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Lab Notes Blog

Road Warrior Woes: Oh My Aching Lap!
by Sally Wiener Grotta

May 1, 2009

Tags: Sally's photography, Sally's entries, Adobe Photoshop, PC World, Photoshop, Illustrator, Adobe Creative Suite 4, American Hands project, Software reviews, AsukaBook Maker, BuyThisImage, LicenseStream, ImageTrends Pearly Whites, Tintii, HP xw4600 workstation, Lenovo w700ds


Although I was away from our studio for the past several weeks (family business), I still had several software reviews due. On top of that, I needed to process hundreds of images from my recent shoot of traditional tile makers at the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works (Bucks County, PA) for my first American Hands exhibit, which opens in June at Muhlenburg College in Allentown, PA.

Unfortunately, my old standby laptop Ė a nice, small, five year-old Avertec, which I have used quite happily for shoots, working on the road, and making seminar presentations Ė no longer makes the grade. Sure, itís compact and lightweight enough to fit into any satchel, plus it handles Photoshop CS3 and Illustrator CS3 just fine. But, with the advent of CS4 (Creative Suite 4), the days are long gone since Photoshop and Illustrator could be loaded into just about any decent desktop or laptop computer. The problem is that CS4 is a power hog and demands workstation-level muscle to function really well. Thatís why my primary studio imaging system is a 64-bit, quad core, 3 gigahertz Hewlett-Packard xw4600 Workstation with 8 gigabytes of RAM, and.... oh heck, Iím not going to go into all the techno-babble specifications. Suffice it to say, the HP is a veritable screamer that lets me work on huge 750 megabyte photo image files without bogging or slowing down. And it has the added advantage that it was specifically built to order to run CS4.

But Iím not about to carry the HP workstation (and its beautiful matching 24" HP monitor) around when Iím on the road. Thatís where my Lenovo w700ds 64-bit workstation comes in. The Lenovo is the system I use when giving Photoshop seminars or doing imaging demonstrations, but it isn't a device that I otherwise like to lug around. Some folks might call the Lenovo a laptop. Sure it is... if you have a lap like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Because of its size and weight, it would be easier to carry around three or four of my old Avertecs than this loaded-for-bear Lenovo. Of all the laptop cases that I own, I don't even have a single bag in which it fits, so I end up putting it into a small rolling suitcase. And although the Lenovo doesnít have quite the power of my HP, or anywhere near as wonderful a screen (although it does come with a pullout second screen, for displaying Photoshop tools and the like), the darn thing easily handles all the demands of CS4 and keeps on chugging, letting me get my work done. That's why it's so ideal for my public presentations and seminars. And, over the past several weeks, in addition to doing some photo editing in preparation for my exhibit, I was able to test several programs so that Daniel and I could write them up and send the finished reviews to our editor, Laura Blackwell, at PC World, well within deadline. If youíre curious about what programs I was testing and what we thought about them, here are links to some of our recent online reviews:

The Lenovo came through for me, when I needed it. But Iím relieved to be back in my studio at DigitalBenchmarks, where my HP sits regally on my desk, making no demands on my aching muscles. All I have to do is power it up to get to work.