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Desktop Replacements and the 11 Pound Pencil

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the that's-a-hefty-piece-of-lead dept.


Marco Ramius writes "Tom's Hardware Guide has an article up entitled 'Unwieldy Laptops or Portable Desktops?' in which the author lugs an Alienware Area-51m desktop replacement to a 32 hour LAN to assess what advantages and disadvantages desktop replacements have over desktops themselves." They also have a related article entitled The Case of the 11 Pound Pencil where an office adopts a desktop replacement solution to unsatisfactory ends. Both interesting looks at appropriate uses for hefty hardware.

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Well... (-1, Troll)

Mister White (892068) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866125)

What can you expect from something rolled out under the name of 'The 11 Pound Pencil'...

Re:Well... (5, Informative)

Agelmar (205181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866164)

Had you RTFA'd, you would know that the "11lb Pencil" is a name that the editor from THG gave a HP laptop (can't remember the part number) that was given to employees to replace forms which were previously filled in with pencil. The new laptops and the associated changes with "going digital" were of little practical use. In the end, the things were no more useful than a pencil for the application they were purchased for, but much bulkier, hence the term 11lb pencil.

I'm not sure if the parent post was just unfunny or ignorant, but it's definitely -1 overrated.

Re:Well... (2, Funny)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866544)


An archaic instrument for writing or drawing, consisting of a thin stick of graphite or a similar substance enclosed in a long thin piece of wood or fixed in a metal or plastic case.

Re:Well... (-1, Troll)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866194)

Personally, I'm still waiting for the eight-pound video iPod that Steve Jobs mentioned during his podcast demo at MacWorld.

Re:Well... (2, Funny)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866549)

Sounds expensive ..... I would have thought you could get a pencil for eleven pence if you went to the right place!

Confucius say (-1, Offtopic)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866153)

Gamer who straddle fence have sore joystick

Alienware Area-51m (1, Offtopic)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866157)

This my friends is the source of global warming. A machine that puts out so much heat that you can feel like stripping down as soon as its powered up can melt the polar ice caps. These should be banned in Antarctica and Canada.

Shared devices (5, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866174)

When my old Sony VAIO died, I cried. It had no CD-rom, no floppy, and was so thin and tiny that it went everywhere. It barely had any ports. When I needed to burn a CD or connect a peripheral, the network or USB gave me the option, which I rarely used. Now that Sony is on my hit list, I couldn't find a decent replacement, so I bought a reasonbly tiny Compaq (yes, shudder, but it works great) until someone releases a real "on the go" laptop that works well.

I always get aggravated the the market for desktop replacements is to totally replace everything you'd do on a desktop. For me, I prefer a memory stick over a CD-R. I don't need video outputs, and the need to shove every port into a portable machine doesn't seem cost or space or energy efficient.

How many of you with desktop replacements are really using all the options built into it? Hasn't the Internet mostly reduced the need for all these external connection points? For me, I set up a private WiFi AP at every location I visit, and I never have to worry about anything but battery life (I hate plugging my laptop in even to the AC outlet).

Re:Shared devices (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866217)

Hence why I bought a 12" powerbook. but now basically any 12" under 5 pound computer is great.

Try something like the Acer tablet. If tablet's would just drop in price a bit I might even switch to using windows once in a while.

Re:Shared devices (2, Interesting)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866223)

I've used a Panasonic R3 for over a year, and it's womderful. Less than a kilo, good keyboard, 1Gb memory, and (in practice, with Ubuntu Linux,) 6-7 hours battery life.

Oh, and there's no fan. None at all. When I unplug it, the harddrive spins down and it's _totally_ quiet.

Re:Shared devices (1)

danielk1982 (868580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866246)

The R3 is a very well put together laptop. But expensive.

Re:Shared devices (5, Interesting)

joekampf (715059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866224)

I am a consultant. I spend 8 - 10 hours at a client, then go home and work for another 3 or 4 hours. I have a HP Pavilion zd8000. It has enough horse power to run WebLogic, MQ, Apache, Oracle, Eclipse, and any other office productivity software I need to get my work done. It is heavy, yes. But to keep that much software in sync between home and work would be almost impossible. I never worry about performance, the screen is wide and gives me the ability to have lots of windows open. The only anoying thing is the power brick. Although I just might invest in a brick for home and at work.

Re:Shared devices (1)

Total_Wimp (564548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866599)

I saw weblogic, I saw HP and I saw "power brick"

I'm in the same boat only I'm in IT and our HPs are the massive 9600s. We haven't actually given them to our consultants yet because we're afraid of a revolt over the weight, but they're the only solution we currently have to the revolt over the poor performance of our current laptops.

Power vs. Weight. What do you do? In our case, like yours, this is no pencil replacement issue.


Re:Shared devices (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866662)

I've had excellent results with my T40 and T42 notebooks. Why not IB^H^H Lenovo?


Re:Shared devices (1)

elliotCarte (703667) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866805)

I had one (zd8000) too up until recently. I loved it for the hefty processor, the kickin' vid card, wide screen, ports for EVERYTHING, etc. I did get tired of lugging it around though. It and the power brick are very heavy for 'portable' equipment. It was really a bit of overkill for me. I used it, yes, and enjoyed the performance, but more often than not I do my computing at my desk at work or at home, where I have desktops. I'll buy a lighter (and cheaper) laptop when I get a new one. It's a great rig for someone who'd use it as their only (or primary) computer though,... well except that it comes with an internal wireless card that uses a Broadcom chipset for which they don't supply a Linux module(driver). Other than that... -elliot

Re:Shared devices (4, Interesting)

Mark Hood (1630) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866252)

I agree, there's a lot of people *cough*managers*cough* who get the top end, desktop replacement 'because their role demands it' and then lock it in the drawer at night when they go home. If that's how it's used, get a desktop.

I have a Thinkpad T42 - and I use the modem, built-in wireless, built-in network, PC-Card slots, both USB ports, headphone & mic sockets & CD/DVD drive almost daily.

The only things on this that I don't use are the PS/2 keyboard socket and parallel port. The CD-Writing is rarely used too, but has saved my bacon a couple of times on-site (if I had an external writer, Murphy tells me I'll leave it at home when I need it most).

So while a lot of people can work with a laptop with minimal features (or even a desktop) some of us really do use the 'desktop replacement' features to their utmost. Once I get back to the office, this laptop slips into the docking station and works seamlessly with a nice big external TFT, keyboard and mouse, USB hub, network connection, etc.

Not to say I wouldn't prefer it was lighter, but it's far from the one in the linked article!


Re:Shared devices (1)

coaxeus (911103) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866325)

Aye I'm not sure why the T42 has a parallel port. I haven't used such an interface in about 10 years. My office gives all us network guys t42s, despite the #1 thing we need in a laptop being a serial port. So these things have no serial port and for some reason a parallel port. They now give us cheap usb=serial adapters with the things. They have crappy drivers that always change the port#, but they work.

Re:Shared devices (4, Insightful)

NutscrapeSucks (446616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866423)

> Aye I'm not sure why the T42 has a parallel port.

Walk into the average office building and you'll see a bunch of HP departmental laser printers that all have parallel ports (and very few if any have USB). If you think of the on-site salesman or consultant, they want to be able to print without worrying about how to get on someone's network.

Re:Shared devices (1)

coaxeus (911103) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866480)

Interesting. We are all about the networks up here I guess. I travel to all sorts of different offices and am always provided network access for that sort of thing, attaching a local printer is unheard of. The big oil corps tend to have special vlans and whatnot for just such purposes. Hell, most printers have IRDA which I'd use prior to whipping out the old parallel cable.

Re:Shared devices (2, Interesting)

NutscrapeSucks (446616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866571)

Yes, if you're going to be onsite for any length of time. But if you're just visiting for a meeting, the chance of having network print access is just about zero in my experience. (I'm not saying it's an extremely common usecase .. I've maybe done it twice in 10 years. But IBM designed the T-series to be the ultimate roadwarrior laptop, and I presume they knew what they were doing.)

Re:Shared devices (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866677)

Any sort of serial port* would be nice though...


*by any serial port I mean RS-232 std with possibly a non std connector and a dongle or how 'bout another RJ?

Re:Shared devices (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866698)

I haven't seen a departmental type printer use anything but an Ethernet interface for about 8 years now.

Of course, I've only seen about 150 or so in that time, YMMV.


Re:Shared devices (2, Informative)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866809)

I'm not sure why the T42 has a parallel port.

Because, as those of us who have to work for a living know: a TON of important software uses it for the dongle!

Re:Shared devices (1)

swthomas55 (904301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866831)

I use just about everything on my IBM T40 except the PCMCIA slots and the parallel port at one time or another. I'm a developer. I travel for work a few times a year, but I take my laptop home almost every night.

I use the video port to drive a projector in conference rooms. I use the USB port for many purposes -- mouse, Blackberry connector, flash drive. I use the PS2 port rarely, but have plugged a mouse into it once or twice. Ethernet port, built-in wireless, and bluetooth are used daily. CD-RW not so often, but as the previous writer noted, it has "saved my butt" a couple of times. CD-ROM/DVD used lots both for work and entertainment. Since most of the places I stay have either ethernet or wireless in the hotel room, I don't often use the modem port -- except when I visit my parents, who only have dial-up, still.

The 1400 x 1050 screen sometimes feels cramped to me, as I run it at 1600 x 1200 when it's docked on my desk at work. I will never buy a laptop with a smaller screen.

For all this, I'm willing to lug the weight around. That weight includes the 9-cell extended life battery (1.06 lbs) for a total of almost 6 lbs.

Re:Shared devices (1)

myspys (204685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866281)

I have an MV Ixius ( [] )

17" widescreen, 3.4 ghz p4, dvd-burner, geforce 6800 go, 1 gb ram, 80 gb hd (7200 rpm) and a _REALLY REALLY_ crappy soundcard (my ooold 16-bit soundblaster sounded much better)

do i use all the features of this laptop? no

do i move it around? not really

is it good for applications that require a lot of cpu/io/mem and for games? yes, very much so

it's good to be able to move it around, although i almost never (when i go somewhere, i take my 15" powerbook)

and oh, btw, the casing sucks (which looks like the same case as the alien-laptop reviewed). after using it for a while, the black paint comes off

Re:Shared devices (2, Informative)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866331)

There are a lot of small 12" notebooks, with no cd-rom drive and limited ports, google for subnotebooks. They're in the 2 to 3lb range. Smaller ones have a smaller screen.

Re:Shared devices (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866399)

When my old Sony VAIO died, I cried. It had no CD-rom, no floppy, and was so thin and tiny that it went everywhere.

Which is why that if ever these hand cranked $100 laptops appear in a commercial version, I will be first in line to get one. They're going to be insanely useful things - imagine not having to lug cables or anything else except a paperback sized box for browsing and word processing whenever and wherever you liked - on the beach, in a coffee shop, on a train. Sling it into a bag, crank it up and you're set.

Re:Shared devices (2, Informative)

DarkNemesis618 (908703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866522)

In my office where I work, the trend is now to buy Dell D610 Laptops with Docking Stations. The D610's aren't paper thin, but they're relatively light and are pretty good. When the users are here at work, they have their docking stations with plenty of ports as well as a keyboard, mouse, & monitor. They can then just undock and take the laptop on the road no problem. It's the best of both worlds in my opinion.

Re:Shared devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866524)

olo PSP?

Re:Shared devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866578)

My wife just bought me a 12 inch iBook. It weighs in at just under five pounds, it has an 80 GB drive, plus a CD burner, DVD player, and it's battery lasts six hours. It's perfect for writing novels, which is what I use it for. I also moved my CodeWarrior development environment onto it, just in case I want to write code while I'm away from my main machine, a dual G5 tower.

So if you're open to a Macintosh, it's a good little workhorse and it's inexpensive.

Re:Shared devices (1)

Jozer99 (693146) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866659)

I have a Fujitsu Lifebook P7010. Its great. It weighs 3.1 lb (~ 1 kg), but manages to squeeze in a 1.2GHz Pentium M, 1Gig RAM, ABG WiFi, 100GB HD, and even a DVD burner! Check it out, its a great deal, both portability and almost full desktop functionality. Before this, I had a Toshiba Portege, but like your Sony, no media drives, and basically the only IO was a single USB port.

Re:Shared devices (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866678)

I have a laptop I use for browsing, chatting and mailing primarily, with a splash of occasional simple graphics editing or programming (though I usually just walk over to my desktop machine, the laptop resides in the living room).
For purposes like this, WiFi and an array of USB ports would suffice. I use about 2GB of the 6GB HDD. Neither the floppy nor CD ports get much use. I only use one of the PCMCIA slots for WiFi. The 800x600 screen (It's an old P3/600 machine) is a bit small though, and if the TV-Out would actually display DirectX output as well, I'd use that too.

Re:Shared devices (1)

tygt (792974) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866682)

My desktop replacement is..... a desktop replacement.

It sits on my desktop, making a ton of noise most of the time, and only moves about once a month or so when I visit the "real" office a few hours away.

I have the following plugged in most of the time: audio, 3x USB (keyboard, mouse, flash reader), Ethernet, external video (I use the lugtop's 17" and a 20" tube side-by-side, with the 17" on a home-made stand).

Now, the telling factor: When I visit the "real" office, I really don't need this computer. I barely need anything other than an X terminal. So for me, the only thing that this monster (9-10 pounds, not 11) gives me is another screen on my desktop and a supplementary heater for wintertime (which I loathe in the summer).

If I had to do over again, and I will sometime, I'd buy a really small lightweight laptop, use it 5% of the time, and have a real desktop with multiple video outs and a 2-3 LCDs on the desktop.

Re:Shared devices (1)

JustAnEngineer (895858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866689)

I have to agree on whether a "desktop replacement" laptop is all that important for most people. For my work I end up using my iBook for nearly everything I do. Yes, it's slow compared to the Dell desktop that I sit next to, but it does everything I need, and it's not all that heavy to carry around. I keep the Dell for when I need to do large amounts of data processing, since the faster processor and larger memory do come in handy then, but otherwise it's just idling and wasting electricity. I would think that, for most people, this could be a better way to work - have a powerful desktop sitting somewhere out of the way, and remote desktop into it from a lightweight laptop. I guess that wouldn't work for games, but I can't think of much else that really needs all that power to be carried with you.

Re:Shared devices (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866749)

You're not looking hard enough. Just about every laptop maker has a model in the ultra-portable category: 12" screen, no optical drive, about 4 lbs (some close to 3 lbs), and pretty decent battery life.

The 11lb. pencil is an example (5, Interesting)

amcdiarmid (856796) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866179)

of how NOT to do an IT project. (No talking to end users before implementation, questionable usage of laptop, wrong choice of laptop for use if OK, and no benefit to effencies or data retention.)

The Desktop Repleacement Laptop, is an interesting read: The machine held up in the LAN Party (E.G. Extremely heave use) for the first 2/3 of the party, then started giving some errors that they have seen in desktops as well. The Machine itself appears to be a desktop shoehorned into a LARGE laptop case.

While personally, transportable computers are anathama to me. (I don't want anything over six pounds (3Kg.) If you really want to run fraggers that most of my machines will choke on... more power to you. No, literally - remember to bring an extension cable.

my $.02

Re:The 11lb. pencil is an example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866464)

I don't want anything over six pounds

I'm still waiting for a laptop thats six pounds of machine and 5 pounds of lithium ions.

Re:The 11lb. pencil is an example (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866479)

It's a great example of a total lack of properly implemented project management. And unfortunately, it's exactly the type of crap I see at my own job every day :(. Here they want to buy software to fix process problems. They don't understand that you have to have a well defined process, and then you can try to make that process better (if possible) with software. The really irritating thing is that we have some very skilled people here who know the 'big picture' of how to use IT to improve processes, but management constantly just throws canned software at things hoping to make it better.

AC/DC Adapters (1)

darthservo (942083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866574)

more power to you. No, literally - remember to bring an extension cable.

The AC Adapters required to power some of these laptops are insane. I personally own a Dell Inspiron 5160 (not an extreme gaming computer), and that power supply is a brick - est. 6.5" x 2" x 1.5"

Recently, my department purchased an Alienware laptop for a mobile server (used for product demo purposes, capable of running VM-ware). That power adapter is even larger than mine. And it gets incredibly hot, too.

Come again? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866191)

"they have had something of a mixed reception among IT professionals."

Since when did any "IT Professional" ever consider purchasing a fucking AlienWare machine? A laptop that has "a little alien head on the back"? Or is someone trying to convince me that gamer kids should now be considered "IT Professionals"?

Re:Come again? (1)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866487)

Probably since Alienware's website mimics Dell's and also sells business, professional, and government desktops and servers.

I saw a rumor a few days back about Dell buying Alienware. I saw this website a few months back and assumed the same thing.

Re:Come again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866505)

We have a couple where I work, actually.

Re:Come again? (3, Funny)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866509)

Since when did any "IT Professional" ever consider purchasing a fucking AlienWare machine? A laptop that has "a little alien head on the back"?

Well... Maybe the guys who work at SETI ;)

Grow up..... (3, Insightful)

Horus1664 (692411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866547)

My Alienware laptop has been doing stirling service for more than two years. They use high grade components with good build quality and the highest performance in a laptop at the time, just what I was looking for.

I've been an IT professional since well before it was 'trendy'.

My question is why would someone NOT buy a laptop because it had an alien head on it ?

Re:Grow up..... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866657)

My question is why would someone NOT buy a laptop because it had an alien head on it ?

Maybe they'd want to show up at a customer and not be laughed out the building? You'll find they call it "professionalism".

Re:Grow up..... (1)

gamlidek (459505) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866828)

As an "IT professional," on very rare occasions have I needed to show up to customer sites. I didn't have an alienware laptop at the time, but the people that I worked with were very much like me and would probably have asked questions about it and whether or not I liked it. I sincerely doubt that most customers even *care* what kind of laptop you're using, as long as it works and works well.

Now, by IT Professional I mean programmer or system admin. If by IT Professional the parent poster meant something different, which probably is the case, then I think he should have used a different title.

cheers, /gam/

Re:Come again? (3, Interesting)

generic-man (33649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866562)

If you work at a company casual enough to permit employees to wear Thinkgeek apparel and have various tchotchkes/toys/etc at their desks, a little alien head on your laptop doesn't seem so bad. Most of their "business" offerings have pretty muted styles compared with their gamer machines.

If I were a sales guy, whipping out an OMGGAMEZ0RD00D laptop might look a bit professional, especially when the Quake "humiliation" sound plays instead of the usual "ding" beep. For IT folks in an office it's no worse than lugging around a Dell 8000/9000 laptop.

This reminds me of... (5, Insightful)

Mark_Uplanguage (444809) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866198)

...George Carlin's [] theory of stuff. I have a desktop computer at home, and then I go on vacation with my laptop, which I leave in my hotel room. I leave my hotel room with my PDA, which I leave in my car. My PDA stays in the car, and I bring a pencil and notepad to the park where I scribble my deep thoughts [] .

Typical (5, Interesting)

pheonix (14223) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866211)

This happens all over. I've fought with more small businesses about spending a little bit of extra money to test a "solution" now rather than scrapping a "solution" later than I can count. It's absurd, and it's something I'd assume advanced business degree wielding managers would understand. As a result, many places I've worked have had their own versions of 11# pencils... like printing one copy of a several hundred page document for each region to be mailed to a print shop in that region so that photocopies can be made...


Are Lan Parties still Revalant. (2, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866218)

With almost everyone having having highspeed internet. Which seems to counter act the old problems of Lag. I mean it is not like the old days of 1995 where you needed to connect the computers up to a Hub or a Null Modem cable to play these game. Because the average rate of house to house comunication was 14.4k. If you are a gamer just get a mega system with more wires then there are bacteria on your keyboard. Save the laptop for "Professionals" who need to do less System intensive applications and whos poor computer perfomance will not bother other people.

Re:Are Lan Parties still Revalant. (4, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866256)

Some geeks actually like to leave the house and meet other people once in a while.

Re:Are Lan Parties still Revalant. (1)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866296)

Nothing says socalizing like fragging the guy sitting next to you.

Re:Are Lan Parties still Revalant. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866500)

That is what D&D is for. And that way you are at least talking to people.

Yes, they are (3, Insightful)

repvik (96666) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866350)

The high-speed connection at home can never replace the feeling of being in a hall with 150+ other nerds.
Also, a LAN tends toward rock-solid near-zero latency. I know that many FPS gamers appreciate this.

Lag... (3, Interesting)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866478)

I know ppl on DSL and Cable, and lag is occuring spuriously and even disconnects
as the internet traffic is continuing to rise , but the backbone Infrastructure
is not receiving upgrades at critical points .

This is causing slow web browser loads, intermittent disconnects, and ping times
that spike from time to time at predictable points along a trace route .

The choke points are literally choking, and you can run network monitoring
tools to see where various ISPs and long haul providers are skimping
on spending and it is causing odd behaviour from our broadband .

It doesn't happen all the time, but at peak usage times it is more prevelant .

Ppl in online games like everquest often type in messages to ppl on different
ISP networks the question "lag???" and get a chorus of resounding echoes "yes" .

Some of this could be blamed on the game servers, and networks til you look at
a test that was done by myself .

Different game, Different provider, Different ISP, corresponding lag spikes .

Key points of DNS or routing is reaching critical mass .

It could be the massive increase of p2p apps, it could just be total traffic,
I do not know, but it does pose a important question.

How bad is this going to get ?


Re:Are Lan Parties still Revalant. (1)

shaka999 (335100) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866582)

You missed the word "parties" in your sentence.

The lan parties I've been to at friends houses are first and foremost social events. They are usually accompanied by a keg and a table of snacks which everyone contributes to. Being an all out geek fest people tend to bring their favorite gadgets and such. At any given time there is a small group not playing and just hanging out.

The last one I went to actually had a female. Yes slashdot....a female. Times they are a changin.

Re:Are Lan Parties still Revalant. (5, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866618)

Yes slashdot....a female

Hosts Mom?

Re:Are Lan Parties still Revalant. (1)

Veldcath (591080) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866692)

Why, yes. Yes they are.

You can play games online. You can chat within those games or with GameSpy or Y!IM or whatever. But you can't take a break from the internet game and go out to have a smoke with your opponent. Or stand around the grill with your fellow players while you char some bratwurst. You can't walk over to someone's machine when he says, "Woah! Check THIS out!" and it's very difficult to coordinate a whole group of people switching from game A to game B all at the same time.

When you play on the internet, your latency is different from everyone else's. Those who have the fastest connections to the server get an advantage. At a LAN Party, everyone's on the same local network. Everyone's fast. There may be differences in hardware, but the network is the same for everyone.

For me, like other posters, our monthy LAN Parties are social gatherings as much as anything. We get together, eat food, shoot the shit AND each other. We show off cool videos we've found, share casemod photos we've stumbled on. I've brought my airsoft guns to show off, another guy is big into model kits and has been talking about taking a large RC Jeep body and putting a media computer inside it. Last time, I fired up some Eddie Izzard for people to listen to while everyone was waiting for the last few players to arrive. You know... A DVD. On my monitor. For everyone to watch or ignore as they saw fit.

Tell me you can get all that from some game on the internet. Tell me you can have a good /friendship/ with your foes on some random internet server. Or, well, maybe some people care more about their score than the people they're playing with.


Duplex Printers (3, Interesting)

AnonymousPrick (956548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866232)

FTFA: Why, oh why didn't they spend a few thousand dollars to buy for enough duplex printers like HP's 1320 for each office?

He also mentioned showing them how to flip the page.

I have an old HP 682C. When I first got it for a Windows 95 system, HP's driver had a duplex feature built in. When you selected duplex printing, it would prompt you with a picture showing you exactly how to flip the pages around and insert back into the machine to print on the other side.

Now, on XP, I have to use the MS driver. It doesn't have a duplex feature so I have to do it manually, remembering that when printing even pages only that I have to set the "print in reverse order" check box. Sometimes I forget and waste a tree. And for some wacky reason, I just can't get MS Word to do this correctly. It's like it ignores the check boxes or something - Arrg!

My point is: doesn't HP's drivers come with this "manual" duplex feature anymore? That way, these folks on really tight budgets can get a much cheaper machine and still print "duplex" without having to remember or read notes on exactly how to position the paper. Yeah I know, it does seem like an incredibly stupid thing to deal with. But when you have a lot of shit going on, it's really easy to screw it up.

Re:Duplex Printers (1)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866461)

My point is: doesn't HP's drivers come with this "manual" duplex feature anymore?

Yes. I use it all the time on my PSC2410 (two years old?) under WinXP. Go to Properties | Finishing Tab and check Print on Both Sides and uncheck Automatic.

Re:Duplex Printers (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866530)

They may but from what I remember, it can lead to a lot of problems when using the printer heavily in a shared environment. The last printer my office used that did this "manual duplexing" didn't block other jobs so even though you knew exactly how to orient the page from the picture, you still had to make absolutely sure that you were flipping your page and not someone else's. You also had to make sure that the job about to be duplexed was yours and not somebody else's.

portable ENIAC (5, Interesting)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866237)

First of all, I'd like to say that I don't even own a laptop. I'm the last of a dying breed.

Having that said, I'd like to say that I agree with this article. I think a lot of laptop use does not offer any benefits. I also think a lot of laptops are overkills.

  • Back in college, I took a software engineering class where I was the only student without a laptop. I also go the highest grade in the class. The laptops were distractions. I saw people using instant messenger, playing video games, reading slashdot... (cricket, cricket). I thought it was a complete waste. They didn't offer any "educational benefit" whatsoever.
  • My dad works as a plumbing and mechanics inspector in one of the richest counties in America. This is funded by the county government. They have provided him with a Sony 4 megapixel digital camera, a Samsung Blackberry PDA, and a Panasonic Toughbook laptop. Now his job is to make inspections to ensure there are no code violations (this is the complex part). He then takes pictures with the camera, puts them on the laptop, and emails them to the office. He then uses his PDA to update the status of the request. While I'm sure this is a very effective system, he doesn't need a $40,000 twelve pound laptop that can survive a two-story drop, works underwater, and can render 3D graphics in 2400x2000 resolution.

Now before anyone goes jumping down my throat, I'm only saying that most people don't seem to understand that buying the biggest, most expensive laptop isn't always the right choice. I don't expect a lot of those people to be reading this article right now, and I do think that laptops can be used effictively and efficiently by people who know what they are doing. I just think that 90% of the time, this is not the case.

Re:portable ENIAC (2, Informative)

MrFlibbs (945469) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866425)

The main point of the article is not that laptops aren't useful, but rather that the type of device used is this case (a large laptop) was not well-suited for the job at hand. In fact, this is only one of multiple major shortcomings the article sites:

1) A large desktop replacement laptop was chosen when a thin and light laptop or PDA would have been a better choice.

2) The PDF files required duplex printing when the office had only single-sided printers.

3) Users weren't adequately trained on how to manage the data files. The original PDF files should have been READ-only, and the users trained on where to save the files they created.

4) No database tool was used. This forced each electronic form to be filled in anew each time instead of pulling up client data that had already been entered before.

The gist of the article is not that laptops aren't useful, but that jumping onto a technology bandwagon without first gathering requirements from the actual users and designing a solution to best meet the user's needs leads to half-assed solutions.

The poor users were essentially forced into using large laptops to do the job they could have done just as well with a notebook and pencil. The article maintains a good solution is possible, but in this case was not achieved.

Re:portable ENIAC (5, Funny)

zenmojodaddy (754377) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866430)

You're right, a Toughbook is way too much for your dad's job. In order to prevent this shocking misuse of equipment, I hereby volunteer to take it off his hands. I know, I know... it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

Re:portable ENIAC (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866489)

Back in college, I took a software engineering class where I was the only student without a laptop. I also go the highest grade in the class. The laptops were distractions. I saw people using instant messenger, playing video games, reading slashdot... (cricket, cricket). I thought it was a complete waste. They didn't offer any "educational benefit" whatsoever.

Good for you. Now, when you have 3 people in a group project trying to share what they did have fun loading each other's stuff on whatever computer you're next to. Or you could all simply bring your laptops and share... oh wait.

In Soviet Russia... (0, Offtopic)

malfunctionus (669265) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866238)

In Soviet Russia, the desktop replaces YOU!

HP pavilion ZD8000 (4, Funny)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866251)

My desktop replacement notebook does just what I need it to do, it replaced my desktop. Plus it's mobile. I spend 90% of my time using it near an outlet anyway, so the brick just goes everywhere with me and the machine itself. Combined weight with brick and targus case is ~15 pounds. Battery lasts about an hour unless you try something ridiculous like transcoding and burning a dvd.

The nice thing is, the 2.8 GHz processor and constantly running fans literally warm up the entire room where I happen to be working and provide a pleasant, white-noise droning all the time. My hands stay nice and toasty because there are built-in handwarming areas. Plus I can keep my coffee reasonably warm by resting it on top of the power brick.

All in all, no complaints from me.

Re:HP pavilion ZD8000 (1)

jcgf (688310) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866465)

You forgot to add the workout you get by carrying that beast around.

This is a product review?! (5, Interesting)

rhesuspieces00 (804354) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866258)

In the final third of the LAN, however, we began to notice increased instability that was not allayed by restarts. All the games we played would switch to the desktop, though strangely not crash entirely, at random intervals. This was an annoyance, needless to say, and damn well fatal during one or two of our more infamous matches.

We can only put the instability down to sheer wear and tear.

Wait a second. This machine got a positive review. I'm sorry, but I don't see how instability after 24 hours of usage on a brand new machine can in any way be considered tolerable unless usage involves throwing large blunt objects at the thing. What am I missing here? I can think of a lot of processor intensive tasks that take longer than 24 hours to complete, and I *really* do not want to see any instability while they are in the middle of running. Are my expectations out of line here?

PS (1)

rhesuspieces00 (804354) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866392)

I don't want to sound like an Apple troll, but I would like to point out that I have been using my powerbook for well over 2 years now, and while it doesn't have the horse power of a "desktop replacement", it has been my only computer, has seen many 48 and 72 hour tasks and is as stable today as the day I bought it.

Re:This is a product review?! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866408)

No, you are absolutely correct. And excusing it by saying that some crappy desktops do the same thing is also inexcusable.

Machine was in motion for 32 hours straight - how? (2, Interesting)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866271)

The gaming fun and festivities began with a round of Counter-Strike Source, went through various strategy games, and was interspaced with bouts of Unreal Tournament 2004 and various single-player games along the way. The machine was in motion for 32 hours straight.

Was this done by one person or a group? From the article you would think that the guy sat there playing games for 32 hours straight.
If it was just one person, this marathon gaming feat should be immediately entered into The Guinness Book of World Records. []
There are currently no entries for marathon LAN gaming.

Re:Machine was in motion for 32 hours straight (1)

chatgris (735079) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866381)

That's no record.. I've personally done 48 hours.

The human body can take a lot of punishment. :)


Re:Machine was in motion for 32 hours straight - h (1)

Kangburra (911213) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866411)

from TFA: some other industrious fellow was keeping the unit warm for me.

So the machine was used continously by different people

Re:Machine was in motion for 32 hours straight - h (2, Informative)

moe.ron (953702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866417)

There are currently no entries for marathon LAN gaming.

If there was, it wouldn't go to someone playing 32 hours straight. It would go to that Korean man who died after playing for 50 hours. [BBC News [] ]

Re:Machine was in motion for 32 hours straight - h (1)

malelder (414533) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866486)

if there was a category, 32 hours wouldn't come even close to the record...not a "real" gamer, are you? (;

Re:Machine was in motion for 32 hours straight - h (1)

Man Eating Duck (534479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866535)

You haven't been to many LAN-parties, have you?

Yes, people (mostly kids) DO go upwards of 48 hours without sleeping, showering, eating or even keeping their intake of liquid up.

Exhaustion due to lack of sleep, dehydration and low levels of blood sugar (is that correct?) is a real concern for those running the party.

32 hours doesn't sound that extreme to me, when I attended The Gathering '93 and '94 we kept it up in the same manner. We didn't game much though, mostly coding and using their über 1.5 Mbit internet connection :)

firewire? (2, Funny)

iotaborg (167569) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866340)

It's great to see that a laptop with 2 cd drives, 4 usb ports, etc etc still does not have a full-fledged 6-pin firewire port.

Re:firewire? (2, Insightful)

Veldcath (591080) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866744)

Sadly, I doubt you ever will see a 6-pin Firewire connector on a notebook. Firewire is falling out of favor, becoming a "video professional only" connection. Not only that, six-pin means... powered. And we all know how power-hungry notebooks already are these days. Can't be powering devices off them as well.


Less of a difference than there used to be. (2, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866367)

With the large adoption rate of LCD monitors for desktops and the use of USB/Firewire on both laptops and desktops, the difference between the two is getting smaller and smaller from a usage and space standpoint (and even from a price standpoint). I've even seen some of the low end Compaq desktops using a keyboard that is basically an external laptop keyboard, shallow buttons and all. I haven't used a desktop for regular daily work in about two years. Even though I used to loathe laptops, I don't really miss using a desktop as much as I thought I would. In fact, last year I bought my first laptop for home use. I use it to play games and browse while my old desktop is connected to the TV as a media player and my older desktop sits in the basement largely unused (might make it a MAME/emu gaming machine or a file/print server). I don't think the desktop will ever die out but with laptops being about as cheap as desktops nowadays I can certainly see laptops becoming (if they're not already, I have no idea) the primary computer that families buy for their home, especially if they have a wireless Internet setup.

Re:Less of a difference than there used to be. (1)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866693)

Perhaps more importantly, the percentage of people who need a desktop's power has diminished greaetly over the last five years. For most purposes -- web browsers, office tools, simple to medium scale development -- the processor's speed and the interconnects simply don't matter much. At the same time, operating systems are now pretty stable. For basic tasks, the amount of additional benefit one gets from a desktop over a laptop is declining. Around the time the higher clocked Pentium III's hit, computers became good enough for most things. I haven't seen much done with the additional power computers can offer most users who aren't playing intense, modern games or running servers or editing video.

I use a PowerBook that's a few years old as my daily machine; despite the hoopla, I won't upgrade to the new OMGWTFBBQ fast MBP anytime soon. For what I do, I just don't need to.

You -- the guy who does video editing -- and you -- the guy who compiles several times a day -- and you -- the guy who does scientific computing and 3d modeling -- the above doesn't apply. I know you need the fastest machine available. I know you're pushing the cutting edge. The rest of us, including most /. readers, aren't, and we don't really need the speed of desktops, though we don't complain.

RAID array! (2, Funny)

syd2000 (318027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866401)

From TFA:

...there's even a RAID array!

Wow, how'd they pack all those drives in there?

One computer. (3, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866442)

I know that this is a shocker but many people only have one computer. For those a desktop replacement laptop can be a good option. I know that many of us have at least a whole room dedicated to their computers but we are the minority.
For some home users the fact that they can just put it into a desk drawer when they are "I know this part will shock you all" not using it is a big plus.
What is even more strange is some people don't think that computers are an attractive part of their home decor and want them out of site when not in use.
That ideal set up is a small light notebook for portable use and a desktop for heavy use but for many they have to find a one computer solution.

Re:One computer. (2, Funny)

ROOK*CA (703602) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866568)

I know that many of us have at least a whole room dedicated to their computers but we are the minority.

I know I do, it's referred to in hushed tones around the household as "The Temple" and smells of incense and candles.

What is the need? (1)

Device666 (901563) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866444)

In my environment I hear a lot of people buying laptops mainly because you can fold them away and saving space. Some people want to buy laptops and do all kinds of demanding things on their battery, which is simply unrealistic. If you buy a multimedia machine with a lot of "bells and whistles" then you should expect very short battery times, bye bye dream. If you consider games to be not fast enough yet, allthough your desktop has a serious expensive 3D card, laptops will never be as good.

If laptops are not good workstations / gaming stations or burning batteries, they still have aesthetics and can be easily put out of sight. Which most of not-geeks would prefer. Office work can be done to perfection with a seriously effcient equiped laptop (centrino for example), presentations and 5 hours battery life.

A nonconformistic gamer doesn't buy a laptop, it's a nice ac-adapter-driven media-center, and a nonconformistic company owner/ salespeople probably want one. For aesthetics there is so much room for improvement, Apple has some answers. However I would like to see a good looking efficient laptop or a good looking nonbox like desktop computer, great at games and playing media (broadcasting over the net) And in the mean time,unless youre in the office stuff, why even pay so much for so little portabillity and power?

Small form factor systems and eSATA (1)

Mongoose (8480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866456)

I think a better compromise is an SFF using eSATA drives. I have an iDEQ 200N ( AMD Althon XP) and iDEQ 330P ( AMD64 x2 ), and I can use eSATA to 'share' the i386 operating system. I can even carry it with me, and use it whereever. This is an option for Linux, but it's not possible with some OS like Windows that don't like you to swap motherboards, etc.

I run an internal AMD64 build of ubuntu on the 330P, and load the i386 as a chroot. I also have a windows and OS X development enviroments under the Linux i386 image. It's a portable solution for my development needs, and my eSATA case can also do USB 2.0 for lower end machines without eSATA.

The cure for the 11 lb pencil (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866539)

The cure for the 11 lb pencil is the one ounce Hipster [] PDA.
My laptop and Palm have been sitting in a drawer since I started using a Hipster...

Two Words: (4, Interesting)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866552)

Link Whore.

Now, I now we all need to pay for our precious little websites somehow, but if the real estate is 90% advertising and 10% "original content" -- and a one-page article is spread across five, I stop reading...well, lately I don't even start. The advertisements wouldn't bother me as much if people would just keep the article all on one page. You know, we do have these things called "scroll bars," so we don't have to load the same 1MB of crap five times just to find out what happened to sister Debbie's "11lb pencil."


perfect for iMac (4, Informative)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866579)

This is the scenario for an iMac.... replace a tower + screen with a small footprint all in one. Laptops don't make for great desktop replacements... they are too cramped, not ergonomic... display is too small, etc. etc. for day to day office use. They are even less expandable and upgradeable than an all in one type pc, the list goes on.

iMacs are wonderful for desktop use and relatively portable when it comes down to it... ie: you can move them around by yourself... all the connections are easy to get to, they have built in wireless so no need to rewire or extend the network to a new space.. if you have a wall port for ethernet no problem... built in speakers and headphone jacks for privacy... the new ones have the built in iSight for video conference and all have a built in mic for audio conference. New ones have bluetooth built in for use with wireless input and for synching up your pda with entourage or ical....

Bonjour is a god send for IT... just buy a printer that uses zeroconf and you'll never have label another ip address on it again just 'add printer' and pick bonjour , voila.. the printer shows up and will work without special drivers, though you may want to download them for extra features for special people...

So many nice things to say about the combo of OS X and iMac for office use.

Re:perfect for iMac (4, Insightful)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866668)

The majority of people I know who use laptops as desktop replacements have add on USB keyboards and mice they use at their desktop. With an iMac, you can't pick up your work machine, do a few hours work on the plane/train and get set up in a client's office in a minute: you have to have an extra laptop, which means duplicating files and setup.

Centrino laptops these days are powerful enough for most things (I can play BF2 on mine with decent graphics setttings) and have at least 3hr battery life in normal desktop usage

Re:perfect for iMac (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866786)

Do they also dock them into a display as well?

I wasn't talking about people who travel... was talking about office workers... those who work in offices 90% of the time. The other 10% they can take a company laptop with them. For those who do travel to various extra office meetings a lot whether long distance or down the street.. of course a desktop replacement is a good choice and with all the peripherals as well...

viva la resolution (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866593)

I have seen laptops as toys ever since they came out, because the display resolution has always lagged so far behind what's available on a desktop that writing code—especially in an IDE—is a cruel joke.

As soon as I saw that someone had come out with a 1920x1200 laptop, I bought one, and now it's my primary machine. It was expensive, and there are things that annoy me about it, but you can't argue with being able to sit down in a coffee shop or on the plane and with two pages of code side by side and all of your debugging windows visible.

I can truly write code in comfort anywhere I want now, not just at my desk.

Catering to a specific niche market (1)

bigtrouble77 (715075) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866604)

There's a couple of users that really benefit from DTR's. Programmers and web developers heavily benefit from the WUXGA screens. Graphic artists require fast GPUs and dual core CPUs for rendering. Hardcore gamers simply require the best of everything.

I'd be hard pressed to find anyone else that could find the new 11lb DTRs useful. I have a sager 9750 and it suits my purposes perfectly (I'm a web developer, programmer, graphic artist and gamer). I do transport the machine, but rarely run it off of the built in UPS. Satisfies my needs perfectly.

Cheaper Than A New House (1)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866614)

Well at least the luggables are cheaper than buying a new place. I generally prefer the white box PCs I've built myself because they can be upgraded as necessary very easily. But now, I'm facing the problem of needing to carve out another room in my place. So I'm thinking of desktop replacements that can be used anywhere in the house and turning the white box machines into servers and putting them in the closet. If I upgrade the home network as well, I might even be able to use the laptops as decent remote terminals to the servers for graphics intensive applications that I'd rather run on the servers. This would all not be cheap, but still much cheaper than buying a new, bigger, place and moving. So if the U.S. home market does cool off, maybe there'll be a little blip in sales of desktop replacements as more people choose to do more with less.

Right idea, wrong CPU (1)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866631)

The 3.6 GHz of Pentium 4 power is desktop standard, and the mobile GeForce 6800

Or buy the Aurora M7700 [] , which is the same thing but with an Athlon 64 X2 CPU. Significantly less heat and way better performance. That would be much less likely to overheat than the P4 version. Plus bringing a recently purchased P4 machine to a LAN party is a good way to scream "CLUELESS!" to your fellow gamers.

Better yet, get the same Clevo D900K [] notebook without the expensive bling from a vendor with a less elaborate marketing department.

The Area 51 is worth it. (1)

ericbrow (715710) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866644)

I purchased my Alienware this last November, and I'm not sorry in the slightest. 3.8GHz P4-hyperthreaded/2GB RAM (room for 4gb)/240 GB HD/DVD+-RW/Combo Drive/5.1 Dolby/17"/internal 802.11abg/12-in-1 card reader/video in AND out/256 MB Video, it just cannot be beat. Before my purchase, I put together the best laptops I could find on all the major manufacturers websites. They all came in at just a few hundred less, with half the specs. Heat is the major issue. I have found that if I can place my laptop where the video card vent hangs off the side of a desk, it stays cool. Some might complain about the weight. I carried more weight when I was in the Army. It lugs just fine, and I count it as more exercise. If I could wish for anything more, it would be room for just one more miniPCI slot, so I could have internal Bluetooth. It's got two cards, but they're already taken.

No desktop, no snow days... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866649)

I'm pretty happy to leave my desktop machine (AND my job) at the office most of the time.

My Thoughts on Alienware m51-7700 (1)

xaoslaad (590527) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866726)

Alienware m51 7700 is a performance beast. Problems: It is not doubt heavy for a laptop Another big problem is overheating. I have to throw something under the front to raise it up about a half, or else the fans underneath don't seem to pull enough air to keep it cool. Having your laptop shut down continuously is a pain in the ass. This only happens when I am playing graphics intensive games, and if I do not tilt it up with something; minor but VERY annoying. Alienware support sucks a big one too. I sent my laptop in for repairs (ya the damage was COMPLETELY my fault) and they lost my laptop for two weeks after they supposedly 'confirmed' they received it. Parts were backorder for two months, and then they shipped it out saying it could take a month or more to receive it (I am overseas military); it arrived in 6 days. Incompetent to the core. On the flip side, I definately disagree with the article about being unable to upgrade. The graphics card is a mobile PCI Express daughterboard you can unplug and take out, and therefore replace. I am sure they will offer better graphics cards in the near future from what I bought in mine, and there is nothing stopping me from calling Alienware, buying one, and upgrading it. It's less than 8 screws to do so. It _may_ even be possible to buy a card from a 3 party (have NOT looked into it) and upgrade that way too; there are less options than a desktop to be sure, but definately not impossibe. The CPU is easily accessible, and I'm sure can be upgraded, though I have not looked to see what processors the motherboard does support. You have 4 memory slots. You can insert two mobile HDD and two slimline CD/DVD drives. You can even upgrade the audio via PCMCIA/USB solutions. There are 4 USB ports and 2 firewire ports for additional peripherals. That's similar to most desktops, so you can't argue on that from either. I'm not really sure where he was going on that one.

There's a trade-off, of course (1)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866788)

We all want to have it all, but like every other area of life, choosing a notebook involves choosing between incompatible choices. You can have small, thin, and light, or you can have powerful and robust. There doesn't seem to be an option for an ultra-thin, ultra-light notebook with a top-of-the-line processor and long battery life.

My personal leaning has always been towards the small/lightweight side of the equation. After all, I'm much less likely to lug around a 15x17", 15-pound behemoth that runs on batteries for 20 minutes than I am to tuck my 8x11" 4-pound powerbook under my arm. As it is, I still frequently leave the PowerBook behind when I don't think I'll need it. Of course, I do carry it to meetings and when I'm traveling overnight--but there are a lot of times when it might be nice to have it "just in case" where I leave even this fairly small and light computer behind.
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