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What Extras Should I Buy When Buying a Laptop? 212

Posted by Cliff
from the accessorizing dept.
HarleyPig asks: "I'm using my tax return to buy a laptop. I don't want to know which laptop to get (that's a religious discussion I'd like to avoid). What peripherals do you find yourself wishing you'd bought, or have ended up buying? I know I'll need a mouse, extra cabling, extra batteries and some kind of case to hold and carry around the laptop. What else should I consider putting in my list of stuff to buy with a laptop?"
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What Extras Should I Buy When Buying a Laptop?

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  • Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El (94934) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @11:36PM (#8266181)
    802.11b card (if not built in), so you can use it whilst in the bathroom.
  • External Mouse (Score:4, Informative)

    by servicepack158 (678320) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @11:36PM (#8266182) Homepage
    i hate touch pads :)
    Get wireless B/G card. B is common, and G is fast and will be more common in the future.
    On a side note, I just got the widescreen 15.4 inch kind, and I really like it. Good for watching DVD's :)
    Toshiba makes a nice laptop
    • Re:External Mouse (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PiranhaEx (742431)
      In addition, G is backwards-compatible with B, so a G card is really the way to go.

    • Agree.
      I have got a Kensington one where the mouse lead retracts into the body of the mouse, so it doesn't get tangled up with everything in my bag, although there are now some sexy cordless and optical/ bluetooth ones.

      I now have a laptop bag (airline washbag I got from the one time I flew business) which has:
      • mouse
      • usb2 256MB key
      • usb2 40GB laptop HDD with music/backup
      • C-Pen (brilliant for research)
      • Headphones (Sennheiser PX100, upgrading shortly to etymotics 4P)
      • retractable telephone cord with adaptors
    • B is common...

      No, G is common and B+ is hot :-)

  • A CoolPad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jokell82 (536447) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @11:36PM (#8266183) Homepage
    Definitely one of the best purchases I have made. It lifts the laptop to a height that is better ergonomically and helps keep it cool (by allowing air to flow underneath). Here it is [roadtools.com], and you can find it in most stores now...
    • Re:A CoolPad (Score:2, Informative)

      by james b (31361)
      It's worth knowing that some of the literature concerning ergonomic keyboarding suggests that you don't incline your keyboard towards you but keep it as flat as possible on the desk, and have your desk as low (close to your knees) as possible.

      Personally, my hands get tired more quicky when working on a keyboard that has its 'feet' raised at the back - I'm the guy who always flattens the feet down on lab computers before beginning to type.

      /james
      • Re:A CoolPad (Score:3, Informative)

        by sweetooth (21075)
        I always like the MS Natural keybards that lifted in the front.

        Also if you actually bother to read the coolpad page they have a note and picture on the right side of the page siting research stating that "experienced touch typists" try to type using a negative incline. The picture shows the laptop on the coolpad with the direction of the coolpad reversed.
      • Ahhh.... So you're the guy that has been following me around the world and putting the feet down.

        STOP DOING IT! :)
  • 2 things (Score:3, Informative)

    by morelife (213920) <f00fbug@nospaM.postREMOVETHISman.at> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @11:37PM (#8266187)
    -backup AC adapter
    -backup HD with an image of your OS
    (until recently this, and a CD with your data on it, was a pretty good backup but these days if you run windows you need to pretty much have a paid copy of AV software for each installation you have)
    • Re:2 things (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2nd Post! (213333)
      You can replace #2 with an iPod, if you're clever, *and* get a nifty MP3 player in the bargain!
    • Re:2 things (Score:3, Informative)

      by mst76 (629405)
      > backup HD with an image of your OS

      Also, get a USB2/FW 2.5" HD enclosure, and synchronization software like unison [upenn.edu]. Synchronize every day/week/month (depending how valuable your data is to you) for backup. If you go somewhere with a computer present, you don't need to bring the laptop, just sync, bring the HD, and sync again when you're home. If your laptop HD dies, just swap in the backup and buy a new one for the enclosure.
  • Extra AC Adapter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by carsont (648940) <tc+slashdot@@@jc...dsl...telerama...com> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @11:38PM (#8266198)
    You ought to keep a space AC adapter, I think. I can remember having at least two of them fail, and it isn't too much fun trying to expand a few hours of battery life into several days of usage while waiting for a replacement to arrive.
    • or when you lose the another, forget it in a hotel for example.

      insurance could be a good extra if it isn't covered by your existing ones.

      bluetooth dongle(20-40$) depending on if you have other Bt devices around(and if it has builtin obviously).

      good headphones, good quality plugs for example(sony mdr-ex71sl's for example, they're excellent and fit in a small size).

      gamepad? if you like playing. usb hub & etc..
  • by GORDOOM (149962) <gordoom@NOSpam.mac.com> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @11:40PM (#8266211)
    I'd get an extra AC adapter - not as a spare, but so that you can have one live at your desk and one live in your notebook case. It makes it a lot quicker to just grab the computer and go.

    Also, for the love of everything sacred, get a security cable!!!!!!
    • We bought a bunch of security kits, "standard" Kensington types, which work nicely with the Compaq laptops we bought for our Postgrad students. But one of our lecturers got a nice shiny Acer laptop. He was leaving it in an unlocked office, so we thought it was time to apply both a) clue and b) a security lock.

      But could we get the lock to engage with his security hole on the laptop? Could we heck. We prodded and poked and twisted and fiddled but *nothing* could get the thing to stick. It looked like the sec
  • by rueger (210566) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @11:48PM (#8266262) Homepage
    When we retired our old Toshiba, I wound up buying a used Dell Latitude LS. what I love about it is what's not built in - CD, floppy, some of the usual ports like the serial port.

    The result is a laptop that really small, really light and really easy to toss into a briefcase and carry along.

    When I look at some of the current laptops they seem so big and heavy that I doubt I would want to lug them around.

    So think in terms of some of the models that lets you leave the less used stuff like CD drives at home and just carry the essentials.

    Although Powerbooks... mmmmmm.
    • I fully agree with you. I also have a Latitude LS, and absolutely love it for its size and portability. While it's certainly not the most powerful machine on the planet, I find myself using it quite a lot.

      And I find myself not missing the CD and floppy drives very much. With 802.11, I simply share the CD and floppy drives in my desktop over the wireless lan. Or I just connect the external drive.

      I can certainly attest to the convienence of this small laptop (note that it is NOT uncomfortably tiny or un
    • I've got an IBM Thinkpad 240X that's also an ultra-portable, and I absolutely LOVE it. Though it's small (12" screen), the keyboard is fantastic (as are all Thinkpads) and it's rock solid (as are all Thinkpads). I upped the RAM to 192MB (max) and put in a 5400 RPM 40GB drive and run Windows XP quite happily on it with a 500 MHz PIII-M. Only complaints are the single PCMCIA slot and the single USB port.

      When I first got it, I would carry the CDROM and floppy drive everywhere, but then I realized that I never

    • Yes, the Powerbooks really are that nice. My 15.2" 1.25 w/ a gig of RAM and Superdrive is only 5.6lbs.
  • My list. (Score:5, Informative)

    by dstillz (704959) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @11:50PM (#8266274) Homepage Journal

    Make sure to get:

    • THE EXTENDED WARRANTY.
    • ADEQUATE SURGE PROTECTION FOR BOTH HOME AND THE ROAD.
    • Integrated wireless.
    • A CoolPad; perhaps 2: a Podium for the home, and a Traveler for the road. No, I don't work for the maker.
    • An extra AC adapter, to leave plugged in at home.
    • USB2 or FireWire external hard disk that is 1-4x as big as the internal HD, for backup purposes.
    • If you can afford it, a port replicator. Less wear and tear on the laptop's ports is important.
    • If you can afford it, an extra battery or two; I don't know how much of a road warrior you are.
    • A padded sleeve, to go inside your laptop case; protect your investment.
    • A decent laptop case, preferably one that doesn't look like a traditional laptop case.
    • Re:My list. (Score:5, Informative)

      by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2004 @05:41AM (#8267815)
      A decent laptop case, preferably one that doesn't look like a traditional laptop case

      Or a fightbag/backpack with built-in laptop case. I recently went on a trip with a colleague who had one - I had my own pack and a traditional laptop in case. He had it much easier than me - only one thing to carry.
      • Re:My list. (Score:3, Informative)

        by HoldmyCauls (239328)
        Ditto that. I use my backpack for my laptop and my books. So long as I'm not carrying my entire week's class readings at once, I don't have a problem. Also, a binder or multi-pocketed folder for any important papers. Then a pouch for pens. The laptop pouch has place for a discman/MP3 player, with a hole for headphones. Also, the cell phone goes on the strap. Unless you need clothes with you all the time, you're set for the day.

        OTOH, if you *really* want to protect your laptop, get an aluminum or tit
    • Re:My list. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zocalo (252965)
      THE EXTENDED WARRANTY.

      Personally, I never bother with extended warranties on most of my stuff (not just computers) since it seems to be that while you have to pay through the nose for the odd repair, you save more by not having warranties on the stuff that doesn't fail. The other advantage to this approach is that should you have a failure, then you are not tied to getting a repair; you can also get a replacement, which is often the better option anyway, especially for computer kit. Just make sure you

      • Re:My list. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MullerMn (526350)
        >>An extra AC adapter, to leave plugged in at home.

        Absolutely essential - as is a second battery if you are not using it as a mobile desktop and hitting the road a lot - those AC adapter cables don't tend to like being repeatedly coiled and un-coiled, plugged and un-plugged... Also for some some unknown reason, laptop power supplies tend to be proprietary voltage/connector combinations which makes it very painful should one fail.


        So, who're you going to be buying that replacement proprietary pow
        • Re:My list. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Zocalo (252965)
          Actually, the answer is not necessarily "the original vendor", since I was using proprietary purely in the sense of the physical arrangement of the connector and power requirements.

          My point was aimed at how laptop vendors don't even try and make it easy if you have a failure at a bad time, which it almost always is of course. The voltage and laptop connectors being proprietary to a given vendor means that you can't just jump in your car and go to a decent local electrical retailer for a generic replaceme

      • Re:My list. (Score:3, Informative)

        by slustbader (584904)
        Consumer Reports in general recommends against extended warranties, except in two cases: "Two exceptions: If you're buying an expensive treadmill with a standard warranty of less than two years on parts and one on labor, consider an extended warranty for two years. For laptop computers, consider a one- to three-year extension of the standard one-year warranty (buy from the maker; that extends tech support). If you travel with the laptop a lot, consider screen and accidental-damage insurance, too. "
    • Those last two (padded sleeve and non-traditional looking laptop bag/case) are really worth the extra cost if you travel. I had a conference in Europe which I turned into a month long vacation. The above allowed me to take my laptop in my shoulder satchel (one from North Face, which I can't find on the net anymore) without problems. That said, I did avoid hostel since I had a computer with me.

      Anm
  • Two Things (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tiny69 (34486) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @11:51PM (#8266282) Homepage Journal
    Purchase an extra battery. Batteries will only last for so long. They are also expensive to replace if your manufacturer no longer makes laptops that use that battery. I've also seen some laptops that will not work if the battery is bad.

    Pay extra for the extended warranty. Since laptops are proprietary, the only place you can go to for replacement parts is from the manufacturer that made it. And the parts for laptops are not cheap. I recent tried to fix a laptop that had a broken screen (someone obviously sat on it). The only problem was the warranty had just expired. The cost of the replacement screen was over $900. Whether the manufacturer even offers an extended warranty is an indication of the quality of the laptop. I wouldn't purchase one from anyone that would only offers a 1 year warranty. For this reason, I will also pay extra for name brand laptops. Yes, you can get a no name one for next to nothing, but who are you going to turn to for repair parts when the company is no longer around.
    • I had heard that laptop batteries tend to lose their effectiveness over the course of 3 years or so even when not in use. In other words, a battery might lose its effectiveness sitting in my closet just as quickly as it does sitting in my laptop. Anyone know if this is true?

      jf
    • > Pay extra for the extended warranty.

      > The cost of the replacement screen was over $900.

      I would still recommended buy the "damage coverage" warrenty, but it is less important than it used to be. Cracked LCDs used to cost $900, but newer laptops replacement screens can be had for $250-$400. OTOH, with laptops coming out of cases for airport screenings the number of dropped and cracked screens is definately rising.
  • by bitty (91794)
    An AC/DC power adapter is a must have. The company I buy them from has an AC/DC/airplane adapter. It's a beautiful thing.
  • by Futurepower(R) (558542) <MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @11:59PM (#8266336) Homepage

    Depending on your situation, I suggest buying an inexpensive daypack and installing some foam rubber in it. It's much more comfortable not to look like a target for theft, I've found. A bubble pack envelope large enough for the laptop may be enough cushioning if you put some foam rubber at the bottom of the daypack.

    On the other hand, if you always travel by limousine, I suggest you bring along a supermodel to distract thieves from the laptop.
  • Buy what you feel like buying, don't rely on the opinion of others. If later you find that you need something in addition to the laptop then buy it. Buying in advance based on other people's advice is pointless, and a waste of money.
  • Hardcase Briefcase (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ziplocpagen (553678)
    I recomend a hardcase briefcase, like this cheap Vanguard case I bought at Rite Aid. They come in all sort of styles, the aluminum has suited me fine. Even though the case is crummy looking after six months of travel, the laptop looks great. Softcases are a no-no. Also, as much harddrive space as you can afford. I used the firewire drives and find that lugging them around all over the country is kinda tedious. I end up not using them even though I've packed them away in my luggage. Just too lazy I gu
  • by RoadChris (732663) on Friday February 13, 2004 @12:03AM (#8266385) Homepage
    iSight
    iLife
    iPod,
    Airport
    AppleCare plan.

    But, I won't suggest a laptop...
  • Get the warranty. You will find that the price of the warranty varies a lot from manufacturer to manufacturer and should be factored into the price part of the buying process.

    Everything else you can get on an as-needed basis after you have the machine and use it for a while. No need to buy a bunch of stuff that you might find out that you don't need later.

  • USB Thumbdrive (Score:4, Informative)

    by (H)elix1 (231155) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2004 @12:11AM (#8266433) Homepage Journal
    Get a 256M or larger USB thumbdrive. Since this is a laptop, odds are you will be mobile. (go figure) I find I use a 512M thumbdrive all the time for moving files between machines, or sharing stuff. I keep a pack of handy programs on there as well - putty, cygwin, jdk's, javadocs, and a few others if I end up calling a desktop machine home for a while.
  • by Roman_(ajvvs) (722885) on Friday February 13, 2004 @12:13AM (#8266438) Journal
    I can't really say what works for you, but I'll give you what works for me.

    I got a Toshiba 5200 for my birthday last july and it's the first laptop I've had which has been my primary work tool as a programmer. I take it to work, plug it in and take it home at the end of the day (for extra security, since equipment has a habit of "going missing" at work).
    The first thing i did was use a second power cable (with the figure 8 connector) to keep at work (tethered to the physical desktop for easy reaching). That way all I have to do is plug my battery pack into the cable and I can keep my power cable in the bag and only unravel when it's needed.

    That brings me to the bag. As I have a large 15.1" laptop screen (for the time), it took me literally a dozen bag tests to find one that even fit the bloody thing. I went for an STM Alley bag [standardtm.com.au] bag. But there are a lots of good ones out there. A good bag with good compartments can save your day and make carrying the laptop more than a burden!

    In the front pouch of my bag, I have:

    • a crossover cable (has proven its worth many a time)
    • a kensington key-based security cable (have used it once.)
    • A/V out cable (came with the laptop. also comes in handy for presentations and shows)
    • a usb memory key ( 128MB USB 2.0). invaluable for when a network's not available. High speed helps as well.
    Oddly enough, I don't have a mouse in my bag. I'm one of those people who like using the touchpad. :) I use a mouse at work, but I leave it there (again tethered to the desk...)
    I recently got a mini-pci wireless card for my laptop. It's very useful on the road, but not so much if you don't have a wireless network to plug into. I still prefer wired if available, because of latency and performance issues.

    I'm considering getting a second battery. But it's not an urgent requirement as Toshiba is usually pretty good with spare parts availability. Getting access to available parts is an entirely different manner. it'll be more relevant further down the track.

    I'm quite happy with my setup. There's nothing I miss or terribly need. But it all depends on what you want to do with it. How often do you plug stuff into/ out of your laptop?

    • USB memory key (Score:4, Interesting)

      by chocolatetrumpet (73058) <slashdot@jonCHIC ... t.com minus city> on Friday February 13, 2004 @01:17AM (#8266796) Homepage Journal
      Here's another tout for the usb memory key:

      I'm a student and I write a lot of papers.

      I am afforded SO much extra peace of mind by quickly backing up my papers onto my usb key, just in case of some sort of accident or failure.

      I also recommend as much wireless as possible; I am very used to my desktop, however when I started using my laptop with wireless net access, no power cable, bluetooth (built in) mice and keyboard, I couldn't believe what a relaxing experience it was to use the computer. I am sensitive to clutter and I never even knew it.

      I have a dvd burner in my laptop which at first seemed like it might be overkill, but I actually use it very often for data backup, and I do tend to make dvds often for projects or simply get data to friends. Sometimes it's just a slideshow with music, in a format mom and dad or aunt and uncle can easily experience.

      Another thing about my laptop - I should have done this a LONG time ago. I don't even bother with my desktop much, anymore. I love working anywhere, anytime, and taking my environment with me.

      A wise choice you make!
    • In my last journal's comments [slashdot.org] I mentioned the UTP-7220. Much smaller than a full cable.
  • by mauryisland (130029) on Friday February 13, 2004 @12:15AM (#8266464) Homepage
    Be wireless. I have a bluetooth mouse, but I also need a bluetooth keyboard for when I'm not on the road. I haven't found a laptop yet that a has a keyboard that keeps me happy. The mouse, however, is small enough to be taken almost everywhere.
  • In my opinion... (Score:5, Informative)

    by nathanh (1214) on Friday February 13, 2004 @12:17AM (#8266478) Homepage
    HarleyPig asks: "I'm using my tax return to buy a laptop. I don't want to know which laptop to get (that's a religious discussion I'd like to avoid). What peripherals do you find yourself wishing you'd bought, or have ended up buying? I know I'll need a mouse, extra cabling, extra batteries and some kind of case to hold and carry around the laptop. What else should I consider putting in my list of stuff to buy with a laptop?"

    In my opinion... don't buy many peripherals. The problem with buying lots of peripherals is that your ~2kg laptop suddenly needs a bag the size of a small suitcase weighing in at 10kg or more to carry around all the junk you "need".

    Take the mouse, for example. You've already decided to get one. Why? The trackpad really is not that bad. The mouse needs a flat surface to work on, which ties you to a desk. I've found I can work the trackpad fairly well, after just a few days practise.

    Cables? Why? If you're going to be in a place where you need a cable, there's likely to be one there already. Take for example people who carry a serial cable around so they can "plug-in" to a Cisco router while onsite. Have you ever seen a comms room without a serial cable? I haven't. So why carry the cable? Same for Ethernet. If you simply *must* have a backup cable, put it in the boot of your car.

    Extra batteries are only useful if you keep them charged. In my experience, nobody is that organised. They'll have two batteries and one of them is always flat. So when their live battery goes flat... well... they're in the same boat as the rest of us with only one battery.

    I managed to avoid getting a computer bag for the laptop. A leather briefcase costs the same and looks heaps more professional. Modern cases have fairly soft interiors and it's not like I will be throwing this thing around, anyway.

    One thing I would buy as an additional extra is a second power pack. It's useful to have your home setup permanently "wired" with the second supply in the bag.

    And a USB key. Damn, those things are so useful!

    • Don't get a mouse. Get one of these [amazon.com] Trackballs. Small, compact, nifty.
    • Mice don't always need a flat surface; I use a Microsoft Intellieye mouse, one of the optical ones. It works fine using my leg as a surface to track on.
      • I worked at CompUSA back in high school when those first came out. I thought using "laser mice" on my thigh was a big deal - and the demo really helped sell them - but truth be told, I own a logitech trackman wheel and a MS intellieye, and I sent my mother the MS mouse. The trackball just works better under more conditions than the lasermouse. It's personal preference, of course, but they are handy.
  • A big-ass sturdy (leather, preferably) bag with lots of pockets. I got mine for $20 at Sam's club, and it's great.

    I have two laptops in my bag, with room for CDs and crap like that. I even have my Spy Kids 3D glasses in there, although I can't think of any reason why they should be in there. :P

    Get a big sturdy bag and you won't regret it.
  • Get a warranty (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jmstuckman (561420)
    Unlike your desktop, you can't easily take apart a laptop, troubleshoot what's going wrong, and fix it yourself. Fixing anything is going to cost you some serious cash unless you get a warranty to match. If you buy from Dell, consider getting the CompleteCare accidental damage warranty. It might be expensive, but if you plan to travel with your laptop a lot, disaster is one slip of the arm away.

    Also, an extra battery would be nice. Your mileage may vary, but I found that buying a spare primary battery for
    • Actually it's possible...I've opened my laptop lots of times and repaired problems such as a blank screen or non-charging battery (tracked down and replaced a missing SMD resistor, and identified a blown SMD fuse, respectively). That's because it's out of warranty now. However, it had a 4-year warranty...it was heavily used during that period and had many parts replaced, including the screen and nearly two entire outer casing replacements. I DID have a padded case, it was just around a busy engineering stud
  • by ezraekman (650090) on Friday February 13, 2004 @12:38AM (#8266597) Homepage

    Well, here's what's in the cavern I call a backpack:

    A Mini-Mouse
    I don't know about the rest of you, but for me a button pointer or trackpad just can't beat the feel of a mouse. MacAlly makes a niftly little mouse called the iOptiJr [macally.com], which is just the smaller version of the iSweetNet. Nice and small, thus very precise; two buttons, wheel button, and programmable, and it's Mac/PC compatible. But... you'll have to get used to it being so small. I think other mice are big and bulky by comparison now, but that's because I got used to this one. You may need to install drivers, depending on your machine. You can get a wireless version, but then you have to worry about batteries. Optical is WAY better than your basic mechanical ball... unless you're using it on the surface of your laptop, or another shiny/sparkly surface. Think ahead.

    A Mini USB Hub
    Here's a slick one [iogear.com] by IOGear. This has proved useful occasionally, but I haven't used it in over six months. Buy at your discretion. Mine (Not the IOGear one; a different brand) came with a cable that was split into two USB plugs; one to provide basic functionality, and one to provide added power, so you could use more power-hungry devices (like external USB floppy drives, scanners, etc.) without needing to plug the hub into the wall. But... this can drain the power of your laptop if you aren't careful.

    A Wireless Network Card
    If your machine doesn't ship with one (or with functionality on the motherboard), buy yourself an 802.11g PCMCIA card. They're backwards compatible with 802.11b, and network access (copying files, etc.) is up to five times faster. However, this won't matter for internet access unless your sitting behind a T3. If you aren't planning on networking large files EVER, than spend half as much on 802.11b. Definitely get one though, because most internet cafes and hotspots are swithcing to wireless-only access, if they haven't already.

    A Portable Flatbed Scanner
    Obviously, this'll only matter if you need one. But I've found Canon's LIDE series (I've got the LIDE 30 [canon.com])to be a nice addition to my bag. Good quality, fast, small (same footprint as my 17-inch powerbook, and only 1.5 inches think!), and it's powered by the USB cable!

    A Webcam
    there are about a billion and a half of these out there. Think about what you're actually going to use it for, if anything. Don't spend extra because it's detachable and can take still photos. You're better off buying a digital camera. I've never needed one, but you might.

    A Bluetooth Adapter PCMCIA Card or USB dongle.
    This may be a non-issue for you, but if you have or think you might get any bluetooth devices (such as a wireless mouse or Bluetooth-enable PDA), this could well be worth the money. Again, it may already be on your motherboard.

    Cables! (Oh, and a cable bag.)
    Okay, one USB cable, normal-sized, and one of the mini-plugged ones, for digital cameras and other devices. Although... I've never needed to use this. (I try to stay as modular as possible, and use things that work with more standardized cables, etc.) A firewire 6-pin to 6-pin (for large devices such as drives), and a 6-pin to 4-pin, for smaller devices such as DV-camcorders. Other cables (such as a USB light, A/V and monitor cables, etc.) are up to you.

    A Digital Camera
    Obviously, not a necessity for a laptop user, but usually pretty handy if you don't have one. Buy one that uses Compact Flash (cheapest memory, MB/dollar), and AA batteries. Buy rechargables, highest capacity you can find... usually around 1800-2200 mA. Oh, and you can get a great 30-minute charger by Energizer for about $40 at Best Bu

  • I've got a HP laptop that has died twice with power problems. It's shouldn't be any big deal since it's still under warranty. With my warranty once the laptop is determined to be dead HP arranges a fedex pickup and I get it back in a week. Both times the system has died it has taken over a week to arrange the fedex pickup(no fault of fedex). I think the biggest problem is that every single support number I tried goes to bottom dollar Indian tech support. Now I've worked tech support and had to deal with bad
  • by FFFish (7567)
    When the OS crashes, when the cell rings, when I'm feeling mad... these are a few of my favourite things, and then I don't feel so bad:

    Home wireless. Nothing like checking my stocks while I'm on the shitter!

    Rewired power plug: using RCA jacks inline, the DC/laptop end of my power is now a right-angle dongle. Far less susceptible to breakage, and the extra few feet of cable is really nice. Plus the RCA jack makes it dead easy to replace the plug if it ever does break.

    Laptop desk: no more burnt knees.

    G
  • Be sure to order the lightweight bits. After lugging around 40 gb of heavy bits all the time you will be sorry that you didnt order the lighter version. It will cost a little more but it will be worth it.
    • The only problem is that light bits are liable to leak after a while due to their small size, so it's always a good idea to get a big ziploc bag to keep your laptop in when it's not in use.
  • I'd recommend a Flylight [kensington.com]. Basically it's a LED hooked up to the power rails on your USB port. It's really useful on flights and car trips. They sell other things [kensington.com] that might be useful as well.

    Also, take a look at something along the lines of this thing [amazon.com] for presentations. They're extremely handy, and have an extra "cool" factor when you leave the podium during your talk.
  • by DarkVein (5418) on Friday February 13, 2004 @01:36AM (#8266889) Journal
    Or rather, don't buy one for when you wear out your current one. Buy a second if you think you'll want to use it. I have an iBook G4, and it gives me 4 hours easy. I don't need one.

    The reason you don't want to buy a replacement battery before you need it is because Lithium Ion batteries start losing their charge capacity when they're made. After five years they've lost 25% of their max charge, even if they've never been used. Add to that, it'll be cheaper to pick up the extra battery later.

    However, if you're buying a big fatass dell or something, you'll need the extra battery.

    I got 802.11g and bluetooth with my laptop. The power consumption on the iBook is laughably small. I wasn't sure I'd use bluetooth, but it's very nice to have the option. I'm considering getting a GPS gadget with bluetooth, at the very least.
  • If you're getting an iBook, get the apple care package because your laptop will have expensive parts that will break.
  • A UPS (Score:5, Funny)

    by splattertrousers (35245) on Friday February 13, 2004 @01:49AM (#8266971) Homepage
    Don't forget the UPS. You wouldn't want the power to go out in your house and lose all your work, would you?

    (Oh, sorry, this is Slashdot. I meant, "...and loose all you're work...".)
  • I bought a laptop recently. Here's what I find myself using or carrying with me:
    • Ethernet cable
    • TV- and Audio- breakout cables, for watching anime at friends' houses
    • Digital Camera adapter: I have a USB card-reader, as it's faster and easier than my digicam's serial interface, but the sync cable would be ok too.
    • Kensington lock

    In addition, here's what I'd kinda like to have but don't:

    • Second power adapter: It'd be super-sweet to have a power adapter at home and at my desk at uni - between those two pl
    • I actually have the Sony Ericsson T618, which has built-in BlueTooth and I pay the $20/mo for the unlimited data service T-Mobile has. It's a freakin' godsend.

      On average I get about 45kbps, and as long as I have a phone signal, I have a data signal. I've used it on the road to connect to the company webmail, get directions, or grab patches/check docs online and stuff while enroute to a client (as a passenger) etc quite a bit.

      Though the killer for me was I was out to eat with the VP when a client was hav
  • by PHPhD2B (675590)
    One thing I haven't seen mentioned is a notebook surge protector. Mine is an inline Belkin unit and cost about 30 bucks. It goes between the transformer of the power supply and the cable into the transformer. It also offers phone line protection. Compact (size of two BIC lighters next to each other), weighs just a few ounces, and offers some extra peace of mind.

    A USB memory key is also quite incredibly useful if you move moderate amounts of data between computers, like spread sheets and word documents.

  • Headphone splitter. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by attaboy (689931) on Friday February 13, 2004 @03:25AM (#8267422)
    If you ever travel with a companion, having a 3 dollar headphone splitter can allow two people to watch a DVD on your laptop at the same time. Of course, you'll probably also want an extra battery. I've never made it through an entire DVD without running out of battery power...

    Some airlines have power cables under the seats, but they use a special airplane power adaptor, which can range from 30 to 99 USD.

    I second the iPod as External HD idea.

    I've used a London Fog case for over 2 years now. It's expandable, has an internal padded laptop sleeve, provides quick access to the laptop in airports, and is made of high quality leather. I swapped the strap for a Victorinox strap which is bouncier and softer... good for extra load.

    I use a docking station at work (although a port replicator would work just as well), plugged into 21" montitor, keyboard, and mouse. I keep an extra power brick in the laptop case, like many others here have mentioned.

  • I'm using my tax return to buy a laptop.

    Here's my advice. Send the tax return to the IRS, and use the tax REFUND to buy the laptop. Otherwise the shopkeeper might laught at you, and you won't get the laptop.
  • by PeteyG (203921) on Friday February 13, 2004 @04:02AM (#8267537) Homepage Journal
    Laptop cases are thief magnets.

    Regular backpacks, with a little padding if you are paranoid, are much better for conveying your multi-kilobuck investments.
  • First off, I have a powerbook g4, I'm a student, and I'm typing this from my laptop. I've had it for just over two years now.

    USB 2, Firewire, it doesn't matter. The case itself runs somthing like $25 for a decent case, and another $60 for a gianormous drive. The drive serves two purposes: 1) you can put all your personal, non work/school related stuff on there (porn, music, warez install backups, digital camera photo collection, etc.) and 2) you can back your shit up from time to time. Your laptop hard dri
    • err, USB 2 or Firewire external hard drive.
    • Trackball mouse. It works on the plane, in the back seat of a car, on the beach, wherever. It also doesn't keep my roommate/girlfriend up at night with the light of a regular optical mouse.

      What are you using, some kind of halogen mouse? Isn't the light of the screen a bigger concern? At any rate, you can get around this by simply having a baby, and then moving your desk into the baby's room and using your optical mouse as both a pointing device and a nightlight.

      Actually, interesting point - all the op

  • A six-pack of beer to drink while you're formatting, partitioning, and configuring, and installing all your software on the laptop.

    Always takes the better part of a day for me to get a new machine exactly as I like it. I need to just burn a DVD or two with ghost images one of these days....

  • Extended Warranty
  • power inverter (Score:2, Interesting)

    If your a car person get a power inverter, 100 watts or up should do it. sux to run outa batteries on the road, and you can use it as a car mp3 player.
  • 1. CDRW drive. If not CDRW/DVD drive or CDRW/DVD burner
    2. As much RAM as it will take
    3. Best video card available
    4. Warranty covering accidental damage (dropping, running it over with your car, etc)
    5. USB Thumbdrive. 1GB or better.
    6. Bag that doesn't look like a laptop bag. They've got some that look like ordinary backpacks, but have a special compartment inside for the laptop. Check CompUSA.
    7. Wired and wireless NICs. Integrated.
    8. External USB mouse
    9. 4 port USB hub (Fry's has one thats under $5 and doesn
  • What I carry (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Arkham (10779) on Friday February 13, 2004 @10:20AM (#8268845)
    I carry my laptop to work every day and have for 2+ years. It's an iBook, but the advice works for any brand.

    1) Good carrying case. I use a Marware Sportfolio II [marware.com], but get whatever works for you. Just get something with good padding and a shoulder strap. I chose the one I did because it's very light weight to go with my sub-5 lb laptop.

    2) A retractable Ethernet cable [macally.com] and a retractable phone cord [macally.com]. When you're in a hotel or on the road or whatever, you'll love these, and they won't get tangled in your bag like a regular cable.

    3) VGA adapter cable [apple.com] and AV adapter cable [apple.com] to get your video output onto TVs, projectors, and other places you need to show presentations, do code reviews, etc.

    4) A Kensington Flylight [kensington.com] is invaluable when you're on an airplane or somewhere dark and need to use your computer.

    I hope these suggestions are helpful.
  • Unless you're getting a notebook which supports using two batteries at once, I'd suggest not getting an extra battery right off the bat. Wait until you know you need it. It'll die just as fast as the one you use even if you don't use it.

    Get an extra AC adaptor (or two or three) I like being able to take mine out of the bag and hooking it up at home without also getting out the power brick and cord.

    Carry a network cord.

    Wireless - built in. Built in wireless allows for a larger antenna than a pc c
  • by scum-o (3946)
    1.) Extra power cables (or 2 extras) - one for work, one for home and one to take with you
    2.) Extra batteries - My Dell precision has a place for a second battery - I have 3 and I can travel on a 8 hour plane trip and still have enough juice for playing 3D games or watching movies for the whole trip!
    3.) 802.11x card if it's not internal already
    4.) USB 2.0 card if it's not internal already
    5.) USB infrared mouse - I hate the touchpad. You cna't play games with a touchpad!!!
    6.) A keyboard light (think g
  • I still miss the laptop I had 3 years ago, but had to give that up when I left...

    A good travel case is essential. There are many designs, find one that is right for you. Some people use the backpack because it is easy to carry, others the traditional "briefcase", and others have a wheeled contraption. Make sure the laptop, and the accesories you get fit. This is first for a reason: downsize everything else if you must to get a good travel case.

    Get a laptop where the CD/floppy can be replaced by a se

  • For about 100 bucks I got an external 80 GB HD that really rocks. That gives me enough extra space for games, downloads, etc. And I can shoot 'em through to the CDR/DVDR drive for quick backups.

    Another really good thing to have is a copule of regular pencils (unsharpened) which I use to raise the laptop up (has no flip out feet) which I use to imporve the air circulation under the laptop.

    HEAT is the #1 ENEMY of laptops, keep it COOL!

    Go for the longest most feature filled warrenty you can get. In one lap

  • Please. A mouse in a bag is just an invitation for it to get lodged over the screen, pushed on from outside the bag, and - Crack! - there goes the LCD screen. I can't keep my people from carrying mice with them, but I sure hate replacing screens a couple of times a year. If you have to have one, get one of the mini models and make sure you put it in the bag beside the laptop, not on top of it.
  • You will want one or more docking stations if you regularly connect to networks, monitors, real keyboard or whatever, in one or more regular places. They tend to be slightly expensive.

    IMHO a real keyboard and in my case trackball (mouse if you must) is necessary for long-term work and although there does not seem to have been a test case in the courts about the meaning of long-term yet, would seem to be a requirement of the Display Screen Regulations in the UK, and sensible anywhere else. You will not want

  • I ride a small motorcycle year-round and carry my laptop to work every day. As time has gone by, the amount of stuff that goes with me has shrunk:
    • Laptop
    I get by easily without extras. I have a brick both at work and at home and the laptop has integrated wireless. I never run into a time when I need anything else.

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