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May 07, 2007

Notice From The Hotel's Business Center

Shortly after midnight, Monday, May 7, my Toshiba tablet laptop made a really awful grinding sound and, like, totally died. This is bad news because, of course, now I am without a laptop, and I'm on the road.

Bummer. I really liked that laptop.

This is my way of saying that, well, I'm not precisely sure when I'll be updating around here again. I don't suspect I will be totally cut off (I am, for example, writing this in the hotel's business center); however, if you don't see a whole lot of me around here in the next couple of days, now you know why.

Now I've got to go repeat this same basic message on all my other blogs. Wheee!

See you all in a while.

Posted by john at May 7, 2007 12:24 AM

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James | May 7, 2007 12:50 AM

Bummer, probably your hard drive. Good news, your laptop may come back. Bad news, your data may not. Hope there was not anything critical on it.

Mike Stanley | May 7, 2007 01:09 AM

Dude, sorry to hear about that. Hope you can recover any data you might have on it.

If it is completely dead and out of warranty... might be time to consider making the "switch" to a nice shiny MacBook. :)

Tumbleweed | May 7, 2007 01:19 AM

See, that's why solid state drives will be a big deal in the future - no moving parts to crash and destroy your data. Let's hope they can get those unlimited-write models out ASAP.

Cassie | May 7, 2007 01:30 AM

You're far calmer about this than I would be.

Hope you haven't lost anything irretrievable.

Mary Robinette Kowal | May 7, 2007 02:59 AM

See, now the swanky hotels that Tor is putting you in will come in handy because most of them probably will have a business center.

I'll bet you're not too, too upset about needing to get a shiny new laptop.

JC | May 7, 2007 05:59 AM

I have a Toshiba tablet laptop which did the same thing. Fortunately, it's really easy to replace the hard drive on them. This is cheaper than buying a new laptop. (You might want to buy a new one anyways, but I thought my Toshiba M200 was kind of neat. I have since bought a Newton MP2000 though.)

This doesn't help with the data loss issue, of course. So I hope you haven't lost any difficult to replace data. (e.g., right now, I'm thrilled that you've been doing your writing on Google Docs rather than, say, on your laptop.)

JC | May 7, 2007 05:59 AM

I have a Toshiba tablet laptop which did the same thing. Fortunately, it's really easy to replace the hard drive on them. This is cheaper than buying a new laptop. (You might want to buy a new one anyways, but I thought my Toshiba M200 was kind of neat. I have since bought a Newton MP2000 though.)

This doesn't help with the data loss issue, of course. So I hope you haven't lost any difficult to replace data. (e.g., right now, I'm thrilled that you've been doing your writing on Google Docs rather than, say, on your laptop.)

Joe Hass | May 7, 2007 09:46 AM

Please accept my sympathy on your loss, especially while on the road.

Mike Stanley: speaking as a devout Mac person, even I allow time for grieving before handing them the "(Religious deity of your choice) Wants You To Use A Mac" pamphlet.

John Scalzi | May 7, 2007 10:24 AM

Re: Data loss --

Actually, I have almost no data loss at all, since most of my important files (including the chapters of the book I'm currently writing)I've been storing online via a shared server on my network and/or through online data services. So anything I have on this laptop is also elsewhere in my personal datasphere. I might lose a picture or two but ultimately nothing too significant.

Also, this laptop is 4 years old. No warranty on it anymore, but then again I can't really complain I didn't get my money's worth out of it.

Having the laptop go belly up is annoying, but if it was going to go belly up, this is pretty much the optimal way for it to happen.

Adam Lipkin | May 7, 2007 10:41 AM

Mike, I'm about as big a Mac advocate as you can find, but aside from Joe's point above about a proper grieving period, there's also the fact that there's still not a Mac tablet other than the unofficial, (and pricey) ModBook.

Frankly, until Apple releases their tablet machine, even I'll be lusting after the Toshiba a little bit.

Steve Buchheit | May 7, 2007 10:55 AM

Adam Lipkin, the Apple Tablet is the new iPhone.

Jay Lake | May 7, 2007 10:56 AM

Ouch, dude.

Jenny Rae Rappaport | May 7, 2007 10:58 AM

While you're at it, can you buy me a new laptop too? =)

Mike Stanley | May 7, 2007 11:41 AM

Whoa, completely missed the word tablet in the original. Sorry about that. I guess if I'd felt the tablet aspect was a must, I would have kept my Mac-proposing ways to myself. :)

Having said that, sorry too for seeming like a vulture, if indeed I did. I guess I've worked with computers for so long that I don't get too emotionally attached to them and move from one to the next without any grieving. Am glad to hear the prospect of data loss is minimal. I'll plead ... sleepiness, how about that?

Back to the tablet thing, I tried one a year and a half ago or so, maybe a little more. I think it was when the IBM Thinkpad X41 had just arrived, so I got one for work. Even though I'd fully converted to the Mac years before, I used it religiously for a couple months, but just didn't find it fitting into my workflow very well and since I ended up using it as a laptop far more than a tablet, I installed Ubuntu on it and ran Linux for a while. Once it really sunk in that I was using a (nicely tiny, I must admit) convertible tablet as a pure laptop and never booting into Windows anyway, I restored it to its factory config and gave it to a coworker and started carrying my PowerBook again.

I *might* try a tablet if Apple ever does one, but I type so much faster than I write, and that's just one of the ways the tablet thing never sunk in with me. Cool concept for those who like it, though.

-Mike the ghoulish Mac zealot

Dr. Phil | May 7, 2007 12:34 PM

Sympathies on a dying computer. Which is why you need to carry two. (grin) Or at least have a decent Wi-Fi PDA which can allow you to limp along. (double-grin)

Serious time -- without question THE best tablet PCs on the market are made by Fujitsu/Siemens. They tend not to be cheap but they are far more durable and reliable than anything short of milspec on the market. And they have two -- a full-size tablet/notebook and an amazing pint-size unit. The current small unit is the Fujitsu Lifebook P1610D. I have the previous version, the P1510D, which I ordered from Fujitsu in October 2005 when they were brand new (and watched the tracking as it was assembled in Osaka and the FedEx'd to Kalamazoo). I don't normally buy brand new models of things, but PC Magazine gushed out a review on a pre-production model, claiming it was the first 2 lb. tablet/laptop they could work on all day. I also have an early Fujitsu tablet, a Win98SE unit with a 233MHz Pentium CPU, which I bought for dirt cheap at a used computer store 'cause it was so darned cute -- and it turned out to be a wonderful compact machine. It uses an IBM-style joystick mouse, which normally I don't like, but this one seems to work better than most, and I have an MS portable optical mouse plugged into a USB port for everyday use.

Industry talks about OOBE -- Out Of Box Experience -- and I have to say my P1510D has the finest OOBE I've ever had from any piece o' tech. Zero problems. Get one with extra GB of drive and MB of memory, the extended life battery and tiny travel case, and you're good to go. I get 5-7 hours of battery life and the screen is bright and clear. While the keyboard is a little compact, I have no trouble touchtyping with my fat fingers -- indeed, I'm typing this right now at the office on the P1510D. Can't say enough good things about this unit. Everytime I carry this thing to a con, it attracts a LOT of attention and other Fujitsu tablet owners come over and echo my praise for the solid reliability.


Dr. Phil

John H | May 7, 2007 01:04 PM

Man, this is eerie. First Westerfeld's MacBook craps out (proving that even Apple devices are not infallible), and now Scalzi's laptop goes tits up. What's going on here?

Is this some kind of evil conspiracy to deprive the world of well-written fiction?

Chang, the real O.C. | May 7, 2007 02:06 PM


So sorry to hear that. Good thing you backed it up. I'm less than good about that which is why Daddy recently lost plus de Mp3's on a drive. It was for making me very sad.


PixelFish | May 7, 2007 02:16 PM

Oooooooo...I totally feel your pain. This just happened to my boyfriend. And of course, we are totally strapped for cash after moving. Bah.

Anne C. | May 7, 2007 03:18 PM

When you get a chance, could you let us know why you have a tablet? I'm in the pre-think stage of getting another laptop (currently have a desktop after previous laptop died at ~ 3 yrs old) and am curious about all the laptop alternatives out there.

Anonymous | May 7, 2007 03:30 PM

Anne C:

The reason I got a tablet was that I thought I would have some use for the tablet function, although over the course of time I found that I actually didn't really. I just bought a new laptop, and decided to forgo the tablet function this time. I don't expect I will miss it all that much.

JC | May 7, 2007 04:21 PM

Anne C:
As far as writing goes, I thought a tablet would be more useful than it has turned out to be. The handwriting recognition is, at best, adequate. There are a few applications that allow you to treat your tablet as if it were a notebook. However, the handwriting recognition, and the user interface to recover from misrecognition, aren't really good enough to make it really useful. (Handling misrecognition is slightly better if you do all your handwriting in the Tablet Input Panel (TIP) though.)

I know a few other writers with tablets. The only one I know who really takes advantage of the tablet functions is also an artist. I suspect it works out more usefully for artists.

MikeB | May 7, 2007 07:28 PM

Back in the day (like when 486's were NEW! and FAST!) I had a milspec portable. Was really useful when you couldn't be bothered to go all the way to the garage for a hammer... Never went wrong once but was simply bypassed by technology. I gave it to a friend of mine when I left England and he still uses it to this day. Not too sure if he uses it as a computer or a contruction tool but he assures me it still works.

For myself I just got given a shiny new Dell laptop by my current employer. I'm not sure if it was a reward or a consolation prize: only time will tell.

PixelFish | May 7, 2007 09:38 PM

As an artist, I may say that the tablet fully roxxors my soxxors. The pressure sensitivity alone is a beautiful thing. The ability to create wide sweeping strokes, to sketch almost as I would on a real sketch book. (Some of the work on my trailer for The Last Colony--notably the leaves at the beginning--was done with tablet.)

I confess I had not thought of using it for writing though, and since I type much faster than I write, it seems an inefficient way to tackle the writing.

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