Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My new laptop

I did it. Last month I bought a new laptop. With the amount of work I have before me internet cafes and computer labs were not really a valid option anymore. I needed a solid piece of hardware (and software) I could rely on. My old one was a nearly 5 year old tablet PC from Lenovo. Long past its warranty it would often refuse to boot up from the hard drive and quite frankly there had to be more going on in there as often it would not even boot up from a flash drive with Ubuntu either. In the last month I've experienced so many system failures, I've attempted anything from restore to wiping in to factory settings I believe eight times and a few days later I'd had to do it again. My other option, an Acer netbook won't even allow any kind of repair of the Windows starter installation and is now only running Ubuntu. While it is a nice system and a nifty idea, I wanted something main stream and reliable. It was very odd shopping for a new device. It seemed most manufacturers have gotten rid of optical drives all together, at least in the lower pricing option. But I've decided hey, if it is to last me quite some time why don't I make it an investment. So between no drive, a basic CD-DVD combo I went for Blu-Ray- the thing of the future. I picked a nice support and warranty plan, as it is to last me quite a while. A big and sturdy laptop that feels like a desktop but can be moved around if needed. Solid parameters but mostly for functionality than gadgets. It did come with True HD and 3D glasses I don't really use, want or need, full disclosure. It was a 17 inch limited edition Dell Inspiron. One thing that really struck me, is that while it came with Windows 8 I had to pay extra for a downgrade to Windows 7. Typically I don't choose a new system until at least one service pack is available and I've heard mixed opinions. But I figured maybe a lot of criticisms has to do with habit and convenience. I'm not afraid of new platforms and solutions. We've had a ZX Spectrum, Atari 130 XE, Atari St, pre-Windows Dos, Windows 3.11, Windows95/98/2000, I've then had Vista, Windows 7 and a number of incarnations of linux. Let me say this again, I don't care where the Start menu is or if there is one if the system does what I want and is overall practical. The problem is, this one isn't. I've had a number of  hardware malfunctions 3 weeks after I got it out of the box. The hard drive started to make a clicking sound, like something was getting turned on and off. The system kept identifying it as an unknown device and crashing. Then, it would not let me go into the Bios or change boot settings so at least I can run Ubuntu on it. What I really liked was the Dell service. They came to my house. They replaced the drive and on the second day day they replaced the mother board they determined was to blame as well. What I didn't like is that they sent me a faulty laptop- the same type of issues I was trying to avoid and the reason for my purchase I was experiencing again. A new blue screen of death, this time with a sad face. And I'm not happy still. There's an odd white noise static sound coming out of the speakers when computer wakes up or when I use an audio playing software. The issue I can't replicate at will, and never seems to come up when I call tech support and the sound often is odd. The 3D Glasses look nothing like the description in the manual it came with, apparently for an older version and I'm not sure if I'm using it correctly, but the biggest issue is the system. Now again, I can understand going for one look or the other or choosing a new interface. But I don't understand why the Windows Media Player is not able able to play DVDs out of the box anymore and I have to use third party software. In a $1400 laptop I feel like I'm a beta testing an operating system. It is not 1995 anymore.  To defend it is progress is silly. It's like saying not being able to replace a battery on your iPhone is a good thing.

Windows 8 is using a new start  screen model called Metro with a bunch of applications providing ever changing live information in their little tiles. It feels like a cell phone. You click on  an application and it expands full screen.  The problem with this is, not every piece of software has a Metro version you can use like that. So, it feels like it's two system at once- underneath this new concept you have your classic desktop style that you can run your programs like you remember.

And it gets really odd- While Internet Explorer in the other mode acts exactly like in older versions of Windows- you can minimize it while listening to music on youtube and do other things, in Metro style IE- which feels like and is a different app all together- all the playback pauses when I switch to some other program. It really reminds you of the early days  of Windows when you could only do one thing at a time. But my biggest complaint is, this new system seems to had been designed  only with users of other Microsoft products in mind. As in to integrate it with your XBOX and your Windows Phone. My problem is, I don't have any of these devices and I don't intend to switch.  I have a lot of Metro style apps that clutter up my screen that would have been useful on my cell, but not my computer. Games, sports, Travel, stocks? And then I have a hard time finding those that I would find useful.  Metro would be fine concept if all of my programs could be seen as "live tiles" if I could resize them at will or run a move on top of each other. The other issue nobody seemed to have noticed- the new interface is designed with touch devices in mind. If I could point, swipe and move it'd be a much better system to use.  But my laptop, my new 3D display HD laptop is not a touch screen gizmo. And that is fine. I'm used to mice, trackpads and touchpads. The problem is my system wasn't designed to give me the best, most efficient experience. It's hard to navigate if you can't just do a simple on screen gesture. Windows 8 makes me feel like I should upgrade already. No wonder Windows 7 was the pricier option, a faulty system on its own. Am I a happy camper a month into the experience? Sadly no

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