Sunday, November 05, 2006

The New Computer

I think a better title would be “A Computer Tale of Woe.”

I am pleased that I finally have my new computer up and running, and am back online. This is a relief to me, especially since it has occupied practically every waking moment for the past three days. This means I've had almost no time for weaving, knitting, spinning, etc., so I confess I am in a state of mild fiber withdrawal at the moment.

When I first started this blog, I determined that since I started it for the specific purpose of being my fiber and textile journal, then I would keep my content relevant to that purpose. I have a lot of interests and a lot of opinions about all sorts of things, but for the most part I have tried to keep this blog on topic. But after a week of living, eating, breathing, and sleeping computer problems, I find that the only way to emerge from it is to climb up onto a soap box. So I am going to break my own rule and blog about the past three days instead. If you're not interested I don't blame you. What I have to say is long winded and probably not of much interest. It's just that I've been frustrated with having to spend so much time on it. Because of it, I have had to set my fiber projects aside. Please feel free to click on any of my webring “next” buttons if you'd rather. However, there is a hard learned lesson here that applies to all computer users, which I'll get to in a minute.

Day 1 – Finding the right computer

This was not as easy as I'd hoped. There are a lot of choices out there, but most of them didn't suit my needs. I'm not looking for all the latest bells and whistles, I don't need a ligntning speed multi-media center, I don't need a hugemongous hard drive and a squillion megabytes of RAM. I don't want to download movies and music, I'm not a hard core gamer. I just want email, Internet, a decent word processor, a photo image editor, and a few other tools. I want enough gigabytes to store information which is important to me and enough memory to work with my digital photos and run my weaving software.

I decided mail order was out, not only because of time, but because the cost of shipping and handling has gotten so high. After scouring Office Depot, Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Max, and Wal-Mart, I finally found a machine I wanted at a price I was willing to pay. It even comes with a free upgrade to Windows Vista next year. Big wow. After that I was glad to be headed home. Whew. Shopping isn't as much fun as it's cracked up to be.

Then came setting it up. This was probably the easiest task of the day, though it could have been easier without two snoopy cats who insisted on supervising every box, wire, wrapping, twisty-tie, and move I made. What a relief to finally sit down and boot up. I was a little surprised however, when the expected Windows set-up screen didn't appear. It went right to the desktop. That's not all that was odd, the recycle bin wasn't empty. Strange. It was full of deleted shortcut icons. Hmmm.

The biggest surprise was when the pre-installed security suite popped up and wanted a password to connect to the Internet. Huh???? This caught me off guard and I was a little confused. I clicked on the “forgot password?” link and was asked for the make and model of my first vehicle. (!!!)

At this point I picked up the phone and made a call to Tech Support. The bottom line was that this was a used computer in a new computer's wrappings. “Take it back,” they said. Which I did. By this time it was late and the store was crowded with the after work crowd. When I finally got home I called it a day.

Day 2 – Transferring my files

Since Day 1 hadn't been as easy as I'd hoped, I assumed that Day 2 would make up for it. I had made back up copies of all my important files about a week before my old computer breathed it's last. So my plan was to simply copy them onto the new computer. The first couple of CD's copied just fine. But the third one took forever to load. Then, no matter what I did I couldn't get it to open. This was a major concern as it contained all my weaving, spinning, dyeing, and knitting notes, drafts, and patterns. It also contained my collection of Online Guild workshop files, as well as the notes I've been writing for the workshop I will be leading in January.

When autoplay didn't work I tried opening it from “My Computer,” and I tried the “Run” box. Then I carefully examined the CD itself . I didn't notice any scratches or flaws, but I did notice that the CD seemed thinner, i.e. lighter weight than the other CDs. So I stuck a label on it, thinking that this might help. But no matter what I did, I couldn't get the computer to read that disk. It recognized that something was on the disk, but it couldn't tell me what.

Not to worry, we have two other Windows computer's in the house, I'll try another one. I'll hand copy those notes if I need to! Computer number 2 couldn't open it either. And the third computer? Being older, it balked stubbornly at the whole affair.

My conclusion? - The CD was defective and I didn't know it! It never occurred to me to check my CDs after I burned the files onto them. I assumed that they were good to go. WRONG! It is bad enough to lose information which I couldn't copy, such as my email address book and browser book marks. It's even worse to lose information which I had taken care to back up! A hard lesson learned.

Day 3 –Dealing with the pre-installed software

The other thing about new computers is all the pre-installed software they come with. This is fine for new computer users, but I find that most of it doesn't suit my needs. Several programs are trial period based, and then I'd have to purchase them. Well, I've already spent enough on the thing. And besides, over the years I have found so much wonderful, free, open source software. I have come to develop preferences in regards to not only my browser and email program, but also firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware, and office suite. I would honestly rather have the computer come with just an operating system and forget all the other stuff. I'll install it myself.

So replacing what I don't want, with what I do want, was quite time consuming. Some things refuse to exist peacefully side by side, such as anti-virus programs and firewalls. Other programs push and shove to be first, trying to open themselves instead of my preferred choices, such as web browsers and email programs. Some stuff I don't want because it serves no purpose for me, but it wants to report home for updates every time I connect to the Internet, clogging up the works and slowing down my surfing speed. And why should I download updates for something I don't use anyway? Some programs I'll never use, they just sit around on my hard drive and take up space which I'd rather have free for something else.

It wouldn't be so bad if the day had been simply time consuming, but darn it if some of the pre-installed stuff didn't put up a fuss. Some of it stubbornly refused to give way graciously, and some of it blatantly refused to cooperate at all.

Such it is with computers. My next step will be to partition my hard drive and install Linux on the second partition. My plan is that by the time my Norton subscription expires, I won't need Windows anymore at all.

Even so, while waiting on the computer to go through it's paces, I did manage to get a little knitting done on my Rare Breed Sweater. I was also able to measure the lace sampler warp for the Online Guild's Lace Weaving Workshop this month. Now that I'm finished messing with the computer, I can print out the instructions for the threading. That is, I'll print it as soon as I can figure out how to make the pre-installed Adobe Reader recognize my printer instead of "Microsoft Digital Image Starter Edition 2006", whatever that is.


Anonymous said...

Ah, technology. Isn't it great how it makes our lives easier?

Anonymous said...

Leigh, it is great to see you up and running and I truly empathize with your post. Left a brief rant on my friend Silver's blog earlier today about some of the exact same issues you raised here.

This summer, I purchased a great laptop and was so frustrated with all the c r a p p y preinstalls that were on it. It irks me to no end when things step on each other while loading. tie up my cpu with phoning home. etc.

I, too, like to custom config my own systems, and back in the dark ages I custom builg my own computers. it's just so cheap (comparitavely) now to get them out of the box.

How apalling, that your first one out of the box had been used -- good thing you are enough of a tech head to have spotted that!

Good luck with this one, and can;t wait to see what gorgeous things you will be up to next :)

Sayward said...

Oh, that all sounds so frustrating! You sound very adept as working through all the set up issues.

Anonymous said...

Argh, I got heartburn reading your post, especially the part about the used computer!!! And about stuff always wanting to update when you get online whether you want it to or not...I still have dial-up and my software does this to me as well, and if it's in the midst of updating, it will NOT let me disconnect from the internet! As in, I have to turn off the computer to get it to free up the phone line! Technology bites sometimes!

Holly said...

Welcome back to the real world and although most of life revolves around fibre, at least your back.

Anonymous said...

I am terribly sorry about your computer pains and sorrows. I will keep my opinions about PCs to myself.

Cheryl (dedicated Mac user)

Cathy said...

If my PC hadn't been so cheap new - $300 stripped - I would have sprung for a mac. I always burn 2 CDs of whatever I want to save. You just never know.