IBM ThinkPad docking stations
Designer can be used with a notebook computer, as long as it has a docking station which
can accept the QuadMod32 board. Remember that the QM32 is a full-length ISA (standard
AT-type) card. Docking stations are relatively rare; those that take full-length cards are
even rarer. The notebook/docking station must also be able to take a CD-ROM drive, if you
want to run Showtime shows that use synchronized audio CDs (like Lightspeed's
Most ads barely
mention docking stations. Most magazine reviews ignore them. So you'll have to do some
work to find out if a docking station is available, if it takes full-length cards (and how
many), how much it costs, what other features (drive bay for CD-ROM or other options) are
Docking stations require AC power so you cannot
work on LD on an airplane. LD requires the QM32 board which in turn means the docking
station must be used.
Because the QM32 plugs into an ISA-type
bus slot, the docking station's slot(s) must be compatible with the ISA bus. Some
newer docking stations, such as the IBM SelectaDock III have dual-capable slots that can
run either ISA or PCI bus cards.
Most docking stations, except for the older IBM
Dock I, are fairly large. They can be the size of a desktop computer. They may barely fit
into a luggage bag meeting airlines' overhead bin restrictions. The big portability
savings is in not having to carry a computer monitor, and in being able to undock the
computer to work on non-LD applications.
||You may see "port
replicators". These are micro-docking stations, which just duplicate the ports on a
notebook making it faster to hook up to a desktop configuration. Port replicators have no
slots or bays, so they are useless for LD's needs. (In some IBM ThinkPad notebooks, a port
replicator is required in order to use the docking station; see IBM animation below.)
The screen is important. You can
have dual-scan (also called DSTN) or active-matrix (also called TFT). There are three main
sizes of screens: 640 x 400 (VGA), 800 x 600 (SVGA) and 1024 x 768 (XVGA). You also need
to check the maximum colors available at various sizes.
||Dual-scan is less expensive, but
colors look comparatively faded, and fast-moving objects such as the mouse pointer can
fade out. Usually, there is a "sweet spot" for viewing so only one person can
see the screen image well.
Active-matrix adds $300 to $1000. Colors are
rich and bright, with no movement fade. Four or five people can see the screen
simultaneously, making active-matrix essential if you'll be doing a lot of demos.
Comparison of VGA, SVGA and XVGA. The XVGA 1024 x 768
screen provides 2.5 times more area than the VGA 640 x 480 screen.
||We strongly recommend running LD
on an SVGA (800 x 600) or XVGA (1024 x 768) screen. Most notebooks can run an external
monitor at SVGA resolution. If you are using LD mostly in the studio, you can save money
by getting a notebook with a poor screen (dual-scan VGA) and using a separate monitor at
SVGA resolution. When on the road, the dual-scan VGA screen will be useful enough to edit
and do basic changes.
However, if you want no monitor hassle, then
pay extra to get a large active-matrix SVGA. This way you never need a monitor, and you
can do lots of work comfortably in the field.
A study by Dell has concluded that the optimum
screen size for VGA is 10", for SVGA is 12" and for XVGA is 14". Any
smaller, and type is hard to read. Any larger, and type is "blocky" as the
individual pixels are enlarged.
Some systems have a "virtual screen"
where you only see a limited view (e.g., 640 x 480) but you can scroll around a larger
screen (e.g., 800 x 600). This feature is marginally useful; you should concentrate on the
real screen size and not rely on a larger virtual screen.
||Lasershow Designer works best in
higher color modes, of 32,000 colors or better. This eliminates problems with colors
changing when importing bitmaps. You can run LD in 256-color mode but you might have the
color-change problem. We do not recommend 16-color mode for full-time use.
Therefore, check what the maximum color
resolution is at the highest screen resolution. For example, if you can only get 16 colors
in 800 x 600 mode, then for LD use it is not recommended.
There will be
built-in speakers either on the notebook, the docking station or both. They work fine for
studio use but are barely acceptable for an important presentation. If you're bringing
along a laser projector (to a demo, for example), be sure to also bring good amplifed
speakers. You want powerful sound to reinforce your powerful images.
The $220 "Soundworks" 3-piece (2
satellites, 1 subwoofer) system from Cambridge
Soundworks (800-367-4434) fits into a bag 12" x 12" x 6" and has gotten
consistently good reviews. It is quite portable for use in trade show booths and large
hotel meeting rooms. The "Microworks" system is its bigger brother, with four
times the sound output and even deeper bass.
To find computers which use docking stations, search at
sites such as IDG (PC Magazine, Computer Shopper) using the keyword "docking
station". Printed PC magazines also have reviews of portables, including the ones
listed below. Close examination of pictures in the reviews and ads will help you find
models sold by different companies but made by the same manufacturer (e.g., DTK, EPS,
you can return the equipment if you do not like it. You may find the ad or salesperson's
promises don't always live up to reality.
Click here for information on
the IBM ThinkPad series of notebooks
and related docking stations, for use with the QM32.
This page last updated:
Thursday, June 28, 2007 09:11 PM