Searching for a Laptop

Our team had alot problems downloading code to the robot due to a corrupt serial port on an older laptop apparently, so I’ve been searching the web (and these forums) for hours but still haven’t found any descent laptops with a serial port. I’m looking for something small, light, and with a long battery life (w/ a serial port of course). Is this realistic or will I need to use a dock? Any suggestions?

You could try ebay

New laptops usually dont include serial ports. A cheaper alternative might be a USB->Serial Adapter for the current computer.

If you really want a new laptop, I’d say go for an older one say an Inspiron 4000 or so… the adapter is probably the cheaper way to go or you can always get a brand new laptop and get the adapter for that one.

IBM hmmm X series I believe is the one which is ultra portable but IBMs are quite a bit more expensive as a whole, though my favorite kind of laptop.

PM me if you want some more advice possibly.

Be careful with these–1293’s used one in the past to program from a laptop, and we’ve had quite the time trying to keep it functioning. Most of the time, we now use a desktop (thank goodness they still have serial ports!)

We have found that the USB adapters have an undue propensity to corrupt the download. We have tried loading with the USB cable, and then uploaded with a serial port to find inconsistencies between the two versions. This year HP sponsored us and gave us some laptops with serial ports on them.

A computer company is a good sponsor, another team in our area got a local computer store to sponsor them. Dell has some really good coupons
You dont need a laptop with serial. You can use Serial to USB. It works well.

If you’re looking at new laptops, the Dell 600m has a serial port, and is light (less then 5 lbs), fast (centrino), and cheap (< $1000 for barebones).

The IBM X and T series are great, but at least the newer ones don’t have serial ports (I own a T 40).

As for USB-Serial adapters, some work great, some work poorly, and some don’t work at all. I have an FTDI adapter that works perfectly (once I got the drivers installed properly). Joe Johnson and others recommend one by BAFO. Don’t get one that is designed for PDAs, as they typically do not have all the handshaking lines that the IFI loader requires.

USB adapters can be iffy…

Our engineer has two of them… one downloads VERYYYYYY slowly while the other is as reliable as a regular serial port.

In fact, I’ve used one before so I can see Dashboard and Load at the same time on the same computer.

I can get the type of adapter we’ve had good luck with and PM you with it.

Agreed bout the HP sponsorship deal.

Although our school district does lend laptops out for the programmers that need them… I actually just get one because the more computers, the merrier so I have my own personal one plus the school one in case… only downside is together they way a TON regardless of how light each one is.

A good option would be to email IFI. They use USB serial adapters for the radios used in the IFI scanner. Obviously, these work with the IFI setup, so, whatever they use would work.

Alternatively, I believe that one can still purchase serial port PCMIA cards.

Always check the cables first (use one directly to the robot instead of a really long chain).

During one competition alone, we had two programming serial cables go bad, and the tether had to be shaken around to get the “Power” LED to fully turn on.

It may seem ridiculous, but make sure to have about 5 extra (unused) serial cables at hand, because we needed all but one at the competition.

Although we haven’t had bad experience with the correct USB-Serial connectors, this year we made sure to have a laptop with a real serial plug in the back.

Thanks for all the advise, the main reason I was going to get a new laptop was because I’ve read many people had such horrible luck with them but perhaps I’ll go for a PCMCIA or USB serial adapter. Although I wouldn’t mind getting a free laptop from a sponsor :confused: Is it common for a business to sponsor multiple teams at FIRST?

I know. I used one just for dashboard (one way). And most of the time, it wouldn’t even pick up packets! It was the right port and everything, but it was corrupting data or something.

Team 237 has been though this stage already and IFI website helped us out. This thread/post (read the last post) talks about the USB to Serial adapter situation and they suggest the Radio Shack Model 26-183. It is a little expensive but it works great with all of our laptops. We have used it to calibrate our CMU Cam and to program the robot with very little issues. LOL… When you plug the RC into a laptop with that converter, Windows says, “New Hardware found: Microsoft Mouse” … don’t worry, it is nothing to be concerned about. :ahh: