First, the results of my laptop hunt. Thank you so much for all the suggestions — there are a lot more ultraportable options than I realized. I narrowed it down to two wildly different possibilties:
- The Lenovo ThinkPad X200s. I missed the 200s on my first survey — I didn’t realize Lenovo had one under 2.5 lbs. It’s got perfect geek-oriented engineering (tough metal hinges, spill tray, incredibly rugged, Linux-friendly, etc). It’s just a little bigger than I was going for — it’s pretty large for its weight.
- The Sony Vaio P. I love the form factor — 9″ wide but only 4″ deep; you could slip it in a pocket. And the 220 PPI screen is everything I could want. It’s shiny and pretty and only weighs a pound and a half, and when I played with one I fell in love. But it’s a Sony, which means shiny appearance but no openness — repairs suck, and Linux will only work haltingly.
In the end, I decided neither was worth the cost just yet while I could squeeze a little more life out of my old laptop. A new battery, hard drive, and some antibiotics, and it could last another year. But if I had to pick now, I’d go with the X200s. The ability to toss it down a mountainside and have Ubuntu boot when it lands trumps gadgety sexiness. But only barely.
On a contrary note, I have a Kindle 2. I’ve been really happy with it so far, other than the PDF support being poorly documented (it claims to handle PDFs natively in some of the literature, but you can’t actually just plop them down on the drive — it requires passing them through Amazon or converting them yourself). But it handles html, text, and some other formats fine when just dropped on it via USB — it’s a lot more open than the Kindle 1.
I’m surprised at the talk of the cost being too high. For me, the comparison is to a laptop with a cellular broadband internet card — $1440 for a standard two-year contract. The Kindle 2 doesn’t have a full web browser, but if you’re favoring text-heavy websites (news, blogs, mail, wikis), it’s perfectly sufficient. Plus, it’s a nice screen and has many-day battery life. All in all I think it’s a more-than-reasonable price for something that lets me read reddit on the street corner so as to better shout at sheeple about government conspiracies.
Bottom line, I think it’s a really neat device that fills a niche that nothing else really does. And seeing the prices, I’ll probably even buy some ebooks and magazines. But the web access is the real reason I got it. And if the advertised free access to Wikipedia and other text-y websites is curtailed, (as the Terms and Conditions suggest could happen), the Kindle’s battery life means that I can camp out drunk on the Amazon lawn yelling at Jeff Bezos for quite a while.