I Corps likes its laptops tough

It still works.


Turner, an information systems procurement and standards officer with the Army's I
Corps at Fort Lewis, Wash., paid $4,600 each for four of the portables from Panasonic
Personal Computer Co. of Secaucus, N.J.


He bought the notebooks through a Navy blanket purchasing agreement with General
Services Administration schedule contractor Government Technology Services Inc. of
Chantilly, Va.


The I Corps supports U.S. forces in the Pacific Rim and deploys to Hawaii, Japan,
Korea, Thailand and other points east. The corps has about 22,000 active-duty troops.


The corps sets up small tactical LANs with the notebooks, which have magnesium cases,
10-inch active-matrix screens, 150-MHz Pentiums, 40M RAM and 1.35G hard drives.


The troops like the relatively light 8.1-pound weight, Turner said. "More than 90
percent of our assets are portable. It wouldn't make much sense to buy desktops," he
said.


Three of the CF-25s act as servers, while the fourth is a client. The servers have 10X
CD-ROM drives, and the client has an 8X CD-ROM. When playing CD-ROMs, Turner said, the
notebooks have about three hours of battery life.


The client system runs Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Workstation and Windows 95, and the
three servers run Windows NT 4.0 Server. One server does double duty as a remote-access
host.


The I Corps troops make heavy use of Microsoft Office 97 applications such as Exchange
and Mail clients, FrontPage, PowerPoint, Project Manager and Word.


Because the CF-25 doesn't contain a CPU cooling fan, less dust tends to get into the
case, Turner said. He added that Panasonic worked with Intel Corp. on a special tripartite
division of its Pentium processor so the CF-25 wouldn't need a fan.


Panasonic offers a three-year, mail-back warranty and may soon provide worldwide
on-site support for the products, he said.


Turner said he has noticed one problem with the CF-25: The infrared data port causes
interrupt request conflicts with a communications port, so "we just turn off"
the IR port.


Turner said he and his colleagues are happy customers. The Corps Automation Management
Office, which manages the I Corps' tactical WAN, has ordered seven more CF-25s, and other
units in the corps may order about 30 more before the end of the fiscal year.


Next year, Turner said, I Corps personnel might order as many as 200 more CF-25s, many
with 12-inch screens, 80M RAM and 2G drives.


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