Let’s demystify the process of buying a laptop because there are plenty of vendors who’d like people to pay over the odds: buy a laptop to run a specific operating system. Am I kidding myself it's that simple?
Set a budget (£500 say, roughly $1,000 in US shekels), and then load up on RAM to the tune of 2-3GB. Don’t worry about battery life because there’s always some new chip that says it uses less power (but if it’s that important avoid fancy graphics chips because they eat electrons). And don’t worry either about things like having the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi because that can always be upgraded later using the PC-Card or USB slots.
Then – and here’s the radical bit – don’t throw it away a year and a half later. Plan to keep the machine for at least three years, minimum, better still four. Do not – DO NOT – listen to the guff about obsolescence. The last laptop you bought ran XP happily and so this one is for Vista and Vista alone. It is not a machine that will ever run Windows 7 or whatever Microsoft dreams up to keep its money tap turned to the ‘on’ position. (If you’d have bought a laptop in 2004 to run Vista you’d have looked rather silly by 2007 when it finally appeared.)
The one thing missing from this rosy philosophy is, unfortunately, the one thing you can’t always buy with any laptop today, namely security. Laptops don’t come with steel tethering cables, encryption is still patchy as a standard feature, and comes in a confusing number of variations, and the laptop tracking systems that will one day be built in as standard to deter theft, are still not here.
If you do find such options such as full-disk encryption (FDE) from boot, or Wi-Fi firewalling to extend Vista’s much-improved handling of such ports, or device tracking built in you are likely to pay a large premium and be handing the bill to a business.
So perhaps the ‘buying a laptop’ philosophy is flawed. It tells you how not to pay over the odds, but it offers no advice on protecting your asset. How to buy a secure laptop is a subject I’ll look at in a blog of the near future.