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Messages - jomolungma

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Incoming 1Ls / Re: Best Laptop for Law School?
« on: May 08, 2005, 03:38:20 PM »
This might have been brought up earlier, but does anyone have any concerns about getting a Thinkpad since they were bought out by Lenovo? Isn't there a good chance the quality will suffer?

I can't remember where I read this, but I'm pretty sure it was on a tech review website.  According to them, the Lenovo switch will not impact manufacturing or service in the short term, and probably not ever.  Lenovo purchased the ThinkPad line with the goal of improving distribution and costs.  That's how they expect to make their money.  Apparently they are just taking over the ThinkPad production lines and service folks, so the switch to Lenovo should be pretty transparent for ThinkPad owners.

All of this is theoretical of course, but let's think about it - the ThinkPad brand has had a best-in-class reputation in the business arena for a while now.  Why would you mess with it?  The thing you'd want to do is find ways to build the ThinkPad brand in the consumer, education and government markets.  The way to do this is by bringing costs down, not by messing with a proven product.  So my feelings are that the Lenovo switch is not that big a deal.  Plus, some pretty major US companies have given some pretty large sums of cash to Lenovo as investments.  I'm sure they feel their money is safe there.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Best Laptop for Law School?
« on: May 06, 2005, 02:08:26 PM »
Hardware rarely fails, software sitting on top of that hardware on the other hand.. thats where the user interfaces with it and that is where problems happen.

In the 21 years I've been using computers, my computer has never had a hardware problem that was a result of a software issue.  That includes 3 years during college when I used one of my computers as an incubator for viruses and several years working with various flavors of Linux.  I've had software issues that have prevented me from interacting with the computer in the way I would like, but they never caused a hardware failure.

In those same 21 years I have had hardware fail on me several several times.  Whether it's the monitor burning out, the hard drive having faulty sectors, the modem having a short, mice that have stopped functioning, keyboard keys that have broken off, desktop cases becoming misaligned, etc., every year or so it seems like something breaks.  That's why I value a good service plan and a company that provides good service.  Most of my desktop fixes were done by me since the hardware is easily obtainable and simple to work with.  For the laptop, things become a little more complicated and I felt I might need some assistance should something happen.  Also, I don't really want to spend my 1L time tinkering on my laptop.  I'd rather the tech do that while I'm in the other room reading a case or something.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Best Laptop for Law School?
« on: May 06, 2005, 01:18:55 PM »
Used laptops are a great deal.
I agree, they CAN be.  But I felt that the next three years (certainly the next year) was going to be too mission-critical to take my chances.  I've heard just as many bad experiences with used laptops and the like as I have good stories.  If I didn't need the thing to be rock solid (and, admittedly, there is never a guarantee of that, just a greater likelihood) then I would definitely do a refurb or used solution.

As for state taxes, I had the option of sending the laptop to my aunt's house in NJ for less tax.  However, the cost difference would have been offset by the gas and tolls it would have cost me to go get it from her.  Plus, I like the thing to be delivered to me, just a superstition, so I paid slightly more.  Additionally, some (all?) states have this sales tax thing as part of their income tax forms at the end of the year, so if you bypass the state's sales tax upfront you may be liable for it come tax time.  However, if you are just concerned with the cost  today, then there are retailers that don't charge sales tax in all states.  I bought the thing from IBM, which is incorporated in all 50 states, so I was charged tax.  If you bought from J&R in NY, and lived in Minnesota, I'm not so sure you'd be charged sales tax (but, again, you may have to pay that at the end of the year).

Final caveat, this one on service plans - Dell is not offering their accidental damage plan in New York or Florida.  I was told by Dell that this relates to the shipping address the computer was first shipped to, not the address where service is ultimately requested.  The IBM guy freaked me out for a second by claiming the same thing, but then said that it was good in NY.  Just something to be aware of lest you think you are covered when you aren't. (The Dell guy said that, technically, their website should remove the coverage, and fee for it, from your order once you finalize your shipping address in the checkout process.)

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Best Laptop for Law School?
« on: May 06, 2005, 11:52:26 AM »
Ok, after weeks of analysis I finally took the plunge - I just bought a ThinkPad T43.  Here are the specs:

IBM ThinkPad T43 2668-94U
Pentium M 760 2 GHz
XP Professional
RAM 512 MB (+512MB the IBM sales guy threw in free for a total of 1GB RAM)
HD 60 GB (7200RPM)
Mdm/Bluetooth/802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g
Fingerprint Reader
15" TFT SXGA+ (1400 x 1050)
Upgraded warranty to 3-yr onsite repair + accidental damage coverage

Total Cost - $2655 after taxes and shipping (damn NY taxes!)

I realize this sounds expensive, but a couple of things.  First, the same setup without my SUNY Alumni discount would have been about $1K more.  Second, Pitt has a thing where they'll increase your student budget by up to $3K for the purchase of a computer system, so I'm going to take advantage of that.

It came down to the X41 vs. the T43 (and I'm not 100% sold on the T43. I'm definitely going to use my entire 30 day refund window to evaluate it).  The deciding factors for me were power over the long term, included features, overall cost and overall size/weight. 

I thought I'd want the smaller X41 but after you buy all of the items you'd need in addition to the notebook itself, the cost was actually right at, or higher, than the T43.  The specs on the T43 will be good enough, tech-wise, to be relative state-of-the-art for all 3 years of law school.  It has the ExpressCard slot for when those become popular, and the modular bay to expand.  The overall weight of the system is comparable to the total weight of an X41 solution if you carried the dock and drive with you everywhere.  However, the size of the screen was the kicker.  I can foresee myself wanting to have a note-taking program open and a browser open side by side.  I didn't think the X41 12" screen provided enough real estate or a high enough resolution to do that.  The 15" screen on the T43 will (I've tried it out at the store).

I realize there are other manufacturers out there (like Dell) that produce a similar system for less money.  However, I've been sold on IBM's (now Lenovo) quality and service for a while.  They make bomb-proof laptops and support them very well.  I was willing to shell out a little bit more dough to have some peace of mind.  The keyboard on the ThinkPad, for me, is second to none, the construction is solid, the layout simple, and the standard software utilities industry-leading.  As long as the darn thing makes it to my door in one piece I'll be a happy man.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Best Laptop for Law School?
« on: May 05, 2005, 06:02:43 PM »
After weeks of thinking about this, I think I'm on the verge of getting a ThinkPad X41.  I realize it doesn't come with an optical drive and the screen is smallish, but this is what I figure - for the cost of a decent T42/43 I can get an X41 with the X4 base and optical drive.  The combined weight is still less than the T-series.  While in class do I really need a larger screen than 12"?  I don't think so.  The keyboard is 97% size of the T-series and with the X4 dock, when I'm home I'll just plug in a nice flat panel and a good keyboard/mouse combo so that I can work in comfort.  My transport weight to class everyday will be very low and how often do I need an optical drive in class?  If I do, for some reason, I'll have the X4 I can turn to, or buy a powered USB combo drive.

My only reservation right now is that if I bring the computer to the library, where I don't have the convenience of plugging in to a flat panel and keyboard, will I enjoy using it or be frustrated and/or physically pained to use it.  I'm still thinking about that one, but with everything on the web these days I can foresee my library time being minimal versus the amount of time I would spend in my home office doing school work.  Any one have input on library time versus home study time?  How much time are folks spending in the library these days?

Slightly off topic, but what's the deal with student budgets?  Why should the school care how much you spend or don't spend supporting yourself through law school.  I can understand for Stafford loans, the amount should be limited and only applicable to school stuff.  But if you want to take out $100K in loans for 1L, and some bank will give it to you, why won't the school certify it?  What is their risk?  There must be something that's holding them back.

I'm actually back on to ThinkPads.  I made several calls to their sales people and then did way too much research online and narrowed my choices down to two T42s and two T43s, one 14.1" and one 15" screen from each model.  I get a tremendous discount (IMO) through their SUNY program.  I also spoke with them about upgrading to on-site repair service and it'll be about $110 extra to do that, compared with a few hundred at Dell.  I also got the guy to wave shipping costs.  Here's what I'm leaning towards:

T43 model# 2668-94U
M760, 2.0Ghz processor
15" SXGA+ Screen
X300 video card
60GB Ultra high-speed HD
DVD/CD Combo (reads DVDs, writes CDs)
a/b/g wireless w/ Bluetooth
Fingerprint security

Price, after tax and shipping - $2082.11

That price doesn't include an on-site service upgrade, just the standard 3-year warranty.  The other models I'm looking at are all around $200 cheaper, but lacking in certain areas.  However, I just read a recent review of the T43 on C|Net which didn't rate that highly.  They said the T42 actually outperformed it in certain areas.  So that has me on pause right now.  I'm back and forth.  Luckily I have some time to dwell on it.  I don't plan on making the purchase for at least another month.  Hopefully more reviews will be out on the T43 by then and possibly newer models might be introduced, or prices reduced.  We'll see.

Would it were for just notes.  The laptop will become a second desktop for me as well, which is why any price I quote has to include a docking station as well.  In addition, practicing law is becoming increasingly tech-heavy and I'd like a laptop that could handle some other stuff if needed, particularly in second and third year externships and the like.

Go with the ThinkPad - Depot service is fine: They pay for shipping, so unless you're running servers, you really don't need on-site service.

The issue is really can I be apart from my laptop for an extended period of time?  Granted, I have desktop which I will be using as backup, and will keep most of my important stuff on USB keys to be safe, but any time I am without my laptop in class cuts back on my note-taking ability (theoretically).  So, if Dell can solve the problem in one day by having a guy come to my house with a new whatever, then isn't that better than taking the laptop to some shop and not knowing when I'll have use of it again?  Granted, I'm not really THAT worried about the ThinkPad breaking down - I'm actually more worried of that happening to a Dell, but peace of mind on that repair front is my deciding factor as of tonight.  Could change tomorrow though.

I'm no longer sold on the T43 deal.  After speaking with IBM, their warranty service is depot-only, meaning I would have to drop off the laptop at a repair center if it broke and they would mail it back.  I'm not so sure I want to do that during law school.  So I did some more looking and found a deal on a Dell 6000 through Dell's education site.  Specs are almost the same as T43, M760 (2Ghz) processor, 1GB RAM, 60GB HD, DVD burner, ATI X300 video card, plus extra 9-cell battery and expansion dock for only $2,100 shipped.  This includes Dell's 4-year on-site NBD warranty w/ accidental damage coverage.  The laptop weighs slightly more than the T43, but has built in bluetooth, a larger screen and a better video card solution.  I'm now leaning towards the Dell.  The only thing is, I really like the Thinkpad keyboard and solid construction.  Back and forth on this one.

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