How to travel with Windows. (Compute's Getting Started with Portable Computing)
by David English
Can you run Windows on today's powerful new breed of laptops? In most cases, the answer is yes. As a minimum, you'll need a hard drive and an EGA or VGA screen, but to run comfortably, you'll also need a 286 or 386SX processor and 2MB of RAM.
Even with 2MB, it can be tight running Windows in the 386-enhanced mode (this is the mode that lets you use your hard drive as extra memory and run more than one DOS program at a time). On a 2MB machine, I can't run both QEMM and PC Kwik Power Pak at the same time without having to drop back into Window's standard mode. It may sound extravagant, but you really need 4MB to run Windows as it was designed to be run.
The biggest problem for laptop Windows users is the black-and-white screen (affordable color LCD screens won't be available for at least a year or two). You really need a VGA screen--but be warned--some VGA controllers are better than others at mapping Windows' colors to shades of gray.
Whenever I check out a new laptop, I go straight for Windows' solitaire game. If you can't tell the red cards from the black cards, the controller isn't doing a very good job of mapping the grays. The controller can even vary from model to model. The Zeos 286 Notebook doesn't pass the solitaire test, while the same company's 386 Notebook does.
The best controller I've seen so far is the Cirrus Logic VGA controller (you can sometimes see the name at bootup). It's used in the AST Premium Exec, Zeos 386 Notebook, Everex Tempo, and other laptops from Packard Bell, Tandon, Acer, Zenith, NEC, Micronics, Data General, and Twinhead.
Once you've bought your laptop, do your eyes a favor and buy Magic Cursor! (see "10 Can't-Do-Without Laptop programs"). It lets you choose a replacement for Windows' hard-to-see default mouse cursor. Microsoft's new mouse driver (version 8.1) also lets you enlarge the mouse cursor.
Finally, don't forget to check your laptop's documentation. Some laptops include a special VGA driver for Windows that makes it easier to see the cursor as you move it across the screen.
In the short run, it may cost you a bit more to equip your laptop for Windows. But as an increasing number of Windows applications are released over the next few years, you'll be glad you spent the extra money.