Home > Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, The New Media, Web/Tech > Computers and Convergence for an Academic Archaeologist

Computers and Convergence for an Academic Archaeologist

Over the last few years I have worked hard to upgrade my personal cyber-infrastructure.  This has involved developing a computer tool-kit tailored to my various interests: archaeology, history, blogging, writing, teaching, et c. While some continue to dream of single devices that bring together all the basic functions necessary for successful living, I have discovered quite the opposite.  As my interests have continued to develop, I have found the need to use more and more specialized tool.  With each tool, however, comes the demands of upkeep, a learning curve, transition time (moving from one device to the next is no more seamless than moving from one application to the next), and a predictable gaggle of frustrations. 

Over the past two years I have had the good fortune (and funding!) to purchase four new computers.  Since I travel for my research, they are all portable to some degree. Each computer, however, serves a specific function in my little world.  My boon-companion is my MacBook Pro.  It is my writing computer, my blogging computer, and my image manipulation computer.  It is sufficiently powerful to do these things with grace and has a large enough hard-drive to allow me to carry most of my research with me wherever I go.

The most recent addition to my mini-computer center has been my 17-inch Dell XPS laptop.  It’s an absolute monster.  It is portable in the same way that my family’s Kay-Pro II was portable.  It weighs over 10.5 lbs (close to the Kay-Pro’s 26 lbs!) is amazingly fast and runs ArcGIS 9.3 without even breaking a sweat.  This is my “mobile GIS workstation” since ArcGIS is Windows only (as is Microsoft Access) and most of our archaeological data currently lives in this format.  So while I deeply attached to my MacBook, when the processing gets tough, I need to use the brute strength of the massive Dell.

kayproii kayproiicase

I have also purchases two little net-books.  The famous mini-micro (which received no end of derision in Cyprus, but ultimately and heroic saved the day!) is a Asus Eee PC.  With little chicklet keys, it is hardly suited for anything more than the shortest of emails, but it nevertheless stood us in good stead when we needed an extra laptop to complete final reports on Cyprus.  Its Linux Xandros operating system booted super fast and handled our basic word processing and web surfing needs.  But the little tiny keys were killer.  So, with a tiny bit of extra grant money, I ordered a Dell Mini.  It’s a cute, little Windows based machine (XP Home) with normal sized keys!  It will hopefully serve as a supplemental computer on Cyprus and work well-enough for blogging, emails, word processing (Open Office 3.0), and even some basic image manipulations (with Gimp).  XP Home is slow and laggy, but at the size (<3.0 lbs and price (around $300), it works just fine.  In fact, I posted my Sunday blizzard blog from it.  While no one would want to write their dissertation on one of these mini-computers, they work just fine on an archaeological projects where small size and economy are more important than computing power.

So despite the promises of all-in-one devices that serve all of our computing needs, even the middle of the road computer user like myself finds utility in specialized machines that handle specialized tasks well. 

  1. Kostis Kourelis
    December 16, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    So jealous. Those Dell Mini’s seem appealing. Tempted by the return to Apple (my last one was a Classic box), but the GIS/AutoCAD problem seems insurmountable. Have you seen the Umberto Eco article from a few years ago about PC vs Apple equivalent to Protestantism vs Catholicism? Textual treatment might need its own tool.

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