Here come the Ultrabooks

A while back, the headlines from Computerworld arrived in my mailbox and one topic jumped out at me: Ultrabooks, expected to be hot at CES, could be boon for enterprise IT. Over the past weekend I actually saw two of them at my local big box electronics store.

My first reaction was to shake my head and assume this was the latest mid cycle hardware term to convince folks to rush out and buy new gear. On further reading, I am beginning to wonder if anyone does any work anymore or if they just consume data?

According to the article, an Ultrabook™ (yes, Intel actually trademarked the term) is a device that can weigh no more than 3.1 pounds, be no more than 0.8 inches thick, and offer five to eight or more hours of battery life. They also will have flash-based storage, and use Intel's Rapid Start Technology for fast boot times. Also, according to the article, they are designed to create a new baseline for mobile computing. It should be noted that one of the models I saw is already violating the flash-based storage only provisions by including a 500GB spinning platter, but the rest of the system looked like it met the requirements. They were light and reminded me of a Macbook Air.

Now, putting the marketing hyperbole aside, I am struck by two things. First, these seem like a great idea. The second, as I said before, does anybody do any work anymore?

Let us start with the great idea first. For me, anything that increases battery life is a winner! Ultrabooks™ seem to offer the benefits of a tablet, with the addition of a real keyboard for actually doing work, which I have always thought to be one thing that is lacking in traditional tablets. Sure, the touchscreen keyboard on most of them is OK for small projects, but the angle is all wrong for any sort of serious work (like writing up this overview for example). And while a number of tablets offer bluetooth keyboards, the form factors are usually so dissimilar that it makes it almost impossible to conveniently carry them together. I am not saying you cannot, I am just saying I find them inconvenient.

But if the goal is to create a new baseline for mobile computing, I have to wonder if I am working from the same assumption of baseline as the marketing people are. I have two laptops - one a full blown, 15” screen monster with an Intel Core 2 Duo, 500 Gbytes of disk and 4 Gbytes of RAM. It also has USB, DVD-RW, wired, and wireless networking. Compared with an Ultrabook™, it might just as well be a desktop. My other laptop is a netbook with 200 Gbytes of disk and 2 Gbytes of RAM, USB, wired, and wireless networking. Both get between two and four hours of battery life, depending on what I am doing. The netbook gets a little better mileage because it has a bigger battery pile and actually has fewer energy gobbling programs. Both are relatively easy to carry around. But what makes me scratch my head is that I have literally terabytes of data (not that I carry with me at any one time mind you – my hard disks are limited) and I have to wonder what the value of an Ultrabook™ is with only flash memory. Are we going back to the days when Bill Gates was purported to say who needs more than 512 kbytes of RAM?

The answer, of course, and I can hear the shouting from the wind, is your data is in the cloud...cloud...cloud.... Yeah, right. For a moment, let me step back, slap myself upside the head and then start again. I have terabytes of data, some of which I do not especially like having on a laptop even with an encrypted hard disk to begin with. You think I am going to push it up to a cloud somewhere? [We have had this discussion about who owns your data. Now with new provisions in U.S. law, you need to be very careful about where your data is and what it contains] But I digress.

Putting data in the cloud assumes I am going to have access to it. And this is the bigger fallacy. Now maybe you are lucky enough to live somewhere where the access to data is not monitored for volume, or the access to always on connections is better than it is here in the United States (and my friends in Canada from what I am hearing). I spend the bulk of my day at work. My corporate network is filtered and access blocked to such an extent that getting out to check the weather almost requires an act of Congress and I no longer work in the Federal sector. Which means that I can only access my data when I am at home, connected to my home network. Better not forget that file when I take a road trip outside a major metropolitan area...or drive to the corner coffee shop.

My point here is this. If you are someone that does more than send the occasional email or updates a spreadsheet, or you are a C-Level executive, the Ultrabook™ could be the very answer you are looking for. But if you are part of the twenty percent of us that do real work and need real RAM and disk, the Ultrabook™ probably is not going to rock your world.

The sad part is that most vendors are not building machines for us, but for the other eighty percent that do nothing more than write emails or update the occasional spreadsheet, which means that the new baseline just got moved so far down that we might never be able to get real PCs anymore. But this is just a thought. Anyone bought a desktop lately?

______________________

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

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Nice post

Anonymous's picture

Being part of that twenty percent I too am some what disapointed about this. I use nothing but Linux on all of my computers (unless Netflix is involved) so remote access is fairly simple mostly. My home desktop cont as ins terabytes of data as well. I have come to the point of running multiple servers at home using KVM for various things. Like email server and other things. AMD x6 core CPU with 8GB of RAM my desktop is very well used and appriciated. Also running DD-WRT on my router allows WOL just in case things are powered off. Maybe one day we will find the power and storage of our desktops in the mobile world.Thanks for giving that type information.That information is so helpful to us.Will be visit again on your website.

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I’ve been reading a number of

cytoman's picture

I’ve been reading a number of your posts and really enjoyed your writing.Great post, very insightful, your point of view, it really seems to really hit the point. I will be waiting to read your next post.
Wellbutrin

Home-use terminal

jelabarre's picture

Depending on how cheap they can make these things, though, it may fulfil an idea I've had for years. You would simply use ome of these for a remote connection to the "big" system (probably a regular mid-tower machine) in your home office, and the ultrabook would simply act as a wireless X-terminal to your mail, music, documents, pictures, etc on that main machine. (OK, I guess you Windows-using folks could use rdesktop. The Mac folks are probably S.O.L.)

Really great idea. Have u

Debimint's picture

Really great idea. Have u done this before?

Gadgets are really becoming

AndrewM's picture

Gadgets are really becoming lighter and thinner. This Ultrabook is surely a valuable asset for business and commercial responsibilities.

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Duh...

pouzzler's picture

Because you NEED **terabytes** of por... err data, wherever you go? Poser!

here also is a GUI interface

linxiaqingfeng's picture

here also is a GUI interface called clarisonic mia clarisonic miaElmerGUI. ElmerGUI allows you to define and generate input files for ElmerSolver, as well as import

pdc bit

laohu_ily's picture

Ultrabooks

Thomas Vanhoutte's picture

Yes ultrabooks are just great, but I just can't believe some of them still have HDD's inside and no SSD? Seems unlogic to me.

rio b and you

alberto876's picture

Thanks..very nice article

xxccjordan's picture

I have the same deal on my end (cr2 files, bunch of pdfs etc)... but i have an A-sh93 data external with some stuff.

however, back on the post.. I don't know why anybody can't modify a netbook with a bigger batery and a bigger screen and be done with it?
http://www.nba-jordan.com/
my asus 1005ha does the job very well (running slackware ofcourse) with the exceptional case when compiling softeare; so i fancy the potential of a core i7 and ssd combo. Going from 10.1 inches to 13 or 14 within the same "seashell" design there is plenty of room for a huge batery.

Ultrabook carrying cases

Anonymous's picture

Ultrabooks are incredible. So, get an incredible carrying case for yours! the FlipCase (www.theflipcase.com) is the only case for your Ultrabook - truly functional, it make mobile computing REAL!

Terabytes... really?

Matt Stevens's picture

I'm not sure what line of work you have to be in to require terabytes of storage to be able to work (are you rendering your own version of Avatar?), but I'm a web developer and I can say I've never needed any more than 30GB with Arch Linux + all my tools.

Sure, my desktop has 600GB worth of Velociraptor storage. However, this isn't the machine I would use to "work". I use this when I'm sat on my arse watching Family Guy episodes.

Yup, Still Need a Laptop

Kasi G's picture

I have to admit, I am a fangirl of Apple's products and this fanaticism makes me purchase a lot of iDevices. My main three are my iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Pro. But I really only got the iPad because it "looked cool." I can't do any sort of work on it, which is why I can never be without my laptop. I still need a robust machine.

Here come the Ultrabooks

IT Support Manchester's picture

Thanks David for this insight into the Ultrabook. I am in your camp on this one and thing really I would rather have the data on my own netbook or laptop then be working on it in the cloud as you never know if you will get the broadband or internet signal you need if you are working off site to enable you to edit your files efficiently.

Thanks for sharing this one.

Reality check

Dentist Melbourne's picture

I continually overestimate my requirements in all aspects of my life, but particularly when it comes to my computing (technology) needs... I'm sure I would be fine with an ultra-book. Great article by the way -

Too Many Batteries

vcdhjasdoup's picture

Even with 8 hours of battery life, one still has to waste time and effort managing the battery. Between my cell phone, table, laptop, bluetooth headphones, etc it is all too much. They each take a different power adapter, last different amounts of time and have different rules for keeping the batteries in to shape.

I love my desktops, they just work.

And interesting evaluation

David Lane's picture

You are correct. And it isn't something I had thought of (although after spending the better part of two hours syncing the family iProducts - I only have an iPod, but the rest have a number of iDevices - I should have).

We have four laptops, two, the netbooks, share a power supply, the others have their own. So managing batteries is something that I can appreciate. It is getting better at Chez Lane, but that could be because we have standardized on iDevices for phone and music, and our other phones, by luck use the same micro-USB connector (Blackberry and Palm).

But I can appreciate the issue.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Are you people forgetting about External Hard Drives??

Wizard's picture

Good article.

But I didn't see anywhere in the comments the external hard drives, if storage is keeping you from buying an Ultrabook, there are plenty of options for external (very portable and cheap) hard drives.

I replaced my original laptop's HD with a SSD and I can tell you, there is no way I'm going back to the traditional hard drives. SSD is a huge improvement in speed; as WorBlux mentions, there are several advantages, and some are faster than others; something that makes me mad is that manufacturers don't put the specs for the SSDs when you buy an Ultrabook. I'm about to buy one next month, but no one have been able to provide me the details about the SSDs, unlike traditional HDs that it is easy to see if it is 4200 rpm, or 5400, 7200, etc, SSDs are usually measured by the Read/Write speeds in MB/s, but none of the options I have seen have the detailed specs. So it is a bit tricky because you don't really know what you buying.

Just for the records, my current laptop's SSD is 64 GB, and I have never ran out of space. I have most of my stuff in a server at home (3 TB), but if I need to carry something around, I have a portable 1 TB that is still with plenty of empty space. I was planning on buying a new laptop more than 2 years ago, but this SSD gave it extra life. so trust me, IMHO SSD is the best improvement in performance for a laptop.

External Hard drives

David Lane's picture

No, I am not forgetting about them, per se, because I do tend to forget them.

The key here is I don't want to carry external hard disks (I have several - one dedicated to ISO images, one for VMs, one for general data storage etc), but the speed of access of an external device is significantly lower, it is less well protected from damage and takes up valuable space in my bag. And that is assuming I remember to pick up the right bundle of disks (and today, I meant to grab my ISOs and forgot).

Maybe you are better organized than I am, but I find that if I don't have it with me, I tend to need it and I also forget to sync the data (or it takes longer than it should) when I actually need it.

So while there are advantages to external drives, I think I could argue that most of us find they are less of an advantage. I have to applaud you though for not using more than 64GB of disk. But for many, I doubt that is a realistic goal. My mapping software takes that much just in 1:100,000 scale map images.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

"takes up valuable space in my bag"

Wizard's picture

you are right with this... and in fact, the more I check the ultrabook specs, the more things I realize I will need to carry in my bag; for example, the Dell's Ultrabook doesn't even have a SD Card reader, most of them don't have ethernet port, none of them have DVD drive (though I don't use it that much anymore, but is useful occasionally), they don't come with standard size ports, for example, HDMI, they are all using Micro HDMI, so at the end of the day, you need to carry a USB Hub, external SD Card reader, External Hard Drive, Adapter for Micro HDMI to Standard, USB Ethernet adapter; no more than 4 GB :| I wish they could get rid of some weight while maintaining a high spec computer without sacrificing connectivity. I really don't mind carrying around my HD and I find SSD a really speed booster, but to be carrying all sort of adapters and connectors doesn't sound right...

the whole theory becomes easy

Learn to fly's picture

the whole theory becomes easy to understand that means a lot and then after the milk and cookies concept was really amazing to understand

ultrabook term trademarked ???

CuisineThai's picture

wtf ? Intel to trademark Ultrabook term ...
money money money ...

this is what strikes me most about this article.... what a sad world

agreed

xtifr's picture

Agreed, the fact that the term is trademarked is definitely the most bizarre aspect of this. On the other hand, if they're freely licensing the term to anyone who meets the spec (the article didn't really make it clear), that's kind of interesting.

As for the spec itself, I suspect lots of people will find such a machine perfectly useful. I often work with terabytes of data myself, but I rarely need it directly on my laptop. I usually keep small subsets around for testing purposes. As long as I have ssh and/or vpn, I can always move my code to the data (instead of the other way around) when I want to do full scale testing or running.

I mean, c'mon, we're (mostly) Linux guys here. Isn't our usual work style to have five xterms open on five remote screen sessions? And isn't this machine plenty powerful enough to run five instances of xterm with five ssh connections through one VPN tunnel? (Or two if you're connected to both home and work?) :)

Flash memory = cloud?

Marcus Rhodes's picture

Actually, flash memory has saved me from myself. My laptops are just that. (As well as seattops) (riding on the passenger seat next to me in the car) A life like that had me replacing the drives every 6-9 months, often with painful data loss. I put a 256GB GSkill SSD in each of my HP dv3510nr laptops as soon as I bought them almost 4 years ago, and they're still working like new. I've never suffered any data or performance loss. Moreover, their performance has been so fantastic (admittedly partially due to Linux instead of Windows) that I've never even considered replacing them. Although, I have to advise the use of easyco's MFT SSD acceleration software as it also extends the life of flash memory.

What do you carry with your mobile device.

Felipe's picture

Overall I agree with your post. I share some of the same concerns regarding the hardware, and data availability.

Since I work in research and development, I do also have terabytes of important data. Years ago I came to the same conundrum regarding my laptop and other mobile devices with respect to the "cloud." Like you, I cannot trust the cloud with my data (for various reasons, some of which you described). I've come to deal with the limited space in my devices when I realized I did not need ALL of my data ALL of the time with me. By having a "sync-able" folders (thanks linux!) with only the needed data I've been able to manage my important "needed-during-the-day" data.

I still agree, when I look for my mobile devices now, I do look for devices where I can get work done and a long battery life.

If you honestly require

Anonymous's picture

If you honestly require 300+GB of data with you at all times, which I doubt, then it's not for you. And you're not among 20% with that requirement. More like 5%.

There are several advantages

WorBlux's picture

There are several advantages of Solid State drives. Mainly in that they are fast, fast, fast, and some models faster still. They load programs so fast that a huge amount of RAM is not necessary. The SSD's have very good random access with almost no seek time involved. Reloading many programs from disk takes so little time you wouldn't notice the difference between disk an RAM via casual observation for many programs. They also consume less than 10% of the power (0.5 Watts vs 5 Watts) , thus you won't need to spin down the drive to save power, increasing responsiveness of the system.

If you can bear to part with some of your digital junk, an SSD is well worth the performance increase, power saving, and increased system responsiveness.

Between the SSD and the rapidBoot tech (an EFI firmware option) boots should be very fast, as well as resuming after suspending to disk. Suspend to disk may very well feel like suspend to RAM.

They compress data by default, so for many use cases capacity is larger than the nominal size. Also if you drop your computer, you won't ruin your hard drive. Most solid state drives are rated to withstand 10,000G of acceleration before sustaining damage. On of the more common failure mode for laptops is the hard drive failing from impact damage.

I have to say that I agree

aodlow's picture

I have to say that I agree your opinion. but, there's need a good hardware like beats by dre since there's a good system.

yep space is not the problem

Torwag's picture

I have to agree with the other comments, space is not the problem.
For me it is the shitty quality they sell nowadays.
Try to get a good quality laptop without all these stupid consumer features.
Being my road warrior companion, I do not want a 16:9 glossy screen, I have no use for 15 more multimedia keys, I have no need for a shiny fashion colour and a fancy looking flat keyboard.
And even if it sounds nice in the first place, 399 bucks for a laptop guarantees that you are going to buy junk! God, I'm the only one who find it perverse that a new laptop is cheaper then a full fetched version of MS Office and Windows? Luckily, I use Linux exclusively.

If you go out and buy hardware today be aware the all produce consumable crappy stuff with built in self destruction to make you run for the next model sooner as you believe.
Anyone with an idea where to buy real business laptops?
Don't point to Lenovo... they converted the Thinkpad line into a consumer crap... my last 2000 bucks model did not last a year and as soon as out of warranty the display was showing a fabrication problem (a big vertical stripe). Check "T410s" and "stripe" on Google.... Lenovo denied to do anything on this or even start a recall for the hundreds of laptops which all show the same problem.

terabytes are overrated

Anonymous's picture

Unless you are working in 3D video production or are an avid gamer, an ultrabook should suit you just fine. Ultrabooks are perfectly capable of running AutoCad, Photoshop...just about anything 98% of professionals could possibly need.

As for your terabytes of data - maybe it's time you stopped carrying around every movie you ever pirated and get back to work.

I don´t have pirated movies

Anonymous's picture

I don´t have pirated movies on my laptop, yet my personal documents are currently up to about 100GB? And growing. How? It is my only computer, and I travel a lot, taking it with me, so I only use external drive for backup copies. Plus my hobby is photography. When you take a photos a lot, it is very easy to get just that taking a lot of space. Plus there are also other things, like presentations, essays for university, legally downloaded materials for university, which take a lot of space. I dont need terabytes, but the 750GB will come handy, over time.

same issue here

weput's picture

I have the same deal on my end (cr2 files, bunch of pdfs etc)... but i have an A-sh93 data external with some stuff.

however, back on the post.. I don't know why anybody can't modify a netbook with a bigger batery and a bigger screen and be done with it?

my asus 1005ha does the job very well (running slackware ofcourse) with the exceptional case when compiling softeare; so i fancy the potential of a core i7 and ssd combo. Going from 10.1 inches to 13 or 14 within the same "seashell" design there is plenty of room for a huge batery.

Well said

Tuxy's picture

One of the best comments I have seen in a while.

Damn see what happens when I

scumtrap's picture

Damn see what happens when I try to comment using a cheap browser inside of a crummy RSS reader from 1998.

Ultradeeznuts!

scumtrap's picture

I hope they continue on with the gimped sissy ultra books, it keeps us mega power users from adopting them. That way we keep rocking our desktops pimped out mack style so that PC building doesn't become even more of a niche. I would hate not being able to build a donkey fucked desktop to rape some FPSes if it became too 'pensive!

I've never actually

Anonymous's picture

I've never actually investigated, but I suspect the requirements are for Ultrabooks to have a flash-based (boot) drive, and don't actually prohibit having a HDD as well.

20%

Kyle's picture

Being part of that twenty percent I too am some what disapointed about this. I use nothing but Linux on all of my computers (unless Netflix is involved) so remote access is fairly simple mostly. My home desktop cont as ins terabytes of data as well. I have come to the point of running multiple servers at home using KVM for various things. Like email server and other things. AMD x6 core CPU with 8GB of RAM my desktop is very well used and appriciated. Also running DD-WRT on my router allows WOL just in case things are powered off. Maybe one day we will find the power and storage of our desktops in the mobile world....

I feel like I do lots of

7h3kk1d's picture

I feel like I do lots of "real" work but I rarely need more than 128 GB of space on my laptop because I do a lot of my work connected to servers. Realistically an Ubuntu or Arch install with most of my basic apps ad documents takes up no more than 40-50 GB and I host my backups and remote files myself. Many of the ultrabooks come standard 4GB of DDR3 RAM so I don't see that as any limiting factor so the biggest factor is processing speed which for many applications doesn't need to be great.

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