WARNING: Excessive computer use can colour your eyes a scary bright cyan… apparently!
After just over a year of searching online, offline and everywhere in between (subspace?) I finally managed to procure myself an IBM ThinkPad X40 and USB powered IBM combo drive in excellent condition for less than AU$300 from an Adelaideian. When you consider they sold for over AU$3,000 new less than four years ago paying 10% is pretty gosh darn good!
This model of ThinkPad X40 was part of IBM's executive/premium/expensive ultraportable X notebook series in 2005 and it still has fairly respectable specs: a 12 inch screen, 1.4GHz Pentium M with Centrino b/g wireless, a gigabit ethernet port, 1,280 MiB of PC2700 RAM, CardBus slot, two USB 2.0 ports, a 60GB internal 1.8" drive and one of those cool three button (hooray for using with FreeBSD!) TouchPoint mouses. It's slightly heavier than a netbook but has an infinitely better keyboard and… it's a ThinkPad!
Despite otherwise being an Apple guy, ever since I saw my dad's machines from work over the course of a decade I've been a fan of ThinkPads. They're not sexy like MacBooks, but I think they're classy and their build quality is absolutely without peer. I do love my MacBook Pro with OS X, but I have to say I've been tempted by a ThinkPad with FreeBSD, Xubuntu (or OpenSolaris if I could get it working!) for a very long time.
Coincidently, the X40 also holds the (dubious depending on your standing) distinction of being the last notebook designed and sold by IBM before Lenovo bought their consumer hardware division. The end of an era as it were.
Two related thoughts: If I needed to run some more Windows software for uni, I wonder if it'd run Windows 7 acceptably in a partition too? Might need to ask Nick Hodge on The Twitters. And I wonder how its performance would compare to the current netbooks too. It has an older, slower hard drive not an SSD but I'd have to think an older Pentium M would still outperform an Atom… maybe… maybe not.