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Lugging a heavy laptop poses problems for many lawyers — often of the lower back variety. Going lightweight can be easy, but first, you must identify the core benefits you need, and second, you must be willing to make some concessions. For example, there are times when you need the bigger, heavier machine: 1) You are using applications such as litigation support, that need a large screen to view document images. 2) You need peripherals while on the road (diskettes, CD-ROM, DVD, etc.). 3) You need maximum horsepower because you must run heavyweight applications. At the same time, a tremendous business case can be made for opting for a super-lightweight machine. I speak from experience. A year ago, I gave up my big Dell Inspiron 7500 with its 10 pounds of options to move to the smallest, lightest machine I could find — a Sony Vaio Picturebook. After a year’s use, I will never go back. The newest version of the Vaio Picturebook is a Windows 98 machine with a 12 GB hard disk, 600 MHz processor, and 128 MB of memory. It weighs only 2.2 pounds. When closed, it’s less than an inch thick and half the size of a sheet of paper. Although it’s not an instant-on machine like a Palm organizer, you can put it in Windows 98′s suspend mode — instead of shutting it down — and power it up in about 15 seconds instead of a couple of minutes. With a network card in the PCMCIA slot and a built-in 56K modem, I am connected at the office and on the road. Because of the large disk, I have the entire MS office suite, plus a host of additional software, loaded on it. COMPROMISES Before turning to the big benefits of this machine, it has compromises to accept. First, the keyboard is more than adequate for me, but I have moderately sized fingers; someone with large hands might find it awkward to use for hours at a time. Second, if you need to use peripherals (CD-ROM or diskette drive), those must be carried separately. Third, if you need to work for at least several hours in a non-AC situation, then an extra-large battery (which weighs a pound) is useful. I rarely bring the extra battery except on international trips, and instead have learned to scout out wall outlets at airports to charge it up. (Be sure to bring international adapters.) The one feature that can be annoying is the small size of the screen: it’s 9 inches, with 1024 x 480 resolution. At the office, this poses no problem because I use my 21-inch monitor via the external video connector. This connector also works well with projectors for presentations. On the road, you must use the mouse a bit more with only 480 pixel screen height, but less so than with a 640 x 480 monitor, which was standard-issue equipment not so long ago. And the small screen works really well in standard coach seating even when the seat in front is reclined. But, attention baby boomers: If you are reading text with large fonts, this may be a serious drawback. BIG BANG The big bang of this machine is that you can carry it anywhere. It is so small that it slips easily into a purse or briefcase. You’ve got full PC applications like Microsoft Corp.’s Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook — as well as your Web browsers — handy at all times. I have come to rely on it. I keep my hotel and airline reservation info in my e-mail, as well as travel directions (from Yahoo maps) saved to my hard disk with my browser. I connect to the Internet for e-mail updates and Web browsing as well as the corporate Intranet. Because it is a full-blown PC rather than a PDA, I can load standard-issue software on it. The machine even has a built-in video camera. That means I can video-conference via NetMeeting, make video recordings of meetings, or just snap digital pictures of the places I have been and the people that I have met. (See “Surviving Exotic Islands and New Hampshire”, Law Technology News). Back in the office, I have taken steps to ensure that I have all the tools that I need. In addition to the big monitor, I use a Dlink USB hub to connect a standard mouse and keyboard, as well as up to four other USB devices (a color scanner, diskette, CD-ROM burner and printer). To make the printer connection works, you need a USB-to-parallel printer cable. In short, my tiny computer has become one more peripheral attached to the USB hub. A laptop this small solves all special provisioning for having a laptop; at 2.2 pounds, it means having the office with you whether or not you know in advance that it will be needed (and more often than not, it is). Never feeling burdened even when I do not use it, it gives me peace of mind because I know I can work if I need to do so. The small size means that I am more wired than ever — more productivity and less down time. John Hokkanen is the knowledge manager for Latham & Watkin, based in Los Angeles, and is a member of the Law Technology News Editorial Advisory Board.

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