advice one laptop or handheld

Discussion in 'IBM' started by dan braithwaite, Jul 17, 2003.

  1. Hi, my cousin is enlisted in a trucking unit stationed in the mideast and thinking
    about getting a laptop. Does anyone out there have experience with
    the kind of conditions she's living with? Specifically, I'm worried about:

    1. heat (119 degrees in the barracks tent at her base camp)
    2. dust/sand
    3. limited access to electricity. battery life is important.

    Who's been in this position and can give her pointers? Is it
    a bad idea to get a laptop at all? Maybe a pocket PC plus
    some trips to the internet cafe would be better? If she gets
    one, what kind should she get? Her main needs are email
    and websurfing, and wordprocessing with MS Word. When
    this is over, she'll also want to use the machine for grad school.

    any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    thank you,
    dan braithwaite
    dan braithwaite, Jul 17, 2003
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  2. dan braithwaite

    Joe Davis Guest

    I have worked in similar conditions. Dust, heat and sunlight are all
    problems--most laptops are barely readable in bright sunlight.

    First thought is, I doubt whatever she gets will survive to get her through
    grad school. She needs to think of whatever solution as expendable.

    If battery power is a major issue, I would buy a cheap, expendable laptop
    for under $1000. and then spend some money on either a solar charger or one
    of the large, "coast-to-coast" batteries that fit underneath your laptop
    like an inch-thick slice. Several internet battery houses sell these.

    for example:



    I would get a hard, Zero Halliburton or imitation case or a briefcase rather
    than any kind of nylon case, which won't protect from dust.

    If she doesn't go to the internet cafe, how does she get internet access?
    If she doesn't have access at her barracks, she'll still need something to
    store data on and to get it back and forth from the internet cafe to her
    computer. I'd recommend one of those USB memory devices rather than trying
    to burn CD's or even using a floppy. In my experience, those are the first
    things to be damaged by dust and grit.

    Wish her good luck.
    Joe Davis
    Joe Davis, Jul 17, 2003
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  3. dan braithwaite

    Drew Cutter Guest

    I'm afraid that the requirement for the middle east and grad school are
    two different animals. Costs is the biggest problem. You don't need that
    good of a laptop for grad school compare to the middle east . I would do
    the internet cafe thing . If you go with the pda , make sure you have a
    ethernet card , backup batteries , Compact flash card for memory .

    Also , looking at a carry case that would protect what ever you
    choose. Their laptops design for hard use , but then you have to spend
    $$$. IBM has a laptop that runs up to 6 hours , but it cost. Find out
    what type of warranty the laptop or pda has to offer. Explain your
    situation to IBM or dell sales rep. Both make excellent laptops and
    Wouldn't hurt to do goggle search on the army doing in Iraq. I
    believe they are using laptops.
    Drew Cutter, Jul 18, 2003
  4. dan braithwaite

    Drew Cutter Guest

    Just read a letter to the editor of PC magazine from a someone station
    in afghanistan . Sand go into everything . He even put cellophone on
    top. Didn't work. Thing would popup with out warning.
    Drew Cutter, Jul 18, 2003
  5. I have worked in similar conditions. Dust, heat and sunlight are all

    A cheap pseudo notebook with Desktop CPU will need more
    than double the power of a modern Centrino.

    So the cheap notebooks needs twice the solar equipment.
    This adds much weight and money.
    =?iso-8859-1?Q?Roland_M=F6sl?=, Jul 18, 2003
  6. dan braithwaite

    Joe Davis Guest

    Amen. Sand and dust is the big problem. Brand new equipment is wasted
    after about 3 months. The screen will be scratched, the case will be
    scratched and half the stuff won't work. Keys will jam. The Panasonic
    Toughbook is good--but it's not really that much better for the desert than
    anything else.
    Joe Davis, Jul 19, 2003
  7. dan braithwaite

    Pagan Guest

    A Speedstep CPU running on low should be fine, as should an older laptop.
    If additional cooling is needed, there are a few PCMCIA cooling fans
    floating around. You can probably find one on Ebay.
    This is the biggest problem. A scratched screen isn't the end of the world,
    vents can be covered with nylon stockings, and everything else can be
    covered. A keyboard can be shaken out some (with the power OFF) or
    vaccuumed or blown out with compressed air in a pinch, but none of those are
    great options. I believe there was a company making thin rubber keyboard
    covers that would work really well, but I don't recall who. May want to
    search this.
    Easy one, especially if she'll be around trucks or other vehicles. You can
    get a DC to AC converter (inverter), and a car cigarette lighter adapter,
    which has the lighter socket on one end and alligator or battery clips on
    the other. As military vehicles run on 24 volts, and the inverter is
    designed to run on 12 volts, she'll have to clamp this device directly onto
    just one of the two batteries, as the batteries themselves are 12 volts. (in
    most cases...check this FIRST) She will have to start and run the engine
    every once in a while to avoid draining the batteries. A small multimeter
    would be handy to check how much juice the battery has left, giving her the
    chance to sneek over a jumper cable and start it up before her sergeant
    chews her ass. heh

    This may sound complicated, but after the first couple times, it will only
    take seconds to get everything working.

    Also, many, if not most, large generators and communications trucks the army
    uses have standard 110v outlets.

    Extra batteries and/or a solar charger would be nice, but a solar panel that
    the laptop could actually run off of would be large and cumbersome, not to
    mention expensive, around $300 and up.
    I'd recommend a fairly cheap laptop, the older the better, as long as it
    runs somewhat modern apps. I had a Compaq Contura that worked. It was slow
    and the screen wasn't all that great, but it was very cheap and ran Windows
    95, Office 97, Internet Explorer and even an old game or two. Did I say it
    was slow? Very slow. But, it got the job done, and it took a lot of rough
    handling without a problem.

    This laptop is small, very cheap, durable, reliable, needs less cooling, and
    won't break your heart if it's damaged or destroyed, which is easy to do in
    this environment. It's almost a disposable laptop.

    An added bonus is that the battery was very small. It was like a bunch of
    "C" batteries in a row roughly 11" long. You could hold maybe five of these
    in your hand. They should be easy enough to carry and store in the field.
    Unfortunately, even with brand new batteries, the battery life will probably
    be pretty short. An external battery mentioned by another poster might be a
    good bet.

    The only real drawbacks to this laptop are it's small screen, speed, battery
    life, and small hard drive. I did a fresh install of Windows 95, Office 97,
    IE, and a couple other things. I only installed the minimum, and I was left
    with little extra space. If you just install Word, as opposed to the entire
    Office suite, you'll have more space. Also, a flash card or PCMCIA storage
    solution should do fine, and it would be wise to use these for storing
    important letters, documents, and pictures. That way, if the laptop poops
    out, she'll still have the important stuff handy.

    I looked them up on Ebay, and found one listing which pretty much shows what
    these laptops are all about. Note that I'm not endorsing this listing, nor
    do I have any experience with the seller.
    Not a chance. She'll want something a bit more modern, which hasn't been
    dragged through the deserts of sand and heat.

    However, since the laptop I've discussed will cost less than $100, including
    the gadgets to run it off the vehicle's batteries, nobody's going to have
    much invested, so a newer laptop would be a smart bet. For serious school
    work, she's going to want something with a bigger screen, USB ports, sound,
    CDRW/DVD, and speed. Emachines has a very nice laptop for around $1,100,
    and even includes a wide screen. That would be ideal for school, but I'd
    never take something that nice into the desert.
    The Panasonic Toughbooks are very nice, as are the Itronix laptops.
    However, the Panasonics are very costly (over $1000) compared to the Compaq
    Contura and such, and whether they'll hold up to the heat and sand is
    debatable, as they're more complex and have much hotter CPU's. Panasonic
    doesn't even sell their Toughbooks to the public, so you'd have to again go
    to Ebay or the like to buy one. They're also somewhat underpowered compared
    to brand new laptops, so even if it survives the desert, it'll be a slug
    back home, as well as bulky and short on options.

    The Itronix laptops are tough, but I don't have any personal experience with
    them. I've seen them on Ebay fairly cheap for monochrome displays, but the
    color ones were too much in my opinion. They're also somewhat slow, for the

    Pagan, Jul 19, 2003
  8. Hi, my cousin is enlisted in a trucking unit stationed in the mideast and
    Acer Travelmate 800

    The system is thermical extrem healthy.
    The system is built into the same box and has the same
    cooling system like the Acer Travelmate 650 series with
    the hot so called "mobile" P4.

    So a cool Centrino is working with a cooling system
    designed for a much hoter CPU.

    This gives much thermical reserves.

    For example, the harddisks rund typical
    only 17 degree Celsius above room temperature.
    15 degree Celsius less than at several other notebooks.

    Great battery run time 5 hours with first 3 plus with
    the smaller second battery.

    I use it with a 12 V 7 Ah lead acid buffer battery and
    a 20 W peak photovoltaic all the day on the beach
    =?iso-8859-1?Q?Roland_M=F6sl?=, Jul 19, 2003
  9. dan braithwaite

    Pagan Guest

    I agree. Although he's right on about the Centrino's power and heat
    benifits, I've yet to see one that could stand up to even low to moderate
    abuse. These things are made for the city folk.

    Pagan, Jul 20, 2003
  10. dan braithwaite

    Guest Guest

    Except for low power real modern laptops, I'd say the older the
    better (less heat generated, not as sensitive to heat in the
    first place).
    Will utterly destroy whatever you get quickly. Get something
    cheap enough that you can throw it away afterwards (if it isn't
    destroyed in the first three months). Plan to get something else
    (more modern) for college life.
    Make sure it can accept either a 12 volt input (one truck
    battery) and/or get a 24volt (if that is what your trucks use) to
    laptop voltage converter. Lots of older laptops did accept 12
    volts. More recent ones seem to prefer 15 volts, which isn't as
    convenient in the circumstances described.

    Install low drain applications, and fine tune the system to avoid
    access to the hard drive. Personally, I'd install Windows 98SE,
    then use 98Lite to remove Internet Explorer, and use something
    non disk intensive like Opera as my browser (when required).
    Unless you have a pressing need to use MS Word all the time, I'd
    install a simple text editor as well, and run these from a RAM
    drive. Just save your stuff to hard drive (or even a Compact
    Flash or USB disk if the old laptop has USB) at the end of a
    session. Do whatever you can to avoid disk intensive programs
    unless you can get access to a power supply.

    If going the PDA route, you need something that isn't going to
    need access to a PC for power and recharge. I think most PDAs
    (except specialist field use stuff like Psion NetBook and NetPad,
    or Symbol) are too fragile, and too dependent on a PC for almost
    everything. Great in an office situation, but not for three
    months in the field.

    I use an obsolete Psion 5mx for notes on long trips, as it has a
    decent keyboard, AA batteries are available widely, and a pocket
    solar charger can keep rechargeables for it going. However sand
    would destroy the keyboard and screen cable eventually. There is
    a limit to how well you can use it while it is sealed in plastic
    (a dirt cheap AA powered hand plastic sealer and a roll of
    plastic wrap will help heaps), and in my experience in Australia,
    sand will eventually get through every barrier you can make
    anyway. Although I carry a modem, my experience is that phone
    connections are not available in most remote places (or the
    "phone line" turns out to be hanging on the end of a 2400 baud
    radio link when you try data). I carry a GSM phone with IrDA and
    a built in data adaptor. If passing near a town, I make a
    connection that way (at vast expense). I think most of the middle
    east uses GSM, but expect the rates would be even worse than in
    Australia. So I'd plan on trying to use whatever connectivity
    the military provide wherever you are stationed. That may be
    ethernet, may be WiFi, but either way even an old laptop with a
    PCMCIA slot can usually handle it just fine with the right card
    (if it is so old neither are installed).
    Guest, Jul 23, 2003
  11. dan braithwaite

    David Chien Guest


    If he's serious about having a tough enough notebook that'll handle
    heat, bumps, sand, and the life of a trucker who doesn't want to baby
    his notebook, then head on over and grab one of the Panasonic Toughbooks
    or other ruggidized notebooks.

    Here's their story on Toughbooks w/ truckers:

    I'd start with the Toughbook 28 model as a very durable notebook to
    look at first.

    Sure, not the fastest around, but certainly usable.


    Others include the iTronix GoBooks:

    Their GoBook Max is particularly durable:

    (Nothing like being able to hose down the notebook to clean it off!
    See pictures on the website.)
    David Chien, Jul 23, 2003
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