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Computers Blog Post:

Why are there so few solar-powered laptops? And other thoughts on laptops

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4/25/2016 - Why are there so few solar-powered laptops? And other thoughts on laptops (Computers)


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Why are there so few solar-powered laptops? And other thoughts on laptops
Monday, April 25th, 2016
05:30:09 GMT


Look at how astonishingly tiny this Wikipedia article is!

Wikipedia: Solar notebook

I found some old articles on two solar notebooks, the Samsung NC215S and the Sol. Here's one of those articles:

From News.Discovery.Com - Solar-Powered Laptop Lasts 10 Hours on a Charge (Aug. 6, 2013)

I wasn't able to find any Samsung NC215S solar notebooks to buy on eBay or Amazon. The Sol laptop store provides the following link to their partner CDW, but as I write this, there are only 5 solar laptops listed:

The one that seems best (in my opinion) has 8 GB of RAM, but only a 2.16 GHz processor.

Given the reputed popularity of "green" products, I thought it would be much easier to find a wide variety of solar-powered laptops.

I wonder if someday Panasonic will make solar-powered fully-rugged Toughbooks, convertible into a tablet, with a really nice-looking touchscreen - preferably a nice, big 4:3 ratio screen, instead of yet another one of those horrible widescreens which seemingly most modern laptops are blighted with.

I sort of wish I could afford brand-new Toughbooks. Judging by the cheap but ancient (from 2002, according to this timeline!) Toughbook CF-28s I got in 2014 on eBay, I suspect fully-rugged Toughbooks might be the sturdiest, best-made laptops currently in existence. And if my Toughbook CF-28s had a lot more RAM than 512 MB, at least slightly faster processors than 1.0 GHz, and more sensitive touchscreens, they'd probably be my favorite laptops that I own. Their screens actually look nicer than my probably newer Dell Latitude D510's screen.

I doubt any Toughbooks would qualify for the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) "Respects Your Freedom" certification for hardware, but I would be pleasantly surprised if they did.

I also have a newer, more expensive (around $325 in 2014, if I recall correctly) Toughbook, also from eBay - a CF-C1. It's only "business rugged" rather than "fully rugged", and compared to the fully-rugged CF-28, it should maybe be called a Wimpbook. :-) Maybe it's tougher than the average laptop, but I wouldn't risk testing it. Unlike my CF-28s, I wouldn't even risk letting my cat walk on the CF-C1 while it's closed.

Nonetheless, I would probably have used the CF-C1 as my primary laptop if it didn't have a widescreen, and if the screen didn't usually look rather washed out unless you look at it from exactly the right angle.

The CF-C1 has some respectable-enough processors - four 2.4 GHz 64-bit processors - and 4 GB of RAM, making it pretty comfortable to run Puppy Linux with. Especially Lighthouse 64 Puppy Linux 6.02 Beta 2, which somehow perfectly calibrates the touchscreen automatically without you having to fiddle with it at all!

The CF-C1 is a convertible "2-in-1" laptop/tablet, which I now have permanently in tablet mode because its old battery is so bad that I have to have the CF-C1 constantly plugged into the wall, so I taped the CF-C1's power cord onto the CF-C1 to make it less likely to accidentally fall out, or to rotate in its port and thereby get worn down and unreliable... and the way it's taped makes it difficult to convert between laptop mode and tablet mode.

However, I can still use it pretty much as a laptop also, because, if I want, I can plug a USB keyboard and mouse into it.

I actually mostly use Windows 7 on the CF-C1, largely because the legally free (as in price) audiobooks from my local library's website, Clevnet, for some reason won't play in Linux. And also, I'm not yet sure how to rotate the screen in Puppy Linux so I can use it in vertical "Portrait" mode instead of horizontal "Landscape" mode.

Both modes are irritating - I have to choose between either "not enough height" (in horizontal mode) or "not enough width" (in vertical mode). Usually I prefer vertical, though that works better in the dark, because the screen glare seems worse in vertical mode.

Since I don't trust Windows, I can't (or won't) do anything very private with the CF-C1 in Windows, like log into my email - so that's another reason I usually stick with my much less powerful Dell Latitude D510 with a single 1.5 GHz 32-bit processor and 2 GB RAM, which has no hard disk and runs exclusively Puppy Linux. (I think the total cost for that Dell laptop was around maybe $65 in around April 2014 on eBay, which includes the cost of the power cord I had to buy separately on eBay for about $20.)

The CF-C1 runs Puppy Linux pretty nicely both with or without VirtualBox, so, once I figure out how to change the screen resolution in VirtualBoxed Lighthouse 64 Puppy Linux 6.02 Beta 2 to match my often 800x1280 screen resolution in Windows 7, I'll probably be able to work on my Puppy Linux Setup Kit on it. (I already managed to change the screen resolution to 800x1200 in a Lucid Puppy Linux 5.2.8 version 004 VirtualBox, but I'd rather use Lighthouse 64 because I haven't figured out how to make the touchscreen work right with Lucid.)

I won't be quite as free to roam around as I would if my CF-C1 had good batteries, but at least I'll be able to get away from my desktop computers a bit more, which lately have been seeming a bit like a ball and chain.

The CF-C1 is so relatively powerful that it has seemed rather silly to avoid using it so much mostly because I hate widescreens and think its screen quality could be better. So, I've been trying to use it more lately, despite its almost dead battery, and its second battery which already died. (Even when I first got it in 2014, it had only about 2 hours of battery life combined from both batteries.)

I definitely like the CF-C1's touchscreen (even though it could aesthetically be better) and optional stylus. The CF-C1 touchscreen is much more sensitive than the old CF-28 touchscreens from 2002. I wouldn't be eager to get any new laptop which doesn't have such a nice touchscreen. Not even a solar-powered non-touchscreen laptop, unless it was very low-priced.

If CF-C1 replacement batteries weren't so expensive (around $100), I'd probably happily replace the batteries.

But, it would probably be possible to get at least 1, maybe even more, not-too-bad used laptops (though probably without touchscreens) on eBay for the price of one replacement CF-C1 battery which I'm not even sure would really work.

I sure wish laptop batteries were standardized. Just imagine if every remote control, flashlight, or other common household gadget had their own unique, non-standard, and of course expensive, proprietary batteries, instead of just using cheap double AA's! Unfortunately, that's what the situation with laptop batteries seems to actually be like!

And the situation with laptop power supplies is also really irritating - all the differently-sized tips, and the overall fragility of them. Two people I know had laptops which became difficult to even charge because somehow the power supply tips became worn or something, and then the laptop wouldn't recognize the power plug was plugged in unless the tip was positioned precisely the "right" way. Ridiculous! And maybe another despicable example of planned obsolescence?

One of the relatively few nice things I can say about the MacBook from 2009 I had is that the magnetic power cord tip that effortlessly latched onto the MacBook was convenient and clever. But that doesn't even come close to making up for the MacBook's drawbacks, like its non-standard tiny screws making it very difficult to even open the MacBook to replace or remove the battery and hard disk. And that MacBook's lack of a touchscreen. And lack of two mouse buttons, which made using Puppy Linux on it unnecessarily more complicated.

I'm definitely far happier with my Toughbook CF-C1 than that MacBook.

I wish laptops had nice, sturdy, desktop-computer-style plugs.

Or how about a laptop with a retractable power cord that you wouldn't ever have to actually detach from the laptop itself - similar to the retractable power cords that many vacuum cleaners have?

I don't mind if that would increase the laptop's bulkiness. I think laptops not being too light is an advantage, especially if you live someplace windy.

There are apparently external laptop batteries available, but I assume that unless you tape their cords onto your laptop, the cords could probably easily fall out, or their tips could rotate in the power port and get worn down. And carrying them around is probably a nuisance.

Also, I'd much prefer to buy a battery which I can just plug the three-pronged end of any laptop power charger into. That way, I won't have to figure out which external laptop battery would even work for me because of the problem of there being so many different-sized laptop power cord tips.

This whole situation is so annoying that I'm tempted to learn all I can about electronics, batteries, and solar power.

Maybe someday it will be possible to 3D print entire laptops? That would be really cool. :-)

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Note by Apollia on Nov. 8, 2023: Please join my Patreon if you'd like to support me and my work!

My main personal website is now I'm still not sure what to do with Astroblahhh.Com, so it's mostly staying as-is for now.