Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Once you go laptop-can you go back???

Hey alls,

I just had my laptop tweak out for a week (power cord was messed up), so I had to use my backup desktop.  It was really difficult since I didn't have freedom to sit where I wanted too....

Now, right now I telecommute, so this is not a big deal.  But have any of your had experiences where you had to switch from a laptop to a desktop, could you handle it?

razib
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Considering tha desktops are superior in nearly every way, yes.

pb
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I just got my first laptop... and I'm spoiled.

This things may be more expensive, but they sure are worth it!

Eliezer
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Desktops are superior in every way? Really? I wasn't aware of that. How about mobility?

As a consultant, I move around from client to client. A laptop is critical. Even if I weren't moving around, I really enjoy the ability to take my work with me anywhere I go.

The only drawback for me is that I can't get a really good graphics card for them. I've got the GeForce 4 GO chipset and it's pretty darn sweet for a laptop, but it still doesn't compare to something like a GeForce 4 Ti-4600 or Radeon 9500.

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I got my first laptop several months ago.  It's been a fabulous experience.

Now that I can use the computer from anywhere in my house, it seems like the most natural desire in the world.  I dislike being tied to a desk now.

I love being able to hack away at my website, or work on writing a book, from a coffee shop if I want to.

I also appreciate the design that goes into a laptop.  The laptop manufacturer must think about keyboard design, ergonomics, and other issues that a desktop maker doesn't.  My laptop is a well-designed package, rather than a bunch of components that may or may not fit together well.

Brent P. Newhall
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Personally I hate using laptops unless it's a special case where their good points come to the front, I find them much less usable than desktop PCs on the whole; keyboards much less comfortable, I can't get the screen positioned just right, etc.

They are good for space saving and mobility and that's about it.

Robert Moir
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Well, I'll go for the opposing point and say that, aside from mobility, you just can't beat a really good desk bound environment.

And I say environment because in addition to purely computer issues (like faster disk drives (4500rpm vs 10000rpm?)) I'm including: really good keyboard, mouse, good chair, good adjustable desk, perfect lighting, multiple monitors, plenty of desk space for printouts and books, etc, etc, etc.

Well, my point is that, sure, it's nice to sit under a tree while answering some emails, for day-in, day-out, hour-after-hour programming I want my heavily customized work space. And under a tree or a conference room or the kitchen table just doesn't cut it.

Bill Tomlinson
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Oh, one more thing....there is something to be said about having a laptop and a wireless internet connection in your house.
Normally, when I'm at home I work from my office. However, there are times when I want to go upstairs  to watch TV and answer emails, or work in the den while keeping on eye on my son crawling around,etc, etc. Being able to take my laptop around the house and stay connected is quite convenient.

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I'll definitely buy laptops for the rest of my life.  "I can't go back!"

Am I missing something, but I don't think that a few issues have been brought up:

1) You CAN get laptops that are just as fast as desktops.  I think they are as fast.  With Alien Ware and Saeger (sp?) you can get laptops that  use the Intel P4 processors (read: NOT the Intel P4-M's).  Maybe they are not ... as fast ... but quite close.

2) Just because you have a laptop doesn't mean that you can't plug it into a docking station (which I got included free with mine) so that you can use any mouse, keyboard, or monitor that you want.  So I don't buy that argument.

So now, I have a situation where I can get a laptop that is pretty much as fast as any desktop machine, I can use any mouse, keyboard, and montior ... AND ... I can get mobility too!  Seems like a no-brainer.

William C
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

"Desktops are superior in every way? Really? I wasn't aware of that. How about mobility?"

I'm a big strong strapping young lad.  I tote my minitower everywhere.

Mike
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I second Mark Hoffman's comment about the laptop with wireless.

Many times I find myself at my desk coding, and then I get up and move onto the couch to read email/surf the web/watch the tv.  I move from room to room on many occassion.  Just last week I was at my kitchen table watching a DVD on my laptop while eating my Cheerios.

Mmmm...laptop with wireless...droooool.

William C
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I can't go back either.  Fortunately, I have small hands, which helps.  Even though many laptops have "full size" keyboards, the keypress travel distance is less on a laptop keyboard and this sometimes bothers those with larger hands.

One irk though, is the unavailability of trackpoint (the eraserhead in the middle of the keyboard) on most laptop brands.  I'm hooked on my Thinkpad's trackpoint and wince when having to use a touchpad.  Also, it should be manditory that all laptops have some hardware equilivalent to a wheel mouse.

For 95% of applications, even a low end laptop is capable enough.  $1500 gets a pretty nice system.  They're almost disposable...

Bill Carlson
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

"I'm a big strong strapping young lad.  I tote my minitower everywhere. "

Hehehehe...Back in the day when laptops were inferior to desktops, I remember hauling my 486DX (monitor and all) into my car every weekend so I could work on a project with a friend 100 miles south of here.

(That was also in the day when hard drives didn't handle being hauled 200 miles every week too well. Backup software was my friend.)

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The best thing about laptops and wireless is that you can take a big crap while enjoying this forum.

In fact, I'm producing some massive business objects right now, as a I write this post. Hold on... time for a core dump!

Okay, now let's do a System.gc().

Dr. Super
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Why is it that I'm 31 and doody-humor such as Dr. Super's has me laughing out loud!

I tend to not bring the laptop into the bathroom.  Although, as I'm sure everyone here can attest, I use that place for some of my best ideas/algorithms.

William C
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Ten minutes later. Still laughing. :-)

/Daniel, Stockholm

Daniel
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I have a laptop since ages. It isn't the fastest computer money can buy but it is suitable for 95% of the tasks I do.
When I need more power, I just connect it to the office LAN and remotely open a session on one of the servers.

trd
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

If they made laptops with a 21' screen, large keyboard, and a good mouse I wouldn't mind using one.


Wednesday, March 12, 2003

So what is stoping you from plugging your laptop into your docking station and using a 21" monitor and the keboard and mouse you like?

I thought I brought that point up already.

William C
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Once you go iPod -- can you go back to a stationary stereo? :-)

raindog
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

To play devil's advocate (as I am a laptop fan), the only negative I can find about being a lap-top consumer is the price.  I'm supposed no one brought this up.  Obviously the desktops are much, much cheaper for the same speed/power.

But, I'll be happy to spend the extra for the convenience.  It is worth it.

William C
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I like a cheap laptop and a good desktop, if it's my money.  At home, this works fine.  My laptop can be used to access my MP3 collection, my various files, websurfing, etc.  For hardcore work and gaming, I switch to my desktop.

At work, we are issued laptops, monitors, keyboards, and a port replicator.  Which works fine for the most part.  The latest laptops are getting pretty good.  I love the laptop because I can run both the LCD and the 21" monitor, giving me still more screen space.

flamebait sr.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

One of the greatest things about laptops is the screens some of them are coming with. Dells in particular are coming with astounding ultra-super high resolution displays that are a godsend to anyone who does a lot of visually cluttered work

Jimmy Chonga
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Sorry, the 4500 rpm hard drives in laptops are the ultimate killers of performance. I find laptops frustatingly slow, esp for development tasks like compiling, etc.

Tyler Soltis
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

For the last several years, I used a notebook PC exclusively.  It was top-of-the-line when I got it several years ago, though weak by current standards.  As a consultant I travel regularly, and being able to have everything with me has been convenient.

Nonetheless, when the time came for a new machines, after extensive thought, I went with a desktop system...  but I spent as much on the desktop system as I would have spent on a high-end notebook.  I got some pretty nice things for the tradeoff, by far the most important of which is dual 19" LCD flat panel monitors, with DVI video boards.  I'm extremely pleased with the new setup, much more pleased than with the highest-end notebooks I could find.

Of course, I'll keep the old notebook to travel with; it turns out to be pretty easy to keep the things I really need with me on it, for example in a few minutes I can current source of all the projects I am working on.  When the old notebook is finally too slow for that, I'll replace it with a low-end, small, lightweight notebook, which will be far more portable than the mammoth high-end notebook I would need if it was going to be my primary machine.  And I won't have to worry about loss or theft of a multi-thousand-dollar portable machine with my entire life stored on it.

Kyle Cordes
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Laptop for sure.

Prakash S
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

You've got to look at these things with an open mind.  Obviously some people here are dead set on what they think is best and filter out all new information (maybe I fall into the same category --- but I still haven't seen a convincing argument).

Here are examples of laptops I speak of
============================

This laptop has:
* P4 2.8 GHz 533MHz FSB w/ 512KB Cache
* 40 GB 5400 rpm HD (not 4500 rpm claim I've seen twice)
* 512 MB DDR PC-2100 - Two SO-DIMMs

http://www.1shoppingsource.com/alienware/laptops/detail.php?ProdID=Area-51m

This laptop has (I am drooooooling, Once my laptop gets to be 2 years old -- I'm getting something similar):

* 16.1" UXGA Active Matrix LCD Display
* P4  3.06 GHz
* 1024 MB PC2100 DDR memory
* 60.0 GB (5400rpm) Ultra DMA Hard Drive
* TV-Tuner with Remote, Detachable MP3 Player Modular

http://www.sagernotebook.com/pages/notebooks/product2.cfm?ProductType=8887&SubType=V

Just look at that 2nd laptop I linked to.  My goodness that is sweet!

It's laughable that anyone here could complain of speed using any one of these laptops.  *giggle, giggle*  Slow.  *snicker, snicker* :)

William C
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The one thing I could do without is the lack of laptop reviews.  But oh god, I am so not a desktop kinda guy.  The ergo, power, reliability, and the discrete components of desktops is better, but you can't take it with you.  And plus, I like to recline, be on my back or on bed.  I just have to be sure I'm not leaning on my elbows or twisting my neck.

I can't wait when it finally comes time to get an IBM Thinkpad.  I only really care about reliability and good design, and on Wintel that probably means only Thinkpad.  Let the desktop chug away at compiles!

I probably wouldn't be a programmer without laptops; I'd associate it with too much pain.

Tj
Thursday, March 13, 2003

I always want to use the latest high-end 3D graphics card, and I'm cheap, so a laptop is out of the question for me.

But I sure do like looking at some of the tiny Japanese micro-laptop designs. They're like little works of art:

http://www.dynamism.com/index.shtml

Anonymous dreamer
Thursday, March 13, 2003

---" It's laughable that anyone here could complain of speed using any one of these laptops.  *giggle, giggle*  Slow.  *snicker, snicker* :) "----

That's cause they're all desktop processors. The crunch question on speed is how fast can you dive into the swimming pool to cool your parts after using them on your lap after half an hour.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, March 13, 2003

My friend Dave has a Sager (not that exact model) with a desktop processor and there is no heat problems.  Doesn't generate more heat than my compq presario.

I remember Dave telling me that the P4's don't generate as much heat as the P3's (optimized to perform fewer instructions?).  So much so that they could be used in laptops.

Also, don't discount the way these laptops are manufactured (AlienWare touts "Advanced cooling technology).

This was the point I have been originally trying to make.  At one time, the latest laptop was inferior to the latest desktop.  This is not the case anymore (to an extent .. you wouldn't notice anyway).

William C
Thursday, March 13, 2003

As I like to have a big screen (like 20"), tied to my desk I am... even if I have a laptop.

Philippe Back
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Desktop P3's had a ).25 micron core.

P4's started out with a .18 micron core (Williamette) and then moved on to a .13 micron core (Tualatin) with copper wires instead of aluminum ones. It is this that makes them run cooler, and allows desktop chips to be reliably used in laptops.

P3M's originally had a 0.18 micron core and then were shrunk to a 0.13 micron core. They run at 1.1v off mains power and .945v at speedstep.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Why not have a laptop for working at clients' sites, at home etc, and have a docking station with seperate monitor, keyboard and mouse on the desk at the office?

Bod
Thursday, March 13, 2003

I currently user a "desktop replacement" also known as a luggable and when I next upgrade I'm torn between buying a small form factor PC or an even meatier luggable.  The three main issues I think are: am I going somewhere with a nice monitor, how often will I travel with it, and do I really want to sacrafice sitting in the garden with a cool drink and my laptop while I chat to someone on the phone in a stuffy computer room?  Hmmm, now about that plan for a garden office...

John Ridout
Thursday, March 13, 2003

I've been using a Dell Inspiron with a Pentium III for 3 years now, and I have to agree with the "why would I want a desktop" crowd. You want to talk about mobility? I just bought a Logitech wireless keyboard/mouse combo for it! Combine with an external monitor, and it's the best setup ever.

The only downside to laptops (besides their price) is that when certain pieces of hardware goes, you are QUITE screwed my friends. You better hope that warrantee hasn't run out yet!

Mark
Thursday, March 13, 2003


Just look at that 2nd laptop I linked to.  My goodness that is sweet!

It's laughable that anyone here could complain of speed using any one of these laptops.  *giggle, giggle*  Slow.  *snicker, snicker* :)

******
Compare that to a dual Xeon system with 15k SCSI drives and dual head that can be had for the same price.
I've used a dual CPU/SCSI desktop for about three years now, and even P4 - 2GHz boxes feel slow sometimes compared to my dual 866's.

The issue is "what do you do with your computer?" Sure if all you do is read email, surf the web, or write HTML maybe a laptop is enough. But when you've got two development environments open, a bunch of IE windows, SQL Enterprise manager (with SQL Server running on the box), etc, etc, well... that's when SMP and a good SCSI bus make their presence known...

Philo

Philo
Thursday, March 13, 2003

My biggest concern when I switched to a laptop was screen realeste. At the time going back to 1024x768 seemed chalenging to put it mildly. So I looked around for a long time before setteling on a model that had good video-out, external keyboard + mouse connections without needing a docking station. Got a Toshiba Tecra 8100. After the first week I stopped bothering plugging in the external stuff, with the exception of the mouse. I do not want to be deskbound ever again.
Now I want a Tablet PC convertible.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, March 13, 2003

They both have advantages and disadvantages.

Desktop advantages: fast, ergonomic, upgradeable, big screens, multiple screens.
Disadvantages: not portable.

Laptop advantages: portable, doesn't take space, doesn't clutter the desktop.
Disadvantages: impossible to upgrade, not very ergonomic keyboard, limited speed, limited graphics.

This said, I have one of each. I could therefore avoid the trap of buying a "desktop replacement" laptop which is barely luggable, and could get a reasonalby light one. Yes, it will get old fast, and I can't upgrade it, but for this I have the desktop (I bought the laptop 1,5 years ago and it is already half as fast as my desktop). In the desktop, I have a real graphics card (eh well... for fast compilations, yes, that's it!), HUGE hdd (two of them, cost almost nothing) - and btw, the 20 gig disk that was top-of-the-line for the laptop one and a half years ago... well - and a rather fast P4.

The laptop is great to have. It has built-in dvd/cd-rw, which means I can take it with me and rip&burn whatever music I like. One night on a cross-Europe drive, in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere (Poland, actually), I burned a few cd-s with music from the laptop because I had gotten tired of the cds I had with me. That's cool. Also, with the wireless card, and with broadband at home, you can read mail/browse the web from everywhere.

But at the same time, it's nice to also have a desktop that you can upgrade when the next Unreal is released, with huge hdd-s where you can keep everything and so on. I meant next Visual Studio of course...

Dimitri.
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Note that the latest crop of fast laptop drives generally have equivelent specs to a the 7200 or even 10,000 RPM SCSI drives a few generations back.  I wouldn't want to use them to edit video, but they are great for most "normal" usages.

flamebait sr.
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Philo,

I'm not an "html coder", so I do understand the need for speed.  I will have multiple Visual Studio IDE's open all the time.  I will go through all the same things you go through (past year and a half I've been developing for palm/pocketpc/windows).

The laptop I have now is a 900MHz with 320MB RAM and I don't see it getting in the way of any development I do.

My friend Dave just got one of the Sager's (I think it's 2.4GHz P4 w/ 512 MB RAM).  He got this 3D/graphics/Benchmark thingy from MadOnion.com.  I forget the numbers, but if 10,000 was the max -- his laptop was scoring 8,000.  We were watching the different graphic intensive tests they run and he was getting 30-40 fps on most of them.  That thing kicks butt.

But hey, you're going to tell me that when you compile one of your projects on your machine and compare it against a machine similar to my friend Dave's ... that you will notice the difference in compile-times in terms of multiple seconds (not milli-seconds).  Well, Great!  I, personally, would trade convenience/mobility for that extra milli-second.

William C
Thursday, March 13, 2003

I'm writing this on my Tablet PC: I won't give up my desktop PC  for writing code, but the Tablet is my system of choice for design and note taking in meetings.

p.s. 80211b rocks at home and at work!

--
http://www.braithwaite-lee.com

Reginald Braithwaite-Lee
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Those tablet PC's are so cool.  We had 3 in the office just recently (for a project we are working on).  I like the handwriting-to-text converter.  Very nice.

The thing is, those things are more expensive than most laptops! Yikes!

William C
Thursday, March 13, 2003

I'm using the Toshiba 3500, It is more expensive than equivalent laptops, but at least it is also a full function laptop.

Reginald Braithwaite-Lee
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Philo,

On my laptop, I routintely have two copies of VS.NET, at least one copy of TOAD, SQL Enterprise Manager or MySQL Control Panel (one of the three, not all three), a few Terminal Service sessions and a handful of IE windows open. At all times I've got the SQL Server and MySQL services running. My compile times are just as fast as a similiar powered desktop.

The only time that super-duper SCSI disk system is really gonna shine is when you are basically doing server type applications, at which point both the argument about desktop and laptop is pointless since we're heading in the direction of rack mounted equipment.  I suppose that if you were compiling a *massive* program that took longer than 20 minutes to compile, you would probably see some performance increase with the SCSI on a single processor desktop, but IMHO, even that would be marginal.

(But yeah, a dual processor desktop with a screaming SCSI system is gonna be faster, but c'mon..that's not really a typical desktop so it isn't a valid comparison.)

Mark Hoffman
Thursday, March 13, 2003

uhhh yeah...Mark Hoffman said it much better than I did!  :)

The thing is, I do have that sneaky suspicion that Philo's comment was more of a "I'm a real developer not an html coder" put-down (not realizing that I am, by his definition, a real developer).  But then again, I don't know Philo.  So I could be way off base or just reading too much into it.

===

Oh and that Toshiba 3500 is cool.  I wouldn't mind, as my next laptop, one that swivels into a tablet pc.  But with those sager's that I'm eyeing, I'm not sure if that is possible (also I do want the 16.1" screen or bigger -- if by the time I'm looking they get bigger).

William C
Thursday, March 13, 2003

William -
No way did I mean that. I was commenting on the idea that some developers work in a text editor, others use more complex GUI's. This is not an indictment against either method (the only thing that *really* matters is producing a product), just a recognition that one method requires more horsepower than the other. :-)

Philo

Philo
Thursday, March 13, 2003

Philo --

sorry about that.  I shouldn't have even brought it up.  You're cool with me and I'm also insanely jealous of your current set-up (regardless of it not being a laptop :)

William C
Thursday, March 13, 2003

well, this topic really sprang up.  for me, using a laptop is more about the options than actually moving around.  for instance, i tend to sit at a desk most of the time rather than lounging about-but, when i'm on my desktop i don't the choice.  i think there is a psychological comfort level difference....

razib
Friday, March 14, 2003

Being new to the whole laptop experience, I have to say that I love it. I just scored an IBM Thinkpad with a 366 PII. Not a great system but good enough to play some simple games, Write PHP, and Run an Apache server for testing. I absolutely adore the ability to go to the local coffee shop and write code.
The thing I like the best is the mobility. I have a home office in my basement with my other two PCs and I can't tell you how many times I wanted to just go upstairs and work on things. I don't feel like I'm staring  at a cubiicle wall in my own home anymore. I won't be going back to a desktop only situation again. But I still like to play GTA3 on my beefy desktop.

Robert Jones
Friday, March 14, 2003

One of the main issues with getting a laptop is finding/having a good location for it where you do most of your work at home.

I bought a laptop when I started commuting to work by train. It was a godsend for that - I could do work, work on personal projects, play games, etc. The only problem is that I didn't find a good location for it at home - no matter where I set it up, I was always needing to move it (set it up on the table and I'd have to move it to eat, etc).

I finally cleaned off a small desk for it and now it's as useful at home as it is on the train. Just clearing off a corner of my normal comuter desk wasn't good enough - I couldn't see the monitor for my other computer with the notebook in front of it (besides almost knocking it off the desk several times as I tried).

RocketJeff
Friday, March 14, 2003

My main problem with switching on the fly between a laptop and a desktop is mainly:

1) Is the keyboard layout the same?

2) Is your workspace the same..

If you got most of your work files over an VPN from your laptop (accessing your corporate network) that's great
because they will probably have the same network mount points on your office desktop.

Same thing with outlook.

The main problem is finding your bookmarks on one machine and not the other.

There's really no reason why you can't love or hate both of your machines :)

Li-fan Chen
Friday, March 14, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home