On a serious note, I mostly disagree about the small size. The author mentioned his preferred size being A5, which is about half a letter. Having to type commands on machine that just fits under your palms is painful. I'd rather have a large keyboard, large screen and a large battery.
My current EDC setup is an X250 with a huge bag of adapter dongles, carried in a Falcon II.
And since your battery won't be large enough to support compiling LLVM in reasonable time anyway, it's better to just get used to do CPU-heavy stuff by ssh-ing to a rackmount somewhere use the laptop for terminal-ish tasks.
I think the old Fujitsu Lifebooks with the ~16:9 screen size and the nearly full sized keys is probably about the size you want on one of these things.
In that scenario, I'd rather have a keyboard of this size than a full-size one.
Evidently some people can become friends with some very small keyboards.
> And since your battery won't be large enough to support compiling LLVM in reasonable time anyway, it's better to just get used to do CPU-heavy stuff by ssh-ing to a rackmount somewhere use the laptop for terminal-ish tasks.
If your goal IS NOT that, then clearly what I suggested isn't going to be applicable is it?
As I recall, I also used its X server for remote display from an OpenGenera instance running on a Tru64 VM, back when I was still indulging my hobby for Lisp system archaeology, and network problems were stopping me displaying to the VM host's X server. Good times...
lacking a keyboard is abysmal productivity vs being able to type and do key combinations.
try using stuff like vim/emacs or byobu/screen on an iphone, try to select and middle click to copy/paste, or any of the key combination we use all the time in the shell.
no keyboard = no go.
Where is the serial ports etc
What oddly specific unit of measurement is this?
There's something about that statement that put me off the entire article. Maybe the author truly is 3l337, but it just comes off as condescending. Plus, who uses a notebook for Instagram? The author managed to be simultaneously derisive and clueless.
This is the sentence before. IMO you’re being way too harsh. He is clearly trying to emphasize that the average consumers has lost their need for ports, thus, most lightweight computers aren’t sufficient for the author’s line of work. But OMG the author doesn’t know the proper context of Instagram! This whole article loses credibility! Listen to yourself.
But, everyone's welcome to their own opinions and hobbies. My best sysadmin laptop was probably my 13" macbook pro before they took away the ports. Built in ethernet and real USB for the KVM crash cart, which is the only dongle you'll typically need (other than, say, a usb-serial adapter, but even if you had a native serial port you're carrying a handful of console cables and adapters anyway, so the usb-serial part is hardly an additional hassle).
To work in these environments efficiently, an air is far from ideal. It's a good machine, but the amount of dongles you'd need to carry on a typical day would be rather intimidating, hooking it up and managing the rats nest of adapter cables would be tedious.
From this perspective, it's not unreasonable to call them toys. Simple things like having prominent rubber feet helps a lot with not having to worry the machine will slip and fall if the surface isn't perfectly flat and level.
With that said, I believe introducing an idea through calling other things toys without explaining why they are akin to toys in your line of work, is absolutely not the best way to present an idea.
Anyway, some features, like having the laptop be able to work as screen and keyboard for a headless machine would really be amazing in this line of work!
I think he's doing the tech equivalent of pretending not have heard of a popular band or not knowing what the Super Bowl is to try to make yourself look extra cool.
I'd recommend that the author look at small mechanical keyboard layouts, like the HHKB .
> I thought about how a notebook would turn out if it were developed not with design, but the needs of real users in mind.
I have a low tolerance for "this is exactly how you do this job" when jobs like sysadmin and coding can involved a great deal of variation and variety.
I have no idea who these folks are who can't see all that variety. I do know they're horrible to work with.
Using it as a laptop I get 12+ hours of battery life. It draws from the keyboard battery first, so you can run that dry and still have 5 to 6 hours of battery in the tablet, making it an all day machine. It's only slightly bigger than my last convertible, an ASUS Transformer Pad, and much more powerful.
It doesn't have the wide range of ports in this article, but then nothing out there does. If I need VGA/DVI/HDMI I can carry a DisplayPort cable with those ends, and if I need Ethernet I can carry a USB3 to Gigabit adapter. Both would fit in the slim case I kept from the Transformer.
Honestly yes, a device like the one in the article might get a Kickstarter or Indiegogo one day, but it will either be too expensive for what it is, or it will fall short of the list of OP’s desired features.
They're also working on a new device that is more sysadmin oriented.
the success of the openpandora demonstrated without a doubt that as long there is demand for a specialized hardware based upon having a real keyboard then it is possible to successfully sell, and now the pyra is following.
I would not be happy with your HP Elite, a convertible is definetely not suitable for any serious work, lacking an ethernet port is a no go.
I guess it depends on one’s definition of “serious work”. I do just fine with a USB3 -> Gigabit adapter the three or so times a year I actually need it. In turn, I could never get any “serious work” done on your Pandora’s tiny 5” screen. My device suits my workload perfectly. :-)
Wonder what things other people did? I know of people who were obsessed with inventing dinosaurs, and monsters/aliens.
I was a terrible artist, but loved detailing every console and chair and storage space (seriously, I loved drawing storage spaces! I think it stems from seeing the Millennium Falcon in Empire Strikes Back with all its open crawlspaces and falling-apart-awesomeness)
- His "video subsystem" idea already has a solution for many years. KVM2USB. https://www.epiphan.com/products/kvm2usb-3-0/
- His "let me turn this into a boot device" also has a solution. Many virtual cd rom devices exist, for example https://www.amazon.com/Iodd-Iodd2531-Black-Virtual-Enclosure...
If you're in such a niche requirements.. either you pay a ton ( military laptops), or you're ok with adapters :)
However one thing I realised is that if I'm ever repairing computers I'm going to be carrying a toolkit with me regardless. If there's an issue with some locations network and/or devices I'm going to want a console cable, an ethernet cable, cable crimpers, a drill, screwdriver set, usb drive, velcro ties, spare parts, label maker, a whole bunch of useful things. I have a backpack just full of useful stuff. If I'm always going to have tools with me adapters aren't a huge burden.
Additionally most of my clients exist at geographically disparate locations. If I ever find myself physically connecting my laptop to stuff I ask myself where I fucked up. If you have to physically move yourself to a broken device and plug a laptop in to figure out what's wrong 90% of the time it's reflective of not setting up proper remote management tools. It means you have a more fundamental issue that wastes money on expensive labour and risks downtime. If I can't fix your systems with an instagram machine with zero adapters it's reflective of a deeper issue. Personally I'd rather use an off-the-shelf thin and light that's portable and inexpensive.
For ordinary tasks, a consumer device that can SSH in, and ideally do some USB, probably is the right thing. Last week I put together a $50 vest-pocket writing kit with a smartphone stand and a folding Bluetooth keyboard(iClever brand, if you care). And in just a week of use, I've already had multiple strangers remark "I want that" - I can easily imagine using it for coding and sysadmin too. The real limits to client computing these days mostly revolve around operating system and I/O, and you do want to have lots of ports...but mostly on your desktops and servers.
That horrible feeling when you get to the end of your five hour drive to the client site, and realize the adaptor is on your desk.
Of course, you can fix this with checklists or a shadow board style toolkit, but I do certainly dream of having one piece of hardware that connects to everything I use.
As an industrial programmer and occasional field sysadmin, this notebook would be amazing for me.
Of course, it would probably also be so expensive that I would never buy one...!
I like the idea very much of switching input/output and using it for that (had often enough once in a year experience with this issue) but i can also just carry a lcd display with me. I would also make sure that my customer sites are in a state of ready.
Like having a display close by or keyboard.
Lots of interesting ideas, many of which simply don't seem that useful any more. Having to carry around a bag of gender changers, PS2<-->USB and all the rest is thankfully becoming rarer. I'm not the target though, as I don't need a lot more than ability to ssh somewhere these days.
If I wanted that small I'd probably go with a Gemini, the Psion 5 spritual successor, with proven great but tiny keyboard. Even that has proved too niche to part me from actual money: https://jmcomms.com/2017/11/29/gemini-pda-20-years-on-meet-t...
The Surface Book 2 has a USB slot on the charge brick.
This is learned from experience by the team who designed the openpandora.
Also imho the pinebook pro is crippled by a lack of ram, arm cpu (lack of support from major OS), lack of upgrability, etc. it's more in line with a olpc laptop than the sysadmin notebook presented here.
Keep the ports. Keep the MagSafe. Don’t screw with the keyboard.
More memory and disk space would be nice, but it’s not a deal-breaker. I don’t mind going for a walk or enjoying a cup of coffee while I wait for GHC to compile.
It’s a good machine. Now leave it alone.
I put together a table comparing it with Apple's other laptop offerings:
My favorite computer of all time was my 11" MacBook Air. I almost wish that apple would make a clam-shell iPad. I find the clamshell design makes for a superior stand, that works better in angles, and I almost always prefer to use a keyboard, except when I'm reading a book on the iPad. I also wish for some more software, like maybe native Emacs and some other system-level tools. I'd be open to even newer android clamshell designs....
Anyway, for the other 10% of my tasks, I still reach for my 11" MBAir.
Unfortunately, it's not backlit, which is something I'd really enjoy, but since the SF is so good I can't see dumping it to switch to the Brydge.
I also love to use it as a stand for reading at lunch or whatever, which is nice.
(ZOMG native emacs on iOS would be KILLER.)
I prefer the Slim Folio for everything except it can't do the clam shell mode.
I'd rather it was a little thicker and had two ethernets and a second thunderbolt, but aside from that it's a great alternative to a chromebook. I wouldn't do real work on it though
I'm even keeping my eyes open for a used MB Air 11" with 8 GB ram, and 128 GB storage for when this one breaks, unles I find something more suitable.
Like the people talking about using old Surface Pros from eBay, I really like a low priced, almost disposable computer that I don't care about, especially since most my tool-chain is legacy at this point....
I use the X220 for that; it's a nice, robust device, great keyboard, I like a trackpoint better than a trackpad, runs Linux well and excellent battery life with the 9 cell battery (which you can still buy on Ebay & Amazon). And it's cheap enough now to just rip everything out and get a new one without even thinking about it.
Hmm, I did not know that (never searched for it) but that's a good plan. I currently have an air 13 and x220; I do 90% of everything on my x220 (because it has far greater battery life and I prefer the keyboard and trackpoint), but when I need to do iOS app work I use my air. Better if I did not need to bring both on my travels.
Edit: Ah, just see ; I need the latest because everything stops working in app development if you don't and that seems to not workable anymore.
One problem is how modular it is: there’s nothing holding you back from upgrading LCD panel, SSD, ...
I use it as the main driver for my home lab.
I could upgrade the SSD to 128GB, but the RAM is soldered.
And it’s juat not enough for today.
I don't know whether to be impressed or weirded out.
I am also a network engineer, and I have an X200 and an 11" Chromebook (yeah ChromeOS can do FTDI serial) set up as rudimentary on-the-go engineers stations but they're still not at flexible as my 15" MacBook Pro -- so I just end up lugging my 15" MBP around and propping it up precariously in racks.
I still dream, though.
I use it for so much more than I intended - but at $200, when the thing dies, I'm just going to throw it out and buy a newer one on eBay. I'm blown away by how much more useful this is than every other thing I've had over the last 20 years.
When did that happen? I admittedly haven't looked in a while but I thought the SP2 had some basic issues with Linux (keyboard docking, wifi; the expected things).
Admittedly I have a script to allow screen rotation to be gangster, and to pop up a virtual keyboard when I rip off the Surface KB (and hide it when reattached). I consider that 100% working.
What does that mean? You need to use a script to get it to rotate?
Seriously, can't imagine being happier. Damn thing also (still) gets ~5 hours of battery life, from 2013!
Also - other than this one coffee shop I'm not a fan of, there's always power nearby.
Comes with an AC charger, but supports usb-c charging. If I need to, I can keep it going with a portable battery pack.
What would a more realistic sysadmin notebook look like?
If you poke around you can usually get one in the $20-40 range. No USB-C or large processing power, but if you're mostly networking into other computers it shouldn't really be a bottleneck, right?
Capitalism's weird. We end up with the most popular version of a thing being dirt cheap and common as air, and anything even slightly different or better being impossible to get or absurdly expensive.
Sadly I slipped on ice in a parking lot and broke the screen. I ordered a new one on ebay a few days ago, so hopefully I can revive it.
I miss netbooks. It’s too bad that we let Intel and Microsoft kill them.
Microsoft's response was to put a variety of netbook-gimping restrictions on the things they allowed OEMs to do if they wanted to be able to sell machines with Windows preinstalled. Some of those tactics are recounted in this 2009 article from PC World: https://www.pcworld.com/article/169919/5_netbooks_microsoft_...
Intel's response was to develop and drive OEMs to the competing Ultrabook (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultrabook) standard, which kept the netbook's focus on "small and light" but replaced the "inexpensive" part with premium materials and full-fat Core processors.
The release of the iPad put the final coup de grâce on the netbook market, but its success there was driven at least in part by the ways MS and Intel had forced OEMs to kneecap their netbook products in order to stay in good graces with the two companies you absolutely had to be in good graces with to make any products (netbook or otherwise) in the PC business.
Netbooks became amazingly better with a bit of a RAM upgrade to 4 GB,a real SSD, a real Debian installation and a light-weight window manager.
The Atom CPU is slow, yeah, but CPU speed does not matter for most things. I can run a 2017 Dell or Lenovo laptop locked at 800 MHz and hardly notice unless I have to compile something. Having enough RAM and fast IO matters much more.
I think there was a lot of market interest in Eee PCs which quickly dried up after people got them home and realized how bad they were. An extra $200 in cost would have made it a much better experience. Of course, some of that market interest was just from being cheap, so I dunno.
It's still ongoing. We just call them Chromebooks nowadays.
But I agree it's the same concept for what was the original intention of a netbook.
- GPD Micro https://liliputing.com/2019/01/first-look-gpd-micro-pc-handh...
- GPD Pocket 2 Mini https://liliputing.com/2018/12/gpd-launches-a-cheaper-pocket...
- Clones / look alike of the GPD Pocket
I have a GPD Pocket 2, its by a Chinese company who give terrible customer support. My device had a clear spot of a fingerprint during assembly (and a dead pixel) and they didn't want to swap or refund even though I reported it right away. They claim they couldn't see it even though I made 4k pictures of the problem, and asked independent people to verify the issue. I didn't bother with Indiegogo refund as I know they don't do shit.
The machine comes with an evaluation version of its BIOS. The keyboard is meh, and they removed the trackpoint (from the GPD Pocket 1) in favor of an optical device. Like a MBP the machine gets hot and won't be able to use much cputime in sequence. For now, I use a MBP 2014 with a VM. I did put my money on Planet Computer's Cosmo Communicator . They got a mechanical keyboard, though lower specs (and ARM). They'll have a Sailfish port, native Android, and likely a Debian GNU/Linux port (you can run Kali tools on Debian).
The second thing that caused them to die out was increased memory requirements. The chipset used in the majority of netbooks topped out at a single 2GB dimm. With bloated apps like Chrome and Electron, the systems became practically unusable.
I've installed GalliumOS on mine, and it is working pretty good. Light and handy, though battery life isn't quite as good as it was with ChromeOS.
The main thing missing is Ethernet, but I have a dongle for that.
If you are climbing a mast or the like, you are probably out in the field with a kit. You probably don't need a laptop that can fit in your coat pocket. You probably want various cables and dongles and mounting brackets for tripod or pipe mount, etc...
For on-call, I'd be tempted to just use my phone. I can set up Android with SSH and VPN, I can use a bluetooth keyboard if I need to type a lot, or if I just need to get in and run some commands to investigate, I can use the on screen keyboard.
Seriously, this is computer nerds' version of prepping, starting with a diss at clueless commoners and gradually piling up the levels of ridiculous.
Feels a bit on the small size for me, but if you spend a fair amount of time in crampes networking/gear closets, I can see how it would be useful.
I have worked in environments where I've had to lug around screens, RS232, RS485, CAN bus adapters, SD card readers, you name it. Have had to scrounge up extension cables to get power because there are no jacks within 20m, and the list goes on.
Yes you can use adapters and dongles, yes you get by, it's your job to make things work. But in certain kind of environments a machine in this vein is something that actually would make work more efficient, and much more fun.
While these environments might be getting more rare nowadays, they are not extinct by a long shot.
We realized that the hand crank put a lot of stress on the chassis of the XO. The materials design people came to us and said "We can totally solve this! We just machine this part of the chassis out of titanium!" And we were like "Thanks guys, but that's not even close to being in budget."
Thinking about the tripod mount: That seems like it's going to create a lot of stress on the body of the laptop.
Some of the ideas of this Admin Book remind me of that: sure you could probably make it happen, but the cost would probably be eye-watering. Like top of the line MacBook Pro pricing. He says he is interested in doing a Kickstarter but doesn't know how, I think there's a reality check that needs to go into it as the first step.
It's an interesting idea, and something I would have liked in the past for on-call EDC. But in the end I decided on a ThinkPad T520 and just carried it with me in a bag if I was using it, or in the car if I was not working. I kept looking at those Sony Vaio P laptops, but never ended up buying one.
--Linux works 100%
--11 hour in-use battery life so it doesn't live plugged in
--Dead quiet (no fan)
--Has good enough specs to get by (N4000 cpu, 4gb ram, edit: also a ssd rather than flash storage, which makes a big difference, and I have a 256gb microsd for extra storage)
--Not a convertible and has a real keyboard
I paid about $200 for it. It gets used more than my $1k laptop.
So outside of geekvalue I fail to see the market for this if the market is supposed to be sysadmins. Who thinks modern ultrabooks are too heavy? Considering it's a trade-off for having a full size keyboard and screen.
If the author thinks their x200 is too heavy I can heartily recommend the x260 or even x280 which I saw recently at a friends place.
I've been trying the Gemini which almost fits the bill but doesn't quite cut it - the keyboard is OK but not backlit (I didn't think about how often that comes in handy when purchasing). I'll probably try the follow up 'Cosmo' when that comes out.
Would love to see any other suggestions.
Combined with the stand to raise my phone I have something a bit more ergonomic than most integrated-device experiences, definitely better than what I would get from a Gemini when a flat surface is available, and I can literally throw on my vest and go for a jog and then take out the kit at a coffeeshop and lose myself in writing without difficulty. You might also need more I/O or a full PC architecture, but this setup was like a "my search is over" moment for me.
I have had so many countless sysadmins ask for a keyboard similar to that one (perhaps not the keyboard layout). I think the primary interests are:
serial port (yes, even today not having to carry a dongle is great)
ability to use kb/vid/mouse as a kb/vid/mouse for servers
multiple network connections
I would probably pitch into a kickstarter for that laptop.
I find my ancient Thinkpad X61s is the one I actually take around, even though my slightly newer X220 is faster, has more memory and has a brighter screen.
You may be interested in the x62:
See more info at the Termux wiki: https://wiki.termux.com/wiki/Touch_Keyboard
I wish Panasonic actually sold their gear outside Japan, they still build tools first and foremost, fashion accessories second. The Lets Note RZ6 looks fantastic.
This is a review of a pre-production model: https://liliputing.com/2019/01/first-look-gpd-micro-pc-handh... & https://liliputing.com/2019/01/gpd-micropc-benchmarks.html
I have one of their previous devices, the Win 2, which is more gaming-oriented, and I love it.
What laptops do T420 users migrate to that has a non-terrible keyboard?
(I am not a big fan of the new Thinkpad keyboards)
Can I put a t420 classic keyboard on a new-gen Thinkpad? Is it a good idea?
I have occasionally used high quality adhesive hook and loop tape to affix USB hubs and hard drives to the backside of my laptop screen to help avoid similar issues.
I taped a few strips of the soft loops on the lid which I replace when they get dirty, and then hooks on the accessories.
So while it won't lock the cable in the USB slot, maybe it could help to use an industrial hub with either lockable, or high-retention USB ports affixed to the computer, and then only have a very short and soft cable to the laptop USB-C port?
Sample lockable ports hub: https://buy.advantech-bb.com/USB-Communications/USB-Hubs/mod...
And, there's more ports on the sides too.
Naive question from a software engineer: What does a sysadmin need a forward-facing camera for? I personally only ever use my laptop camera for Zoom meetings.
Photographing server racks for documentation comes to my mind.
The idea of being able to plug a laptop into a server or something and instantly transform said laptop into a console is pretty neat. Sure, that's what SSH and RDP are for, until the server falls off the network. This would be a great application for USB Type-C; just plug into the C connector on the front of the server, switch to "console" mode on the laptop, and you're in business.
It doesn't fit exactly with the OP's needs but it comes pretty close I think.
What I'd add though is support for PS2 mouse/keyboard. Much old stuff still uses that...
Oh yeah, it cost me $48 at Fry's. I have two of them. Battery life is more than 5 hours.
Affordable, durable, works well with multiple flavors of Linux and dual boots just fine.
Been administrating systems for years with this baby.
E: Probably would be cheaper to make a USB-C interface board to work with the GPD.
This is a small nitpick but the battery should be listed as 42 Wh, not W/h.
The closest I've come was a nexus 7 with a keyboard case and bluetooth mouse and remote desktop.