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EDITOR'S NOTE: Certain items like embedded web links and documented costs/prices for certain wares discussed may be out-of-date. This is Real World usage rather than a syrupy evangelistic exercise, so you'll find both Good and Bad things about PCs here.
Reader Dave emailed to ask me about help in how to add memory to his 340T. Following is my edited reply:
The 340T I write about has been off the premises for ages now, and even when it was here I don't think I ever opened it up for anything.
Have you still got the original user manual and related CDs? You might find info in those.
http://www.orphanlaptops.com/green_756.htm seems somewhat related to your goal-- but it's a slow loading site.
a general purpose 'how to install memory' (hopefully for laptops) at dell:
NEC Ready Notebook 340T upgrades from Crucial.com may be the closest to the info you're looking for (scroll down the page):
But this page seems to warn against installing the memory yourself, so it may be trickier than usual on a 340T.
http://www.crucial.com is the main URL in case the above one is a temporary database link. Just click through the search process to get to the NEC Ready 340T Notebook.
If you want to see more results from the best search I could come up with, here's the Google URL:
I hope this helps! Good luck!
NEC Ready 340T Notebook Computer User's Log Contents
My brother's family used the 340T for internet access and more for a long time, with their old Mac Quadra 650 serving as a second machine. Things went pretty well except for the young son changing some settings which made the computer harder to use for the rest of his non-geek family. I fixed some of these things at one point.
Eventually we ran into a modem problem though. If I remember correctly (this was some time ago), the proprietary phone cable connection in their PC card modem became loose with age and starting giving connection problems. I did extensive testing of their computer to narrow the problem down to the cable/PC card connection, including re-installing all their software. I next went searching for a solution. The looseness of the connection seemed to indicate either or both the cable and card could be at fault. It also appeared surprisingly difficult to ascertain exactly what card and cable to order to fix the problem. And even if you could determine the type and locate them, they seemed pretty expensive. And, of course, due to their fragile nature the problem would just occur again later with the replacements.
So why not just get an external USB modem and plug into the notebook's USB port? The externals turned out pretty expensive too, and all the major modem brand names I trusted from years past were gone. Yikes! Expensive mystery modems were all I could find.
Around this time I had to leave town for a job. A month or two later I contacted my friend Roger about it, who was still in the area. He's much more of a PC geek than I, and said he had a proven external USB modem he'd install for them.
I don't have perfect knowledge of what happened after that, but it seems Roger managed to get them online again, briefly. With his task completed, he left. But somehow the notebook's AC plug got disconnected so it was running on battery power, and the non-geek family ran it so low the notebook scrambled its own hard disk and had to have everything re-installed, and after that they couldn't connect to the net again, and soon gave up, canceling their internet account.
Stuff like this is one reason I don't like 'portable' computers. Until they connect wirelessly at reasonable cost and effort to the internet and peripherals right out of the box, and have batteries that last a reasonable period of time too, and don't require the user to have a chair to work from they aren't really portable!
To be true portables they'll also have to be MUCH more robust and dependable both hardware and software-wise than today. So up to now anyone buying a 'portable' PC is really just paying far too much for a miniaturized desktop which is far more fragile and unreliable, harder-to-use, and offers usually less features or expandibility for the price, than a 'real' desktop.
This episode is one reason I gave my brother's family a Sony VAIO PCV-RX540 this Christmas (I finally got to return from that remote job of mine).
NEC Ready 340T Notebook Computer User's Log Contents
I helped in the transition, by using the 340T's bundled restore disk to put the machine back to its original new state software-wise, then re-installing a printer and mouse that had previously been added to the machine (those peripherals accompanied the laptop to its new home). I did my best to collect up the laptop's original bundle of software, peripherals, and manuals, then safely pack them up for the trip too.
I also changed some critically important settings on the machine, so that it would never go to sleep when plugged into an AC outlet, and would remain awake maybe 20 minutes or so even when running off the battery. The factory settings for these things were like only two or three minutes respectively, which would drive a user crazy trying to change the settings (or get anything else done) before the machine would seem to die on them (the screen would go black, and mouse and keyboard stop responding). I'm getting into the habit of switching such annoying stuff completely off on all PCs and Macs I get my hands on these days, as such 'energy-saving' functions don't seem to work well at all, and mostly get in the way of the users.
The new owners of the laptop are my brother Randy's family. Prior to this they had been limited to an old Mac Quadra 650 like my own, only with somewhat less RAM and much less disk space. Basically their OS 8.1 Mac had been a 28.8k Mac web surfing station, using Bellsouth for their ISP and Netscape Navigator for their browser. They didn't have the disk space for it to be much more, although they did have a printer with it.
In regards to the laptop I strongly recommended to them that they NEVER use it as a portable, but rather as a desktop, because of its fragility and vulnerability to theft. I also reminded them to get a surge protector for it too as soon as possible.
As can be seen from the laptop's specs below, though my brother's family has now moved much more into mainstream computer use with the Windows98 laptop than they were before, the portable only rates as a basic PC these days, with 64 MB RAM and a 4 GB hard drive.
Perhaps the biggest difference for them will be the 56k modem speed-- if their rural phone line will support it. On the wife's first try to connect to Bellsouth the NEC hung up. I advised her to un-install the software and try again (as well as call Bellsouth's help line if necessary). At last word the laptop was now online and they were enjoying faster surfing speeds than their old Mac could give them.
Of course, I've warned them that they'll have to be much more careful about opening email and watching out for viruses overall on the PC, as compared to the Mac. Macs in general are not nearly as vulnerable to viruses as PCs-- mostly because most viruses are written exclusively for PC wares, and so are incompatible with Macs. To put Macs into a state of vulnerability comparable to mainstream PCs can take significant effort and extra cost. One of the first things you'd need to do is buy all the most expensive Microsoft software for Macs you can. Then you'd have to make sure every program you used was a Microsoft product too, where feasible-- such as Outlook for email, and Internet Explorer for browsing, and MS Office and/or Word for other things. Next you might want to tweak all the settings and preferences for these MS wares to that prevalent on most PC platforms...whew! That's a lot of work just to make Macs as virus prone as PCs-- and even after you did all that, your Mac still wouldn't be 100% as vulnerable to viruses as PCs, since it would still lack the Windows OS itself. But you could also add a Windows emulation program, then install Windows apps in it, and use it to surf-- and then your Mac could get just as sick as a PC-- but only inside the emulation program. The rest of your Mac might not even notice the infection but for the possible crash of the emulator forcing a restart...
Randy's family still retains the old Mac as a second machine and backup web station. They've got two kids after all. And these days almost the optimal web connection involves having two entirely different computers hooked to the net so that when one is down you can use the other to look on the net for a solution (Better still is if both machines connect to different ISPs too...).
So how did the NEC hold up since the previous report more than a year ago? Pretty well I guess. I never did get around to slowing down its modem because of the spontaneous disconnects it was suffering on WebFLUX Central's noisy phone lines, because it ended up other computers here were more convenient with which to get online. The 'sleep' problem mentioned before was one of the biggest woes we had with it-- but that too seemed to get more or less settled once we found what settings to tweak.
The first third party mouse that was installed to replace the laptop's touchpad functionality quit working after a while, prompting the owner to get another mouse to replace that. But it subsequently turned out the first mouse was OK. Apparently a newer software install had just 'bumped' the first mouse's software driver out of kilter, making the mouse no longer work, was all. The mouse now works on a generic PC elsewhere at WebFLUX Central.
The bundled floppy disk drive developed a tear in the plastic insulation coating of its data cable, where it joins the drive. We taped it up. The modem cable which plugs into a special port on the PC card containing the modem got pretty loose after a while. So there's yet another reason not to use this machine as a portable, since the loose modem cable will easily fall out under less than optimal conditions, knocking you offline.
One important reason for restoring the laptop's disk back to original condition was that the laptop had had lots of third party software installed on it the past year-- and the more software installed on a modern PC or Mac, generally the worse the machine will run, stability-wise. Why give a machine full of accumulated software conflicts to a friend or relative, when you can help them get started off with a clean slate instead?
If I recall any other noteworthy problems with the NEC over that year of ownership I'll add them here later.
Lastly, it should be noted that the original owner of the laptop eventually became so annoyed with many of the same drawbacks of the laptop compared to a desktop as I described in the previous item below, that they finally replaced it entirely with a complete desktop PC.
They did this piecemeal. First they installed a mouse to replace the not-really-practical touchpad. Then they got a 17 inch monitor to replace the LCD display; then a standalone keyboard to replace the laptop's annoying ergonomics. For a while this weird collection actually existed on a desk at WebFLUX Central. Finally however, they replaced the laptop itself by dropping a Compaq desktop into the middle of all the collected peripherals. The annoyances of the laptop compared to a desktop led to it being replaced fairly quickly. After that the laptop was still used by the owner, but mainly only to play Solitaire in bed, while watching TV.
NEC Ready 340T Notebook Computer User's Log Contents
I've always wondered if I was missing something by not using a portable computer. After all, lots of folks seem to think they're the best thing since sliced bread.
But I personally have always been put off by portables so far, for the obvious reasons of easy theft, higher purchase and maintenance costs (and reduced expandibility) compared to desktops, and high risk of accidental damage and accompanying high repair/replacement costs.
Still, I'd never actually experienced lengthy use of a laptop to see if maybe all those negatives might be overcome in some other ways.
Now I have.
Recently a laptop made its way into FLUX HQ, and hung around far longer than any previous such device (Note that this also represents the biggest chunk of PC use I've done in quite a while too).
It's a NEC Ready 340T Notebook with 300 MHz AMD-K6 MMX, 256K Level 2 Cache, 64 MB RAM, 4 GB hard drive, 24x CD, 56K modem, USB ports, external floppy (also swappable with CD), two PCMCIA card slots, 128 bit graphics with 2 MB memory, 16 bit stereo sound, trackpad interface, and 13.3 inch TFT Active Matrix Display. It's running Windows 98 and boasts a bundle including Microsoft Works and Word 97, the essential browser and online wares, etc., as well as other programs.
This notebook cost around $2000 before Christmas 1998 at a local computer retailer (either Office Max or Circuit City I believe).
The notebook seems to be of decent quality manufacture. The display seems pretty nice compared to other notebooks I've seen. The software bundle seemed pretty good too (I only specifically mentioned the most important apps above). The owner seems to like it OK, and I know of several other folks around here that drool over it occasionally.
But not me. I've spent considerable time on it now for a variety of reasons, from helping configure online software to installing a printer, and using it a bit on the net myself, as well as consulting with its owner when they had questions-- etc., etc.
No way is this thing nearly as good as a desktop. In practically every way that would matter to someone who uses a computer a lot, this notebook is substantially inferior to a desktop computer. Yes, if you had no choice but to have a mobile computer, I guess you could get by with a notebook like this-- but it would be downright painful.
Now if you're a very light user-- or have a desktop in addition to a notebook so each may complement the other-- the notebook would be much more practical.
But when you consider just a few more factors, it becomes clear the truly optimum choice is a desktop computer and something like a Palm Pilot instead of a notebook to complement it mobile-wise.
The notebook's display and keyboard are maybe 30-40% as good as a desktop's.
The notebook's sound system is very poor-- making most everything sound like mouse squeaks compared to a desktop.
The notebook is terrifyingly fragile in many ways, from the $1000 LCD screen that's one fall away from cracking, to the fairy lace CD tray that requires a wincing pressure to install CDs onto.
Making all this worse is the overall slipperiness of the case, that makes it almost a foregone conclusion that it'll slip your grasp sooner or later.
Of course, maybe they design it slippery to make it a bit tougher to steal; but it's a laughable attempt at security measures if that's so. Lay this baby down next to you at an airport and I'm sure you'll never see it again.
But maybe the biggest joke is to call these things portable computers. Because they're not. To do anything much more substantial than merely admiring their case workmanship, you gotta be attached to a building. Why? Electricity, man! It won't run without it! But it's got batteries you say? Oh, that was a funny one! In real world use the batteries last maybe an hour before needing recharge. The manual indicates that if you stand on one foot and howl at the moon on a Tuesday night-- with exactly four witnesses, one of whom is a Jesuit priest holding a four leaf clover-- you might get the batteries to last a whole two hours. But of course then you're busy balancing on one foot so only someone else can actually use that extra hour of battery life. OK, so the manual's instructions aren't exactly as described above-- but they sure seem close to it to me.
But even if the thing would miraculously run off your own electric personality, thereby requiring no wire attachment to a building every time the clock chimes on the hour, you'd still need to grab onto that building for a phone line connection; at least with this non-cellular unit.
As if needing semi-permanent attachments to a building weren't bad enough for this so-called portable computer, you often need a bonafide desktop surface as well-- if you want to use your floppy and CD simultaneously, or print something-- or maybe use a different pointing device than that God-awful trackpad that tries to second-guess your intentions, causing you all sorts of onscreen havoc as a result.
Some folks may find the considerable heat generated by this thing too much for their lap too-- giving yet another reason for a tabletop to be brought into play.
So not only must you attach yourself to a building, but you must scrounge up something resembling furniture as well.
And don't get me started on the wildly flailing octopus of wires and cabling that all this entangles you in...
Yes, I acknowledge that many of the above items are failings of desktop computers too. But desktops don't pretend to be portables and charge you an extra $1000 for the fantasy.
And with desktops you only have to go through the cable installations and wire stringing rarely (during initial installs or upgrades or maintenance) rather than every few minutes as with a 'portable'.
Note that most or all the above negatives would pertain to virtually any so-called 'portable' computer: PowerBooks included.
But of course now we get to the software; more specifically, Microsoft Windows98.
I'll start right off the bat by saying I believe 30-40% of all the problems I've had with this notebook so far could be corrected by simply substituting a real mouse for the infernal trackpad on the thing. When the trackpad tries to second-guess what I intend to do, it's wrong over half the time. This results in the wrong buttons being clicked, erroneous drag and drops, etc.
I've also used that little pencil eraser type mouse device that many IBM Thinkpads sport in the center of their keyboards-- and I believe I like IBM's device better than the trackpad.
But again, let me get back to the software...setting a comfortable font size for your display can be an infuriating process on a Windows98 notebook-- and I suppose a Windows98 desktop too.
As I expected, the integration of IE into Windows98 has resulted in some classic glitches for the user. For example, set your default desktop font large enough to see on a high res screen, and suddenly pages displayed in your web browser are displaying text at Jolly Green Giant size, with single characters practically filling the entire window and rendering the resulting page almost illegible.
But try getting around that by reducing the resolution of your screen, and the physical area Windows98 uses of your display actually shrinks! I found this astonishing, after being a long time Mac user. On a Mac, when you change resolutions you still typically get to use the entire display. All the text and graphics simply get larger at lower resolutions, and smaller at higher resolutions-- and your available desktop real estate for dragging and dropping things expands or contracts too.
But in Windows98, you can actually lose big physical chunks of your display screen-- I'm talking vast numbers of pixels simply going black-- leaving you with a tiny picture bordered by a thick blackened frame.
All this crap has to make it hard on older people with diminished eyesight capabilities, or artists working on graphics intensive stuff.
So far installs of new applications and devices on the notebook have went pretty well (with various trackpad annoyances omni-present, as described before). The W98 notebook seems to work much better than the SoftWindows95 we've used on our Performa 6400 here for several years now. The notebook's performance speeds? Well, I've mostly used it mainly for the web and AOL-- and have seen no significant differences in speed there from the native Mac apps of the 6400-- despite the notebook possessing a 56k modem advantage over the 6400's 28.8.
I do have to say that the notebook hasn't crashed on me once in usage-- while every Mac I've been on for the last six years or so typically crashes once every hour or so. The ten minute long reboots required after such crashes on Macs like the 6400 make them even more traumatic. Plus, I've found it wise to restart a second time too after recovering from a crash, the 2nd time from the Special Menu, in order to prevent an immediate followup crash. This means the 6400 is typically out of commission for at least 15 minutes every time it suffers a crash (the second restart takes less time to accomplish than the first).
But do all the Windows98 annoyances listed above make the severe price premium on comparable Mac equipment acceptable?
NO. The Mac price premium is simply too enormous today, and expansion hardware and software options and service and tech support (from ISPs, web sites, etc.) far too sparse.
It seems Steve Jobs is pushing on his software guys at least a bit to improve the present atrocious maintenance and trouble-shooting problems Macs offer users today-- but obviously not enough. Every new Mac or OS edition which ships today virtually overnight generates a flood of new and often severe problems for many of the users which decide to partake of them. Ergo, the Mac today seems little differentiated from Windows PCs in their difficulty of day-to-day use, overall.
Another thing I've been wondering about lately is the real difference in online functionality between Macs and PCs these days. Both in browsing and web authoring power.
Well, I still don't have a clue as to the web authoring differences-- as I simply haven't had the opportunity to author on the PC-- but I have had the chance to play a bit with America Online 4.0 on the PC, to compare it to AOL 3.0 on the Mac (keep in mind AOL 4.0 final only became available for Macs within the past week, while it may have been available for PCs for six to nine months already).
In one of the few things that mattered to me-- uploading to my AOL web site-- it turned out PC AOL 4.0 seemed just as limited as Mac AOL 3.0. This really surprised me. I thought surely AOL would have made some provision for folks to get a measure of their remaining web site disk space, at the very least! But nope-- nothing.
NEC Ready 340T Notebook Computer User's Log Contents