Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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  August 2005, Week 5 -- Laptops


   We're going to talk about something we hardly ever talk about here. Eeek, it's laptops!

  The Heavyweight
Qosmio F25    Laptops now outsell desktops in computerland, and most of them are surprisingly heavy. So the first and main thing to decide is how often you want to move it.
   We recently got a Toshiba Qosmio F25 in for review, one of Toshiba's latest models; it's a delight. It comes with a built-in Harmon Kardon stereo sound system and the ability to switch off the computer and use it for a television, watching movies with a clarity we have never seen on any normal TV. The 15.4-inch screen is large enough to let you sit back and watch in relaxed comfort. In fact, it's as large as our regular TV. The sound quality is terrific.
     The downside is the F25 weighs nearly 8 pounds. That may not seem like much, and it isn't compared to a desktop computer, but it will get to you if you're carrying it around a lot. The power transformer adds another pound. And if you're traveling, you're going to have to have the transformer because the battery life is less than three hours. Battery life is a big problem with laptops.
     But if you're not going to be carrying this laptop around very much, it is a dream to use. You can watch a video or television show and have full control of fast forward, rewind, pause, etc., and even record it to the hard disk or an external drive. The hard drive capacity is 100 gigabytes, so you can record darn near anything you want and it will have no effect on normal computer usage.
     This is the finest laptop computer we've ever run, and you'll never need a separate TV, but -- once again -- it's heavy. Web:
  The Lightweight
Sony Vaio T350p    The Sony Vaio T350P is much smaller than the Toshiba above and weighs only 2.7 pounds; screen size is 10.7 inches. The keyboard is also smaller, but is still 90 percent of the size of a regular laptop keyboard.
   The whole package is about the size of a hard cover book and 1 inch thick. Considering the size and weight, this is the computer we wanted for traveling. If it becomes balky, as nearly all computers sometimes do, simply press F10 at startup and it is restored to the original factory settings. All files and programs are retained.
     This beauty was designed for traveling. The Vaio T350P has Bluetooth, wireless networking and the new mobile wireless that until now has been found only in Cingular Edge cell phones. Using the Edge technology, you no longer have to be within 160 feet of a wireless base station but can basically connect to the Internet from almost anywhere. The battery life is six hours.
     You can wander at will and still stay connected to the net. The computer can detect other phone services as well as Cingular and will connect with whichever one is fastest. Whatever service you want will cost about $80 a month. If you're an exec on the go, it probably makes little difference to the budget if you sign up for two or three. Web:
     OK, let's recap. If you're going to mostly stay put, you're best off with the Toshiba. If you're traveling, go light; the Sony Vaio or something in that weight class, though there's little else.
     Either of these two machines will cost you around $2,000. Whatever you choose, keep it in the clear. Heat is the killer of laptops, and we recommend that you set it on a couple of small supports at the edges -- even a couple of pencils will do -- for good air circulation.
  Ring Tones

Ringtone Media Studio

   The cell phone is the high-tech toy of our time. Not only do many people seem to be on one all the time (What on Earth are they saying?), but you can also play games, view photos and videos and get street maps. You can even make phone calls!
   And then there are the ring tones. It is no longer cool to have your cell phone just ring; it has to produce a music video.
   We used Ringtone Media Studio from Avanquest to download music and video to a Motorola RAZR V3 cell phone. We were able to download tones from Ringtone's online library and from any CD we put in either of the laptops we wrote about above, both of which are Bluetooth enabled.
     Ringtone Media Studio costs $20 from Its library contains 5,000 wallpapers, photos, videos and music samples. We downloaded the opening bars of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 and a picture of London's Big Ben clock tower. Sound quality is best if you choose "sounds" instead of "polyphonic" for the download.
 Web Mapping Illustrated 


   "Web Mapping Illustrated" by Tyler Mitchell; $40 from
   This is not about finding maps on the Web, but how to create them. The author goes through where to collect mapping data, both free and for charges, how to convert the data, and how make the maps you create interactive over the Internet. He also covers getting ready-made maps from the Web, but these are not the kind of schematic street maps you get from sites like MapQuest and Maps On Us, but ordering things like maps printed to fit your whole wall.




NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers" Web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at and Joy Schwabach at