Computers and modern life: Reflections from being without a laptop

So the video card on my laptop has apparently died. On the surface it’s been a very annoying ordeal: I was unable to start on my 25 page paper that’s due next week, I have to use a crappy old Dell laptop right now (I didn’t realize how much I loved Thinkpads until now), and I may need to fork over a couple hundred bucks for a new video card/motherboard. On the other hand this has been an interesting case study for technology use and the impact it has on my life.

Even though technically I was without a laptop for about 12 hours (6 of which were spent sleeping) the experience even for just those few hours was striking. First of all, it made me realize just how much I needed my laptop for work. I couldn’t work on my paper. I couldn’t access lecture notes and slides. I couldn’t go on Google. It almost made me wonder how people (including me) went to school before computers. And it wasn’t just that: so much of my routine throughout the day is centered around a computer. I just didn’t know what to do without it.

Which brings me to my second observation. Disregarding the fact that Verizon’s service is nonexistent in 66, I actually didn’t miss that much in terms of communication because my phone has web access. Therefore I could still do a lot of the things I did on my computer: Check e-mail, check the stock market, check sports scores, check the weather, check Facebook, and read news articles from CNN and NYT. Basically if I didn’t have the paper, I would not have noticed too great of a disruption in my communication with the outside world (except reading everything on a smaller screen). This for me was more incredible than anything else. It really goes to show that our mobile phones are no longer just phones anymore, and with Moore’s Law that will only become more and more true in the future. I completely understand now why so many companies are looking to mobile as the future of consumer electronics.

Before I get to my last realization, I want to step aside for a moment and criticize how poor and cheap Dells look, work and feel compared to my Thinkpad (I’m leaving Macs out of this conversation because I haven’t used them enough to get past the learning curve). In particular I miss the full sized keyboard and the full sized Trackpoint button in the middle. Without those two, operating this machine just feels uncomfortable.

To be fair, this laptop is OLD. It still has a square screen and 512MB Ram. In fact, I believe my dad had this laptop when I was in high school. In addition, since it’s a school laptop, I’ve been saving any work I do to my flash drive. So after thinking about this for a bit, I realized that I am basically using a netbook right now (it even runs XP). Now granted it’s not small or lightweight like real netbooks, but functionally it’s a netbook. The only applications I’ve opened up are Firefox and Word. Everything is saved on a separate location. All this machine is really good for is its screen and Internet connection. Incredible. I understand the netbook phenomenon now.

Last comment: One other thing I miss from my Thinkpad is Outlook. I love e-mail, so right now I’m going back to what I did before I got Outlook: opened tabs in Firefox to my BC and personal e-mail accounts, just like I did through most of high school. Speaking of throwback computing, check out this Colbert clip.

P.S. I also miss Google Chrome. As solid as Firefox is, Chrome is just so much cleaner and easier to use. Please hurry up BC Hardware Repair.

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NBA Playoffs Round 1

 

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Sneaking this in just before the first game tips off today.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Detroit Pistons: If this were 2 years ago, I would be picking Detroit, but this year, Lebron has a supporting cast and the best record in the NBA and homecourt advantage. The Pistons on the other hand have lost Chauncey Billups, haven’t found a way to integrate A.I., and enter the playoffs with a losing record. All this is why I’m calling for a Cleveland sweep. Cleveland in 4.

Boston Celtics v. Chicago Bulls: This one just got more interesting in the last two months. I thought the C’s had a good shot of repeating this year, but with KG out for potentially the entire playoffs, I don’t think they can do it. Chicago on the other hand looked like they were going to miss the playoffs but the last minute trade for John Salmons and Brad Miller, coupled with the stellar play of Derrick Rose really helped this team surge into the playoffs. However, I don’t think Chicago has the low post weapons to make Boston pay for its lack of KG. Pierce and Allen have also been too good to let this young, untested Bulls team upset them. Boston in 6.

Orlando Magic v. Philadelphia 76ers: Ah my two favorite Eastern Conference teams. Why did you have to meet so early? All allegiances aside, I don’t think the Sixers have a chance. The Magic have too many weapons for them to stop and they have too few weapons of their own on offense. Having Dwight in the middle is going to make it difficult for the Andres to score inside. My only concern for the Magic is that Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis are not at full strength. However I don’t think they need to be and as long as one of them plays and the rest of the team plays well I think we could be looking at a sweep. Orlando in 4.

Atlanta Hawks v. Miami Heat: In terms of team talent, Atlanta wins hands down. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, and Al Horford make up a solid core. Miami though has the best player in Dwayne Wade. I don’t think its enough. I’m sure Wade will put in some jaw dropping performances and box scores, but in order to win he needs someone else to step up and I’m not sure anyone on his crew can. I like Wade, but he’s overmatched here. Atlanta in 6.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

LA Lakers v. Utah Jazz: Interesting first round matchup but I don’t think it’ll be as exciting as it looks on paper. Utah has the depth to test LA, but the Jazz have had problems with injury all year and they can’t win on the road. There’s a reason Utah is the 8th seed. LA in 6.

Denver Nuggets v. New Orleans Hornets: Seriously I don’t know what happened to the Hornets this year. They didn’t lose anyone and added James Posey but it seems like everyone except CP3 has gotten worse. The point guard matchup of Billups-Paul should be fun to watch, but this one is pretty much done already. Denver in 5.

San Antonio Spurs v. Dallas Mavericks: These two Texas powerhouses meet again but San Antonio is without Manu Ginobli this time while Dallas does not have a point guard that can guard Tony Parker. It will be interesting to see whether Dallas can find a way to slow him down or if Roger Mason will hit big shots. In the end I think that will be the key. As banged up as the Spurs are, I think they have the resilience and experience to pull through. San Antonio in 7.

Portland Trailblazers v. Houston Rockets: It’s the Blazers, who are in the playoffs for the first time, versus the Rockets, who are looking to get past the first round for the first time. These two teams match up well. The Blazers have Oden and Pryzbilla to guard Yao while the Rockets have Artest and Battier to stick on Roy. The big questions here are whether the Rockets will miss McGrady to come up with big plays or will the Blazers lack the playoff experience in crunch time. Either way it should be a great series, but I think this is the year Yao will make it out of the first round. Houston in 7.

Enjoy the games and Let’s Go Magic!