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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Thursday January 24 2008

Incoming from Jackie D: “Saw this and thought of you.” But Dells are too big and too heavy, with a screen like a flat TV and a keyboard with another blank bit stuck to it that’s as big again as the keyboard.  Cheap is not the only issue with me.  It has to be small and light.  I have no upper body strength.  “Just come to the US and get a laptop here, Brian!” So, I have to go to America and then lug this monster back here again, just to save a bit of cash?  Which it wouldn’t.  But, thanks for the thought JD.

My Dell weighs about three pounds - I can fit it in most of my handbags and carry it without too much trouble. So you CAN get them. (I was very opposed to getting a Dell, but have to say that I have had no problems with mine. Considering how often I’ve dropped it from a great height, that’s saying something.)

And no, you shouldn’t come here JUST to get a laptop. But I think it’s a splended idea (if I do say so myself...which I do) if you came here to satisfy your own curiosities, and got a laptop while you were over.

Posted by Jackie Danicki on 25 January 2008

Of course.  It was just an excuse to link to JD’s photos.

More seriously, is there a problem for a Brit buying computers in America with incompatibility?  I vaguely recall keyboards being different, or something, which you really don’t want with laptops, because that can’t easily be changed.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 25 January 2008

An number of points.

Dell do make small and light consumer laptops, but for some reason they don’t tend to sell them in Europe. They are available in the US, Asia and Australia, however. My mother has had a small and light Dell laptop for several years and has been very happy with it. The model and its successors were never sold in the UK though. (Dell’s cheaper small and light laptops do tend to use standard parts rather than the low power parts found in high end Sonys and Fujitsus, so battery life is sometimes lacking).
My mother uses hers in the house and usually has it plugged in rather than on batteries, however.

The quality of Dell’s industrial design has improved a lot in recent years. Their products were bland and ugly, but they are now a good deal better.

My experiences with Dell equipment have generally been good ones. I have a large and chunky but powerful Dell laptop that is four years old, and which is practically an old friend. A couple of things have gone wrong with it, but I have generally been able to fix them. (It is well designed in the sense that more parts are user-maintainable than is often the case with laptops). I also have a two year old 24 inch Dellscreen on my desktop that is simply beautiful. Dell’s after sales service did fall to pieces several years back, but recent evidence seems to suggest that it has improved.

There are two differences between UK and US modells, generally. One is the keyboard. The only significant differences are that the UK keyboard has a £ sign on the 3 key and the # key to the right of the middle row, whereas a US keyboard has the # above the 3 and does not have a £ sign. It is possible to change this in software so that the keys behave in the UK way and what is written on a couple of the keys is wrong, or you can make do with the US layout. The US layout bothers me not at all, but your mileage may vary. It is usually possible to buy a UK keyboard on ebay for 20 or 30 quid, and in truth keyboards are not difficult to swap out, even on a laptop. (It does take a screwdriver and 10 minutes, but that is about all). Of course, if the particular Dell model is not sold in the UK, it may not actually be possible to buy the keyboard. If Dell makes another model that it does sell in the UK with the same sized and shaped keyboard (which is possible) then it might be, however.

The second difference is simply that the US power plug is different. You can fix this with an adaptor or a different cable. In either case this is a problem that will cost about £2 to fix. It is important that the laptop comes with a power brick that is compatible with both US and UK voltages, but it is years since I have seen a laptop adaptor that was not.

I’m in complete agreement with Jackie here. Buying a small and light Dell laptop in the US is an excellent idea. The money saving from getting it over there might cover the cost of your airfare.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 25 January 2008

Dell do make small and light consumer laptops, but for some reason they don’t tend to sell them in Europe.

They do: I bought mine directly from Dell while I still lived in the UK.

Posted by Jackie Danicki on 25 January 2008

1) If you consider the Dell purchase as a cross-subsidy: the saving is an effective discount on the air ticket.
If we could fix you up with a paid speaking engagement over there that would be even better.

2) Michael’s solution for adaptor is not the best if he’s suggesting using a socket adapter, unless you’re traveling abroad.

About the adapter, Morgan computers sell for about £5 a replacement cable with a UK plug instead of the US one. (It’s the bit of the power cable from the transformer to the plug.) The advantage of this is that it’s the actual manufacturer’s equipment and not a jerry-rigged setup.

3) Keyboard, I have this at work and there are similar problems between Macs and PCs. If you’re running Windows, you can set the keyboard to “UK” to get the pound sign. The problems are: quotation marks and the @ sign abd the location of the # sign.
On my office Mac, I can’t find the # button, but that’s Crapintosh, not Dell.

4) However, if I was buying a laptop in the USA, I’d have to try and get the Wal-Mart $200 job.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 27 January 2008
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