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Duo Doubters

Perhaps I was a tad over-enthusiastic about the PowerBook Duos last week. Two readers pointed out problems that I had conveniently ignored in my article. "Conveniently ignoring" (often known as "poetic license") isn’t commonly acknowledged by journalistic circles. For example, read most anything about the Macintosh that appears in a PC or consumer oriented publication. Heck, even the New York Times writes the word incorrectly as "MacIntosh."

About that floppy drive… — Ralph Lombreglia writes:

I share your enthusiasm – in theory – for a PowerBook Duo and a Duo Dock, as the machine that would do what most of us want (though not really me, alas, because I leave my SE/30 on all the time for faxing and voice mail). Truly, any real PowerBook, combined with a real Mac at home, will create enormous file-version headaches for most users (although I hear there’s a utility out for this; still, two full-fledged computers with all your stuff loaded is a pain) [There are several utilities for synchronizing files between machines -Adam]. This almost makes the PowerBook 100, with minimal software loaded, and functioning as a notebook, the best PowerBook for people with a real Mac at home.

So I share your Duo excitement. But I have one basic problem with the design which you blithely skip over as though it doesn’t matter to you for some reason: there’s no floppy in the Duo, so when you’re out with it, working like mad, how do you back up your files? Personally, there’s no way that I’m pouring the best gestures of my brain into a computer for hours on end, and having the results on only one storage device. Buying an external floppy is not the answer because that’s a royal pain, and not what one should have to do after spending three grand for a small light notebook.

[I agree with Ralph about the PowerBook 100 being the best for those of us who have fully-loaded Macs that run at all times. Of course, I’m putting my mouth where my money is, since we recently acquired a cute PowerBook 100 and popped in a 6 MB memory upgrade. It’s a treat of a writing machine, especially when running from RAM disk, in part because there’s less available to distract me than on my 20 MB SE/30 with 15 applications open.

My answer to Ralph’s valid point about the lack of the internal floppy is that many people won’t need it. True, you can’t backup your work as easily, but we never bother with the external floppy for our 100. Filesharing or emailing files to yourself (assuming you have an internal modem) serve as quick backup mechanisms that don’t waste space or weight on a floppy drive. Remember, you can easily have two volumes on a PowerBook by creating a RAM disk, and if the Duos work like the PowerBook 100, that RAM disk should be safe, although certainly not as safe as a separate floppy disk. It’s a trade-off, and one I’m willing to live with. -Adam]

Oh yeah, and the screen… — Hisham A. Abboud writes:

One comment on the "Duo Date" article in TidBITS-144. The lack of active matrix display was not mentioned at all. I think the active matrix display played a major, major role in the success of the PowerBook 170, and I am disappointed none of the Duos has it. Currently, I am looking into the PowerBook 180. If I didn’t need the active matrix display, I would save the money and go with a PowerBook 160 or a Duo, but an active matrix display is a must have, as far as my needs are concerned.

[Frankly, Hisham, you’re right. I can waffle around and make an argument based on the fact that the active matrix screens cost more and might draw more power, but as Rich Wolfson says in his excellent book "The PowerBook Companion" when comparing the PowerBook 140 and 170, "The screen is the deciding factor, and you’ll have to evaluate your screen needs and preferences before you can make your choice." If you need or want an active matrix screen, the fact that other people don’t mind the passive matrix screens makes no difference. You want active matrix and will pay for it, and you won’t buy a Duo until the next generation of them includes an active matrix screen. -Adam]

Information from:
Ralph Lombreglia — [email protected]
Hisham A. Abboud — [email protected]

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