I have been very lucky to get to work with many interesting people around the industry and also lucky to get to work with a lot of really neat technology — both hardware and software. I have always tried to keep up with the latest. In the “old” days, IBM allowed me to use much of its latest and greatest from the labs in return for feedback to the developers. I also learned a lot from attending conferences. After I retired from IBM at the end of 2001, I began to operate more on my own. Once the iPhone appeared on the scene, the start of my migration to an all Apple environment began. There are many posts here in the blog about my experience with the various Apple products. What follows is an historical list of the technology I was using as of 2005.
For quite a few years I operated with a “primary system” plus a laptop. The primary system was a desktop floor standing PC — I used to call it the “mainframe“. LapLink made it possible to keep the two systems synchronized, but as ThinkPad technology advanced, I began to ask myself why I was spending so much time synchronizing the two systems. The ThinkPad hard disk was much smaller than the primary system and there were numerous limitations with regard to peripheral attachments. All that has changed — the restrictions are gone!
The ThinkPad is now my “mainframe” and it goes wherever I go. The current system is the Lenovo ThinkPad T43P. It is truly a joy to use. The T Series ThinkPads all have an Intel Pentium processor of one flavor or another with +/- 2 gigahertz and loaded with features. I like the balance of slim design and good viewing with a travel weight that is reasonable and a battery life of 8+ hours with the optional extra battery. WiFi is fully integrated including an antenna system that handles 802.11 a/b/g and the PCMCIA slot accommodates the Verizon EV-DO card. The DVD Multi-burner is great for making regular backups of critical files and also to burn DVDs of data to be archived. In effect it provides an extra 4+ gigabyte (at a time) drive with virtually unlimited capacity.
The T43 has a 60 gigabyte hard disk and one gigabyte of RAM. There are two USB ports plus Firewire and Bluetooth. A Linksys seven port hub attached to the ThinkPad dock station and allows the attachment of printers, scanner, and an IBM keyboard. The T43P has loads of other neat features. I love the ThinkLight™ which shines a small beam of light onto the keyboard for low-light conditions. Microsoft Windows XP is the primary operating system, but I look forward to the day when more of my key applications are available with Linux. I do have Linux on a number of other systems. Internet connectivity is via Comcast. The speed and service have been quite good. More and more places have WiFi but when it is not available the card provides wireless broadband.
I try to be very conscientious about backup and manage it at multiple levels. On the ThinkPad itself I have both the Microdrive and the CD-burner. I keep multiple levels of backup on both. I also copy key files over the home LAN to my wife’s Netvista. She has much more storage on her hard disk than she needs so I don’t feel too guilty in copying a few gigabytes of important things to her system as another source of backup. I have always maintained backups but in April 2001 I had a catastrophic failure of a hard drive on my ThinkPad T20. I had a week-old backup but nevertheless I lost a weeks worth of information and some of it was very important. I vowed to redouble my efforts at doing a high quality level of backup management. You just can’t overdo this. I also have a ThinkPad 240 as my backup of last resort. Some people love the ThinkPad 240 because of its very small size and weight. I can’t say I am a fan, to be honest. It does, however, provide a way for me to get email and web access when I am desperate. I plan to do a better job of insuring it is “recovery” ready in the event of an emergency.
The best way to handle paper documents is to scan them into Adobe Acrobat and convert them to PDF files, but but occasionally a printer comes in handy. Unlike the ThinkPad, where it is important to stay up with the very latest available technology, I don’t upgrade printers very often. The workhorse for me for years has been the IBM Network Printer 12 which is great for printing lots of copies of something. One of the nicest features is the duplex unit that allows for double sided printing and the built-in Ethernet card allows any computer in the house to print to it at any time. The Network Printer can rest in standby mode and only burns about the same electricity as a 30 watt light bulb. For high speed graphics intensive color printing I use the IBM Infoprint Color 1354.This printer is fairly large so it is in a closet with a WiFi print adapter. The Dymo Turbo 330 label printer is the utility infielder for binder labels or coffee can labels for the shop and the Zebra thermal printer facilitates stamps.com and ups.com. The Canon i960 is great for high quality color photo printing.
We all spend a lot of time on the phone these days and I guess I am no exception. The mainstay for me at the home office is the Panasonic KX-TG5110 5.8 GHz Multi-Handset Cordless Phone System. The system accommodates up to 8 cordless handset stations each of which has individual mailboxes with separate greeting messages. The all-digital voice mail system with automated attendant is nice but we don’t use all the features. It is designed more for a small business. The telephone service provider is Vonage for VoIP. The quality and price are great.
Local Area Network
The home LAN is where everything gets tied together. Any system can get to the Internet via the cable modem which is connected to an IBM X345 server in the basement which serves as router, DHCP server, and firewall which isolates the LAN from the Internet. The Linksys high-speed switch allows Ethernet ports around the house to be connected to the LAN and the Linksys Wireless Access Point enables ThinkPads to operate anywhere in the house for friends, family or visitors to whom I provide a WEP key. The broadcast feature of the WAP is turned off so that people driving by the house are not able to “borrow” the WiFi connection.
At the home office
When not traveling, the ThinkPad Dock provides quick access to desktop resources and easy expansion using an industry-standard half-size PCI slot, Ultrabay 2000, two PC Card slots and two USB ports. The dock also connects a 24″ flat panel monitor, an IBM keyboard with trackpoint, and the iPod dock.
On the Road
The ThinkPad T43P goes wherever I go. Between WiFi and Verizon EV-DO it is usually possible to stay connected. For handheld connectivity the Sony Ericsson P910a does the trick — both for voice and data. The Opera browser provides for web access. GSM service is provided by Cingular. The last part of on the road is taking pictures. The Casio Exilim does a fine job. Some of the results are in the photo gallery.