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Rugged Laptop/Tablet Suggestions, 2010 Version?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the pick-a-desert-with-less-sand dept.

Portables 249

robbievienna writes "I'm currently living in the Arabian desert. Typically, unless a building has been sealed against the elements, sand and dust get everywhere. I purchased a keyboard cover for one of my laptops, and noticed that there was more accumulation on the underside than the topside. I've had sand crunk up the guts of one laptop and one tablet (Nokia N810). My coworkers who are native to the region tend to trade out their technology every six to twelve months, but I don't want to migrate data and adjust to new hardware that frequently. I was wondering what suggestions people have for working in this type of environment — both for laptops and for tablets. For reference, I work in a pseudo-secured zone where computers (phones, etc.) are not permitted to have cameras. A DVD drive would be nice, but is unnecessary. The more USB ports, the better. The last time the question was posted on Slashdot was five years ago, so I'm presuming that there are new industry leaders."

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EliteBook (4, Informative)

brad-x (566807) | more than 4 years ago | (#31641940)

I've been using the HP EliteBook 8540w and it's been hard to destroy. I ran an HP demo unit through the mill too (dropped it from six feet on all corners, etc) - it's rated for military use, and I'm pretty sure it's one step below the ruggedized laptops you can get with armor plating.

Re:EliteBook (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642026)

Why do police dogs keep licking their asses? To get the taste of nigger out of their mouths!

Amazing how I post a nigger joke and people scramble and stumble over themselves to be the first one to mod it down. But I can't walk through the black ghetto part of town without legitimate fear for my own safety even though I am not saying anything or doing anything or provoking anyone. Nobody sees that one as much of a problem. Fix that and you'll remove the inspiration for every last nigger joke on the planet. Or did you think such jokes occur in a vacuum, for no reason? The part of town with the highest crime, highest incidence of hard drug use, highest amount of gang activity, etc. also has the overwhelmingly highest number of black people. I am supposed to think their skin color has nothing to do with that. Right. That's not racist unless facts themselves can be racist.

Re:EliteBook (0)

nashv (1479253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642130)

You are confused between correlation and causality.

Re:EliteBook (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642230)

Huh. That's interesting. Usually people only mix up correlation and causation. Now causality comes into the question too? What is the world coming to? Get off my lawn!

Re:EliteBook (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642232)

Perhaps black communities are suffering because racist fucks like you have constructed a system in which their best options for advancement are through illegal activities.

Perhaps years of institutional racism have contributed to an anti-white sentiment in black communities.

Or perhaps you are just a gigantic fucking idiot.

Re:EliteBook (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642298)

Someone mod this guy up! I would, but I'm out of points...

If there's one thing I hate about /., it's the persistence of bad racist/homophobic slurs. Like most people, I ignore it, but I'm really happy to see a direct, short and to-the-point response.

Posting as AC to avoid the incoming junk-responses

Re:EliteBook (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642426)

i thought like you before, but then i realise that no affican contry get to gouvern it self unless it is occupied by european power. Also, look at Haiti; All the building collaped but one foreign build hotel. Haitian cant build shit correclty.

Maybe there is such things as less intelligent human race. While i dont like the idea and belive in equity, i have to consider i could be worng.

If indeed, on average, black people has less intelect capability then we must accept evidence and try the best we can to help. We should be helping out neighbours, not waiting for them to destroy them self in the povrety of ghettos. Ignoring facts and act like everyone is perfectly equal is not helping anything. Black peoples aparently need more targeted education programs, black peoples community need more school funding. We must stop dening races differences and start do what is right for everyone.

Your anti-anti-racism is the worng attitude. Maybe pro-races is better; Respect every races and culture's strenght and weakness. Work for the hapiness and accomplishment of everyone.

Re:EliteBook (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642484)

You could start with sharing your resources with them, and not dumping your trash in their backyards. That would help more than your pretend-serious responses.

Re:EliteBook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642630)

Fine examples of "English" sentences written by a member of the superior race:

"We should be helping out neighbours, not waiting for them to destroy them self in the povrety of ghettos."
"Your anti-anti-racism is the worng attitude."
"Maybe pro-races is better; Respect every races and culture's strenght and weakness."

Re:EliteBook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31643170)

Right. Because all white people speak English as their native language.

Re:EliteBook (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31643306)

I'm black. But unlike many other black folks, I was smart enough to realize the importance of a good education, even if it was provided by the "white man" (although most of my teachers were themselves well-educated blacks).

For every black who bothers to make something out of himself or herself, there are, unfortunately, probably 10 or more who voluntarily don't. This is the problem. Too many blacks actively reject the public education system. Having voluntarily deprived themselves of education and thus having no legitimately-employable skills, these blacks quickly turn to gangs, crime, and drugs. This causes harm to themselves and their communities.

It's not that there are white people intentionally telling blacks to not attend school, or telling them to drop out, or preventing them from attending in the first place. It's quite the opposite; most white people would love for black youth to put more emphasis on education. Doing so would help the community as a whole spend less money on policing, less money on fixing vandalism perpetrated by black gangs, and just make it a nicer area to live in.

Re:EliteBook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31643308)

Oh, how your heart bleeds. Want a medal?

Re:EliteBook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31643276)

Thank you for your self-fulfilling logic you asshole. It would be useless to dispute the fact that you are a dumb fuck but that's a waste of my time.

Signed,
black Slashdot reader that is not involved in crime, drug use, and gang activity

iPad is still better. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642266)

I'd recommend waiting until the iPad comes out, then get one.

Re:iPad is still better. (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642324)

Not if you want to do some REAL computing on it, unless it is more than just a tablet?

Re:iPad is still better. (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642838)

TFS said:

The more USB ports, the better.

The iPad is somewhat deficient in this area, unless you get a docking unit for it. And since the docking unit provides only one USB port, maybe a USB hub would also be useful. Even if you're willing to lug them around together, it's a bit inconvenient.

Re:iPad is still better. (2, Informative)

brad-x (566807) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642342)

I doubt the iPad is going to be sturdy or rugged by any stretch of the imagination.

Re:iPad is still better. (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642474)

It certainly won't be explicitly "rugged" in any serious way, nor will there be any warranty express or implied, concerning dropping it; but it wouldn't at all surprise me if it ends up being pretty durable against ingress of sand purely as a side effect of Apple's aesthetic preferences.

Steve and his guys hate slots, buttons, ports, battery bays, or anything that breaks up the polished outer surface or suggests that the user might be able to do anything more invasive than plug a set of headphones in. Consequently, their designs aren't terribly easy for stuff to get into(or once it gets in, out of, as anybody who has ever had to deal with the "single speck of dust/crud/eyelash hair that somehow got behind the iPod screen cover" problem can attest).

Re:iPad is still better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642384)

WTF. the guy is asking about a rugged laptop or tablet, not a tampon.

The iPad comment was a joke.. (2, Informative)

Fussen (753791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642610)

The iPad comment was a joke and it is just not built for the outside. It's barely meant for a kitchen with a tile floor.

If you don't want to touch the toughbook, maybe the Dell Latitude E6400 XFR http://www.dell.com/content/products/productdetails.aspx/laptop-latitude-xfr-e6400?c=us&l=en&s=bsd [dell.com]

Re:The iPad comment was a joke.. (1)

Fussen (753791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642736)

Think about it, seriously.. " The more USB ports, the better."

Re:iPad is still better. (2, Informative)

mellon (7048) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642696)

If it's got enough computes and actually does what he wants, that's good advice. It's got no moving parts, so dust getting inside it is probably okay, although you'll have to be careful of the screen - I'd use screen protectors religiously, and only change them when you're in a steamy room after showering (I know that sounds weird, but it really does help). The good thing about this solution is that you can keep a couple of keyboards around so that when one of them gets too crapped up to use, you can swap in another one. You can always repair the crapped-up one in your copious free time, but it's good to have spares.

On a similar note, if you need more power, it sounds like HP is coming out with a tablet soon. It would have the same advantages, although you'd probably want to order it with an SSD rather than a spinning hard drive. It would also run windows, so if you're locked in to that solution it might be a better choice for you.

Having said that, I've been working with Macs in a desert environment for a long time, and the worst that's ever happened to me is that the keyboard got squeaky after a while. I don't know if that's because the mac keyboard is better, or I'm better at protecting it, or we don't have as much airborne dust as you do. Probably the latter, in which case my advice might not help that much.

Re:iPad is still better. (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643322)

It's got no moving parts

Does AT&T have 3G coverage in the Arabian desert?

out of your box solutions including OS X (3, Insightful)

arete (170676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642752)

I realize you asked for a ruggedized laptop. However, that everyone else replaces theirs regularly points to the idea that you should consider that as a serious alternative and not discard it out of hand. I called this 'out of your box' because they're all doing it, and you're rejecting it a priori. I see basically three legitimate issues with this solution:

a) maintaining a consistent interface for you to be used to
b) providing easy data migration to the replacement device
c) total cost of multiple non-ruggedized devices compared to the realistic lifespan of ruggedized ones.

I'm not suggesting that my parent post had the right thoughts in mind, but Apple does provide surprisingly good, quick and easy solutions for a&b in OS X and the iPhone; I would expect the iPad to continue this.

Apple is not historically great about 'c', but that sand environment is hard even on the modestly ruggedized ones so it's not impossible.

Of course, I imagine their are .e.g Linux distros with good solutions to a & b and other laptop vendors who tend to have a consistent interface.

Of course you might need to account for shipping, purchasing, processing, or environmental costs in 'c', but even on the environmental front it's not a given that one device is better than 3, esp if it gets recycled well (many parts of the sandworn one will still work, and it'll be early enough that those, minus your HD, are reasonable used replacement parts in the right shop...)

Re:EliteBook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642904)

Does it blend?

get a small netbook... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31641942)

then underclock it.

then laminate it.

Re:get a small netbook... (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31641960)

then laminate it.

Will you please post the video of this process on Youtube?

Re:get a small netbook... (3, Funny)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642340)

Can't. He laminated his camera and glued the lens cover shut...

Re:get a small netbook... (2, Informative)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642070)

I was thinking along the same lines. You have three basic issues in the desert:

1) exposed vents / heat. it has to be able to stay cool and either have a filter on the vents or no vents

Doesn't the iPad lack vents? Otherwise you almost need to screen/filter them in. Could be tricky. Someone may make a laptop case for a specific model or models of laptop that have a filter over the vent locations? Camera could be a problem for the ipad. (you can get them removed, and apple can offer the service iirc)

2) exposed keyboard - you could use a keyboard cover, and use some rubber cement, doublestick tape whatever to seal around the edges. keeping the trackpad button clean could be challenging. Most laptops support trackpad clicking anyway so you may not need the button to stay working.

3) exposed ports - I don't think this is going to be an easy one without a ruggedized design. Good packing tape over any ports you're not using for starters.

It doesn't look like the poster is concerned about a drop-proof machine, he's just trying to keep the sand and dust out of it, so most ruggedized designs are overkill for protection (I don't think "waterproof" is on his list!) and will be underpowered as a result due to cooling issues.

As far as "more usb ports" goes, get a hub. Most net books are only going to have 1 or 2 usb ports anyway, and hubs are cheap to replace. I'd expect usb ports to wear out quickly though in a sandy/gritty environment.

Re:get a small netbook... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642350)

He may care about waterproof if he intends to be in contact with it... I destroyed a Thinkpad by using it on my lap in the tropics during the dry season... it didn't get wet from weather but from my legs sweating in the heat of day and heat from laptop. It seeped in and corroded the hell out of the machine.

Good Luck (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31641970)

Depending on the exact timeframe you're looking at for the standard replacement cycle there vs. your total expected residency, you may be better off financially just going the replacement route and mitigating damage by keeping your N810 sealed in a Ziploc bag or something. Seriously, the last time I looked at prices for truly "ruggedized" equipment, I was floored and my wallet felt violated just by reading the prices.

Use a disposable laptop (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31641980)

Try getting a cheap netbook, and just replace it when it dies.

but I don't want to migrate data and adjust to new hardware that frequently

Keep spares in sealed plastic bags so that you won't have to change hardware. For data, put everything (including O/S) on a rugged external hard drive. A single USB/firewire hard drive should be easier to protect than an entire computer.

Re:Use a disposable laptop (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642534)

Whether netbook or notebook, you'll probably want an SSD(hard drives have filters; but SSDs don't even breathe air). If you get some common, cheap model, (ideally with a an easily accessible drive location, not one of the epic deconstruction project ones), you should be able to just pop the SSD out of the dead unit and pop it in to the new one, boot and go. No real "migrating" or "adjusting" involved. You'll still want backups, of course, because SSDs can and do die; but, as long as your hardware stays the same, the only "migrating" you should have to do is a simple disk swap.

Buy two. Seal one in an airtight bag, with some dessicant packets, and put it back in its padded packaging, then stash it under your bed or in a closet or something. Use the other one. When it dies, or becomes excessively full of sand and flakiness, pull the drive out of it, blow any grit off, and put it in to #2. Boot #2 and order a third from the electronics site of your choice. When #3 arrives, seal it and store it until #2 dies.

Wasteful, sure; but you can easily repeat this procedure a fair few times before you equal the price of a single "rugged" notebook.

Re:Use a disposable laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642756)

Use Linux, and the hardware doesn't need to be same. Just pop it out of one machine and into the next. The most you'll need to do is switch video drivers.

Re:Use a disposable laptop (4, Informative)

sadtrev (61519) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643014)

Fine sand is a killer - it gets everywhere.

I used to work on powder processing instrumentation and regularly had to take laptop computers onsite to calibrate instruments. We used to use Dells with external IP-54 keyboards and masking tape over all the unused ports. On a few occasions I had to take a normal keyboard they didn't last more than a few keystrokes (I'd guess 20 per key before they failed).

This was lactose, coal, silica, calcium carbonate, etc. When we started work with metal powder we invested in proper IP54 laptops - no fan, membrane keyboard and rubber plugs on all the ports. Heavy, underpowered (800MHz PIII) but they worked. We looked at some "ruggedised" efforts but without the IP rating they were really just slightly less prone to drop damage.

Re:Use a disposable laptop (1)

plierhead (570797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643082)

Not to belittle your environmental challenges, but we treat our own laptops as operating in a hostile environment. Statistically most of them will be stolen, lost of suffer catastrophic failure within 3 years. Mostly stolen.

While you do still want a rugged laptop, ultimately it is better to make sure you have a fantastic recovery plan for when shit happens.

One way is to go fully virtualised. Treat your host operating system as a basic shell, and instead install yoru real software on a VM. We use VMWare Workstation, Virtual box or others would work too.

Now fix your backup/recovery strategy. Backup your entire VM frequently - daily is ideal. A good way is to make use linux for the host, and keep the VM itself on an LVM volume - then you can read-consistent copies using LVM snaphots in the background with no impact on the guest - no pausing, no shutdown needed. You might also want to do a file-level back from within the VM of your very important files as a double safeguard.

Now you are sorted. Your machine will die, and when it does, you simply buy new one, re-install a host, then recover your VM onto the new one.

This also gives you an excuse to get a fairly grunty laptop - running VMs gives it a real good workout.

Panasonic Toughbook (3, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642006)

They've got units that are rated for such harsh environments. They're not cheap, though.

Apple (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642030)

FWIW, I just spent a few weeks in the Moroccan Sahara and most of the natives who had laptops, had a Macbook

Re:Apple (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642428)

How can that be modded offtopic? He was in the Moroccan Desert, and people WHO LIVED THERE had Macbooks. I am no Mac fan but surely if it works for them it might work for the purpose of this story?

Re:Apple (-1, Troll)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643234)

most of the natives who had laptops, had a Macbook

If one person had a laptop and it was a Macbook that'd be true. And it could be one, or maybe not, the way the imbecile switches between plural and singular. Oh, and the comma can fuck off.

But given the camel-jockeys' attitude to homosexuality I suspect you can be pebble-dashed to death for owning Apple hardware.

dust filter bags (1)

ffflala (793437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642062)

What about using a computer dust filter bag? You could cut a window for typing and seal around the keyboard cover. You could also create flaps for the optical drive and ports, though an extension hub might make more sense and provide for a tighter seal.

Re:dust filter bags (4, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642134)

What about using a computer dust filter bag? You could cut a window for typing and seal around the keyboard cover. You could also create flaps for the optical drive and ports, though an extension hub might make more sense and provide for a tighter seal.

Put the laptop in a place where dust won't be such a problem (like in a bar fridge) and run cables for mouse, keyboard, and external video. bar fridges are ~$100, and not only will it keep your laptop cool, but your Dew as well.

Or just say you're "sandboxing" your code.

The clean and cold fridge. (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642946)

I think that's an excellent idea. He just needs to look at the fridge and get a good schematic so wherever he drills the access holes for the cables doesn't hit anything important. Then once the cables are through, with a little duct tape gasket action, silicone seal the holes further.

    Before I read your post I was going to suggest a clean box with reversible gloves and a glass front to see through, but your idea is better.

Re:The clean and cold fridge. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643238)

"Think of the beer!"

It's not like the fridge even has to get down to freezing - just keeping the interior at room temperature would be good enough, though if it CAN get down to almost freezing, it not only adds the possibility of overclocking, but also the aforementioned beer to cool the human as well.

Re:dust filter bags (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642268)

In that case just use an external keyboard, which are cheap enough to throw away.

There are two reasons for a non-local to be in the desert. One is because you are deployed and making TDY money, and the other is you are a contractor and making phat bank. Either way, two decent notebooks and external backup are affordable.

I'd get a couple of refurb Thinkpads and load the second to keep as an updated spare, and ship each in a Stormcase or Hardigg or similar tough container where they would live when I wasn't using them. Given that there is nothing to do off-duty in the Giant Hostile Ashtray that is most of the Middle East, I'd be looking forward to keeping any machines I had ready for immediate use.

get canned air and warranty (4, Interesting)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642080)

I work in the construction industry and instruct our guys that work on site to blast the openings of their laptops/computers with canned air at least once a month.

I get them "spill proof" keyboards as those are sealed and keep things from getting deep in the keyboard. Just turn it upside down and shake it. Plus you can wash them if you really want them clean.

I find that there isn't much more you can do. The sand/dust causes extra wear and tear and the equipment will have to be replaced more often. I buy the "full coverage" warranty for equipment that will primarily be used on construction sites and it pays for itself when you constantly have to replace burnt out PSUs, video cards and CPUs that overheat and die due to clogged fans..

Rome (2, Insightful)

Great Big Bird (1751616) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642086)

When in Rome, Do as the Romans do.

Re:Rome (3, Funny)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642228)

Uh...so he should crucify every native he sees until he no longer has a dust problem? Sir, your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Rome (3, Funny)

alexx (28316) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642876)

Be fair, we rarely crucify the natives.

Re:Rome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642882)

Romans didn't have laptops, dumbass, they used mainframes!

Rugged Notebooks (5, Informative)

Island Admin (1562905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642088)

A quick google came up with the following website: http://www.ruggednotebooks.com/ [ruggednotebooks.com]
They have notebooks with sealed keyboards, low reflectivity (especially greate for the desert conditions :) ).

Field notebooks (5, Informative)

juventasone (517959) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642120)

There are models that meet MIL-STD-810 [wikipedia.org] . Have you seen any of these tried in your environment? Some of them have already been mentioned such as the Panasonic Toughbooks [panasonic.net] and HP Elitebooks [hp.com] .

Re:Field notebooks (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642250)

I live in the same environment. Panasonic toughbook or replace shit every 6 months. If it's in a very nice building, then a thinkpad, because it weights half as much, but is rugged enough to last that long. I'm thinking about flash drives from the heat perspective. However, toughbook is the answer.

Re:Field notebooks (1)

tuttleturtle42 (1234802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642768)

Actually, the toughbook tablets are smaller and only 5 lbs. The normal laptops are 8 lbs or so when looking at the fully-ruggeds. The CF-19 (and older CF-18) are actually surprisingly light, especially for the ruggedness. I remember about two years ago looking through Best Buy at the laptops just because I was curious how they were in terms of weight, and for actual laptops, there was maybe 3 there which were under 5 lbs. I use a CF-19, though not in that sort of environment. There's only a 10.4" screen, but if that's large enough, then it is a really nice machine, and a tablet.

Re:Field notebooks (1)

Maeslin (1739760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643386)

I can second on Toughbooks, those things deserve their name. Depending on how rugged you want (say, completely overkill) and if you have too much money to bother counting, you can also look for a SwitchBack UMPC. Bit low on the computing power but the ability to hotswap batteries and the whole backpack module idea is pretty interesting. (http://www.bdatech.com/switchback/)

Dell Outlet (4, Informative)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642126)

Dell XFRs start around $1,600 from the Outlet, with Core 2 Duos, no webcam, and designed to operate in the conditions you describe. I don't think they're quite as rugged as the Panasonic Toughbooks, but you can just buy two XFRs for the same price and switch the hard drives out if one breaks.

http://outlet.us.dell.com/ARBOnlineSales/topics/global.aspx/arb/online/en/InventorySearch?c=us&cs=28&l=en&s=dfb [dell.com]

Motion Computing (1)

chocobanana (974767) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642154)

Motion computing makes some fine tablets. The J3400 is particularly interesting and I believe it has earned some good reviews: http://www.motioncomputing.com/products/index.asp [motioncomputing.com] Couple it with a bluetooth wireless keyboard and its completely sealed design should work great.

SSD not spinny disk (3, Insightful)

olddoc (152678) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642156)

The 2 things that fail on computers are hard disks and fans. I wonder if a really low power cpu could run without sucking dust in if a cpu cooling fan wasn't needed much.

Buy two (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642172)

My suggestion would be to buy more than one of whatever you like that meets your standards, and then swap drives as they die. When it comes to sand and dust there isn't much that will stand up to it for more than a year without being outrageously expensive.

panasonic toughbooks (1)

octabob (915014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642194)

Hey I've never experienced such harsh conditions like the ones described but first thing that came to mind while reading your question was the panasonic toughbook series. I've heared and seen some pretty amazing things being done to those toughbooks and they stood tall... It's surely best to do some research but i would surely take those toughbooks in consideration... As with most things it's a matter of choice, you could go for an easy and affordable to replace solution (netbook,...) but since rebuilding backups and stuff every 12 months would like to be avoided, going with a rugged notebook would be worth the thought... http://www.panasonic.com/business/toughbook/toughbook-products.asp [panasonic.com]

OLPC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642198)

link

I heard they're really good in rough environment.

Oddball Suggestion... (3, Interesting)

jjoelc (1589361) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642202)

Stretch a ladies nylon stocking over the whole thing... This will take some experimenting to figure out the exact best method (maybe one over the base, one over the screen...), but has the advantages of:
-being extremely cheap
-easily removed/replaced
-thin/flexible/transparent enough to cover the keyboard, and even the screen with
-should filter out the worst offender category of sand/dust without seriously impeding air flow
-will also cut down on glare and reflectivity

For $1 a try, I figure it is worth mentioning...

Re:Oddball Suggestion... (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642348)

I was going to suggest wrapping the body (sans monitor) of the Notebook in Saran wrap but so that you can still fold it up and get to the ports/power_button. The keyboard seems to be the biggest weakness. Don't use it. Instead, get one of those cheap, flexible ones such as this and plug it into the USB:

http://www.amazon.com/Adesso-Flexible-Compact-Keyboard-AKB-220/dp/B000XYL55M [amazon.com]

The OLPC XO-1 also has such a keyboard integrated, IIRC.

Re:Oddball Suggestion... (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642648)

Those silicone keyboards are, indeed, substantially resistant to dust, modest exposure to any fluid that isn't a nasty solvent, and so forth.

Be warned, though, the keyfeel is bloody awful. Worse than a $5 basic-plastic desktop keyboard. Worse than the worst $350 wal-mart special emachines laptop keyboard you've prayed you'd never have to use again.

There is next to no feedback, audible or tactile, so you find yourself either typing really slowly and watching for each letter to appear, or looking constantly at the keyboard, or really mashing on it. The keys also sort of "roll" under your fingers. Normal keys travel up and down. These ones can tilt and slither sideways just a little bit. Really, really, annoying. Unless either logistics or budget are very tight constraints, I'd just get a crate of basic plastic cheapies and swap them when they die.

Re:Oddball Suggestion... (4, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642608)

should filter out the worst offender category of sand/dust without seriously impeding air flow

Desert dust is distinct from the grains of sand you're accustomed to. It's been worn down to nearly microscopic, is highly abrasive, very light, and nylons won't keep that kind of stuff out. And even if they could, you're obstructing the airflow to critical components which will overheat. He did mention desert correct? Deserts are (as a rule) quite hot.

You need purpose-built tools to work in that environment.

Re:Oddball Suggestion... (1)

UnObnubilationNation (1697288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643384)

Deserts are (as a rule) quite hot.

except of course the two largest deserts on earth, the Arctic and Antarctic.

Quite right though, a nylon would act somewhat like a sieve, keeping out the larger particles, but doing nothing to impede the finer. It's these finer particles that would be doing most of the damage, since they can work themselves further into the hardware.

I'd be looking at a SSD, minimizing moving components means less places for the dust to get into. As far as heat goes, I'd think about getting a processor that is significantly more powerful than your needs, that way it would never need to work particularly hard, and subsequently reduce your chances of frying it.

Use Victoria's Secret brand (1)

mrflash818 (226638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643278)

...that way the end result will be sexy.

A fan-less computer (5, Informative)

Kozmik (62265) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642214)

You can spend a lot of money and buy a ruggedized laptop ( panasonic toughbooks are the best known examples and they have a range of models from semi ruggedized to fully ruggedized ).

However the feature you want from the ruggedized unit is the fact that fully ruggedized laptops are setup to be fanless ( the better designed ones ). Fanless means they don't need to suck in air, which would need to be filtered, which then becomes a point of failure.

So for example most netbooks for example run an atom cpu that just needs a heatsink and no fan. That then eliminates the point of failure of the fan sucking in dust. There are desktop choices that are the same, underclocked or low power cpu's that don't produce enough heat to need more then a heatsink so can run fanless.

Re:A fan-less computer (1)

ghoul (157158) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642372)

Heat Sunks wont be very effective in a desert nvironment where the ambient air temp is hitting 50 C. Even an atom would need a fan in the desert

At that temp the operator dies anyway (2, Interesting)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643134)

Heat Sunks wont be very effective in a desert nvironment where the ambient air temp is hitting 50 C. Even an atom would need a fan in the desert

Sorry, I've spent time in the Sahara desert, and it doesn't usually get that hot there - if it did the people retreat to someplace cooler. At 50 C (122 F) all the people will be dead, so there won't be anyone to worry about heatsinks or fans.

There are heat pump devices, such as Peltier effect devices which with a large heatsink can keep things pretty cool even in the (fictional) temperature you mentioned. I have a project at work that's using Pelter devices to keep an electronic device similar in size and power dissipation to an external hard drive down around 80 F in a 130 F environment.

Re:A fan-less computer (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643160)

Heat Sunks wont be very effective in a desert

Hmmmm, maybe something where the heat-sink and fan are on the outside?
     

server and netbook (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642216)

Put all of your files on a server on the internet that you can securely connect to, and get a cheap netbook to work on.

My Dell XPS survived a year in Kuwait & Afghan (3, Interesting)

Fallon (33975) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642234)

I've got a now 3ish year old Dell XPS M1710 laptop that survived living in Afghanistan for a year, Kuwait for a year & now a year or so back here in Colorado. Not light, but it did good as my gaming rig. I was in decent quality buildings for being down range, but pretty crappy & unsealed by U.S. standards. I've gone through 3-4ish power bricks for it, but I blame crappy generator power for that. And when the power bricks died, the laptop would only operate in reduced power mode (throttle CPU & not charge the battery), but would still run the laptop. Not bad for bouncing between 110v & 220v power of very dubious quality.

Blow it out frequently with a can of air & it should do pretty good.

Software + hardware based suggestion (2, Interesting)

middlemen (765373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642274)

Software suggestion: Embrace cloud computing for all your data needs (assuming you have a good internet connection.) This will remove the problem of having to change hardware and replicate settings all the time.

Hardware suggestion: Cheap netbooks that can be resold to unsuspecting people in the desert :)

Re:Software + hardware based suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642572)

there isn' internet in the dessert. just save everything on a 32gb sd card and pull it out if the netbook dies. bring a few

Re:Software + hardware based suggestion (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643326)

there isn' internet in the dessert

But there are lots of calories.

X200 Tablet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642326)

Just picked up a Lenovo X200 tablet - after about 2 months of research. Crushes all others. Built for business and usability. They just released a toughbook version too.

Itronix Duo-Touch II (2, Informative)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642394)

I carried a Itronix Duo-Touch II for a few months during field-work. It is a very robust tablet and is pretty much everything-proof (other than driving over it with a truck).

http://www.gd-itronix.com/index.cfm?page=Products:Duo-Touch_II [gd-itronix.com]

It is pricey as Itronix was purchased by General Dynamics but is mil rated.

do what the locals do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642404)

Just do it, they probably know best.

Hermetically sealed cabinets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642424)

Put everything in hermetically sealed cabinets except for SSD or flash-based netbooks which are only used to run remote desktop or VNC. If the netbook gets gunked, sell it on and get a new one. Since it never has any data on it, the netbooks will be fully interchangeable. If you need any local data, then use a thumb drive for that, not the netbook's flash. About 11 years ago I set up cabinets like this to deploy Internet dialup PoPs around rural Australia. The cabinet that we used was sold by a German manufacturer and was called a telecoms cabinet. The cooling is done with a heat exchanger so that the internal air circulates indepently and separately from the outside air.

Forget the hardware! (1)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642442)

I don't have any suggestions on the hardware but how often do you plan to swap out your lungs or is there a medical procedure to flush out the grit?

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642500)

For some real rugged stuff, check out companies like: http://www.handheldgroup.com/regions/worldwide/

I think people are over looking the obvious choice (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642552)

If you are in the middle east you should consider native technologies.

The abacus of course.

The beads on most modern abici are designed to last hundreds of years.

Panasonic Tougbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642590)

I would take a look at the Panasonic Toughbook. It has been designed to run in environments like this with vibration such as in a moving car, excessive heat, excessive cold, and dust particles. I've heard many stories about these being deployed in the Middle East, including one of an American Army guy whose Toughbook took a bullet designed for him.

New leaders? (3, Informative)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642612)

so I'm presuming that there are new industry leaders

Not really...It's a tough nut to crack, so the market leaders in the ruggedized notebook sector tend to get there and say there. As others have said, your best (& costliest) options are Panasonic and Itronix (General Dynamics).

Re:New leaders? (1)

TomaCzar (1599501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643116)

The Panasonic has rave reviews all over the web and is likely to be the direction I go with my next laptop however, the Itronix (General Dynamics) GoBook X-R1 is SHITE! Absolute shite. I'm not saying this based solely upon my personal experience, but the experience of my former employer who bought and deployed five of these turds, only to have all of them fail. They are horrible, stay away.

I have a CF-18 (Panasonic) that has worked great for my purposes but OP's needs and my own aren't completely aligned. Years ago, performing military operations in the Mojave, we had regular old laptops and went through lots and lots of canned air. This may very well be the best option even to this day.

Full Disclosure: I now work for a company that competes directly with GD, however the company that purchased, deployed, and eventually gave away the XR-1s to its employees (myself included) due to their uselessness had nothing against GD and actually wanted them to work. Suckers!

hmm (1)

JBr0wn (1777358) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642640)

per the comment above, there arent many fanless netbooks. My atom makes a lot of heat, definitely needs its fan. I am always inclined to go with lenovo, they are damn rugged. Im sure the panasonic toughbooks can take a beating, but they are kind of expensive for what you get performance wise. The pantyhose suggestion sounds legit.

Opentec rugged Notebooks/Tablet PCs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642764)

Opentec [opentec.com.au]

Opentec make MIL-STD 810F compliant notebooks and tablet PCs. They supply to the Australian Defence Forces so I would think their stuff is quite tough.

The price might be a bit on the high end, but I think you're getting what you pay for.

Samsung B2100 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642826)

I'm using a Samsung B2100 dumb-phone and I like it. It's main selling point is that it's waterproof, but it should be dustproof as well. It's UI is a bit wonky at times, but it's about on par with every other dumb-phone UI I've used.

Roda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642862)

Roda with RK886EX (Rocky III+). Got free BIOS and stuff. Expensive Germany stuff but funny. No I do not work there.

Panasonic Toughbook (1)

DizTorDed (164355) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642912)

The keyboard is sealed. The external ports have covers. The harddrive is easily replacable without taking the laptop apart. I have the CF-19 for it's size but it is too small for some people. There are other modles with full size keyboard and a large screen.

PIC computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642940)

It is a small box with no air vents that is very low power. You can get them cheap. They are slow, but very low power, they will run off a 12v battery hooked to a solar panel. http://www.amdboard.com/pic.html

General Dynamics (1)

Qyouth101 (546913) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642952)

I would check out the General Dynamics GoBook or General Dynamics GD8000. Pricey new, but reasonable used, fully ruggedized. Though I bought a Lenovo T510, and its a very very durable machine.

Ask The Folks Who Are Familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31642960)

with the desert [pbs.org] .

A search of Amazon [amazon.com] might help.

Cheers,
Yours In Astrakhan,
K. Trout

OLPC (5, Informative)

FreeBSD evangelist (873412) | more than 4 years ago | (#31642964)

The One Laptop Per Child program (I have an original XO) builds for that exact environment.

http://laptop.org/en/laptop/hardware/index.shtml [laptop.org]
http://laptop.org/en/laptop/hardware/specs.shtml [laptop.org]

There is a lightweight version of Windows they can run if you can't make it with "Sugar". You can find them on eBay.

AMREL Rocky (5, Informative)

JungleBoy (7578) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643054)

I use an AMREL Rocky notebook in my field work. Hop out of the helicopter and toss it on the rocks while you unload other gear. Rain? No problem. Dust? No problem, it's completely sealed. The bottom is actually a finned heat sink bonded to the CPU. Since it has no fans/vents, it is a bit under-clocked. But it's awesome. http://www.amrel.com/rugged-computers/default.asp [amrel.com]

Check out the Panasonic Tuffbook line of products (1)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643092)

I suspect you will find what you need somewhere in the Panasonic Tuffbook [panasonic.com] line of products. The market to industrial, field maintenance (the people who drive up mountains in their trucks to get to microwave towers and things like that), even the military. Then aren't always the latest technology because the are more focused on dependability and survivability.

A simple solution (1)

DryGrian (1775520) | more than 4 years ago | (#31643372)

Seal your tablet in a vacuum-sealer, like the kind designed for food. I've been pondering ways to reinforce my netbook against impacts. I'm reluctant to just fabricate a steel case for it.
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