Archive for June, 2009

Mozilla released the latest version of its Firefox browser today (version 3.5) as a free download. Although the release didn’t receive a lot of media attention, I think one feature in this version of the browser has the potential to seriously change the internet landscape as we see it.

Most videos that we see on the web (youtube, Google Video, etc) use Adobe’s proprietary Flash video format. In the newest HTML standard (v 5.0) which will soon be supported by many more browsers (Mozilla being one of the first), the browser itself will be able to display video. This could essentially make Adobe Flash unnecessary as the browser can incorporate one of the free open video formats that are available. The firefox browser can show you video just like it shows images, in a clean and efficient way. Additionally, Firefox uses the open format Ogg Theora that renders videos beautifully and works great without the need for proprietary codecs or plugins.

Download the latest version of Firefox here:



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Hilarious, courtesy of the onion.


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A fellow student pointed out that you can follow the Stanford GSB http://twitter.com/gsbstanford and Garth Saloner http://twitter.com/saloner (the new dean of the GSB) on Twitter.

Looks like they tweet pretty frequently too!

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I wrote about my impressions of the Kindle DX here. However, I didn’t get to test two things properly: Manga and Magazines.


Manga works really well on the Kindle DX (although there is the occasional crash). I used one of my old Rurouni Kenshin images for this test. I zipped the folder containing the pages (which are individually in .jpg format), created a folder called “Pictures” in the Kindle DX directory and copied the zip file over there.

The DX immediately showed the name of the image folder at the top of my document list. You can actually make a folder in “Documents” and copy the images there too, it still works (i.e. without a picture folder).

Don’t forget to hit “Alt-z” to force the DX to rescan the folders for images.

First the bad: it’s a little slow, some pages can take some time to refresh and in full screen mode about half an inch of the page at the bottom is hidden. The go to beginning feature although shown, does not work. So if you go through say a hundred pages and want to get to the beginning, there really isn’t a way to do that unless you are willing to page through all hundred pages painfully. When I tried to do this and pressed page up rapidly, the Kindle DX went back to my home page and showed me the dictionary as the only document I have! Thankfully after a couple of restarts and then connecting to the computer again all of my documents and books reappeared on the Kindle. Note that this did not happen under normal usage and so I think crashes of this type are rare (as long as you are patient).

The good: the DX screen size is almost perfect for reading Manga. Images render well and are very readable (no scrolling around). As I mentioned above the bottom .5 inch is eaten up in full screen mode (you can scroll down to see this), but in my test the only thing I was missing was the border of the page and the page number, so it was fine.

Sorry about the poor quality of these images (they were taken with the iPhone camera):


Unfortunately magazines have not changed much from the Kindle 2 versions. Yes, the screen is larger but it just means you have more text on the screen. I haven’t seen any real “Optimized for DX” magazines yet. Amazon’s magazine interface (just like the newspaper one that I commented on in my prior review) is not great. Most articles have been reduced to just text. In my mind a pageful of text is not a great reading experience. I do have to add that I only tested one magazine (Forbes). I’ve seen other reviewers who’ve looked at the New Yorker and said the same.

So there is a lot of promise in the DX hardware but the software is not really taking advantage of it right now. The screen of the DX would be ideal for displaying magazines just the way that the paper versions look, although I don’t know what impact this would have on bandwidth use and Sprint’s network.

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Amazon shipped the DX two days ago and I received mine yesterday. These are my impressions based on just about a day of usage.

First, this is my first electronic reader, it’s also my first experience with e-ink. My first thought as I looked at the screen was wow, the screen is very crisp and clear (much clearer than my photographs below show). Images render beautifully, and look great on the screen, although everything is in shades of gray. Amazon ships the Kindle with the getting started instructions “frozen” on the Kindle DX screen since e-ink requires no power to maintain what’s on the screen.


The screen size (9.7 inches) feels perfect for just about any content. The fonts can be made large enough to be very comfortable for anyone, even if your sight isn’t perfect. The screen resolution looks good, and text is very readable even for downloaded PDFs (more on that later).

The DX is not particularly light. It probably weighs a little more than the weight of two regular one subject notebooks. For one handed use, it works but it’s not easy to hold with one hand for long unless you lean it on your arm. I can see why some users who don’t need business documents, textbooks or newspaper content would prefer the smaller (6 inch) Kindle. The buttons which are now on just the one side of the Kindle DX shouldn’t really bother anyone in my opinion as it can easily be rotated around (screen rotates automatically like on the iPhone). I found myself often using my left hand (even though I’m right handed) when I was using the DX with one hand (with it leaning on my arm).

The device is very thin and the official Amazon cover doesn’t add a lot of additional heft to it leaving a device that looks about the size of a notebook (slightly thicker with case, slightly smaller footprint).


The Kindle DX slides easily into the hinges of the cover (a additional $49 purchase from Amazon). The hinges hold the device solidly while the cover snaps shut firmly using magnets. On previous versions of the kindle, there were complaints of the kindle cover opening accidentally while in a carry bag. The DX cover’s magnet should stop this from happening. The cover itself is made of leather but doesn’t look that great from the outside. It is however very functional and the interior is comfortably lined in suede which is perfect for one handed reading. I would avoid covers in the market that don’t use the hinge system and instead use loops at the four corners.


The keyboard at the bottom of the DX that Amazon hopes students will use to make notes, is probably the worst part of the Kindle design. The keys are tiny and not very easy to press. It feels like a blackberry keyboard but with awkward spaces inserted in the middle.

Hopefully Amazon will come out with some sort of keyboard accessory support for this that will allow a better portable keyboard to be fixed to the USB port (might be wishful thinking).

The other new hardware feature is the auto rotation of the screen. The DX ships with this set to automatic by default. One of the first things I did was to change this to manual. The DX screen switching on auto, can be very trigger-happy. Based on the preferred reading angle, it’s easy to change orientation unintentionally. However, this is corrected with one press of the “Aa” button and a couple of moves of the five way “joystick” control.


One of the main features that I wanted to try out on the DX was the ability to view business school cases in PDF form. I connected to Stanford’s webapps and downloaded a few cases. Amazon gives two ways of transferring personal documents to the Kindle.

a) Email it to Amazon and it will be delivered wirelessly to the Kindle (costs 15 cents a megabyte – could be about a $1 per document or significantly more based on the size of the file).

b) Connect via the provided USB cable and just copy the file over (similar to copying files onto a standard USB drive).

I used the second option which is what I think I will be doing once classes start in the fall. It was very straightforward. When connected via USB, the Kindle cannot be used to read unless you “eject” the USB drive. If the USB drive is ejected it will continue to charge while you read.

When connected via USB, folders can be created on the Kindle to organize the content. However, these folders do not appear on the device itself. For example I created a folder called “Stanford Cases” but as shown in the images, this didn’t affect the organization of the documents on the screen. Hopefully a firmware update will add support for folder display that will make it easier to navigate through documents. In its current form if someone did have the 3,000+ books that Amazon says you can carry on the DX, finding a book from that library could be difficult.

PDF versions of cases display perfectly on the device, with even the smaller fonts being very readable. Without measuring scientifically it looks like in portrait mode the PDF’s are shown at about 80-85% of full size. The DX does not support zooming of PDFs, however there is a feature which essentially is a fixed zoom. When the orientation is changed from portrait to landscape the size of the uploaded PDFs looked just about 100% of printed size (see images below). This can be used as a zoom to enlarge any tables or charts that are printed in smaller font.





Newspapers display really well on the device. I subscribed to trials of both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times (pictures in the gallery below).  Waking up in the morning to have the newspapers automatically delivered to the Kindle is a great experience. Although the articles themselves are displayed well, the interface for newspaper display leaves a lot to be desired.

[EDIT: Andrys a reader of the blog pointed out that the Kindle does allow random access to articles by going through the section list and browsing through a list of snippets in each section.] The section list page needs to be refined to look more like what the current Times Reader application from the New York Times looks like. i.e. a real cover page, rather than just a list of section names article snippets. The current system works but looks boring and for the price (about the same as the print version or even more expensive in some cases), consumers will want more.  The system currently requires subscribers to go through each article one by one rather than jump first select a section and then browse through a list of news snippets rather than using a graphically laid out page, before jumping to an article that looks interesting as most readers typically do. I don’t plan to subscribe permanently to either newspaper in the current incarnation. [EDIT: although the convenience of the online delivery is tempting.]


Amazon is yet to launch the textbook store for the Kindle. However, there are a few texts available already. I decided to try out one that was labeled “Optimized for Kindle DX.” Unfortunately, this turned out to be a particularly poorly done e-book with low resolution images (unlike other “optimized for DX” books that I tried). Although the book was quite usable (and also priced at about a third of the price of the paper version), the low resolution images that the publisher had utilized took away from the reading experience.

I will post more details on the textbook experience once Amazon launches the textbook store fully (expected before the fall) and business school texts start to appear online.

Web Browser:

The Kindle DX includes a basic web browser. Within the menus of the browser is a new desktop mode that displays full versions of webpages (when it works well, similar to a regular desktop browser).  I found the basic web browser usable but quite primitive. [EDIT: A reader Andrys pointed out that the basic browser on the Kindle is usable for most simple tasks such as googling something, looking at a non-graphics heavy wikipedia page, looking up a review etc.] The bandwidth available seemed really low as well (I’m wondering if Sprint/Amazon deliberately throttle the badwidth usage on the browser to keep network costs down. The desktop mode is very slow and not particularly reliable. The browser froze and restarted my kindle when I tried a graphics heavy wikipedia page using the desktop mode. The DX browser is meant for occasional / emergency use only, at least in its current “experimental” form. [EDIT: I just had my second Kindle reboot while trying to look at this blog page using the kindle in desktop mode.]

[UPDATE: I’ve found that the web browsing experience can vary a lot based on Sprint’s coverage. I did some wikipedia browsing today with some relatively heavy graphics as well but did not run into any problems and the pages loaded surprisingly quickly.]

[Update: PDF Reader Limitations

I tested the DX with a newer PDF book today (it was in Acrobat 8.x and contained many maps, images) and the Kindle failed to render most of the pages correctly. The book opened but a lot of the 3D graphics / maps did not show up and a warning appeared at the bottom of the DX saying: “Some elements on this page could not be displayed.”

I reprinted the file as Acrobat 6.x and the file works like magic, graphics, maps and all.

So, despite my initial thoughts, it looks like there are cases that PDFs don’t display correctly on the Kindle (although in my experience this is not the norm).

Additionally, on one PDF format book that I tried every other page appeared in a smaller font (not filling the page), this was corrected when I changed to landscape mode but reading in portrait became difficult. The contrast on the same book was fairly light as well.

I’ve added my thoughts on Manga and Magazines here https://srilankangsb.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/kindle-dx-manga-and-magazines/.


Text to Speech

The text-to-speech feature in its current form is not very good. The Adobe Acrobat read aloud feature (on my PC desktop) works much better and can be listened to. The Kindle version is really bad at pausing at the right places.


Despite the drawbacks that I cited above, I really like the Kindle DX. The reading experience is very good and the convenience of purchasing books via Amazon’s Whispernet service, pretty much anywhere, anytime is amazing. The DX’s size is perfect for case studies, scientific documents etc. and the lack of zoom should really not bother users because of the landscape mode that’s available. Although missing a few important features (like a better keyboard) this device provides a great platform for textbook and newspaper distribution. However, to utilize both these features requires first, waiting for the Kindle textbook store to launch (should be within the next month or so), and second, a better designed cover page for newspapers.

Questions from the Kindle Forum:

Does Text to Speech work on unconverted PDF? No, I would have been very surprised if this worked.

When you turn an unconverted pdf to landscape, how big do the letters get? It zooms by about 15-20%. The end result is about the same as what the PDF looks like when printed on letter sized paper.

Is the web browser better than the K2? I haven’t used the K2 but the Kindle DX has a desktop mode (with support for Javascript) as noted above. However, this mode crashed my kindle and I wouldn’t buy this version of the kindle hoping to use it as a browser. It’s slow, rather buggy and not a great experience.

How are the Speakers? Good, on text to speech, loud enough to fill a small room (similar to speakers found on smaller laptops). I haven’t tried them with music though, just with text to speech.

How comparable the screen size is to a page from a normal size hardcover book. I like reading books in hardcover, rather then paperback. I just wonder if the DX’s screen size is almost identical in average hardcover page size, appearance, etc? Very similar to hardcover book reading. I would say page size is almost identical to the typical hardcover but can probably show a little more text with the margins reduced (this can be changed using the Aa menu). The appearance of the text I think is even better than the regular hardcover page since the page is completely flat and the contrast is very good.

Does it creak? I shook it around a bit but couldn’t hear it creak, can’t say I tried too hard though 🙂 Feels very solid to me.

Does the text disappear with the sun? No. I found it very readable in direct sunlight. The only time it is difficult to read is if you have a light right behind you that is reflecting off the screen into your face.

Is the background/foreground contrast OK for comfortable reading with small size fonts? The contrast is just perfect and looks like the text is etched on the surface of the kindle. Reading small fonts is very easy. The display seems to be very high resolution as I can read the text even at the smallest font size without seeing “jaggies.”

Does it crash a lot? The only times it crashed on my so far is when I tried to view a graphics heavy wikipedia page with javascript enabled. Seems quite stable otherwise.

How difficult/cumbersome is it to have the navigation buttons on only one side, and to have to switch back and forth when using the keyboard to annotate? I found it very easy to use. I like to hold the kindle on my left arm and turn pages with the left as well (by putting my hand behind and around the DX), this works fine. The joystick works correctly in any orientation so if you wanted to turn it around and page turn on the left that will work well too.

The keyboard to annotate is a bit of a pain to use. The keys are small and stiff. I haven’t gotten used to the spacing yet.

I’d love to see some screenshots of how Mangle looks/works on the DX. I can only imagine the big screen would be even better for manga? I think Manga will look great. For an example of the image displaying abilities look at the screenshots from Akiko below. Sorry, I couldn’t transfer any manga to it to test out. I thought pictures look beautiful, like penciled etchings.

[Update: I’ve added my thoughts on Manga and Magazines here https://srilankangsb.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/kindle-dx-manga-and-magazines/.]


Does the DX properly scrape PDF metadata? Doesn’t seem to. It showed the titles on the cases I uploaded as the file name. PDFs display perfectly though.

Do 8.5 x 11″ documents seem “too small”? They don’t. I didn’t realize that it was smaller until I put the DX side by side with a printed version. In landscape mode you don’t see a full page but 8.5×11 documents look almost 100%. However, in my experience the portrait mode was perfectly readable as well.

Did they add folders? Unfortunately not. You can create folders on the drive in the USB mode to organize things, but they will not show up as folders on the kindle.

Are math fonts in Wikipedia articles readable with the Kindle DX, including the subscripts in equations? For example, could a student read and understand the article available here?


Yes. In desktop mode the link above displays perfectly including all formulas subscripts etc. However the browser is slow and not very reliable in this mode.

Are math fonts in pdf articles readable with the Kindle DX, including in articles with very narrow margins?

Yes. fonts show up perfectly and PDFs work just the same as they would on your desktop. I was amazed by just how good the readability was. I didn’t try narrower margins than my cases below but I think it will be fine.

Is the print darker then a K2? I don’t have a K2 to compare but the print looks very dark and is a pleasure to read.

How is the cover? See my comments on the cover above. It works, uses up a minimum of space and the magnetic latch and the hinge lock system are great. Leather: not so nice.

Does it have a back light? AH. No.

Is it comfortable to hold and read (both landscape and vertical)? It’s not super comfortable for using one handed, but the increased screen size adds a lot of comfort to the actual reading. I’m glad I went with this size although sometimes I find myself wishing it was just a little lighter.

How many font sizes are there? 6, the largest one is gigantic! default is the third size.

Any new screen savers? Hmm, unfortunately don’t know since I don’t have a K2 but I really like the screen saver.

How well does it handle complex, multicolumn PDF’s? Very well, no problems at all.

What about images in PDF files? They display fine.

Are they large enough to see, is there a way to enlarge them if needed? They are large enough, but the only way to enlarge is by switching to landscape mode.

Most importantly, is highlighting and annotation possible in a PDF? Unfortunately not.

Can you zoom and pan on them? Just switching to landscape mode may not be enough magnification for image based PDFs and some charts/graphs. Unfortunately not, switching to landscape is the most you can do. Any PDF designed to be “printed” on letter size paper should be ok though.

How’s the contrast? Very good. It’s a pleasure to read.

Does the dictionary work on an unconverted pdf? No. There is no curser on PDFs. Only thing you can do is search through them or bookmark pages.

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Dell E SeriesSince I’ve seen a lot of my friends start looking for notebook computers recently, I thought I would publish my thoughts on what to look for when buying a notebook for business school. I’ll separate this into four categories: form factor, specifications, brand and value.

Form factor:

In my mind there are four that you can select from:

a) mini notebook / netbook (screens smaller than 12 inches – most common size is 10.1 inch)

b) portable (12 or 13 inch screens)

c) mainstream (14 or 15 inch screens)

d) multimedia / gaming / semi-portable (larger than 15 inches)

As a business school student, the possible uses could be taking the notebook to study group sessions and taking it while traveling (which MBAs do very frequently). This would basically remove option d) and leave the first three.

Based on my personal experience, the smallest screen size that you want to use as your “only” notebook is 12 (for some this will be no less than 13). The reason for this: a 10 inch screen doesn’t leave a lot of real estate for using things like large spreadsheets or opening multiple windows side by side to look at a document while editing another, etc. Also, 15 inch notebooks are also starting to stretch things in the opposite direction: not very comfortable for use on a plane, not as easy to carry around and the larger screen size will take a toll on battery life.

Something to keep in mind though is that you could potentially purchase a monitor and external keyboard and use these in conjunction with a netbook to get around the limitations of a small screen while still getting the benefits of portability. However, this will add around $200 to the cost of the system (bringing costs almost in line with mainstream notebooks), will give you something you will have to lug around if you move and even then you will have a system that will be barely enough to do the things you want it to do. For example, most mini notebooks do not come with DVD / optical drives. If you had to access something off a CD or a DVD for a class, you would have trouble doing so. Also, even the best netbook keyboards are cramped and offer less space than the full sized keyboards on larger notebooks.

I think a business school student should really limit there search to notebooks in the 12, 13 and 14 inch screen size. If you’ve never used a 12 inch notebook, limit it to 13 and 14 inch unless you can use a 12 incher for a lengthy period of time to make sure you are comfortable with it. A 13 inch notebook is the smallest size that will usually have a full sized keyboard (although there are some 12 inchers that have full sized keyboards too).

Specifications (June 2009)


Processors and computer specs change very quickly. Therefore what I say below will probably be outdated within just a few months. I will also limit this to the choices that most people will face, and exclude processor brands that are not as common.

Computer manufacturers love to quote speeds of processors in Ghz, a 2GHz notebook, a 2.4 GHz notebook etc. What they don’t want you to know is that even at a fixed frequency (2Ghz for example) Intel has a very broad spectrum of processors, some have lower cache sizes which affect performance, some have lower bus speeds, others work with older components so you will still be stuck with a subpar system.

For a business school student who travels frequently, battery life is important. I think having a notebook that can sit on your lap easily without heating up significantly is important as well.

Taking these considerations into account, I would recommend staying with an Intel Montevina P class processor. How will you recognize these processors? Look for the processor number that starts with a P: P7350, P8400, P8600, P9500, etc.

Ignore other labels such as centrino 2, core 2 duo etc. If you get a processor labeled as above, you’ll be fine.

The slowest of the processors above, the P7350 is still fast enough for most tasks and can handle a lot of multitasking. So don’t feel compelled to spend extra to get a faster processor. I haven’t seen many manufacturers adopt the P7350 so you might have to get a P8400 or a P8600 processor.


The amount of memory on the system has a huge impact on its performance, especially if like me you like to have a lot of windows open and switch between them. But this is also one of the components that most notebook manufacturers make a lot of money marking up.

It’s also something you can very easily upgrade yourself after purchasing: very easy to do.

The amount of memory I would recommend is 3GB to 4GB. But don’t buy this directly unless they are charging you very little for it. Currently at Newegg you can buy 2GB of memory for about $25 and 4GB for about $40.

Remember that most notebooks will have two slots to insert memory into. So if you buy a notebook that has 2GB of RAM and want to upgrade it, if they have used both slots of memory by using two 1GB memory “sticks”, you will have to discard one when you add your memory. Most manufacturers will let you pay a small premium to get the memory in 1 slot, so that you have the other one open to upgrade. So for example if you got 2GB in one slot, you can just buy another 2GB stick from newegg (www.newegg.com) for ~$25 (will probably be less by the time I hit publish!) you can upgrade to 4GB.

Hard Drive

At today’s costs I would say the minimum should be about 120GB. Most notebook manufacturers will give you 200+ GB as part of their standard configurations. In general a 7200 RPM drive will be faster than a 5400 RPM drive but it could also be a little noisier and warmer. I think the 5400 RPM drive is fine for most purposes.

Wireless Card

I recommend you buy a notebook that supports N wireless. This will typically be listed as “a/g/n wireless card”. Should be a low cost upgrade from the standard “b/g” card. This card will allow you to access faster N wireless networks once they become more popular at airports, coffee shops etc. If a manufacturer lets you get a WiMAX compatible card without paying a lot for it you should go for that.

Screen Resolution

Typically the 12 and 13 inch screens should have at least WXGA screen resolution. WXGA means that you will have 1280×800 pixels on the screens. If you are going for a 14 incher a wxga+ screen is a nice option although not absolutely necessary. WXGA+ gives you 1440×900 pixels on the screen, giving you more room for excel spreadsheets and the like.


Don’t go for anything less than 6 cells. Usually manufacturers will also offer 9 cells, on most small notebooks this will extend a little way out of the notebook body but give you better battery life. A 6 cell should be fine for most purposes.

Optical Drive

Go with the DVD burner or DVD – RW drive.

Wireless Broadband Card

If the manufacturer you’ve chosen allows you to have wireless mobile broadband built-in, this is an option you could consider. If you don’t plan to subscribe to a wireless data plan, this will not really do anything. These plans typically cost $60+ per month and provide access to data from anywhere that the selected cell phone provider has data coverage.

You could do things like check your email, connect to the library or read news while you are commuting. I think for students who will spend most of their time in areas that have wifi coverage the $60+ a month is not really worth it. However if the notebook manufacturer allows you to get mobile broadband built in for a small cost you can select this (small cost being $0-$80 or so) and have the option of subscribing to a mobile broadband plan on a future date. Verizon and Sprint have the best data coverage in the US. I would select one of these. Sprint I believe has cheaper data plans and also allows no contract plans through companies like Millenicom (www.millenicom.com) which makes it a good choice. AT&T has terrible data coverage and is currently suffering from a deluge of iPhones on to their network so I would stay away from them as a mobile broadband provider. Remember you can always get a USB adapter and get mobile broadband on a later date, so don’t worry about this option too much.


An HDMI port or Displayport is nice to have. This will allow you to connect your notebook to a TV easily using an HDMI cable and do things like presentations, watch netflix movies, watch TV etc through your television but using your computer. Displayport has a small adapter that costs about $10 that lets you connect it to most digital video formats. These ports are very convenient because they let you transmit a high quality signal while the cable carries Audio as well so you don’t need to connect multiple cables. I love being able to watch movies from netflix from my computer through HDMI.

Operating System

If you are a current MAC user then you will likely be going for one of the new macbooks with Snow Leopard installed.

For those of us who are PC users, any system purchased after June 26th with Windows Vista Home Premium or above will qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 7 (which I hear should be very good). So don’t buy a system that has Windows Vista basic. If you can get one that is labeled Windows Vista Business – XP Downgrade, that means you will get Windows XP installed but a Vista license as well so that you can change to Vista if you wanted to.

Other Options

Manufacturers will give you a lot of other options like backlit keyboards, built-in webcams, etc.

The only one I think is pretty useful to have is the built-in webcam. The back-lit keyboard is a cool extra but not a necessity.


In selecting a brand, you should stick to a name that will give you a good low cost warranty. Notebook computers are not easy to fix if you have problems. Over say a 3 year time frame you could run into problems that make you wish you had a warranty. Most businessess use Dell or Lenovo (Thinkpad) because their business notebook lines are known for reliability and good support. The problem there is that business class notebooks will also cost quite a bit.

For most non Apple users: you will really be selecting between Dell, Lenovo and HP. If you are going with a business class notebook you will be choosing between a Thinkpad T series and Dell’s Latitude E line. With the sale to Lenovo, Thinkpads are not the premium brand that they used to be and can actually be had for almost the same price if not cheaper than Latitudes. The advantage with Dell’s business notebooks is that they all come with a solid 3 year warranty.

I would stay away from the bottom of the line home models like the Dell Inspiron which are relatively bulky and heavy and not as reliable.  The same goes to Lenovo’s Ideapad series.

Try to get a hold of a couple of notebooks and see what feels right for you. Talk to students you know and ask them about their experiences with warranty and service. I personally can say that Dell definitely stands behind their notebook if you have a warranty.

Get a notebook with at least a 2 year warranty on it: yes I know this will add to the cost but I think its worth it.


Check if your school has good deals with a certain notebook manufacturer. For example http://www.dell.com/”your school name” will typically take you to the dell page customized for your school. Note that this doesn’t always work and Dell is notorious for sometimes having more expensive prices in their “discounted” sections than available for general consumers. So check prices from a number of sources before buying. Dell will sometimes have one price through dell.com/smallbusiness and another if you just go through dell.com.

Lenovo has a shareholder discount program which you can register for online.

Sites like Logicbuy compile the deals out there and allow users to vote on what the best are here: http://www.logicbuy.com/subcategorydeals/13/Computers/35/Laptops.aspx?order=hottest

This could be a possible starting point.

If you read this and disagree with any of my recommendations please add a comment below to let me know.

Picture: Dell’s E Series Latitude.

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tomtomYesterday, Apple made a number of significant announcements. Cheaper macbooks, new iPhone 3GS model that will support video, have a much better camera, faster connections, peer to peer games, etc, and a new iPhone OS for the older iPhone 3G that will bring a 100 new features to the phone. To me, the most important announcement was that the iPhone 3G will be dropping below $100 (for new customers, with two year contracts).

The companies that will likely be hurt the most from this announcement are likely Palm and Sprint. I think the Palm is a great phone, just as good as the iPhone, if not better. I think the Pre interface and the fact that the phone has an actual keyboard makes it a better phone. But in today’s environment, will consumers pay $200 more upfront for an unproven phone when the whole world is raving about the new iPhone? I think very unlikely. Remember the Palm Pre is $199 only after a $100 mail-in rebate.

For Sprint/Palm something has to happen very quickly to bring down the price of the phone to be competitive with the $99 iPhone 3G. The problem here is that Sprint doesn’t make as much off monthly bills as AT&T does. They are much cheaper over a 2 year period. This advantage is often overlooked by consumers who look only at the initial cost of a phone and ignore the longer term cost. Because they don’t make as much margin over 2 years, Sprint is also limited by how much it can discount the phone to get it to sell. This could hurt. Palm does have a backup plan, in 6 months Verizon will get a hold of the Pre and bring it to market, probably at that sub $99 price point that is now an absolute necessity to compete with the iPhone. But will 6 months from now be too late? I think it will be.

AT&T’s wireless plans for the iPhone are very high as well. I think it almost makes a case for regulation just like all the disclosure changes that are happening to credit cards right now. The cellphone providers should be forced to disclose the full two year ownership cost of the phone clearly, including things like a basic text message plan so that a consumer paying $99 up-front for the phone knows that they are also signing up for a $85+ minimum monthly payment (including taxes, etc) for the next two years. Also if you send anything more than 200 text messages a month, add another $15 to that bill. That’s only for a basic 450 minute plan.

Picture: the new TomTom application that’s coming to the iPhone, with car kit.

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