We were playing a computer game and enjoying some chardonnay when the inevitable happened.  A glass fell over and wine sloshed all over the keyboard. We mopped it up and I left the laptop upside down with paper towels between the screen and keyboard. Come the next morning and the machine booted up just fine. But I couldn’t type in my password. Keyboard dead.

When I got to work, I started googling for solutions. I eventually got to Dell’s site and wasn’t getting much information. Suddenly, a pop-up appeared inviting me to chat with a technician.  Within a couple of minutes I had instructions for replacing the key board and a link to the replacement that I’d have to order. I should be back on air in a couple of days.

But what to do in the meantime? We have a little Toshiba Netbook that we use when we travel.  That would have to do. My wife wanted me to photograph some items for eBay. That involves taking the picture, transferring it the computer, cropping it, resizing it down to Ebay dimensions (1000 px wide), and transferring it to my wife’s computer. We also needed to print some shipping labels.

I plugged my big monitor into the netbook to get more real estate than the standard 1024 x 600-pixel resolution. I plugged in my USB back-up drive, an EtherNet cable, a Wireless mouse USB receiver, and a camera USB cable and I was almost back to normal. I downloaded Picasa 3 in a matter of minutes and I was soon able to deliver Ebay ready photos to my wife’s computer. I had written a bulk JPG resize program and I could run that straight off of my back-up drive.

The final step was to configure our venerable 1993 Laserjet 4P to print the shipping labels.

The key to getting productive so quickly was the fact the Netbook had great connectivity. Video, 3 USB ports, Ethernet, and wireless. Compare that to the much hyped iPad. Via Instapundit, I found this list of iPad Shortcomings. Perhaps the most important was this:

There’s no USB port

The lack of even one USB port – the universal means of connecting just about everything these days – means you can’t connect the device to a printer or other computer peripherals, such as an external hard drive. The iPad can be connected to cameras, but it requires the purchase of a separate accessory from Apple.

Had I bought an iPad as my travel computer, I’d have had no way to accomplish everything I did in fairly short order using a cheap Windows XP netbook.

The experience with Dell was interesting. Usually, I dread calling technical support,  but I liked the proactive response.  Is this a new support model?