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  • #16
    Re: Buying a laptop-need help

    Originally posted by ToUtahNow View Post
    Dell's accident insurance is awesome when you need it. After I broke my leg I spent 6-months in a hospital bed. One day with my Wi-Fi card sticking out the side of my laptop I lost my grip and it fell to the floor. The card snapped in half which also broke the mother board. Within a few days Dell was at my house with a new mother board and got me back in business. A few months after that they came back and replaced my screen when something else happened.

    However, if I read Ben's post correctly he may be headed to the sand box and I know Dell doesn't not make house calls there.

    Mark
    I left mine on the dining room table plugged in. My dog jumped up on the table to get something when she jumped off so did my computer My motherboard broke and there were pretty lines on the screen. They replaced it no problem! Not many places stand behind their products even in spite of accidents and abuse.
    I love my plumber

    "My Hero"

    Welcome, Phoebe Jacqueline!

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    • #17
      Re: Buying a laptop-need help

      Now you've been mentioning that you've gotten a laptop to last 4-5 years which is fine by me but what about the data on it? How do I keep from losing that?
      Buy cheap, buy twice.

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      • #18
        Re: Buying a laptop-need help

        Originally posted by gear junkie View Post
        Now you've been mentioning that you've gotten a laptop to last 4-5 years which is fine by me but what about the data on it? How do I keep from losing that?
        Backups. That is the only way. Most of us are pretty bad about that.

        The only time you should lose the data is if you lose the hard disk. If you have a CD burner you can make backups of the important data. Backing up applications is a lost cause at this point, you just need to save the original CDs.

        Unfortunately that is one of the components most likely to fail (because it has moving parts). Thinkpads now have a solid state disk option (flash memory, no moving parts), but they are very spendy.

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        • #19
          Re: Buying a laptop-need help

          what about those big external hard drives?
          Buy cheap, buy twice.

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          • #20
            Re: Buying a laptop-need help

            Originally posted by gear junkie View Post
            what about those big external hard drives?
            Those work to, but are no more reliable than the internal hard disk. Also, the CD burner should just come with your laptop, the external hard disk is extra $$ (but no media costs after you buy it).

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            • #21
              Re: Buying a laptop-need help

              It's a balancing act. We all want the "ruggedized" version, but none of us want (or can justify) the extra $2000-3000 they cost. You have to understand the environment it'll be in. If you plan on pulling the laptop out of the box outside in the middle of the desert you're going to want the most rugged thing you can get. Mostly, though, you'd be in a tent or vehicle when using your laptop. With those requirements, a little maintenance and common sense will save you the 2grand. If you think there's sand inside, turn it off and blow the crud out with some canned air. Sand is sharp, abrasive, and can sometimes cause short circuits, though not very readily. Sand is silicon, which is what the chips are primarily made of. The problem is really the repeated abrasion of sand grains on the delicate circuit traces. Get the stuff out before it has a chance to scratch the boards.

              On the ports, sand can get in there and cause a physical block that keeps connectors from making contact. Usually you can blow that out with canned air. Sometimes you have to use what we call Percussive Maintenance. This means to turn off the laptop, unplug EVERYTHING, turn it so the offending port is pointed down and gently whack the machine in the area of the port connectors. It works. It's NOT recommended.

              The worst thing for a laptop (or any electronic device) is being around salt water and sand. As around the Atlantic or Pacific coast. The sand causes abrasions and the salt in the air will cause oxidation. Just being around sand itself isn't necessarily as bad as one would think. Sand isn't good for the device, but as long as you're somewhat careful and keep as much out as possible, you should be ok.

              Personally, I prefer Toshiba. Dell would be 2nd place. Sony's are cool and all, but I think you pay too much for the name. The cool factor gets lost about the second time you have to return it for service. The Sony's are light, though. If that's a factor, keep them in mind.

              Wireless access is generally available in towns where people don't think they need to secure the connections, or don't know they need to. Most laptops will have wireless built in, and will have software that will show you the connections that are available and if they're locked or not. If it's not locked, chances are you can use it and they won't know about it. Keep in mind that those connections are not secured so whatever data you're passing is done in the clear and anyone can read it (with a very minimal amount of hardware and freely available software). Don't use those connections for doing your banking!! There has been some controversy from some coffee shop type places that provide free wireless for customers. At least one place tried to prosecute someone for just using the connection from outside the shop. If it's that kind of place and you have time, just go buy a cup of coffee or something and use the wireless all you want.

              Whatever you decide, get a few cans of air. Don't use a compressor blower to clean it out. The canned air is clean, but the blower from a compressor may not be. You don't want to blow oil or contaminants into the system. The advantage of the canned air in the desert is that if you turn it upside down and blow a little air, the can gets really cold! It can get scary cold, as a matter of fact. Enough so that you could get your skin stuck to it if you're not careful.

              For backup, I do use an external HD. It's a risk, however. The drive in the external box can fail just as easily as the drive in the laptop/desktop. However, since the external drive has fewer spinup-spindown and read-write cycles, it's less likely to fail as soon as the ones in the computer itself. Again, it's a balancing act. I'm hopeful the drive in the external box has a better MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) than the drive in my computer. Or at least that the lesser use of the external drive means it will be working when my computer drive fails. I guess we'll see!! It's easier for me to backup to the external device than to keep swapping disks into the DVD-writer. I've got more data on the two drives in my computer than a DVD will hold. I made a conscious decision to use an external hard drive. I know the consequences of making the wrong decision means my data is gone. I also keep copies of my personal documents and emails on at least 1 other location. The chances of all 3 devices failing at the same time are slim. This means there is a chance, though. It's just a chance I choose to take.
              I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.

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              • #22
                Re: Buying a laptop-need help

                To GearJunkie for starting this thread and to all that responded, a big THANK YOU. I've been looking for one myself. I just found this thread and will be reading it over.

                Sandy, Please make up copies of any critical data in more than just one format and the stuff you burn to CDs or DVDs, put in your bank safe deposit box. I was super thankful I did just that the other day with a document (was for fun) that required over 500 hours of my time. I screwed up and deleted it from all magnetic storage versions thinking I had deleted the draft. Well, I deleted the good version. Thankfully I had burned a CD with all versions and when at the bank put that in the safe deposit box. Normally I don't bother, but something that would really be a pain to loose is IMO well worth taking extra time to backup in several ways. As for an external hard drive I really think everyone should have one. I want to get one where I can swap the actual hard drive and it needs to be a full size drive that I can install in a tower or desktop. IDE-ATA and formatted NTSF. That way I can have it as the second drive here. Depending on file size and the total amount of backup data, I get along with a good CD-R, CD-RW drive. DVD drives are nice, but do price them out. If you don't need one, you might want to put the $$$ into more RAM memory. That's especially true if you ever plan to upgrade over time to Windows Vista. You really want 2 GB or more memory. I have this in good faith from several techs that went through the upgrade cussing. I plan to keep Windows XP Professional for some time.

                Back to external hard drives: Anymore a 40 GB IDE-ATA 3-1/2" desktop drive (replacement) comes pretty cheap. Having several for file backup is just great. It's also good to have a file over-writer program that will over-wright files, folders/directories or the whole drive. Do use such with care.

                Good lucking finding a nice one, GearJunkie. You might check around for a local company that owns good laptop PCs but wants newer ones with more fancy stuff.
                Last edited by Woussko; 05-28-2008, 09:49 AM.

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                • #23
                  Re: Buying a laptop-need help

                  Originally posted by VASandy View Post
                  Personally, I prefer Toshiba. Dell would be 2nd place. Sony's are cool and all, but I think you pay too much for the name. The cool factor gets lost about the second time you have to return it for service. The Sony's are light, though. If that's a factor, keep them in mind.
                  I agree on Sony. There's nothing particularly special about them other than the name. Most people I know who've had them never go back since they find they can usually get more for less with other brands.

                  As far as quality, brand loyalty is really something that doesn't pay off with laptops. There is not any significant difference in quality from one manufacturer to the next. Besides, most of the important stuff inside comes from the same places. IBM Thinkpads used to be the gold standard in durability since they were intended as business laptops which means they will be used by people who don't actually own them so they don't take care of them. They were usually built with much better metal hinges and rugged casings. Once Lenovo bought them they have had some drop in quality.

                  For data reliability there are three words. Backup, backup, and backup. DVD's are the cheapest way but with monster sized harddrives now they are getting impractically small. I've also had a lot of burned DVD's that don't even work after a year. The media is not always very reliable long term. An external hard drive would make things a lot easier and faster. It can fail as well of course but the odds both the laptop drive and external drive will fail at the same time are quite small. Another option is drive mirroring (known as RAID 1). Two hard drives write data simultaneously. If one fails the second kicks right in and no data is lost. This is rare to be doable on a laptop but I noticed some new HP's are bringing the option of dual internal hard drives in mirrored configurations. The problem of course is price. This will run at least double your budget.

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                  • #24
                    Re: Buying a laptop-need help

                    It just depends. We do not have a desktop. Neither one of us like to sit at a desk to be on the computer.

                    I never did (or my brothers) use to make my parents nuts! We all had our own rooms with desks and we would fight over sections of the dining room table or couch.

                    I like to sit on the floor, couch, and bed while I type. I won't mention where Rick uses his

                    Rick has big hands and doesn't have problems with the laptop being too small. I don't think he even notices anymore.

                    Ok Woussko-this was for you. But by the time I typed this you deleted most of your original post.
                    I love my plumber

                    "My Hero"

                    Welcome, Phoebe Jacqueline!

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Re: Buying a laptop-need help

                      Joey, Please look again. I made a mess, deleted it and tried to fix it up. I think it needs more work but I'm leaving it up for now.

                      I really don't know if I could get used to a laptop without a real mouse, full size keyboard with the number keys to the right and a nice big high quality monitor like I can have with the desktop setup. Mostly I'm an old fart and I like things that just feel and seem right. If someone has always worked on a laptop, my bet is if a 19" LCD monitor were connected to it, they would be blown away the first time. A friend has a nice laptop and when I showed him what it could become by connecting up goodies at home he was like WOW. "A portable desktop setup." Too bad all the fun goodies cost good $$$.

                      I think for field work, it's best to do lots of backing up of files, destroy any critical ones on the hard drive you no longer need for security reasons (Not delete them but use a program that writes several times over them) and then just spend what you can for it. Think of a live and learn and then upgrade. If you destroy a $500-$1000 laptop that's not like if it were a really good one of $2500 plus. Yes, it hurts but just not as much.

                      Note: Stay away from Gateway as they have been taken over and shipping lead time is running into months anymore for some models and several weeks at best. They are NOT the old company they used to be. :-(
                      Last edited by Woussko; 05-28-2008, 10:19 AM.

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                      • #26
                        Re: Buying a laptop-need help

                        Originally posted by Woussko View Post
                        I really don't know if I could get used to a laptop without a real mouse, full size keyboard with the number keys to the right and a nice big high quality monitor like I can have with the desktop setup. Mostly I'm an old fart and I like things that just feel and seem right. If someone has always worked on a laptop, my bet is if a 19" LCD monitor were connected to it, they would be blown away the first time. A friend has a nice laptop and when I showed him what it could become by connecting up goodies at home he was like WOW. "A portable desktop setup." Too bad all the fun goodies cost good $$$.
                        I always have two docking stations, one for work one for home. Each one has a Microsoft natural split keyboard (without it my wrists would hurt after a while), and a Microsoft wheel mouse. At home I have a 19" CRT that is 10 years old, and at work I have a 19" LCD. I think that the small screens and less ergonomic keyboards are just not worth it since you can spend money to get better keyboards and monitors, but you can't spend money to get new eyes or wrists.

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                        • #27
                          Re: Buying a laptop-need help

                          Originally posted by gear junkie View Post
                          This is the criteria I was looking for, need lots of help;


                          4. want to spend around 500
                          $500 is no where near enough for a decent laptop that will be " in date" for 2 years ,

                          Listen to YOUR own "signature" and spend at least $800 - $1200

                          I have owned many laptops in the last 5 years , and can make some great recommendations on some if you are willing to spend more,


                          Oh your signature says "Buy nice not twice "

                          Listen to that for sure when it comes to computers ,

                          BTW - DON'T buy a dell laptop for starters , There batteries suck and burn out after a year,

                          Just look at the reviews on Dells website.

                          Just to start I would suggest

                          Windows based = HP , Toshiba , Compaq

                          Mac = Mac

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                          • #28
                            Re: Buying a laptop-need help

                            Originally posted by PlumbingSkool View Post
                            $500 is no where near enough for a decent laptop that will be " in date" for 2 years ,

                            Listen to YOUR own "signature" and spend at least $800 - $1200

                            I have owned many laptops in the last 5 years , and can make some great recommendations on some if you are willing to spend more,


                            Oh your signature says "Buy nice not twice "
                            I don't think I max out my computer's capability as much as you do. I have a dell desktop at home that is 512 meg/40 g hard drive and it's 5 years old. Runs fine no problems and haven't maxed it out yet.

                            Really appreciate everyone's comments. I learned something new from every post. Thanks alot. This is what the plan is-tell me if I'm thrown off; I was going to get a new dell 2g(only cost 25 more to go up to 2g) 160 g laptop for 500. I was going to wait till 4th of july. The difference between a new and refurbished computer was only 75, not enough not to buy new. Dell's refurbished do come with a 3 year warranty.

                            Sandy brought up the point about dust control and rick mentioned in the past about keyboard covers, do they make one for labtops? I'm just going to be in a dusty tent or vehicle. I'm not using the computer during a sandstorm.

                            The wireless thing. If I use wireless internet, could someone access my computer files while I'm connected? What dictates how fast the computer is?
                            Buy cheap, buy twice.

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                            • #29
                              Re: Buying a laptop-need help

                              Sorry to add another factor to consider, but most new laptops will come with Vista installed. If you have programs that you might want to install or anything that requires drivers, you should check to see if they are Vista compatable. I do believe that there are still some XP laptops available. I think Tiger Direct had some in their last catalog.
                              When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

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                              • #30
                                Re: Buying a laptop-need help

                                First a comment to CPW, if you're reading I think you have been a welcome member of this community and you're input here has been very helpful. I also have a question regarding Vista. Is it difficult to switch from the vista operating system to windows xp, and what would be the down side? I am use to XP and with the exception of ordering XP installed by Dell I'm kind of stuck with vista. Thanks.

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