As of Saturday, Novemeber 20, I’m officially on my way to losing any claim to the title Iowa Geek. Robin and I signed our names to a lease agreement for a house in Ravenna, which is just north of the University district. The particular street we are moving to has tons of kids, which will be good for Wyatt. There are parks nearby and plenty of shopping within walking distance, which is something it was particularly hard to find in the Des Moines area. I like suburbia, but driving everywhere gets old, especially when you work from home and don’t have many occasions to get out and enjoy the winter cold or the summer humidity. I’m personally looking forward to teh proximity to numerous indie films and live bands around the college campus 2 miles south.
Why the move to Seattle? Obviously not for the sunshine (winters in Iowa aren’t much better). Technology is the primary big factor. I’m part of a tech call-in radio show set for re-launch on 5 January 2005 and rather than traveling all the time to where a large group of techies is located, it’s easier to join the crowd. Besides the flying Windows hovering in the clouds on the east side of Lake Washington, there are literally hundreds of smaller tech companies here, along with plenty of people who truly enjoy technology, which is something very difficult to find in Iowa.
As part of my continuing saga with laptop performance, I’m building a checklist of features to look for to help people make the right decision when they get to the store. The checklist will be made available for free to anyone who wants to use it, in an effort to prevent the more subtle buying mistakes that aren’t caught when reading the features on the product information. There are several things I like better about the HP laptop I’m using, when compared to the Toshiba that’s still in the shop. There are also many features I wish I would have looked for, but never occurred to me until after the purchase was made. One of the things I really like about the HP is proper keyboard placement of the Windows key, which facilitates using numerous shortcuts. The Toshiba layout puts the Windows key up in the right corner of the keyboard, which makes it useless for one-handing most shortcuts. If your laptop is lacking any features you failed to notice at the time of purchase or if there are any great features you never thought to look for, please share them with the rest of us, so we can all make better decisions the next time around.
In regards to things to look out for when purchasing a laptop. I recently purchased a newer laptop and it came with Soundmax integrated digital audio. This is a software based soundcard vs. a physical sound card. I beleive my older laptop with a built in physical sound card gave me better performance and functionality such as echo, reverb, etc when used with my microphone to record audio such as singing (karaoke).
The advice I give to friends (and follow myself) is”
1. to always look at the hinges. They should be metal and preferably broad. The hinges are the hardest working part of any laptop, and I’ve see people have to give up laptops they were otherwise happy with when the plastic hinges went slack and couldn’t be replaced.
2. Look for a good keyboard, with good feel and good button location.
3. make sure its got USB and infra red (yes, infra red – its surprising how useful it. certaintly a better way of syncing your palm or your phone than usb).
4. Avoid Toshiba satellite laptops – they’re always bad.
5. Generally speaking, IBM Thinkpads stand above the crowd.
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