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Whither the Portable Optical Drive? 440

"The MacBook Air and the Ultrabook come without a piece of hardware that's been a mainstay in laptops for a long time — the optical drive," says a piece at CNET. "Maybe because they really aren't that necessary anymore." I would have thought otherwise a few years ago, but traveling in the meantime with a small netbook was certainly handy. Since that machine died, I think I've used the optical drive in its low-end laptop successor a grand total of once, which was to test its wireless compatibility with a Live CD Linux distro.
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Whither the Portable Optical Drive?

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  • Speak for yourself (Score:5, Informative)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @07:41PM (#38111782) Homepage Journal
    There are a lot of situations in which people need to use optical drives on laptops. The uses range from gaming to application installs, to backup.

    Only having to use your portable with alive cd to 'test wireless compatibility' tells me that you are a sysadmin, or another i.t. professional. chances are high that you rarely do what normal people do with that portable but work. let me break the news about common people to you - people still move data on cds.
  • by BagOBones ( 574735 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @07:45PM (#38111830)

    I just installed my last os via USB. It was much faster than via optical drive. (speed depends on quality of USB drive)

  • Four uses remain (Score:5, Informative)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gm a i l . c om> on Saturday November 19, 2011 @07:51PM (#38111882) Homepage Journal

    Gaming in markets with broadband? Steam. Application installs in markets with broadband? Mac App Store, Ubuntu Software Center (which has paid repos now) or whatever Windows has. Moving data from one PC to another? USB flash drives. On-site backup? External hard drives, especially if your data is over the 4.something GB limit for DVD-R or DVD+R media.

    But this still leaves several uses for optical discs: 1. operating system installations, 2. application installations in places that can't get DSL, FTTH, or cable Internet, 3. burning music CDs for people who don't already own and use a suitable PMP, or 4. burning DVDs for the large number of people who own a DVD player that happens not to have a USB input and don't already have a home theater PC. I admit most of these can be done on a USB burner kept at home, and that's what I use with my 10" Dell.

  • by amanicdroid ( 1822516 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @07:52PM (#38111894)
    My external DVD burner works brilliantly for the rare occasions that I need it and shaves unnecessary bulk from my daily carry.

    I've spoken for myself per request.
  • Re:Well.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @07:58PM (#38111936) Homepage Journal
    TFA specifically mentions the Macbook air, on which you can install the OS and tons of apps from the mac app store and it even has a built in recovery partition from which you can always boot if you need to re-install the OS.
  • by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @08:19PM (#38112086)

    My first "netbook" without an optical drive was a Sony Vaio Picturebook - like this one: []. I used it happily on the road until about 2003, when I upgraded to a Victor Interlink - like this one: [].

    Both still work, and the Victor with Linux still puts most netbooks to shame.

  • by Yaztromo ( 655250 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @08:45PM (#38112262) Homepage Journal

    1) Reading documentation manuals that come with hardware (like printers) on CD format

    Virtually all of which are available online, usually as newer revisions with errata included. Indeed, the CD that ships with the hardware is usually the last place I check for PDF documentation, as there is virtually always more up-to-date documentation online


    2) Listening to CD's

    Are you the one person who doesn't have some sort of portable music player, or who hasn't ripped all their music CDs to a more portable AAC/MP3/FLAC/ALAC format? For playback on a laptop, any time you need to be running off battery playing back a file off your hard drive is going to consume significantly less power than doing the same off spinning physical media.

    3) Watching some DVD's

    Again, having these files stored on the hard drive is more efficient for a portable device. And there are a number of legal solutions for renting, downloading, and streaming movies available online that doesn't rely on physical media.

    4) Occasionally rescue CD's come in handy when a root password is forgotten.

    Since the article (and your post) specifically mentions Apple, in their case all modern Apple systems are perfectly capable of booting from USB or Firewire. I do understand that in the PC world booting from removable USB keys can be really hit-or-miss, but in the Apple world this isn't a concern. Booting from USB is faster, and requires less dedicated hardware in your portable system that you wind up having to carry around the other 99.99% of the time when you're not trying to recover from a forgotten root password.

    I've already made the decision that I don't need to carry around an optical drive that I use <1% of the time in my next laptop. An external drive or drive sharing across the network to a dedicated system will be more than sufficient in the event I need to move data to or from optical disc.


  • by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <rodrigogirao@ho t m a i l . c om> on Saturday November 19, 2011 @09:39PM (#38112602) Homepage

    How about the Humble Bundle or GOG?

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @10:35PM (#38112940)

    I'm sorry but that's just plain wrong. If you're travelling with a high resolution camera the LAST thing you want is to backup to optical drive. You're typical CF card is 16 or 32 GB, many people travel with multiple cards.

    So am I going to go home at the end of each day of my holiday and sit down for an hour or two and burn 8 or 16 DVDs? Hell no. Not when I can just plug in my usb HDD to the laptop click copy and then disappear downstairs for a meal instead.

    My last holiday generated 400MB of images. My USB harddisk is thinner than 5 DVDs, It's lighter than 15 DVDs, There's no way I'm going to be dragging 100 of the things on my holiday. Not to mention that it is far less likely to cause problems by some customs agent wondering what I'm doing returning from Thailand with what looks like 100 bootlegged movies.

  • Re:Four uses remain (Score:5, Informative)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:00PM (#38113146) Homepage

    4. burning DVDs for the large number of people who own a DVD player that happens not to have a USB input and don't already have a home theater PC.

    I love /. sometimes. Careful analysis reveals that an optical drive can be used for burning files from BitTorrent, while missing the glaringly obvious: They put optical drives in laptops so people can play DVDs.

  • Use vs. carry (Score:4, Informative)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gm a i l . c om> on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:20PM (#38113296) Homepage Journal

    Sorry. Your "external USB burner" is still an optical drive.

    I am aware of that. Though one still needs to use an optical drive with a laptop, one rarely needs to carry an optical drive with a laptop.

  • Re:Cap (Score:5, Informative)

    by __aaqvdr516 ( 975138 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:59AM (#38113958)

    I'm on a 600 MB/day limit on my home ISP. I just recently built a new computer for my wife. The GPU came with a free copy of a game. Based on our normal usage patterns, I'll have it downloaded from Steam sometime in the next six months using the leftover bits at the end of the day.

    Central Virginia.

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