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Need help purchasing a laptop

  1. Sep 14, 2005 #1
    I'm looking for a laptop that will live through my undergraduate studies. Following is some information about me and what I'm looking for:

    - I want something that is reasonably fast and with a decent amount of memory and ram. I don't need some intense gaming machine or anything..I'm not really into play games, other than the occasional trip to addictinggames or miniclip.com. I want something that will allow me to surf the net with ease, and something that I can listen to music on (thus a CD-Rom drive and good speakers are essential!).

    - I'm going to be majoring in physics (..and most likely something else.. philosophy, astronomy, something). I don't how important this is, but it means I'll be taking a bunch of programming courses for the physics bit.

    - Price range? No idea.. about 1000-1500, I guess.

    That said, I have another question as well: I've had my current computer, a desktop, for the past four years, and it has a lot on it that I don't want to lose. But it has no CD-RW and the CD drive is currently broken. So I can't can't--or can I?--transfer anything, right? What to do? :frown:

    Any help is greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2005 #2
    Laptop

    Your laptop should have a LAN port, put a LAN card in your desktop and set up a small network to transfer your old data. Laptop loudspeakers are generally not much good for listening to music but you can plug external speakers into most these days. Decide whether you need serial or parallel ports before you make your buying choice as alot of laptops do not have these any longer and rely on USB. I use Dell who are cheap and cheerful and not as solidly built as some more expensive ones. Here you pays your money and takes your choice!
     
  4. Sep 14, 2005 #3
    PC or Mac? Really, both platforms are viable. I used a mac to get through all my university studies. (Computer Science and Mathematics double major)

    if you are used to a PC (there is really little difference other than lack of malware on the mac at the moment) then make sure to get a centrino system. a centrino running at 1.6 GHz performs as well as a P4 running at 3 GHz so any Centrino based system above that rating will be fine.

    All Modern laptops come with a minimum of a Combo drive (CD-RW and DVD reader). Try to get a system with firewire in it if you can. For 1400 you can get a decent computer. Since it is a laptop, get the extended warranty and accidental damage coverage because repairs on a laptop start at near 300 dollars, and accidental damage can go up to the price of the laptop.

    Dell Laptops seem nice. My sister-in-law likes hers and Dell has the damage coverage as an optional buy.

    If you want a Mac, you can go with an iBook for 950 bucks after the student discount I would also recommend the 12 inch powerbook. you will get everything you need, and you will have to pay for almost no tools because a lot of the GNU tools are available on OS X (they are available on windows but it is a cludge IMHO)

    MS Office is available for OS X and has more features than Office for windows due to the later release date (The latest Mac Office was released in 2004). I personally only use Office to open office documents. when I write a document, I use LaTeX, which is super easy to set up on OS X and has a nice environment to do work in (texshop is awesome, if you go with windows, you can use MiKTeX to set up the LaTeX environment and Texnicenter to edit your documents). Some people say that if you are looking to get into the Mac platform, wait till 2006 when they release the intel macs.

    Anyway, any laptop you buy between 1000 and 1500 is going to meet all your requirements.

    As far as what do you about getting the info off your old computer, get a 256 MB or a 1 GB USB Flashdrive and use that to transfer your files. it should work on USB 1.1 even if it is a USB 2.0 spec device.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2005
  5. Sep 14, 2005 #4
    Thank you, thank you! I'll purchase the flash drive. Couple questions left though, thanks to my ignorance:

    I thought most laptops come with the jacks for headphones and other external devices? Is this wrong? I'm looking at the 14" iBook (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/t..._1/002-3462415-1124060?v=glance&s=pc&n=565108) and that's not even listed in the description! (By the way, isn't a 14" a little bit more convenient than the 12"?)

    Also, could you suggest some PC's? I found a Toshiba notebook (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/t.../002-3462415-1124060?v=glance&s=pc&n=13632551), and it seems to be better than the Mac. The only difference I see is that it doesn't have Bluetooth. What exactly is this? And could you suggest some other brands, or some particular Dell laptops?

    I'm also not completely sure how Internet works with laptops. Most laptops come with a 56k modem installed, right? So if we want to use cable or something else, we just have to buy the modem?

    Thanks.

    (*I noticed many Toshiba reviewers complain of poor customer service. How true is this? Also, are some brands known to fall apart easily?)
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2005
  6. Sep 14, 2005 #5
    The iBook has a headphone jack, a firewire port, 2 USB2 ports, an ethernet port and a .v90 modem.

    I like small laptops because they are easier to carry around. if you are a student, I would recommend getting your laptop from the apple store on www.apple.com because you can get a student discount on your purchase.

    as for other stuff, really a PC laptop is a PC laptop. If you go with that, just make sure it has a Pentium-M CPU (not a Pentium 4 or Pentium 4m, to make sure, look for the centrino label, then you know it has the right CPU)

    internet in a laptop works in 3 ways. you can hook up to a phone line for dial up with the modem. you can plug into a network, or a cable/DSL modem with the ethernet port (the port that looks like a big phone line port), then there is wireless. a Centrino laptop and an apple ibook/powerbook with airport in it will both have wireless cards. then you can set up a wireless router to connect to the DSL/Cable modem in your house, or you can go to places like starbucks and pay to connect, or places like penara bread maker and connect for free.

    If you make sure the laptop has wireless access, then it will have all three methods for connecting to the internet available to it.

    As for durability. Consumers report rates Apple and toshiba at about the same level (top of the industry) Dell is 4th if I recall correctly. stay away from HP and gateway. IBM is good (as good as apple/toshiba) but since they sold to a chinese company, I am not sure what they quality will be like in the future.

    Apple had the best rating for customer service, Dell came in second. don't know about toshiba.

    after looking at the pages, The toshiba is certainly set up better. do not worry about the dual layer dvd burner because the disks for dual layer is crazy expensive and the tech is going to be worthless in 6 months when Blue-ray and HD-DVD are available (60-100 GB on Blue-ray, 30-60 on HD-DVD as opposed to 9 on dl dvd)

    I suggest going to the apple store at apple.com and setting up a 14 inch iBook to be as close to the toshiba specs as you can and see the price difference under the student discount (you need to enter the education store based on the school you will be attending link is on the right side of the store page)

    make sure thought that you get the extended warranty. laptops are closed systems and if something is faulty, you want to be able to get it fixed (I had to get my HP laptop fixed 5 times in 2 years)

    the difference in the CPU speeds of the two systems you found is minimal, but the FSB (the speed that the cpu talks to the memory) is much higher on the toshiba, but for what you described as what you would like to do, you will never see a difference.

    so, Just see which one you think is a better deal (price wise and use wise.. no spyware and viruses on mac at the moment). Also understand that if you have windows software that you want to reuse, you will have to get a Windows machine, otherwise, you will be fine moving to the mac... just make sure to get the mac version of software. which you can get at any apple store or on line at the apple store or from shareware makers, etc. look around, lots of stuff to find and use.
     
  7. Sep 15, 2005 #6
    Thank you so much! Your posts have been invaluable to me, and I'm not exaggerating. I think I might go with the Mac.

    But I have one last question: If I do go with the Mac, I'll have to buy Microsoft Office, right? Amazon shows the price for this as 250 dollars! Waaa.. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/t...-3462415-1124060?v=glance&s=software&n=541966 .. I might have to satisfy myself with just Word. What's the student/teacher edition (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/t...-3462415-1124060?v=glance&s=software&n=541966), though? Is this just an upgrade?

    Thanks again!

    *Oh, yeah.. will compatibility issues pose a large problem? I want to be able to run all of the handy math and physics programs. And how are Macs for programming?

    *Wait.. I can probably get a cheaper MS Office at my college store, huh? I'll look.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2005
  8. Sep 15, 2005 #7
    MS Office Student/Teacher edition is a full fledged office suite. not an upgrade.

    For programming, Macs are great.

    I use subethaedit http://www.codingmonkeys.de/subethaedit/

    but if you do not like the watermark on your idle window, you can use Smultron http://smultron.sourceforge.net/

    as for the compiling/interpreting, OS X has perl and python with it, if you install teh developers tools (free with the system) you get GCC and G++ for C and C++ programs. There are also a ton of mac packages out there for other programming languages. I have installed (for GCC) fortran 95, the Pascal, Ada, and many other languages. If you go to fink http://fink.sourceforge.net/ you will get all the console based tools for developing that you need for any language.... get use to the console, it is very powerful and easy to learn...

    also, OS X comes with apache 1.3 and PHP4 (though I install the php packages from
    http://www.entropy.ch/software/macosx/php/ because he compiles GD and imagemagic (image manipulation) support and many other options into his php package for OS X. Then you can go to http://dev.mysql.org and install mysql 4.1 for OS X 10.4 and have a full blown Database backend for your programs, or just messing around with.

    I find that OS X offers a much richer , cheaper, and more interesting development environment than windows and one that is easier to set up than Linux.

    for MacOS X development information, go here: http://www.macdevcenter.com/

    it has all you need to learn how to set up apache and mysql, and other stuff, as well as how to do certain things in OS X.

    if you end up getting into programming for OS X, then you should use X-Code (the free IDE that comes with the developer tools) but when you are just starting out, it is easier to edit the file in one of the editors I listed above and then in your console window typing gcc <the file name> or gpp <the file name>, etc. because you are not doing anything fancy that would need all those extra tools that just get int he way of learning the language.


    oh yeah, and oreily books are a great resource for learning new languages.
     
  9. Sep 15, 2005 #8
    can't you use open office (it's free) instead of ms office?
     
  10. Sep 15, 2005 #9
    Yes, thank you. Thank you all!
     
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