A Road Warrior Plans To Shed Some Weight: Part 1

samsonite-silhouette-11-softside-shoulder-bagLike many people I’m making a New Year’s resolution with respect to losing some weight. However, in my case the sphere of concern to be addressed is my computer bag. It’s simply too heavy and I’m finally planning to do something about that.

In truth I’ve needed a new shoulder bag for some months. I’ve had the same one for about five years. It’s an HP branded ballistic nylon bag that I got two laptops ago. I really like the design of the bag, but recently it’s started to look a bit ragged. One of the zippers is even broken.

Shopping for a new computer bag naturally calls into question what goes into that bag. This is where my bag has suffered. I’ve just been carrying around too much stuff. Let me start with an examination of my past (and current) shoulder burden.

My work is in the area of broadcast TV graphics. This is a cross between the technological and the creative. I use the both the Adobe Production Bundle (Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects) and various office and programming tools. This has historically meant that my company issued laptop was something of a monster.

Over the years I’ve used various Dell and HP models. Most recently I’ve been carrying the HP 8510W mobile workstation. Weighing in at 6.3 pounds, The Beast is no lightweight. Further, the 15.4” screen renders it largely useless in a coach class seat in any aircraft you can mention.

HP 8510W Front

Even though it’s over four years old, the company is not yet inclined to replace it. Moreover, a few coworkers who have been given newer laptops found themselves with Dell Precision M4600 Mobile Workstations. That monster is even heavier than the old HP. As an upgrade path that hardly seems like progress to me.

I think that the company over-estimates our real requirement for laptop capability. On the other hand, my coworkers at HQ no longer have desktops. They use their laptops for everything. In my home office I prefer to use a desktop, even if I need to buy it out of my own pocket. That somewhat reduces the requirements on my laptop. It may be just a matter of perspective, and my situation may be unique.

For the past five years I’ve also carried a netbook. This was not company-issued, it was something purchased with my own money. It was a solution to the problem of losing productivity while travelling by air. There have been times when I was flying a lot and the 10” netbook allowed me to get things done during time that would otherwise have been unproductive.

HP-Mini-2140-netbook

My first netbook was the HP 2140, which a I described here way back when it was purchased. It was replaced by the little red HP 5102 (Engadget Review) , which I use to this day. The high-resolution display of the HP 5102 was a real treat. That display and the great keyboard has kept it in my bag for a long time.

A year ago I upgraded the 5102, swapping out it’s 160 GB WD Scorpio Black hard drive for a San Disk Ultra 120 GB SSD. That upgrade yielded another year of life for the HP 5102, but it’s once again becoming a source of aggravation. It’s just too slow to be anything but an occasional ride. An Intel Atom N470 at 1.83 GHz simply isn’t much silicon for Windows 7 Pro.

Further, I haven’t been travelling quite as much in the past year, which somewhat diminishes the value of its tiny 10” form factor. Oh, by the way, it weighs around 3 pounds with the extended life battery. They can share the same power supply, but the HP twins represent around 11 pounds on my shoulder.

More recently I’ve been carrying a Nexus 7 tablet. The Nexus 7 is a lightweight, but it replaces neither the laptop or netbook. So it effectively adds another pound to my bag.

All of that is the perspective of the past. I’ve been watching the Ultrabook category evolve over the past year or two. I’m of the opinion that I could now be travelling with just a decent Ultrabook and the Nexus 7 tablet. That pair would make for a dramatically smaller and lighter shoulder bag.

This train of thought to-be-continued…..as my wallet empties in the process.

  • The problem with shoulder bag weight isn’t the computer or tablet. It’s the bag itself (esp leather) and all the darn components. I carry various cables, a power strip, pens, pencils, a mini kitchen of tea stuff, a Kindle, a magazine or two, the laptop charger (which is bigger and heavier than my tablet), a headset, (OTC) drugs, a calculator, a pointer, a cell phone charger, and more. 

    Every pound counts so I understand your quest, but don’t fall for the romantic illusion of 3 lb device resulting with a 4 lb bag. 

    • mjgraves

      Rest assured that I harbor no such delusions. I would guess that my bag weights about 15 pounds in total. If I could get that down by even a third I’d consider it a significant accomplishment.

      I prefer ballistic nylon over leather, although I saw a truly beautiful leather bag at Johnston & Murphy for just $500!

  • Are you tied into windows or with the adobe suite is Mac an option?

    • mjgraves

      Adobe has version for both Mac and Windows. Professionally I’m more or less committed to Windows. We’re a Windows Dev shop. I have all Windows applications.

  • zmatzkin

    You can run Windows on a MacBook Air (if you must). I don’t think any “ultrabook” really compares well…

    • mjgraves

      I’m more or less committed to running windows. I appreciate Apple’s prowess in hardware design. That said, I’m just not into buying a Mac Book to run Windows. That’s like paying the Apple premium, then paying again for another OS.

      • Zach

        “More or less”? I have read your blog for years, mostly for your honest take on VOIP stuff. You seem to recognize and appreciate quality. You need to try an Apple notebook, because they really are that much better. Even if you never boot OSX, I don’t think you can buy a better machine. Yes, you can buy a PC cheaper but you are not looking at low end PCs are you?

        • mjgraves

          First, thank you for frequenting my little playground and leaving a comment. On a number of occasions I’ve indicated that I simply prefer to stay clear of Apple. It’s purely a personal preference. 

          In a similar fashion, we don’t do business with AT&T and I won’t spend a dollar with Wal-Mart. I’ve haven’t made a purchase at Wal-Mart in going on twelve years. It doesn’t hurt them, but it makes me feel better.I used to be a bit more adamant about this with respect to Apple, but I wanted to try some iOS apps and the Invoxia speakerphone. These things compelled me to buy a iPod Touch last year. That’s the only Apple hardware on the premises.

          You’re right, I’m not looking at low-end options. Quite the opposite in fact. I’ve examined the MacBook Air as quite a few friends and coworkers use them. They seem like nice hardware. I’m betting that I can find something as good or better from another manufacturer.