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Portables Hardware

IT's Love-Hate Relationship With Laptops 497

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the caucophony-of-pleasure-and-pain dept.
Ian Lamont writes "Are laptops really as great as they're cracked up to be? We love their portability, and we've been charting the steady rise of laptop sales for years. Yet while many of us depend on them for work, our IT departments view them with mixed feelings. IT managers point to wi-fi configuration, complicated authentication procedures, and eight other issues as making their jobs a lot harder. What else is missing from the list of laptop limitations? What would you like to see in the next generation of laptop computers?"
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IT's Love-Hate Relationship With Laptops

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  • Laptops (Score:5, Insightful)

    by proudfoot (1096177) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:15AM (#21374473)
    Part of the issue is that people demand laptops when they don't need them. They do have the attractiveness of not having cords or other extraneous things that confuse users, but at the same time, being mobile is oftentimes not the best practice. Security is a major issue - can you trust that your data won't be compromised if lost or stolen? Do you have a reasonable backup? (Most people don't) For most employees, a desktop is often enough. And if laptops are handed out, then users need to be very, very careful. (Encrypt data, daily backups...) I'm thinking a better solution would have a laptop that works as a dumb terminal.
    • Re:Laptops (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:32AM (#21374615)

      They do have the attractiveness of not having cords or other extraneous things that confuse users
      ...and 80% of the people who have laptops where I work demand a mouse within the first few days of having the laptop because they refuse to get used to the touchpad.
    • Part of the issue is that people demand batteries when they don't need them. Weight is a killer for old folk like me, and it would be nice to have a laptop that wasn't 70% battery by mass (disclaimer: I just pulled that number out of my bum). I'd be happy with a laptop that was easier to carry, but had the option of plugging into mains power and leaving the battery in your luggage for when you need it. But then, I have the luxury of doing work at a desk, not an airplane.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        Every laptop has that option; you don't have to use the battery.

        Personally, I do need a laptop with long battery life when I travel, but I also buy a second, small-capacity/lightweight battery for every day use. This also preserves the long-life battery for trips.

    • by greenguy (162630)
      I'm pleased with my current laptop, but not so much so that I'll buy another to replace it. Why?
      • Wireless issues (as mentioned in TFS). Ubuntu is doing better, but still has a ways to go.
      • Battery issues. If I unplug my battery, I have to run, not walk, to the next outlet. And this is my second battery.
      • Trackpad. The best trackpad ever pales in comparison to a decent mouse.
      • I don't actually use it if I don't have to. How many times do I have time to work, an outlet, and no access to a desktop? I'll tell you
    • Re:Laptops (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Stalus (646102) on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:55AM (#21375227)
      Your desktop can also be stolen, and the disk can crash. Ignoring those issues just makes you more vulnerable. I remember a class at UT-Austin where the prof went to put up his slides and realized the desktop under the podium was missing. Yes, that's right, someone lifted a desktop machine out of a lecture hall in the middle of the day on a crowded campus. And those things are normally locked down and alarmed. Quite surprising. Also, desktop HD's crash just as much as laptops.

      I'd say that your argument enforces that laptops are better for most users because it causes some people to actually think about the relevant security and backup issues.
      • Re:Laptops (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ephemeriis (315124) on Friday November 16, 2007 @09:12AM (#21377527)

        I'd say that your argument enforces that laptops are better for most users because it causes some people to actually think about the relevant security and backup issues.
        It may very well make people consciously think about security and backup issues... But you simply cannot claim that desktops are equally vulnerable to the same kind of issues.

        Laptops are small and portable. While it is possible to steal a desktop PC, it is harder. Especially if you've got some kind of security on the premises. Not impossible, but harder. Laptops, on the other hand, are routinely toted from one place to another...they could easily be nabbed out of your car, off your shoulder, off a chair at the library/terminal/cafe. Laptops are genuinely easier to physically steal.

        A desktop is easier to consistently back up, since it is generally connected to the network at all times. You can easily use a utility of some sort to pull data off that desktop PC whenever it is necessary. A laptop could very easily be off the network for days at a time. Sure, you can use some kind of VPN or web access to anything important...but what if they have no bandwidth at all? Keeping data safe and backed up is more of an issue with a laptop.

        And while we're on the topic of VPNs and bandwidth... Your average desktop doesn't leave the building - it stays on your network with your security/antivirus/whatever in place at all times. Laptops often wind up on somebody else's network. Maybe they're grabbing free bandwidth at a hotspot somewhere...maybe they're using the hotel's bandwidth...maybe they've got a cellular modem... Regardless, they're no longer behind your firewall, and are now at the mercy of whoever set up the network they're using.

        You claim that desktop HDDs fail just as often as those in laptops... I'm not going to debate that, I have no data either way... But I doubt if desktops get knocked off tables, dropped, tripped over, or have crap spilled into them nearly as much as laptops do. Again, laptops are portable, people are carrying them around. People drop things, trip, fall down, slip. By contrast, a desktop is generally stuck under/on your desk and doesn't really go anywhere. Sure, you might have damage to a mouse or keyboard from time to time...but those are just peripherals. You aren't terribly likely to do serious damage to your CPU/motherboard/HDD if you spill coffee into your keyboard on a desktop.

        The fact that laptops are portable, routinely leave your building, and connect to other networks makes them uniquely troublesome.
    • Re:Laptops (Score:4, Informative)

      by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday November 16, 2007 @10:06AM (#21378061)

      Part of the issue is that people demand laptops when they don't need them. They do have the attractiveness of not having cords or other extraneous things that confuse users, but at the same time, being mobile is oftentimes not the best practice. Security is a major issue - can you trust that your data won't be compromised if lost or stolen? Do you have a reasonable backup? (Most people don't) For most employees, a desktop is often enough. And if laptops are handed out, then users need to be very, very careful. (Encrypt data, daily backups...) I'm thinking a better solution would have a laptop that works as a dumb terminal.
      My last job was like that, anyone who needed to work from home got a laptop. Of course, these same simps never bothered to make time to get training on how to work from home with IT. In fact, the rationale for the purchases was never run by us, we were just told to make it so. These people all had desktops at home and fast connections, they could have just used the terminal server to log in instead. They were either working at home or working at work, there was rarely ever a location C involved. Only a few people ever truly required a laptop because they could be any of a dozen places. For the most part, laptops encouraged poor data security practices, not so much fear that they would lose the data to a thief but that they would lose the data with no backups maintained on our servers. No matter how many user-invisible techniques I tried to make this simple, they never seemed to work, always making things more complicated than before. We would send out directives telling people that they should not store things locally but again, nobody ever listened. Every time I went to help someone directly I'd check their my documents and tell them they shouldn't be doing that and they wouldn't listen. I tried remapping my documents to point to the public file store and they'd end up saving things to the desktop instead. We had at least three serious "oh shits!" when hard drives in laptops failed and a lot of important info was lost.

      You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Likewise, you can lead a man to ponder but you can't make him think. You can also lead a horticulture but you can't make her think.
  • by sTalking_Goat (670565) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:19AM (#21374495) Homepage
    So what? Network administration has only gotten more complicated since the beginning of the profession. Is this really news?
    • Boo Hoo (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cromar (1103585)
      IT managers point to wi-fi configuration, complicated authentication procedures, and eight other issues as making their jobs a lot harder.

      Cry me a river.
      • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

        by L.Bob.Rife (844620) on Friday November 16, 2007 @03:35AM (#21375717)

        IT is part of a business. Making IT's job harder in that business costs money. The article is making the point that there are some pretty serious cons about using laptops, and these need to be considered as part of their cost.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by m0nstr42 (914269)

          IT is part of a business. Making IT's job harder in that business costs money. The article is making the point that there are some pretty serious cons about using laptops, and these need to be considered as part of their cost.
          Having pissed-off employees who feel chained to their workstation (and consequently horribly unmotivated) can also be a pretty big cost.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Gulthek (12570)
            That seems an excessive reaction to a lack of laptops.

            Wah no laptop => horribly unmotivated? Something tells me that these "laptop motivated" people aren't worth the money.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by PMuse (320639)
          IT is overhead. IT exists only to support revenue. If a laptop will increase revenue by more than the differential cost between that and a desktop, then deploy the laptop.

          Don't expect IT to see any share of that increased revenue. Things don't work that way.
    • The best part are the poor guys that have to service them. Laptops can be a complete and utter pain in the ass to fix.
  • More upgradeability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SeaFox (739806) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:19AM (#21374497)
    I know this is going to increase thickness a bit, but having upgradeable graphics cards would be nice. Same with optical drives. I know there's a couple laptops where the graphics are on a daughtercard pretty much, but until it becomes a more commonplace feature with a standard interface, there wont be an industry/market of new cards for laptops like there are for desktops.
    • by syncrotic (828809) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:54AM (#21374771)
      You can't just throw a graphics chip into a laptop as an afterthought: the entire machine has to be designed around the thermal profile of both the CPU and the GPU. Given how marginal laptop cooling systems are, an increase of 5W in GPU power output might be enough to overheat the system.

      A laptop really isn't designed to be upgradeable - the good ones, especially so. They're integrated systems, carefully engineered for structural strength and heat dissipation. The only laptops that could accomodate a modular graphics interface are the cheap 17" ABS monsters.
    • by rts008 (812749) on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:43AM (#21375155) Journal
      Why were you modded offtopic?

      From the summary:
      "What would you like to see in the next generation of laptop computers?"

      Ask and ye shall receive!

      Personally, my tastes (and needs for a laptop) are really different from yours, as I still am in love with my Sharp MMC20- think the size of a Playboy magazine, and quite light to boot.

      But if I had the budget, Oh Yeah! Gaming laptop here I come!
      So I see where you are coming from, and think your post was ONTOPIC, my own needs drive me the opposite direction....but so what?

      Your needs/wants in a laptop are are valid as anyone else's, and you answered the submitter's question. WTF?

      Moderators take note: At least RTFS or RTFA before blasting out offtopic mods!
      • The size of a magazine, sixteen hour battery life, five second suspend/resume, and a disconnected-mode DFS that actually works. One with on-disk encryption. The laptop should not want or need an identity distinct from its home network. And, ah, yeah, a hypervisor so that my 'home' and 'work' laptops can be the same physical object without causing any issues of system or data management propriety. That's all I ask.
  • Seriously, IT is tough sometimes get over it. Laptops are good for all the reasons listed above. An IT manager should, as per the technology part of his title make it easier to do work. The position this article takes is akin to "well jet flight is nice and all because of the speed, but all these little constraints and extra controls make it complicated and hard, waahhh!" An IT manager is a facilitator and nothing else. I suppose the author of the article would have it that an IT manager is nothing more tha
  • Maybe it's just me, but I can't stand using that stupid touch pad as a mouse. You would think that in the years that have gone by, they would have developed something better.
    • Re:input device? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MikeFM (12491) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:24AM (#21374543) Homepage Journal
      What's worse is accidental use of the stupid touch pad. You're typing along and zoom your cursor goes flying somewhere crazy and you've just deleted something important or done something equally as horrible. Touch pads are horrible devices.
      • Re:input device? (Score:5, Informative)

        by yokem_55 (575428) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:28AM (#21374585)
        Try running syndaemon on your login. This little program is included with the synaptics X driver and it disables the touch pad while you are typing and reenables it automaticaly after a specified timeout (I have mine set to 2 seconds).
      • What's worse is accidental use of the stupid touch pad. You're typing along and zoom your cursor goes flying somewhere crazy and you've just deleted something important or done something equally as horrible.

        My boss just got a new Compaq laptop. It has a little button above the touchpad that toggles the pad on and off. It allows for an external use of a mouse in the office and the use of the laptop on a plane/train/whatever. Brilliant.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by dafpoo (870893)
      That's why they have the little red nub for!
    • you can use a mouse on a laptop if you want or even better, a touch screen. much more usable than that touch pad that is always integrated with most laptops.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by epp_b (944299)

      You would think that in the years that have gone by, they would have developed something better.
      They did. It's called a trackpoint [ibm.com]
    • Maybe it's just me, but I can't stand using that stupid touch pad as a mouse. You would think that in the years that have gone by, they would have developed something better.
      Like a keyboard?
  • their list (Score:5, Informative)

    by mincognito (839071) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:20AM (#21374519)
    1. Battery life still bombs.
    2. Laptops get banged up and broken.
    3. They're tough to fix, and they die young.
    4. They get lost.
    5. They're difficult to secure, digitally and physically ...
    6. ... and security precautions make users nuts.
    7. Wi-Fi is still the Wild, Wild West.
    8. Laptops spawn a new breed of uber-entitled user.
    9. They're too big or too small.
    10. Software performance just ain't the same.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kahanamoku (470295)
      Lets add:

      Removing of RS232 from newer laptops. Remembering that laptops aren't just for the IT Department & Cubicle end users, but also for the engineers that program PLC's etc. Devices that don't get updated as quickly as the latest motherboard specification and that are quickly forgotten about when it comes to replacement/upgraded programming devices.

      No chance you're going to get a technical engineer walking around a power plant with a trolley that carries a desktop PC simply because it has a "real"
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Solder Fumes (797270)
        Choose your rants better. USB-RS232 is the accepted solution in the field, and is not that much of a hardship. With a hardware RS232 port, you still need to carry a serial cable, right? The USB converter cables are no easier to lose or damage than the plain RS232 cables, and aren't any bulkier. The end result with both options is that you carry a 6 foot cable, you plug one end into a device, you plug the other end into the laptop. I've been in the field with hundreds of automation engineers, and not one of
      • by SlamMan (221834)
        Don't think about it as being a USB to 232 adaptor, think about it as a USB to 232 cable with a big lump in the middle of it, that happens to unscrew.

        But you can still get laptops with 232s, you just have to look harder for them. Considering how little its used by the office/consumer marker, I'm surprised they've lasted on regular laptops this long.
      • by jamesh (87723)
        I love my USBRS232 adapter. It adds on an extra meter of cable length to any serial cable I have to work with, and gives me an activity light too.

        If you are programming PLC's, don't you already need a handful of adapters anyway? What's one more?
      • by whoever57 (658626)

        Removing of RS232 from newer laptops.
        It's not just laptops. Desktop motherboards are losing RS232 ports also. Of course it is much easier to add an RS232 port, although this may not be the case for PCI-Express systems in the future.
    • ... they are an ergonomic disaster-in-waiting. with a screen right next to a keyboard, this arrangement encourages a hunching posture that with long-term use can cause nerve and muscle damage in the upper-arms and neck.

    • by jamar0303 (896820)
      Well, at least you can deal with 1 and 2 by getting Panasonic laptops (love that 10+hour battery life on my T5).
    • my list (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Burz (138833)
      1. Whole-disk encryption still not standard
      2. Better efficiency hasn't been used to improve battery life
      3. No standard enclosures or motherboard form factors
      4. Attract clueless software salesmen, who will demonstrate demanding workstation apps on their 'spiffy little wonder'.
      5. Have caught the bigger-is-better disease in the USA... The laptop as an SUV-like status symbol.
      6. Most warranties are absurdly short for such a device

      Overall though, laptops are the bees knees. Blogging would be an insignificant phen
      • by QuantumG (50515)

        Better efficiency hasn't been used to improve battery life

        Bingo. The biggest problem with laptops is the people who design them. "CPU power usage is really low now.. great, we can up the cycles per second." Uhh, excuse me? "This new LCD component is great, it draws half as much power.. great, double the resolution." Uhh, excuse me? The OLPC is example of the completely different machine you can get if you break out of the box in which the typical manufacturers think in.

    • Re:their list (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Belial6 (794905) on Friday November 16, 2007 @02:18AM (#21375345)
      "8. Laptops spawn a new breed of uber-entitled user."

      This complaint is exactly why the rest of the complaints have to be seriously questioned. By that standard PCs spawn a new breed of uber-entitled user. I mean really, people expect the programs to run NOW? Having their application sit in a queue for a week to get the results just doesn't seem to fly anymore. What kind of uber-entitled user doesn't understand that there requests should sit in a queue until a time slot becomes available on the mainframe? If we allow employees to expect their job to be facilitated, the next thing you know, employees will start expecting telephones at their desks, photocopiers, pens and paper. Heck it might even get so bad that they might start expecting electric lighting or bathrooms!
  • by Kris_J (10111) * on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:21AM (#21374521) Journal
    As an IT Manager, there's only one bad thing that's particular to laptops that significant enough to be comment-worthy. They're a vector for virus infection. Everything else an IT department can just get on with, but the high virus risk associated with devices that regularly travel in and out of the firewalled company network merits pointing out.

    One day, some place I work, I want to set up a DMZ for laptops.
    • by rnswebx (473058) on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:05AM (#21374897)
      This really isn't much of an issue if you don't give your users admin rights. I used to work for a company who's name represents a really long river and we weren't given admin rights on our laptops. (I was a system engineer)

      At first, I hated it and even more I just hated the idea of not controlling my own machine. In the end though, it really came down to them providing me everythingI needed. If I wanted something that wasn't already installed and pertinent to me doing my job, it was almost instantly handled and installed over the intranet via what I can only guess were custom tools.

      It's give and take with the portability that laptops provide. OK Joe User, you can go do your work from home, but in exchange for that we need to, among other things, take precautions that you won't be bringing in viruses to our network.

      The key ingredient to my successful situation in such an environment was the capability of the supporting IT team. Without a very solid support team, I think the users would become frustrated with not being able to either install their own apps, or have the support staff provide a way to get them installed.

      Food for thought at the very least.
    • Only laptops make up 40% of corporate use, and I only see it increasing. A DMZ per laptop maybe, or you're just infecting other laptops.
  • We could go back to paper and make their jobs a lot easier. Or just damage the network interface, disk drives, and usb ports. They keyboard and screen while we're at it.

    Whoever said IT was supposed to be easy? That's the challenge of IT: to keep the network and desktops functioning, information flowing without impeding people's ability to work efficiently.

    Additionally, the comment about portability is hilarious. Laptops are clearly transportable. They can be moved from place to place easily. But true portab
  • Shorter Lifespan (Score:4, Informative)

    by dfm3 (830843) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:25AM (#21374557) Journal
    In my brief experience with IT at a small university several years ago, I learned that laptops have a much shorter expected lifespan in the real world compared to desktops- two years versus four or five before they need to be replaced. Even if users treat them like their firstborn, they just aren't designed to last much longer than that. Out of the half dozen or so laptops that we have floating around the office that are over 2 years old, not one of them has a battery that lasts for more than 15 minutes off of AC.
    • I first bought a laptop, a used Toshiba Portege, in 2001... it was "designed for Windows 95" and it still runs today. The battery was long-dead when I got it, of course. But that's entirely dependent on how much the battery has been used - I recently gave away a three year old Toshiba Satellite that still got almost two hours of battery life per charge, but it was almost always run on AC.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)
      The battery doesnt work because your users dont need laptops. Batteries that dont get used tend to fail. So if Jane Officeworker cow-worker makes a hissy fit and has her department buy her a laptop as a status thing and it never leaves her desk then the few times she actually unplugs it from the AC might be a bit of a surprise.
      • That's BS. well it's not really BS, but if laptops are failing because batteries are being damaged by being left plugged in, they're not using proper charging circuitry. Or maybe they're not using any charging circuitry.

        I mean, you spend $2k on a machine that doesn't even have a $0.50 charge controller IC or a coupla $0.0005 power transistors, an ADC, and a nice cheap software daemon to keep track of things?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      What makes/models?

      I have had Thinkpads (mostly T series) last 5+ years, including drops and spills. Part of that is excellent design, part of it is the ease with which every part could be ordered and replaced. I am not so familiar with the post-Lenovo quality 'though.

      Some early, high end Dell laptops were still useful at similar timeframes (I am thinkning mostly of the C840), but the later Inspirons, less so.

      You will pay for them, but in each generation there are machines that will last 4-5 years of e
    • by timeOday (582209)

      Out of the half dozen or so laptops that we have floating around the office that are over 2 years old, not one of them has a battery that lasts for more than 15 minutes off of AC.
      Batteries are consumables, and they're not all that expensive to replace. Heaven help you if you toss laptops just because the battery goes flat. On second thought, wanna sell me one of those "worn out" 2 year-old laptops?
    • Well yeah, but laptops are typically about a year behind desktops performance wise, so really, you're replacing them at the same level of "software just doesn't run like it used to"-ality.
  • I work at my school's student affairs IT department. Part of what we do is tech support for residents. Almost every non-trivial problem (spyware cleaning, user error, and bad ram are trivial) is due to a bad HD in a student's laptop. Dells seem particularly susceptible. I think it has a lot to do with unreasonable expectations of durability on the user's end, but when these people start moving into the work force, their employers' budgets had best include frequent replacement drives. (Desktops are immune to
  • Portable desktop (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phorm (591458) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:27AM (#21374571) Journal
    Most people I know (myself included) tend to use laptops as more of a "portable desktop." Perhaps if we dump the batteries we could add more cooling and - in general - get more use out of them for that purpose?

    At the same time, I've seen various different models of power bricks, but I much prefer the ones that attach to the laptop snugly rather than the standard rounded barrel-connector. Perhaps something that clicks into place but isn't a pain to remove (because without batteries, it would suck to accidentally knock out that easily-disconnected power jack).
  • BOSS: Hey guy, we got you a laptop and VPN access. Don't you love it?! Never mind having a life and family, we got you a laptop and you have the COMPANY! OK, I'm going golfing now, there is a status meeting at 8 p.m. tonight I expect you to chair. Tell me about it tomorrow morning... we probably won't need what you find for a few days but we can say "we're ready now". Aren't you glad we got that laptop for you? Oh crap.... gotta go, going to miss my tee time.

    ME: Oops, I dropped it. (OK.... wishful thi
  • Cooling: I don't want to use my laptop fry eggs after few hours of constant use.

    K

  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) * on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:33AM (#21374621) Journal
    If you use roaming profiles correctly you can upgrade an entire bureau just by walking down the aisles and swapping out the laptops. I was told a fairly major SOE upgrade was handled this way recently, in a government agency in Canberra.
  • Having read all the 10 reasons given, I can only conclude that they sound like "cries of a bad workman - who blames his tools!"

    In other words, the complainants appear to be incompetent. I support 326 IT staff including 129 that have laptops loaded with mostly WindowsXP and Ubuntu. Apart from gettimg lost (which does not happen often), I do not see any trouble at all.

  • There are too many compromises and second best's in their design. Extendability is close to zero. If one component dies, the whole thing goes down. I also do not consider unRAIDed disks to be reliable. Laptops are far to expensive for the computing features they offer. I also like to have a real keyboard and a real monitor, whilw I can have those with a laptop, it kind of defeats the purpose.

    That said, laptops are reasonable when traveling. But they will not replace powerful desktop systems in the near futu
  • You know how we do it at my house? 802.1X. 802.1X is Wifi's best kept secret. Your means of authentication are your OpenLDAP/Kerberos/Samba/FreeRadius credentials for PEAP, or a CA if you are one of our nodes with EAP_TLS.

    No complicated WEP/WPA strings, no bullshit.
    • by imemyself (757318)
      Yeah, same here. With Active Directory and Group Policy you can even push down the settings so that the user doesn't have to do anything - the notebook will transparently connect to the SSID using their account. I can't believe that so many people still have trouble with securing wifi.
  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:59AM (#21374833)
    My problems with laptops:

    1. They are too fragile.
    2. The internal guts are too hard to work with. Anything more than a RAM upgrade is a nightmare of tiny screws and shielding tape.
    3. Operating systems are targeted for desktops and servers, they don't make it easy to set up a laptop the way you want, with encrypted partitions, network configuration, etc. Sure these features are there for the tinkering, but I don't want to mess around, I just want to get to work.
    4. Laptop hard drives are so slow! You would think there could be a slightly larger drive form factor that would allow for a drive whose speed approaches that of a standard hard drive.
    5. The batteries are all different. Hard drives, RAM, etc. are interchangeable to some extent, why not batteries?
    6. Those tiny little laptop cooling fans drive me batty. I really hate the high-pitched whine.
    7. While I appreciate the small size, I would gladly trade a pound or so and a quarter inch of thickness for less whiney fans and a faster hard drive. If it's too big to fit in my pocket, it should be a real computer.
    8. Not much to be done about it, but it's not possible to use one in comfort; the ergonomics inherently suck.
    • by Rakishi (759894) on Friday November 16, 2007 @02:45AM (#21375495)

      1. They are too fragile.
      So are desktops if you tried carrying them around and throwing them about.

      2. The internal guts are too hard to work with. Anything more than a RAM upgrade is a nightmare of tiny screws and shielding tape.
      So? Very, very few people do upgrades on their computers nowadays. They may build them from parts but aside from the hard drive and ram "upgrade" means getting a whole new system (motherboard, cpu, video card, etc.). Technology changes too quickly and parts are not that backwards compatible. For most people messing with the inside of their computer is simply a waste of time, both techies and non-techies.

      3. Operating systems are targeted for desktops and servers, they don't make it easy to set up a laptop the way you want, with encrypted partitions, network configuration, etc. Sure these features are there for the tinkering, but I don't want to mess around, I just want to get to work.
      So you want to mess with the hardware but not the software? Anyway, everything requires tinkering if you want it to do what you want. You're simply used to doing things ones way (and setting them up) on a desktop.

      4. Laptop hard drives are so slow! You would think there could be a slightly larger drive form factor that would allow for a drive whose speed approaches that of a standard hard drive.
      ...when was the last time you even saw a laptop 1995???? Laptop hard drives are 7200, guess what desktop hard drives are? 7200.

      5. The batteries are all different. Hard drives, RAM, etc. are interchangeable to some extent, why not batteries?
      Because manufacturers have nothing to gain from it and battery sizes vary a lot.

      6. Those tiny little laptop cooling fans drive me batty. I really hate the high-pitched whine.
      So get a laptop with a large fan.

      7. While I appreciate the small size, I would gladly trade a pound or so and a quarter inch of thickness for less whiney fans and a faster hard drive. If it's too big to fit in my pocket, it should be a real computer.
      I repeat my previous point "...when was the last time you even saw a laptop 1995????"

      8. Not much to be done about it, but it's not possible to use one in comfort; the ergonomics inherently suck.
      It's called a docking bay with external monitor, keyboard and mouse.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)
      You're just not using it right. The appropriate way to use a laptop is in a hammock, with it on your thigh just above the knee so you're typing with your arms stretched almost straight. If it's hot and you're wearing shorts you'll probably want to put a towel under it for thermal isolation.

      NOTHING is more ergonomic than that. Yes, that's how I wrote the first half of my thesis. Unfortunately the couch has to substitute for writing the second part. The ergonomics are essentially the same but the ambienc
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Your post may of been valid say 10 years ago.

      1. Most modern laptops are not fragile, unless you mean throwing a the floor or trying to crush it. In which case it is as fragile as most flat screen monitors.

      2. Changing ram/hard drives doesn't happen often but again all modern systems are a simple case of remove 1-2 screws then pull out and slot in the new hardware. Long gone are the days where you had to take the laptop to pieces to add something.

      3. Bull. Operating Systems work fine on laptops. There is no di
  • by PPH (736903) on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:01AM (#21374851)
    Would be a heavy chain attached to an eye bolt welded to the office floor.

    Or, whatever else it takes these things from wandering off the property. They get stolen along with data that shouldn't leave the property in the first place. Or taken home where the kids can goof around on the 'net with them and get them all infected with crap that mom/dad subsequently bring back inside the company firewall.

  • Any IT manager or sysadmin that is having the problems this article lists with either wifi or drivers is not very good at their job.

    And anyone who *loses* a laptop is too fucking stupid to have a job.
  • by Strange Ranger (454494) on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:06AM (#21374903)
    > What would you like to see in the next generation of laptop computers?"

    One thing I'd love to see is a little modularity and separation between the computer and the screen.
    I want a strong hinge that can be disconnected with a simple everyday tool.
    And at least within the same manufacturer, make it standard, the only variables being the size and resolution of the screen.
    What a great idea to be able to replace only the half of the laptop that is broken or upgrade only the half that needs to be upgraded.
    Reduce waste, reduce downtime, save money.

    Is there something intrinsically magical about the screen hinge and graphics connection of a laptop that keeps them forever joined lest ye ship them back to the vendor?
    • by The Conductor (758639) on Friday November 16, 2007 @10:47AM (#21378579)

      Is there something intrinsically magical about the screen hinge and graphics connection of a laptop that keeps them forever joined

      Yes, and it will only get worse in the upcoming years. One of the many constraints in laptop design is routing the cables through the hinge. You have a back light and its control, and all the crazy data & clock lines (not analog video) for the LCD display. Now with WLAN you have co-axial cable, since since real-world experience has shown that locating the antenna up high is worth the cable losses. The trend is to put more stuff up there, like webcams, where the machine can see, and the microphone, further from those fans whose noise everyone is complaining about in posts here. And more antennas, for WWAN, TV, DVB, UWB, blah, blah, blah.

  • Laptops cost more than desktops for comparable performance, have a higher support cost than desktops(they break more easily, they're more finicky, etc), and most people don't need them.

    If laptops were handed out based on genuine business need(ie benefits outweigh costs) as opposed to as part of "mobility initiatives" and as executive toys, and if organizations understood the increase in support costs and resourced appropriately then we wouldn't have a problem with laptops.

    All the problems on this list are t

  • Umm, it's 2007. The majority of knowledge workers are purely laptop based. The question we should be asking is 'does physical infrastructure matter anymore'?

    ]{
  • I'm kinda sick of the vaporware.. I often fly 13 hour trips (non-stop) on a plane with no power outlets (not even in business class, or so they tell me!).. If I take 4 sets of rechargeable batteries my GP2X [gp2x.com] will last me 12 hours, but playing games and watching movies is not getting work done.

  • WHY is 10% of all meeting and presentation productivity wasted on hooking the laptop up to the damn projector or plasma screen?

    I don't understand why it's still so technologically challenging to sync a laptop with an external display, reliably and expediently. Mac's get this right more than windows machines do, but even they're a little sluggish at it.
    • by FSWKU (551325)

      WHY is 10% of all meeting and presentation productivity wasted on hooking the laptop up to the damn projector or plasma screen?

      Because most corporate types seemingly can't be bothered with learning anything more complex than creating some insipid Power Point presentation (which is why they're probably using the larger screen to begin with) with the aid of "Clippy".

      To be honest, it's really not that hard (at least on mine). Plug in the cable, Fn+F7, and that's it. System instantly clones the display ont

    • by aXis100 (690904)
      I'm constantly switching from three modes:

      1) Standalone laptop
      2) Laptop in dock with 2nd monitor
      3) Projector hookup with the laptop display as a clone.

      I'm pretty tech savy yet I swear 1 in 4 times the projector/clone display wont work:
      - The clone mode wont engage at all.
      - The clone mode engages automatically, but the scaling/stretching is off
      - The settings to change the clone mode is poorly labeled and unintuative hidden, and it takes me 5 minutes to find it and hit the right button.
  • Video In (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lymond01 (314120) on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:23AM (#21375033)
    I'd like to be able to carry my laptop to the server room and hook up a VGA input so I can view what's on the server's screen without either purchasing a KVM or lugging in a full external monitor. Sort of like a temporary slave function (or just a F-key that allows video in...I'm not all that bothered about the keyboard and mouse).

    A virtual keypad (like one of those you can lay down in front of you) plugged into your virtual eyewear (that projects the screen onto your eye) would be a nice space-saver too. Everything wireless, computer the size of an iPod in your pocket.
  • To me the most annoying thing about laptops is the slow hard drives. By default just about every OEM equips the things with 5400RPM drives, which is less than the standard 7200RPMs that desktop machines usually come with. I know you can get 7200RPM hard drives but most of the time a company-issued laptop will have the 5400RPM variety, which for development purposes is annoyingly slow. And of course upping the RPM's on a hard drive is going to make battery life even worse. The answer to increased productivit
  • Make the screen easily replaceable by the user. My laptop is less than two years old (Acer) and has about 25 dead pixels all over the panel. Naturally, it's out of warranty. Naturally, I'm sure to point those dead pixels out to everyone who sees my laptop, and I also explain that other brands I've owned haven't had nearly as many problems.

    Okay, so it was a cheap laptop. But I resent having to replace the whole thing just because one part is faulty. (I've looked into a replacement screen, and it really is
  • but when I'm VPN'd with Outlook over my Aircard to my home office, I'd like to be able to shut the lid and have it suspend immediately. And then when I open the lid again, it'd be nice if it auto-reconnected behind the scenes, or maybe gave me a little popup asking me if I want to do that. This would negate the hallways full of people rushing about with their laptops cracked open. Nothing frustrates me more with my laptop at work then the following scenario:

    Office buddy: Hey, let's go chat in a conference r
  • They're heavy, fragile, slower, expensive, etc.

    But they're portable. Want to browse the web on the bus? I've got Wifi in my area. Want to work on the couch? in the kitchen? Easy, just grab the thing and park someplace else. You can also literally work in bed. Built-in UPS. Taking a month vacation on the other side of the continent? Bring your laptop, no downtime. Portable DVD player. Space saver, no freaking mouse cord throwing stuff off the desk. You can put your laptop in the safe before leaving for wo

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