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My Life with Laptops


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#1 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 03:16 PM

Yes I'm typing up this post on a laptop - my wife got to the desktop first.
But the truth of the matter is I've never been all that happy with laptops. During my working life when I had a computer at all it was a desktop - only computer illiterate managers got laptops back then. I got a head office hand-me-down usually.
My first home laptop was also my first home windows PC - an 80286 12 MHz that ran DOS. It had a battery meltdown (literally) and destroyed itself after a few years. Then I went a long time before getting another.
My second one was a tank-like 1997 Compaq Armada that I used with Vector Linux. This was in 2008. It probably would still work but there ain't many useful distros today that run on a Pentium II 266.
Next I had a 32 bit Atom netbook - slow, weak and underpowered. Thank goodness for Linux. I also at one point inherited another 32 bit netbook my daughter hated. I could see why.
Finally around 2011 I got a real notebook. Unfortunately this one had an AMD P920 Phenom II quad and discrete AMD video - it worked OK with Windows 7 but eventually heat had its way - the video chip got desoldered from the board and that was that.
Its replacement is a Lenovo Flex2 15D APU which runs fine. It's also AMD but a lot better design. It's slow because of a 5400 RPM hard drive that I may replace some day - or not. I would have to tear the machine apart to get at the hard drive.
Then there's my collection of wounded puppies - an HP my daughter dropkicked off the bed a few times that I have in the workshop, and a 2010 Toshiba 64 bit netbook my neighbor gave me - that one my wife took away to use at her mother's house in Kingston.
And finally I have my test machine - a nice old Thinkpad that flies with Debian Sid. That is what I'm using now.
So totalling it all up I have had 9 laptops in 25 years. The majority were junkers I recycled with Linux. Only the Thinkpad approaches my desktops in quality of experience. Did I mention I've never been all that happy with laptops?
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#2 OFFLINE   securitybreach

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 04:45 PM

You just have to get the business class ones. You can buy a used thinkpad with an i5 or i7 with 8gb+ of ram for less than $200 off of ebay. And the ram is cheap as it is ddr3 so you could max it out and put an ssd in it for less than $300 bucks and have a solid workstation. You can get some for under a hundred bucks: http://www.ebay.com/...enovo-t420-used

Most of these come from the enterprise market which the users have to get a new computer every 3 years for warranty reasons. Most of them will fit the docks and such which can also be bought for cheap on ebay.
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#3 OFFLINE   V.T. Eric Layton

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 04:47 PM

Laptops have their uses, I suppose. For me, though, typing is best done on a regular keyboard; preferably a favorite one. I cannot type nearly the wpm on a laptop keyboard as I can on my fav in front of my main system.

#4 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 06:12 PM

Yes I have learned my lesson now and will look for used business grade stuff in the future. My problem was that I never put the thought and quality considerations into a laptop as I did into my desktops. My current Windows desktop is a commercial grade Acer Veriton and I built my Linux desktop with quality components.
The Thinkpad is really excellent and even came with an SSD standard.
I have always considered a desktop as my primary machine and a laptop secondary - something you need for vacations or travel. Part of that is conditioning - I never had to use a laptop in my job.

Edited by raymac46, 22 September 2017 - 06:14 PM.

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#5 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 06:28 PM

The area I live in is fairly rural although close to a large city. It didn't get broadband until the early 2000s. So the inhabitants here were not early PC adopters.
Here is a typical timeline for folks in my area.
2003 - person buys their first PC - crap desktop running XP.
2009 - desktop is shot - never upgraded. Person buys netbook (ugh!) or crap laptop with Windows 7. Hopefully they missed Vista.
2013 - laptop is pretty well shot but person buys a tablet to do the majority of surfing and email.
2017 - laptop now totally useless and tablet is shaky. Some Internet stuff now done on smartphone.

This is a person who's getting older with poorer eyesight. They will never know the power and convenience of a high end desktop - which would be a lot cheaper as well. I've been advising anyone who will listen to get a new desktop - no not a cheapie or all-in-one that's just a laptop in disguise.

Edited by raymac46, 22 September 2017 - 06:28 PM.

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#6 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 06:38 PM

The typical user in Almonte (that I have seen) has wifi network for their iPad and a snazzy top of the line wireless printer. They they get the cheapest possible low end laptop with a slow mechanical drive and 4 GB of RAM. Top it off with a cheap slow broadband plan. They think it's normal that a PC takes 3 minutes to boot and that it takes forever to download an Office Suite or antivirus program.
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#7 OFFLINE   securitybreach

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 07:39 PM

Yup, little do they know that they can have a nice laptop for a couple hundred bucks. Of course, most all of them will not come with an OS as they have been wiped at whatever company had them previously. So that is kind of a problem for your "average joe".
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#8 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 09:09 AM

The bricks and mortar computer stores and off lease sellers around Ottawa usually sell their used machines with either Windows 7 or Windows 10. I haven't seen any with no O/S at all.
So the average Joe could get one that works OK. The problem is he's more likely to go to Staples and Best Buy where they will sell him what they have in stock - usually something low end.
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#9 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 09:18 AM

Good case in point. A few years ago my son-in-law's father wanted a laptop. Son-in-law got him an off lease Thinkpad that worked fine with XP. Then father upgraded his gateway and the older Thinkpad couldn't connect. I think it was a matter of not supporting WPA2.
Instead of simply getting a newer wifi dongle, father junked the Thinkpad and bought a piece of crap laptop.at Radio Shack. I got the Thinkpad back here, installed Linux and it connected fine with my network - it supports WPA2 and WPA.
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#10 OFFLINE   Digerati

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 10:35 AM

Notebooks (they should never sit on your lap where cool air circulation can be hindered so I try to call them notebooks) are great for what they were created for - the road warrior who needs a portable computer. And they are great for students who need to lug them from the dorm, class to class, and back to the dorm where it can then be locked up in a locker - since notebooks can grow feet and disappear.

But contrary to what notebook marketing weenies want us to believe, notebooks do NOT make good gaming machines and are not "desktop replacements". Notebook makers can pack the power of a PC into a notebook case, but not the necessary cooling. Consider even quality mid/full tower cases are challenged to keep the innards properly cooled when the computer is taxed. No way a tiny, thin notebook case can without thermal protection schemes kicking in that reduce performance.

Also, PC cases can easily be opened to expose the entire interior for proper and thorough cleaning of heat trapping dust. Proprietary notebook cases can not be completely opened by most "normal" users. Therefore dust buildup will occur.

I have a nice 7 year old Toshiba notebook I used when traveling. But it never was or will be my primary computer.

A notebook or handheld device will become my primary computer when they pry my full sized keyboard, mouse, surround sound (with wall mounted rears) speakers and both my 24" inch widescreen monitors from my cold dead hands.
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#11 OFFLINE   securitybreach

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 11:11 AM

View PostDigerati, on 23 September 2017 - 10:35 AM, said:

Notebooks (they should never sit on your lap where cool air circulation can be hindered so I try to call them notebooks) are great for what they were created for - the road warrior who needs a portable computer. And they are great for students who need to lug them from the dorm, class to class, and back to the dorm where it can then be locked up in a locker - since notebooks can grow feet and disappear.

But contrary to what notebook marketing weenies want us to believe, notebooks do NOT make good gaming machines and are not "desktop replacements". Notebook makers can pack the power of a PC into a notebook case, but not the necessary cooling. Consider even quality mid/full tower cases are challenged to keep the innards properly cooled when the computer is taxed. No way a tiny, thin notebook case can without thermal protection schemes kicking in that reduce performance.

Well that is not always true. I work for Shell Oil and every employee in the entire company is on laptops, even the technical users. Granted every desk has a docking station with at least 2x 27" monitors, keyboard and mouse connected to them. The standard users use laptops with an i5, 8gb of ram and a 200gb ssd in them but the technical users (reservoir engineers and such) use the higher end workstation laptops with Xeon processors, 32gb of ram, a nvidia quadro series card and a terabyte ssd in them. The engineers can use the blade servers for some of the higher end modeling and such though but the laptops can handle 90% of the workload.

For a home user perhaps you are right but for business class laptops, you can pack a desktop's worth of power into a laptop. Granted the laptop workstations (for the technical users) are hardly portable at 9lbs. The cooling on these newer laptops is amazing, most of them do not even get hot anymore. The technical laptops heat up a bit when you are wiping or staging them but not during use.
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#12 OFFLINE   securitybreach

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 11:17 AM

Now years ago, you could never sit a laptop on your lap as it would be way too hot (I used to set mine on a pillow in my lap) but that has not been the case for a few years now.
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#13 OFFLINE   Digerati

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 12:12 PM

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Well that is not always true.
For a home user perhaps you are right but for business class laptops, you can pack a desktop's worth of power into a laptop
:( I never said otherwise. In fact, I specifically said, "they can pack the power of a PC into a notebook case, but not the necessary cooling."

A typical PC case today can easily support several 120 or 140mm (or larger!) case fans capable of creating a massive "flow" of cool air through the case. And a tower case can easily support a CPU cooler with a massive (and tall) heatsink and large fan. And a tower case can support a graphics card that supports a large fan (or even 2 or 3 fans).

And, I might add, a tower case can do all that in near silence too. :)

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Now years ago, you could never sit a laptop on your lap as it would be way too hot (I used to set mine on a pillow in my lap) but that has not been the case for a few years now.
To use your own words, "Well that is not always true." There are still many notebooks that have intake or exhaust vents on the bottom. Or they just depend on heat radiating away from the notebook (even down - opposite the natural flow of heat). If the bottom of your notebook gets pretty warm, you probably should not lay it in your lap, on a pillow, on carpeted flooring, or your bedding. Use a notebook cooling pad.

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Granted the laptop workstations (for the technical users) are hardly portable at 9lbs.
This is true and I should have been more clear to exclude these exceptions to the rule from my claim. And for sure I do appreciate and particularly take note of your description of these as "workstations". ;)
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#14 OFFLINE   securitybreach

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 12:35 PM

Oh I was agreeing with you but I just wanted to point out that laptops are not just for "the road warrior" and students. The business class laptops do not have intake or exhaust vents on the bottom due to how the docking stations connect to them. The vents would be completely blocked by the dock if they were on the bottom as the laptops sit on top of the docking station.

I do understand your point about air flow though. In my main rig, I have 7x 240mm fans directing airflow to take care of the heat produced by 7 sata drives and a massive video card. I could not pack the power into a laptop but the processor and ram can equal a desktop computer. For the most part anyway as I have yet to see a laptop that can fit 64gb(my main rig) or 96gb (my server) of ram. ;)
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#15 OFFLINE   Digerati

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 02:08 PM

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but I just wanted to point out that laptops are not just for "the road warrior" and students.
I agree, and as I noted above, that is what notebooks were created for - because those folks did not like the current portable technologies available at that time, the "luggable" computer.
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#16 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 06:31 PM

There is a considerable difference between the portable workstations and commercial grade notebooks/laptops that Josh maintains and the crappy low end models that the senior generation in Almonte has ended up with. So many of them thought they were improving their computing experience by moving from a cheap desktop to a slow, underpowered, memory challenged consumer grade laptop. In fact things got worse.
No need for it in many cases. I know of one lady who sits right next to her router with her laptop and connects to it by wire; another one uses a desktop mouse and keyboard plugged in to her laptop. For the privilege they get to look at a 15 inch screen that isn't even full HD.
A powerful notebook makes sense for everyone who's working today, especially if they can hook up to a docking station and desktop accessories at work. But it doesn't make sense for a 70 year old lady to run a cheap laptop when she could get a more capable desktop for the money.
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#17 OFFLINE   securitybreach

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 07:13 PM

View Postraymac46, on 23 September 2017 - 06:31 PM, said:

There is a considerable difference between the portable workstations and commercial grade notebooks/laptops that Josh maintains and the crappy low end models that the senior generation in Almonte has ended up with. So many of them thought they were improving their computing experience by moving from a cheap desktop to a slow, underpowered, memory challenged consumer grade laptop. In fact things got worse.
No need for it in many cases. I know of one lady who sits right next to her router with her laptop and connects to it by wire; another one uses a desktop mouse and keyboard plugged in to her laptop. For the privilege they get to look at a 15 inch screen that isn't even full HD.
A powerful notebook makes sense for everyone who's working today, especially if they can hook up to a docking station and desktop accessories at work. But it doesn't make sense for a 70 year old lady to run a cheap laptop when she could get a more capable desktop for the money.

I completely agree and also portable machines like laptops are easier to drop and break, than a desktop would be. Chromebooks may be a better option as they are cheaper and easier to replace plus the UI is much easier to operate as everything is browser based. :)
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#18 OFFLINE   Digerati

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 12:15 PM

The biggest problem I have with notebooks (besides the small screens mentioned above) is the "consumer demand" and maker's desires for lighter and thinner notebooks. These factors have ensured there will NEVER EVER be an ATX Form Factor standard for notebooks as there is for PCs.

That Form Factor standard is what makes possible the use of a "Gigabyte" ATX compliant motherboard, with a "MSI" PCIe graphics card, mounted in an ATX compliant "Fractal Design" case powered by and ATX compliant "EVGA" power supply. That standard allows consumers to be confident all the components from 1000s of different manufactures will mount and interconnect perfectly and run as designed with the "standard" ATX required +12VDC, +5VDC and +3.3VDC voltages.

Because there is no such standard, you cannot take a 17" monitor from an ASUS notebook, slap it in a Sony notebook and expect it to fit or work.

If there was a similar industry standard for notebooks, there would be a thriving self-build notebook industry like there is for PCs. "We" the consumers would not be stuck with proprietary designs that greatly limit our options for customizations, upgrades, DIY repairs and more. Proprietary always means more expense and fewer options for the consumer.

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A powerful notebook makes sense for everyone who's working today
Sorry but no it doesn't! Besides being more subject to physical abuse or getting left behind, lost or stolen, notebooks, being proprietary and "all-in-one" computers are more expensive from the start. They are harder (if even possible) and more expensive to upgrade. Harder and more expensive to repair. Harder (if even possible) for simple "preventative maintenance" tasks like thorough cleaning out of heat trapping dust. And they are MUCH more expensive to replace because replacement involves replacing the keyboard, mouse, speakers, and monitor too - things you can easily carry over to a new PC.

There is also the ergonomic issue with notebooks - especially a concern for folks who use their notebook for many hours per day. Full sized keyboard provide better placement options (keyboard tray for example) and positioning of hands for better wrist support. And a full sized, separate monitor subjects the user to less eyestrain and can be positioned at an optimal height to reduce or even prevent neck strain. Yes, a docking station can resolve those issues, but not only is the docking station itself an added expense, but then you also have the extra expense of a 2nd monitor, 2nd keyboard, and 2nd mouse.

So a powerful notebook makes sense ONLY for someone who truly needs a portable computer. Otherwise, a PC is the way to go.
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#19 OFFLINE   securitybreach

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 12:39 PM

I completely agree with you. You will never find a laptop or any other portable device that has standard parts that can be interchangeable but that is just how the designs are meant to be. Most devices nowadays are design with Planned Obsolescence in mind.

Nowadays, computers get replaced every couple of yearsJu.The only people that care about about repairing and upgrading their computers are people like us. I build my own desktop machines as well and have been for many years but I also understand that I what I do is not very common anymore. While you cannot upgrade everything on a laptop, you can usually upgrade the ram and hard drive.

For most people, laptops are all they need as they only use computers to browse facebook or buy something off of amazon. Thanks mostly in part to gamers people like us will continue to be able to build and upgrade our desktops.
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#20 OFFLINE   Dr. J

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 12:55 PM

I must say, I find that business class laptops or notebooks, even the older lower-end models like my Lenovo B590 from 2010, are far superior to many similar consumer grade devices on the market. With a third gen Core i3, dual drives (an SSD and the original 7200RPM drive) and 8 GiB of RAM I have a reasonably powerful portable "desktop replacement" with plenty of storage space. Most of the machines I see around my university on an average day are either modern budget machines with dual core CPUs and no way of upgrading them easily.

Now if I was to put any serious amount of money into a new machine I'd probably get the Athena or Zeus from Entroware. These are big, bulky powerhouses with desktop CPUs and graphics cards. The laptop form factor suits me better, since I live in an area with notoriously bad internet connectivity, and I could lug it into the local library or a friends house for large downloads, plus one of these machines would be awesome for a LAN party :teehee: :clap: :drooling: .

I'd hold on to my Lenovo though, or find a half decent ultrabook for general work on the go.
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#21 OFFLINE   securitybreach

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 12:59 PM

Those are some nice machine Dr. J. The one we give to the technical users are similar to that Zeus one except they are maxed out with ram and SSD. Their really nice machines but they also cost like 8k and weigh like 8lbs.
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#22 OFFLINE   Digerati

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 01:06 PM

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Most devices nowadays are design with Planned Obsolescence in mind.
I have never subscribed to that belief (that products are designed to fail or become obsolete at some point on the calendar) even though it sure seems like it sometime. I certainly have seen things fail just days after the warranty expired and while infuriating, I do believe it was just coincidence or bad luck, not planned.

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For most people, laptops are all they need as they only use computers to browse facebook or buy something off of amazon.
And more and more of those people are moving to smartphones.

Yeah, that Athena and Zeus are nice. But for £1,524.99 ($2,059) I could build a really REALLY nice PC with much better specs and easily connect it to my two 24 inch monitors, full sized keyboard and mouse, and listen to Pandora on my surround sound speaker system too. :)
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#23 OFFLINE   Dr. J

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 01:22 PM

View Postsecuritybreach, on 24 September 2017 - 12:59 PM, said:

Their really nice machines but they also cost like 8k and weigh like 8lbs.
I'd say carrying the extra weight is a small sacrifice for the raw power of machines like that.

View PostDigerati, on 24 September 2017 - 01:06 PM, said:

Yeah, that Athena and Zeus are nice. But for £1,524.99 ($2,059) I could build a really REALLY nice PC with much better specs and easily connect it to my two 24 inch monitors, full sized keyboard and mouse, and listen to Pandora on my surround sound speaker system too. :)
I have an old speaker set with a nice subwoofer that the laptop more or less lives hooked up to it when I'm at home... in fact I have the greatest hits of Hall and Oats playing through it right now. It's a pretty old rig... a modern one with the same quality would cost an arm and a leg.
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#24 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 02:06 PM

Most companies want and expect their employees to do work at home or off site today - at least they do if you are in any sort of management or professional capacity. Maybe only those in the most routine positions can work with a desktop on premises.
Just take a look at Josh's company where everyone is on a laptop that can be taken home or hooked up as a desktop replacement at work. My brother in law had his car broken into and laptop stolen recently but that won't stop him from getting another laptop. He travels all the time and takes orders for his food service supply company.
My son-in-law worked for years at KPMG and now is an executive with Canada Post. He has never worked with anything but a laptop.
I stand by what I said. It absolutely makes sense to be working with a laptop if you are employed today. I have no doubt that all my colleagues in R&D at Unilever are working on a laptop and have been for 7-8 years. I didn't but I am a dinosaur now. The companies will give their employees what the management deems necessary. In 2002 it was a desktop. Not now.
At the same time if a desktop makes sense for you it is vastly preferable to have one rather than a cheap laptop. That includes retirees and folks who don't need to commute or travel for work. And gamers of course.
As far as all-in-ones go, they combine the worst features of both a desktop (immobile) and a laptop (fragile design, heat, wimpy power supply, no upgrade capability.)

Edited by raymac46, 24 September 2017 - 02:17 PM.

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#25 OFFLINE   securitybreach

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 02:13 PM

w

View PostDigerati, on 24 September 2017 - 01:06 PM, said:

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Most devices nowadays are design with Planned Obsolescence in mind.
I have never subscribed to that belief (that products are designed to fail or become obsolete at some point on the calendar) even though it sure seems like it sometime. I certainly have seen things fail just days after the warranty expired and while infuriating, I do believe it was just coincidence or bad luck, not planned.

Well the hardware may not fail but after awhile, the hardware cannot keep up with the software. For instance, I have an old Atom netbook that works perfectly well for everything but the web browser. The 2gb of ddr3 ram just isnt enough to keep up with today's javascript based webpages. The same thing happens to an old desktop I have (celeron with 2gb ram). The memory is simply not enough for most of the internet.
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"Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress toward more pain." -George Orwell, 1984




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