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advice on buying an older laptop

vic user

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hi;

i wanted to pick up an older laptop for my daughter, but i have no idea of the relative value of these things.

i don't even have a clue what the most up to date ones can do now.

what i am looking for is something like this:

colour screen
a USB port so she can attach a digital camera
ability to connect to a printer
ability to connect to a network
serial port
batteries that still work
power adapter

can surf the web, but doesn't have to be at some insane speed.

any ideas of what kind of laptops i should be looking at, and any ideas of what i should be expecting to spend?

chris
 

NathanAllan

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If you're looking for an off-the-shelf kinda deal, then get about a 300mhz model, it should have all of the features you are looking for except maybe a modem, those are seperate. PCMCIA type is best for ease of use I have found. Most of the laptops of that range already had the on-board lan, all of them had a colour screen and most had usb. I always recommend Toshiba as I have had extremely great results using them and workign with them and the tech support is outstanding. What I mean by that is that even if a machine is unsupported all of the documents are online at the toshiba site if you don't go too far back (T1200 is far and support is limited). And if you go with something liek that I would also say find one with a decent hdd, about 6-10 gig and at least 64mb of ram and Win2k or 98SE. I'd go with 2k for ease of use and reliability (though I really like 98 ). I would expect to pay baout $150 for a laptop ike that one that's in good working order and everything is straight with it. If you want to fix it then it'll be cheaper, of course. Like, if you got one without a hdd or some accessory. Batteries are expensive but one can live without it (sit next to a plug) but that is my personal thing. If you get one shipped to you be sure you pay for good packing! I have gotten laptops wrapped in one small piece of bubble wrap in a flimsy post office box and the screens got smashed. So what I do is throw in a couple extra bucks for great packing and a nice note.

Since it's for your daughter then I bet this is the kind of thing you're looking for. Forget about XP, it's too bulky and buggy (IMHO). 2k pro is practical for a student or suchlike.

There's more, but it's DIY stuff. Not for practicality and not for the inexperienced (in setting up and hardware). I'm no guru or anything but that is what I recommend.

Nathan
 

vic user

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thanks man!

i think i will pop by some pawn shops, and see what they have to offer.

basically, she would be using the comp. for word processing, e-mailing her friend, and going on the net to get info for homework, but i want her to have the ability to hook up a digital camera as well.

chris
 

Terry Yager

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Chris,

Toshiba does make some nice laptops, but my weapon-of-choice is an IBM ThinkPad. (Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM). Basically though, you should be ok if you stick to the major brands and avoid unknown companies.

You should be able to find something in the 233 - 300MHz range with the specs you need for between $100 - 200.00. The battery on something like that may or may not be usable, but expect the worst and you might be pleasantly surprized.

Most of what you'll want to attach to it can be found in PCMCIA cards (including USB hubs, etc), but try to find one that has 32-bit (Cardbus) slots.

--T
 

vic user

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thanks again.

ok, ok, i am getting the hint about batteries ;)

so as long as i can attach PCMCIA cards to the laptop i should be ok for getting USB later down the road?

and try and see if the comp. is able to use 32 bit PCMCIA cards instead of just 16?

chris
 

Terry Yager

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vic user said:
thanks again.

ok, ok, i am getting the hint about batteries ;)

so as long as i can attach PCMCIA cards to the laptop i should be ok for getting USB later down the road?

and try and see if the comp. is able to use 32 bit PCMCIA cards instead of just 16?

chris

USB, FireWire, 802.11, etc. Most or the high-spec stuff (like FireWire) will be available in CardBus only tho. Here's an example from eBay (search keyword "pcmcia usb") of a ten-dollar card with 4x USB + 1x FireWire, but it's a 32-bit card:

http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-Laptop-4-Po...8713627868QQcategoryZ3710QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

I don't recall ever seeing a 16-bit version of this type of card, but they might exist.

--T
 

mbbrutman

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I second the motion on the Thinkpad.

We use these for work, and they are built for a beating. If you are looking at later machines the T series is excellent.

A word of warning in general though - laptops are fragile. Even my beloved T21 eventually flaked out to the point of no return. Look for one that is gently used, and try to test it as much as possible before buying it. (Bringing a boot diskette with a good memory tester or a Linux boot CD with utilities on it is essential.)


Mike
 

carlsson

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USB 1.1 was introduced with the Pentium II/Celeron generation, IIRC. I agree with the other posters, 300+ MHz should be fine. Since you mention digital camera, does it have an USB 2.0 interface? It is backwards compatible with 1.1, but if you want to get full speed out of the transfer, the computer or an external USB interface should be 2.0 compatible.

What do you need the serial port for? Although I believe all laptops have one, I'm curious.
 

Terry Yager

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The antique scanner I've been using lately uses the serial port (I just love it). Besides that, I use it for transfering files between computers sometimes (LapLink, etc).

--T
 

carlsson

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Gosh. And I thought parallel port scanners were on the slow end. If file transfer is between more recent computers, I suppose a local network works at least as good as a serial LapLink connection?

Are there certain brands of laptops of this age that use more common components than others, i.e. memory modules that doesn't cost as much as the laptop itself if one wants to expand memory? Also check if CD, floppy, battery units etc are in bays, and how many of these can be connected simultaneously. IIRC, some models only had room for one removable media unit at a time, which may be a drawback if you frequently want to juggle floppies and CDs.
 

Terry Yager

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A 3-pass full-color scan @400 d.p.i. takes about 20 minutes. I have a much faster USB single-pass, but it just ain't nowhere near as kewl, and I've got plenty of time.

Some of the vintage equipment I use doesn't have PCMCIA slots or any other networking capabilities. Several of them even have wierd, proprietary parallel connectors, so that's out of the question, unless I'm fortunate enough to have a proper adaptor. Besides, in order to do a "remote install," the serial port is the only one that's recognized by LL, or Tranxit, which is the program I regularly use. After the program is installed, then you can use a parallel cable though.

A few of my laptops have (optional) cables that allow you to jack-in the floppy externally, while using the CD in the swap-bay. Again, ThinkPads employ this feature. In fact, if I'm recomending one, try to find a TP 600-series for under $200.00. I'm sure you'll be happy with such a purchace (and good batteries for them can be had for around $20.00 on eBay, etc). I've got 2x 3-hour batteries for mine, so I'm pretty well set-up for a whole day of computin'.

--T
 

NathanAllan

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I think that those weird parallel connectors you see are expansion ports for either docking stations or port replicators. My tosh has one and I have the port replicator and it sure is neat. I have the nice one with 2 extra pcmcia slots, all the ports, and if I plug in a diffeent compatible laptop I get sound outputs, a fdd plug and a power pass through. Ex: I have a Compaq 386 laptop that has nothing expandable on it, but the docking station has three ISA ports and two 5.25" bays and a monitor stand. Great expansion base. But that's neither her nor there. That's probly the plug you're talking about. There are ALSO pcmcia docking statins so if you get a laptop that doesn't have that stuff on it you can plug this thing in and use desktop parts in the dock! easidock makes them.

Nathan
 

Terry Yager

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No, the docking station is a whole 'nother animal. A few of my handhelds/subs have parallel connectors that're just wierd. Examples:

Toshiba T200/CS-80
Epson EHT-400C
Gateway Handbook
TI-2000
ZEOS Pocket Personal Computer
Etc...

...All of which have a standard 9-pin serial conneector, except the ZEOS, which is still weird.

The Toshiba Libretto has no external ports except the docking connector, so i/o on that is limited to the IR port, or sneaker-net via the PCMCIA socket (1x Type-II).

I just picked up Port-Rep for my TP-360PE the other day, but the only features it adds are a joystick port & second PS/2 connector.

BTW, Nathan, I just got the ROM burner hooked-up and working tonight. I couldn't use it with my first-choice computer, cauze it only works with a CGA card (memory conflicts with EGA or VGA adaptors), but it works just fine hanging off my Ampro LittleBoard PC...

--T
 

vic user

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What do you need the serial port for? Although I believe all laptops have one, I'm curious.

to be honest, i think i would feel weird not having a serial port.

i am still getting used to computers not having db25 ports.

chris[/code]
 

CP/M User

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Initally I was going to say a 386, but then the USB thingy really throws
that machine out the Window. Everything else I've done on one as such
(even the Network thingy - even though it was a simple serial port one).

Technically speaking there's no reason why a USB could be constructed
for one along with the DOS driver or something to communicate through -
though no-one seems to be messing around with that stuff anymore - well
maybe a few still tinker about - but don't spend time working on full
projects.

CP/M User.
 

vic user

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i went around various stores, but found none in working condition.

i spotted this one on ebay:

Item number: 6815549298

IBM 233 MHZ Laptop Notebook ThinkPad Computer N/R
High Speed Internet , Good Battery and BONUS

it will probably see way more bids, but the comp. looks pretty darn good

chris
 

vic user

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thanks!

i was going to try and spend no more than $200.00 including shipping costs, so it's good to know that this one is in my ball park.

mind you i haven't even bid on it yet :)

chris
 

vic user

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woof!

nice sounding computer!

i just put a bid on the one on ebay, but i doubt i will win it, as i am sure i will be sniped, so i will keep an eye on the other one too.

chris
 
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