Monday, April 25, 2011

Tech Stuffs

I'm going to be spending fall semester in the homeland of Shakespeare and the gang, and I'm very excited. And I'm thinking of getting a gadget or three.

It started out with me thinking about getting a new laptop. My current laptop is about ten years old, and while it works well and I like it a lot for working at home, it's heavy and doesn't do wi-fi (though I think I could get a card thing to make it do that?).

So, I'm trying to decide about what to get. I'm hoping for something really light, but big enough to have a comfortable keyboard (I have fairly small hands, so I don't think that's a huge issue), and with enough power to do what I usually do in terms of programs: I want it to be able to run Word, Excel, a web-browser, and a photo-manipulation software. I'm willing to get an external disc drive, figuring that I wouldn't carry it most of the time.

Thoughts? Netbook or laptop? Brands?

I was also thinking about getting some mp3 player thing, so that I can upload audio books. I listen to audio books at night to help me sleep, and it would be helpful to have something little that I could use (though I guess I'd have to get a little speaker thingy?). I COULD do that on a laptop/netbook, though, right?

I went to look at mp3 players at a local "Most Superior Purchase" store, and there are two sorts. There are these little tiny ones with no screen, but I can't imagine how you'd decide what you wanted to listen to on those, and ones with a screen. But the ones with a screen cost nearly $200. That's a lot, especially for something that's small enough that I might put it through the laundry. (I put a phone through the laundry, so now I'm sort of alerted to my bad habits.)

And if I'm going to pay $200, why not go up to a tablet thing? So I sidled over to the tablet stand, which only had iPads, but later I looked elsewhere. There are tablets that start around $200, and go up, and then I could read on it, too, or watch movies or such (at least on some of them).

As soon as I got near the iPad stand, a salesperson came to talk to me. I think I look like a likely customer. I asked about books, and he said I could find anything I wanted to read on the iStore thingy. So we looked. Yep, you can get editions of Titus, but not an edition I'd find useful. I couldn't find any academic books I thought to look for, though (I used Dollimore's Radical Tragedy as my test, since it's pretty darned popular for an academic book).

And that makes it useless for my needs, right? I mean, I can borrow books to just read at the library. I love the local library, and especially love that they move books around the area public libraries with amazing rapidity and apparent ease. But if I'm going overseas, then having academic books would be great.

One of my friends helped me find academic ebooks on line, later, and you can, indeed, get lots of them. But they're way more expensive than the print verions.

And, yes, you can read them on an iPad or a computer, so long as it can read the format (you can get pdfs).

So I'm at an impasse. Really, I could afford whichever of these I want, but mentally, it's hard for me. I'm thinking a netbook.


  1. Congrats on the fall semester in Bardland!

    I have an EEE PC, which is a small netbook. The keyboard is slightly undersized, but if, like you say, you have small hands, it isn't much of an issue. I have Windows and Linux on it and can run a ton of programs at once without any crashes. The battery life is about 4 hours--not great, but not bad. It has built-in wifi, and I've found it easy to use.

    iPads are tempting for me, but I use enough programs that aren't well-supported by it for it to be a deal-breaker.

    Hope this helps!

  2. I have a new iPad, which I totally love. There are various PDF readers, so that makes things easier. And iBooks and Kindle readers work well on the iPad. It doesn't replace my laptop, but I find I use it more and more. I got rid of my Kindle, as the 90% of the books I want are readily available in e-format. That said, I don't' do 'serious' reading on any device, but now I spend my book money on hard/soft cover serious reading, and fun stuff goes immediately on the iPad. Cuts down on stuff I have to pack!

  3. I have an Acer netbook, and it's easy to carry and use. I'm eying the iPad and Xoom -- Xoom mostly because I've started using Zotero, and I don't know how well it will work on iPads... For those you can get a bluetooth keyboard that is full size, which would be great for note taking.

    We have lots of ebooks in our library, and I haven't figured out how to read them on my kindle. I actually think they are worse than useless.

  4. I like having my ipod, laptop, and Kindle instead of an ipad (which does everything not so well). The ipad is also heavy and uncomfortable to hold as an ebook reader. The ipod and Kindle are so small that they fit in a small handbag and are always available. The new Kindle screen has really good contrast and the battery stays charged a long time.

    I have an Acer netbook which is all right for checking email, but not so good for typing as the keyboard is so cramped. Instead, I would go for a 15" laptop which can handle the programs you want to use and will have a built-in DVD player. I would stay away from an Acer since I have had two failures of my 15" one.

  5. As far as reading library books on a Kindle, Amazon has just announced that the Kindle will be enabled for that in the very near future.

  6. I love my Acer netbook and the iPad, but if I were going for the whole semester (congrats to you!), I'd want to take a laptop of at least 15" for ease of reading. I've used the netbook on research trips, and it's fine for short jaunts, but for sustained effort in writing a laptop will be easier. FWIW, the iPad is great for reading and light note-taking.

  7. I have a 10 inch Acer aspire one, which has been fantastic so far - light, and big enough to type on easily.

    On the mp3 player front, if you're looking for an alternative to the ipod, this can be expanded to at least double its 8 gb capacity, and has a display to tell you what you're listening to:
    I've a non-expandable 8gb version I use for running, which has been fine so far.

  8. I also have an Acer Aspire One netbook. It's got a graphics card so I can even play WoW pretty reasonably. The keyboard is 93% full-sized so it was an easy adaptation for this touch typist. I have completely switched over to the little netbook. Laptops are too darned big to haul around!

    The Kindle is great and should have library support in place soon. It also works as an MP3 player though it's too big to jog around with one in-hand. (Buy a case for the Kindle if you do get one - it is the best thing ever for ereaders!).

  9. Another vote for the Acer Aspire One... I've had mine for two years, have hauled it around any number of archives, and it's the greatest to travel with. Also still has almost 8 hours of battery life.

    I also have the Sansa Clip player - the 4 GB version cost me under $40. If you decide to go with an iPod, though, let me know - my husband bought me one last fall that I've never used (because what I really wanted was the little Sansa), and I'd be happy to let it go for cheap!

  10. So jealous that you get to be in the UK for an entire semester!! That's awesome for you! I hope you get to see lots of good theater!

    As for tech advice: I'm a Mac user, and I think that Macs are really the most durable laptops out there. They are, however, very expensive compared to a typical Windows laptop. Macs are powerful computers, though, and I love them.

    I think a Kindle would be better than an iPad, even though I am doubtful about whether I'll ever get an e-reader, personally. I just don't like them that well. I think, though, that the books you'll want would be more readily available at Amazon's Kindle store than they would be at the Apple version of Amazon.

    And, last but not least, I have an iPhone for pretty much all my mp3, texting, phone, and quick-net needs. Highly recommend it, although I'm not sure what international rates would be like -- probably astronomical.

  11. Rachel8:24 PM

    Regarding the mp3 player option- while it's technically a back-to-school promotion offered through the summer, I'm pretty sure non-students can get Apple's free iPod deal as well. They offer a rebate worth the cost of one of the lower-range iPods every June-August with the purchase of a new laptop, but the rebate can be applied to any iPod. For example, nearly four years back when I bought my Macbook, I spent $50 above the rebate and got a 30 gigabyte iPod Video instead of the 8 gig Nano that the rebate covered.

    And, of course, if you buy a Macbook it will last you forever. My family owns an Apple Powerbook, probably purchased in 1997. It still works and does everything you would expect a computer to do in 1997. Of course, since it's pre-USB and only has a floppy drive and no internet access at all, it's pretty much useless. But it works!

  12. Agreed about the ereaders. I think they're a lot of BS for academics who read a lot of books, rather than articles. (Articles as PDFs, from what I've seen, are actually lots of fun on an iPad, and the lab scientists of my acquaintance love them passionately.) Just like you say, they're expensive, and the selection is terrible — and even more so if, like most pseudologists, you can't even make use of a 'standard-issue' edition of a work of literature.

    I am, however, a Macolyte. (Ha! See what I did there?) They're tons of fun.

  13. Sachi9:34 PM

    Another vote for Acer - I got the 11" one with a 100% size keyboard, since I intended it for heavy-duty note taking and drafting of writing projects. Screen size took a little getting used to, but once I did a bit of Googling, changed some settings, learned to minimize toolbars (F11 is your friend!), I don't even notice now. It's a little under-powered, gets bogged down on occasion, but not too bad. I stream Pandora, jump back and forth between looking stuff up online and writing software, have a bunch of pdfs open, and it's usually just like using my desktop.

    Battery life is great, was hitting 8h when I first got it, and still lasting ~6h on a charge nearly 2 years later, unless I'm doing really heavy-duty power sucking stuff, like watching video. Speakers and external hard drives are relatively cheap, so you can store lots of stuff, play mp3s, access whatever you need, and of course with a Windows OS you don't have to worry about compatibility with different programs etc.

    I took mine on a 3-month research trip this past summer. I was worried about not having a full-size screen and powerful laptop, but it was great. Easy to carry, got everything done I needed to. I still prefer my desk setup with dual monitors, real keyboard, etc. for major writing projects, but for drafting, outlining, taking notes, reading articles, all the other stuff, it's great. And I think my preference for my desktop for major writing is as much about the rest of the environment at my desk as the actual machine I'm using.

  14. I can't help you with tech stuff, but awesome news about the fall!!!