In response to a few comments and queries, Samantha isn’t a real person. She’s the name of my Asus EEE mini laptop which did the trip around the USA with me, and is pictured in various places (Arizona, Los Angeles, Oregon, Chicago, New Orleans) in this post. Samantha proved incredibly popular, and I must have been asked about her easily over a hundred times. From train travellers to people in hotel lobbies, bars and restaurants to very excited librarians, Samantha was the centre of attention on so many occasions.
Why Samantha? It’s named after Travels With Samantha, probably my favourite work of American travel writing after Blue Highways. Travels With Samantha was one of the first major works produced, and put on, the Web. It subsequently won the Best of the Web award for 1994. nb if you have recently gone through a pet bereavement, then advise not reading the first chapter of TWS.
In TWS, Samantha was also a laptop which the author carried around the US with him on what became an epic journey. More about Samantha. She’s the PC 901 model, running Windows XP and with Open Office installed. 1.6 GHz. Problems to date: zero. Improvements that could be made: more memory on the solid state hard drive; non-essential software removed before start-up.
One of my tasks on the trip to the US was to see how much work one could do on the road. And the answer is – a heck of a lot. The battery lasts for 6 hours on a full charge, probably because it takes less power to run a solid state memory than a hard drive. In the first few days, I managed to do a powerpoint presentation and a couple of articles; as the trip developed, I did both of my conference presentations from scratch. The small screensize can make fine detail a bit tricky to see; you’d also not want to do heavy SL development work on it. But for most other things; fine.
Speed: fast; it’s very quick from starting up to getting in and doing things. Issues: the hard drive needs to be bigger. The keyboard can take a bit of getting used to. The Wifi pick-up seemed remarkably good (though others contest it may be weaker than other machines), as I picked up many, many wifi signals when travelling around the US (side-point: thank you, so many Americans, for leaving your wifi routers open. Especially those of you close to Amtrak rail lines).
Accessorise? Yes. I have three items. The Obama decal, which resulted in two people wanting to buy Samantha for more than she was worth. And the mouse and case, pictured below with her. The mouse is a Belkin one costing around 10 pounds which glows in ever-changing colours, and retracts. The case is a soft pouch which weighs virtually nothing. According to the kitchen scales, the computer, mouse and case between them weigh 2 pounds and 10.5 ounces. Hence it was one of the lighter items that I carried with me to the top of the 6,900 foot mountain in Montana.
Do I recommend it? Yes. They’re cheap; you don’t like it – put it up for sale on eBay and you’ll get nearly all your money back. It’s robust – my older, much larger and heavier laptop would not have taken the punishment Samantha has through America. But if e.g. airport security manage to destroy it, then you haven’t lost a fortune. Above all, the weight and the compactness of the whole thing (the mains adapter was also miniature) meant it could all be literally thrown into the backpack with other bits and pieces. Samantha went everywhere with me, except to the shower room on Amtrak trains or to the Obama presidential party. So we’re good mates now, and I’m glad I never sold her.