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Docking stations
Port replicators
Screens
Audio
Specific models
   
Related pages
IBM ThinkPad docking stations
   
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Lasershow 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 "Creation" demo).

Docking stations

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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 available, etc.
        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.

Port replicators

214x3_gray_column_spacer.gif (846 bytes)   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.)
    
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SCREENS

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 vs. active-matrix

214x3_gray_column_spacer.gif (846 bytes)   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.

Size

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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.

Colors

214x3_gray_column_spacer.gif (846 bytes)   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.
       
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AUDIO

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.
       

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SPECIFIC MODELS

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, Fosa).
        Be sure 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   

 
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