My attempt at a picture I've seen online. I find my ring size is a bit small for this.

Iron Ringed, and the Fall of the ThinkPad

I know I don’t write very often to this blog any more, and truth be told, I don’t expect that I will write a lot here in the coming while. It has been a outlet, and for a period in my life, it has served me well. I will probably have another blog post, or two as I conclude several more milestones in my university program, but I’m gonna say, there might not be much that I’ll be putting in after it.

I’ve been meaning to write a post for a little while now, but no better day than tonight when my closest friends are all out having fun, and I’m left out on the other side of the country.

Haven’t really much to share, but tonight it’ll just be an outlet for some things that have crossed my mind recently.

The Iron Ring

Five years of school, five years of school. It has finally come down to this. Last week was the Iron Ring Ceremony, and for those not familiar with the tradition/ritual in Canadian engineering schools, it’s this thing that Canadian engineers do, where we go through a ceremony (of things that does not concern the public) and we receive our Iron Ring as a reminder of our obligation to our practice. This ring is made out of stainless steel (originally iron, but only a small number of schools still give out actual iron rings). It has a rather geometric and simple design.

Unfortunately, keeping with tradition, there is not much that I can say about that, aside for the fact that I now feel a sense of closure, as everything I’ve worked towards in my university years is now slowly starting to come to a close.

The first few days wearing the ring, it felt a bit weird. I wasn’t used to this cold wrought piece of metal on my finger. It is hard, and unyielding against the dynamically changing flesh of my finger. It pinched my skin when grasping my computer mouse, and it interfered whenever I needed to brush eraser shavings off to the side. It’s there when I clasp a cup, or a was my hands. For now, it still feels like a novelty, though even only after a week, I am slowly starting to get used to it.

It’s shiny for now, though a couple scratches have already set in. In many ways, it’s like the practice where on your first job site, your supervisor takes your hardhat, smashes it into the ground, shakes off the loose dirt, and places it on your head. I’ll be honest, this actually happens! But it’s not because your supervisor hates you, it’s because with a clean hat, one looks ‘green’, or fresh. One’s hardhat should look used, and a little worn, showing off that experience in the field. If the hat’s too white, it makes it seem to the contractor that the engineer’s always sitting in the office, and only comes out to the site on rare occasion just to inspect the work, and doesn’t (necessarily) have an understanding of the actual process or how a building would come together.

I mean, the architect designs a building. An engineer makes sure it works, but it’s always up to the contractor to put it together.

But I digress. My ring’s still new and shiny. It’s in this awkward middle state, where it’s a little worn, and no longer clean and pristine, but it’s also not endured long enough to have that appearance of a well-used and nostalgic piece of belonging. That will come in time.

Lenovo, you have ruined the ThinkPad brand

Lenovo, Lenovo, Lenovo, I am deeply heartbroken. I recently stumbled upon the 2014 models of the Thinkpads, and I have to say that I am deeply, deeply heartbroken. I see that the chassis for the laptops are now predominantly made of plastic. Your website mentions it’s a glass fibre reinforced plastic, and your computers are getting lighter, but I don’t think this is a step in the right direction. When people buy ThinkPads, they are looking for a quality, sturdy, reliable laptop. They want it to last.

What I have seen from the most recent models (T440, T240), are laptops with these soft, flexing cases. What happened to the magnesium roll-case technology that Lenovo so proudly advertised several years ago? How do you expect the core market of ThinkPad users to continue to want to use any of the newer ThinkPad models?

I use a X220T, and I have compared it an X60, and the X60, though many years older, was in a better shape than my two-year-old X220T.

Simply put, ThinkPad’s aren’t build the same way today as they were five years ago. ThinkPads used to be tough, and durable. They were renown for their ruggedness. There were times when ThinkPads would be crash-tested,  and run over by vehicles,  and they would survive. I haven’t seen any such demonstrations for the newer models.

Not only that, Lenovo, you have introduced the ThinkPad “Edge” sub-brand, and have created laptops such as the ThinkPad “Twist” that doesn’t even come close to looking like a ThinkPad, and does not give the consumer that perception of expectation. So now even the ThinkPad brand is applied to laptops that aren’t built like what people conventionally know to be a ThinkPad. Simply put, you are ‘diluting’ the brand.

There was a benefit when all ThinkPads used (almost) universal parts, and there were only a handful of models. This made it easy to quality assure, and test the products for reliability, but with so many models, so many different parts, how can you come close to maintaining that level of quality across all your products? The answer I find is that you aren’t.

When I bought this Thinkpad, it wasn’t assembled properly when I opened the box. The bevel wasn’t set correctly in the casing. I fixed it myself to spare shipping the whole thing back to China. But within my first year, parts of the casing have broken and fallen off, and the touchscreen is no longer as reliable as it used to be. And might I mention the digitizer and screen issues?

I know that ThinkPads are the only computer that have been certified for use on the International Space Station. But I’ve also seen iPads in space, and it leads me to believe that when the old A31 and T61P start to become obsolete, or there’s a need for more laptops on the ISS, ThinkPad’s might not be an option for NASA.

Lenovo, I feel that you are trying very heavily to ‘consumerize’ the ThinkPad brand. I do not agree with the opinion, for I feel it makes the ThinkPad brand very weak, and soon it will not be distinguishable from any regular consumer laptop. It will have completely lost it’s elite appeal. The ThinkPad brand represented toughness and durability. That’s why people wanted ThinkPads. That’s why people paid a premium for them. But now, I can’t see myself doing so for the newer models. You’ve just simply lost me as a prospective future client.

However, maybe you are only responding to the market demands. I mean, IBM is a smart company. And recently Sony sold off it’s PC division. I believe HP was also contemplating it some time ago.

Maybe something is going on here that I’m not really aware of. But for a ThinkPad Fan, I am, disappointed, and heartbroken.

Sochi Olympics

Sochi, Sochi, Sochi, 50 billion… more expensive than the Beijing Olympics… (which are summer)… how?

Also, as an engineer talking, I think you might want to figure out your construction contractors.

That’s mostly it since the New Year. It’s been fun and eventful: new people, new interactions, new lessons, new, new experiences.

University’s almost done, and that means it’s almost time to open up a new chapter of my life. A few more months to go until convocation. My long term plan isn’t very ironed out yet (ha ha, horrible pun, I know), but I’m optimistic moving forward.

Until then, that’s all for tonight,

 – C

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