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Rugged Laptop/Tablet Suggestions, 2010 Version? 249

Posted by timothy
from the pick-a-desert-with-less-sand dept.
robbievienna writes "I'm currently living in the Arabian desert. Typically, unless a building has been sealed against the elements, sand and dust get everywhere. I purchased a keyboard cover for one of my laptops, and noticed that there was more accumulation on the underside than the topside. I've had sand crunk up the guts of one laptop and one tablet (Nokia N810). My coworkers who are native to the region tend to trade out their technology every six to twelve months, but I don't want to migrate data and adjust to new hardware that frequently. I was wondering what suggestions people have for working in this type of environment — both for laptops and for tablets. For reference, I work in a pseudo-secured zone where computers (phones, etc.) are not permitted to have cameras. A DVD drive would be nice, but is unnecessary. The more USB ports, the better. The last time the question was posted on Slashdot was five years ago, so I'm presuming that there are new industry leaders."
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Rugged Laptop/Tablet Suggestions, 2010 Version?

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  • EliteBook (Score:5, Informative)

    by brad-x (566807) <brad@brad-x.com> on Saturday March 27, 2010 @02:39PM (#31641940) Homepage
    I've been using the HP EliteBook 8540w and it's been hard to destroy. I ran an HP demo unit through the mill too (dropped it from six feet on all corners, etc) - it's rated for military use, and I'm pretty sure it's one step below the ruggedized laptops you can get with armor plating.
  • Good Luck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 27, 2010 @02:41PM (#31641970)

    Depending on the exact timeframe you're looking at for the standard replacement cycle there vs. your total expected residency, you may be better off financially just going the replacement route and mitigating damage by keeping your N810 sealed in a Ziploc bag or something. Seriously, the last time I looked at prices for truly "ruggedized" equipment, I was floored and my wallet felt violated just by reading the prices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 27, 2010 @02:43PM (#31641980)

    Try getting a cheap netbook, and just replace it when it dies.

    but I don't want to migrate data and adjust to new hardware that frequently

    Keep spares in sealed plastic bags so that you won't have to change hardware. For data, put everything (including O/S) on a rugged external hard drive. A single USB/firewire hard drive should be easier to protect than an entire computer.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:56PM (#31642534) Journal
      Whether netbook or notebook, you'll probably want an SSD(hard drives have filters; but SSDs don't even breathe air). If you get some common, cheap model, (ideally with a an easily accessible drive location, not one of the epic deconstruction project ones), you should be able to just pop the SSD out of the dead unit and pop it in to the new one, boot and go. No real "migrating" or "adjusting" involved. You'll still want backups, of course, because SSDs can and do die; but, as long as your hardware stays the same, the only "migrating" you should have to do is a simple disk swap.

      Buy two. Seal one in an airtight bag, with some dessicant packets, and put it back in its padded packaging, then stash it under your bed or in a closet or something. Use the other one. When it dies, or becomes excessively full of sand and flakiness, pull the drive out of it, blow any grit off, and put it in to #2. Boot #2 and order a third from the electronics site of your choice. When #3 arrives, seal it and store it until #2 dies.

      Wasteful, sure; but you can easily repeat this procedure a fair few times before you equal the price of a single "rugged" notebook.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        all you really need to do is build an installation USB stick and archive your deb files (for example) on it, and put /home and maybe /etc on a SDHC card. Anything important is kept on that card and backed up to another USB stick periodically. When the machine fails, you boot the machine off the installer and install the archives. When the card fails, you restore to a new one from the USB key (but you can use the USB key in the interim if you don't have a new SDHC card handy. Do you feel lucky?) If you creat

    • by sadtrev (61519) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @05:00PM (#31643014) Homepage

      Fine sand is a killer - it gets everywhere.

      I used to work on powder processing instrumentation and regularly had to take laptop computers onsite to calibrate instruments. We used to use Dells with external IP-54 keyboards and masking tape over all the unused ports. On a few occasions I had to take a normal keyboard they didn't last more than a few keystrokes (I'd guess 20 per key before they failed).

      This was lactose, coal, silica, calcium carbonate, etc. When we started work with metal powder we invested in proper IP54 laptops - no fan, membrane keyboard and rubber plugs on all the ports. Heavy, underpowered (800MHz PIII) but they worked. We looked at some "ruggedised" efforts but without the IP rating they were really just slightly less prone to drop damage.

      • Years ago, as a consultant, I was hired by a pet wholesaler to come up with a solution for his computers, which had a very short useful life before the dust got to 'em.

        The place was loaded with fine, silty dust, which was *everywhere* and all over everything despite their obvious effort to keep things clean. Birds, lizards, and other pets can generate an *insane* amount of this, and if you can imagine a large, heated warehouse where pets were bred and sold in volume, then you get the idea. They were having

    • by plierhead (570797)
      Not to belittle your environmental challenges, but we treat our own laptops as operating in a hostile environment. Statistically most of them will be stolen, lost of suffer catastrophic failure within 3 years. Mostly stolen.

      While you do still want a rugged laptop, ultimately it is better to make sure you have a fantastic recovery plan for when shit happens.

      One way is to go fully virtualised. Treat your host operating system as a basic shell, and instead install yoru real software on a VM. We use VMWare

  • by Nimey (114278) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @02:44PM (#31642006) Homepage Journal

    They've got units that are rated for such harsh environments. They're not cheap, though.

  • Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 27, 2010 @02:48PM (#31642030)

    FWIW, I just spent a few weeks in the Moroccan Sahara and most of the natives who had laptops, had a Macbook

    • by AndGodSed (968378)

      How can that be modded offtopic? He was in the Moroccan Desert, and people WHO LIVED THERE had Macbooks. I am no Mac fan but surely if it works for them it might work for the purpose of this story?

    • Re:Apple (Score:4, Informative)

      by duk242 (1412949) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @06:19PM (#31643450) Homepage
      It took one really good dust storm to fill my poor MacBook up with Dust (in Australia). Mind you, Apple repaired it under warranty because it was overheating, it's all good now.
  • What about using a computer dust filter bag? You could cut a window for typing and seal around the keyboard cover. You could also create flaps for the optical drive and ports, though an extension hub might make more sense and provide for a tighter seal.

    • Re:dust filter bags (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tomhudson (43916) < ... <nosduh.arabrab>> on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:02PM (#31642134) Journal

      What about using a computer dust filter bag? You could cut a window for typing and seal around the keyboard cover. You could also create flaps for the optical drive and ports, though an extension hub might make more sense and provide for a tighter seal.

      Put the laptop in a place where dust won't be such a problem (like in a bar fridge) and run cables for mouse, keyboard, and external video. bar fridges are ~$100, and not only will it keep your laptop cool, but your Dew as well.

      Or just say you're "sandboxing" your code.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      In that case just use an external keyboard, which are cheap enough to throw away.

      There are two reasons for a non-local to be in the desert. One is because you are deployed and making TDY money, and the other is you are a contractor and making phat bank. Either way, two decent notebooks and external backup are affordable.

      I'd get a couple of refurb Thinkpads and load the second to keep as an updated spare, and ship each in a Stormcase or Hardigg or similar tough container where they would live when I wasn't u

  • by InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @02:54PM (#31642080)
    I work in the construction industry and instruct our guys that work on site to blast the openings of their laptops/computers with canned air at least once a month.

    I get them "spill proof" keyboards as those are sealed and keep things from getting deep in the keyboard. Just turn it upside down and shake it. Plus you can wash them if you really want them clean.

    I find that there isn't much more you can do. The sand/dust causes extra wear and tear and the equipment will have to be replaced more often. I buy the "full coverage" warranty for equipment that will primarily be used on construction sites and it pays for itself when you constantly have to replace burnt out PSUs, video cards and CPUs that overheat and die due to clogged fans..
  • Rome (Score:2, Insightful)

    When in Rome, Do as the Romans do.
  • Rugged Notebooks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Island Admin (1562905) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @02:54PM (#31642088)
    A quick google came up with the following website: http://www.ruggednotebooks.com/ [ruggednotebooks.com]
    They have notebooks with sealed keyboards, low reflectivity (especially greate for the desert conditions :) ).
  • Field notebooks (Score:5, Informative)

    by juventasone (517959) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:00PM (#31642120)
    There are models that meet MIL-STD-810 [wikipedia.org]. Have you seen any of these tried in your environment? Some of them have already been mentioned such as the Panasonic Toughbooks [panasonic.net] and HP Elitebooks [hp.com].
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I live in the same environment. Panasonic toughbook or replace shit every 6 months. If it's in a very nice building, then a thinkpad, because it weights half as much, but is rugged enough to last that long. I'm thinking about flash drives from the heat perspective. However, toughbook is the answer.

      • Re:Field notebooks (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Telecommando (513768) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @09:18PM (#31644432)

        Another vote here for Toughbooks. Where I work, we've given Toughbooks to all the field personnel and have no regrets. Our crews work outside in difficult environments and while I've seen HDs fail, broken keyboards and a couple of smashed screens (hit by something while open), for the most part they're almost indestructible.

        Last fall we had a field engineer set a CF-30 on a backhoe and walk over to his truck to look for a drawing. When he came back, the backhoe had moved and his Toughbook was apparently somewhere in a trench that had been filled in.

        I went out to the site that afternoon with another tech and an access point configured with a SSID that we knew the missing CF-30 would try to connect to. We slowly drove along the trench with a directional antenna pointed at it until the AP indicated that the missing laptop had tried to connect. We had the backhoe driver gently dig out several feet of trench before we found it. Disassembled, cleaned and reassembled it, it's still in service.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mprindle (198799)

      I can throw my vote in for the Toughbooks. We use them internally and we setup the fully rugged models for our customers to use in the middle of chemical plants and refineries. So far we see very few of them come back with issues and the ones we do see come back someone has screwed up the applications on it.

      Now against sand I would think they would be pretty good. Every entry point into the laptop is covered by a latching door that is fully sealed when closed.

      Kage_

    • by mrmeval (662166)

      MIL-STD-810F http://www.linux-laptop.net/rugged-laptop.html [linux-laptop.net] and a URL to a Linux friendly selection.

      I thought about making a 'transportable' one that has the guts in a dust proof box with a battery pack and a heat exchanger and no openings. It would use an industrial wireless mouse and keyboard and have a sealed bulkhead USB connector(s). A CD is a problem even if it's external. I doubt I'll get the funds soon.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bananaendian (928499)

      There are models that meet MIL-STD-810 [wikipedia.org].

      No there aren't! There is no such thing as 'meeting MIL-STD-810 standard'!

      MIL-STD-810, "Department of Defense Test Method Standard for Environmental Engineering Considerations and Laboratory Tests" suggests how certain environmental conditions, such as vehicle vibration and ballistic shock, could be simulated in the laboratory. For some of these test methods it also suggests parameters and limits for different applications. A large part of the standard is devoted to explaining how the tests should be chose

  • Dell Outlet (Score:5, Informative)

    by copponex (13876) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:00PM (#31642126) Homepage

    Dell XFRs start around $1,600 from the Outlet, with Core 2 Duos, no webcam, and designed to operate in the conditions you describe. I don't think they're quite as rugged as the Panasonic Toughbooks, but you can just buy two XFRs for the same price and switch the hard drives out if one breaks.

    http://outlet.us.dell.com/ARBOnlineSales/topics/global.aspx/arb/online/en/InventorySearch?c=us&cs=28&l=en&s=dfb [dell.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Amusing to see this discussion on Slashdot when colleagues and I were testing a Dell XFR laptop just last week, suggested to us as a cheaper alternative than the Panasonic Thoughbook's.

      Well, I give it to you: http://twitter.com/sraveau/status/10663156737 (If you're considering buying a rugged laptop, DO NOT BUY ONE FROM DELL: seriously, theirs are a JOKE!)

      I rarely ever tweet, but this I felt like I had to tell everybody. They market it as something special ops people would use ( http://www.samsung.com/us/bu

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by MrScary (39957)

      I work in a coal mine and they bought us the Dells. They have been nothing but problems. Mine alone has had a motherboard failure and a wireless card die. The keyboard is a disaster. Trying to blind type with it is almost impossible. My computer shuts itself down regularly for overheating problems. The Panasonic toughbooks blow them away.

  • by olddoc (152678) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:06PM (#31642156)
    The 2 things that fail on computers are hard disks and fans. I wonder if a really low power cpu could run without sucking dust in if a cpu cooling fan wasn't needed much.
    • Not in 30-40 degree heat as well. Sadly, deserts are both dusty AND hot. Worst place in the world for computers. Except maybe the arctic, since LCD's just don't work. Even there though, you can always add heat to the equation. It's a lot harder to remove heat..
      I think the best suggestion so far has been the "buy a decent machine and stick it in a bar-fridge and run the cables out to cheapo monitors and keyboards".

    • The 2 things that fail on computers are hard disks and fans. I wonder if a really low power cpu could run without sucking dust in if a cpu cooling fan wasn't needed much.

      Smartphones fit this bill, as will the iPad and other next-generation "computer-lite" tablets.

  • by jjoelc (1589361) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:12PM (#31642202)

    Stretch a ladies nylon stocking over the whole thing... This will take some experimenting to figure out the exact best method (maybe one over the base, one over the screen...), but has the advantages of:
    -being extremely cheap
    -easily removed/replaced
    -thin/flexible/transparent enough to cover the keyboard, and even the screen with
    -should filter out the worst offender category of sand/dust without seriously impeding air flow
    -will also cut down on glare and reflectivity

    For $1 a try, I figure it is worth mentioning...

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      I was going to suggest wrapping the body (sans monitor) of the Notebook in Saran wrap but so that you can still fold it up and get to the ports/power_button. The keyboard seems to be the biggest weakness. Don't use it. Instead, get one of those cheap, flexible ones such as this and plug it into the USB:

      http://www.amazon.com/Adesso-Flexible-Compact-Keyboard-AKB-220/dp/B000XYL55M [amazon.com]

      The OLPC XO-1 also has such a keyboard integrated, IIRC.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Those silicone keyboards are, indeed, substantially resistant to dust, modest exposure to any fluid that isn't a nasty solvent, and so forth.

        Be warned, though, the keyfeel is bloody awful. Worse than a $5 basic-plastic desktop keyboard. Worse than the worst $350 wal-mart special emachines laptop keyboard you've prayed you'd never have to use again.

        There is next to no feedback, audible or tactile, so you find yourself either typing really slowly and watching for each letter to appear, or looking consta
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:06PM (#31642608)

      should filter out the worst offender category of sand/dust without seriously impeding air flow

      Desert dust is distinct from the grains of sand you're accustomed to. It's been worn down to nearly microscopic, is highly abrasive, very light, and nylons won't keep that kind of stuff out. And even if they could, you're obstructing the airflow to critical components which will overheat. He did mention desert correct? Deserts are (as a rule) quite hot.

      You need purpose-built tools to work in that environment.

  • A fan-less computer (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kozmik (62265) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:13PM (#31642214) Homepage

    You can spend a lot of money and buy a ruggedized laptop ( panasonic toughbooks are the best known examples and they have a range of models from semi ruggedized to fully ruggedized ).

    However the feature you want from the ruggedized unit is the fact that fully ruggedized laptops are setup to be fanless ( the better designed ones ). Fanless means they don't need to suck in air, which would need to be filtered, which then becomes a point of failure.

    So for example most netbooks for example run an atom cpu that just needs a heatsink and no fan. That then eliminates the point of failure of the fan sucking in dust. There are desktop choices that are the same, underclocked or low power cpu's that don't produce enough heat to need more then a heatsink so can run fanless.

    • by ghoul (157158)

      Heat Sunks wont be very effective in a desert nvironment where the ambient air temp is hitting 50 C. Even an atom would need a fan in the desert

      • Heat Sunks wont be very effective in a desert nvironment where the ambient air temp is hitting 50 C. Even an atom would need a fan in the desert

        Sorry, I've spent time in the Sahara desert, and it doesn't usually get that hot there - if it did the people retreat to someplace cooler. At 50 C (122 F) all the people will be dead, so there won't be anyone to worry about heatsinks or fans.

        There are heat pump devices, such as Peltier effect devices which with a large heatsink can keep things pretty cool even in the (fictional) temperature you mentioned. I have a project at work that's using Pelter devices to keep an electronic device similar in size and

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Reziac (43301) *

          Where I live it can hit 122F (with almost no humidity), and it doesn't kill anyone (unless they're stupid). We usually get a month or so of highs at 115F with occasional spikes higher. Drink enough water and stay out of the direct sun and it's perfectly survivable.

          And you get used to it... one summer day I was working outside, and thinking what a nice pleasant day it was!! then I went back to the house and checked the thermometer: 118F.

          • by fm6 (162816)

            Where I live it can hit 122F (with almost no humidity), and it doesn't kill anyone (unless they're stupid).

            I assume not being stupid means staying in the shade, possibly with a fan or even air conditioning. Which means your laptop also has these benefits.

            Where on earth do you live? Unless it's North Africa or the Middle East, I think you're mistaken. These are the only places that regularly get that hot -- and the heat regularly kills people who can't get out of it.

            • by ghoul (157158)

              Delhi and other places in the northern Indian plains regularly hit 45 in the shade so if you are out in a construction site it definitely hits 50. If you dont believe right now its March and its already 39 C. People function by wearing loose long sleeved clothes, hats and wrapping handkerchiefs soaked in water around the back of their necks but water would not be a good solution for a laptop.

              • by Reziac (43301) *

                A while back I looked up the records and average temps for various cities in the Sahara, and was surprised to learn that even tho the Sahara's *average* temperature is higher, its extremes are not as hot as in the depths of the SoCal deserts.

                [goes off, finds handy C=F convertor at http://www.wbuf.noaa.gov/tempfc.htm%5D [noaa.gov] I see that 50C is 122F. Is Delhi humid or dry? Here it's so dry that if you don't vaseline your eyeballs at night, you wake up with raisins.

                My thermometer (which always matches the local NOAA

            • by Reziac (43301) *

              California desert. And it gets somewhat hotter over by Ridgecrest and in Death Valley than it does here. Here's the weather station that's in the same microclimate as my place, if you feel an urge to check us out during high summer -- http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=lox&sid=KWJF&num=168&raw=0&dbn=m [noaa.gov] or http://tinyurl.com/y9pda7q [tinyurl.com] -- I am often outdoors during the heat of the day, tho I don't stand around in the sun any longer than I have to. But I don't have to bring a compu

              • by fm6 (162816)

                Last summer I never did get around to fixing the swamp cooler, and it was regularly 95 or so in my house.

                Pretty darn hot -- but still way below 122. We're talking temperature where the laptop actually is.

                • by Reziac (43301) *

                  Maybe you are, but I got the impression the inquiry was for outdoor use! Tho I doubt high air temperature is nearly the hazard that dust is, as the ultimate killer in those environments.

                  • by fm6 (162816)

                    Yes, and if the temperature outside is 120 degrees, staying outside will kill you.

  • Put all of your files on a server on the internet that you can securely connect to, and get a cheap netbook to work on.
  • I've got a now 3ish year old Dell XPS M1710 laptop that survived living in Afghanistan for a year, Kuwait for a year & now a year or so back here in Colorado. Not light, but it did good as my gaming rig. I was in decent quality buildings for being down range, but pretty crappy & unsealed by U.S. standards. I've gone through 3-4ish power bricks for it, but I blame crappy generator power for that. And when the power bricks died, the laptop would only operate in reduced power mode (throttle CPU & not charge the battery), but would still run the laptop. Not bad for bouncing between 110v & 220v power of very dubious quality.

    Blow it out frequently with a can of air & it should do pretty good.
  • by middlemen (765373) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:20PM (#31642274) Homepage

    Software suggestion: Embrace cloud computing for all your data needs (assuming you have a good internet connection.) This will remove the problem of having to change hardware and replicate settings all the time.

    Hardware suggestion: Cheap netbooks that can be resold to unsuspecting people in the desert :)

  • Regardless of what you get, invest in a bunch of cyber clean and clean out your notebook regularly.

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/homeoffice/gear/b88d/ [thinkgeek.com]

  • Itronix Duo-Touch II (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:35PM (#31642394) Journal

    I carried a Itronix Duo-Touch II for a few months during field-work. It is a very robust tablet and is pretty much everything-proof (other than driving over it with a truck).

    http://www.gd-itronix.com/index.cfm?page=Products:Duo-Touch_II [gd-itronix.com]

    It is pricey as Itronix was purchased by General Dynamics but is mil rated.

  • I don't have any suggestions on the hardware but how often do you plan to swap out your lungs or is there a medical procedure to flush out the grit?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:58PM (#31642552)

    If you are in the middle east you should consider native technologies.

    The abacus of course.

    The beads on most modern abici are designed to last hundreds of years.

  • New leaders? (Score:4, Informative)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:06PM (#31642612)

    so I'm presuming that there are new industry leaders

    Not really...It's a tough nut to crack, so the market leaders in the ruggedized notebook sector tend to get there and say there. As others have said, your best (& costliest) options are Panasonic and Itronix (General Dynamics).

  • OLPC (Score:5, Informative)

    by FreeBSD evangelist (873412) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:54PM (#31642964)
    The One Laptop Per Child program (I have an original XO) builds for that exact environment.

    http://laptop.org/en/laptop/hardware/index.shtml [laptop.org]
    http://laptop.org/en/laptop/hardware/specs.shtml [laptop.org]

    There is a lightweight version of Windows they can run if you can't make it with "Sugar". You can find them on eBay.

  • AMREL Rocky (Score:5, Informative)

    by JungleBoy (7578) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @05:09PM (#31643054)
    I use an AMREL Rocky notebook in my field work. Hop out of the helicopter and toss it on the rocks while you unload other gear. Rain? No problem. Dust? No problem, it's completely sealed. The bottom is actually a finned heat sink bonded to the CPU. Since it has no fans/vents, it is a bit under-clocked. But it's awesome. http://www.amrel.com/rugged-computers/default.asp [amrel.com]
  • I suspect you will find what you need somewhere in the Panasonic Tuffbook [panasonic.com] line of products. The market to industrial, field maintenance (the people who drive up mountains in their trucks to get to microwave towers and things like that), even the military. Then aren't always the latest technology because the are more focused on dependability and survivability.
  • ...and solved it with Panasonic Toughbooks. I did SONAR research systems for a half a decade, and we always had problems with not just sand and dirt from the remote locations we were in, but often saltwater spray as well. Panasonic Toughbooks were the only laptops that stood up to everything we did, and never failed. Yes, they're expensive, but they're worth it, especially when you're paying $2500 per day for a research vessel and your laptop dies when you're 4 days out into the ocean. That's a $20,000
  • Really...Just ask any family with kids who use the computer what survives.......no grit or dust, but lots of food and no consideration as to "sensitive electronics"
  • The people who work there already have this figured out, as you say, by replacing hardware every 6 to 12 months. So, buy identical copies of an inexpensive flash-based laptop and swap the drive each time you lose a chassis. Blowing out the chassis with compressed air frequently should help. If you're in an industrial setting, compressed air should be easy to come by, otherwise, a filling station should have some) frequently should help.

    I'd worry more about my lungs in an environment like that, though. Y

  • I'd go and grab one or more MacBooks. Rugedised gear makes Apple pricing look dead cheap and the mac has a couple of other features which will be helpful, depending on how long you are out there.

    1. You can easily port your data, setting and user profile to another Mac, even onto the net. This gets you back in the field quickly if anything goes wrong.
    2. Macs are designed to have few holes or obtrusions.
    3. They are relatively easy to take apart and when you have the keyboard area is dead easy to clean as is t

  • I work offshore and was going through laptops quite regularly but all that changed when I picked up the XFR laptop. They are very sturdy but are much lighter than the tough book PC's which I also find kind of outdated.

    They come in both touch and non-touch screen laptops with 14.1 or 12.1 inch screens. Some of the best features I have found about these laptops are the fact that they have VGA out, SSD hard drives, ability to charge your cell phone (or other USB devices) while the laptop is turned off and it

  • Hi you might consider buying one of the computers made by X2 Computers. An English outfit who specialise in making laptops for Firemen, Police men and the military, so their computers are tough, and obviously dust proof too. Having lived in Beijing, where the Gobi desert sent huge sand storm to us, I iknow what you mean about desert dust, it kills machines! Anyhow, here is their URL.. have a look, and good luck. www.x2mc.co.uk/website1
  • Fanless computers for industrial automation, for example the ones made by Advantech can take LOTS of abuse. They work at coke battery plant, steel plant, sintering plant, ... places that can be at least as hostile as a desert.

    A nice example is here:
    http://www.advantech.com/eAutomation/fanless-box-pcs/Default.aspx [advantech.com]

  • Not worth it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 1s44c (552956) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @03:37AM (#31645990)

    Panasonic make some very nice tough laptops, there are also a few other makers around that claim they make tough laptops.

    However my advice is don't bother. The cost of a low end panasonic toughbook is over 6 times the cost of a good spec thinkpad. The toughbook is unlikely to last 6 times longer and even if it does it's going to be obsolete by that time. Unless your life depends on that one laptop working right now just buy good quality ( not acer ) decent spec laptops and replace either the whole laptop or parts as needed.

    You need good and tested backups in any case as even the best laptop could get stolen.

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