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A small notebook for a system administrator (habr.com)
531 points by atomlib 46 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 263 comments



Mostly reminds me of https://simpsons.fandom.com/wiki/The_Homer

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.


Some of us (I assume OP is one of them) think that since your screen won't be large anyway, there is little point to having a screen bigger than your preferred keyboard size.

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.


But whose preferred keyboard size is this design?

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.


Not quite my cup of tea, but I've watched people reach for their Psion PDAs all the time, even when they had large keyboards within reach.

Evidently some people can become friends with some very small keyboards.


If I'm standing in front of a rack, plugged into another box—which is the primary purpose of this little guy—I'm gonna be holding it with one hand and typing with the other.

In that scenario, I'd rather have a keyboard of this size than a full-size one.


I think the Sony VAIO P series would be a great admin notebook.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Vaio_P_series


They really do fit in a jeans pocket. It was really nice to take on vacation as an emergency computer. I wound up printing a proof of car insurance document from it. It had a problem with the mouse pointer cable getting loose though.


If your goal is a portable SSH client, even an original iPad mini with a bluetooth keyboard would be a better option than this thing.


Did you read the text? The goal is not a portable SSH client, but a sort of traveling admin's Swiss army knife device, hence relatively small size (but large enough to host a keyboard), and a lot of ports. Isn't it obvious that iPad cannot conform to the requirements?


Did you read the post I replied to?

> 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 wrote that. And the reason that I didn't go into connectivity/port issues is that they have almost nothing to do with battery lifetime. I saw no reason to digress into those topics.


Nothing about that comment says anything to support your arbitrary narrowing of the device purpose.


Well, it does, and my comment does start with IF your goal is....

If your goal IS NOT that, then clearly what I suggested isn't going to be applicable is it?


Indeed, it did seem totally inapplicable to the thread.


I've been using iSH on the iPhone for my portable SSH client, it works pretty great for server maintenance even with the on-screen keyboard.

https://github.com/tbodt/ish


I use Prompt these days, but iSSH's Remote Desktop client was super useful back when I was doing admin work and didn't have the luxury of never needing to work on a Windows server!

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...


iphone lacks vital hardware, it has no keyboard.

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.


uhnn no?

Where is the serial ports etc


What is the purpose of a serial port, If your goal is a portable SSH client?


Plenty of enterprise grade hardware (I'm looking at Cisco) provide telnet access over a serial interface - which is dead handy when the thing is running but stops responding to SSH connections.


I guess it depends on how often you need to use the notebook standing besides some server while carrying the notebook in your hand. Or just move it around; take it out of the bag and put it back again..every day, sometimes multiple times.. Weight can start being annoying at some point.


FHD A5 screen size would not be eligible to me


This size and resolution Works for my smartphone well enough. And I don't think such a notebook is meant as a developers permanent workstation. Likely more a mobile terminal for the job on site or some short change on the go. For those things it's should be good enough.


> which is about half a letter

What oddly specific unit of measurement is this?


It's specific (US Letter https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_(paper_size) ) - half of which is reasonaby close to A5, but I'm not sure why the "odd" qualifier.


I guess odd because it’s really only used in North America. I’ve never seen a piece of letter sized paper although I’ve heard of it (first after deciphering the weird PC LOAD LETTER error on HP laser printers which is extra confusing if you don’t realise that letter is a paper size).


Suddenly, after 25 years, that message makes sense! Thank you!


PC is Paper Cartridge, iirc.


It is almost the same as A4 paper.


And yet different enough to sometimes cause issues when they get mixed and matched (e.g. A4 document on Letter printer, or vice versa).


It's almost like a misaligned a4


Ah!


Unless you know about the particulars of US paper sizes, it sounds like they mean 'half the length of a letter that you might write to someone' which does sound odd. What letter? What about? My letters may be one paragraph or three pages.


One could also interpret it as referring to a letter of the alphabet, just to add to the confusion.



Letters are usually written on A4, if you fold that in half you get A5.


My mind also immediately went to the Homer.


the x250 is a really bad design, thinkpad after the x230 are getting worse to bad.


> Such notebook is suitable for posting photos on Instagram, but not for work.

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.


Yes. As a sysadmin myself, my immediate reaction was slow jerk and "I've worked with this guy before".

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).


> All of them imitate the MacBook Air: thin, shiny, glamorous, and they all critically lack ports.

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.


Why do people who don't need multiple serial ports stop being real users?


What does it matter who real users are and aren't ? The author has requirements which are not met. Judging by the fact that it's a popular post, several others have similar requirements too. That someone may not have such requirements is quite obvious. Hence the current state of affairs and the post in the first place. The author's jokes may be a bit off, but this sub thread in this discussion that has devolved into whether or not instagram users are real users or if you need a laptop to use instagram is utterly useless. Like what does it add ?


I'm just kidding, man. Why can't anybody take a joke? Why be so uptight all the time?


Back in university, having a Centronics port made you more attractive to the girls, I heard.


To each their own, but personally I reacted positively to that sentence and immediately knew I want to read the whole article - because I knew the author feels the same way as I do: that computers are increasingly built for casual consumption, and are optimized to be toys, not tools.


I've used a 2012 MacBook Air 11,6" till 2018 for 3D development among other tasks. It's not a toy only usable for consumption. It's simply a good compromise when you care about mobility.


The author is probably working quite a bit in cramped network closets with unmanaged, or only partially managed networking gear. While these environments might be becoming less common, they will still exist for many years to come.

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!


who uses a notebook for Instagram?

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.


The designer made Tab the smallest key on the keyboard, but left two Windows keys, Caps Lock instead of control/super, a full Fn row instead of an numrow layer, Page Up/Down right next to the arrow keys, and designed the color-coding for someone who looks at the keyboard for each keypress instead of touch-typing. I'm not sure what they consider Real Work to be, but it's not text editing or writing.

I'd recommend that the author look at small mechanical keyboard layouts, like the HHKB [1].

[1] https://cdn2.bigcommerce.com/server1800/3cc7b/products/549/i...


Also I'd suggest you may be interested in reading the article properly because he clearly explains and has a reason for the color-coding and for it to be visual.


I also like how he referred to me as not a "real user" because I don't need a pile of antiquated ports to do my job:

> I thought about how a notebook would turn out if it were developed not with design, but the needs of real users in mind.


Also the idea that design is something that's just "out there" totally apart from how things are used is just precious.


I haven't had a work provided laptop with with a decent screen in at least 10 years- 4:3 1600x1200 became 16:9, matte became glossy, and of course real keyboard keys became buttons.. so I get where this guy is coming from. Laptops now are great for streaming movies.


Ditto. I instantly thought of a less successful and intelligent version of Gilfoyle from Silicon Valley.


Well, the sysadmin type of role does attract a specific type of dork! - but I think you rather unfairly stopped quoting just before the key point.


Yeah a bit too much stuff that just seemed like arbitrary gate keeping.

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.


Maybe it's my hate of the macbook air for lacking ports combined with my hate of people used by instagram on top of my hate of everything faceboook, but I had no problem with this particular sentence about the trend hardware has been following for a few years. I actually agree with it, the macbook air is not for work, at least not technical. it's akin to a toy for rich kids that like to brag and live pretend lifes on instagram.


The next sentence is: "At least not for mine."


Unfortunately something like this would never come to market, but I use a laptop that comes close enough for my needs. My current portable is a HP Elite X2 1011 G1 (yep that's a mouthful), it's a previous generation version of their current 1012 G2 product. It's a Surface-style convertible that is as fast as a typical business desktop machine, with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB M.2 SSD onboard. The keyboard base has 2x USB3, a SmartCard slot, full size DisplayPort output, some sort of HP proprietary dock connector, a TRRS headset jack, and an internal battery. The tablet portion doesn't have any ports other than a TRRS headset jack, but it does have a Wacom stylus as well as a MicroSD slot and onboard LTE celluar data (I'm using a Ting GSM SIM with that).

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.


There is every possibility of something close to this coming to market. Not every device needs to sell in the millions.


You’re right, and I’ve owned an example device recently, the GPD Win. In theory it was awesome, a portable x86 Windows 10 gaming device. But in practice, nothing about it was good enough to make it worth the money. The screen was a phone screen that tried desperately to be portrait by default, the keyboard was horrible, and the overall build quality was lacking.

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.


FWIW, I have a GPD Win 2 and I love it. I never had a Win 1, but the reports I've heard from people who have had both is that the build quality and keyboard layout were both significantly improved.

They're also working on a new device that is more sysadmin oriented.


I will say this, their customer support was top-notch for the Win 1. They were known to send replacement keyboards, fans, and even system boards, well past the original warranty date. They also still give out proper Windows 10 license keys for devices that came with invalid keys, even years later. I know this because the one I bought from eBay was not activated, and when I tried to activate with the supplied key it refused. I emailed their support and within a few hours had a working valid key.


Yep, look at the Gemini or the Pocket (2). Niche systems which are apparently worth making.


look at the pyra: https://pyra-handheld.com/


Yep I bave the Pandora snd paid for the Pyra as well. Lovely things.


Of course something similar to this can come to market, there is a market for this as nothing actually answer to these needs even if it is a niche market.

the success of the openpandora[1] 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[2] 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.

[1]: https://www.openpandora.org/ [2]: https://pyra-handheld.com/boards/pages/pyra/


> 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. :-)


I love the exercise of this — it reminds me of the hours I spent as a kid, drawing multi-angle views of what I hoped would be the “Commodore 256” or “Amiga 5000”. The loving inclusion of each port, paragraphs of explanation — it’s just great.


Ha, I love that you were a childhood product designer for home computers. I used to do similar for cars, lots of arrows with text descriptions of what the "novel" parts were.

Wonder what things other people did? I know of people who were obsessed with inventing dinosaurs, and monsters/aliens.


I used to spend hours and days designing ships for Elite, Carrier Command, and Starglider 2

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)


I did spaceships and cars; the latter essentially designed for James Bond.


Well now. I'd probably buy one for novelty if the price wasn't absurd. Bonus points for trackpoint. More bonus points for the USB in power supply brick. I do wish that was standard rather than usually one "power" USB port in the laptop.

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...


> Well now. I'd probably buy one for novelty if the price wasn't absurd. Bonus points for trackpoint. More bonus points for the USB in power supply brick. I do wish that was standard rather than usually one "power" USB port in the laptop.

The Surface Book 2 has a USB slot on the charge brick.


Last I checked, the surface book 2 under load consumed more power than the brick could provide. If it functions anything like my sp3 brick did, if there's a phone or whatever plugged in in such situations, they don't get enough juice to charge.


Yeah, but you gotta get to serious load. If you use it as a mining rig it might go flat, but I've trained ML models, done 3d rendering, and played some demanding games on mine without any problems.


Sorry but the trackpoint is probably gonna be dropped from this design. This is thing is heavily patented and costs a fortune that makes it unrealistic to add to a niche market product.

This is learned from experience by the team who designed the openpandora.


Patents have expired since then, and a trackpoint in some form is now viable.


This is SUCH a niche system, that I don't understand why carrying adapter is a bad thing. There are already laptops that kinda fit his keyboard/pointer/size requirements.

- 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 :)


I used to think it was an absolutely awesome for a laptop to have an rj45 - something missing from the VAST majority of thin & light ultrabooks. I still think it's useful. This week I used a laptops rj45 to figure out that the connection to a switch was working but not the connection from the switch.

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.


My intuition agrees. The threshold of features that OP is looking for amounts to "multiple devices all crammed into one". That is going to lead to a compromised workflow - there's more to configure on your end and you'll lose track of it in a digital sense instead of a physical one. Like with the actual Swiss Army Knife, most of the end result is likely to be unsatisfying as a professional tool.

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.


As someone who's used a KVM->USB device before, check out this Startech device. Still outrageously expensive (WTH should a device like this cost more than $50?) but cheaper than the epiphan.

https://smile.amazon.com/StarTech-com-Console-Portable-Adapt...


Why carrying an adaptor is a bad thing:

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 would assume, that i would have a 'toolbox' like any handyman but for it stuff.

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.


Yeah, this guy already has a bag of dongles anyways. I'd just carry a 12" MacBook at that point.


I would not carry a macbook, too expensive, significant chance of being biten by their history a defective design[1], very difficult to upgrade or repair, etc.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUaJ8pDlxi8


I-odd FTW, Pro-tip it emulates thumb drives too.


I submitted this link for the new Pinebook Pro which was released a couple of days ago. It didn't get much traction but here goes: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19038420 It doesn't have the crazy keyboard or "sunshade", but it's fairly similar in other ways and only costs $199 so I guess you have money left over to drill extra holes for indicators and extra external ports.


Killer feature of the TFA notebook IMO is the VGA input. It was actually the feature I first thought of reading the title before clicking.


I own several pine64 and they're not delivering on the promises and expectations. This is why I'm staying far away from the pinebook pro.

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.


HN has discussed Pinebooks over the years, but I too was hoping for some discussion about the recent announcements.


This is the TempleOS of computer hardware.

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.


Not sure what you mean by that, given that TempleOS actually exists but is very impractical, unlike this (on both counts).


That was what I meant. I don't find this practical at all. The author means well, though.


What do you mean by flexibility here?


I just want a company to keep making the previous generation MacBook Air.

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.


Despite releasing the 2018 model some months ago, Apple is still selling the 2017 MacBook Air: https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/macbook-air/1.8ghz-dual-c...

I put together a table comparing it with Apple's other laptop offerings: https://tinyapps.org/blog/mac/201811190015_last_decent_macbo...


I've not really been a fan of iOS, but for the holidays this year, I got a cheap 10" iPad 6, and and add-on Brydge keyboard for it. It makes for a small 10" laptop and I'm finding myself using it for 90% of my home computing tasks.

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.


I'm super tempted by the Brydge, but I already have a Logitech Slim Folio that's almost as good, but also provides all-around protection.

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 bought both. The Brydge keyboards always had quality issues with wobbly keys and such. You have to keep sending it back until you get one that's acceptable.

I prefer the Slim Folio for everything except it can't do the clam shell mode.


This is true. I bought my Brydge keyboard at Microcenter and had to look through a couple packages to get one that had even keys.


Have you tried iSH?


I'm all about Blink, actually.


Preferably the 11" Macbook Air.


I'm on one right now, it has magsafe (good), 3.5mm (good), 2 usb and a thunderbolt

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 do lots of real work on mine. I wish it could do 4K output to an external monitor. But I run things like Emacs and VS Code for smaller projects, iTerm for SSHing into all my beefier machines. Battery life is still great for a machine almost 5 years old now: I still get about 5 hours. And then, I can also do writing with the keyboard I prefer, over the newer style.

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 really like a low priced, almost disposable computer that I don't care about

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.


Seconded on the x220. Makes a great Hackintosh with minimal fiddling. Can be upgraded to 16GB RAM for practically nothing and genuine power adaptors are only a few dollars each. More than fast enough to get real work done.


> Makes a great Hackintosh

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 [0]; I need the latest because everything stops working in app development if you don't and that seems to not workable anymore.

[0] http://x220.mcdonnelltech.com/mojave/


Bought one recently for $110.

It’s fantastic.

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.


That was my favorite Apple laptop. So annoying they do not produce it anymore.


My big mistake was to buy the 2GB/64GB version.

I could upgrade the SSD to 128GB, but the RAM is soldered.

And it’s juat not enough for today.


I bought the 13 inch one with 4gb after my 11 inch one died and that really doesn't work anymore either; for anything serious 4gb is just always thrashing seeing the lovely colored ball which makes you wanting to pull your hair out.


Yeah I have a 2011 with 4GB.. it's finally starting to show its age, and the 128gb disk is always full. 8/256 would be perfect... but the screen is just starting to wear my down. I'm thinking of "upgrading" to the new one because of the display...


Buy a few. Insurance if they’re discontinued and also send the message about what is valued by their customers. I bought one for my wife for Christmas.


Lots of good ideas. I have on more than one occasion wished for the laptop's monitor, keyboard and mouse to double up as peripherals for another computer. Another niche thing I've wished for is this: An input selector on the laptop's monitor to select b/w igpu and dgpu. The use case if for gpu passthrough to vms so that you switch between host and guest and still get good gpu performance in the guest. Current optimus setups on laptops are all over the place in their implementation, although some of them do allow passthrough of the dgpu. The main blocker though is that dgpu is only connected to external ports. So if you mux it to the internal panel, you can achieve this without complicated software hacks or copying of framebuffer from one gpu to another. The only additional software support you'd need is to capture the keyboard and mouse for the host or guest based on the context.


I use a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 for all my mobile needs. I bought it on eBay for ~$200 two years ago, and it's now 5 years old. It's light as all get up, runs Linux perfectly out of the box and I bought it to run a browser and SSH into things. It also has a displayport, and a single USB, and I can ultimately connect it to everything I need. It's literally the best piece of technology I've ever owned.

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.


> runs Linux perfectly out of the box

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).


It's all about the latest kernel. I installed Bodhi (Ubuntu derivative, not a fan). Then I added Ubuntu repos and promptly picked everything else up to latest.

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.


> I have a script to allow screen rotation to be gangster

What does that mean? You need to use a script to get it to rotate?


Correct. On login I run a python script that polls the accelerometer. For the virtual keyboard I equally poll the HIDS devices. Quick bit of python, life went on.


Check r/surfacelinux there's always always recent info on how things run on each surface version.


What shape, form, colour, flavour, texture and consistency of Linux?


Mentioned above. I went with Bodhi (ugs), but since it's an Ubuntu, I quickly added repos and have everything I wanted. Now, it runs i3, rotates.. Heck I even rely on Xournal to edit PDFs by scribbling on them, just like real paper! This was actually my Surface goal.

Seriously, can't imagine being happier. Damn thing also (still) gets ~5 hours of battery life, from 2013!


Cool, thanks.


Cubic, gelatinous, blue, sour, grainy and al dente.


So Arch?


I keep wanting to get one but the battery life always keeps me from doing that. Mobile for me means a lot of battery life; you do not need that or is it actually ok?


I get ~5 hours which is beyond more than enough for my needs. I also keep power adapters. Honestly, I've never understood the obsession with long battery life on a laptop. It's significantly lighter to carry the adapter (super light on a surface) than have an extended battery, and either way you have a knapsack/laptop bag.

Also - other than this one coffee shop I'm not a fan of, there's always power nearby.


Yeah that really depends on where/what you are doing. I spend a large amount of time in airplanes, a lot of which (as I don't fly business) have no charging sockets. Then in places where I go, for instance in HK, it is actually really rare to find sockets in coffee shops or bars.


If you are so concerned with battery life couldn't you just get an external power backup if the machine has all the functionality you want? It seems more modular that way instead always having to lug around such extra stuff you don't need.


That totally makes sense to me. It's the same reason I hard relied on the air years ago - the 9 hours just about covered the majority of the exact same need. Tradeoffs.


I'm rocking a surface go and digging it. Small, compact, portable.

Comes with an AC charger, but supports usb-c charging. If I need to, I can keep it going with a portable battery pack.


This feels like it's an unrealistic Christmas present list. By that I mean having a laptop with everything in this article would be absolutely amazing, but is it even possible to mass produce something like that, let alone even build the thing as a one-off?

What would a more realistic sysadmin notebook look like?


The GPD MicroPC actually exists and is not too far off of this thing in terms of ports, sadly it lacks the trackpoint. Especially sad since GPD has already released a system with a trackpoint.


But the GPD Pocket have the trackpoint. There is also a Pocket 2 and a new one still on design.


Like a Macbook with a bag that has plenty of hubs and adapters and a Raspberry Pi in there just in case. Perhaps the middle ground would be a box with all the ports this design has that you can plug into a USB-C laptop or tablet.


The Surface has a "hub" but it's not nearly as powerful, and already in the $199 margin (Surface Dock).


I'd vote for getting a disposable laptop with good enough hardware to do most sysadmin things. A 2006/7/8 macbook isn't a bad choice IMO since it has all the standard ports. It supports two disk drives and the keyboard works OK.

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?


I dunno. The market for something along these lines is probably as big as a substantial portion of the entire portable computer market was in, say, the late 90s. And it'd have basically no competition (at least at launch). Seems like it should be a viable product that could be brought to market at a non-insane price. Should.

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.


I recently found my old netbook while going through some stuff. The netbook trend was short lived, but I really like this machine (Acer Aspire One ZG5). Ethernet and card ports, plenty of USBs. And it has VGA, which for some reason I still have more use for than HDMI. They keyboard and mouse were better than my current laptop, a Lenovo Yoga 2 that I can't seem to get the hang of. And it has an Atom processor and really good battery life.

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 have very fond memories of my old Asus Eee PC 1000 netbook (see https://www.computerworld.com/article/2532501/mobile-wireles...).

I miss netbooks. It’s too bad that we let Intel and Microsoft kill them.


I remember when Eee PC's came out and all the buzz about them. What do you mean by Microsoft and Intel killed them? I just assumed it was lack of market interest.


Microsoft hated netbooks because they ran on Linux and low-spec older versions of Windows, rather than the latest full-price versions. Intel hated netbooks because they used low-end, low-margin Atom CPUs.

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.


They were also unfairly crippled because of the drive to be ultra-cheap. I think that hurt them in the market.

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.


In my experience, they were abruptly killed. I remember when Asus pulled everything days after releasing a new model. Something happened, because I wanted to buy one, and then they mysteriously disappeared. HP is about the only company making them now.


I still use a fanless NC10 to run an IRC bot after a few years lent to my parents for writing emails. Removed the dead battery, replaced the disk with a small SSD and set it to power saving so it never goes above 60ºC while being completely silent. Best bang for the buck I've had with hardware.


I still have a Dell Mini 9. Everything still works apart from the battery which doesn't last long. I recently built a very minimal Gentoo on there and it's very quick. I use it as a coffee table computer in my living room.


I got the Dell Mini 10v and I think it's still my favorite machine of all time. I've dj'ed several weddings with it, using mocp. It was the only machine I used in grad school. That was a truly righteous machine.


"The netbook trend was short lived"

It's still ongoing. We just call them Chromebooks nowadays.


Chromebooks don't offer the freedom that a regular netbook does, though. Last time I looked, it seemed like a real pain to get your own OS or dev environment on.

But I agree it's the same concept for what was the original intention of a netbook.


If you want something that you can buy now, or soon... here are some options:

- 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 was also in the business for a small notebook, for pentesting (Kali).

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 [1]. 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).

[1] https://geminiplanet.com/


I'd been looking at the GPD Pocket 2. Thanks for this review.


Whatever happened to the 'netbook' form factor? That just seemed to disappear overnight.


Because they did disappear overnight. Microsoft changed their licensing so that screens had to be under 10.1" to get reduced pricing with Windows 7. By this time, netbooks had already creeped into the 11" size range.

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.


There are various Chromebooks nearly as small, with low weight.

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.


Microsoft and Intel happened to them.

For example: https://www.pcworld.com/article/169919/5_netbooks_microsoft_...


Thin margins and the realization that if netbooks became popular most people would likely not buy normal laptops. Why make the one thing that kills the rest of your product line?


If that were the case, then companies would be tripping over each other to build netbooks and torch their existing laptop lines, lest some other company beats them to the punch and steals the market from under them.


Smartphones with 6" screens I would imagine.


It seems like this would be better as two laptops: An ultra-compact for carrying in your pocket, and a bigger one with tons of accessories that you carry in a Pelican for work in the field.

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.


Doesn't have coaxial propellers option to double as a camera drone. A show stopper for me!

Seriously, this is computer nerds' version of prepping, starting with a diss at clueless commoners and gradually piling up the levels of ridiculous.


The author wrote "But I hope you will find a couple of interesting thoughts here." They're asking notebook makers to see it as a grab bag of ideas, not a unified whole.


Except for the diss - which I felt was quite unnecessary - I don't think that's fair. There are people out there that definitely would have use of something like this if it existed.

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.


Articles like this are what i love about HN. You may call it some techies wet dream, but the dedication to detail for this dream embodies this community for me.


This design reminds me of the original OLPC XO with the hand crank generator. One of the OLPC people gave a talk to our Linux Users Group and told the story:

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.


Using the laptop monitor as a display for external sources (and the video input port) is a good idea, I'm not sure why nobody is implementing it these days. Are there any technical challenges to this, or is it a feature considered useless by all of the laptop producers?


It's the latter. Displays of all types have been able to handle multiple sources since forever. The only people who want this are sysadmins trying to troubleshoot A/V systems or plug into a server and college students who want to use a laptop as a screen for a gaming system. Neither of those groups are large or make the laptop manufacturers much profit so they're not going to be catered to by the OEMs.



$560? What the hell is in that thing?


Just sold a non-rugged version on ebay for ~$250 IIRC. They're $320ish new.


Tiny market share. With USB3, at least you can have video capture dongles with reasonable resolution. I know for HDMI they're quite common, but I'd assume someone makes a VGA version too.


Searched a bit: USB3 VGA capture things are surprisingly expensive, but there's some cheap USB2 ones around. Presumably a sysadmin doesn't need high resolution, so those should work too.


This is the part of the design that struck me as particularly useful -- that the monitor, keyboard, and trackpad/whatever can all be plugged in to external sources.


I went with a Dell Latitude 3180, which is basically a Chromebook that comes with Windows instead. I wanted something 10+ hours battery life, small (11-13" screen), fanless so that it'd be quiet.

--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.


My geek sense goes a tingling for everything small and compact. BUT I used to be a sysadmin, still perform some of those duties, and I don't really need a tiny laptop. I have no issue with carrying a laptop bag containing a Thinkpad X1 anywhere I might need it.

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'm in the market for something like this for on call purposes. Something small/light enough to stow in a coat pocket but which has a physical keyboard and enough functionality for me to be able to triage most issues without having to resort to a laptop.

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.


In another reply thread I mentioned that I'm using a $50 smartphone kit consisting of a smartphone stand(Nulaxy brand, but there are dozens of similar designs) and iClever folding Bluetooth keyboard for writing. I think this is roughly along the lines of what you might want. The keyboard fits snugly in a vest pocket(it comes in two versions - I'm using the larger version with full-size keys and backlight) and gives a decent - not amazing, but good enough that I don't care - typing experience. There are many folding Bluetooth keyboards on Amazon, but this one stood out from the pack.

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’ll check that keyboard out! Many thanks.


Anyone who works in the field or tough conditions just goes for toughbooks. These things can withstand pretty much anything you throw at it.

https://na.panasonic.com/us/computers-tablets-handhelds/comp...


Soooo, when is the kickstarter?

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 remember when laptops had all sorts of legacy ports all over them. Good times! While getting this thing built seems somewhat unrealistic, perhaps someone could build a USB-C dock that basically replicates the back of a late-90s ATX PC - if only for the geek value alone.


Sounds like something one of the better-known retro hardware geeks could do a kickstarter for. I'd buy one :)


A bit small as others have commented but I like the 'Swiss army knife' approach. Perhaps a slightly larger version could be the future for the 'non-endpoint' laptop? Sound artists and so forth might find a use for such a thing.

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.


>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: https://geoff.greer.fm/2017/07/16/thinkpad-x62/


I think a mobile/phablet with usb adapter(s) could do the job. I'm currently working on an IDE with built in terminal emulator for mobile phones, where the hard lifting is done by the IDE backend running on a server. I think you either want a "full" laptop experience, or something more mobile, that fits in your pocket. Not something in-between. But it would look cool in a hacker movie!


Do you have your mobile IDE available somewhere? I am looking for a way to code from my cellphone and I can't user Termux without a code keyboard (to get ctrl, tab, etc.) which takes most of the screen space on my phone.


The volume buttons become control and alt in Termux, and if you swipe from the left and open the keyboard menu, you can enable a little overlay that includes keys like tab and escape.

See more info at the Termux wiki: https://wiki.termux.com/wiki/Touch_Keyboard


I really do empathise with the authors sentiment, even the supposedly business grade lines of laptops are being consumerized with soldered RAM, no ports, no swappable batteries and cruddy 16:9 displays.

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.


Like a lot of people mentioned, there are some obvious shortcomings. What I really like is all the thoughts are original ideas the author came up for this render. So many amazing little details.


This reminds me of the GPD MicroPC - https://www.gpd.hk/gpdmicropc - it's not available yet, but they should begin taking orders pretty soon.

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.


Not sure what I'll find to replace my T420 with classic keyboard when it dies.

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?


There are basically no laptops with good keyboards anymore. I've given up on trying to find one. Thinkpads have gone down the drain. Lenovo aren't even offering on-site support or extended warranty on all models anymore (even if you want to pay more!). They've gone from quality business models to, well, slightly better than garbage.


Run of the mill Dell's suck, but the latitude line of laptops are pretty good. They are easier to service and find parts for as well.


You can install a T420 keyboard into a T430/T430s/x230. This requires a really tiny modification to the plastic, cutting/filing it to fit, but the connectors are the same. There will be a couple keys that remain dead, but aside from that, it works great. There is also the Thinkpad 25 retro, if you have a ton of money, but I haven't gotten a chance to try that keyboard.


The Apple eMate 300 had a tripod stand in the base.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/48126477@N05/8463211826


Corporate GUIs: The laptop.


You mean: designed to be useful, not pretty?


I'm needing a clamp or solution to hold/lock usb-c cables into a macbook pro typically, or IBM X1. I was going to just 3d print something, but was hoping for something a bit more polished/form fitting. Having issues in the lab/shop with cables coming out during sensitive processes/data collection etc. Especially since a usb/ethernet dongle is heavier with multiple cables plugged in.


Yeah keeping cables in can be an issue, and I don't know of any polished solutions.

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...


I'll make this simpler: I want a 4:3 ThinkPad T61 with modern hardware. Same thickness, same keyboard, same everything. Widescreen sucks for code.


Take a look at the 51nb X62.


Isn't small or light, but Getac ruggedized laptops seem to cover the high number of ports requirement: https://thecomputermarket.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/...

And, there's more ports on the sides too.


Isn't it too expensive and heavy for daily tasks? If your work needs carry it around DC or similar, the rugged laptop is overkill.


I shared because it's the only thing I've seen that approaches the port density in the article.


And getac keyboards are very interesting. If you love them you really love them.


What about a touchscreen? Are matte touchscreens a thing? I didn't think I'd ever use the touchscreen on my laptop but I have found myself finding it convenient for quick actions when I'm not seated in front of it. I can imagine only having the TrackPoint to navigate menus to be annoying when you're standing.


> The notebook has 2 webcams. The front-facing one is 8MP (4K / UltraHD), while the “selfie” one is 2MP (FullHD).

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.


> What does a sysadmin need a forward-facing camera for?

Photographing server racks for documentation comes to my mind.


I use a ThinkPad T470 at work and it's served me quite well. Not really sure I'd want to go much smaller. I do agree that it's silly to have Print Screen where it is (though it's actually kinda handy, too, when I need to take a whole bunch of screenshots, e.g. when writing documentation).

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.


They should just put those Sheevaplug USB serials in servers.


I recently came across this cool DYI laptop that is in the works:

http://mntmn.com/reform/

It doesn't fit exactly with the OP's needs but it comes pretty close I think.


Here is a recent status update with pictures of the beta unit:

https://mntmn.com/media/news_md/2019-01-14-status_update_on_...


I'd buy one in a heartbeat, although in a form factor a bit larger... an DIN A5 sized device is a bit small for my needs, but DIN A4? Count me in.

What I'd add though is support for PS2 mouse/keyboard. Much old stuff still uses that...


I've been staring at a surface go for a while now which I think meets all these needs. The one thing I'd like is a case with an attached keyboard (like the old clamcase) rather than the soft keyboard/stand.


I have a surface go, the 8gb version, and am very happy with it. I've left it running Windows 10 home, but installed the linux subsystem which works quite nicely. You'd think the keyboard would be a weak point, but it's not as bad to use as it looks like it would be. And it runs the games I care about (Civ 6, Kerbal, Subnautica, etc) well enough that I can enjoy them. It's lacking in ports, having just a single USB C, but a hub with a couple of USB A ports, a USB C, HDMI and ethernet only runs about $60 and isn't very big. All in all, I've been really happy with it, it fits in a small bag, will charge off the same USB C charger my phone uses if needed (albeit slowly) and is useful as a tablet for just surfing the web on or watching Netflix.


Hilarious! Would love to see something like this. I have the Thinkpad X220, and it is really a nice size for getting something serious done while still on the small side.


Love this concept! The comment thread is fantastic as well.


I use an 8" Windows 10 tablet with a USB hub and random keyboards and mice. There's always a keyboard and a mouse somewhere in the data center. If not, I have my bluetooth keyboard with a touchpad. I have it configured with all necessary tools. It works great as a Cisco console.

Oh yeah, it cost me $48 at Fry's. I have two of them. Battery life is more than 5 hours.


HP x360, Intel i3, 6GB ram.

Affordable, durable, works well with multiple flavors of Linux and dual boots just fine.

Been administrating systems for years with this baby.


I know HP takes a lot of flak for their consumer laptops, but some of their Pavilion x360 are good in an almost unreasonable way, if you want them to be. I got a 13'' one, with an i5, at a Cyber monday sale and used the extra money to put in a good SSD and double the RAM to 16 GB. Just a lovely machine, which is also quite repair-friendly: I had to replace the fan after ~2 years and everything I needed was readily available online (parts list, service manual, etc.)


The color coded keyboard seems like a neat and readily achievable idea. Are there any laptops with that available on market now?


Get a Surface Go with LTE (or if you need TPM a Surface Pro). Then get a small bag of usb-a dongles for your needs. For the head unit issue, something like https://www.epiphan.com/products/kvm2usb-3-0/ could work.


It's the antonym of "MacBook".


I'm keen to see the phone evolve into a useful computer. Physical connections could be achieved with bluetooth adapters and the like. Keyboard either virtual/projected, or tacktile foldout for touchtyping. Screen could be a tiny projector, or google glass style. Anyone got links to this type of system?


If you want modern hardware, mate a 7" tablet to a Cherry G84 compact keyboard. Otherwise resurrect a netbook.


Since most of my work is command line / cloud I just really want to see something like the Sony Vaio P form factor that runs a really great terminal emulator. I'm ok with USB-C and dongles for when I need to hook something up, but a laptop the size of an iPad mini would make me very happy


My guess is there's way too much stuff in terms of I/O for this form factor to even be feasible.


This looks really good, can I paypal you a preorder deposit for 10 machines?


oh my good I just need something like this!


There is the GPD MicroPC if you can handle a terrible keyboard


I was going to suggest him to get the smallest macbook pro ...


Reminds me of a GPD Pocket (2) Laptop minus the peripheral interface and custom key colors.

E: Probably would be cheaper to make a USB-C interface board to work with the GPD.


This was a very interesting read. I’d love to see a similar write-up for a developer laptop.

This is a small nitpick but the battery should be listed as 42 Wh, not W/h.


I love the thought experiment however putting all those connectors in there + a decent battery is not going to be simple (if even possible at all).


For me aluminum is a no-go. I get electric discharges every time I touch it. Independently if I am at the office, at home, or at the beach.


I love it (though it's like Homer's car).


This largely speaks to the hardware issue of managing racks, but... is there actually a hardware issue?


If you ever build this thing I will buy one.


This set of ideas is probably most easily commercialized as a USB-C dongle with a fuckload of ports (including display inputs) that you can then connect to any laptop you want. For bonus points, the dongle could include port-testing functionality, and a webserver, so you plug it in, browse to http://dongle, and see that your Ethernet port is fucked.


This would make my life easier in many situations. If it has enough RAM I would use it as my main computer even.


The folding blinds are a very nice touch.


Small change proposal for the UART<->USB bridge: make Vio selectable between 3.3V/5V


honestly I'd be really happy with a keyboard that folded out to around the size of one of the smallish bluetooth keyboards, X emacs a browser and a terminal on my phablet.

The closest I've come was a nexus 7 with a keyboard case and bluetooth mouse and remote desktop.


It's literally an X200s


The MacBook 12” is still pretty strong if you don’t need a CPU.


How were the illustrations in this post created?


Like mac but for support carbon x1 with SIM card


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