I’ve had what felt like a frustratingly unproductive week. I didn’t really get anywhere with work, and ended up writing off a couple of days entirely.

On the other hand, I got a new (to me) laptop. When I’m at home, I usually work on my desktop, but I still need something portable, whether it’s for visiting client offices, travel, or (more likely right now) just working from another location. For years, I’ve been using a pair of second hand ThinkPad x220’s – the last ThinkPad with a proper keyboard. One was my main computer, and I bought a second for £220 so that I could leave one at a client office and not have to carry it around.

I like using second hand business laptops because they’re readily available, cheap, and usually pretty well specified. I like ThinkPads in particular because they’re easy to maintain and buy spares for, and because they tend to work flawlessly with Linux. I like buying second hand because you can get a high end machine from a few years ago for less than a potato from PC World, and because it feels less wasteful.

One x220 developed a problem with its screen last January, and as I was about to head to Japan for work for a couple of months (this didn’t last quite as long as expected, for reasons that you can guess), I just picked up the other one, swapped in the disk, and continued as before.

I didn’t bother replacing the screen because I didn’t really have much need for two laptops in the current situation, and there’s a point at which an eleven year old laptop is not really worth investing too much into. And that’s really been the problem: although the x220 was OK for most things, it’s really noticeable just how long it takes to compile, and how hot it gets on daily workloads, and the 1366×768 screen resolution feels very cramped.

After a bit of looking around, I found a ThinkPad T470s with a US keyboard (my preference) for £350. Allowing for new batteries (official ones: third-party replacements are a false economy here) that comes to a bit over £450 for a slimline laptop with a larger, higher-resolution (1920×1080) screen that isn’t really much bigger in footprint. (The x220 is smaller, but the 9 cell battery sticks a long way out of the back, so in practice there’s not much in it.)

The laptop arrived earlier in the week, and it didn’t take me long to install Ubuntu 21.04, rsync over my home directory, and have everything as I want it. The batteries were, as expected, well worn, and one was worryingly puffy. I’ve already installed the replacements, along with a WWAN modem card that I found cheap on eBay. It’s a great machine to do maintenance on: unscrew five screws – captive, so you can’t even lose them – pull the back off, and all the components are immediately available. Getting the modem working was a bit of an adventure but I now have a slim, light laptop with 4G internet access built in, and I’m very happy with it.

Last night, we went to a restaurant in the City for a friend’s 40th birthday. They had booked several long tables in the courtyard of the restaurant for the party, so it was lucky that the weather was excellent. I had a lovely evening. Eating and drinking and chatting with friends is such an essential part of life that I still find it hard to believe that they made it illegal.

There are still blackberries in the garden, although I’m collecting just a handful at a time now. Last month, it was over half a kilo each time. We have acquired a garden saw, and I’m looking forward to wielding it and reclaiming all that space.