Using a laptop in the office – product recommendations

Using a small laptop when you’re on the road is a great idea, they’re lightweight and easy to pack. You can quickly pull it out and work almost anywhere you can find a seat and get some work done with its integrated keyboard and touchpad but when you’re back in the office, using that same laptop feels confining and inadequate. Depending on what you need a computer to do, you might opt to have another more powerful machine set up on your office desk and just share files between them as needed but thats costly and a lot of folks don’t need the extra horsepower. When you have a full size desk to work at there’s really no excuse to cram all your program windows into a tiny laptop screen. You might even find yourself hunching over the desk uncomfortably because when the screen is placed at a comfortable distance (note: this distance tends to grow as you get older!), the keyboard (at least on most laptops) must remain physically attached to it and usually ends up at a sub-optimal length for comfortable typing. Setting up a monitor, secondary keyboard and mouse on your office desk that you can use with your laptop when you’re in the office makes your a laptop a lot more versatile.

This story is an elaboration of a discussion I have frequently with folks, so I thought I’d just jot it down so I can send a link to it next time someone asks.

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My EliteBook FAILs, back to the Mac (long)

In the first week of July I received in a bunch of machines off my company’s UPS technology subsidy. The story of the subsidy is probably worth a post all its own, but suffice to say, UPS basically gives the company a bunch of PCs every so often based on how much we ship with them. One of the machines we got this time was a laptop that I thought might replace my aging desktop at work and be usable at home since I’ve often got to access our network from offsite. My personal Macbook, one of the early all-aluminum chassis 13″ models from late 2008 is also aging and I was hoping this HP would make a nice upgrade / replacement for home use as well and I’d just give my old Mac to my brother as I’ve done with my last two Mac laptops. I’m sure he was looking forward to that possibility as well. When the HP came in, I was in love. It took only four short months for this relationship to sour.

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First impressions of the B&N Nook

My wife has been reading books on her palm pilot for years but when the prices began to fall on the e-ink e-readers recently I urged her to get one of those instead. The e-ink screens aren’t backlit, so you have to read them in a lit room or outside but they’re reflective (like real paper) so they’re much easier on the eyes than what is, on LCD screens, essentially staring into a glowing lamp. We looked at the Amazon Kindle, the Sony e-reader and the B&N Nook. I’m a long time Amazon customer, so it seemed natural that we’d go for the Kindle, but the Kindle doesn’t support the electronic book formats that our library uses and I’m not a fan of vendor lock in like that. Also, we were afraid that we’d end up spending a lot of money for Amazon content that we weren’t planning to do because it would be so easy. Sony was out because I’m a rabid anti-Sony person – I won’t buy anything made by that company for multiple reasons no matter how great it might be – don’t get me started. The Nook runs Android, supports our library’s file format (ePub, an open but DRM-able format), costs less. While I don’t like the idea of the separate touch screen, at least it doesn’t have a bunch of stupid blackberry-like buttons on it, so we decided on the Nook – here’s some quick first impressions:

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Star Trek medicine

This story gives me hope that we may see just a bit more Star Trek tech in our lifetimes. Wired is reporting on a new medical test just approved by the FDA that physicians should be able to use that can identify respiratory viruses. The tester accepts a sample swab of RNA from an ill patient, converts it to DNA, performs polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to create copies, mixes the amplified DNA with color tags that will only bind to a specific virus, and identifies the virus and displays the results on-screen. The article mentions a New England Journal of medicine report that suggests that physicians get flu diagnoses wrong 83% of the time.