On the Road, Again by Chuck Horowitz

Tulip Computing (a Dutch PC company) has six (6) prototypes of leather and fabric E-Go notebooks that will be available in the U.S. market in January of 2006. The E-Go process involves “attaching the material exteriors to the plastic during the injection molding process.” The leather is not glued on, which means that the fabrics won’t peel off and can be wrapped around curves and angles without leaving wrinkles. This is definitely a plus for all you would-be fashion conscious notebook owners.
Transcend Information (www.transcendusa.com) makes the Digital Album. This Palm-sized gadget has a 2.5 inch color screen, a 20 Gigabyte hard drive, and a multi-format memory card reader. It supports JPEG, Motion JPEG movies, and MP3 audio playback. Sounds like a great gadget, especially for us granddads. At $368 each, I’ll wait for a less expensive format to carry my pictures.
Microsoft has teamed-up with Samsung Electronics to produce a prototype hard drive that can record data while idling. This procedure can significantly cut notebook power use. The drive has a one (1) gigabyte flash-memory chip. Data is directly written to the chip. When the chip is nearly full, the hard drive wakes up, takes the data, records it, and then idles again. This drive rarely spins, only for about thirty (30) to forty-five (45) seconds every half hour. Traditional hard drives use up to about ten (10) to fifteen (15) percent of the notebook’s battery power. The drive should also speed up boot-up time. Notebooks with these drives should be on the market in late 2006.
Iomega (www.iomega.com) has a new FireWire/USB external hard drive with 400 Gigabyte capacity. The Triple 400GB Platinum Series hard drive can attach to your notebook (or desktop) via FireWire 400, FireWire 800 or USB 2.0. Bundled with the drive is Retrospect Express 65 for the Mac, and Iomega’s Automatic Backup Pro 3.2 for the PC. Because of the power drain, Iomega includes an AC adapter for the drive. There are FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 cables included (no FireWire 400 cables are included though). At $399.95 it’s probably a must for the corporate mobile power users.
Take a look back at the September 2005 issue of Computer Shopper. There’s an article entitled “Lifestyle Laptops” edited by Joshua Goldman that breaks laptops down into five types: home; travel; multimedia; student; and power. There are features and price comparison tables so that you can spot the features that you need. All the laptops are Windows XP machines (except for one Mac OS X 10.4) and range in price from $1,099 to $2,999.
Hope you noticed lately that computer manufacturers have reduced their warranties to ninety (90) days from the previous one (1) year period. It seems that they have found a new way to make more money on the same machine. Whatever happened to product quality and pride of workmanship? Are these qualities even remembered now?
In addition to shortening the warranty period, these manufacturers are now charging for extended warranties. They also have disclaimers in the warranty that relieve them of responsibility for anything that happens to the machine. In effect, they have eliminated the “manufacturers defect” aspect in previous warranties. They are no longer responsible for making a bad product. To top this off, they don’t tell you any of this on the box and when you open the box, you’ve accepted it all. What a gimmick, I wish I could avoid responsibility for anything I do and get paid for it to boot.
The October 2005 issue of Computer Shopper has a section on “Budget Notebooks” (less than $1,000). They range from 1.3 Gigahertz to 3.1 Gigahertz and from $599.99 to $999. Twelve (12) brands are described and thirty (30) models. You should be able to find a combination that suits your needs.
Chuck Horowitz, a HAL-PC member, can be reached at chuckh@hal-pc.org for questions or comments.