Rest In Peace CR-48 / My first Thinkpad

Have you ever been afraid to open a package?

On the first day of Feburary, 2011, St. Louis had a major ice storm.

On this day, the ice was so bad that I couldn’t get my work truck out of my driveway, which was impressive because it slightly slants down toward the road.  Before I had a chance to call into work to let them know, my boss called me and said it’s not worth trying to drive, and to stay home try to do a bit of work remotely and answer phone calls.

I noticed around noon that there was a package left on the doorstep.  I didn’t order anything at all, but it was addressed to me with no return address.

After a few minutes of head scratching I cautiously opened the package.  It was a laptop!  From Google!  For free!

Google was taking applications for the Pilot program earlier in the year, maybe even late 2010.  Before applying, I made sure that I had signed into my Chrome browser and installed some “Apps” and synced my bookmarks.  I also may have hinted that I was also interested in developing my own extensions for Chrome.

How, why, its not clear, but Google gave me a gift.  A 1.6ghz Intel Atom PC, 16GB SSD.  It wasn’t fast, but it was FREE.  I used ChromeOS for a few weeks, but quickly realized that I wanted more than just a web browser out of a laptop.  Apparently someone received a CR48 with a standard BIOS, and it was then dumped and shared.

I ran Windows on it for a while, but eventually settled on Ubuntu.  It was great for a light browsing machine, and I used on and off for over a year.  After the year of abuse, the hinges were completely shot.

A few weeks ago I got a wild hair to try to repair it.  I drilled some holes in the back of the plastic and put screws through it, and it was then stronger than ever.  I installed a new version of Ubuntu with XFCE and realized how nice the machine still was.

This seemed the rebirth of my free laptop.  Next I had the urge to upgrade the little 16GB SSD.  I ended up buying a 120gb MSATA disk.  When I disassembled the machine to install the SSD, I noticed I lost one of the nuts that I used to repair the hinge and decided to beef up the hinge even more.  I took a trip to the hardware store and picked up some bigger hardware, and some new drill bits.

When I got home, while enlarging a hold, my brand new drill bit binded up and what was left scraped across the motherboard near the RAM slot.  It looks like a few leads were severed and now it won’t boot anymore.  The SSD I ordered was useless because I didn’t have any other machine that supported MSATA SSDs.

What did I do?

I ordered a used Lenovo Thinkpad X220 from eBay, and a Bluetooth adapter, ExpressCard 54 USB 3.0 card, and an upgraded Intel 802.11n card from Amazon  The Lenovo supports the MSATA SSD, as well as a standard 2.5″ drive.  So I’ve now got 120GB of solid state storage for my OS and software, and a 320GB 2.5″ HDD for storage.  It would be roughly the same size and weight as the CR48 if I didn’t have the 9 cell battery sticking out the back.  It’s got a matte screen too, which is something I grew to love on the CR48.

I’ve never been happier with a laptop keyboard than I am with the X220.  It feels great to type on, has dedicated volume and mute keys, and with all the function keys.  This was a huge step up from the limited key count of the CR-48.

The only grip I momentarily had (and apparently I’m not alone) is that the very bottom left key is the function key, instead of ctrl like almost any other keyboard.  I found its just an option in the BIOS to swap the two keys, so I immediately change it.  The two keys are not the same size on this model, so I can’t physically swap them like you can on some Lenovos.

The trackpad at first sight was hideously small.  I was shocked that the buttons were above the trackpad instead of below.  What I didn’t realize is that the trackpad is one that physically clicks just like the CR48 and Macs do.  It’s a lot smaller than the one on the CR48 though, but that’s a trade-off for having a bigger keyboard in a compact machine.  It has one of the nub/eraser head/nipple pointer sticks too, but I can’t use it as efficiently as the touchpad.

I’m not trying to do a full review of an almost 2 year old laptop.  This is just some of my impressions coming from a cheap free laptop to my first Lenovo.

Leave a Reply