22 February 2010

The price of progress

I bought a new laptop computer the other day, since my old one got nicked.

It was quite interesting the way it got nicked, too. The burglar alarm went off at 2:45 on a Saturday morning. I got up and found the laptop mouse and power cable lying on the floor in the hallway, the burglar bars in the dining room window broken (with a vicegrip). The dogs, who were sleeping in the front, only barked when the alarm went off.

The thieves clearly knew exactly what they wanted. They came over the neighbour's fence, which they had cut in two places, and right across their yard, and came from the back. They operated like a smash and grab -- broke the burglar bars, ran in, grabbed the computer, and scarpered before anyone could catch them. It was obviously very carefully planned.

Well, I wish them luck with it.

I doubt it's much use without the battery charger. I was thinking of replacing it anyway. It took 25 minutes to boot and 7 minutes to shut down. Automatic updates meant that new versions of programs got bigger and bigger and consumed more and more resources until it spent more time swapping to disk than actually processing anything. Sometimes I would just press and hold the power button to switch it off and wait for the 25 minute boot rather than wait for the hard disk to stop thrashing around. As they used to say, Windows 99 will be released when Windows 98 has finished loading. Only this was far worse. It was Windows XP, and the machine had a 40 Gig hard drive (nearly full) and 256 Mb of RAM. No one sold extra memory for it any more. I was thinking of buying one of those netbook thingies, but the price doubled after Christmas. The nice thing about the netbooks was that they had Widnows XP.

But when it came to a replacement the bigger ones didn't cost all that much more, and the ones with Windows 7 were actually cheaper than the ones with Vista. And there is some progress -- Windows 7 loads in about a minute, and shuts down in about half that. Trouble is it will take me about 3 weeks to begin actually using it.

First thing is to find where it has hidden stuff -- like file extensions. Creating a short cut to a program when there are four identically named files, and you don't know which is the executable is somewhat frustrating. There is, of course, no manual with the thing. Eventually found how to see the extensions, made a shortcut to the program, and found, ooops, it won't run under the 64-bit version of Windows. Fortunately, they give you a couple of discs with the 32-bit version which you can install. That took most of South Africa's innings against India in the first ODI of the cricket tour.

So, having got the programs I use most onto the new computer (by a roundeabout method -- it's optical drive doesn't like CDs created by its predecessor, so I have to take them to the desktop computer, and copy them from there), then it keeps telling me that one of the programs isn't recognised by Windows. I have to reduce the warning level in the warner to zero before it will shut up. But that means there's no protection against malicious software -- but I don't want a warning every time I use a program I've been using every day for the last 20 years.

Setting up a new computer must be one of those major stress-inducing life events like moving house, or getting divorced or something. It's far more stressful than the break-in and having the old one nicked.


CherryPie said...

That reminds me of the troubles I had when I got a new laptop. The biggest problem was that they had partioned the drive so that the operating system was separate. But for some reason they had forgotten to point the files to the separate partition and I wondered why I couldn't copy my photos onto my laptop!

Steve Hayes said...


Yes, mine has a C: drive called Windows and a D: drive called Data, but nothing seems to go on the D: drive. That's one of the things I have yet to investigate.

CherryPie said...

What you need to do is redirect the 'My Documents' file to the data drive, it is quite easy to do. I can explain the steps if you need me to.


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