Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2021/ Wishful Thinking 010: Portable Desktop Computer

Wishful Thinking 010: Portable Desktop Computer

These days I have two computers in active use, and both are laptops. The first is a netbook with a bad keyboard, an insufficient amount of RAM and CPU, and a good battery life. This netbook is adequate for taking notes, doing email, writing, listening to music and watching downloaded video clips, and some simple programming, but is getting less and less adequate for modern obligations like Zoom and Javascript-heavy websites.

The second computer is a hand-me-down HP laptop with an increasingly bad keyboard. Lately the "Print Screen" key seems to auto-press repeatedly. I also hate the keyboard layout (which is ISO, not ANSI). The computer is powerful enough to run Zoom but not powerful enough for me to use a custom background, which is moot because the built-in webcam is pretty awful anyways.

I never work with this second computer outdoors. It has some battery life but not much. Although the screen is a reasonable size for a laptop, it is too small when I want a lot of screen real estate (such as for some programming applications).

There are a lot of things I like about laptops, but I am getting more and more irritated by them. I kind of wish I had a desktop computer again, because then I could swap out the keyboard when it stopped working, and I could upgrade the screen. But desktops are heavy, bulky and use up lots of electricity.

Thus, my wish. I wish the next computer I buy could have the following properties:

Maybe such a device already exists. I suppose the Raspberry Pi 4 gets close, although as far as I know it does not have SATA ports. There are Mac Minis with M1 chips, but they are expensive and it looks as if they do not have good Linux support.

As far as I know, my best shot may be getting a Pine64 computer. The upcoming Quartz64 single-board computers support most of what I want. There is even a version with a SATA port, but it looks like it shares the USB bus. I do not know whether the Pine64 people will be successful in the long term, but they currently seem to be popular in the FLOSS community.

I also need to think about what to do when it is time to replace my netbook. Netbooks are a dying breed, and the replacement options are Chromebooks or tablets, neither of which appeal to me much. But I hope I do not have to make that decision for a few years yet. Old netbooks are readily available, but old netbooks with working batteries are not, so that will probably be the factor that forces me to consider an upgrade.