Thoughts on a pile of laptops
Hi folks! For the first post of 2023, I thought I'd do something a bit different. If you want to keep up with what I've been working on, these days Mastodon is the best place - I've been posting a quick summary at the end of every working day there. Seems to be working out well so far. The biggest thing lately is that "grouped critical path", which I wrote about in my last post, is deployed in production now. This has already reduced the amount of tests openQA has to run, and I'm working on some further changes to optimize things more.
So instead of that, I want to rhapsodize on this pile of laptops:
On the top is the one I used as my main laptop for the last six years, and my main system for the last couple, since I got rid of my desktop. It's a Dell XPS 13 9360, the "Kaby Lake" generation. Not pictured (as it's over here being typed on, not in the pile) is its replacement, a 2022 XPS 13 (9315), which I bought in December and have been pretty happy with so far. On the bottom of the pile is a Lenovo tester (with AMD Ryzen hardware) which I tried to use as my main system for a bit, but it didn't work out as it only has 8G of RAM and that turns out to be...not enough. Second from bottom is a terrible budget Asus laptop with Windows on it that I keep around for the occasional time I need to use Windows - mainly to strip DRM from ebooks. Not pictured is the older XPS 13 I used before the later two, which broke down after a few years.
But the hidden star of the show is the one second from top. It has a high-resolution 13" display with pretty slim bezels and a built-in webcam. It has dual NVIDIA and Intel GPUs. It has 8G of RAM, SSD storage and a multicore CPU, and runs Fedora 36 just fine, with decent (3-4hr) battery life. It weighs 3.15lb (1.43kg) and has USB, HDMI and ethernet outs.
It also has a built-in DVD drive, VGA out and an ExpressCard slot (anyone remember those?) That's because it's from 2010.
It's a Sony Vaio Z VPC-Z11, and I still use it as a backup/test system. It barely feels outdated at all (until you remember about the DVD drive, which is actually pretty damn useful sometimes still). Every time I open it I'm still amazed at what a ridiculous piece of kit it is/was. Just do an image search for "2010 laptop" and you'll see stuff like, well, this. That's what pretty much every laptop looked like in 2010. They had 4G of RAM if you were lucky, and hard disks. They weighed 2kg+. They had huge frickin' bezels. The Macbook Air had come out in 2008, but it was an underpowered thing with a weak CPU and HDD storage. The 2010 models had SSDs, but maxed out at 4G RAM and still had pretty weak CPUs (and way bigger bezels, and worse screens, and they certainly didn't have DVD drives). They'd probably feel pretty painful to use now, but the Vaio still feels fine. Here's a glamour shot:
I've only had to replace its battery twice and its SSDs (it came from the factory with two SSDs configured RAID-0, because weird Sony is like that) once in 12 years. Probably one day it will finally not be really usable any more, but who the heck knows how long that will be.