Scott's Column
Home Maintenance, Migrating to Desktop, 14" Laptop Reviews

June 1, 2009
By Scott Lewis

May was the most expensive month I have had this year. I took my youngest son to a car show in Houston and we visited Ridemakerz and NASA while we were there. My son built himself himself a Corvette radio controlled car at Ridemakerz, and picked up some souvenirs at NASA's Houston Space Center. It was a great trip. We stayed with a friend so it was not too expensive, but it was just the start of a very expensive month. Home maintenance clobbered our budget for the month. Read on to see what else I went through.

Current Topics:


Not much going on in gaming this past month. I kind of got bored with Half Life 2: Episode Two. Episode One was very short, and I was not thrilled with Episode Two so far so it is sitting as I contemplate what's next.


Maintenance Hell

May was the month of hell for home maintenance. We start off with the A/C going out on the house. This right after I finished fixing the A/C in our Acura MDX. I still had not paid the labor bill for that yet. We have 3 A/C units, 1 for upstairs and two to cover the downstairs. The compressor for the upstairs went out. So the kids slept in the guest bedroom for a few days. It cost $700 to have the compressor replaced.

Before the A/C on the house was fixed the battery in the MDX went south. Another $134 for that. Oh, it gets better.

The liner to the swimming pool had so much "gunk" stuck to the liner I had no choice but to completely drain the pool and scrub the entire liner. This cost me at least $65 in chemicals, scrubbing pads and gloves. I picked up this "Scale Be Gone" as Leslie's Pools. It worked great. The first evening using it I managed to clean 3/4 of the perimeter of the pool at the bottom (which is where the vast majority of the problem was). The Scale be Gone worked great. However, I did not follow the instructions and did not use gloves. Well, I started not using gloves. But every little nick on my hands were stinging pretty badly. So I used some Mr. Clean gloves my wife keeps under the sink (I used these to clean my Bar-B-Que grill on Memorial Day weekend for its annual cleaning and they worked great).

Well, the Mr. Clean gloves did not save my skin from the Scale Be Gone. In fact, looking at my cuts the next day and they were burns. Yes, I chemically burned my skin. So I bought Playtex gloves and another bottle of the Scale be Gone. I also went through at least 15 Scotch-Brite scouring pads (with the yellow sponge on one side).

If this wasn't enough... the thermostat in my water went out. Another $14 to replace that. And then... that make sure I had the worst month possible the toilet would not stop running. The stopper was worn out and I had to buy the plunger assembly.

I am typing this as the pool is filling with water.

I can't wait for June to start, I have had enough of May.


Migrating Windows Mail

I am going through the process of getting my laptop ready to give to my son. In doing this I had to move all my critical stuff to my desktop. Windows Mail as part of Windows Vista was going to be the trickiest. I found instructions here to move all my Windows Mail settings from one computer to another.

I shared the UserName folder on my laptop, and accessed it from my desktop. I copied all the files in that folder to the same UserName folder on my desktop overwriting all the files there.

I then ran RegEdit on my laptop and exported the Windows Mail key in the instruction above. I copied the .reg file to my desktop. I ran RegEdit on my desktop and deleted the Windows Mail key. I then double-clicked the .reg file to import the Windows Mail settings to my desktop.

When I opened Windows Mail it asked for my user ID and password for my e-mail accounts. It was taking way too long to connect so I cancelled that. I went into the Tools, Accounts section of Windows Mail. I manually checked the user IDs and added the passwords (which were blank). I then did a Send/Receive and all worked perfectly.


Migrating Expression Web

I installed Expression Web on my desktop computer. I then ran it and let it start and shut it down. Next up I copied the entire web site folder "as is" from my laptop to my desktop. I restarted Expression Web, went to "open site" and navigated to the folder on my desktop. All went perfectly. I did have to re-enter my remote location information, but that was to be expected. All-in-all it was a completely painless experience.


Migrate Firefox Bookmarks

I tend to use my laptop to save links to web sites. I do very little of this on my desktop. However, this is something that goes along with e-mail. So I needed to get all my bookmarks from Firefox on the laptop over to my desktop.

I backed up my Firefox Bookmarks in their .json file format. I copied this file to my desktop. I went to restore the bookmarks on the desktop, but was given a warning this would replace ALL exiting bookmarks. This sounded ominous enough that I cancelled the operation and exported the bookmarks from my desktop to HTML format.

With the few important bookmarks from my desktop computer safely saved I restored the bookmarks from the .json file. Sure enough my desktop bookmarks were gone. All I needed to do was import the bookmarks from the HTML file.

Now I have all my bookmarks in one location. I just need to find the time to organizing them properly. In other words... get rid of all the old baggage.


14" Laptop Reviews

Last month we covered reviews of 13.3" laptops. I am still very disappointed that I have not found an affordable 13" laptop with a screen resolution higher then 1280 x 800 (or higher than 1366 x 768). So this month we take a look at some 14" laptops. Lenovo leads the way with its T400 and SL400 laptops. Both can be configured with a 1440 x 900 display. They are not as light as the 13" laptops from last month, but they are still light enough to be a huge improvement from my current 17" laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad T400 by LaptopMag, Reviewed December 2, 2008
4 out of 5 stars

Sitting comfortably in the middle of the middle of Lenovo's ThinkPad family, the T series offers a strong combination of value, performance, and portability; the 14.1-inch T400 is less bulky than Lenovo's small-business SL series or cost-conscious R series, and less expensive than the ultraportable X series or ultrapowerful W series. At $1,549, this business notebook offers such high-end features as switchable graphics, as well as long battery life and great ergonomics. In other words, it's everything you expect from a ThinkPad.

The $1,549 Lenovo ThinkPad T400, when bundled with its nine-cell battery, isn't the lightest 14.1-inch notebook we've tested, but it is one of the most powerful and longest lasting machines in its class. The switchable graphics, blazing fast processor, and Centrino 2 chipset allow users to have the best of both worlds: a highly-portable system that offers desktop-worthy performance while lasting well over 6 hours.

Lenovo ThinkPad T400 by PCMag, Reviewed September 17, 2008
4.5 out of 5 stars (Editor's Choice)

Nothing epitomizes classic more than a ThinkPad. Lenovo is the one laptop maker that would be castigated for changing its flagship brand's color scheme to something other than black. The ThinkPad T400 ($1,580 direct) is the culmination of years of building on a solid foundation, including nothing but the best parts, features, and materials in its ho-hum chassis. At 5.2 pounds (even with an extended battery), the T400 is one of the lightest 14-inch business laptops. It contains cutting-edge business features such as Intel Centrino 2's Switchable Graphics, delivers an untouchable typing experience, and offers an amazing starting price at product launch. Until another company can lure away Lenovo's engineers, the ThinkPad T400 and its lineage should reign supreme. It earns an Editors' Choice in our business category.

Comments: I have configured a T400 with the high resolution screen for under $1,200, so I am not hung up on the prices quoted in the reviews. The T400 is probably at the top of my list. It does lack style, but if style does not come with substance then I will stick with bland.

Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 by LaptopMag, Reviewed July 15, 2008
3.5 out of 5 stars

These days, the line between business and pleasure is blurrier than ever as mobile professionals demand systems that can help them prepare sales proposals, stay connected to the office network from the road, watch a movie on the flight back, and allow them to play World of Warcraft when they finally get home. Lenovo’s new Centrino 2-powered SL series caters to this market by combining entertainment-oriented components such as an optional Blu-ray drive, HDMI output, and discrete graphics with work-related features like the ThinkPlus Secure Business support service and AT&T mobile broadband.

Lenovo has targeted the small-to-medium–business market with a stylish system that’s powerful enough for both work and play. Not only does the SL400 offer plenty of processing power and battery life but also great support and wireless performance. To top it all off, this notebook can cut loose after-hours with strong multimedia and decent gaming performance.

Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 by PCMag, Reviewed August 8, 5 2008
4 out of 5 stars

The ThinkPad SL400 ($1,129 direct) looks as if it's from the same gene pool as its enterprise brothers, and it inherits many of the classic ThinkPad design features, such as the signature keyboard and TrackPoint pointing stick. No slouch, the SL400 blazes the performance trails with a variety of processing options.

The ThinkPad SL400 demonstrates that an inexpensive small-business laptop doesn't have to sacrifice performance and features. You're basically paying consumer prices for all the best things that are associated with the ThinkPad moniker.

Comments: The SL series is slightly heavier than the T Series in Lenovo's line. This could be an issue for this size laptop. Still this is lighter than any of the 15+ inch laptops, so maybe it will be good enough. The features that set the SL off are the HDMI output and an optional Blu-Ray drive. I will have to configure one and see how much all that will actually cost me. I don't know if I really need the switchable graphics from the T series, so the SL may be my best choice.

Dell Latitude E6400 by LaptopMag, Reviewed August 22, 2008
4 out of 5 stars

The Dell Latitude E6400, the update to the D630, packs in all the essentials needed to keep road warriors productive on the go: a speedy Intel Core 2 Duo processor, long battery life, and a host of security and durability features. Factor in the revamped design, which replaces its predecessor’s stodgy aesthetic for one that’s much more streamlined and visually appealing, and you have an excellent notebook for demanding business users.

Priced at $1,463, the Dell Latitude E6400 is a durable and secure notebook that offers snappy performance and plenty of endurance. And thanks to Dell’s redesign, this is one sleek business notebook you’ll want to be seen carrying. Power users will want to upgrade to discrete graphics, and we wish the touchpad were bigger, but overall the E6400 is an very good choice.

Dell Latitude E6400 by PCMag, Reviewed November 3, 2008
4 out of 5 stars

The Latitude E6400 ($1,888 direct) is a major transformation, so much so that it bears little resemblance, visual or otherwise, to its predecessors. The brushed-aluminum-style case, a resurfaced interior, brand-new Intel parts, and, yes, a media card reader are just a few of the upgrades Dell has made in its business laptop overhaul.

Despite some stiff competition from Lenovo and HP, the Dell Latitude E6400 is a tremendous upgrade over the original Latitude D630. A new metallic look, assorted colors, and a retouched interior are signs that design is an important criterion in the corporate world. There are plenty of features and processing parts to choose from, although the test configuration is pretty much rock solid. If you had to nitpick, however, the Lenovo T400, which is our Editors' Choice, has the slight edge from the features and pricing standpoint.

Comments: When the review of the Dell mentions the Lenovo I was already looking at it gives me pause. In the end I need to try and configure this as close to the Lenovo laptops and see if price can't help set them apart.

HP EliteBook 6930p by PCMag, Reviewed October 16, 2008
4 out of 5 stars

What constitutes a computer for the elite? If there's anything in a name, HP may have the answer with its latest business laptop, the EliteBook 6930p ($2,104 direct). HP is out to create some separation between its new EliteBook brand and the EliteBook's predecessors—the Compaqs—by serving up a metallic look and up-to-date Centrino 2 parts. Aside from good looks, the new design is crammed with "business rugged" features. Whether it's the DuraFinish lid, the DuraKeys, or 3D DriveGuard, the 6930p is prepared to run marathons around the competition.

The last thing I want to do is portray the HP EliteBook 6930p as a subpar business laptop, because it's anything but. Does it deserve the EliteBook moniker? Sure it does, as evidenced by its performance scores and sleek yet rugged design. But if the 6930p is an elite laptop, then it's fair to say that the Lenovo ThinkPad T400 deserves a super-elite status.

Comments: Again we have mention of the T400 in a review of an HP laptop. But the T Series is the bland Lenovo. The SL Series is a little more consumer oriented. This is going to be a close battle.

Overall Comments:

At this point I am torn between the two Lenovo laptops, the T400 and the SL400. In the end features of each will sway me. I need to research each further and configure them again to see what I can get for my money. I want a Blu-Ray player (not burner) and HDMI output with the 1440 x 900 screen.



Next month I will wrap up my "review of reviews" with 15-16" laptops. Although i am pretty sure I will get the Sony FW Series laptop if I go this big. Other than that i am at a loss for topics as I write this. My fingers are still hurting from the scrubbing of the pool liner.