Laptops and the great outdoors
April 19, 2007 3:14 PM   Subscribe

I love sitting in the backyard working on my laptop. The problem is its often not very readable. What is the best way to use a laptop outside? At the moment I am squinting a lot. I'm open to all practical suggestions including devices, positioning, shading etc. (I own a Thinkpad T42 if it's relevant)
posted by zaebiz to Technology (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
From Google, it looks like the term you want is laptop hood.
posted by MsMolly at 3:20 PM on April 19, 2007

Ensure the screen is set to the brightest setting. A T42 will automatically show a less than optimum brightness when unplugged. Also, tilt the screen way towards you.
posted by xammerboy at 3:22 PM on April 19, 2007

I was just using my T42 outside a second ago (in fact, I'm using it right now!) - let's not lie, it's a fantastic computer, but the screen's just not that bright, especially compared to all of the new laptops with the fun ultrabrite [read: toy] screens. The trick with mine, at least, is that the best thing you can really do is try to have the sunlight hit the screen at the right angle, and you can kind-of see and read the screen (incidentally, the backlight is irrelevant at this point, so you can turn it all the way down and save your battery life). Other than that? Find some shade, or an umbrella or something. The sunlight-angle thing isn't the most ideal solution in the world, but it's better than nothing.
posted by stleric at 3:23 PM on April 19, 2007

In the comments of this thread you'll find some DIY solutions:,360,1,0,1,0
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:51 PM on April 19, 2007

Get a Hoodman!
posted by mrunderhill at 5:36 PM on April 19, 2007

Turn your document up to the highest magnification as well. You probably don't need to see everything on the screen, crank up the bits you do need to see.
posted by wilful at 5:57 PM on April 19, 2007

Can you invert the colors? I read somewhere it helps, of course I've never tried it.
posted by starman at 6:22 PM on April 19, 2007

Kata makes a laptop bag with a built-in hood. I haven't used that particular bag, but Kata bags tend to be well-made (if expensive).

My own personal cheapass solution involves finding things that provide shade and facing away from the sun.
posted by Alterscape at 8:32 PM on April 19, 2007

Are you up to some DIY laptop modifcation?
Buy a replacement screen on ebay, as this is experimental. (Complete screen&hinge assemblies are under a $100 for my laptop)

Remove the back of the screen. Cut a screen-sized hole in it. Protect it with plexicase, making a window. Remove the opaque backing of the backlight light-pipe sheet. Replace it with a sheet of translucent paper, or similar material that will both reflect the backlight and diffuse the sunlight coming through the window.

Your backlight won't be as strong indoors, but out in the sun, the daylight will shine through the back of the LCD and become a backlight based on daylight-level brightness.

I say it's experimental because I've only done this with a monochrome clock LCD, I haven't tried it on a laptop yet, so there may be complications.

For example, while I've disassembled laptops for which I see no reason why it would work perfectly, I've also seen some laptops that have circuitry behind part of the screen, which would block part of the window. Sometimes the circuit could be easily moved out of the way (such as when it's a wireless antenna), sometimes not.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:22 AM on April 20, 2007

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