A Tale Of Two Laptops

I’m a firm believer in broadening horizons. I love alternatives and underdogs. Variety is the spice of life. With all of that in mind, I ordered a couple of new laptops for my development team that came in this week.

The first one was a Sager – a brand that I had never heard of before a few months ago. Sager makes an impressive box. In fact, it’s by far the most impressive laptop I’ve ever run across, feature-wise. One lucky developer wound up with a Sager NP4750, which is an AMD64-based box. In addition to having every option I’ve ever heard of in a computer — seriously, check that link if you don’t believe me — the AMD64 setup seems to be pretty solid. As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I’m a big fan of the AMD64, and of 64-bit computing in general. Other than a few minor gotchas with the XP 64-bit preview release (bluescreen on trying to install the wrong VMWare, sound drivers don’t quite work all of the time, etc), it looks good. We’re still working on the set-up, so I’ll let you know if we don’t get any of those problems resolved. FWIW, my dual Opteron wound up with zero problems, and I couldn’t be happier with it. I’ve never heard of Sager before this, so I invested in the best warranty coverage they could offer. It can’t be any worse than the WinBooks that are on their way out!

Because of the success and ultra-coolness of that Sager laptop, I decided to do the obvious thing and buy an Apple PowerBook G4. After having run Linux on my laptops for many years, I decided it was time to upgrade to a slightly more usable UNIX laptop. My wife has had a PowerMac G5 for over a year now, and it’s been fantastic. Everything works right, the UI is the most beautiful graphics work I’ve ever seen (non-art graphics, anyway), and in general, the Mac Mystique is real. This laptop does nothing to diminish my happiness with Apple. Seriously, if you’ve never bought a piece of Apple hardware before, go treat yourself to an IPod or something and marvel at the amazingly good packaging and perfect out-of-box experience. As someone who has been in the product business for a few years, I have learned to really appreciate the companies in the world that do an outstanding job on fit and finish.

Anyway, you might be wondering what a Windows driver developer is doing running all of this wacky hardware. The answer is simple: the more different environments you use, the better you get at using all of them. The more different operating systems you expose yourself to, the better you get at improving any of them. My Macintosh experiences (and my Linux experiences) have been invaluable when it comes to improving my Windows products.

I’m still in the process of setting up the Mac, but I have Microsoft VirtualPC 6.1 and Microsoft Office 2004, so I have everything I need to do driver development the way I always have. Emulation speed isn’t as good in VPC, however, so for testing, I use Microsoft Remote Desktop to get into my afore-mentioned dual Opteron. It’s so much faster than any laptop I’ve ever seen (even the Sager) that laptop-based testing just doesn’t make sense to me any more.

4 Replies to “A Tale Of Two Laptops”

  1. Any chance you were able to track down all of the hardware drivers needed for the Sager NP4750 to run Windows XP Pro 64-bit (evaluation version)? The drivers from Sager don’t all work, leaving things like wireless LAN not working and video unable to display at native resolution. If you have any tips, I’d really appreciate it! austian@visi.com

  2. Yeah, everything works well enough. Another guy here has one; his response:


    The video driver displays fine for me, although the wireless does not work (I haven’t tried to get it to work either since I don’t use wireless)


    Go to amd.com and search for native 64-bit drives. you have to look a little bit, but you’ll find them.

  3. Windows Professional x64 audio drivers for the NP4750 can be found at http://www.realtek.com.tw/downloads/dlac97-2.aspx?lineid=5&famid=12&series=8&Software=True while the updated video drivers can be found at https://support.ati.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=894&task=knowledge&folderID=27 (you’re looking to install the CATALYST 5.4 Windows XP Professional x64 Edition drivers. With these two drivers, your audio and video will mostly work. I say mostly because I’ve found some DVD’s that do not play the dialog even though the background music and sounds still play. There are also some issues with older (legacy) modems and network devices (external, usb, etc.) that you may not be able work around.

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