arrived: 16 April 2001

IBM Thinkpad X21

Planning my trip to Japan, I was able to borrow a digital camera and laptop from FiringSquad. Writing and taking pictures on the road was a great load of fun, the sort of journalism I hadn't done in years.

Since I was freelance, making my own money, and I was travelling a lot, at least two weeks a month, it made sense to me that I should have a laptop. Using internet terminals around the world is great, but it's hard to focus on a single document in your downtime. With a laptop, I can keep my current writing projects on hand wherever I go.

Just before Japan, Rocky loaned me an old Macintosh PowerBook Duo 2300c. It was a strange sensation to compute in exactly the same fashion as I had five years ago - 14.4 modem, BBEdit, Mac OS 7.6. Still, I needed some speed for Internet tomfoolery, some space for MP3s. Unfortunately, my old ThinkPad 560 wouldn't yeild to professional care.

Floating White Black Laptop In Japan, I visited Akihabara, where they have everything electronic ever invented, including stuff that is hard to find on the street here. One store had these IBM laptops on display - they were the same size as Sony Vaios, meaning they are really small and light and very portable, but unlike most Vaios I've seen, they had a decent keyboard. I've always liked the size of the Vaio because I like to compute in strange places, but I always hated the keyboard. As cool as video inputs are, I use a computer to write.

Starting Stats

Thinkpad X21:
Intel Mobile Pentium III at 700MHz
128MB Memory (upped to 320MB max)
20GB Hard Drive
12.1" TFT display (max 1024x768)
56K modem/EtherNet
Up to 4.9hr battery life (yah right)
Travel weight around 3.1 lbs
11" x 8.9" x 1.2"

So when I got back to the states I found the equivalent IBM PC here - the Thinkpad X21. 3.5 pounds, one inch thin, just about the dimensions of a sheet of paper.

The IBM site has a Flash product tour and product stats.

I got some payout from a freelance writing gig and threw down for the machine. Media Slice $2800 for the best X21 they had; full speed, big hard drive, lots of memory, built in networking. I bought a Dock, because it was $100 off and it seemed useful; I wish I would have bought the "Media Slice" instead. The only thing I skimped on was the software - I saved $300 by ordering the machine with Windows 98 instead of Windows 2000. I thought about trying to install Linux, but it doesn't seem to be supported and my first priority is work. That's the same reason I don't plan to put many games on this thing either. I ended up with a dual-boot Windows 98 (for older apps, can't think of any right now, but hey) and Windows 2000 as the primary OS - it's a much more robust operating system than '98.

The machine is strong. Solid keyboard. Powerfully slender. It feels both lythe and muscular! It's a nice machine, but it has no drives. That makes software installation a bit of a challenge; I mostly used network installation. It hasn't been that much of a headache for me.

It's got some neato extras I dig - a little white LED light over the keyboard in case you're computing in the dark. It's got a slot for CompactFlash cards, so you can take the "film" out of your digital camera and slot it directly in this machine. Volume buttons. And no goddamn trackpad like that bloody stinking Dell laptop I was using at Gamers.com - any time I sat down to write something long I would occasionally, accidentally tap the trackpad, causing the cursor to skip around the document. It's was a Burroughsian experiment in hyperfiction writing perhaps, but I like more literate control.

And it's light enough, and small enough to take to bed without a second thought.

I wrote this about my last ThinkPad, but it still holds true -
"Unlike my duo I haven't painted or stickered this machine yet - I think it's because the sleek trim black exterior is very 3l33t looking - it's what I imagine an Ono-Sendai might look like."

With that in mind I renamed my machine and customized my Windows 2000 a bit:

rinkusu screen

January 2002:
I still call the computer "Lynx" though I've upgraded to Windows XP and haven't replaced the startup screen.

A friend in Tokyo pointed out that at the store "T-Zone" in Akihabara he got his Thinkpad X22 fitted with a 40 gigabyte internal harddrive, to replace the maximum IBM will sell you: 20 gigabytes. As much as I love space, carrying around hundreds of hours of music, I'm not sure if I'm willing to violate my warranty yet. My computer is starting to make this occasional high-pitched squealing sound and I think I'll try to get an authorized IBM service center to fix it or replace it in March when I'm next in America. I've seen threads complaining about the same issue in the official IBM support boards, and the IBM people said, have it repaired. I try to have my laptops serviced in the 10th or 11th month of warranty/ownership whenever possible. I suppose that's not an original idea.

I bought a media slice and while it's a bit heavy and unweildy, it transforms this computer into everything I need for work - mostly a CD drive for software installation. I paid for a DVD as well, so I can watch movies on the road (limited appeal on a laptop screen, but it helped during some of those lonely nights at Tsurunoyu). I would never expect it to play serious PC games. When Deus Ex 2 comes out, I'll have to rent some time on a desktop to experience that and write about it. In the meantime this laptop plays many classic PC games and emulators quite well!


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