On a Personal Note

So, do you want to know what’s been happening lately? Too bad, I’m telling you anyway.

I’ve been using a Dell Latitude D810 for nigh on five years now. I really like this laptop with one exception. The power is good, the keyboard is great, the touchpad is awesome. The VBA port for the external monitor totally sucks. At some point while the unit was still under warranty, my external monitor started turning shades of green or blue or red. It would flicker or shake or generally exhibit strange behavior. If I jiggled the cord it would return to normal temporarily. Eventually I got tired of jiggling the cord and sent the laptop back to Dell for repair. On September 24, 2008, I said

Here’s a tip: Get the same laptop at work that you have at home. I liked my D810 so much that when I started a new job I got a virtually identical machine. Now that my personal D810 is at Dell getting fixed, I can use my work laptop by just swapping hard drives. Oh, it’s not convenient. But it’s better than being without or even trying to get by on an old desktop I have laying around. To the extent that I’m able to, I think I’ll always use the same computer at work and home.

Did I really say that? Dell replaced my motherboard because the video hardware is integrated. The laptop worked beautifully until about a month ago, when it started exhibiting that familiar strange behavior. This time it didn’t take long for the cord jiggling to stop working. Now my external monitor is constantly red shifted, much like the edges of the universe. By the by, this is not a laptop that gets moved very often. Why the VGA connection is so flaky on this machine (and not flaky on my work machine that gets moved more) is beyond me.

Two years out of warranty, Dell wasn’t going to be interested in fixing it for me. That means I get a new computer. Do I try to remain consistent and get what I have at work? Do they even sell them anymore? And hopefully I’ll get a new computer at work soon – it’s been five years. No, it’s time for radical action. I’d recently read Coding Horror’s Rebuild post about building one’s own PC. Yeah, that sounds like a great project for someone with too much to do already. Here are some selected quotes from that post that convinced me:

As far as I’m concerned, until everything on my computer happens instantaneously, my computer is not nearly fast enough.

As I said in the first part of my building your own PC series, if you can assemble a LEGO kit, you can build a PC.

…if you desire a deeper understanding of how the hardware fits together and works, then building a PC is a fun project to take on.

I talked myself into building my own PC. For the first time in many years I’ll have a desktop PC. For as little as I use the portability of the laptop, I think this is a good decision for me. And I have an ASUS R1F for portability when I need it. I’ll expect commenters to try to talk me out of this, and I’ll be interested in reading their opinions.

And speaking of my ASUS, it’s what I’m using right now as my main PC. It’s got Windows 7 and Office 2007 loaded on it and it’s slower than crap. I thought this thing had 2G of RAM, but it’s only 1G. I’ll be paying a visit to crucial.com to rectify that. In the meantime, I’ve turned off all the fancy graphical bullshit. That helps.

I didn’t install Office 2003 on this machine. I’m no longer going to have multiple versions of Office, instead opting for the Virtual PC route. Of course with 1G of RAM, there won’t be an VMs on this computer – it will have to wait for the new desktop. I quit “supporting” versions of Excel prior to 2003 a while ago, but I can’t shake 2003 yet. For one reason, because I personally still like it. But 2007 will be the standard for me, at least until 2010 SP1 comes out.

Here’s the thing about Windows 7. This FTP code doesn’t work. I don’t know why and I don’t care to spend the time to find out. I will spend the time, because I ftp a buttload of images and automating will be an important time save for me. I’m sure it has something to do with security in Windows 7. Security is not important to me. For as long as I’ve had my Latitude, I haven’t had antivirus or antimalware software. I don’t know what you people are doing that you get viruses and stuff, but apparently I don’t do that stuff.

A few months ago, my wife’s Dell Inspiron 1500 crapped out. It works fine except for the monitor, which it turns out is pretty important. Also out of warranty, she is now the proud owner of a Toshiba Satellite A505. I’m torn about this beast of a computer. Being an accountant, I should love that it has a built-in ten-key. The screen is enormous. The speakers are Harmon/Kardon and it rocks for a laptop. It has HDMI out for Netflix streaming. And it was dirt cheap from Best Buy, sub $700 if I recall. And yet, when a laptop is so big that it’s not really portable, it just doesn’t seem right. Oh well, I don’t have to use it.

Her old 1500 is now the iTunes machine (external monitor works/built-in monitor doesn’t). Here’s a quiz: What’s more fun, moving iTunes or punching yourself in the crotch. I’ve only done the former, but I can assure you it is less fun than the latter. That was a few months ago. A few days ago, one of my external hard drives failed. It has 14,000 mp3s on it. You know what’s less fun than moving iTunes? Doing it twice in nearly as many months. I’m paging through my 14,000 songs to determine which of them I want on my iPod. I’m through Grateful Dead, so only a few more days and I’ll be done.

Finally, I had arthroscopic knee surgery last Thursday. It is unbelievable to me that was I walking around crutchless on Monday. When did modern medicine become magic? I’m not exactly strolling the fairways yet, so I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. In fact, I’m icing my elevated knee as I type.

That’s what I’ve been up to while I haven’t been making blog posts. What have you been up to?

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10 thoughts on “On a Personal Note

  1. Man, if you’re using Windows 7, you’ve got to wake up to alternate booting Windows 7 from .vhd. I don’t mean Virtual PC (by the way, that’s not what we call it in Windows 7) but .vhds – You create a .vhd, you create a boot entry, and you get a relevant edition of Windows 7 (licensing issues) install it inside the .vhd. When you reboot next, you will have more than one boot entry and you choose whichever one you want Office 2010, Office 2007, Office 2003. There is no hardware virtualisation except for disk access. You don’t need heaps of memory nor do you need heaps of CPU power – you do need enough diskspace to hold several .vhds.

  2. The company I work at has gone through more 610/810 motherboards than carter has pills! It’s primarily because of the video card going bad.

    It seems that the users would grasp the left and right side of the laptop when docking the laptop. This would arch the middle upwards and take its toll on the graphics card.

  3. I have a netbook – great for battery life at client sites, and for carrying around. Not so great for intense data pounding, as may be expected. I’ll build another desktop sometime soon – it will be super fast for processing – ok for graphics, you know the score.

    Good luck with the knee, in a past life I did research on knees and cartilage – seems a lifetime ago.

  4. I can’t be bothered with building a computer or shopping for the best and brightest. We beat the crap out of our computers, so there’s no sense in spending a lot for anything fancy. Computers are commodities now anyway.

    When it’s time to get a new one I start watching what Staples has on sale. When a decently loaded HP laptop shows up with a good price, that’s what I get. Generally I pay around $700-800, which includes the 3 year extended service plan. One monitor replacement beyond the regular warranty pays for the plan.

    Why Staples? I’ve bought computers there for over ten years, they’ve supported their stuff, and I’ve had good luck with their service techs. All I have to do is mutter a few choice phrases I’ve picked up from MSDN magazine (I don’t even need to understand what they mean), and they know enough to stop bullshitting me. Try that at Best Buy, when you’re done buying their gold-plated CAT-5 cable. I spend enough at Staples (desk chairs, external HDs, modems, UPSs, extra monitors, whatever) that I’m a premier customer. They make me feel the way I try to make my customers feel. (Do you want fries with that?)

    Why HP? Why not? My first HP had Windows 98 on it, and it lasted ten years with hardly any issues. Two Compaq laptops were immersed in water when my daughter flooded the kitchen from the upstairs bath, and after two days under a high powered fan, both started right up, and both are still in use (they predate my consulting career, so they’re over six years old).

    I stick with what I know and what works. YMMV.

  5. Sorry to hear about your knee. Get well soon!

    I think building your own desktop is a great idea. I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing that myself. Go for the Core i7s – It’s pretty much amazing. I brought home some work from the office once, and one operation (involving a not-very-efficient but had-to-be-done formula) that took 15 minutes on a Pentium Prescott 640 was done in 3 seconds on the i7 920.

  6. Dick,

    Hope your knee gets better soon.

    We may have talked about this before but have you considered Foldershare or its competitors? Foldershare is now Windows Live Sync after its acquisition by Microsoft. Rather than swap hard disks, or copying data via memory sticks, or sharing folders over a network, I have been using FS for some years now to sync files on multiple machines.

  7. Dick,

    Re. no support for 2003…you may not support 2003 or earlier but in some ways 2003 will support you better than 2007. There are still some instances where 2007’s macro recorder generates no code but 2003 will. And, no, please don’t ask me for specifics. I don’t keep track of this kind of information.

  8. I’m still supporting 2003 – in fact I still use it daily. I just wasn’t going to install it on this machine along with 2007 (I was going to use VPC). But that all changed last night. I’m doing some training next week and I’ll need to show everything both ways. That means Office 2003 and 2007 are now together. And installed in reverse order. I can’t wait to see what trouble that brings.

    I like the vhds suggestion, but that won’t work for my training class. I’ll need to be able to switch back and forth instantly. I will, however, try the vhds for all the other Office versions and operating systems used for testing.

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