Blog of a Long Distance Worker Tech

The blog about mobile tech for the mobile worker/consultant

Blog of a Long Distance Worker Tech - The blog about mobile tech for the mobile worker/consultant

Ultrabooks are go!

Just like netbooks before them, it seems that Ultrabooks have caught the public need just right for an ultralight, reasonably powerful laptop that does not cost a fortune. These laptops though are not chasing a loss, they are there to make money for the companies concerned, unlike netbooks before them. I cannot wait for the Ultrabook that has a 1920×1080 pixel resolution in an 11.6″ package (my dream machine!)

We’ve seen so much Ultrabook news recently we’re beginning to think they’re catching on. Market research firm the NPD Group has stepped in to confirm our suspicions, reporting a 39 percent jump in sales of premium Windows laptops (900 bucks and up) during the first five months of this year, compared with the same period in 2011.

http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/29/ultrabook-sales-up/

 

Backups on a different level

Ultralight LatopLarger LaptopWith the cost of computer hardware today and the availability of file and folder sync solutions, it makes great sense to always have a second backup laptop available to you at all times such you can alternate or switch between them based on the emergency (machine is dead) to the having a larger presentation laptop and a smaller travel laptop. The sync solutions that work well for me are Microsoft Live Mesh and the Insync solution with Google Docs. Both of these solutions allow you to setup sub folders of your Documents folder as a complete file store that is synchronised to the other machine(s). In the past I have used the sync solutions to provide full files/folder backup and recovery for moving to a new laptop, but with the large amount of data I now sync that has sometimes taken me up to a week to get back and in operation. I see it now as a much better solution to always have two machines on the go simultaneously.

Live Mesh is more flexible in allowing you to have multiple folders all over your machine that you set to sync across all machines, but it does not offer much cloud storage (5GB but you can peer to peer sync without going to this storage) and there are mild rumours that with the coming Windows 8 that it will be ceased. This has proven very reliable for my situation where I have been syncing 80-120GB across three machines but I am not sure I will be sticking with it.

Insync is a much more interesting tool that allows you to use the universal storage nature of Google Docs to sync all your machines to Google Docs, and due to the low cost of Google’s storage ( free for 1GB, $5 for 20GB, $20 for 80GB, $4,096 for 16TB! per annum) you have ultimately unlimited storage. This service also allows you to share individual files and folders using the sharing functionality of Google Docs, and your remote and mobile access is via standard Google Docs on whatever device. I can see me transitioning to Insync only in the coming months.

Email is just a matter of using a webmail solution or one that offers full sync or IMAP to a PC client such as hosted Exchange solutions (Office365) or ,my favourite at the moment, Google Mail for Apps. Both of those solutions offer a complete storage solution for all your email, contacts and calendaring needs. Google offers more capabilities in being able to share calendars with people outside of your organisation and having access to some very interesting Google Apps platforms solutions such as CRM. Microsoft is definitely more behind in that side of things, and way more costly.

On top of that, using Google Chrome with full browser sync also makes sure that every bookmark and extension is synchronised to every machine I use. The final piece of the puzzle is the use of Lastpass to ensure that I have secure access to every password that I need.

So you have no excuse but to have access to a laptop with all of your data, all of the time, and even have access to your data in the cloud.

Full Featured Laptops or Cloudbook

There are a lot of different and new machines out there for the Chromebook to compete with in the portable/ultralight arena. Considering the high price of these machines though, they are certainly priced out of the market in which they would be ideal – the below £200 market. In the £350 to £400 market, they are too limited and extremely expensive, particularly with the lack of ubiquitous network connectivity that will never exist sufficiently unless they can change ChromeOS to work more effectively off-line. The had so much promise. However if you are in the market for a new machine, then take a look at TechRadar’s look at £350 laptops. Considering I have just purchased No.1, the HP Pavilion dm1, on the list as my new primary Ultralight you should certainly find something useful in this article.

 

While Samsungs Google Chromebook is an interesting piece of tech, its not for everyone.

via 10 laptops you can buy for the price of a Chromebook | News | TechRadar UK.

 

 

Keyboards keyboards keyboards…

LaptopFullKeyboardThis is not just a worrying trend, this is an outright movement. If you purchase any notebook with a screen larger than 15 inches, there is an almost certainty that you will end up with a full width keyboard including a full number keypad.

These may be very useful for accountants and other persons who have to enter long streams of numbers, in my view though they really are quite redundant 99% of the time. In my own transition from desktop to laptop for all of my work, I barely noticed the loss. The only time I have needed it is when I ran a Flight Simulator that expected a full keypad in addition to the main keys.

I do notice their inclusion as wasted space on the larger laptops, which offset the main usable keyboard to the left – something that is annoying on a laptop. I find myself accidentally typing one character to the left, increasing my touch error rate simply because I centre myself on the screen.

Thankfully I use a 13 inch machine which does not have this anachronism, so I am not afflicted but it does rule out for me getting any of the 15” machines as a desktop replacement… ever. It also means that I also agree with Apple…

What do you think?

Oh for those who might comment about my use of full size keyboards, well I prefer to get one which does not have the number keys and where I cannot then I MOVE the keyboard so that the actual usable part is correctly centred. This is something that is simply not possible on a laptop.

Notebook Performance

I had cause recently to have an online conversation with a reader who believed that the only worthwhile computer equipment was the very fastest thing you can get. This person was looking at the needs equation from their own perspective which was as a gamer. This is so small a percentage of computer users, particularly mobile computer users, that all I can say is that they were completely and utterly wrong for the vast majority.

The vast majority use a computer to process documents (either read or create or both), browse the internet, read email, access social networking sites (business and/or personal), play music and play video. This is self evident in so many ways, and points to the fact that today a computer, particularly a mobile one, only has to be fast enough. In the old days the development of software outpaced the hardware periodically, requiring the hardware to be replaced just to get an acceptable basic performance. Today even a five year old laptop can run the latest word processor, web browser, email program, and music/video player. The issue is now so much more about battery life, weight, and ease of use.

So what is good enough today? Well as many have shown, most users are perfectly happy with netbook/notebook/notbooks that run with single/dual core 1.5/1.6GHz processors with 1-2GB of RAM. You can see these sorts of PCs still being heavily sold and also cropping up in most homes and schools. I will say though that the experience is not really swish with the lowest specification but they are good enough for almost everyone.

What do I use? Well I do have a number of netbooks with a minimum of 2GB RAM and 1.6GHz Atom processors and they run well enough although can be a little sluggish at times with some software combinations. For my main machine, I have a 1.2GHz Dual Core processor with 4GB of RAM and this is perfectly fine and gives excellent performance (along with the fact that I get excellent battery life at the same time). This is even good enough for some light encoding work (albeit slower than having a 2.2GHz Dual Core). This is what you should go for and nothing less. It is going to take more than a couple of years for people to come up with software that needs more than this. The most important things to have are RAM and Dual Core for that snappy response, as the enemy of all machines is having lots of disk access due to swapping and having a processor locked up doing something else.

Death of Netbooks…

ASUS1005HAThere have been many posts today (like this, and this) as follow up to the Acer story about them dropping netbooks as a product and effectively focusing on touch screen devices. The follow up has been largely about retractions from Acer that netbooks will be an important part of their product lineup.

Many people have stated that Netbooks are dead because of the iPad, but to be honest I do not believe that in the same way that I did not believe that netbooks would kill notebooks. One thing is clear, there is now a lot more choice in the device that you – the customer, personal or business, have when you are travelling. This is all about choice and fitting the perfect device for the individual’s way of working. Some people will find the iPad and similar incredibly suited to the way they work. Others will find the netbook perfect. In addition there are many people out there who believe the 17 inch Macbook Pro is the ideal machine for their own particular work flow.hp-tablet

There will be a reduction in the market for the netbook, just as the notebook had a reduced market when the netbook was introduced. What should be focused on is the size of the combined market of netbook, tablet and notebook… and my impression is that this total market is growing with the new devices. You only need look at people standing in the queue for security at the airport to see the big difference from just three short years ago. Back then you only saw business people with standard 15 inch laptops going through security, and now it is pretty much the majority of people are having to take the netbook/notebook out to have it scanned. Netbooks are everywhere… just as in 12 months from now tablets will be everywhere.

What I believe will happen though is that along with tablets getting more powerful, then the netbook will also become a little more powerful and keep its small size. In fact it is the ultra-portable business machine that is the endangered device in my book. Why give the business person £1500 of machine to break, lose and create a security problem with – give them a £300-£350 netbook with a remote access solution or the £400 tablet. Remember most business people only use Web, Mail and Office…

The Answer to Secure Mobile Computing?

Well Google spilled the beans on their Google ChromeOS NOTEBOOK (interesting that they do not call them netbooks, but then at 12.1inches it is certainly more light notebook than netbook. Here is the promo video.

It certainly has some very interesting features such as full encrypted file system, full separation between customer accounts, single sign on (through Google accounts, which for those using Google Apps is pretty good), and enterprise features – particularly with the number of corporate clients and Citrix being in the main demonstration. We will have to see what this will turn out like, but I cannot wait to get my hands on one of these little devices and put it through its paces as my general usage machine. Will it be powerful enough for me? Past experience with Linux on netbooks is against it, but maybe the cloud now offers the big features that killed my experience in the past dead – Good Calendaring and the handling of Project files.

Cost of the Loss of a Laptop

A new report by the Ponemon Institute in conjunction with Intel claims that the average cost to the enterprise of a stolen or lost laptop is $49,246, once you factor in not just replacement but intellectual property loss, lost productivity, forensics, and other downsides.

Report: average stolen laptop cost is $50K; Intel: buy vPro – Ars Technica.

This is an interesting report, but it is interesting to think about the impact of full disk encryption and full data synchronisation back to base on a continuous basis on the cost. The headings that they used are:

  1. Laptop replacement cost: $1,582
  2. Detection & escalation cost: $262
  3. Forensics & investigation cost: $814
  4. Data breach cost: $39,297
  5. Intellectual property loss: $5,871
  6. Lost productivity cost: $283
  7. Other legal and regulatory costs: $1,117

Now with the disk encryption and data synchronisation, you can see a different picture:

  1. Laptop replacement cost: $1,582 (or less than $500 for a netbook!)
  2. Detection & escalation cost: $262 – probably the same
  3. Forensics & investigation cost: $0, what forensics or investigation do you need when the machine is a dead weight without a valid logon
  4. Data breach cost: $0 as there would be no data breach
  5. Intellectual property loss: $0 as there is little or nothing lost through the data sync to base
  6. Lost productivity cost: $283 (probably the same)
  7. Other legal and regulatory costs: $0 as there is no loss, so no legal or regulatory costs

Now this is a simplistic view, but you can see that with using low cost laptops/netbooks, good full disk encryption and well implemented file sync, you can reduce the ‘cost’ of a laptop loss from $49,226 to $1,045. Even allowing for some error, the cost benefits are good in a loss situation.

Netbooks survival only in recession?

Netbooks

Will netbooks die off as the economy recovers?

Liliputing has a great post here which is based on an Information Week article.

My own view is that Netbooks are helped by their low cost, but that is not their point. Their success is more about their form factor and utility in a low cost package. There will not be a recovery and increase in cost as the market recovers, primarily because netbook or laptop – the price of a computer in the UK is now fixing itself between £250 ($380) and £400 ($600) – $1000 computers are in the past in the same way that $2000 computers are.

Computers are getting into their sweet spot for price and the profit is being impacted by the OS cost. Microsoft is one who must adapt – their OS is now the most expensive single component in the package. I think Microsoft needs to think about its Microsoft tax and less about the Apple tax.

Battery Life

Whether you use a netbook or an ultramobile notebook (same difference!), the one of the most important requirements in my view, particularly for the very mobile worker, is that it has a significant battery life – whole day preferably.

Down with 3-Cell Batteries: Netbooks Should Have 5+ Hours of Battery Life

The only problem with many 6 cell batteries is the sometimes awkward shape and the additional weight that it generally gives the notebook. In fact when I come to replace my existing machine, I will be looking at those machines that give at least 5 hours of battery life. How about you? Do you believe battery life is so important?