Ann Arbor Business to Business
Small Business and the Internet

Laptop Dancing

April 2001

By Mike Gould

I had no choice. Apple unveiled the new Titanium G4 laptop computer (Ti), and I simply had to buy one. Techno-lust struck so deep I broke my rule about not buying 1.0 anything. I did wait the federally-mandated 24 hour cooling-off period after seeing the demo, but I put my order in the next day, and have now been playing working with it for 3 weeks.

Felicity
I will try to refrain from describing how sleek, gorgeous, thin (1.something inches) powerful (400MHz, 512M RAM, 20G Harddrive), light (5.something lbs.), inexpensive, and maximally-cool this Titanium-clad beauty is, and concentrate on utility here. Like how to live, travel, and work with a laptop; why you want one, stuff like that. Did I mention this thing has the largest, sharpest screen of any laptop available? Puts anything in black, aluminum or beige to shame. OK, I'll stop now.

(For those of you out there who have deep interest in the nuts and bolts of this and why I tore it apart the minute I got it home, see my article online at my website: http://www.mondodyne.com/tipb.html.)

Utility
My wife asked, when I explained my deep and fundamental need to buy a laptop, "Another computer? Why do you need another computer?" "Because I need it to schlepp files around and work on clients' computers", I responded, improvising wildly. And so I do. As a roving computer doctor, I often need to talk to a client's machine on a personal digital basis; computer to computer, via EtherNet. It also makes a dynamite demo machine for showing off my Web work to prospective clients. I put the entire contents of several of my sites on my Ti, and can call them up with a click. With its 15-inch diagonal active LCD screen, presentations are big, bright and clearly visible to a group of people - just the thing for you PowerPointers out there. It also has a DVD drive and an sVHS output, so you can play movies either on the big screen of the Ti or on the bigger screen of your living room TV. So far, we've seen Bug's Life, Gladiator, Body Heat, and Independence Day with this puppy. A few glitches here and there, but definitely usable.

This means that you can put your company's promotional videos on DVD and play them for clients from a 1" thick piece of Titanium. This tends to get their attention.

For those concerned about my wife's take on my sudden purchase, and its effect on our marriage, rest assured that she is the inseparable owner of an iBook and understands why one's life cannot be complete without constant wireless access to eBay. For this you need a laptop, so she understands completely. Thanks for asking.

Mobility
The main reason anyone buys a laptop (besides the fact this one is SO FREAKIN' COOL) is to do computer behaviors on the road. When you travel, you do email, you write reports; you need to do the same sorts of things you do in your office. I don't travel that much, but when I do, I really need to keep in touch with work and clients. The Ti also comes with the capability for wireless EtherNet, so I can work in my living room instead of being chained to the big box in my basement office. Airports and other places such as Starbucks are now starting to provide wireless Internet access, so I will be able to do email while waiting for planes the next time I fly. For more on this, see my previous B2B article, "Wireless Madness" (available at: http://www.mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.35.html.

Synchronicity
If you have a desktop machine in your office, and maybe one at home, you will need to synchronize them. The idea here is to have the same version of your files on all your machines. Each should have the same revision of the files you're working on, your incoming and outgoing email, address information, bookmarked Web sites, and the like. There are a variety of utility software solutions for this, and, being new to this, I am in the process of figuring this out. With successful synchronization, you also get the bonus of backup: if your office box goes down, you can continue working with your laptop. You also need to make sure your laptop has all the same drivers as your desktop machines, so that you can synch your Palm Pilot to all your computers, or burn backup CD's from them all.

You also want to have a wire you can plug between all your computers for data transfer. The usual means here is a cross-over EtherNet cable, and the Ti does support this. But a cooler and faster means is via FireWire: with a simple procedure I can turn my laptop into an external harddrive that appears on my desktop's desktop. With a simple click and drag I can transfer the entire contents of one drive to the other, if necessary. This is how I loaded up my laptop in the first place. I had 8 gigabytes to transfer, and doing it wirelessly via WiFi would have taken 3 hours. I hooked in an EtherNet cable to my home network and the download time shrank to 2 hours. I connected via FireWire and the job took a little less than an hour. The onboard FireWire also means the Ti can talk to suitably-equipped digital video cameras and the onboard USB connection works with still cameras just fine.

I'm just getting warmed up here
But I'm out of space; next month: discussion of security issues and carrying cases.

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