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IT's Love-Hate Relationship With Laptops

CowboyNeal posted more than 6 years ago | from the caucophony-of-pleasure-and-pain dept.

Portables 497

Ian Lamont writes "Are laptops really as great as they're cracked up to be? We love their portability, and we've been charting the steady rise of laptop sales for years. Yet while many of us depend on them for work, our IT departments view them with mixed feelings. IT managers point to wi-fi configuration, complicated authentication procedures, and eight other issues as making their jobs a lot harder. What else is missing from the list of laptop limitations? What would you like to see in the next generation of laptop computers?"

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Clunky but cramped. (0)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374455)

I don't like laptops bcause they are clunky yet cramped. They're not big enough and they're not small enough. They just don't fit my needs very well.

Re:Clunky but cramped. (1, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374715)

I don't like them because they only have one screen. Two screens is my minimum, three plus a television is par.

When they have goggles that give me more screen space than my triple head setup and gloves that double as keyboards, I might take another look.

Re:Clunky but cramped. (2, Funny)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374855)

Same here. Most current laptops have a VGA or DVI port, which you can run an external monitor on. Dual screens all the way (when you can).

Re:Clunky but cramped. (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374881)

Dual screens are flakey. I want my 30" iBook. I've considered hacking my 24" iMac into a laptop before. - that'd be about the right size for me.

Re:Clunky but cramped. (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375019)

When on the move, a better comparison would be between the laptop's 1 screen and otherwise having 0.

With a docking station, you can plug 2 displays into most laptops anyways.

Re:Clunky but cramped. (4, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375031)

At least one manufacturer makes an adapter that will split a (eg) 2048x768 signal into 2 x 1024x768 separate signals to drive two monitors. That's the solution that some of our clients are using to get 3 displays. You need a bit of smarts on the O/S itself to treat the one screen as two, but once you do that it works well.

I agree with you about two screens being a minimum though. The attraction for me isn't so much the screen size, it's having two distinct workspaces. A 30" single screen probably wouldn't be as nice for the stuff I do as two 15" screens is.

Laptops (5, Insightful)

proudfoot (1096177) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374473)

Part of the issue is that people demand laptops when they don't need them. They do have the attractiveness of not having cords or other extraneous things that confuse users, but at the same time, being mobile is oftentimes not the best practice. Security is a major issue - can you trust that your data won't be compromised if lost or stolen? Do you have a reasonable backup? (Most people don't) For most employees, a desktop is often enough. And if laptops are handed out, then users need to be very, very careful. (Encrypt data, daily backups...) I'm thinking a better solution would have a laptop that works as a dumb terminal.

Re:Laptops (4, Insightful)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374615)

They do have the attractiveness of not having cords or other extraneous things that confuse users
...and 80% of the people who have laptops where I work demand a mouse within the first few days of having the laptop because they refuse to get used to the touchpad.

Re:Laptops (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374671)

Part of the issue is that people demand batteries when they don't need them. Weight is a killer for old folk like me, and it would be nice to have a laptop that wasn't 70% battery by mass (disclaimer: I just pulled that number out of my bum). I'd be happy with a laptop that was easier to carry, but had the option of plugging into mains power and leaving the battery in your luggage for when you need it. But then, I have the luxury of doing work at a desk, not an airplane.

Re:Laptops (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375029)

Every laptop has that option; you don't have to use the battery.

Personally, I do need a laptop with long battery life when I travel, but I also buy a second, small-capacity/lightweight battery for every day use. This also preserves the long-life battery for trips.

Re:Laptops (1)

greenguy (162630) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374713)

I'm pleased with my current laptop, but not so much so that I'll buy another to replace it. Why?
  • Wireless issues (as mentioned in TFS). Ubuntu is doing better, but still has a ways to go.
  • Battery issues. If I unplug my battery, I have to run, not walk, to the next outlet. And this is my second battery.
  • Trackpad. The best trackpad ever pales in comparison to a decent mouse.
  • I don't actually use it if I don't have to. How many times do I have time to work, an outlet, and no access to a desktop? I'll tell you: once a week. At the laundromat.

My current desktop and laptop will probably last me several more years. When they finally kick off, I'll be buying a gigantic flat-screen TV (read: monitor), a home server, and a wireless keyboard and mouse.

In the meantime, my Nokia N800 makes for an adequate dumb terminal.

Sys Admins complain! News at 11! (4, Insightful)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374495)

So what? Network administration has only gotten more complicated since the beginning of the profession. Is this really news?

Re:Sys Admins complain! News at 11! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374579)

Sometimes, it feels that life would be so much better as a user.

Boo Hoo (2, Insightful)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374625)

IT managers point to wi-fi configuration, complicated authentication procedures, and eight other issues as making their jobs a lot harder.

Cry me a river.

Re:Boo Hoo (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374647)

Exactly... such admins must be a bunch of incompetent sods.

Re:Boo Hoo (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374961)

Exactly... such admins must be a bunch of incompetent sods.
You misspelled "MCSEs".

More upgradeability (3, Interesting)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374497)

I know this is going to increase thickness a bit, but having upgradeable graphics cards would be nice. Same with optical drives. I know there's a couple laptops where the graphics are on a daughtercard pretty much, but until it becomes a more commonplace feature with a standard interface, there wont be an industry/market of new cards for laptops like there are for desktops.

Re:More upgradeability (5, Informative)

syncrotic (828809) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374771)

You can't just throw a graphics chip into a laptop as an afterthought: the entire machine has to be designed around the thermal profile of both the CPU and the GPU. Given how marginal laptop cooling systems are, an increase of 5W in GPU power output might be enough to overheat the system.

A laptop really isn't designed to be upgradeable - the good ones, especially so. They're integrated systems, carefully engineered for structural strength and heat dissipation. The only laptops that could accomodate a modular graphics interface are the cheap 17" ABS monsters.

Poor IT Manager Then (2, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374499)

Seriously, IT is tough sometimes get over it. Laptops are good for all the reasons listed above. An IT manager should, as per the technology part of his title make it easier to do work. The position this article takes is akin to "well jet flight is nice and all because of the speed, but all these little constraints and extra controls make it complicated and hard, waahhh!" An IT manager is a facilitator and nothing else. I suppose the author of the article would have it that an IT manager is nothing more than a guy who installs OS's and such. There is a lot more to it. That's just the job.

This is a terrible story!! Period!

How 'bout this? (0, Troll)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374503)

What would you like to see in the next generation of laptop computers?

Linux offered by the OEMs?

Re:How 'bout this? (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374603)

The option for no OS at all too. At the very least provide me with a clean install of the OS you choose, and proper installation media--meaning none of this hidden partition crap most OEMs use these days.

Re:How 'bout this? (4, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374909)

Option for no OS? Good idea. I understand VMWare is going to offer a bootable hypervisor supplied on a thumb drive this month, and also heard that Dell, IBM, and HP (I think) are going to offer a hypervisor in mobo firmware so you can boot up into a virtual environment just like our servers can now. I would really prefer that sort of arrangement to multi boot, so I can keep my debian, ubuntu, xp etc. experiences separate but simultaneously available without the underhead of an OS. Intel and AMD are offering CPUs than vector tier0 instructions off to use the hypervisor without all having to hit the BIOS at once to respond to IO interrupts, too -- this would make a laptop incredibly powerful, fast, simple, and useful.

Where do you want to go today? Gee, I don't know -- let's try this land called Ubuntu, sounds exotic. (Click.) Now that's windowing.

Re:How 'bout this? (1)

incripshin (580256) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374921)

I wish that even if they included an OS, they make you install it yourself. I swear it would change lives. I once wanted to upgrade my installation of XP Home to XP Pro because I got a copy through my school. Bad idea. Laptop drivers are usually laptop-specific. I had to install Sony's drivers manually, and that meant that I had to use the disc I created from the hidden partition as well as certain drivers from the website. Among the drivers found only on the website: network drivers. The installation process for the drivers was also really confusing because of dependencies. Some dependencies weren't even indicated. It either worked or it didn't.

If laptop manufacturers made you install it yourself, they would certainly make the driver installation process easier. Just one disc. Plug it in, everything gets installed at once, restart, done. None of this 'run 23487DFK8.EXE, restart, run IDFJ8374D.EXE, restart, ...'

Re:How 'bout this? (1)

raphae (754310) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374889)

Linux offered by the OEMs?


I was going to comment and say something along these lines. But even more, I think that every major laptop vendor should get together and form a consortium to develop a common core OS based on Linux/BSD/whatever and accompanying suite of office applications for this platform that will be standard on all their models. Each company would also have an in-house team which deals exclusively with hardware compatibility issues between their models and the common core.

If every major vendor invested as much or nearly as much money per copy/machine that they now give to Microsoft, it would amount to a massive budget. After the intial phase of development, QA, and deployment, they could then all ditch Windows or offer it as a lesser-quality option for some of their models (e.g. it might not have guarantees of the same level of support as the primary OS).

One major thing about this approach, which includes developing an office suite and possibly re-doing window managers and entire desktop environments from scratch (I'm not happy about KDE nor Gnome too much), is that it would be developed by a well-funded, stable consortium which could afford to do releases of high-quality, thoroughly-tested and QAed software.

Also, another critical issue is that every major hardware vendor would have to sign on, and agree to commence development of drivers for all their products to work with this new OS.

Notice that this is almost exactly what Apple did, and they are kicking major ass because of it.

The OSS model is great for certain things - particularly large projects for server software like Apache - but the model is not, in my opionion, one that is really capable of ever resulting is stable, working, systems for desktop users (which now according to statistics are predominantly laptop users). The lack of serious QA, and the vast scope of the projects that volunteer developers try to undertake often with limited resources, simply cannot really ever result in something that is acceptably stable and useful for the standard desktop user.

input device? (1)

Paktu (1103861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374515)

Maybe it's just me, but I can't stand using that stupid touch pad as a mouse. You would think that in the years that have gone by, they would have developed something better.

Re:input device? (3, Insightful)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374543)

What's worse is accidental use of the stupid touch pad. You're typing along and zoom your cursor goes flying somewhere crazy and you've just deleted something important or done something equally as horrible. Touch pads are horrible devices.

Re:input device? (5, Informative)

yokem_55 (575428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374585)

Try running syndaemon on your login. This little program is included with the synaptics X driver and it disables the touch pad while you are typing and reenables it automaticaly after a specified timeout (I have mine set to 2 seconds).

Re:input device? (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375025)

What's worse is accidental use of the stupid touch pad. You're typing along and zoom your cursor goes flying somewhere crazy and you've just deleted something important or done something equally as horrible.

My boss just got a new Compaq laptop. It has a little button above the touchpad that toggles the pad on and off. It allows for an external use of a mouse in the office and the use of the laptop on a plane/train/whatever. Brilliant.

Re:input device? (2, Funny)

dafpoo (870893) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374639)

That's why they have the little red nub for!

Re:input device? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374695)

you can use a mouse on a laptop if you want or even better, a touch screen. much more usable than that touch pad that is always integrated with most laptops.

Re:input device? (2, Informative)

epp_b (944299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374717)

You would think that in the years that have gone by, they would have developed something better.
They did. It's called a trackpoint [ibm.com]

Re:input device? (1)

Bottlemaster (449635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374793)

Maybe it's just me, but I can't stand using that stupid touch pad as a mouse. You would think that in the years that have gone by, they would have developed something better.
Like a keyboard?

their list (4, Informative)

mincognito (839071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374519)

1. Battery life still bombs.
2. Laptops get banged up and broken.
3. They're tough to fix, and they die young.
4. They get lost.
5. They're difficult to secure, digitally and physically ...
6. ... and security precautions make users nuts.
7. Wi-Fi is still the Wild, Wild West.
8. Laptops spawn a new breed of uber-entitled user.
9. They're too big or too small.
10. Software performance just ain't the same.

Re:their list (1)

samurphy21 (193736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374645)

8 coupled with 7 and 2 make my daily life miserable.

"Its your job, deal with it" is true, and I say that (paraphrased) to my co-workers regularly, but the UBER entitled user (why do I have to wait 2 hours JUST to have you clean this virus off my system? I need it NOW!) along with the fact that WiFi only mostly works (Why can't I talk on MSN over wireless? Just because I'm trying to use it while on a train that keeps going in and out of the city wifi area doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to stay connected!!) make my job of a support tech at a highly laptop-reliant company frustrating, at best.

Also, no one ever does backups, despite the fact that we lose at least 2 hard drives a day, sometimes as many as 8 or 10 (we have over 4000 laptops in circulation, most under at least mild abuse, many under extreme abuse).

We've had 8 laptops stolen in the last 2 months, and replace around 10 system boards a week, mostly due to liquid spills and drops while cables are plugged in.

Luckily every one of the 4000 laptops in circulation is the same model, though this brings its own headaches, because if one laptop is factory-faulty, many will be. With this model, its the AC adapters and batteries that shit the bed.

All I can say is that I'm glad the IBM iSeries we used one year is long gone, because with those, if you put an extra piece of ram in the spare slot, the network stopped working.

Re:their list (1, Insightful)

kahanamoku (470295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374691)

Lets add:

Removing of RS232 from newer laptops. Remembering that laptops aren't just for the IT Department & Cubicle end users, but also for the engineers that program PLC's etc. Devices that don't get updated as quickly as the latest motherboard specification and that are quickly forgotten about when it comes to replacement/upgraded programming devices.

No chance you're going to get a technical engineer walking around a power plant with a trolley that carries a desktop PC simply because it has a "real" serial port.

And no, USB-To-RS232 adapters are just another bloody add-on that you have to carry with you and lose or break!

Re:their list (2, Insightful)

Solder Fumes (797270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374899)

Choose your rants better. USB-RS232 is the accepted solution in the field, and is not that much of a hardship. With a hardware RS232 port, you still need to carry a serial cable, right? The USB converter cables are no easier to lose or damage than the plain RS232 cables, and aren't any bulkier. The end result with both options is that you carry a 6 foot cable, you plug one end into a device, you plug the other end into the laptop. I've been in the field with hundreds of automation engineers, and not one of them ever had a serious complaint about not having a serial port on their laptop. It's a simple problem with an obvious solution, and everyone but you has dealt with it and moved on.

Re:their list (1)

SlamMan (221834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374947)

Don't think about it as being a USB to 232 adaptor, think about it as a USB to 232 cable with a big lump in the middle of it, that happens to unscrew.

But you can still get laptops with 232s, you just have to look harder for them. Considering how little its used by the office/consumer marker, I'm surprised they've lasted on regular laptops this long.

Re:their list (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375053)

I love my USBRS232 adapter. It adds on an extra meter of cable length to any serial cable I have to work with, and gives me an activity light too.

If you are programming PLC's, don't you already need a handful of adapters anyway? What's one more?

Re:their list (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374835)

I'd like to see laptops parted and sold all separate so us techs can build our own and repair them ourselves. I've never owned a laptop for the sole reason I refuse to purchase brand name pre-built computers. I have always built my own systems and will continue to do so.

Re:their list and what's missing ... (2, Insightful)

zzedd (409468) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374873)

... they are an ergonomic disaster-in-waiting. with a screen right next to a keyboard, this arrangement encourages a hunching posture that with long-term use can cause nerve and muscle damage in the upper-arms and neck.

Re:their list (1)

jamar0303 (896820) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374941)

Well, at least you can deal with 1 and 2 by getting Panasonic laptops (love that 10+hour battery life on my T5).

my list (2, Insightful)

Burz (138833) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374973)

1. Whole-disk encryption still not standard
2. Better efficiency hasn't been used to improve battery life
3. No standard enclosures or motherboard form factors
4. Attract clueless software salesmen, who will demonstrate demanding workstation apps on their 'spiffy little wonder'.
5. Have caught the bigger-is-better disease in the USA... The laptop as an SUV-like status symbol.
6. Most warranties are absurdly short for such a device

Overall though, laptops are the bees knees. Blogging would be an insignificant phenomenon without them, and they have taught the industry a lot about elegance and efficiency.

Re:my list (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375017)

Better efficiency hasn't been used to improve battery life
Bingo. The biggest problem with laptops is the people who design them. "CPU power usage is really low now.. great, we can up the cycles per second." Uhh, excuse me? "This new LCD component is great, it draws half as much power.. great, double the resolution." Uhh, excuse me? The OLPC is example of the completely different machine you can get if you break out of the box in which the typical manufacturers think in.

As an IT Manager, only one signifcant problem... (4, Insightful)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374521)

As an IT Manager, there's only one bad thing that's particular to laptops that significant enough to be comment-worthy. They're a vector for virus infection. Everything else an IT department can just get on with, but the high virus risk associated with devices that regularly travel in and out of the firewalled company network merits pointing out.

One day, some place I work, I want to set up a DMZ for laptops.

Re:As an IT Manager, only one signifcant problem.. (-1, Offtopic)

doktorjayd (469473) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374599)

my linux laptop has never had one virus.

why do your BA's or other *managers need a virus prone OS when the vast majority of what they do is web, email and word processing?

and dont give me BS about hard to re-train these people. you'll need to re-train em for vista too...

Re:As an IT Manager, only one signifcant problem.. (2, Insightful)

huckamania (533052) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374963)

Because they are salesmen. They go out and hunt rabbits, bears and elephants. They bring in the sales that make the company grow. They need powerpoint and other salesmany cruft to make their sales. IT exists because of them, not the oher way around.

Linux as a complete desktop OS is still relatively new and even now not entirely complete. Advocacy aside, why would anyone willingly choose a solution that means deprivation? Why would anyone suggest it?

I'm not IT, but I have worked on the traveling salesman problem and it's not easy. Cisco, Symantec and Microsoft were all working on solutions at some point. Cisco and Symantec were going with some kind of security authentication server and Microsoft was trying to tie it into DNS. That was about 4 years ago, so they may actually have something usefull by now.

Re:As an IT Manager, only one signifcant problem.. (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375065)

They need powerpoint and other salesmany cruft to make their sales. IT exists because of them, not the oher way around.
Whoah! Are you sure you're an admin?

I'm not IT,
Hah, I knew it. You gave yourself away by not claiming the entire company's operations should be designed specifically to make your job easier.

Re:As an IT Manager, only one signifcant problem.. (5, Interesting)

rnswebx (473058) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374897)

This really isn't much of an issue if you don't give your users admin rights. I used to work for a company who's name represents a really long river and we weren't given admin rights on our laptops. (I was a system engineer)

At first, I hated it and even more I just hated the idea of not controlling my own machine. In the end though, it really came down to them providing me everythingI needed. If I wanted something that wasn't already installed and pertinent to me doing my job, it was almost instantly handled and installed over the intranet via what I can only guess were custom tools.

It's give and take with the portability that laptops provide. OK Joe User, you can go do your work from home, but in exchange for that we need to, among other things, take precautions that you won't be bringing in viruses to our network.

The key ingredient to my successful situation in such an environment was the capability of the supporting IT team. Without a very solid support team, I think the users would become frustrated with not being able to either install their own apps, or have the support staff provide a way to get them installed.

Food for thought at the very least.

Re:As an IT Manager, only one signifcant problem.. (1)

udamahan (468338) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375055)

This is an awesome example. The company-whose-name-shall-not-be-spoken decided there was a right way to manage laptops that was best for the organization. The Right Way meant a lot more work and infrastructure for the IT to handle (ergo, extra costs). At this point, its not about a laptop being "handy" and "only a little more money." It about the laptop costing a lot more money (to manage). So is it still worth it? If that laptop at BestBuy came with a mandatory $100 per month charge attached to it, I bet people would think about its value a little more. This company decided yes. For others, the answer could probably be no.

Re:As an IT Manager, only one signifcant problem.. (1)

Token_Internet_Girl (1131287) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374905)

Wouldn't an easy resolution for regular virus problems be to lock the OS down for file writing? Alot of the companies I've IT'd for over the years minimalize it by having the users save pertinent data to the usual network drives over some sort of firewalled VPN connection to the company network. In fact the connection is made before login, so the user cannot possibly access anything outside the safeguards...unless she's sleeping with someone in the IT department and has the admin password...not like that's every happened >> But I digress!

Same mistake, different network segment (1)

Oriumpor (446718) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375013)

Only laptops make up 40% of corporate use, and I only see it increasing. A DMZ per laptop maybe, or you're just infecting other laptops.

Copy of the last sinclair model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374527)

I would like a sinclair copy that has a full size keyboard that folds into my pocket.

Like the sinclair QL is what I am imagining with a screen and folding ability. (and ability to plug into a larger digital screen)

Re:Copy of the last sinclair model (1)

jhoger (519683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374589)

The Cambridge Z88 is a pretty nice vintage laptop. Not a QL and it doesn't fold up, but same DNA.

-- John.

IT == Excuses Galore (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374537)

Well, IT admins are whiners and would rather not do something that's hard than do something that's effective for the user.

So, yes, 8 reasons for them to not do their jobs and whine some more.

Surprise, surprise.

How about pen, papers and typewriters (1)

jhoger (519683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374549)

We could go back to paper and make their jobs a lot easier. Or just damage the network interface, disk drives, and usb ports. They keyboard and screen while we're at it.

Whoever said IT was supposed to be easy? That's the challenge of IT: to keep the network and desktops functioning, information flowing without impeding people's ability to work efficiently.

Additionally, the comment about portability is hilarious. Laptops are clearly transportable. They can be moved from place to place easily. But true portability is something that has eluded the industry since the Model 100 line went off the market.

-- John.

Shorter Lifespan (4, Informative)

dfm3 (830843) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374557)

In my brief experience with IT at a small university several years ago, I learned that laptops have a much shorter expected lifespan in the real world compared to desktops- two years versus four or five before they need to be replaced. Even if users treat them like their firstborn, they just aren't designed to last much longer than that. Out of the half dozen or so laptops that we have floating around the office that are over 2 years old, not one of them has a battery that lasts for more than 15 minutes off of AC.

Re:Shorter Lifespan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374581)

And how long do the batteries last on the desktops?

If I am lucky 5 minutes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21375063)

If I am lucky the battery on my desktop will last long enough to put the machine in hibernate + 2 minutes (as I told it to ignore the 1st minute due to false positives [brown outs]).

But with 2 20" LCDs and a dual-core and 2 HDs, bit of a power hog.
I would hate to see the power requirements for a L88T system (or however the F you say that).

Re:Shorter Lifespan (1)

Rob Simpson (533360) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374643)

I first bought a laptop, a used Toshiba Portege, in 2001... it was "designed for Windows 95" and it still runs today. The battery was long-dead when I got it, of course. But that's entirely dependent on how much the battery has been used - I recently gave away a three year old Toshiba Satellite that still got almost two hours of battery life per charge, but it was almost always run on AC.

Re:Shorter Lifespan (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374705)

The battery doesnt work because your users dont need laptops. Batteries that dont get used tend to fail. So if Jane Officeworker cow-worker makes a hissy fit and has her department buy her a laptop as a status thing and it never leaves her desk then the few times she actually unplugs it from the AC might be a bit of a surprise.

Re:Shorter Lifespan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374739)

exactly. i was about to comment that my 3.5 year old powerbook still has a battery life in the range of 2-3 hours (was just under 4 new IIRC). i dont think it's apple doing anything fancy, just the user using it as it's supposed to be used

Re:Shorter Lifespan (2, Insightful)

another_twilight (585366) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374867)

What makes/models?

I have had Thinkpads (mostly T series) last 5+ years, including drops and spills. Part of that is excellent design, part of it is the ease with which every part could be ordered and replaced. I am not so familiar with the post-Lenovo quality 'though.

Some early, high end Dell laptops were still useful at similar timeframes (I am thinkning mostly of the C840), but the later Inspirons, less so.

You will pay for them, but in each generation there are machines that will last 4-5 years of even moderately hard use. Consider the design - avoid 'consumer' grade equpiment that is competing on price, not durability. Look at the warranty and support offered by the company - can you order parts and repair in-house, are there local repair centers or does everything have to go off-shore? Oh, and avoid Acer. Period.

Hard disks. (1)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374565)

I work at my school's student affairs IT department. Part of what we do is tech support for residents. Almost every non-trivial problem (spyware cleaning, user error, and bad ram are trivial) is due to a bad HD in a student's laptop. Dells seem particularly susceptible. I think it has a lot to do with unreasonable expectations of durability on the user's end, but when these people start moving into the work force, their employers' budgets had best include frequent replacement drives. (Desktops are immune to this issue, because people don't lug them around and beat the crap out of them.)

Portable desktop (3, Interesting)

phorm (591458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374571)

Most people I know (myself included) tend to use laptops as more of a "portable desktop." Perhaps if we dump the batteries we could add more cooling and - in general - get more use out of them for that purpose?

At the same time, I've seen various different models of power bricks, but I much prefer the ones that attach to the laptop snugly rather than the standard rounded barrel-connector. Perhaps something that clicks into place but isn't a pain to remove (because without batteries, it would suck to accidentally knock out that easily-disconnected power jack).

Don't mean to be glib, (1)

Snufu (1049644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374573)

but isn't it the job of IT to make life easier for end users, not the other way around?

Whole disk encryption. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374583)

Laptops at my company are required to have mandatory whole-disk encryption installed on them. The whole disk products are pretty good given what they do, but their very nature makes troubleshooting alot of problems completely impossible and introduces a whole new category of other issues.

10) My Boss Thinks I can work 24/7 With a Laptop (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374591)

BOSS: Hey guy, we got you a laptop and VPN access. Don't you love it?! Never mind having a life and family, we got you a laptop and you have the COMPANY! OK, I'm going golfing now, there is a status meeting at 8 p.m. tonight I expect you to chair. Tell me about it tomorrow morning... we probably won't need what you find for a few days but we can say "we're ready now". Aren't you glad we got that laptop for you? Oh crap.... gotta go, going to miss my tee time.

ME: Oops, I dropped it. (OK.... wishful thinking.)

Re:10) My Boss Thinks I can work 24/7 With a Lapto (0)

Skeetskeetskeet (906997) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374849)

BOSS: Hey, I'm not going to make it to work today, I'm going to the proctologist to have a laptop removed from my ass!

Cooling??? (1)

deadmongrel (621467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374601)

Cooling: I don't want to use my laptop fry eggs after few hours of constant use.

K

Re:Cooling??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374811)

Cooling: I don't want to use my laptop fry eggs after few hours of constant use.
It'd be nice if you could put a "laptop" on top of your lap without burning your penis [theregister.co.uk] .

Re:Cooling??? (1)

Bottlemaster (449635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374891)

I don't want to use my laptop fry eggs after few hours of constant use.
Fry eggs [wired.com] , you say?

In a well-managed LAN upgrades are easy (2, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374621)

If you use roaming profiles correctly you can upgrade an entire bureau just by walking down the aisles and swapping out the laptops. I was told a fairly major SOE upgrade was handled this way recently, in a government agency in Canberra.

They are incompetent! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374635)

Having read all the 10 reasons given, I can only conclude that they sound like "cries of a bad workman - who blames his tools!"

In other words, the complainants appear to be incompetent. I support 326 IT staff including 129 that have laptops loaded with mostly WindowsXP and Ubuntu. Apart from gettimg lost (which does not happen often), I do not see any trouble at all.

Not real computers to me (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374661)

There are too many compromises and second best's in their design. Extendability is close to zero. If one component dies, the whole thing goes down. I also do not consider unRAIDed disks to be reliable. Laptops are far to expensive for the computing features they offer. I also like to have a real keyboard and a real monitor, whilw I can have those with a laptop, it kind of defeats the purpose.

That said, laptops are reasonable when traveling. But they will not replace powerful desktop systems in the near future.

Re:Not real computers to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374945)

I saw an old laptop at my IT shop that has a nice big 15 inch square-format screen.

What the hell happened to the good old-fashioned 4:3 ratio screens common 4 years ago? Even Intel chipsets could do 1600x1200 (the res is exagerated, but some mid-sized laptops support even 1900x1600, see my points below about how we get barely half of that nowadays.)

Now we all have wide screen format stuff. We could watch letterbox movies, see more columns of Excel data at once (not that anyone cares to create OR edit spreadsheets beyond a standard-sized monitor) and pay a widescreen premium:

1) 19:6 ratio: more inches isn't a vertical improvement. Just like LDC TV's, you buy a larger screen to catch up to the vertical size a cheaper 4:3 screen costs less $$ for.

2) Everything (especially videogames) expects for larger res. Why can't my laptop mimic a desktop --go the full 1024 pixels vertically, like older ones did! I feel short-changed at the 1200 x 800 resolutions that I got 2 years in a row on widescreen laptops.

3) The weird 1200x800 native resolution makes it hell for all the non-native resolutions: At 800x600, good luck fitting window dialogs to, say, choose"OK" and "Cancel." At max size the quality of text gets better, but you end up squinting and changing individual IDE font sizes.

Do yourself a favor if you run Windows and install the Safari Browser on your lappy. The default font smoothing reads great, even if it feels unnaturally un-pixely.

I have a lot hate relationship with my laptop too (1)

c_waddington (681862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374747)

To offer a user's perspective. I hate my work provided laptop because it so slow... Having a laptop is fundamental to my job. I work for a technology department of a major bank so having a laptop is essential so that I can support the applications that I wrote out-of-hours. Unfortunately, the need to secure my laptop (because it could be potentially compromised because it goes outside the bank's immediate environment) means that all the security software installed on it makes it run very slow. My brand new Lenovo Thinkpad takes approximately 15 minutes to startup- unbelievable I know but in my frustration I timed it yesterday. Most technology people I know have asked that the bank allows us to use our own desktops at home - with the mandated mandated anti-virus, version checking software, et al. installed - but there is still a (perfectly understandable) reluctance to do this. Until then we'll stutter by. As an aside: I love the latest hardware dual core that Intel / AMD is providing - and to demonstrate how much the security software on my dual-core Thinkpad is slowing things down - 10 minutes into the boot up of my bank laptop I took out my Macbook Pro from my bag and launched all the applications in the Applications folder. The MBP won. (This is not intended to inflame any mac/windows wars, but merely to show the cost of securing the laptop had on performance)

Better Ergonomics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374787)

It's impossible to seperate the keyboard from the monitor of modern day laptops. As a result, people have to hunch which typing on a laptop. I would be delighted if someone could come up with a design for an ergonomically-friendly laptop.

Intel's Advanced Management Technology (AMT) (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374797)

Was suppose to fix these problems. Remote updates. Remote, unattended and unrequested security updates. Another pffffft.

802.1X as a solution. (1)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374827)

You know how we do it at my house? 802.1X. 802.1X is Wifi's best kept secret. Your means of authentication are your OpenLDAP/Kerberos/Samba/FreeRadius credentials for PEAP, or a CA if you are one of our nodes with EAP_TLS.

No complicated WEP/WPA strings, no bullshit.

Re:802.1X as a solution. (1)

imemyself (757318) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375015)

Yeah, same here. With Active Directory and Group Policy you can even push down the settings so that the user doesn't have to do anything - the notebook will transparently connect to the SSID using their account. I can't believe that so many people still have trouble with securing wifi.

My problems with laptops (5, Insightful)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374833)

My problems with laptops:

1. They are too fragile.
2. The internal guts are too hard to work with. Anything more than a RAM upgrade is a nightmare of tiny screws and shielding tape.
3. Operating systems are targeted for desktops and servers, they don't make it easy to set up a laptop the way you want, with encrypted partitions, network configuration, etc. Sure these features are there for the tinkering, but I don't want to mess around, I just want to get to work.
4. Laptop hard drives are so slow! You would think there could be a slightly larger drive form factor that would allow for a drive whose speed approaches that of a standard hard drive.
5. The batteries are all different. Hard drives, RAM, etc. are interchangeable to some extent, why not batteries?
6. Those tiny little laptop cooling fans drive me batty. I really hate the high-pitched whine.
7. While I appreciate the small size, I would gladly trade a pound or so and a quarter inch of thickness for less whiney fans and a faster hard drive. If it's too big to fit in my pocket, it should be a real computer.
8. Not much to be done about it, but it's not possible to use one in comfort; the ergonomics inherently suck.

Best new feature (from IT's POV) (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374851)

Would be a heavy chain attached to an eye bolt welded to the office floor.

Or, whatever else it takes these things from wandering off the property. They get stolen along with data that shouldn't leave the property in the first place. Or taken home where the kids can goof around on the 'net with them and get them all infected with crap that mom/dad subsequently bring back inside the company firewall.

Suck it up (1)

thebear05 (916315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374857)

As a user who uses a laptop and someone who has some understanding of it( i am posting this on /.). I think the it manager who decides the people that can choose to replace them don't get the tools they want/need will very quickly be replaced with one who will and should.

Another laptop risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374863)

Man burns penis with laptop [theregister.co.uk]

maybe if work lappies weren't crap (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374871)

maybe if decent laptops were purchased, I imagine some of these issues would be nonexistent. I would love to use my Asus c90 for work, but it ends up being used for lans....and I know at my workplace people have absolute crap like 13" laptops or something....screens so small its painful, I'll take 1680x1050 on a 15.4" over what they have anyday.

Also, laptops are not that bad to deal with, just learning a different route. But once you know how to unscrew them, it isn't all that different from a desktop as far as replacing components (except the screens can be a bitch to replace). Of course the C90 is 1000x easier but any other laptop is not that bad if you have the screwdrivers needed.

Not much here worth reading (1, Insightful)

davmoo (63521) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374885)

Any IT manager or sysadmin that is having the problems this article lists with either wifi or drivers is not very good at their job.

And anyone who *loses* a laptop is too fucking stupid to have a job.

No.1 issue where I am (1)

munrom (853142) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374887)

These are either work or personal computers people, not both. If it's work, we will put on what you need. If it's not work don't bring it here to get it fixed when your latest toolbar fubars things. But no, people want it both ways

From the My Computer Is My Monitor Dept. (4, Insightful)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374903)

> What would you like to see in the next generation of laptop computers?"

One thing I'd love to see is a little modularity and separation between the computer and the screen.
I want a strong hinge that can be disconnected with a simple everyday tool.
And at least within the same manufacturer, make it standard, the only variables being the size and resolution of the screen.
What a great idea to be able to replace only the half of the laptop that is broken or upgrade only the half that needs to be upgraded.
Reduce waste, reduce downtime, save money.

Is there something intrinsically magical about the screen hinge and graphics connection of a laptop that keeps them forever joined lest ye ship them back to the vendor?

Most folks don't need them (1)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374911)

Laptops cost more than desktops for comparable performance, have a higher support cost than desktops(they break more easily, they're more finicky, etc), and most people don't need them.

If laptops were handed out based on genuine business need(ie benefits outweigh costs) as opposed to as part of "mobility initiatives" and as executive toys, and if organizations understood the increase in support costs and resourced appropriately then we wouldn't have a problem with laptops.

All the problems on this list are true, but the biggest problem is people using laptops who don't have a justifiable business need to have one, people who think that because it's a laptop it's theirs and they can use it for personal home use, and businesses who don't understand that laptops take more time to support and so more resources are needed to support them.

A complete load (1)

EdwinFreed (1084059) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374915)

IT provides a service, it is not the raison d'etre for a company unless it's business is providing IT services. In most cases the huge benefits provided by laptops definitely outweigh the costs. If IT has a problem with laptops under these circumstances they need to suck it up and deal.

There may be situations where this isn't true, although I'm guessing they're rare. But if that's the case the case needs to be made on the basis of rational analysis, not a bunch of one-sided whining like this.

I also question the validity of many of the claims. For example, if I had the unmitigated gall to complain to our IT people that I was having trouble accessing some football pool they'd laugh themselves sick before telling me to stick it where the sun don't shine.

Seriouslly? (1)

Kristoph (242780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374923)

Umm, it's 2007. The majority of knowledge workers are purely laptop based. The question we should be asking is 'does physical infrastructure matter anymore'?

]{

Where's my fuel cell? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374929)

I'm kinda sick of the vaporware.. I often fly 13 hour trips (non-stop) on a plane with no power outlets (not even in business class, or so they tell me!).. If I take 4 sets of rechargeable batteries my GP2X [gp2x.com] will last me 12 hours, but playing games and watching movies is not getting work done.

Biggest Benifit .. use in bed (1)

piltdownman84 (853358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374931)

For me the biggest benefit of a labtop is the ability to use it in bed. I kid you not. I'm an early riser and a workaholic so the ability to still be in bed when my better half wakes up hours after me, and not waste those hours keeps us both sane and together. Actually maybe that's not sane, now that I think about it.

Not all IT departments hate them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374949)

I work for the world's largest online retailer, and everyone who needs a computer, including HR, finance, executive and admin assistants gets a laptop, and all technical staff get a desktop too. The technical staff also, by and large, have admin rights on Windows machines, and root on Macs and Linux boxes.

I have never once heard any of the IT staff complaining about having to support the laptops rather than the desktops.

Monitors for viewing outdoors! (1)

Memroid (898199) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374965)

Laptops still do not typically provide an adequate solution for outdoor use. In sunlight the displays go near black and are almost impossible to interpret or view. Is there any way to easily accomplish this? I believe the OLPC's XO laptops have the ability to switch off the color filter for black and white use, which can greatly enhance readability outdoors. However, I'm not aware of any current color solutions. Is this an issue of implementation or cost?

Article full of BS (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374975)

While there were some valid complaints, such as those around data security and stupid users, much of the article was spent complaining about form factor and performance. If they're having problems, that just means they haven't found the right laptop. For example, I have a 2.5 year old 17" Dell Inspiron that I use for everything. I've found that:

  • The 17" size isn't too heavy for me to carry around
  • The keyboard isn't cramped. Sure, it's not full-sized keys, but I don't have any problem hitting individual keys
  • It's upgradeable where it matters. Memory is easy to add or replace, the hard drive is simple to swap out with the removal of a couple of screws, the CPU can be replaced, and even the GPU can be upgraded (obviously not an off-the-shelf part). What's more, replacement Dell parts are easily available from a wide variety of internet sources, with service guides provided for free by Dell. I've personally replaced the keyboard on this laptop once, with a spare just in case, and I could easily replace anything from the LCD display to the plastic bezel bits without any problems at all
  • I'm still on my original 2.5 year old battery and routinely see battery life top 4 hours of usage. I obviously have to be frugal with my settings (turn down the brightness, turn off Vista's fancy graphics features, etc), but when I need to stretch I can
  • Performance is awesome in Vista, with all Aero effects running and multiple applications going. It even plays slightly older games quite well (Civ IV and GalCiv2 work great). I did upgrade to 2GB of RAM and a 7200RPM hard drive, but even before those changes the laptop flew in XP
If users are really having form factor and performance issues with the laptops you're using, it's time to look for something better. I know some people don't like Dell, but after this Inspiron I can't see myself using anything else.

Video hook-ups (1)

notyou2 (202944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374983)

WHY is 10% of all meeting and presentation productivity wasted on hooking the laptop up to the damn projector or plasma screen?

I don't understand why it's still so technologically challenging to sync a laptop with an external display, reliably and expediently. Mac's get this right more than windows machines do, but even they're a little sluggish at it.

The problem is the same as it's always been... (1)

epp_b (944299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21374993)

...users are dumb.

Seriously, how do you lose a laptop? Do you take such little care of a device costing hundreds or thousands of dollars and containing sensitive business and personal data, that you would misplace it, lose it, leave it somewhere where it could be stolen, or carelessly shove it around?

Shoot, when I take my laptop anywhere out of my home [office], it's either in my sight or locked up in a safe (no, a Kensington lock doesn't cut it); and if it's being moved, it's carefully clenched in both of my hands and/or in its protective case.

However, what I really think is a non-issue in this story is the last gripe: software performance. What on Earth are they even talking about? Software applications don't perform as quickly on laptops? Maybe if your spending desktop-money on a laptop. A Core Duo with a couple GB of RAM and a decent GPU with dedicated memory will perform just as effectively as a comparable desktop.

Nothing wrong with my MacBook Pro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21374995)

I bought a MacBook Pro recently and it rocks, I'm not sure what some of the other posters are complaining about.


  1.    
  2. I have a 17" screen at 1900x1600

  3.    
  4. I have a Dual Core 2 Processor at 2.4 Ghz

  5.    
  6. I have a 7200rpm HDD

  7.    
  8. 4GB of memory

  9.    
  10. 802.11G Wifi

  11.    
  12. Bluetooth

  13.    
  14. Accelorometer, so if I ever drop it, the HDD heads will park before it hits the floor

  15.    
  16. Its unlikely that I'll need the previous option since the power code is magnetically held in place and just pops out on the few occasions I've tripped over it


Performance is great, battery life is good (its usually mains connected anyway). The only downside to this power house of a machine (I use if for Final Cut Pro editing) is that it get quite hot when resting it on your lap. Its far better than the desktop PC I've been given at work (AMD 64 thing) and a lot better than my old DELL Inspiron 5150.

Andy.

Video In (4, Interesting)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 6 years ago | (#21375033)

I'd like to be able to carry my laptop to the server room and hook up a VGA input so I can view what's on the server's screen without either purchasing a KVM or lugging in a full external monitor. Sort of like a temporary slave function (or just a F-key that allows video in...I'm not all that bothered about the keyboard and mouse).

A virtual keypad (like one of those you can lay down in front of you) plugged into your virtual eyewear (that projects the screen onto your eye) would be a nice space-saver too. Everything wireless, computer the size of an iPod in your pocket.
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