Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Implementing, Managing, and Troubleshooting Mobile Computer Hardware

As more organizations discover the productivity enhancements that a community of mobile users can realize, these organizations will need to support more laptops. Traditionally only a necessity for sales personnel or on-the-go executives, laptops weren't a fit for most users.

However, as laptops became faster, more powerful, and as inexpensive as desktop computers, they became more widely used. Laptops still have their own unique support requirements, however, and an organization wishing to provide laptops for their users should ensure that support staff is aware of these unique support needs.

Due to the size of the laptop hardware, it is impossible to use existing bus technologies interchangeably with desktop machines. While laptops will still be able to use the latest computer technology (fastest networks, latest SCSI and modem technology), that technology needs to be (and is) adapted to buses that laptops use.

For example, an average desktop machine will probably have the hard drive and CD-ROM drive connected via an Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) or Enhanced IDE (EIDE) controller. Normally, IDE controllers can have two drives per channel, and in order to add a second drive, there must be an open drive bay and a cable to connect the second drive to the controller. If you wanted to make use of faster SCSI drives, you would have to install a SCSI controller in a PCI or ISA slot.

This kind of flexibility is not present in laptop systems. While there may be vendor-specific implementations of ISA, PCI, and IDE technology in a given laptop model, expandability is still an issue. Laptops are designed to be small and portable. Laptop size would be increased by necessity if there were space allocated for standard full-sized PCI slots and a second IDE hard drive. The only way for laptop vendors to provide the same level of expandability and choice of hardware is to support a bus technology designed for mobile hardware.

This is where the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) bus comes into play. The PCMCIA bus was designed for laptop use. PCMCIA devices allow for technology available in desktop hardware to be used on laptops. Organizations can use the same Ethernet technology on all computers, whether it is through a PCI network card on a desktop or a PCMCIA network card on a laptop.