I know it’s 2013 and as far as “mobile computing” goes, I’m supposed to be pinch-zooming and app-buying and poorly-typing on a tablet like the cool kids. And I do — my O.G. Nexus 7 (the 2012 model) sometimes makes a nice companion to my Galaxy Nexus Android phone, by being slightly faster and having a slightly better screen. However, over the 15 months I’ve owned the Nexus 7, it never quite became the second mobile device that I wanted. Useful, yes… transcendent, no.
I knew something was still missing, so I recently went and bought a small laptop computer, a Lenovo ThinkPad X230, to carry around. It runs Debian Linux. It does the things I want. It’s a wonderful thing to have.
I needed this because…
The laptop that the ThinkPad replaced was from 2007, and while a decent computer from back then would likely still be good today, my old laptop was not a decent computer, even when new. Back then, I didn’t know just how painfully slow an ultra-low-voltage, low clock-speed CPU could be… I guess I thought it being dual-core would somehow make up for it. Also, the cooling fan was a bit of a whiner, and would constantly and very vocally disagree with Linux’s style of power management. The darned thing would constantly sound like a mini-jet-engine — too obnoxious to use around people I actually like.
Low on power, high on noise — not a good combo.
But these days…
In the last half-decade or so, mainstream humans seem to have accepted the smartphone, and seem to be doing the same for the idiot camera (“tablets”). It’s the “Post-PC era,” or something. Plenty of people seem to be doing okay without spending much time on their general-purpose personal computers, but over time I realized that as I tried to go along with this trend, I was missing out. For me, a computing life centered around mobile “smart” devices was one of unacceptable compromise. Composing more than a couple of sentences without a keyboard makes me want to just not bother to write, devices without expandable storage make one dependent on rent-seeking “cloud” services, and the mobile app ecosystem has handfuls of well-known problems (privacy, lock-in, and so on).
There’s a place for these devices, even in my life, but they just don’t replace a general-purpose computer. Ever.
So I did this…
I made sure not to make last time’s mistakes when buying this computer. The i5 CPU is more than adequate, and I have a ton of RAM. ThinkPads are known to play nicely with Linux, because they’re used by that awesome kind of geek who figures that shit out (and wouldn’t put up with a jet engine laptop). It runs Debian Jessie (“testing”) with only minor annoyances — not perfect, but nothing I can’t handle.
Hardware build-quality and durability are major plusses for an everyday carry machine, and that’s what ThinkPads are known for. And of course,
TrackPoint is truly the best way to mouse. A lot has been said about the new ThinkPad keyboards, and while this one suffers from the bullshit key layout (compare it to the awesome, ugly 1337-geek classic style), the keyboard actually feel pretty nice to type on, even if the bizarrely-placed PrintScreen key occasionally enrages me.
In the spirit of burying the lede, here are some things I intend to enjoy while toting around this rock-solid, large-screen-and-real-keyboard device:
- Full desktop OS that does all the things
- Better web browsing; approximately 1,000 open tabs
- Actually writing things, blogging silly ideas and such
- Tons of local storage (SSD + HDD = yay!)
- Semi-modern PC games, including lots of Humble Bundle goodness
- Interactive fiction, perhaps (now, where did I misplace my patience?)