Thursday, July 05, 2012

Nurse the screens

For almost a year I've been doing all my work with a Lenovo x220 laptop. It's a wonderful device: the anthesis of the glossy, beautiful design of Apple's shiny computers, it comes in a gloomy black case with a slightly rubberised lid so it doesn't slip through your hand when you're carrying it. There is little joy to be had in looking at it: it's harshly utilitarian, rather than being a pleasure to behold. And when the lid is open, the Lenovo logo is upside down. Apple fixed that about ten years ago. Did they patent having logos the right way up, too?

So it's not much of a looker, unless you have a fetish for metalworking tools (it's the kind of laptop you expect to have a thin coating of gun oil), and the name "x220" hardly seems calculated to produce emotional attachment, but it gets the job done and it's much lighter than the tank of a Dell that I'd had to haul around Europe and Asia for the previous 4 years. That horror didn't even come with Bluetooth, so to have a work laptop that actually behaved like it was designed in this decade took a bit of getting used to.

However, it's not without its problems. Little laptops designed for high mileage executives aren't so brilliant when you want to run processor-intensive database software and build the world's biggest statistics machine. Or if you're the sort of dipshit who has a million row spreadsheet. Several times the Lenovo would whir and wheeze and an hour would go by as it crunched all my numbers, and I could tell it would die a premature death if I didn't do something to help it.

It's also only got a 13" screen. Complaining about small laptops having small screens is like moaning that your sofa won't fit in your pocket. But age and eyestrain and spreadsheets have left me needing more: first a 22" screen, then two 19" monitors, and still I wasn't happy. Still I didn't have enough desktop for the wall of data I was building.

Today I got my new desktop, which (somewhat perversely) will sit beneath my desk and chug through statistical models. Then me and dear ol' x220 can frolic, untrammelled by unrealistic workloads. My Stakhanovite beast of a desktop was issued with a 22" monitor, which has allowed me to skirt around the company restriction (thou shalt have no more than 2 monitors) and go some way to building an enormous productivity tool.

If my desk doesn't collapse first, that is.

I'm not sure how long I'll get away with this, but I'm going to have my laptop screen displaying emails (I will only read emails twice a day, so it's ok that it's the smallest screen), the 22" screen will go portrait style on the other end of the desk, all the better for reading code and long documents, and in the middle the twin 19" screens will show me all the spreadsheets my retinas can devour. A bit of meddling with Desktops Sans Frontieres and I'll be able to use just the one keyboard and mouse to control both computers, rather than my current Emerson Lake & Palmer set up, with keyboards here and keyboards there, and wires absolutely everywhere.

I think this could be the start of something wonderful. Or else I'm just going to get a suntan from all these screens.


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