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My Third Notebook This Year: Sony Vaio Z Review

Sony Vaio Z540 vs. HP ZD7000

Sony Vaio Z540 vs. HP ZD7000

Yes, it’s another long, boring, techie-wannabe filler review, since we’re out of carseat material for today.  My current HP ZD7000 notebook is almost 5 years old.  Not bad, considering it spent a substantial percentage of its first year being repaired (or not repaired as the case may be) by HP.  It was relatively problem free for two years after that, until it died again a couple years ago.  They replaced the motherboard with a new video card under warranty and it has worked like a charm since then, knock on wood.  Other than a loose power connector, it might last another couple years, if only as a video player or for the kids to beat on.  Problem is, it’s a tank.  It’s a 17″ widescreen model and combined with its huge power adapter, it weighs well over 10 pounds.  Plus, it eats through a full battery in less than 2 hours of surfing and can warm a small room with all the heat it generates.  It has a 3.06GHz Pentium 4, 1GB memory and ATI x600 graphics, pretty much top-of-the line in 2004.

It wasn’t meant to be a portable machine; I bought it as a desktop replacement that had a lot of power and you could even play games on it.  Now, I want something light and easy to carry on trips or around the house.  I tried a netbook.  It was a nice computer, but ultimately I returned it because of a quirky touchpad, an uncomfortable palm rest and a keyboard that was just a hair too small and made touch typing error-prone.  I then bought a pretty typical 14″ notebook, a Samsung X460 targeted at business travelers.  It was also nice, but it had a screen with a very narrow sweet spot for viewing and washed out quickly if you tilted it up or down even slightly.  Mine also a problem with Vista errors and crashes that made me decide to sell it and start looking for yet another notebook.  Well, that and two trips for repair in the first month brought back painful memories of my HP ZD7000.  I do credit Samsung with customer service that is far, far better than my experiences with HP, though their repair department is probably no better.

Anyway, back to the new computer.  I took a look at a Sony Z590 when I was shopping last time.  It really fit the bill of what I wanted.  Despite having a full size keyboard, it is quite compact and very light weight.  Solid battery life.  Good display.  Reasonable power.  Bluetooth.  Vista Business with XP downgrade disc included.  And a whole lot more.  Overall, a nice upgrade to my HP desktop replacement in a package that was one third the weight and lasted twice as long on a battery.  Problem was, most people seemed to be paying well over $1500 for them and much more in many cases.  The current model is the very similar Vaio VGN-Z690 series that are even a bit more expensive.

The Great Debate: Seatbelts on School Buses

I understand both sides of the argument but I’m a firm believer that seatbelts on full-sized school buses are beneficial.  I’m happy that NY has mandated lap belts on all school buses since 1987.  Obviously, I’d be a lot happier with lap/shoulder belts but I’ll take a lap-only belt over no belt any day of the week – even in a full-sized bus.  After more than 20 years, the data from large bus crashes in NY just doesn’t support the theory that lap belts are more likely to cause injuries.  We’re just not seeing this. 

A well-done summary of the pros and cons of seatbelts on full-sized school buses can be found here.  This site is a wealth of info so take your time and look around.  Reasons 4 and 5 listed under “pros” are the two main reasons why I advocate for the usage of seatbelts on school buses.  Plus, how on Earth could I tell my soon-to-be kindergartner NOT to wear his seatbelt?  And how would he react on the first day of school sitting unrestrained for the first time in his life?  He’d probably have a panic attack and start screaming “I’m not buckled” as soon as the bus started to move.   

Keep in mind that whenever you hear “sending your child to school on the bus is 5 billion times safer than driving him/her yourself ” that we’re talking about national averages.  That means lumping me in with drunk drivers, 16-year-old drivers who are texting while driving, unrestrained kids and all the old, deathtrap vehicles on the road.  As Darren pointed out in his blog on school buses – if you looked specifically at the risk factors for MY child, properly restrained and driven to school by ME (or my DH) in MY vehicle and compared it directly to his risk factors riding on a school bus, I’m going to guess that the differences wouldn’t be so great. 

Also, contrary to popular belief, school buses are frequently involved in crashes.  Just google “school bus crash” or do a search on youtube.  And while the full-sized bus “wins” in the vast majority of crashes that doesn’t mean there isn’t any consequence to the occupants inside the bus.  While most school bus related fatalities occur outside the bus (to pedestrians during the loading/unloading process) the overwhelming majority of school bus-related injuries (a much larger number) occur to passengers inside the bus.  As far as I’m concerned, preventing injuries to children riding the bus is important too. 

As I’ve stated before, my youngest will be entering Kindergarten in the fall and we’ve already started talking about bus safety.  I’ve pointed out how the kids wait for the driver to signal before they cross.  How if the driver blows the horn while they’re attempting to cross that means danger and they should quickly go back to the curb.  We’ve also discussed keeping everything inside your backpack so nothing can be accidentally dropped near the bus.  And if something is dropped – don’t ever run back for it.  

I remember how nervous I was about DS1 (now almost 12) riding the bus when he started Kindergarten.  Luckily, we live close to the school and I kept reminding myself that the driver was well trained, the bus always followed a familiar route, it was always daylight, etc.  Unfortunately, out-of-town field trips were a different story and I’ll admit that I was the crazy lady who met the bus at the school parking lot before the children boarded to install a CR (a 5-point Futura) for DS1 that year.  I’ll probably do the same thing for DS2 when the inevitable out-of-town Kindergarten field trip comes around.  My old, trusty Futura is long gone but now I have a SafeGuard Star in my collection of training seats thanks to Sarah G (Smiles365).   Thanks Sarah!      

Now, this whole debate about whether children should use a seatbelt on a large school bus is moot unless you happen to live in one of the few states which require them.  I believe all states require them on smaller buses because those are made more like a van and less like a tank.  Eventually all new smaller buses will have 3-pt lap/shoulder belts but that rule won’t take effect until 2011.  Still, it’s nice to know that some progress is being made in this area even if it only applies to the smaller buses.  

At the very least, it’s always a good idea to teach your kids to stay seated properly, avoid siting at the very edge of the seat (half in the aisle), and avoid sitting in the first and last row of the bus.

The Great Ozzi Giveaway Contest

Clek the Merciful has agreed to provide an Ozzi backless booster for this week’s giveaway!  It’s the very first partner we’ve had for a carseat freebie!  But wait, there’s a catch!  Unlike past giveaways, this one won’t go to a random winner or to the first person who comments with a correct trivia answer.  The almighty Clek demands something in return!  Specifically, you must write a guest review (free of bad grammer) about your new Ozzi for CarseatBlog.com.  To prove your writing skills, you must also comment on this blog with your entry essay.

Essay, you say?  Indeed, Clek invokes nightmares from high school, college and professional exams to get your attention.  This one should be a lot more fun, however, and for your entry, no one is checking your spelling or grammar (as far as you know).  Also, it will be the shortest essay you’ve ever written, just a few words or a few lines. In no more than 100 words, Clek demands to know why your review will be the best one.  Be truthful;  maybe your kid’s name is Ozzi.  Fabricate; claim that a photo of you with a Clek tattoo will appear in the review.  Or maybe that would be truthful?  Whichever way you want to go, the omnicient Clek will be the judge as to whether your essay is good enough to win an Ozzi.

There are a few rules involved.  First, you must not have won a carseat giveaway or any giveaway from one of our sponsors or partners at CarseatBlog in the past (bags of stuff sent by CarseatBlog don’t count!).  Second, one entry per household/family.  Third, the winner is actually expected to create a comprehensive written and/or video review of your new Ozzi within a few weeks.  Please don’t enter with the intention of selling it on Carseat Swap or eBay or Craigslist or wherever.  The omnipotent Clek knows where you live!  The rules depend on the honor system, but for the sake of future giveaways, please abide by them.

The contest ends Sunday, whenever I get online and post a comment that it’s over- so you have some time to get creative! Winners announced sometime next week.

First peek at the Graco My Ride 65 convertible carseat!

Thanks to one of our forum members – we have the first peek at the new Graco convertible seat – the “My Ride 65″.  The seat isn’t available yet but we’re hearing that it should be on store shelves by June.  So far, the initial reaction to the pictures has been lukewarm but we’ll just have to wait and see.    

Here’s what we know:

Rear-facing:  5-40 lbs or until top of child’s head is 1″ below the top of the shell. 

Forward-facing:  20-65 lbs or up to 49″ tall.  Top harness slot seems to measure near 17″.

Not surprisingly, it looks like a cross between the ComfortSport, the SafeSeat Toddler (aka Cozy Cline) and the Nautilus.  For those of you who don’t want to wade through the multiple pages of posts in this thread, the pictures can be found here and here