Saturday, August 18, 2007
The last laptop I'll ever have?
Recently I was changing laptops with a head spinning frequency. My old trusted Dell Latitude D600 decided to finally quit on me: with a whimper not with a bang. The relationship lasted 3 years so I was not really surprised. It took me about 30 seconds to put my disk in a similar laptop, which unfortunately decided to quit as well. Than I found a HP Pavilion that weights about as much as baby elephant and makes sound similar to that of the starting jet engine. Applying adjective 'portable' to this beast is probably a text book example of unintended irony. Finally I got a new HP Compaq nc8430. This wild ride made me realize couple of things.

I take it for granted now that I can take my hard drive, pop it into completely different machine and my Fedora will wake up, dutifully discover everything and will start working. I might get suboptimal video or my wireless might be missing, but everything else will just be there. And whenever I cannot take the hard drive (apparently the standard changed when I blinked) I can take my trusted home directory.

It sounds normal but when I mentioned it to my Windows based colleagues they were certain that grieving the loss of my Dell confounded my sense of reality. Everybody apparently knows that switching laptops can take weeks if not months of painful reinstalling, countless migrations application and hours on the phone with your friendly customer support transferring your software licenses. Why exactly people put up with it is beyond me.

I am proud user of nv8430 these days. Switching to HP is a company mandate. I cannot really full-heartedly recommended it for daily hacking. Screen is gorgeous, but ATI video card does not really run well unless you install proprietary driver. No Beryl fun to be had, so I cannot show off to my Windows friends. The fan never switches off and runs quiet only if I set ARI card in a power saving mode. And apparently 'business class' is marketingese for 'ugly'. But with its dual core it's noticebaly faster than Pentium M Dell. Cuts sipXconfig the compilation time to about 70%, and I can run infamous sipXconfig's 'ant precommit' target (which cleans, compiles and run all kinds of tests, including database and UI tests) in about 5 minutes (used to be more than 10 recently). The battery life is decent too: measured in hours not in minutes.
I am yet to figure out how to put it to sleep or hibernate. Out of the box Gnome's sleep option makes X to go away and text console spitting some garbage (I am blaming the proprietary video, but I have noo proof yet).

I certainly hope my hard drive changing behavior would soon become a norm. I will stop carrying laptops altogether. I will just carry my a flash disk with favorite Linux installation. There will be a powerful, generic diskless station in the office where I plug in my hard drive and after 10 second boot procedure I will have my familiar environment. And even that will be a short-lived fad because the internet will make it possible to store OS image on-line.
So this might be the last laptop I'll ever have. I should be nicer to it.

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