hard several times. Never once had a problem with it during those three years. When I graduated, I got my second iBook only because it was faster and bigger. Macs are built like tanks. Unless there's something why you really really need a PC-style laptop, Just buy a Mac and don't look back. Wanna buy a used iBook?

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    I do have a mac powerbook. It is not compatible with my law office programs and I have never figured out how to use it properly. Too big a learning curve for me. But thanks for the suggestions.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#11)
    by pigwiggle on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    Sony certainly makes good products, but if they fail you will get some of the worst customer service around. Regarding macs; convincing apple zealots that their computers are more or less the same as Dell et al. is like trying to convince an evangelical that the world is older than 6000 years; fun but futile. So anyway, itís simply not true that macs are any more or less reliable than windows based laptops. Consumer Reports has beaten this dead horse; the most reliable lappy, Sony, the least reliable, Gateway. Apple is right there in the middle, comparable to HP, Toshiba, and Dell. They get good marks for customer service, but from what I have seen it sucks. A colleague of mine lost a heartbreaking amount of data in a hard drive failure in his powerbook. They replaced the drive but required him to have it repaired at a specific repair shop, and like all things Apple, the shops were few and far between. It was literally weeks before he was up and running, and then his power cord failed. From what I can tell the extra $$$ that apple charges pays for prestige. Oh, and your IT department at work will hate you for always needing special attention when they install and licensing software. From my experience the Apple and Windows OSs are nearly identical. If you can use a PC you should be able to use a mac. The only non-trivial difference in the two is the Unix like extensions of the new apple OS. Which are great for folks who need to work with both *nix and a more polished OS, like Windows or OSX. But this is isnít most folks. Also, CR gave the Vaio very high marks in the slim and light cat.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#12)
    by Andreas on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    Maybe replacing the hard drive is an option?

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    Depending on what brand/model you have, for something of 2003 vintage, replacing the drive should not take more than $50-100 -- the procedure can usually be done by anyone reasonably competent with a Philips screwdriver. If you need data recovery, I would recommend running SpinRite (www.grc.com/spinrite.htm) and then connecting the drive to a Linux system to get all readable data off of it. And yes: the best new laptop (PC) that would fit you would be the Dell Latitude X1.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:48 PM EST
    If the only problem is the hard drive...why not just replace it instead of the whole laptop?

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#15)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:49 PM EST
    Never had a problem with Toshiba. Had only minor problems with Compaq/HP. Had NOTHING BUT problems with that crap Dell I had. Pricewatch is the best place to look. Newegg.com and tigerdirect. Save about $200. Want to buy something full boat - strike a blow for quality components over retail crap and purchase from CDW instead of the chain retail stores. Buy business class. Avoid unnecessary integrated components - they add to the aforementioned heat problems and only inflate the chances of having repair issues (covered by warranty or not). Batteries are the achilles heels of laptops. Only laptop I've seen that went two years and still held a good charge was an HP from a few years back. Quality components are getting harder to find. Don't reward cost cutting (profit inflation) with your business.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#16)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:49 PM EST
    Sucker for an IT Thread Damn, I can't leave this thread alone (see my post above). I used to buy refurbished Dell's w/ a business warrenty. My first one had issues. I thought it was a lemon. I called Dell and the next day I had a guy in my home, with parts and a soldering iron replacing stuff. I never had another problem with it and used it constantly spanning 3 different operating systems. Today this is my QA client and my wife uses it to surf the web with her credit cards. Yes, Dell customer service has gone down, but aside from the fact that I rarely have any problems with their machines, they do fully support their warrenty and they have even thrown some freebies at me for my trouble. To be clear, 90% of my interaction w/ customer service isn't due to a problem with a laptop, but with upgrades or the original purchase. Once everything is in place, I can forget about them. Now, if all you have is a problem with the hard drive, then just buy a new hard drive and keep your laptop cooler by buying a cooling device as mentioned in my previous post. I'm obviously partial to one brand, but check them all out and decide. Finally, invest in some disaster recovery. I can have Dell overnight a new HD and I can be up and running within an hour of receiving it. I have an external 400G usb HD and I use Norton Ghost 9.0 to create a weekly baseline and a daily incremental backup image of my entire drive. Plus I have my entire CD collection in flac format, only 500 CDs, on the drive and i'm only using about 1/2 of it.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#17)
    by eric on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:49 PM EST
    That Sony laptop is over-the-top expensive. IMO, you should either replace the hard drive (if that is the problem) or pick up a Compaq or HP at CompUSA or Best Buy. I noticed right now that there is a Compaq for $699 at CompUSA. I had one just like it. Great computer, and a great value.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#18)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:49 PM EST
    Come On! Please! If you get a flat tire on your car, do you replace the car? Format the hard drive and see if that works. If it doesn't, go out and buy a new hard drive for under $100. Pop it in, and install your software. I'm using a 4 year old laptop right now to write this. Running XP with 512MB or RAM. When my HD went bad after 2 years, I reformatted. When it went bad again (about 1 year later) I got a new one. That was one year ago. Still purring like a kitten. Don't chuck the whole computer just because of a bad hard drive. That's very wasteful. Aren't you sick of the wasteful nature of our society?!

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#19)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:49 PM EST
    Thanks for all your comments. Some generous soul has bought me the laptop on my wishlist. I am very, very appreciative.

    Re: Repeat: Will Link for Laptop (none / 0) (#20)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:53 PM EST
    Argh, Sony is friggin evil, don't support them or give them a penny! If you're *lucky* your vaio won't come with a rootkit preinstalled. Don't you follow tech news?