August 2011 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


OK, enough already. We get it. Suffocating heat and humidity. Constant rain. Giant mutant bugs. Tropical-sounding birds and absurdly dense vegetation that grows a foot a week. Yellow-gray air that smells like sulfur and burns your throat. Lightning flickering on the horizon at 2 am. The lights dim ominously. Don’t look now, but I think somebody broke the planet.

On the bright side, great thanks to the anonymous reader who sent me a recertified IBM/Lenovo T60 ThinkPad from Woot. Apparently Lenovo released these packages to a number of outlets; Woot sold out quickly (which is the whole point of Woot), as did Newegg, but Newegg now has them back in stock for about $225. The consensus seems to be that it’s a great deal. I love this computer.

A thing of beauty.

Back in 2006-7, the T60 was the top of the Thinkpad line, selling for $2500-$2800 new. These things are built like tanks, extremely solid and close to indestructible, sporting a magnesium roll cage protecting the innards. This particular model comes with a smallish hard drive (60 gigs) and not really enough memory (1 gig), but more memory can be had for ~$25 for 2 gigs and the HD is easily swapped out if you really need more room. It comes with Windows XP, but I cured that with Linux. It runs like a top and has a dual-core Intel processor, which makes it snapper than my desktop, which is coming up on its tenth birthday.

Interestingly, it also comes with an IBM docking station, which is very, very cool. (The docking station alone goes for $209 on Amazon.) When the computer is in the dock, you have both VGA and DVI monitor connectors, serial and parallel ports, digital sound output and all sorts of other neat things. But what I really love about the dock is that it solidly holds the computer at a slight tilt, the perfect angle for typing. It’s actually reminiscent of using a portable typewriter. Combined with the legendary ThinkPad keyboard, this is a really great machine for writing. The screen resolution is 1024 x 768, again a bit outdated, but also perfectly suited for writing. It also has a built-in 56k modem for when civilization collapses next year and a tiny little keyboard light atop the screen for when the grid goes down. And, for some strange reason, a fingerprint reader. And Bluetooth.

By the way, if you’ve never used a ThinkPad keyboard, you really don’t know how good a laptop keyboard can be. I cannot believe folks seriously use those ghastly MacBook keyboards all day. They’re like tapping on glass. ThinkPad keyboards make you want to type. (I must really like them; I use an IBM UltraNav keyboard, essentially a standalone ThinkPad keyboard, with my desktop computer.)

Oh yeah, before I forget: at the foot of each entry here you’ll see a teeny-tiny Google +1 button you can click if you have a Google account of some kind. It’s the equivalent of a Facebook “like” button but more immediately useful to me, because the number of “+1’s” a post gets shows up in the Google search rankings, and about 70% of my traffic comes from people searching for a word or phrase on Google. So, if you are so inclined….

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