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Integrating computers into family life…

Integrating computers into family life…

Family Portrait 2This time last year, most of my non-work time was spent alone hunched up with my laptop on the sofa, playing games or doing emails etc.

Tonight, when I get home, my wife will be on our laptop cranking out another 3000 words for her NaNoWriMo project, while I’ll be watching TV and occasionally waiting for her to finish.

In about three months time, we’ll be trying to juggle laptop time (as I have termed it) with WeaponX time. Although, naturally, WeaponX will get the lion’s share of attention.

But since then, I’ve been wondering about how other people transition from being alone with a laptop, to being a couple with a laptop, to being a family with a laptop. Cory Doctorow has an interesting article on how he juggles fatherhood with laptop time – mainly by letting his daughter watch things on the laptop.

This sounds like a straightforward idea, but then at the back of my mind, I can’t shake the feeling that time spent on a laptop is time spent away from my wife or my future family, even if we are physically all together sat on the same sofa… whereas at least if we’re watching TV together, we’re watching TV together.

How do you tackle that dual need between “together time” and “laptop time”?

A snippet of life in the household

A snippet of life in the household

I am using an ancient tiny Celeron laptop to try and surf the modern Internet, with all its social media widgets and Flash files.

Hyperham is using a modern fast Intel dual-core laptop to play Dungeon Keeper 2, a classic game from 1998..

All while Eddie Izzard is talking about flags on Channel 4…

iPod vs laptop vs PSP vs …

iPod vs laptop vs PSP vs …

A friend of mine is flying over from the United States at the end of the month, and has kindly (or rather foolishly) agreed to bring some goodies for me, if I buy them in advance. So I’m left with wrestling over what to get myself and benefit from the ridiculous US/UK exchange rate – even though I can’t necessarily afford it at the moment. So should I get:

  • a new slightly bigger laptop, even though I’ve already got a Core Duo laptop with 1GB RAM and a reasonably good graphics card, which I got 18 months ago for about $2000?
  • Perhaps the new-fangled iPod Touch? The trouble is, I already have an ancient black-and-white old iPod from a bygone era (which I literally sweated over when I bought it 3 years ago), and I don’t use it that much except when I’m driving in the wilds of Wales where I can’t get hold of any radio stations. However, it does look dead flash and swish.
  • Perhaps a Sony Playstation Portable? With the slight flaw that I don’t spend that much time travelling on trains any more, so chances to use it would be quite limited. And besides, I have my existing (or a new!) laptop if I wanted to play games.
  • Maybe I could get a new swisher smart mobile phone, but there’s no guarantee they’d even work over here!

Of course, the sensible option would be to save some money instead, especially as there’s no desperate need for a new gadget. And since I already have an LCD TV, a Playstation 3 and a Nintendo Wii, I already look like the cliched bachelor with far too much money and not enough people on his hands.

But then again, how often can you almost get a laptop for half-price, and get US$2.1 for a mere English pound? It’s a bargain, I tell ya – a bargain!

What do you think?

A week in laptop computing…

A week in laptop computing…

For the last two to three months, I have been slowly agonising over precisely which laptop to buy…

Should it be the Apple Macbook Pro, which is gorgeous and slender but overpriced and lacking a right-hand mouse-button? The Sony Vaio SZ, which is again gorgeous and slender but overpriced? Or the Acer, which was relatively cheap but could be quite bulky.

Of course, what i really wanted was either the Macbook Pro, or the new AMD 64-bit dual-core processors to come out for a mobile platform. But time was ticking, and my total inability to commit to a computer platform (Mark Boulton once caught me sweating profusely in the Texan heat over whether to buy an iPod or an iPaq) wasn’t exactly going to help. I had to commit.

Monday: I suck in my gut, and place an order for a Sony Vaio SZ. It comes to about £1000 – but that’s £600 cheaper than UK prices.

Tuesday: Apple announce their new range of MacBooks, together with a price drop of the MacBook Pro to the point when it *just* becomes affordable. Although it says a lot about my wannabe-slave to the Apple design when I coo over the black Macbook for a while, before realising it’d look just about the same as any other black laptop out there.

Wednesday: My Sony Vaio SZ laptop arrives safe and sound at its temporary home. Thanks, Skarlett!

Thursday: AMD release their new range of Dual-Core 64-bit processors. Which basically means two 64-bit processors in a laptop! Gnash!

Friday: Intel are rumoured to cut prices on their Core Duo processors. Which would have made my laptop cheaper! Gnash!

Don’t you hate it when technology moves on in just five days ?!

Should I buy a new laptop?

Should I buy a new laptop?

In eager finger-licking/drooling anticipation of Civilization 4 coming out and watching most of my social life disappear in a haze of “go on, one more turn…”, I’ve been gradually upgrading bits of my PC. The RAM’s gone up, and I bought a second-hand Radeon 9800 Pro card via eBay.

Unfortunately, this card has reminded me just why I shouldn’t buy electronic goods off eBay. With the help of codmate (get well soon!), I’d got the card working enough to play the Call of Duty 2 demo, so I thought all was fine and dandy.

But no. The card freezes up after 10 minutes of play. Of Civilization IV, not only the most important game of 2005, but it’s not exactly a Doom 3 or a Quake 4, is it?

This combines itself with the realisation that in the future incarnation of my life (next year), I may well be spending a lot more time on trains and at the parents’ house, and could really do with a portable computing solution. And next year, I’ll need to edit a friends’ wedding video footage into some semblance of linear storytelling for their DVD.

So the question is, do I spend £100 now on a new graphics card, or decide to go for a gorgeous new laptop?

And if I do go for a laptop, do I go for a power-hungry one with all the bells and whistles that might only last an hour on a train or break my shoulders with a huge battery, or a small and sleek one that’ll last forever but I won’t be able to do much more than emails on it?

And if I do buy one, do I buy one here, pop to the USA for a weekend to get one that’ll be cheaper, or wait till I’m in Hong Kong for one gloriously busy night and see if i can find a bargain there? Because I’m all about the bargains.

Never mind the fact I’m not sure how I can pay for it all in the long run!

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