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A laptop or a desktop – what should my next computer be?

By December 13, 2008 No Comments

About two years ago my laptop died. A disaster. It was my life or at least my whole life was in it. As a consultant it was my lifeblood. It is almost always with me. I keep client information, email, proposals, and a myriad of other critical items on it.

Rather than doing just personal research I asked a networking group I belong to – The Greater Philadelphia Senior Executive Group – via a group mailing list – what thoughts they had as to best computer to buy and where to buy it.

I got lots of responses which ran the gamut from specific manufacturers, from specific retail outlets to favorite online sites with reviews and comparisons, to specs.  I also got very specific opinions from laptop bigots and  desk side bigots.

In the end, one piece of advice stood out above them all.  Regis Betsch, a colleague and friend, asked if I had mixed my personal and business life on my laptop. I had. He pointed out the risk to me personally if I lost the machine or it was stolen from me. All my bank accounts, etc were resident in my Quicken files.

The lesser, but equally disruptive, issue would be what had happened to me. The laptop died. In my case, it completely croaked; sometimes it just a hard disk failure and subsequent replacement.

If you back your files up religiously then the latter issue is completely recoverable. Thankfully that was true for me and soon I was operating on my wife’s desk side.

Regis pointed out that since laptops of equal capability to desk side machines cost about twice as much it would be economically beneficial to make my main machine as powerful a desk side as fit my budget and my needs. That would also mean security for me as my personal files wouldn’t be leaving my house.

Regis suggested that I could get a relatively inexpensive laptop because it was essentially going to act as a terminal for me. He suggested that I use Citrix Corporations GoToMyPC as a method for accessing my desk side seamlessly from anywhere I could find an Internet connection.

I followed his instructions to the letter and it works really well. I got an HP Pavilion a1640n with Intel Core Duo Processors, a graphics media accelerator, 2 Gigs of Ram, a 250 Gig hard drive, a DVD/CD drive, 8 USB ports, 4 different memory stick slots, and a fire wire slot.

But what really sold me was that it came with an HP Pocket Media Drive (USB 2.0) slot. I purchased a 60GB portable HP Media Drive for it with a cable that also “hot swaps” with the HP built-in slot and any other machine, like my laptop. I do all my backups to this drive and so have my key files on two different hard drives.

I have a more powerful laptop than I need, a Dell Latitude D620 running XP Professional.  But I got it from a client of mine for a really great price. With the GoToMyPC I could have a very low end laptop and be just fine.

The HP came with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, upgradable to Vista. As a side note, I haven’t upgraded to Vista yet but I am not thrilled with XP Media Center either. It is an orphan in the Windows XP family and many vendors have not bothered with worrying about compatibility. I had to abandon my Palm of many years because the latest Palm OS doesn’t support XP Media and Palm said on their website that they are never going to do so.

All in all its a small price to pay and one you can get around easily by being more careful than I was in checking the compatibility story out in advance for hardware and software you own already.

So now you can concentrate on finding more clients and closing some more business,