Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In my-y-y life ...

Dependence. Realised once when the object of dependence is gone, realised again when a poor substitute arrives.

Laptops. My first, back in 2001, was a big clunky tank of a Thinkpad, shaped like a mini-bar and twice as heavy. I lived with that machine for nearly 4 years, carried it to just about every major city in this country and some cities outside. Plugged in what used to be called an air-card, stayed connected (as some of you might vouch) from Coimbatore and Ahmedabad and Jamshedpur (Kawardha beat me, though). Ran presentations off it 3 days a week, rummaged through it for old files and data, watched films on it on long boat rides to Haldia and on longer flights. I was a travelling salesman and it was my box of samples. We belonged together.

The Tank eventually gave way to a sleeker Thinkpad. With a touch pad. There’s life outside the track pointer!? Glory Hallelujah! I was converted within a week. Week? It took a day. So fickle are we, so quick to luxury. I sneered at that little nub that had been my support for years. But T2 and I were not long for each other. In two months, I changed assignments and bid her adieu.

In the next office I was Shown a Laptop. Such a laptop, O citizens of the cyber-world, such surpassing grace! A sleek metal shell with nary a straight line, blinking lights, a low businesslike hum … it might have got a featured role in Star Wars, it might even have made a pass at R2D2. It was a Character. But it was not a functioning laptop. I’d power it up, go into a meeting, come back and clear my mail, have a cup of coffee, finish a few phone calls – then check to see whether it had got around to asking for the password. It was the Ultimate Babu – solid, slow, dim-witted, contrary, unable to adapt (no DVD drive, ONE USB port?) and No Bloody Use.

There was a story behind that machine. Apparently my predecessor in that office had Attended an International Seminar. (Held in Calcutta, alas – International Seminars are so much more effective when they’re held in Rio or Majorca, but what to do, what to do.) And at that Seminar he saw one of his ilk, a fellow Babu from Bengal, yea, even a Bald Babu from Bengal, Making a Presentation off a Laptop. Which Presentation was Well Received and Mightily Applauded. The Predecessor, bless his na├»ve soul, thought it was genuine appreciation, little realizing that after lunch at a seminar all applause has One Great Cause, to wit, the need to Prove that We have been Listening and no NO we were NOT asleep. The Predecessor also Made the Next Presentation. Where he used transparencies. And Felt Inadequate. Wherefore the Word went Forth, Fetch me a Laptop, yea, even the Finest in the Land! And the query came, what are the specs? Then was there much bewilderment in the land (or at least in the company) and a plaintive question was heard, what specs? For specs there were none. Whereupon the Chaps at the Authorised Gorment Supplier exulted. And Fell About Laughing. And fought among themselves to Unload their Dud Stock.

Thus it came to pass that I was saddled with that Thing.

Out of evil cometh good, for the sheer awfulness of it goaded me to look for a new laptop. Which was how I came to find Penelope. Ah, Penelope, love of my life etc. (J. Humbert Prufrock?) Light, good-looking, easy to use and above all good to me, she was a Toshiba M300 Portege. We were together for two years until I switched to my present assignment. When I handed her over I saved her soul on three separate hard drives, but woe is me, I can never have her body again. (This is about as carnal as a middle-aged bureaucrat can get.)

My next was a Sony Vaio. Very posh, all mod con except maybe hot and cold running water and a back scratcher, but it Lacked Soul. I always had a sneaky feeling that it secretly sneered at me because I never played Halo or set up a video conference on it. Face it, a Vaio’s great for graphics and multi-media, it has major snob value, but it makes little sense for a dinosaur like me. When it was stolen last October, my sense of loss was tinged with a faint relief.

So now I’ve raided the office store and dusted off this Thinkpad. It’s bigger and heavier than the Tank (with a screen I could hire out to INOX) and only marginally faster than The Thing, but I’m grateful that I have SOMEthing to keep me company over the morning coffee until I can get a replacement.

Which brings me to what B.W. Wooster might, with his usual twittering brevity, term the res, the nub, the gist, the crux of the matter. What should I buy? The Toshiba M500 Portege would be the obvious choice, but it’s way too expensive. Poor value for money. Sony is out for much the same reason. HP have a couple that come close to my specs, but they’re heavy. The IBM X series are in there, but they don’t customize. Dell have put together an offer, but they’re trying to push a Latitude 430 – it’s light and small, but it has a 1.2 Ghz processor, no built-in optical drive and reviews say it super-heats to about 60 Celsius. I’m too old for Half-burnt Hams, thank you very much.

So where do we go from here? I use the laptop for (loads of) documents, the occasional presentation, photo-dumping, the Net and once in a long while, an in-flight movie. Which means I need a stable system (enough RAM), a fast but not super-fast processor, all the slots and ports possible, mid-range graphics and decent sound in a LIGHT package. Since I have a ginormous flash drive for data back-up, the optical drive can be external (translation – it can go in my checked baggage and not cripple my shoulder). Budget is not really a constraint, but it wouldn’t hurt if it came cheap.

Suggestions, wise people?


ArSENik said...

If budget isn't a constraint, make the switch. As they say, once you go Mac, you can't go back! OK, they don't actually say that for Macs, but it's good stuff. Good battery life, not to mention enormous sex appeal and the gray Mac Book Pro even matches your hair color probably :)

WHAT'S IN A NAME ? said...

Sir,you have been tagged.

nimbupani said...

Why not look at the new EEE PC by Asus?

I have been trying to get one too!

mystic rose said...

You had me laughing. Just about anything on the market should do the trick. I would go for last year's models.

Vivek Kumar said...

What do you mean "budget is not really a constraint"!?

You work for The Gorment!

Oh wait.. you're right.

D said...

Just stumbled upon your blog... And though I have no advice to give on the laptop front, I did want to say that I'm going to be back because I liked this place.

WHAT'S IN A NAME ? said...

Compaq Presario or something from the Dell stables, I would like to suggest.

DD said...

a macbook pro is what i recommend. i am using it for the last four months, and it is unbelievable.

Kele Panchu said...

Buy a Macbook! Mine is running for 4 years now. I have also heard that they run windows nowadays, if you care. For desktop you can always keep a virus-infested PC. :)

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Arsenik, only a transparent Mac would match MY hair.

WiaN, some time.

N'Pani, 4GB hard drive?!

Mystic R, 'last year's models'? I hope you don't mean Carol Gracias (but Nina Manuel, mmmm ...)

Vivek me boyo, you're learning.

D, always welcome.

WiaN again, thank you for the comprehensive overview.

DD, yes to MacBook features, no to size and weight. They start at 15", I'm looking at 11" and 3 lbs.


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Arre, Panchu Shaheb je! You commented while I was replying, but I think I've got your point covered.


Lekhni said...

I cannot suggest a laptop (mostly because I have no idea what models are available in India), but I can point you to where you can find the info:

amit varma said...

Whatever you do, avoid HP. Battery life dwindles to nothing in a few months.

I use a Lenovo at the moment, and am quite happy with it, except that the sound sucks. But that's all that's wrong with it.

love and squalor said...

HP/Compaq tend to die one day after warranty expires. Trust me on that.
Yeah, the obvious solution is to buy endless lifelong warranty I guess. Or to not buy an HP at all.
As for a Mac, I think people conform to the whole people who buy Apple products are non-conformist thingie.

I recommend a Toshiba. coz my dad owns a tablet and I a regular one and we're doing just fine. for a long time now.

The Black Mamba said...

Mac again. Get the 13" white and get additional RAM.

You can even install Windoze on it and run your office apps.

and boot back in mac to watch movies - the display quality is to die for.

mystic rose said...

too predictable...:)

'Last year's models' doesnt have the same connotation to me as to you. :D

Renovatio said...

I would say a mac too, except I personally lean more towards a mac desktop, which I've used often enough. When someone handed me their macbook, I spent a good twenty minutes befuddled by the inability of the touchpad to click-by-tap.

Vivek Kumar said...

Strangely enough.. I have been using a HP/Compaq Laptop for more than two years now without any real problems.

Ceruleus said...

Dell Inspiron 6400, Mr. Prufrock. Since you no longer have to import it from the US so its much cheaper now. I have one, its great. Interesting read!

neha vish said...

If you don't mind the learning curve, a macbook would check all your boxes. It's lovely and works like a dream. And you don't really have to worry about compatibility with Office documents either.

Did I mention it's lovely?

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

The 13" MacBook looks good - thanks, Mamba. How heavy is it?

Right now the Dell Latitude 430 is in the lead, mainly because it's light.


Neeraj Banerji said...

If you can wait, sit tight until Jan 15, when the annual MacWorld conference happens in SF. Apple rumors suggest a revamped Macbook/MacbookPro line incorporating some sort of sub-notebook that will be 11-13". I think it will be a good time for us both to switch.

B. Jabberjee said...

I have finally located you, strange and amusing person who commented on my new (and largely empty) blog two weeks ago.

The idea of a laptop being an "Ultimate Babu" is strangely conceivable. And terribly amusing.