Laptop Decisions

Volume 7, Issue 164; 13 Sep 2004; last modified 08 Oct 2010

When all is said and done, I only want to carry one laptop around with me. That means I have to pick one. So I picked one.

He who has a choice has trouble.

Dutch Proverb

To relieve the suspense, I’ll tell you right up front: I decided to buy the ThinkPad T42p (model number 2373KXU, to be exact): 2.0Ghz, 60Gb disk, 1Gb RAM, 1600x1200 resolution with builtin Bluetooth and Wifi. By no means an easy choice; for a period of several days there, I was pretty sure I was going to go with the PowerBook.

Several things dissuaded me. First, the 15” PowerBook only provides a resolution of 1280x854. (I like to run windows side-by-side.) To get descent resolution, I’d have to spring for the 17” model (1440x900) which is enormous. Also the PowerBook has that touchpad. Really, I dislike it that much. And, although several folks reported success with Emacs and other apps I use, there was some question in my mind of just how reliably they would work under OS X.

What did the PowerBook have going for it? Hardware compatibility: open it up and it’s just going to work, and novelty. Novelty both in the sense that I’ve never done more than dabble on the Mac platform and in the sense there are some very cool applications that only run on the Mac. But by the latter token, there are some cool applications that only run on Windows and I’m not going there.

So when my laptop arrives (in October, sigh, because “in stock” apparently means they’ll ship it in two and a half weeks), I’ll struggle a bit to get it all up and running just right. I’ll have to get X11 configured properly and I may have to wrestle with some possibly awkward driver issues to get the builtin Wifi working. And this time I’m determined to get suspend, and everything else a laptop should be able to do, working properly.

But, you know, those things don’t scare me. It’ll take a couple of days but when I’m done, I’ll have built the critical bits of the OS from sources. That just feels good! (Not for any practical reason, it’s just a geek thing.) And the applications will come. If they’re good, they get ported or reverse engineered eventually. The things I really need will run rock solid right out of the box.

Speaking, though, of applications, I may actually relent and run Windows under VMWare instead of gleefully burning it off every sector of the disk. I do have one Windows application that I use occasionally, it stitches panoramas together. A good open-source replacement would be nice to have. So would a Linux build of Arbortext’s Epic. Hint, hint.

Let me end with a note of praise to IBM and a note of profound thanks to my friend Scott Boag. IBM’s “employee purchase plan” generously includes not only the employees and their families, but also their friends, so with Scott’s help I was able to buy the T42p at a quite respectable discount. Thank you, Scott!


I've not tried it but I recently came across Hugin ( which promises to do amazing things with image stitching, more than the windows stuff that came with my camera can manage.

—Posted by Steve Cassidy on 14 Sep 2004 @ 02:00 UTC #

My favorite example of incongruous use of "end of the day":

"At the end of the day, you have to be able to get up in the morning."

Yours sleepily,

—Posted by John Cowan on 14 Sep 2004 @ 05:42 UTC #

Does "When all is said and done" strike you better, John? :-P

(For readers who didn't notice: when this essay was first published, the abstract began "At the end of the day".)

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 14 Sep 2004 @ 12:09 UTC #

Hugin is spectacular. Thank you for the pointer, Steve! I'll blog it seperately when I've had a chance to play with it some more. I just made a quick sample panorama of our backyard and I'm seriously impressed.

For those that want to try it, this worked for me:

apt-get update
apt-get install libwxgtk2.4-dev libwxgtk2.4-contrib-dev
alien --to-deb --install panorama-tools-2.6bml12-2.i386.rpm
alien --to-deb --install hugin-20040404-1.bp.rh9.i386.rpm
—Posted by Norman Walsh on 14 Sep 2004 @ 02:17 UTC #


Inexplicably, I just got email notification that my laptop shipped yesterday via UPS 2-day service. I only paid for ground shipping, but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth!

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 14 Sep 2004 @ 05:12 UTC #

Congrats. At the end of the day, TP is the best Intel notebook one can get, even if it is less Linux-friendly than some other ones.

—Posted by Andrei Popov on 15 Sep 2004 @ 11:46 UTC #

I faced roughly the same choice. I went with novelty. I'm winning in that my son composed another song this week, using GarageBand.
But for office work, I miss gnome, evolution, nxml-mode, and the like. Especially gnome. I want all umpteen web page titles in the panel/doc, not just "Safari". details:

—Posted by Dan Connolly on 15 Sep 2004 @ 12:03 UTC #