Accessorize my laptop
May 29, 2010 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me properly accessorize my ThinkPad. To get: bag, external drive, fingerprint reader (?) etc.

I recently purchased a 15.4" ThinkPad SL510 running Windows 7. It's my first laptop so I've never dealt with portability and it's issues. If I could I'd tether it to my wrist, but that seems a tad impractical, so in lieu of that I'll just get everything I need to ensure it and it's contents safety. I'm looking for the most reliable for the least money and the most compatible.

Shopping list:

External drive for back-up. The Lenovo website has a few 'recommended' drives for decent price tag (~$150). When I go to other comparison sites there's just too much available, I'm overwhelmed. (And honestly, I don't know enough about it to get really picky).

Back pack carrier. I really like Chrome in theory, but they only have two bags specifically designed for laptops. One I just plain don't like, the other only has one strap which is bad for me. Can I get a non-laptop Chrome bag and use a sleeve? Or am I better getting a specialized padded pack?

Fringerprint reader. I am HORRIBLE with passwords. They're almost all the same, I forget them. Just sucky, sucky security going on. Is it worth it to get a fingerprint reader? Do they really work? Can they be compromised?

What else should I be looking for? Important info: I'm in Canada, going to university.

posted by Miss Mitz to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you're buying an external drive get one on or similar. You'll pay far less for the same thing. Get the model that Lenovo is offering and then find that same one on NewEgg.
As for a fingerprint reader, it's kinda gimmicky. Just download a password keeper program. A list of recommended ones is on LifeHacker.
posted by msbutah at 3:32 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

You might be underwhelmed by the fingerprint reader, my experience has been that they work fine, unless you're somewhere with dim lighting or you accidentally get something on the reader and then whoops, doesn't work.

Sleeves are good buck take more time than a special laptop sleeve. There are a lot of laptop bag brands - I have a version of this, and it's amazing - not as ugly as it looks in the picture, tons of padding, bunch of pockets, hard shell front that still manages not to be ugly.
posted by R a c h e l at 3:43 PM on May 29, 2010

For backups, it might make more sense to just use something like DropBox to keep personal documents intact. Especially if you have a desktop or other computers, you'll eventually want something to centralize them anyways. Dropbox gives you 2GB free so give it a shot at first and see if you like it, then if you need more storage than they offer you can drop a smaller amount monthly. There's plenty of competitors as well if you think it's too pricey. Apparently Microsoft SkyDrive offers 25GB free storage, so maybe look at that as well.

Depending on the fingerprint reader, they can be compromised. A good example was a gummybear hack that lifted prints off of a laptop and worked on the reader. Securitywise, I put it between taping a stickynote with your password to the laptop and remembering a single password. As a bonus, your fingerprint changes slightly with time, and they're very finnicky. Get a scar or a wart or something, and it's game over. So you need a password anyways for emergencies, and if you never use it you'll never remember it.
posted by pwnguin at 3:56 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I carried my Thinkpad around in a Swiss gear backpack [with a laptop pocket, which I didn't always use] for 4 years and both held up well. You should be ok with any backpack with a laptop holder.

Don't bother with the fingerprint reader - you're better off with a password program or something else like that.
posted by radicarian at 3:58 PM on May 29, 2010

Do you plan to be pretty mobile with this labtop? You are aware this is the thinkpad least designed for mobility(short of the L series)? It doesn't have a roll cage for the HDD. It happens to be the pioneer model for the removal of that feature.
You don't have to have the fingerprint reader to use the password software. I would reccomend for any buyer of a thinkpad notbook look at the model # then find the HMM for the computer so you know for yourself what you can replace and what has to be replaced for you.
posted by Rubbstone at 4:36 PM on May 29, 2010

My two Thinkpads have built-in fingerprint readers which I never use. Are you sure yours doesn't?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:12 PM on May 29, 2010

I'd be pretty careful about reading the EULA of Dropbox, if I were you.

Fingerprint readers are 100% bullshit. Write your password down (not your username, and not what the password is for) on a post-it note if you must, and put that in your wallet. Don't put your wallet in your laptop bag.

Get a Logitech MX Anywhere mouse. They're eminently portable, have a very nice low-profile USB dongle and a spinny wheel, and are awesome. Get a second power supply for your Thinkpad, if you have the means.

MEC makes a variety of laptop bags that are awesome, many of which are doubly awesome for not obviously looking like laptop bags.

Get two (yes, two) external drives, not necessarily 2.5" "portable" drives, that are as big or bigger than your laptop drive. Make a backup onto both of them, and put one in a padlocked Pelican case (also at MEC) at your buddy's place, and make routine (nightly, ideally) backups on the other. Once a month or so, swap out the one in the pelican case for the one on your desk. Include the power supplies and cables for the drives in the pelican case, always.

Don't rely on flash media for backups, ever. Particularly for long-term backups. It will fuck you.

Don't rely on online services with nebulous "we may change this or just go out of business at any moment without contacting you" EULAs for backups, ever. They will fuck you.

When one of those hard drives fails, go buy another one that day and make another backup. Not the next day, not the next week. That day. Understand, there's a distinction between using something for backups and relying on it; when one of those drives has failed, the thing you're relying on for your backups is at risk.

If you're travelling, and can't do a backup, email yourself anything important you've worked on.

Good luck.
posted by mhoye at 5:42 PM on May 29, 2010

qxntpqbbbqxl wrote: "Are you sure yours doesn't?"

SL Thinkpads do not have the integrated fingerprint reader as an available option. It's an option on the T, X, and W series.

Anyway, I strongly second the comment regarding the Swiss Gear backpack. It can hold a huge amount of stuff and distributes the weight very well on your shoulders, so it can be carried for long periods without being uncomfortable. And to think, if CompUSA hadn't gone out of business, I would have continued using the typical shoulder bag.

A lot of people find an extra charger to be a handy accessory. A docking station is also really nice to have, and can sometimes be found on eBay for the price of a wall charger, which they generally come with.

My boss really likes the iGo chargers that work on both 12v and wall power. The one he uses also has USB plugs on it for charging other things, and even has changeable tips so he can charge his cell phone with it. It's much cheaper than the equivalent Lenovo car/wall charger, although again deals can be found on eBay from time to time.
posted by wierdo at 6:07 PM on May 29, 2010

Seconding the docking station. Allows you to use 2 external monitors (one analog, one digital, at least with my T61).

I also found a second power supply to be useful. I keep one at work and one at home. No messing with cords - just unplug the laptop, commute, and plug it back in at my destination.
posted by schrodycat at 6:49 PM on May 29, 2010

Many universities in Canada give basic online storage -- enough to save any work you've got, etc. You will want about a dozen flash drives, unless you're way better at remembering where you keep them than I am, and use those for portability but not backups. You can get an external hd just about anywhere, and they're mostly all fine. If you get one that's AC powered, you'll want to leave it in one place; if you get one that's usb powered, you can transport it.

Get a portable mouse. Get a laptop backpack, and if you're in snowy parts of Canada (so anywhere, really), get one that has a rubberized bottom and is waterproof. I am very serious about the rubberized bottom.
posted by jeather at 7:15 PM on May 29, 2010

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