Laptop, Netbook, Tablet or Smartphone?

The problem: I already have a desktop at home as my primary computer. I am trying to choose my secondary device to carry around with me. I am looking for something that I can travel with and also take with me to the local coffee shop. I am interested in social networking, writing blogs, Google Maps, and e-mails, but nothing much else.

Following are the options:

Laptop: Carrying a laptop has its own advantages and disadvantages. A laptop is a complete system with a lot of processing power. A good laptop has enough battery to last you a long time. With a large screen, and multiple programs installed, a laptop is a good workhorse to carry around on a day to day basis. On the downside, it is heavy, bulky, and comes with a lot of accessories that need to be carried around. The power cord, the laptop case, and the mouse (an optical mouse or a magic mouse for a Mac).

Netbook (Ultrabook): The best part of the netbook is its battery power. Most netbooks have a battery life of around 8 to 10 hours (the ASUS Eee PC 1000 HE). However, it has a small screen without a CD/DVD drive. A netbook is slower and mostly used for travel. A netbook is very compact, but can be used only for email or basic surfing. Once you start doing some advanced word processing or graphics, and the netbook starts stalling.

Tablet: A Tablet is a very good option IF you don’t need to type a lot. Most tablets are very good for multimedia, movies, and social networking. If you need to type a lot, you need to have an external keyboard. A tablet does not have tactile feedback and you don’t feel it when you have pressed a key. Some tablets can play a sounds when a key is pressed. Also, in some tablets, the key is highlighted when you press it. Other than that, there is no tactile feedback. A good bluetooth keyboard is very important for a tablet in case you need to do a lot of typing.

Smartphone: A Smartphone is a very good option if you want to make and receive calls (and stay connected to the Internet). You can use a smartphone for emails, social networking, and apps. The smartphone is always connected to the Internet. The best part of a smartphone is it does not need to be booted up like a netbook or a laptop. Since smartphones are basically phones, they are always ON. Using a bluetooth keyboard, you could always type a lot of long emails or blog posts. The screen is small, but with a slightly larger font, it would be readable from a distance, say top of a table.

Assuming you don’t want to invest in a laptop or a netbook and you want something as your ‘secondary’ device, a tablet or a smartphone can serve as a very good option.

How do you choose your secondary device? Here’s how you can decide. Which of the following features do you want to use the most?

  • Internet
  • Social Media
  • Games
  • News
  • Email
  • Blog
  • Camera
  • Movies

Once you zero down on what you want to do, we could probably choose the best device. Tablets are really cool since they can do all of the above (with an external keyboard of course!).

Let us assume you just want to type long emails or blog. And you also like to interact with people using Facebook. If you don’t want to watch movies or do anything advanced on your device, maybe a smartphone with a keyboard would be a good idea.

If you would just like to use the device for blog posts or long emails, it might be ok to have a small screen. You could just get a bluetooth keyboard and type away!

This is what your setup (smartphone with a bluetooth keyboard) would look like:

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However, if you want to do something rich in multimedia, watch movies or just edit photos, you might want to go for a tablet.

Comparing a large and small screen might seem funny, since this is what the comparison would look like:

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But you can’t really carry around your iMac, can you?

Another good device (which the ad classifies as both a tablet and a smartphone) is the Samsung Galaxy Note. The Samsung Galaxy Note is slightly bigger than smartphones but definitely smaller than a tablet.

Once devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note enter the market, the decision just gets more difficult. In a world where you need to decide between netbooks, laptops, tablets, and smartphones what would you call the Samung Galaxy Note?

The decision just became harder.

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Cluttered geekery: how many gizmos are quite enough?

Today’s markets are flooded with gadgets and gizmos of every possible variety. While we want to believe otherwise, a surprising number of these gizmos make their way into most homes. Take, for example, a household with two adults and two children under the age of 10. Assuming an annual household income of $60,000 or more, the number of gadgets and gizmos in the house may run to:

  • One computer per adult and at least one computer shared by the two children
  • One printer, scanner, copier, and fax machine
  • One or more gaming system per child
  • One or more gaming system per adult
  • At least one mobile phone per adult
  • One mp3 player or iPod-type device per child
  • One or more ebook reader or tablet per adult
  • One Voice-over-IP (voip) and one landline phone system
  • At least one high-tech entertainment system consisting of a television, bluray player, speaker system, and other peripherals

That is about 24 devices for just four people. The number is much, much higher for a household where one or more adults work in the high-tech industry, also known as the IT industry.

The question, then, is whether we need so many devices or whether we should try to return to a simpler time. Ask anyone and they may say: “Oh, life was so much simpler back then. But, I can’t imagine life without my (insert gizmo name of choice).” We, as a people, have become quite dependent upon our devices. We go so far as to name them after our favorite characters. Much as our grandparents collected pet cats-dogs-horses, we collect gizmo-pets. Charming as it may seem, this tendency to personify our devices and grow attached to them at the hip is working against us. Our lives are getting more and more cluttered with unnecessary items that edge out the items we really do need.

The answer to the question `how many of these devices do we really need?`is quite simply `not so many`. Let’s look at that list to see if we can’t cut it down to a more manageable number:

If you look at the previous list, the household only needs one computer for everyone.

  • One computer per adult and at least one computer shared by the two children: Just one computer is enough. Why not set up a kiosk in a study or den area where different people can use the computer at different times? The chances that two people need to use the computer are quite slim. There is no point in preparing for a “computing emergency” by stockpiling computers. If the children do need their own personal computer, think about getting them a tablet device instead. Those Samsung Galaxy tabs or iPads are useful for more than just playing games or watching videos.
  • One printer, scanner, copier, and fax machine: The easiest way is to have a device that can do all four things. You have just cut down your device needs to a quarter of your original needs.
  • One or more gaming system per child and adult: Another out-of-the-box idea is to set up a gaming network within your home. Use your entertainment system to set up a family game room where everyone uses the same gaming system. There is no need to have mom’s fitness game, dad’s shoot-em-up game, or the kids’ learning games set up on different systems. Find one system that does it all, and reuse it for everyone. If this process helps you find a happy medium where everyone spends more time together as a family, it’s a win all around.

Just by consolidating a few devices, we went from 24 items to less than 10.

Apart from the obvious benefit of reducing clutter in our homes and living spaces, we can also help the environment by cutting down on our electricity consumption.

And that’s why I think that instead of making unachievable resolutions like “lose 20 pounds by May”, we must make a resolution to cut down on the number of devices that we own and with which we clutter our lives.

Could E.T. Solve Our Technology Problems?

Say Hi to E.T.!

Wouldn’t it be cool if we found a way to solve the world’s problems using technology? Some problems that need immediate solutions are:

  • Alternative Sources of energy – Crude oil is scarce. We have about a 100 years worth left. After that, the world will come to a standstill. We need to quickly use alternative sources of energy and make it commercially viable. What about Nuclear Cars like the Nuclear Submarines? Sounds interesting?
  • Cure for diseases – Not just a cure, but how do we prevent cancer and other dreaded diseases? How about improving medical technology such as cryo-surgery or Gamma knife?
  • Supercomputers – How do we build supercomputers that help us solve huge problems in nanoseconds?
  • Artificial Intelligence – How do we create and control Artificial Intelligence?
  • Global warming – How do we solve the problem of global warming?

With all the research underway, what can we do to speed up this process? Well, maybe we could get it touch with ET. Communicating with Extraterrestrial Intelligence will eventually help transfer their technology to us. Do you want to communicate with ET?

Really? Is this a joke? Or science fiction?

No – it’s real. The SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) helps us do just that. The SETI@Home project is the world’s biggest distributed computing framework started in May 1999 by the University of Berkley. Today, more than 5.2 million users across the world ‘donate’ their computing power to analyze radio transmissions from outer space.

SETI@Home uses radio telescopes across the world to listen to narrow-bandwidth radio signals from outer space. Such signals are not known to occur naturally, so detecting such signals would show evidence of extraterrestrial technology. But there is way too much data to analyze and that’s why they need our help.

Go to the SETI website and download the BOINC software. The software is cool, light, unobtrusive, safe, and gives you total control on how much resource you want to contribute. (I just wish they had iOS or Android Apps to utilize the millions of smartphones out there)

 SETI@Home

You can assign how much CPU power you want to donate during idle time. Imagine the number of times we leave our computers ON overnight! Running the BOINC software will help SETI@Home use a bit of your processing power to analyze radio transmissions from outer space.

I have installed the SETI application at home (don’t install it on your work computer since your boss wont be pleased to see you searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at work). Using the SETI application, we could help speed up the process of getting in touch with Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Future technology could help us solve today’s problems on Earth. If you are worried that something like Independence Day or Battle Los Angeles will happen, it might just turn out that ETs are extremely friendly.

Once you start searching for alien life forms, make sure you bolt your door at night. If you hear a strange sound, don’t be surprised to find ET outside your door waiting to phone home!