Today in “ooh, shiny” news

I have identified a need for a number of gadgets and am presently trying to decide how and when I can afford them, if at all.

1 – a new laptop

I had a rather good laptop last in 2007, which was my main computer, and what I used for work in Chesterfield. It got stolen while we were on holiday (along with all my files – now I backup using Mozy) and since I had just stopped working in Chesterfield, I elected to replace it with a desktop computer, which is still pretty much everything I need for routine work, internet and light gaming. It’s regrettably not beefy enough to play the last version of Civilisation on, and so almost certainly won’t be beefy enough to play the next version. ((link helpfully doesn’t use Vista’s system of calculating system spec and I basically can’t understand a word)) ((the fact I can’t play Civ may actually be a good thing – I’m not going to have the time in the forseeable)) ((have mostly been playing Freeciv recently and it keeps whupping my ass)) ((I basically need to write a post about Civ, clearly))

The main use for potential future laptop is for the few weeks in the year when I have to work away from home – essential would be the ability to write blog posts and edit sound files using Audacity.

I’ve tried using one of the early Linux EEE PCs and the Council lent me a sub-notebook when we were doing the paperless pilot, and I think I confirmed to myself that they are just too small to be useful. The EEE PC is a bit of a pain to type on, and the Council mini computer had such a tiny screen it wasn’t easily possible to use the Council’s email system on it.

So, I think I need a proper laptop. Wandering around PC World presented me with an enormous, almost bewildering, degree of choice.

One thing’s sure, though: I don’t have Mark Pack’s budget.

2 – an iPad

I’m a little promiscuous when it comes to OSes – my present active gadget list includes a Mac Mini doing media work on my desk, playing DVDs and iPlayer, an iPod Touch, a broken Linux EEE PC, a Nokia phone and a main PC. Somewhere I have my beaten up 2003 laptop, an IBM Thinkpad which really refuses to die, also running Linux. although doing so so slowly as to be next to useless for actual work.

For a long time, I was an iPhone refusenik. I’ve been a Nokia user ever since I first had a mobile phone. But unless they do something amazing pretty sharpish, my N95 will be my last Nokia phone. I’m not sure whether to go iPhone or Android next, but either platform simply leaves the Nokia miles behind.

In fact, I only bought the iPod touch because using the N95 as a media player is such a terrible experience. If you put anything like 8gb of media on it, it slows to a crawl. The software for syncing is awful, just awful. Their recent “upgrade” of the sync software from PC Suite to Ovi Suite made matters worse – and actually removed functionality in favour of funky videos, to howls of protest from anyone who actually uses the phone rather than sees it as some Nathan Barley-esque SpeechTool.

The UX of using the iPod Touch is so good that it’s become simply the best way of having a mini computer near the telly for all items such as checking twitter, email and facebook, feeding my Foopet eKitteh, or checking out any of the numerous apps, many of which are brilliant – including Carcassone, the Good Beer Guide, and Monkey Island.

And of course the iPod Touch is good for listening to things on. iTunes makes adding podcasts to it really easy, and I mostly use it for that whilst leafleting. It has 60Gb of songs on it that I almost never listen to and the most uptodate BBC podcasts that help make leafleting less of a chore.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying I could totally see how there would be room for an iPad in our household as the not-quite-a-computer that lives in the sitting room, for light gaming, light internetting and light pretty-much everything else.

But the only thing about it that rules it out is the price tag. The cheapest one is the best part of £500, which could buy you a proper laptop that could do full on everything instead of light. I have reservations about whether it could be used for typing more than a couple of hundred words for away-from-home blogging, and the fact that it doesn’t have any way into it apart from the Apple cable means I couldn’t use it for editing sound files, one of the key things I have to do when I’m away from home.

3 – an Amazon Kindle

I’ve gone into some of the reasons I want one of these in an earlier post. Partly it’s the early adopter thing (although I’m way behind on the whole ebooks front). Partly it’s the idea of carrying a lot of books in a small space – something that’s particularly exercising my mind as for practically the first time ever, I’m going on holiday abroad by plane for a full fortnight on our honeymoon. I don’t think I can fill a suitcase with enough books to keep me going 2 weeks, and it’s vitally important I have something to read on the plane coming home as trashy paperbacks are the only way I can stay sane through all the hours of sitting in departures and on the plane itself.

Another email arrived from Amazon today to goad me into buying a Kindle by announcing the launch of the Amazon UK Kindle Store – which lets me get a feel for how much more I’d be spending. The costs don’t seem too bad, particularly for titles that aren’t in the first flush of youth, but they are more expensive, for the most part, than secondhand paperbacks, without even the benefit of being able to pass them around friends and family.

Loading the thing with a fortnights’ worth of books is going to set me back a fair bit, and doing so would be a bit of a leap into the unknown – would I in fact get along with reading books on a gadget I’ve never actually touched or played with? I’d be lumbered with the bugger if I spent all that money, loaded it up with a fortnight’s worth of reading, and then found it was actually a major pain to read. I’ve played with a Sony Reader in John Lewis and they seem essentially OK, but really it would only ultimately be possible to road-test it by owning it and trying to read a novel on it.



They’re sort of overlapping decisions, and a “perm any 2 from 3” type problem.

All three should be able to be used for reading committee papers on the Council, assuming the Council keeps its promise about unrestricted wifi in meeting rooms. (( currently you have to use a Council computer in the few rooms where wifi is available. Long term, I don’t want to have to have a Council computer because I want one computer I can use for Council and personal use not separate Council and personal computers ))

You could read e-books on all three, but it would make more sense on the Kindle and the iPad.

You could buy a reasonable laptop plus a Kindle for the cost of the most basic iPad.

Both the iPad and Kindle are essentially only gateways to make you pay more to either Apple or Amazon.

The main things ruling the iPad out are the price, the lack of keyboard and not being able to use it for sound.

I’ve gotta make my mind up soon because I need the new laptop before conference.

Decisions, decisions.

(NB, one suggestion, put it on the wedding list – has been half-ruled out for a number of reasons including trying to stick to things that will last for all of married life, not just the next few years, the lack of certainty of getting it, and the fact that these are things for me, not us!)


7 comments on “Today in “ooh, shiny” news

  1. MatGB says:

    I think you lose many geek points on not knowing how to read a standard min-specs list there 😉 This netbook, unfortunately, is just below the min specs for Starcraft II, so even if we could afford to buy a game right now, couldn’t play it.

    Re Laptop purchase, might it be worth looking into a mobile broadband deal for it? We got this one on it, it was a £450 machine at the time but we’ve got a $25 p/m for 2 years deal, which isn’t bad when you take into account the mobile access. Was very useful for me when I got horribly lost leafletting an area I didn’t know, admittedly phone could’ve sorted that out but it’s nice to just know I can pick up and go anywhere, including meetings &c, and have access to what I need.

    iPade looks overpriced overhyped thingy to me, HP bought Palm to get the OS, I’d say wait see what they come up with, their last tablet was apparently quite good, just not actually usable with Windows as the OS, so…

    (I like my Nokia 5800, but the music player is worse than the Sony Ericsson one I was used to before. Then, I’ve never ever used sync software, drag/drop all the way for me, so if Nokia’s is bad I wouldn’t notice)

  2. John C says:

    Heh! I guess you’re working for the wrong council if it’s a iPad you’ll be wanting…

    Not sure I see the logic in that idea..

  3. niles says:

    Mat – nothing else I do with computers needs me to know the relative merits of graphic cards. All else, I can get my head around, but I don’t know how “Intel(R) G33/G31 Express Chipset Family 286 MB” relates to “256 MB ATI HD2600 XT” – although I do know those are the worst scoring things on my computer.

    John – yeah, I’m highly dubious about Leicester City Council doling out iPads to its councillors, I think that’s barely justifiable on a value for money idea, and I have said so publicly and to staff at Nottingham who’ve started to think it’s a good idea. What’s the betting those machines end up being used for personal things as well as council business?

  4. niles says:

    Oh and on the mobile data thing – I’m not sure that’s how I want to go not least cos I already have mobile data in my phone contract.

  5. MatGB says:

    Oh yeah, mobile data on the phone is good, but tethering it by bluetooth is a PITA at best, and can eat up the bandwidth and battery quickly.

    It’s a lot easier to sit in a meeting (or even a fringe event) with the netbook open and ready to go, and no relying on anything else.

    Calderdale gives all their councillors a free laptop of mid spec, but it’s very restricted on what it can do (for “security”), so much so that I couldn’t upload pictures from one to the LP website, thus stopping the Cllr from communicating with voters (not actually got that stupid policy reversed yet, must harass the right people now we’re in control), and I think they do it so they’ve control of email and similar. To the annoyance of @JohnBM who just got elected, “you can have this, or this, or this” “so I can’t use my own, personal, much better IT stuff” “no, we’ve never had an IT literate Cllr before, we don’t know how to deal with you”

    I can see the logic of iPads instead of laptops if it’s mostly for documents and communications, but again, wait for price to fall. I think it would save money mid term, but…

    (oh, you got me on graphics card chipsets, I don’t know either, even after I looked it all up, I suspect the MB figure is all that really matters, but…)

  6. neil h. says:

    If you like the iPod touch, then the iPhone is the one to go for. My iPhone is my browser of choice for sofa based surfing whilst watching the telly, and it works fine as a phone for me. I looked at the iPad, but decided against it as it seemed a bit too heavy to be comfortable to hold for long periods. We’ve ordered a Wifi Kindle and I’m interested to see what the browsing is like on it.

  7. […] banter with Labour activist1 reminds me to share the news that I have made one decision after my tech wavering, leaving plenty more up in the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s