A couple of weeks ago the LCD panel on my laptop decided it didn’t want to work anymore. I should have seen it coming since a second, and at times even a third, line had shown up running across the width of my screen, but when it hit I ended up dead in the water computer wise. I went on one of the computers at my local library and posted notes on Facebook and the SolydXK forums letting my friends there know they probably wouldn’t see much of me anymore since I was down to a mere hour of online time a day. It was a Royal PITA but there wasn’t much I could do about it since plugging in an external monitor simply isn’t something I can do, nor would I consider dragging an external screen around with me just to be able to use my laptop.
Once again the Linux community came through in a totally unexpected way. Some of you will remember that way back when, when my desktop computer died a member of the Linux community offered me a Lenovo T61 laptop that his company was getting rid of. I gladly accepted his offer, and I loved being able to bring Kathryn (the name I gave it) with me to get things done in more places. Unfortunately within a year I made the stupid mistake of setting my earbuds on the keyboard and closed the lid part way when I stepped outside Starbucks to freshen the air in my lungs. When I came back in I closed the lid the rest of the way to pick the laptop up, only to break the screen. I was able to use it with an external monitor for a while, but eventually I had to give up the monitor and go offline. I contacted the person that gave me Kathryn in the first place to see what they recommended as far as replacing the screen I was told that they didn’t even bother with it, they just replaced the laptop. Their company still had a couple of T61′s they were getting rid of so a second one was sent to me, and was quickly christened Katia.
When folks in the SolydXK community heard about my laptop they started looking to see if they could help, and while their first idea fell through one of the folks there said he had a 4-year-old Sony VAIO sitting in a drawer that was mine if I wanted it. Like so many folks in the tech industry, as well as a lot of gamers, I’m not a big fan of Sony after their debacles with rootkits and trying to kill Star Wars Online with their new game engine, but I rally couldn’t turn down the laptop just because of who made it. And it turns out that was a really good thing, too.
My new laptop is a Sony VAIO VGN-NW230G, and it turns out it’s an upgrade for me. The CPU is the same as my old system, and I have a slightly larger hard drive than on my old laptop but the same amount of RAM. Of course the screen is a lot better than my old one, but I’d expect nothing less from Sony. Here’s a rundown on the major specs, as reported by KDE’s KInfoCenter and the spec sheet from Sony:
- Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T6670 processor running at 2.20GHz
- Toshiba 250GB Serial ATA hard drive
- 4GB of RAM
- Widescreen 15″ display (1366×768)
- Intel GM45 Express video chipset
- Pioneer DVD-RW drive
- PCI-E Gigabit ethernet controller
- PCI-Express 802.11 b/g/n wireless network adapter
- Intel HDA (ALC262 analog) sound card
- HDMI video output
- Secure Digital (SD memory card) slot
- Built-in camera and microphone
- Three USB ports
- Up to 4 hours battery life (when new, of course, and depending on how I use the laptop when it’s on battery)
It doesn’t have bluetooth, which is a shame because it was handy to connect my phone and Katia via bluetooth to transfer files back and forth but the SD card reader makes it almost as easy to get files on and off the phone. It also doesn’t take PCMCIA cards like Kathryn/Katia did, but I never had a card to use so not having a slot for them isn’t a big deal to me.
The laptop didn’t have an operating system installed on it but the person who sent it to me was kind enough to include DVD’s for SolydK and Dreamparted 2013 (Partition Magic) so it was easy to get it up and running. I’m still having issues with connecting my old hard drive to get the data transferred over, but hopefully I can start a new hunt to get that annoying little bug squashed. In the meantime I’m swapping the hard drives in my new laptop and using the 8GB microSD card for my phone and a 4GB USB flash drive to move files over. It’s a really slow process, but I’m glad I have the files to be able to transfer.
There are two issues, and one is more of an annoyance than an issue. The screen on my old laptops have a 1440×900 resolution, while the new one’s resolution is 1366×768. What’s the big deal? I have a policy of resizing images I want to use in my wallpaper rotation to the size of my screen just to limit the load on my CPU/GPU when I’m already pushing my laptop pretty hard. This means I have scads of images to resize, but luckily many of them, including the ones I get from Webshots, come in 1920×1080 or 2560×1440 sizes, which resize exactly to 1366×768. Now I just have to re-download most of the images in my wallpaper rotation so I can resize them for my new screen. It’s going to be tedious as hell, but I think it will be worth it, especially since now I can get larger images and not have to crop them to fit my oddly sized screen.
The other issue is even more annoying. On all of my old computers the buttons for Home, End, Page Up and Page Down were all either in their own section or they were along the top row of keys. As you can see in the picture above, on this keyboard they’re all in one column on the right hand side of the keyboard. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to hit Backspace or Enter and ended up hitting Home or Page Down. I need to find a way to train my brain to be more careful because it’s a real pain to realize I hit the wrong dammed key. Yet again.
Of course when I was installing SolydK on the VAIO it asked what I was going to call the new laptop, and that was a hard question to answer, especially since I hadn’t thought about it sooner. It was a new enough machine that I didn’t want to reuse Katia, or any variation on Kathryn, for it. Normally I name my electronic gadgets using the first letter of either the manufacturer, brand name, or the model number. My Samsung cell phone is Sam and my old iriver E100 media player was Erika, and I came close to naming the laptop after Snoops, my bestest buddies in the world, but I wanted to ask if they minded before I did that. Before I got in touch with Snoops I came upon an even better way to name my new laptop: I’d create an acronym for some of the really cool people I’ve met since I moved to Boston 24 years ago. Of course I had to limit the number of people I celebrated with the acronym or else it would get Jabba-sized in a hurry. I ended up calling the laptop “acsrsk,” calling it “ac” for short. Who are the friends I’m celebrating with the name? I’m going to keep that info to myself, partly because not all of them and I are still friends (as of this writing) and because I didn’t ask any of them if they minded. They probably wouldn’t care, and they may even appreciate that I think highly enough of them to celebrate them like this, but I’m not asking them so even if they ask me if they’re one of the people in the name I may not tell them the truth. Some of the letters could represent a few different people, and I wouldn’t want to risk hurting their feelings by telling them that they’re not who I was thinking of when I came up with the name.
I look forward to spending many hours working and relaxing with ac, and if anyone was looking for a new/used laptop and they didn’t mind who made it I’d give the VGN-NW230G a very strong recommendation. It looks to be a great machine to run SolydK on.