Last week work became slightly more eventful, with a big project that resulted in leaving the office around 11pm one evening, and working on Saturday afternoon, though thankfully from home (read: comfortable with lots of good music). A slightly calmer week with my supervisor returning would actually be appreciated!

Dell Studio XPS 13Meanwhile my new laptop arrived. As a secondary machine for travel and general use in the living room, I start off by deciding on 13″ (I briefly considered a netbook but for usability I still prefer a larger screen and keyboard) and worked from there. The Dell Studio XPS 13 (a merging of the stylish Studio line with their high end XPS line) won out. They have certainly been learning from Apple in the consumer market since this came wrapped in a cloth slipcase and packaged in a sleek black box. The machine itself is arguably slightly over-styled with a few more glossy surfaces that I would like, because of the fingerprints they immediately pick up. Its sleek lines and backlit keyboard mean it compares favourably with similar-priced Vaio’s while not being quite as impressive as the top-end.

I decided the best way to remove all the junk software that inevitably ships on a new machine was clearly to wipe it and install a Windows 7 beta. Mac users will be disappointed to hear that, despite all the unusual integrated laptop hardware, everything just worked. Particularly interesting about this machine is its ability to switch graphics configurations on the fly using nvidia’s hybrid SLI technology.  This means it generally runs cooler on a lower power setting, switching only when high performance is required. This massively extends it battery life in general usage. I also took the option to upgrade to their white-LED screen which, aside from being thinner than the old CCFL screens, also means it shouldn’t dim over its lifetime. And since it was selected for its portability/travel use, I’ve named it Daedalus. Which hopefully means it’ll be intelligent enough not to overheat.

So with a newly kitted out laptop (with a working M key and everything!) and new lens, I’m now ready for the trip to the States in May. The plan is to head to Kentucky, via Nashville, with family out there. Caves, waterfalls and (inevitably) the KFC museum apparently await, although the finer details have yet to be arranged. Though with the cousins, the kids and a camera, anywhere will be fun!